Eataly is fantastic – every city should have one. It is a Mecca for all things Italian, both food and drink – it is the place to go if you need a little cheering up, and it is most definitely the place to go to do your weekly shop and your weekend shop.

Being somebody who loves food, who loves to cook and therefore loves to food shop, I have found Istanbul to be a big disappointment, as the supermarkets are awful – the ‘fresh’ fruit and vegetables always looks tired and brown, the meat is not great, the fish not fresh and store cupboard stuff limited. The only exception has been the weekly fresh produce markets which I enjoy and on the whole are fresh, but by the very nature of fresh produce, I dont necessarily want to buy a whole week’s worth of fresh produce!

That is why Eataly has made such a difference to my life here in Istanbul. Everything feels right with the world when you come out of Eataly clutching a multitude of their brown paper bags…


Eataly is a global chain – there are 26 Eataly stores in the world – 10 of these are in Italy, 13 in Japan, 2 in the USA, 1 in Dubai and then our newly opened magnificent store in Istanbul. ‘Our’ store takes up a huge space in the newly opened high-end Zorlu Shopping Centre, where it sits alongside Godiva, Jo Malone, Prada and the likes.

When you enter, it definitely has a New York feel – the whole store is divided into load of different sections – pasta, pizza, formaggio and salami, meat, fish, etc. – and each section has amazing counters where the fresh produce is displayed beautifully and available for purchase. Each section also has its own restaurant space with its own menu.

Today, as the fridge has been looking incredibly sparse since I arrived back from the UK, I decided to stock up – fresh parmeggiano, gorgonzola and mozzarella; some beautiful levrek (seabass) fillets; a leg of lamb and boned chicken thighs; a selection of salamis – I must say, the chill drawer in the fridge is looking much healthier

I also bought wonderful fresh Italian bread, fresh herbs, asparagus, raspberries, Italian tinned tomatoes, good Italian pasta, etc. I now cant wait to get cooking for the weekend…


Christmas Eve in Istanbul

There’s not that much of a Christmassy feeling here in Istanbul as they don’t celebrate Christmas here as its a Muslim country. Its a normal working day with kids going to school and people going out about their business as usual. The strangest thing is not saying ‘happy Christmas’ to everybody.

So we decided to walk down to Bebek, our local neighbourhood by the sea, this morning for a cup of coffee in our favourite ‘Cup of Joy’ and ended up having a wonderful morning full of strange encounters. After coffee, we headed up to the butcher to get some chicken to make a very untraditional curry for Christmas Eve supper – we would normally have ham but as there’s no pork…
Everybody is always so helpful here, especially at this butchers – there’s always somebody who speaks English and willing to translate, but in this case, EU health inspectors would have a field day as he had a cigar in one hand and a glass of çay in the other!

We then headed off for a walk down the Bosphorus as it was a beautiful sunny day, and ran the gauntlet between the fishermen taking care not to lose an eye with one of their hooks.

Our last stop was the usual Tuesday market where the traders are starting to get to know us – the fish stall is amazing

20131224-181957.jpgand then the most hilarious bit was one of the market traders offering to buy Dave for 200TL!!!!

The final event was the porter who carried all our goodies back up the hill

20131224-182733.jpg the funny thing is that I had always noticed him at the weekly market but thought he was selling things in his basket, although I had no idea what. It only dawned on us today that his basket was empty and he was offering his services as a porter for the princely sum of 10TL (£3)

20131224-183004.jpgHappy Christmas everybody!

Istanbul by foot

One of the things I am really enjoying now that we have our gorgeous dog, Dave, here with us in Istanbul (apart from the constant companionship – he is sitting on my lap as I type), is my renewed vigour for walking. I have always loved walking but somehow without a dog and in the heat, the focus is not quite the same.

My walks with Dave in Istanbul are very different from the English countryside, and of course, before that, the Cape mountains and beaches, that we are used to. So, it is not a case of running free across the fields or up the mountains or into the sea, but street walking. Now, instead of taking a taxi or the car, Dave and I walk home from Turkish lessons or walk to fetch the car from Peter’s office and I have to say, we are seeing a whole new side of Istanbul that I am loving.

I think I might have mentioned previously that Istanbul is built on seven hills and we have to climb several of them on any given journey! Yesterday for example, our walk involved steep climbing to begin with and then a cold brisk and blowy walk along the Bosphorus. As we were winding our way up a steep road that went under one end of the Bosphorus bridge, I came across this incredible sight of a mini farm – what brilliant use of a piece of unused land.

20131205-133141.jpgAnd as we were winding our way back to the Bosphorus, this lovely house that had a doctor’s sign outside.


A filleting fish first

Now, I know that ordinarily this picture of seabass fillets would not look very impressive….

20131205-130535.jpg…. but I have to say that I am ridiculously proud of those pathetic little fillets as I filleted them myself and that was a first I think! Especially pleased as done instinctively and not with instructions!

Getting in the Christmas mood…

Feeling a bit under the weather this morning, there was nothing for it but a quiet morning at home; and my mind turned to baking! I had offered to make something for Daisy’s school disco and bake sale tomorrow so decided to make some Christmas rocky road brownies.

I used a recipe of Nigella’s that does not use ‘good’ chocolate but just good ol’ Dairy Milk, as the decent stuff is hard to come by here (and expensive) and frankly, I’m mean – I want to keep my stash, carefully lugged from the UK, for our family Christmas baking.

Anyway, I had a lot of fun decorating the brownies before they went in the oven – sprinkling red glitter over, studding the mixture with white chocolate stars and mini Marshmallows (thank you Waitrose) and Christmas tree wafers and then a finally dusting of icing sugar when they came out of the oven.


Cok Guzel (Very delicious in Turkish)

I am very happy to report that this half term holiday, Billy has decided he wants to learn to cook.

Obviously being here in Istanbul, with no friends to go and hang out with, we need to be creative in finding things to occupy Billy, as seeing his family again, wears thin very quickly…

Having finally got our shipping container delivered on Friday, Billy’s first inspiration came from my stash of cookbooks being unpacked. Billy and Daisy had fun arranging them all on a book shelf in sections of different types of cooking, with the baking section, obviously taking pride of place.

So, the first thing Billy made was the Chocolate Birthday Cake from Jo Wheatley’s A Passion for Baking – she was the winner from the Great British Bake off in 2011 – of course made all the more topical with all the hype surrounding the most recent series.

I have to say, he did pretty well and this is the result.

Today, Billy decided to make his first pasta sauce which involved a trip to our new butcher in Bebek. They were recommended by our favourite coffee shop (think Monmouth and you’ll understand how good they are) and it was great to watch them strip down a couple of chickens for us in order to take the thigh and leg meat – Billy and I were in awe.

This is Billy with his new best friend, the butcher, as he gave him a chocolate muffin!


Anyway, it was great to watch Billy getting stuck into chopping the chicken, onions, garlic, parsley, etc learning how to skin the tomatoes – and here is the finished result – a chicken and tomato pasta sauce with some aubergine sneaked in by me!


My local market

Hopefully you haven’t noticed it has been over a month since I posted on this new blog. The thing is, I can’t write if I’m miserable because the only thoughts in my head are miserable ones, and who wants to read about misery? No positive inspiration = no blog posts. I guess professional writers learn to deal with that.

But yesterday I went to my local market, a mere 10 minute walk down very steep, narrow, cobbled roads. Actually, from where we are, perched up on the hill, I can watch the market being set up below from 7am.

So, with nothing in mind for supper, I came across a wonderful fish stall, and boy, did it look fresh – shining scales and bright eyes. So I bought 2 lufer, aka blue fish which we had heard about as being in season at the moment and rather a local speciality.

This was my market haul, rather a small one as back off to the UK again on Friday. Courgettes are still around and I was so happy to see the appearance of broccoli.

I used the tomatoes and olives to stuff the fish and along with the addition of some unctuous olive oil, lemon and parsley, they were baked on Peter’s new griddle pan, and were completely divine 😉




My haul from the UK

It was touch and go whether I got all my luggage on the plane back to Istanbul on Thursday – when I got on the bus from the rental car depot to terminal 3, the bus driver asked if I was flying business class? I shook my head. First class? Again no. He muttered something about no wonder the handle on my suitcase had broken and good luck getting that on economy.

Still, it all went fine and I managed with Daisy’s violin on my back, a hand luggage suitcase, handbag and duty free plus one incredibly heavy suitcase – thanks to Jed Hewson for carrying up 4 flights of stairs to our apartment in Istanbul 😉

Here is what I brought back –

A loaf of spelt bread
3 x packets salt and vinegar crisps
Waitrose pancetta
Pizza express pizza for daisy
2 x bottles of wine
2 x bottles of Jim Beam
Hundreds of bars of chocolate
Jar of horseradish
Jar of béarnaise
Jar of hollandaise
Egg noodles
1 kg soft brown sugar
1 kg caster sugar
Vanilla extract
Cake sprinkles
Cake candles
Cooking chocolate
Jordan’s cereal

My boy

So, one of the consequences of our new life in Istanbul, is that Billy has chosen to remain at school in the UK rather than attend the International School in Istanbul that Daisy has started at this week.

When we came out in late May to show a bit of Istanbul to Billy and Daisy, we timed it so that we could visit Daisy’s International School for their ‘fun day’ – an annual extravaganza a bit like a school fete in the UK but with the added attraction of an international food hall where all the nationalities showcase their national cuisines.

Billy was definitely tempted by the idea of being at school in Istanbul – cool new city, no uniform, so many different nationalities as potential friends (currently 45 with 35 languages being spoken) but then he asked if they play rugby in Turkey and when Peter supplied Billy with the definitive answer of ‘no’, that was mind made up for Billy.

Fast forward to this week and I have had the gut wrenching task of flying over to the UK with Billy in order to LEAVE MY LITTLE BOY BEHIND. Oh, how could I? As Emma put it, when the idea of Billy staying at school in UK was first mooted, ‘Billy will be fine, and you’ve just got to get over it!’

I have spoken to several dear friends this week who have all left a beloved child at a new boarding school and its not easy for anybody. At least for me, I was not leaving Billy at a new school, but trotting down the familiar corridors of Twyford Prep, I felt quietly reassured by the kind and good care I know they will take of my gorgeous boy.

I shall miss him so much and I know its part and parcel of him growing up and the natural turn of events but my heart is sore and heavy – a part of him is gone forever.



Konyali Lokantasi

Day Two with Emma and Sam was a trip to Sultanahmet which is massively touristy but gotta be done. We started off in 2 taxis but the roads are always jammed down the coast from Ortakoy to the Galata Bridge which then leads over to the old district, so we all jumped out and onto trams instead which were not only faster but much cooler too.

The Hagia Sophia, once a mosque and before that a church, is now a museum and quite stunning. We glimpsed the blue mosque and had fun bargaining in the Grand Bazaar for some Turkish lamps and then had a few rounds of cards while sipping on Turkish coffees.

For lunch we returned to an old favourite of Billy, Daisy’s and mine that we last visited when we were in Istanbul in May, Konyali Lokantasi. It’s a real gem of a restaurant that’s been going for years and years and welcomes both local workers and tourists although when we were there, it was mostly locals. It’s self-service cafeteria but overwhelmed with the choices, we were immediately helped by super friendly staff.


And this is where our first introduction to doner kebabs came in – I don’t think I had ever had one before – and billy and daisy certainly hadn’t but we loved them. Beautiful succulent meat carved from the main spit into what looks like a dustpan but then served either on cubes of bread with a tomato sauce and a large dollop of yogurt, or the ubiquitous chips and rice.