5 years, 10 months ago
Istanbul is a vibrant, colourful and culturally rich city. Not just in terms of mosques and art but also food. There is food on every street corner, with prices varying from the absurdly cheap and delicious to prices in higher end restaurants more in line with what western visitors will be familiar with at home.
One of the benefits of renting a private apartment when exploring a city like Istanbul is the fact that there is a kitchen available to cook in. That means you can shop the markets and bring things home to try. Istanbul apartments are great value, but can be on the small side, so if you want to ensure that you have a kitchen that suits your needs, be sure to check the photos and amenity descriptions in the HouseTrip listings so that you are satisfied with what’s available.
Three apartments I checked out during my stay include:
This bijou apartment that is good if all you want is a refrigerator to store purchases and a microwave for reheating – but not so good if you are planning to cook:
This flat in Galata is the best equipped of the three with full kitchen facilities and great for friends as there are two beds in the property. The ground floor location makes it perfect for those with mobility issues:
My favourite of the bunch is this beautiful four-bedroom apartment with stunning views. The kitchen is basic but has everything you need. Just be prepared for the four-storey climb as there is no lift!
In order to explore the food to cook at home, I started first by looking at what it was that locals ate on the streets and at home. I explored the markets, always a joy, but in Turkey even more so. On the Bosphorus at the base of Galata tower, there is a buzzing fish market selling very fresh fish. One veg stall adds some colour but otherwise it is fish-fish-fish – your perfect stop for your homemade mackerel sandwich (an Istanbul favourite to eat on the Bosphorus). But still, what to cook at home? I think a mackerel sandwich is best enjoyed on the Bosphorus and my mind turns to breakfast or a quick meal in the evening to have with wine.
Istanbul is wonderful for breakfasts. A simple street side simit (bagel-like bread covered in sesame seeds) spread with kaymak (buffalo milk clotted cream) and honey is divine. I like to create a great fresh breakfast to power me through the day. One of my death row dishes is actually a breakfast, and it is a Turkish one: Çılbır, a soothing and delicious dish of poached eggs and melted butter infused with Aleppo pepper (easily available in Istanbul), also sometimes crispy sage. I love adding the sage, which crisped in butter is veggie bacon to my mind.
I bet this sounds confusing. Cold yogurt, warm butter, hot eggs, hot pepper?! Yes, but this, I promise you is wonderful and I want to introduce you to it too.
Shopping for ingredients in Istanbul is a lovely experience. Most speak some English and even if they don’t, they are helpful. Istanbul is a city that lives and breathes food, and it is a city that still cooks every day, so you are never far from a local butcher or greengrocer. Butchers sell terrific and very reasonable kofte that you can buy to cook at home. I bought 12 for about £3 and they went down very well with a bottle of Turkish red wine bought from Sensas, a lovely Turkish wine bar near Galata (you can drink in or take home).
There are many markets in Istanbul, but for a great local experience, hop on the ferry to Kadıköy. The local market there, just a stone’s throw from the ferry terminal is rich with wonderful spice shops, butchers, fish shops, general provisioners (where you will get all you need for your Turkish Eggs), pickle shops, everything that Istanbul has to offer in one compact space.
Enjoy Istanbul, and enjoy this lovely local breakfast.
Çılbır (Turkish Eggs)
3 heaped tbsp local Turkish thick yogurt
a generous slab of butter – about 25g
1 tsp Aleppo pepper (available in any provisions shop or spice shop)
6 sage leaves (optional)
Poach your eggs by boiling some lightly salted water and creating a whirlpool with a spoon, drop the eggs one by one into the center and allow to cook for a few minutes until the outside white is set but the yolk is still fluid. The easiest way to do this is to pre crack the eggs into individual cups, reducing the drama of adding them.
While the eggs are poaching melt the butter gently and while still golden, turn off the heat and add the Aleppo pepper. If using the sage crisp the leaves in the butter before adding the pepper briefly – don’t let the colour darken or they will burn. Prepare the serving bowl by putting the yogurt inside.
When the eggs are done, remove them from the water with a slotted spoon and place on top of the yogurt. Spoon the butter and pepper around the eggs and add the sage, if using.
Eat immediately, and enjoy!
Featured image by Alaskan Dude.