Golfing and Food in Turkey

Recently a group ( well more a bunch, we were 22) went off to Southern Turkey to play golf. We were near Antalya, and a long way from both Istanbul and Syria.screen-shot-2016-10-15-at-15-55-56

The hotel we stayed in ( the same as last year and the same one where the G20 was held last year) is Enormous! With about 530 rooms, several restaurants, a water park,at least 2 100 metre swimming pools, plus beach side cabanas and docks, and a beautiful golf course. It is luxury beyond belief and on top of all of that, everything is included, and I mean everything. From the chocolates and champagne, when you enter the front door, to the Help-yourself “Magnum”ice cream on the beach, to the Gummy bears in the Mini bar ( Plus all the contents of the mini bar). One could be forgiven for overindulging here.

We tried all of the restaurants.There was a Turkish restaurant (obviously), a Seafood one, an Italian, an Asian and a Brazilian. For breakfast, there was the self-service buffet. The choice on this buffet was unbelievable , any thing that you could wish to eat for breakfast was here. There was one stand that was fascinating. It was where a pastry chef, made Turkish pastries, both sweet and savoury  and baked them there on the spot. He made his own Filo pastry as well. The choice was meat, cheese, spinach or pistachio.

I was impressed with his skill, with the filo pastry, I must admit I have never made it myself, but is essential when making Baklava or Apfel Strudel, but then I also have to say, i do not usually make deserts like these.

However I did decide to try something along these lines as an experiment. Firstly I cam unstuck, I went to an Upmarket, grocery store and they did not have Filo pastry, and I was not about to undertake making my own, so I compromised and used chinese spring roll pastry. Tis is similar to filo, but not so fine, but there again, is not in danger of drying out, like Filo pastry.

Doing my research, the only recipes I could find that were Turkish or Middle Eastern for any thing vaguely similar to those above, were in fact for baklava, which is totally different, very sweet and sticky.

So I used 400 grams of pistachios and walnuts mixed together, along with 1/2 cup liquid honey to mix it into a sort of paste. I then used Ghee ( indian melted butter) to brush each layer of pastry and put a layer of filing in the middle of each and rolled it up. gave them another brush with butter and baked at 225 C for about 10 mins. until golden brown.

I admit to them not being the same, but I think filled with Spinach and cheese would make a wonderful snack and as they are, served as a dessert with a crème anglaise,or ice cream, Perfect!

Oh and did I mention Chocolates ?

Tarte au Fromage d’Abondance

Tarte au Fromage d’Abondance

Here in the heart of Les Portes du Soleil on the Swiss/ French Alps border, is the town of Morzine, which, was  one of the pioneering ski areas of the  1930’s. A pretty enough town mostly built on the surrounding hills overlooking the town with views up to Avoriaz, a purpose built resort with ski areas up to 2,400 m. From the distance  the resort blends well into the rocks and mountain but close up it is really quiet ugly.

Back to Morzine, these days it is more than a ski resort, hosting in the summer “Harley Days” where the town is swamped by about 3,000 Harley riding bikers, the Tour de France and do not forget the hordes of mountain bikers, who use the ski lifts ( which have been adapted) to get up the mountains with their  bikes, only to descend at break neck speeds, looking more like Darth Vader, than humans. It is not unusual to see,  people hobbling around in casts and on crutches in winter and summer alike.

Morzine is close to Geneva, and hence is accessible to many Europeans and especially the Brits! A whole industry has arisen to cater to them, from catered chalets, to laundry services, to builders, to real estate agents and even to a Tesco delivery service! Restaurants abound, serving predominately mountain food and of course pizza. Chalets give their staff one night a week ‘off duty’ and so the guests descend upon the restaurants en mass. As I have said before Mountain food is  variations on a theme, cheese, ham, cream, charcuterie, including Cheese fondue, cheese raclette ,  croute au fromage, platters of charcuterie, etc etc. However one restaurant we we do frequent above others, is La Grange in the center of Morzine itself. It is run by a young Anglo French couple, Alex and Fred. They have been open for about 8 years and so far so good. When we visited the other night, a Tuesday, we were amazed at how busy they were. One party of about 20 walked in whilst we were there. I think they must have had 100+ covers that evening. As with most restaurants their menu is for serving the tourists , so lots of chees, ham , charcuterie and cream. However, they do have other offerings, such as local lake fish, wild boar stew, steak and salmon trout from the local Ardoisières valley fish farm. Sometimes, they do a very good Steak Tartare, though sadly not that often.

The one thing that we really enjoy when going there is the Tarte au Fromage d’Abondance. Abondance is a ‘ controlled named ‘ cheese from the Savoy region.It is made from semi skimmed milk and made into 10 kilo rounds. It is a very similar cheese to Gruyere but has a buttery, nutty flavour. It is semi hard and melts very nicely, which makes it ideal for cooking and can also be a substitute for Raclette cheese.. Here in the Savoy , it costs between 11€ and €18 a kilo, but in the UK it can cost as much £35( la Fromagerie in Marylebone for example). So I have been experimenting in making this delicious Tart. And it is not a quiche. 

The lovley Cheese from Abondance
 So to make this tart, you need enough pastry to line a quiche pan, I used a 12″ pan and pastry using 8 Oz flour you can use your favourite recipe or even buy some ready made, but not any type of puff pastry.

  1. 500 grams grated abondance cheese
  2. 4 large eggs
  3. 200 MLS Crème Fraiche
  4. Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Method 

Roll out the pastry, thin enough to line a quiche pan, but not too thinly. Trim the top edge and   prick the bottom of the pastry to prevent it from rising. Line the pastry with some baking paper. Fill this with some form of baking beans. You can buy ceramic baking beans but you can use rice, noodles, dried peas ,beans etc. 

the pastry lined with paper and anssortment of cereamkc beans, rice and noodles
 Bake at 200 C for about 15 mins only so just a little pre baking. Remove from oven and remove the paper and beans. Whilst the pastry is in the oven , whisk together the eggs and the Crème Fraiche . Season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Spread the grated cheese over the pastry case evenly and spoon over the egg Crème mix. 

The finished Tart
 Return to the oven and bake for about 45 mins until the top is a golden brown. Remove from oven and leave to cool a little. It is best served warm but not hot. Could be served with some buttered new potatoes or a simple green salad.

Chinese lunch,Vitelotte potatoes and French Supermarkets!

Whilst I love coming to France for the summer I have to admit to getting extremely frustrated in the Supermarkets. Firstly, customer service does not seem to exist, they will close the door on you as you are about to enter, as it is l’heure du repas ( lunch time), or’ Vous n’avez pas pesez les bananes, Madam” ( you forgot to weigh the bananas ) and so now you can forget about the bananas, and the banana bread you were about to bake, or lose your place in the queue and go back and weigh them, no-one else is going to weigh them for you! Or, what about picking up a head of celery, only to be told you have to weigh it, and yes you can buy just one stalk,hence the reason that what is normally left on the shelf are  the tatty outer stalks, as everyone has taken the choice bits from the middle!

My other complaint is the lack of products that I take for granted ( and I realise that I am spoilt by living in central London , But!) The younger Himself accused me the other day of taking Coals to Newcastle, as I was packing the car for our annual pilgrimage to the French Alps. No wasabi, no Sesame Oil, no Sweet chili sauce, no jumbo oats for porridge, no Ghee, no Panko Breadcrumbs,no horseradish sauce, even though the word for horseradish, does exist (Raifort). And, despite the shelves being jammed packed with teas of every type imaginable, no Lemon and Ginger. But on the other hand 10 different types of Lettuce and up to 400 different types of cheese and a 1000 if you count the sub divisions, so some you win and some you lose!  

    
Recently at a lunch, we were served, what was described erronously on the menu as Violet potatoes. I would assume that most English speakers would call them violet potatoes, as that is their colour, however, they are of french origin and are called VITELOTTE. According to Wikepedia  they are a gourmet  french potato and have been cultivated in France since the 19th Century. However the translation of Vitelotte, again according to Wikepedia, is the word Vit means Penis, and prehaps that is because of the shape of the potato.. As potato Crisps/Chips they look just fine, but as mashed potatoes, they did nothing for me not in colour, texture nor appearance, I compared it to either a dead mouse or a giant slug, that is about as appealing it can get! As my willowy brunette has been known to remark, they have to be something wonderful to justify those  calories. I was not impressed.   

    

violet potato chips
     
 Also recently we were treated to a special lunch by our dear friend Annie, who hails from the beautiful island of Taiwan. For those of you who have never been, put it on your Bucket List. Taipei, as you might imagine, is not the most beautiful city in the world, but does have the most amazing Museum housing Chinese Artifacts, which Chiang Kai Shek Stole? or rescued from Mao just after the 2nd world war, thank goodness he did so , otherwise they would all have been destroyed during the cultural revolution . There are so many  wonderful articles, that there are just too many for them all to be on display at any one time. Also in Taipai there is an enormous Multi-Storey restaurant that serves nothing but Dim Sum, the best I have ever had, but it is possible to eat good dimesum , almost anywhere in the city so now you have at least three reasons to visit Taiwan., not to mention it as being a beautiful island. After all, it used to be called Formosa, the translation of which is Beautiful!
But on to Annie, she cooked us her version of a chinese meal, which I assume is influenced by Taiwanese cooking.  We started with fish cakes and  Taiwan influenced marianted chicken wings. this was followed by Dim Sum and then fine asparagus with shrimp,noodles with small onions and chicken,sautéed asian aubergines and peking duck, All was absolutly delicious and toppd off with homemade mango ice cream and fresh mangos.All in the name of Charity “The Alexander Devine Hospice”. Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice Service was founded in 2007 with the aim of providing a dedicated children’s hospice service for all children with life limiting and life threatening illnesses in Berkshire and beyond. 

 

prawns and asparagus
  
  
peking duck
 
  
     
mango ice cream with freh mangos
    

In Hell’s Kitchen

We went to Hell’s Ktichen and not the Gordon Ramsey type either, but the real McCoy in New York City, which basically lies between 35 th/ 9 th and 57 streets. It is an area inManhattan called Midtown west, there are various reasons for it having been called Hell’s Kitchen and it would seem that there is no definitative answer. Wikipedia has many of the theories on its website.

   We went for supper before hitting Theaterland at the upper end of Broadway. The whole of the neighbourhood seemed to be on the street, and this was explained by being the International  Food Festival.of course we knew nothing of this in advance and happened upon it by chance . Unfortunately most were on the way to packing away their wares and we were headed to a restaurant called the 5 th Napkin ! An unusual name for a restaurant , but nonetheless it was enroute to the theatre. 

   
We were not unduly disappointed, the place was buzzing and we only had a 20 min wait ( they do take reservations though) . The willowy brunette was sorely tempted by the hamburger that was being served alongside us, but in the end settled for a grilled shrimp Caesar salad with a side of fries, preceded by shared the fried calamari. This at least was declared as being the best Calamari ever ( wish we had chosen one each).  

     The salad on the other hand was marginally disappointing . America does BIG and so when choosing something, which one thinks is a good choice and then for it to be on the small side is disappointing ! However it was good. The willowy brunette declared she could have done with more shrimp, and so could I but it was not to be. On the plus side, it was a great salad, the shrimp delicious and the fries excellent. 

 Our neighbours on one side who had the hamburgers, were also not disappointed, whilst to our minds, the neighbours on the other side  had a weird dinner. An assortment of  dim sum, chicken wings ( smothered in ketchup?) and matzo ball in gravy! The look of it did not leave us feeling green eyed with envy!

I think the moral of this little venture, is, stick to what they do best and go for the hamburger!

The following day we had a similar experience in Harold’s, all day American Bistro, the ( again) shrimp salad was underwhelming and the home fries, turned out to be tasty but a bit soggy sautéed potatoes. Looking around, the breakfast brunch options of omelettes or ham and cheese croissants also seemed a safer bet.

Another interesting area of Manhattan is the Highline route, this is built on an old elevated railroad and is an urban garden supported by Friends of the Highline. It runs fromWest 34 th ( between 10 and 12 Avenues) to Gansvoort Street in the Meat Packing district. Early on a Sunday morning it is busy, with the urban Joggers, power walkers and tourists, along with blushing brides to be in vertiginous heels, for their engagement photo shoot! What we found however was the ultimate in Multi Story car parking ! See for yourself!

   

Ah well, you win some and you lose some, but we won on our hotel, where we were given a penthouse room, with a terrace, overlooking the Empire State Building, and where we could sit and drink our wine in peace along with the noise of Madison Avenue. What more could you want? Well an upgrade on the return flight? Well sometimes, you do get what you wish for! Should wish more often!!

   
 

Blue berry pancakes and all that.

Here in New York City, the willowy Brunette decided that today was the day for Blueberry Pancakes. This American delicacy is usually saved for a Post Marathon extravaganza, but  for today, no excuse was needed, (Apart from energy required to go shopping) except that it had to be. 

 So off we trudged to the Clinton Street Bakery, which is down in the Bowery area of the city, but enroute ( well sort of) to Ground Zero, or the New World Trade Center . The Brunette had done her research, and so we were forewarned that there could be a wait. Sure enough there was. The Clinton Street bakery is a small restaurant which seats only about 30 people, we were told, about 30 mins, but we were in after only 20, but by the time we left, the line was around the block!   

Oh what to chose, no light eating here. The Brunette ( the willowy one) chose, of course, the Blueberry pancakes and as for myself, the French toast with caramel bananas and pecans. Both came with Maple Butter, and we shared a side of bacon and a side of sausage. 

 The Brunette is a connoisseur of Blueberry Pancakes and declared that these were some of the best, light and fluffy , liked the maple butter and did not feel stuffed nor the feeling of a sugar overload! My french toast was excellent, though far too much,  and think I would have preferred straight up Maple syrup ( not Aunt Jeminas fake maple syrup). And we loved the sausage and bacon! 

 

Our neighbour chose, eggs and sausage on an English Muffin, did not look as exciting as ours, and the neighbour on the other side, chose NOTHING, her boyfriend however did eat, I guess that is the only way to go to this diner and come out without a Heart attacking alert! 

 Considering the small kitchen the short order cooks, who were cooking up a storm, seemed remarkably in a happy mood. 

   So next time in New York City put the Clinton Street Bakery on the top of your list!

To Eat or not to Eat , Street Food that is!

We have all been warned about the dangers of eating street food in third world countries, warned about Gibby Tummy, Delhi Belly, Montezumas revenge and other such delightful phrases! How not to eat anything that has not been freshly cooked, to avoid raw fruit and vegetables and God forbid having  a Gin and Tonic with Ice, the ice could be contaminated!

There are exceptions to the rule, eating on the streets of Bangkok and other Thai towns never produced any of those symptoms, there are street stalls and centres selling food all day long  and the same could be said of Singapore. In Singapore, the term “hawker” no longer describes  the person selling street food, as in the early days, nowadays, hawkers are located in ‘hawker centres or food courts. All the food I have eaten in such places have never produced any undesired effects.

The same can not be said of India, notorious for unsanitary conditions , where in a land of 1.28 billion people over two thirds do not have a toilet,  the streets are filthy and trash is everywhere. Hence, it is not surprising that street food is not safe. But when backpacking in China, the rule of thumb was, if it is being cooked in front of you and not located next to a dog pound, then it was safe to eat.

I always was very wary however in Mexico, I avoided street food. I stayed in reasonable accommodation ate good food and got sick, copious amounts of Imodium were always in my suitcase. This was the case until I went on a street food tour of Mexico City.

We went on the Eat Mexico Culinary Tours. We, #1 daughter, himself and myself, met our guide in the fairly smart centre of Mexico City and spent the morning going from stand to stand and eating our way through them all.

We started at Tamales ( corner of Rio Lerma & Rio Panuco),  tamales are traditional Mesoamerican dish made from masa (corn) which is steamed or boiled , grilled or fried in a leaf wrapper. The wrapper is discarded before eating. They can also have grasshoppers (especially delicious ), small anchovy type fish and served with salsa, red, green or Jalapeño . Usually eaten early in the morning or late evening. 1 Tamale and drink cost $10 peso (5 pence). I chose the green Salsa, Yummy! 

 

Next was a side trip into the Mercado Cuauhtémoc, outside was a wonderful array of flowers and fruit, inside fruit and vegetables and food stalls. A delicacy which is sold every where, is Chicharron it is pork skin after it has been seasoned and deep fried. In Mexico, they are eaten alone as a snack, drier and much nicer than pork scracthings . They are also  used in soups Tacos and stews. We were also served, Atol, which is a hot drink made from corn, can be as thick as porridge or very runny more like gruel, can be flavoured with cinnamon or can have chocolate added. Always served on the Day of the Dead, however I have to say, it did not really ‘tickle my fancy’. 

   

Next stop was a Tortilla  factory , corn tortillas that is. The small Hole in the Wall factory makes fresh corn tortillas daily, standard size is 6″ and  they sell for $12 peso a kilo. The average family eats about 9 kilos a day, and this little factory produces an unbelievable 800 kilos a day. Tortillas are to Mexican families, what a baguette is to French families. Nothing goes to waste, stale tortillas are made into breakfast dishes such as Chilaquiles . 

   

We then continued our tour by stopping at a fresh juice stand ( fresh juice of all kinds is a delight in Mexico) and then moved on to Tlacoyos and Quesadillas. In Mexico City the preferred filling for these delights, ( quesadillas are flour tortillas which are sandwich together with a filling and grilled or baked in an oven) is cheese. In other parts of the country  they choose such things as Salsa Verde, Huitalacoche, courgette flowers, cheese and meat. Once upon a time I made on a weekend what I called Breakfast Quesadillas, which I filled with scrambled egg, chopped ham and cheese. What is Hutalacoche? Well it is also called Corn Smut, does that give you a clue? It is indeed a fungus that grows on ears of sweet corn, but Mexicans use it in soups and for fillings for quesadillas ! As yet I have not tried it, and # 1 daughter has a thing about fungus of any kind, and that includes mushrooms!

   

We then proceeded to Tacos de Canasta, these Tacos were filled with pulled pork, but pulled pork, like you have never tasted before. The wife of the stall bolder arises at 3.0 am everyday to make the fillings for 800 tortillas. He sets the stand up at 6.0 am to catch the early morning trade. The Tacos cost €8 pesos, and they have been doing this for an amazing 18 years! 

   

We ate Fresh fruit dusted with chile powder, and odd combination you might think, but no, really interesting. We went to a Burrito stand, Burritos are not really Mexican ( more Tex Mex) but in the City they have become a hit and have been in business for 6 years.  They are flour Tortillas filled with sautéed peppers, cooked pork or chicken and different salsas.

Our last stop was Carnitas, it is fried pork and every part of the pig is used ( except the testicles known as Prairie Oysters in Texas), again it is a corn tortilla, filled pork of choice, chopped onions, salsa and cilantro. 

   

This tour certainly changed my mind with regard to Mexican Street food. The rule of thumb given to us by our guide was

  1. Choose a stand that has children, the vendors will not be wanting to hurt their own children.
  2. Choose a stand that is popular.
  3. Choose a stand that looks clean
  4. Choose a stand where the vendor wears disposable plastic gloves
  5. Choose a stand wear the plates used are not washed up in dirty water but covered with a disposable plastic.much cleaner.
  6. Follow these rules and you too will be able to avoid the dreaded Montezumas Revenge!

Accentuate the positive

Eating our way around Mexico ( again) or Accentuate the positive!

In London towers, we had another significant event, well not actually London Towers, and not even close by. But wherever it was, it was a good reason to try yet another nice restaurant.

Biko is in Polanço, Mexico City, is listed as one of the best restaurants in the world and stands at # 30! A couple of years ago we tried another in Polanço, Pujol, with which I was not duly impressed. Having eaten now widely in Mexico, attended a couple of cooking classes, been on street food tours, I feel I have a good understanding of Mexican cuisine, and Tex Mex it is not.

So to Biko, a Wednesday evening in November , the temperature warmish, the traffic as usual in this part of town, dreadful. Biko is located just off President Mazaryke , which is the main road in this part of town, and where one can find most of the smarter shops and cafes., that is when it is not being dug up, which seems to be most of the time.
So let us start with the positives, we were warmly welcomed, our chief waiter introduced himself and explained how their menu worked. Nickinlaw ( family joke) duly explained, the girls had Kir Royal ( more Kir than royal, which had to be diluted with more champagne, of course) whilst the boys had a deconstructed Bloody Mary, in this case, Tequila with spicy tomato juice on the side. Interesting!

We chose the tasting Menu, which consisted of 7 courses, albeit they were small. And here comes the negatives, Grey seems to have been the colour theme of the evening, ( in Pujol it was beige), almost everything was various shades of Grey ( and not, I add 50 Shades of Grey, might have been more exciting if it had been!) The fois gras was grey, the tuna, grey/pink and the pork grey / white. And the restaurant it self was Grey, or beige or Dull. Food tasted OK service was Ok, atmosphere, not Ok. Reading various comments on Trip Advisor ( not always the best source of information, I must admit) others too were underwhelmed.Pricey? Yes, worth a second visit, No, there are too many very good restaurants, to go to one that we think mediocre. I wonder sometimes, who actually ranks the restaurants, and the criteria used for the rankings.

Meanwhile back at London Towers, we had a first! A First was a take-away! We have had in the past, I must admit had en Famille a Pizza Movie Night, especially confined in the Snowy Mountains of France, where we drive down 7 hair-raising hairpin bends, slip-sliding to the original Pizza Hut……. La Cabane, a little wooden hut, which night after night just makes Pizza, to go, and whilst you wait serves either a Vin Chaud or a soupçon of vin rouge.all over the French Alps it is possible to find these small, Take Aways, usually Pizza, but sometimes Pasta.
But this was a real, live delivered to your front door, take away. And I have to confess, that after being out all day, it was a great meal. Might just do it again! Watch this space!!

IMG_2425

IMG_2437

IMG_2428

IMG_2433

IMG_2434

IMG_2424