Last month we travelled to Istanbul to set up an exhibition of the second edition of The Gift Project at Marmara University so we were regularly travelling between the European and Asian side of the city. This was my first visit to the latter and, I have to say, I loved it just as much as its glittering and elegant sister. It couldn’t be more different however, there is no grandeur or pretence here; indeed it feels very local, laid back and accessible. It reminded us of San Francisco and Tel Aviv with its wide tree-lined avenues, garden squares and elegant wooden houses. Whilst there, we were taken to several beautiful restaurants and bars but, because I love hunting for new ingredients, the highlight for me was walking through Kadiköy market, just a stone’s throw from the pedestrian ferry terminal where the banks of the glittering Bosphorus meets the Sea of Marmara. The ‘market’ itself is made up of a network of narrow pedestrianised streets lined with tiny bars, kebab houses, restaurants, meyhanes, coffee shops and the most amazing market stalls each bursting with colour, heady aromas and flavours. Here are just a few of the highlights I picked out as we walked through it on the way back to the ferry one late Monday afternoon.
We’re returning next month to take down the exhibition and to deliver some creative workshops. This time, I’m intending to buy garlands of dried aubergines for stuffing; biber salcasi (a red pepper paste that creates a perfect base for chillis); armfuls of dried orange slices to decorate cakes made with orange blossom honey and lemon thyme; Turkish cumin (which I believe is the best); isot biber (a Kurdish black chile revered for its gentle heat, fruity taste and chocolate undertones); pickled za’atar (which is very different from the spice mix so beloved of the Middle East); sweet semi-dried tomatoes; and, whatever else excites me.