An early morning walk through the dusty streets of Istanbul down to the banks of the Bosphorus, a long and choppy crossing over the Sea of Marmara, a death-defying ride on a horse-pulled phaeton (there are no cars on Büyükada, the largest of the Princes Islands, just mad horsemen) followed by a hot and steamy mile-long climb up a mountain. That’s some effort for a lunch that consisted of a simple salad, a bowl of cacik (yogurt with cucumber and herbs), a plate of dolmades and a basket of bread. The thing is though, that was one of the most memorable lunches of our summer; the simplicity of the food was the point because we were sitting in a slightly overgrown garden next the Greek Orthodox Aya Yorgi Church quietly enjoying the stunning views over the glistening sea to the vast expanse of the bustling city and the chance to be, for a few short hours, returned to nature. It’s the little things isn’t it, that make your heart sing? The salad we ate that day was comprised of plump white beans mixed with sliced onions, sweet ripe tomatoes, a boiled egg and a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. This is my version of the classic fasulye piyaz we ate that day. Whenever we eat it, we are immediately transported back to Büyükada and that beautiful, beautiful lunch.
1 red onion, finely sliced
Half tsp sumac, plus extra for garnishing
2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
400g mixed tomatoes, halved or quartered according to their size
16 pitted Kalamata olives
A handful of capers or caper berries, rinsed
30g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large lemon, zested and juiced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to your taste
A few fronds of dill, to serve
How I make it
Place the sliced onion in a bowl and, using your hand, gently work in the sumac (this process removes the natural sourness of the onions making them much nicer to taste and easier to digest). Cover and set aside for around an hour.
In a large bowl, gently combine the onions, the beans, the tomatoes, half the olives, the capers and the chopped parsley. Mix together the olive oil and lemon juice to make a simple dressing and add it to the bowl. Mix and season to your taste.
Tumble everything onto a beautiful plate, add the remaining olives, the lemon zest, a sprinkling of sumac and the dill.
For a more substantial salad, add a couple of soft boiled eggs, quartered and arranged over the top.