Saturday, 17 October 2009

What a Turkey!

Deciding where I want to holiday is always tough. Cuisine is the primary consideration, but that's got to be weighed against authenticity, value, climate, language, etc. My trip to Portugal earlier in the year ticked all of those boxes, but the time spent planning it to make sure that it did tick those boxes was inordinate. To recuperate from the party conference season I wanted an easy, quick fix and decided on Turkey.

The WHERE was the tricky bit. Istanbul was the penultimate destination on my inter rail trip in 2004. I remember the excitement of the 23 hour train journey there from Bucharest, drinking tea and eating salted cucumbers with the conductor, and then arriving in the scorching July heat to find myself, as I had hoped, in another world. I have ideas about travelling through Turkey by train and bus and being very thorough and authentic, so I didn't want to use up too many Turkey credits with this one. In the end, I decided on Oludeniz, on Turkey's south western coast. From my research, it was beautiful, accessible (via package holidays), affordable and still warm and sunny in mid-October.

Oludeniz was indeed beautiful, accessible, affordable and still warm and sunny in mid-October, but it was also full of Brits Abroad. Brits Abroad are not especially keen to immerse themselves in local cultures and cuisines, and the vast majority of the restaurants served full English breakfasts, apple crumble, egg and chips and all those clich├ęd favourites. There were, however, three great restaurants in the town serving very nice, typical Turkish cuisine, so all was not lost.

The Oba Motel is the last remaining of the hippy settlements that were in Oludeniz long before the asphalt blocks, neon cocktail bars and Turkish delight shops. It still has tree house style huts to stay in, but also features a large, mostly outdoor restaurant service up tasty Turkish cuisine and genial service.

We visited a couple of times, and on both occasions we started with a freebie mini mezze plate, with burnt aubergine, a yoghurt and garlic dip, spiced hummus and a tomato and pepper dip. This was served with the customary so-freshly-baked-it's-all-puffed-up-with-steam pita breads, which are a million miles from those dry pitas you get all vacuum packed from the supermarket.

On my first visit, I had a tasty vegetable casserole, cooked and served in a clay pot. Yummy squash, aubergine, carrots, peas and peppers featured in this simple but satisfying dish.

The other time we visited the Oba Motel, we treated ourselves to a whopping fish platter, with swordfish, calamari, prawns, white tuna and lake trout. All freshly grilled over coals and served simply with the usual sides of rice, chips, salads and green bean stew. The fish was so, so fresh and juicy and laced with just the right amount of char taste.

Desserts in restaurants are seemingly not too big a deal in Turkey, the only dish consistently on menus was baklava, obviously. At Oba we tried a dish, which was warm bananas with (warm) honey, cream and cinnamon. It was really nice, but I'm not sure how traditional it is. Any ideas?

I'll write about the rest of my Turkish culinary experiences later...

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