For Easter holiday break we choose Bulgaria and it did not dissapoint. I have done an itinerary which included a bit of nature, city life and relaxation. Sofia is a great starting point as it is very well connected and availability of public transport is […]
USSR is now left in memories, old maps and nostalgia style cafes one can find in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. If you want to experience what it was like to be a kid in USSR, then you should visit “15 Kopeek”, museum of Soviet arcade […]
Istanbul is many things: mosques, Islamic art, sprawling bazaars, East and West in the same city- you name it. For me, Istanbul was definitely about food. This was largely due to the food tour I went on with Culinary Backstreets, which showed me a different side to the city and Turkish people appreciation of good food and a good banter. I have gone on a few tours in different corners of the world, but so far Culinary Backstreets have exceeded my expectations in terms of the length of the tour, variety of food that I was able to try and the cultural insights into the life of Istanbul.
My tour was called Born on the Bosphorus and this walk will show you a very different city, compared to often touristy Sultanahmet and Istiklal. As part of the tour, you will visit three distinct areas: Besiktas, Uskudar and Kuzgunchuk- I would describe them as contemporary, traditional and hipster- all within a space of a day. Believe me, the tour will equip you with so much knowledge, that you would feel confident to venture in these areas by yourself later, after the tour, which is what I did on my remaining days in Istanbul.
I would not be able to describe every single place we visited on the tour, as it was just so full on, but I will share my personal highlights: both in food bites and the places we visited.
If you want to go on the same tour, it is likely that the places you visit will be slightly different, as the tours are run by a number of guides and they have their own gems and places they take their groups to. Two tours are never the same when it comes to Culinary Backstreets.
Last but not least is our guide Benoit, who was a fascinating character. Fluent in several languages, having lived in Istanbul for more than 20 years and still learning about it on a daily basis. He was tirelessly taking us from place to place, offering food and stories from his own travels and Istanbul encounters.
So let’s start on my personal favourites from this tour.
We went to a simple cafe, where we were served sausage, menemen (scrambled eggs), bread, cheese and kaymak with honey, followed by an obligatory tea in a tulip shaped glasses. There is a whole street in Besiktas, called Ihlamurdere Avenue, Çelebi Oglu Street, full of cafes where they only serve breakfast, so I think no matter which one you go to, you are likely to get a great spread. The area is full of locals, so don’t be afraid that you will be given touristy fair.
The best items for me were kaymak with honey and eggs. I tried to recreate kaymak at home with honey and clotted Cornish cream, which worked pretty close to the original.
Traditional bakery in Besiktas “7-8 Hasanpasha Firini”
I loved the interior which have not been touched probably since it was first build and the ability to see bread and pastries being done exactly the same way as they were done 20 or 30 years ago. These places are being taken over more and more by hipster look a likes shopfronts, so it was even more precious to see it still going strong and rumming up business from locals.
Baklava and Borek
This is the best baklava shop in Istanbul, in my humble opinion.
I sampled a lot of baklava while in Istanbul, as you can get the real stuff there. But believe me, baklava from this shop is something else. It melts in your mouth and it is so light, I honestly had hard time believing that the dough is absolutely drenched in honey syrup and nuts. I came back here on my last day and bought a box to take home, it was irresistible.
They do borek pastry stuffed with cheese, which was also very nice, but the baklava was heavenly.
The church is located in Uskudar and its Dada (head priest) was very welcoming. He took us on a little tour and found the time to talk about their religion and way of life. I never heard of Alawaite before this tour, so it was definitely a learning experience for me. Interesting fact: the church has an in-house butcher, who will prepare donations from church patrons, and donations are usually in the form of the whole sheep.
Uskudar area and Freshest Fish
This area is traditional and different to the majority of Istanbul you will see as a tourist. My highlight was local market, full of fresh fish, dried fruits and nuts, pickles, household items and other useful goodies. We stopped at a fishmonger, which had a restaurant attached to it at the back. You can select which fish you want and it will be simply grilled for you. The preparation is very simple and Beinot selected the fish which was good to eat in winter months. He also shared that summer was not really a season for fish in Istanbul.
Fish is normally served without a side dish, just with salad and some sliced onions.
I shared my highlights with you, but there were also: traditional sweets, pickles, kebab, mussels stuffed with rice, honey, aubergine, halva, grilled intestines, mantu – there is no way you will be getting hungry on this tour.
When I am going to travel to another country where Culinary Backstreets run their tours, I will definitely be booking a food tour again, as sheer variety of all the fabulous food on this tour will stay with you.
Thank you Benoit and Culinary Backstreets – I will be back!
I paid a media rate for Culinary Backstreets Food Tour in Istanbul, but all opinions are my own.
Istanbul is full of sights and quite a few of them are located around Aya Sofia: Topkapi Palace, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Blue Mosque and Basilica Cistern. You can comfortably just stay in the area for a couple of days exploring these treasures. […]
Summer is coming soon and I love making lighter meals when the weather is warmer. I like my meals to have a nutritional value , but not being as heavy as winter stews or soups. Salad is a great way to achieve this, you can combine your proteins with other healthy ingredients.
I want to share a recipe for an Italian-style salad with beef steak. Beef provides eight essential vitamins and minerals that support good health and well-being. Vegetables and salad leaves add colour and variety to your diet.
You will need the following ingredients:
4 steaks for 4 people ( number of steaks is the same as the number of people you are cooking for)
Cherry Tomatoes -250g pack
Sweet Peppers – 2
Red Onion – half
Garlic – 3 cloves or more if you like
Good quality olive oil
Herbs and Spices: Basil, Parsley, Fennel, Rosemary
Sweet Potato – 3 medium
First, peel your sweet potatoes, cut them into medium pieces and put them on the tray to roast in the oven for approximately 25 minutes.
While potatoes are cooking, prepare your tomato and pepper dressing. Cut peppers and tomatoes in small pieces. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, thinly sliced red onion, garlic and herbs/spices and put to the side to rest and for flavours to mix.
Once your potatoes are ready, you can assemble salad leaves on each individual plate, and add potatoes.
Now is the time to quickly cook the steak as you like it. This will take a few minutes for medium rare and once meat is ready, slice it on the chopping board and arrange on top of your salad leaves. The finishing touch is the dressing, which you can put on top of the steak or just next to it.
Salad flavours are wonderful, as steak is robust and tomato and pepper dressing is tangy, while potatoes add the sweet element.
Let me know if you had a go at cooking this salad and what did you think?
This post is an entry for the #MeatMatters Challenge, sponsored by Simply Beef and Lamb. Learn more about the benefits of cooking and eating beef and lamb along with recipe ideas and inspiration here.
Every single holiday has moments, which stay with you forever. In Istanbul, for me, it was definitely a visit to the Turkish Bath Kilic Ali Pasha Hamami, which has recently undergone a multi-million refurbishment and was brought back to its former glory. I have experienced […]
Hungarian National Museum was one of the places I visited, while in Budapest. It provides a great introduction to Hungarian History and the museum is manageable enough, so you don’t have a headache at the end of your visit.
The museum is divided into defined historic periods, so you can either choose the historic route from ancient times to the modern day or just concentrate on a section which appeals to you most.
I normally skip early history sections in a museum, as I do not find them particularly interesting, but I definitely made a mistake here, leaving Archaeological section till the end. Museum curators have done a fantastic job! You will see recreated houses, hoards and plenty of explanations in English to go with the displays.
Another highlight was a room dedicated to the Hungarian Coronation Mantle. You actually have to be let into the room by a security guy, as he will put display lights on. When there are no visitors, this room is kept in a complete darkness. Unless there is someone else is in the room, it is like having a tet-a-tet date with the mantle, which is beautifully embroidered with gold threads.
If you enjoy ethnography, the displays on folk activities and costumes are fascinating and allow you to learn a little bit more about how people lived in the countryside.
There is a section dedicated to the collection of Roman stonework with plenty of artefacts and a huge floor mosaic, which one can look at for hours.
Ferenz List is the most well-known Hungarian composer. The museum has a whole room dedicated to him, where you can see his piano, several personal things and listen to the music in the headphones in a soundproof room. I thought it was a nice touch, as you can sit down, appreciate the music and have a little break in your visit.
The area dedicated to the 20th century and communism years transported me back to my childhood, with so many recognisable objects. I did not really need to read any of the descriptions and it got me thinking that I got to experience a remarkable time, which is not likely to be repeated any time soon.
I also wanted to mention that the museum building is beautiful. If you want to take a break, you can either sit in the common areas and appreciate wall paintings or go to a cafe, which is located next to the Roman section of the museum in the basement.
Hungarian National Museum was a delight to visit and it is definitely should be on your itinerary in Budapest. It will give you an informed overview of Hungarian history, which might prompt you to learn a bit more about the exhibits that you saw or subjects that are covered by the Museum.
My visit was hosted by National Hungarian Museum but all opinions are my own.
What is your favourite activity on Friday night? Mine are masks, bath tubs and wine! What about “going out, restaurants and socialising with friends” I hear you say. I am a parent, remember? Restaurants will have to wait for the next 18 years! I have […]