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Sunday, 25 September 2011

Chicken and dill pilaf

Dispose of your
chicken carcass a stock pot
This weekend I found myself hoking round Tesco's reduced section and gathered up some random vegetables, some of which gave me the makings of stock. One thing I did not get to eat on my holidays was my favourite bulgur wheat pilaf - the restaurateurs of Side preferred rice and orzo to coarse bulgur and vermicelli. So I dragged a chicken carcass out of the freezer and made a main course pilaf inspired by Turkey and Tesco's.

Chicken & Dill Pilaf

1 chicken carcass (or a pack of chicken wings)
2 onions, halved
2 carrots, cut into chunks
3 stalks of celery
Handful of parsley
Salt and pepper

Coarse bulgur (or rice if you can't find any)
3-4 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 nest vermicelli (optional)
1 small bunch of dill, chopped

Take the first 6 ingredients, put them in a large pot and cover with water, bring to the boil, skim off the foam, simmer on low for a few hours. Strain the liquid off and measure it (I got 24 fl. oz.). Measure out half that amount of bulgur or rice (e.g. I poured the bulgur into a measuring jug up to the 12 fl.oz. marker). Pull any chicken meat off the carcass and chop finely. Take a large pan with a lid (I used a flat bottomed wok) and fry up the onion and celery in olive oil until it's transparent, then crumble a nest of vermicelli in, stir till the vermicelli is translucent. Add the bulgur and fry for a few more minutes. Then add the hot stock (there will be lots of steam!), add the chicken bits, bring to the boil, cover and turn the heat to medium. Leave without touching for 10 minutes, then turn the heat off and leave it to stand on the ring for 10 minutes (it will sit longer if needed). Do not touch the lid! No peeking, no stirring. Chop the dill finely and stir it through, check for seasoning and then leave covered for another few minutes for the flavour to permeate.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Whole lot of greeting going on

Took Sheba to the Greyhound Meet and Greet at the Pets at Home in Bangor today, the idea of which is to demonstrate to the public that sighthounds are lovely, lazy guys who are biddable, easy to care for and generally very nice to be around.

So they are, too. About a dozen of us were there, mostly with rescue greys and lurchers, and a very friendly and chatty bunch we were. Everyone's dogs behaved impeccably too....apart from you know who.

The noble Sheba in more relaxed form
 Yes, Sheba reminded everyone that she's a massive Dublin knacker and growled very loudly at every dog who came near her. At one point she was actually marching over to new dogs, wagging her tail, all smiles.....and then growling at them once she got close. The other dogs were, naturally, nonplussed. One of the owners suggested (in the nicest, most helpful way) that we invest in a muzzle until she sorts her issues out. She lent us one for a while and it was useful because as soon as Sheba was strapped into it, it was clear that she's not actually scared, she just likes to growl, because she promptly sat down and sulked.

So still work to do on my little gurrier, but if you are interested in adopting a dog please consider a greyhound or lurcher, they are such good dogs and so easy to look after.

On the way home we went to McKees in Craigantlet to get bones for the dogs and very happy they were too.

Old school savoury mince pie recipe

A lot of Saturday evening conversations go like this:

Me: What do you want for dinner?
Him: Lark's tongues in aspic (I exaggerate for comic effect, but you get the idea - some mad concoction you'd never have the ingredients for)
Me: I don't have the makings for that!
Him (sulking): Well why ask then?

Nice to hear him say he wanted an old-fashioned mince pie with boiled spuds and broccoli as I had all the makings to hand (Tesco having Jus-rol ready rolled puff pastry on special offer for a pound), so I made a pie so wonderful he says we have to have it at least once a week from now on. ;)

Best old school mince pie

1 pack of ready rolled puff pastry
350g lean mince beef
4 bacon rashers, finely chopped
1 onion finely chopped
1 small carrot chopped
1/2tsp dried thyme (I used some great stuff I brought back from Turkey)
1 dsp Bisto Best gravy granules
1 tsp HP sauce
Half a mug of water
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 200oC. Heat the frying pan till smoking, dry fry the mince and once it's browned, drain in a sieve to get rid of excess fat. Do the same with the bacon. While they drain, fry the onion & carrot at medium high heat for 5 mins to soften. Return the mince and bacon to the pan along with the Bisto, HP sauce, thyme and water. Cook down until it looks like pie filling (5 minutes?). Let it cool slightly and then make it into whatever style or shape of pie you like. Brush well with beaten egg, bake for 30 mins or so (turn the heat down if it looks like it's getting too brown). Serve with crinkle cut chips and beans for full old school effect. This is a powerful aphrodisiac and will make your husband adore you in a spectacularly demonstrative fashion, so be careful.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Leydi Kuafor, Side

You may as well make yourself
beautiful while you're here!
If you happen to be staying in the old part of Side, be sure to treat yourself to a threading and head and shoulders massage at Leydi Kuafor. It doesn't look like much, sitting right at the end of Gul Sokak opposite the Begonville Hotel at the intersection with Yasemin Sokak but they are super friendly and do great work at a very good price. I got comprehensively threaded (eyebrows shaped, moustache and a few stray chin hairs removed!) and a super relaxing massage for 10TL. Also in that street (Yasemin) and worth an honorable mention is the cobbler opposite (did a very tricky bit of work on a favourite belt absolutely perfectly for 20TL) and about 50m on up the hill on your right just after the big open air pottery shops but just before Ugur Kebab there's a tailor on the first floor who will do alterations on the spot! And charges about a fifth of what it costs at home (my dress was taken up 4" and pressed for 5TL!).

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Happy teeth

Without Halile's help, this is how my
bedside table will look....
I have some stupid phobias (mainly regarding balloons) and a couple that strike me as eminently sensible - needles and dentists. I get the full works with these; uncontrollable shaking, weeping, flailing and woohooing. Frankly, doctors and dentists can't stand the sight of me and I don't blame them. Unfortunately this year I discovered that trips to the dentist are not optional but essential. I chipped one front tooth and a malevolent brown mark appeared on the gumline of another. My tongue also kept finding a jagged hole in a back molar that I couldn't ignore. I tried not smiling for a year (really!) but finally I had to admit defeat.

My dentist is a lovely woman, but rather stern and much given to sermonising. Every time I see her she lectures me on how my dissipated lifestyle is affecting my teeth. She is also patently unable to get near me to do fillings. She has neither the patience nor the necessary sedatives for the job. Every so often she would wearily point out that i needed work done and we'd do the traditional dance; chase me round the surgery with a needle, send me out sobbing to the waiting room to frighten the other patients, bring me in again, chase me round the surgery with a drill and so on, until she admitted defeat and sent me home in disgust. In all those years drill has never made contact with enamel.

But this time I realised I had no choice. The not smiling thing was really not my style. Then as I was trying to decide where to go on my hols I read a recommendation on a Tripadvisor forum. Halile the magical dentist was patient, kind and could work on the most nervous patients. People travelled from Istanbul to get work done in her space age offices in Manavgat, a dolmus ride away from Side.

Here was my chance, I thought. Foreign dentists would be much more on for a spot of sedation, which I was sure I needed. Well, no, it turns out. But Halile really is the best damn dentist in the world.

She was happy to tell me I was the worst patient she's ever had. Absolutely nothing to be proud of, but always good to know you're not a middling kind of phobic. Actually the whole experience was a bit Graham Greene. First she sat me in the dentists chair and of course I did my usual and immediately burst into tears and shook like an epileptic.

She moved me over to her desk a couple of feet away from the chair of doom and said "do you smoke?". I assumed she meant was that the reason my teeth were such a mess so I said yes, I used to. To which she lit a fag and offered me one! So I explained I'd rather not start again and she laughed and said "how about a whisky?". I told her it had taken me two glasses of wine to get to the front door so she sent the technician out for a glass of wine for me! I declined that, as the thought of being actually half cut during reasonably major dental work rather than just having a bit of Dutch courage didn't really appeal. Then she said "just imagine it's the hairdressers", told me she'd work really slowly and carefully and told me to put my hand on her waist and hold the nurse's hand while she did the injections!

And I shit you not, I didn't feel a thing! Didn't stop me shaking and crying and wahaying like a loon for the first hour or so, but towards the end she could have suggested another four fillings and I'd have gone for it. OK that's pushing it but you get the idea. The woman is a genius. She even sorted the chip on my front tooth. She had to stop three times for a fag, god love her. My kind of dentist. So I'm sure you think I'm absolutely mental (and of course I am) but it worked for me and worth every penny.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Oz Adana, Side

Yasemin Sokak, with Oz Adana on the left.
The Oz Adana is on the same street as my pension and every time I walked past it was busy and had some damn fine smells coming from it. So today I had lunch there, hoping to find a worthy contender for the Best Kebab Contest (currently held by the Ali Baba Kebab Evi in Manavgat). No prizes for guessing what I ordered; the Adana kebab is the lovely flattened, spiced sausage one - done right it is juicy and fresh and moreish. You can make a real beast if yourself with an Adana kebab.

Oz has an admirable regard for food hygiene; I don't think I've ever eaten in such a spotless place anywhere. He favours cleanliness over presentation (which is where he and I would fall out) and serves his lovely crusty bread in tied plastic bags inside wicker baskets on the tables. You also get a plate of hot little chillies to nibble while you wait. I would have loved some olive oil to dip it in, but I'm just greedy that way.

This place is proper Turkish so very little English spoken or understood, but a glass of white wine was eventually got hold of and Adana kebab hopefully ordered.

About ten minutes later one of the waiters put a clingfilm wrapped plate of kebab and chips on my table. Not on my place, but opposite. He didn't acknowledge me and walked off. Huge confusion. Was it mine? Were they really that hygiene conscious? What were they afraid of? Bloody hell, it had all suddenly gone a bit Death in Venice.

A kebab with a hinterland at Oz Adana, Side
After five minutes I figured it must be mine as sod all else was happening at the table, so I gingerly lifted the clingfilm. Instantly four Turks start laughing their heads off and through the international language of mime I discover that that dish was a carryout destined for a nearby shop and mine will be with me shortly.

The real lunch is yogurt dip, roasted pepper and tomato, a salad of parsley, sumac, onion and lettuce, a big bouncy flatbread, rice and orzo pilaf, home made chips (yeooooo!) and an Adana kebab that would make grown men weep. Meatier and less juicy than the Ali Baba model but more going on. A kebab with a hinterland. Certainly the best thing I've eaten in Side all week so I'm splitting the prize. And I'm eating at Oz's for the rest of the week.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Ali Baba, Manavgat

Manavgat....kebab heaven not far from the bridge.
The Ali Baba kebab house is one of those quiet unassuming places; pictures of food on the menu, four parasols out front and Coca Cola logos plastered everywhere. Not the sort of place you take the missis, unless you're my husband, in which case you definitely do. What I'm driving at is that it's Not That Romantic.

It's one block off the main drag in Manavgat (walking away from the big fake waterfall, cross the bridge and take the first road on your right, the one lined with canopied shopfronts. At the end of the street is a dry fountain and the Ali Baba). The first time I ate their I had their Doner Kebab and it was great; really savoury and served with fantastic bread, the best I've eaten here.

Next time I went into Manavgat I thought I'd try somewhere different but I was nervy (this was just prior to the trip to the dentists) and more in need of comfort than adventure. They repaid my repeat business with some really good free appetizers; puffy lavash bread with dill and yogurt dip, chili tomato dip (not the ubiquitous gloop straight from a catering carton that you get everywhere, but really fresh, tasty stuff) and a dish of a hard, Parmesan style cheese with a pat of unsalted butter. The trick seemed to be to wipe some butter onto the lavash and then dunk it into the grated cheese until it was covered in crumbs of the stuff. Well that's how I approached it anyway and it was bloody fantastic! Made a bit of a beast of myself if I'm honest, but I figured I wouldn't be able to eat after the dentist so might as well.

I had the Adana kebab this time and it was just incredible, so juicy and bursting with flavour. I'd love to send McCartney's the butchers over here on a research trip cos if they could recreate that flavour it would be flying out of the shop as fast as their corned beef! I had two glasses of wine for my nerves and the whole feast was 24TL. As long as you're not fussed about the view (which is not great given the picturesque copper blue river is a block away) you couldn't fault this place. Very tempted to go back one last time.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Ugur Kebab House, Side

The beach a minute from my door....
My first day in Side and boy, it's a pretty wee town. Built over ruins going back thousands of years, it's like walking into a film set. When I arrived late last night they were floodlit and looked amazing. Was secretly a bit smug when I got dropped in the old town before everyone else went off to their all inclusive hellholes. I was booked with the Begonville Pension, No. 1 B&B on Tripadvisor and got at a great price from Travelrepublic not four weeks ago.

Of course I forgot; first rule of female travelling alone is that you'll be put to the bottom of the heap on everything. So when I checked in I was told the hotel was full and I'd have to stay in another one. Was too tired to care last night but this morning I woke to an unusable shower, dodgy electrics, unpleasant decor and the unmistakable scent of cat piss. Not what i come on my holliers for. I spend bloody months shortlisting and spreadsheeting options for hotels - for someone who is usually very relaxed this is the one area where I acknowledge I stray into OCD territory. So off to the Begonville for breakfast and a spot of negotiation.

The Turkish defence (sighing and staring very hard at the reservations book in the vain hope I would go away) was left in tatters when a German couple tried to check in, leaving the manager with no choice but to acknowledge that there was indeed space and after a bit of dramatic spluttering I got my room.

My lovely front door!
To celebrate I did a walking tour of the town and finished off with lunch at the Ugur, which does perfect sis kebap - lovely lean, tender, perfectly spiced lamb with slightly charred lavash bread, served with a long green pepper and big juicy tomato roasted on the grill, plus my favourite rice and orzo pilaf - this with a raki, two glasses of wine and an apple tea came to about £8. The best kind of first holiday lunch - long, a wee bit too boozy but all kinds of tasty and a great reminder of all that's good about Turkish hospitality.

Also managed to get hold of my husband on Skype who was able to tell me that Sheba is officially on full heat now and has spent the last 24 hours asking her brother to do really quite unbrotherly things to her (thank god he's 10. And neutered). I kinda had a feeling it would be like this and I'm feeling very guilty at how relieved I am not to be there right now. At least this is the last one she'll have (straight to the vet in eight weeks and snipsnipsnip!).

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Plane disgusted

So here I am, winging my way over central Europe c/o the lovely Mr. Thomas Cook towards Antalya and then on to Side. Mr. Cook and I have a love/hate relationship - I love his charter flight prices and I hate everything else about him. Mr. Cook is a bastard. He kept me waiting an hour and a half in check in and then immediately posted a final boarding call, making me run to the gate without a bottle of Havana Club. Of course I arrived at the gate to find a queue and sod all else happening. So now I'm stuck in a metal tube with a bunch of people I wouldn't like in real life wondering (a) is it me? Am I just a huge misanthrope and (b) why does anyone order meals on a flight to Turkey? You are a few hours away from one of the world's finest cuisines, a properly self sufficient country with the very best and freshest ingredients and you choose to fill yourself up with salted gloop to stave off boredom? I'm going hungry. I'm going to eat the bake off myself this week, and that requires preparation and discipline. And elasticated waistbands.

Courgette fritters

Fritters of can't go wrong.
Now I'm getting excited about my holidays, with my lovely drunk husband snoring gently beside me on one side and my wee lurcher snoozing on the other.

My favourite Turkish dish is a really basic one: Mucver, or Courgette Fritters. Utterly delicious, I really could live on these. They are impossible to get wrong so long as you remember to fry them in really hot oil. Mess around with the quantities till you get a mix that suits you, but it must have (a) courgettes thoroughly wrung out in a teatowel (b) good feta (c) fresh dill. Everything is up for grabs after that.

The best starter recipe I've come across is at Give Recipe, a lovely Turkish blog full of deliciousness:

Zucchini Fritters | Give Recipe:

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Saturday, 10 September 2011

Turkish/Scottish sea bream recipe

Allspice for the win! Thanks, Dave.
Off to Turkey tomorrow for a week of relaxation and excellent food. But as it's a wee bargain basement trip (I'm planning to relearn how to draw and use an SLR properly) I can't justify ordering delicious Turkish seafood. It's dreadfully expensive and when there are delicious cheap eats like pide (Turkish pizza), kebabs, meze and lavash bread for a few quid there's not a lot of point.

But I do love fish, I really do. And my favouritest fish is a plump, whole one - head on, scales off, simply fried or grilled, such as you'll find all round the Med. There will always be olive oil and lemon involved and maybe one other characterful ingredient - dill, cumin, oregano or whatever.

So when I nipped into Tesco tonight I was very happy to see their sea bream reduced to £1.50 for a 12oz fish! The plan was to treat myself to a Turkish style fishy dinner for one with minimal fuss and maximum flavour. My problem was getting the right flavour combination - it had to be simple, quick but tasty enough to keep me walking past the Turkish fish restaurants all week.

Then I remembered that our old photographer, David Spence, once told me that when he was a kid in Scotland they used to ask for their fish suppers with "salt, vinegar and spice" and that the spice in question was allspice. Genius!

Turkish-Scottish Sea Bream

1 x 12oz Sea Bream
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
Lemon juice

Gut and scale the bream (to scale it, hold it by the tail and scrape a knife down it repeatedly till all the scales fly off. Repeat on the other side. If you don't know how to gut it, you probably shouldn't be trying this!). Heat a few tbsp of oil at medium high heat and fry the fish for 5-10mins each side. Don't move the fish while it fries. When it's done, lift it out and dress it with lemon juice and fresh olive oil. season with salt, pepper and allspice.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Mushroom carbonara recipe & a Fly Agaric

Found this fabulous Fly Agaric in a little shrubby area off the Belmont Road (we call it the Magic Forest because the dogs get excited when they get there, though I think that has more to do with the squirrels than any actual paranormal activity or forestation).

These have been coming up for the last three years but this is the first time I've actually managed to photograph one. They only last a day or two so a cool thing to capture.

Went home and made a lovely mushroom pasta (using the boring button ones I'm afraid).

Friday Carbonara
250g dried pasta (I used penne)
200g smoked bacon
1 small onion
1 punnet of mushrooms
Some nice veg (I used 4oz each baby sweetcorn and asparagus)
200ml Creme Fraiche (or double cream) and whatever cheese is handy
Glass of wine, plus more for drinking

Put a big pan of water on to boil and heat some olive oil in a deep frying pan. Snip your bacon up small and fry it on a high heat till crispy. Decant to a bowl, use the same fat to fry your mushrooms on a high heat too, be sure and get all the residue scraped off the pan. Your pasta water will be boiling now, get the pasta in, give it a good stir and put the timer on for whatever time it takes (I'm guessing 10-12 mins for this recipe). Throw a finely chopped onion in with the mushrooms and turn the heat down to medium high. Cook for a min and add veg. Keep cooking until it all starts to caramelise then throw a glass of wine in, stir till the alcohol smell dies down and add creme fraiche. Pasta should be cooked by now so drain it and throw it in along with some cheese (I'd say 4oz).

My magical powers... first blog post ever about a random little trip to Moira for corned beef ends up on national news and Mr McCartney gets a deal with Selfridges. Coincidence, or what? OK, coincidence. Been eating his corned beef sandwiches all week, moving on to his pork & walnut sausages tomorrow night. If they end up in some kind of sausage Oscars this weekend, start worrying, I have special powers.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Good luck McCartneys of Moira - off to London for the Great Taste Awards final! |

Good luck guys!

Corned beef: Food of the gods?

We attended a great Doggy Fun Day organised by Beechgrove Stables near Banbridge on Saturday. Unfortunately we couldn't bring wee Sheba as she's just come into season and that's not the kind of Doggy Fun we had in mind.

Instead hooked up with the wonderful Jackie Redmond and her agility squad - we had a good chat about training sighthounds and we got to meet Lady, the elderly greyhound Jackie is fostering. Also caught up with the magnificent Mr. Jack Quaile who was letting his wee alsatian Diamond have a rake around the agility course (more of a demolition derby to be fair, but she had fun!).

On the way home we diverted to McCartney's butchers in Moira. I bought my usual 10lb of assorted sausages (I particularly recommend the Italian, Pork & Apple and Oak Smoked but to be fair it's impossible to go wrong here - everything is the best of the best). Having heard great reports about their famous corned beef I was keen to give it a go - corned beef is one of my very few "bleugh" foods so I was intrigued that McCartney's were making it. I've been going to McCartney's for 20 years and they are really creative, high quality butchers.

Got talking to the owner and he told me they are in the finals for the Great Taste Awards "the food Oscars" on Monday night for their corned beef! Getting it home I can see why. It's the most utterly moreish beef product I've eaten in a long time.

Where your usual experience of corned beef is that gruesome mush bound together by dripping (our school canteen used to add insult to injury by dipping it in batter and deep frying it!) this is luscious shreds of lightly seasoned, braised, pressed beef bound in the lightest imaginable jelly and thinly sliced. It is about as different from canned corned beef as a Porsche from a Lada. Buy it by the kilo (it's about £2 per 100g and worth every penny).
Production | McCartneys of Moira:

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