Jay and I love our food and a great way to learn a bit about a culture and eat lots of food is to participate in a local cuisine cooking school. We spent the day hanging out and preparing food with Oguz at the Istanbul Cooking School. The school is located on the Beyoglu side of the Golden Horn in a very popular area called Galatasaray. To get there, we had to take a ferry across the Bosphorus, walk along the water front past the Grand Palace and take the Funicular (Metro) to Takism Square. Then we strolled down Istiklal Street (most popular street in Istanbul according to Oguz) to our meeting point at the Galatasaray Gate, the original highschool and namesake of the well known Turkish football team (who will be playing tomorrow night in London against Arsenal – might have to find a pub to watch that in!).
We started with group introductions- we students were four couples representing Australia, Switzerland, England and the Good ‘ole US of A. And of course, Oguz from Turkey. We began our school day with a tour of the local spice and food market. We learned about typical spices in Turkish cuisine, how Turkish delight is made (the real version does not have any gelatin or preservatives- the rose flavored is my favorite) and the most common fruits and veggies used in local dishes. After our market tour, Oguz purchased all the fresh ingredients for our food preparation from the market vendors.
The Istanbul Cooking School is located on the third floor of a non-descript building overlooking the hills of Istanbul. The only indication of what is in the building is a series of small plaques on the outside of the large metal door. The classroom is well laid out and neat with a large empty space which is used for yoga classes when the cooking school is not in session. The room is tastefully furnished, clean and comfortable for the students. Oguz welcomed us to his classroom by offering tea, of course.
Oguz started the class with a brief introduction to Turkish Cuisine. He started by stating that “Food is not based on nations but on regions”. Turkish food has many regional influences. There are three overall categories of Influences or cultures in Turkish Cuisine:
- Kebab- meats, cooked over an open flame
- Mediterranean – Fish, herbs, olive oil – A slow food culture – Meze (lots of small appetizer type dishes – designed to be eaten over a long period of time – a social affair).
- Royal Ottoman – Soups, rice, veggies, lamb (stew) and puddings.
After the brief introduction, we jumped right into preparing our meal. Once all the food was prepared, we enjoyed the fruits of our labor and ate far too much – so much in fact, that we were all sure that dinner was no longer necessary!
We highly recommend Oguz and the Istanbul Cooking School- a great way to spend a day.
Humus: Chick Pea Paste with, tahin (sesame seeds paste) cumin, garlic and red pepper
Kisir: – Bulgur Salad with spring onions, pepper paste, parsley, cumin, sumac (my new favorite spice) and pomegranate syrup (another new favorite).
Çerkez Tavuğu – shredded chicken with walnuts, red pepper and garlic
PeynÍrlÍ SÍgara BÖregÍ – Philo dough rolled with white cheese and parsley- deep fried
Irmik Helvasi – Semolina Helva – Semolina, butter, sugar, water, pine nuts and cinnamon- Yumminess on a plate!
My favorite quote of the day: regarding the making of Baklava: “Enormous amounts of sugar; monstrous amounts of butter”
Thanks Oguz for a fantastic day!