I had never been to Turkey before this episode and what a shame I waited so long! Istanbul is quite beautiful; everywhere you look you see mosques and minarets. The city is surrounded by water with the Sea of Marmara to the south, the Bosphorous running through the middle of the city and the Black sea to the north. It is a fascinating mix of the old and the new, straddling the continents of both Europe and Asia.
And for the foodie, this is paradise. I have never seen such markets, filled with pristine produce, dried fruits, nuts, pickles, olives, charcuterie, cheeses and above all spices. In this episode I visit several markets with an extremely knowledgable food and cultural historian, Aylin Oney Tan. Then I take a trip to the west of Turkey to the Aegean to visit Hande Bozdogan who runs a farm, right on the water, to supply produce for her cooking school in Istanbul. We make pumpkin fritters, quince liqueur and simit (cracked wheat) and lamb kebabs.
Finally I visit one of the oldest neighborhoods in Istanbul, Kuzguncuk, to cook with Refika Birgul, a Turkish chef with her own tv show. We buy fresh bluefish from a fisherman off the dock and dough from a local bakery and then head back to her studio to prepare marinated bluefish, walnut poppyseed bread and a sauteed beef dish with tomato sauce and thyme yoghurt.
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Hande Bozdoğan is the founding director of the Istanbul Culinary Institute (ICI). Born in Ankara, Turkey and holding an BA degree in Economics from Bosporus University in Istanbul and an MS in Travel and Tourism Management from the New School in New York City, she has developed her career in the culinary industry since the early 1990s. She holds certificates in cooking and baking from the Bath School of Cookery in the UK and The Culinary Institute of America in Poughkeepsie, NY, as well as a chef diploma from The French Culinary Institute in New York City where she completed the professional program with distinction in 2001.
Having lived in Istanbul, London and New York City and having traveled extensively across the globe, Hande Bozdoğan has developed a keen interest in the culinary cultures of the world, to complement her formative passion for the familiar tastes, traditional dishes and family recipes of Turkish cooking at home. After running her own café in Istanbul for three years, she embarked on an ambitious project culminating in the opening of The Istanbul Culinary Institute in 2007, now a favorite spot for Istanbul’s food enthusiasts. Committed to the research, promotion and advancement of Turkish and Eastern Mediterranean cuisines, ICI offers a professional certificate program as well as amateur cooking classes and serves the public with its training restaurant, gourmet food store and a rich calendar of culinary events.
In addition to her full-time obligations with the day-to-day operations of the ICI, Hande Bozdoğan is the author of an award-winning book on the street foods of Turkey, Flavors of the Street: Turkey (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish, 2004) and appears frequently on various culinary programs in both the domestic and international media.
Along with her co-author Lâle Apa, Hande Bozdoğan’s cookbook Istanbul Contemporary Cuisine – Istanbul Cuisine Contemporaine was awarded the “Special Award of the Jury” at the 2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards on February 11, 2010 held in Paris, France.
She lives and works in Istanbul and during the summer months, divides her time between Istanbul and her farm in Saros in the Northern Aegean where most of the ICI’s fresh produce, fruits and herbs are grown naturally and where, by her own account, making jams, sauces or pickles offers her a most pleasurable break from the busy life of the city.
Istanbul Culinary Institute
The Istanbul Culinary Institute is a professional training and production center, established in 2008 with the aim of researching, teaching and promoting Turkish cuisine at home and abroad. The mission of Istanbul Culinary Institute is to present Turkish cooking with a contemporary face. On premises, the institute has a school of culinary arts, a training restaurant (Enstitü), coffee and wine bars and a gourmet food store featuring the products of the Institute. It also hosts seminars, occasional public events (films, lectures and exhibitions) related to the culinary cultures of Turkey. www.istanbulculinary.com
Commited to its philosophy of “seasonal eating”, Istanbul Culinary Institute largely relies on seasonal produce in the design of its menus. We believe that consuming a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables over the course of the year is the key to healthy lifestyles. The cooling effect of cucumbers, tomatoes and watermelon in the summer or the energy to be derived from winter vegetables like cabbage and spinach are illustrative examples.
With our committment to local and seasonal produce, one of the foundational ideas of the Saros project is to avoid non-seasonal items imported from distant regions and climates.
The variety of fruits and vegetables grown in the Saros farm also represents the key ingredients of the menu items that are typically served to the customers of the Enstitu Restaurant. Tomatoes, salad greens, purslane, peppers, broccoli, cabbage, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, zucchini, leeks, okra and artichokes, as well as herbs like oregano, thyme, basil, mint and sage are grown in the produce gardens. The orchards yield apples, pears, peaches, sour cherries, pomegranates, quince, figs, walnuts, mulberries and almonds, as well as melons and watermelons. These feed the training kitchens of the Institute on a regular basis, following an elaborate schedule of picking and transportation.