Saturday, 14 July 2012

Cookery course: Cooking Alaturka, Istanbul

Imam bayildi: aubergine braised in olive oil

With my travel partner at a conference dinner I made the most of my evening free and signed up for the cookery course at Cooking Alaturka.

I was expecting a cookery course at the restaurant, creating and eating my own dinner. I wasn't expecting to be cooking the dinner service for a whole restaurant!

Cooking Alaturka's model is to use the students to create a set menu to be served to all the customers. A fact that only dawned on me when I was making my umpteenth stuffed vine leaf and I thought to ask how many were in a serving!

Ezogelin corbasi: red lentil and bulgar soup

Chef Feyzi was a real character. A stickler for precision and a hater of waste (I got in trouble for throwing the end of an onion in the bin) he had a cheeky sense of humour. Several times he got us going on totally pointless tasks just to see how long it would take for the penny to drop and we'd realise he was pulling our legs.

Kabak mucveri: courgette fritters

Lentil soup, aubergines (cooked in a variety of ways) and stuffed vine leaves are dishes common on lots of Istanbul menus, so it was good to learn how the Turks cook them.

I'd never made wrapped vine leaves before. It was a bit fiddly (or is that monotonous?) to prepare all of the vine, but easier than I thought to wrap them. I hadn't realised that you boil vine leaves as the ones I've eaten in the past have never felt particularly soggy.

The course also gave me the confidence to be able to buy some Turkish spices and to know what to do with them back home.

Etli yaprak dolmasi: vine leaves stuffed with mince meat

I think the course could have been a little more structured as we jumped around a lot and I wouldn't say that I saw any of the dishes from start to finish. That's ok if you just want a fun holiday experience (which I suspect is the majority of the clientele). However, if you are slightly more recipe minded like it would have been good to see the recipes end to end.

They also gave us a list of restaurant recommendations for Istanbul which was great. Receiving it at the time you make the booking would have been even better so you could plan restaurants to try a bit more in advance.

Incir tathsi: walnut stuffed poached figs

Overall it was a fun evening. All of the food was tasty, relatively easy to make and used traditional Turkish recipes. Feyzi was a real character and all of the other staff were helpful too.

The braised aubergines and stuffed vine leaves were my favourites. The night I was there only a few other customers were in the restaurant in the evening eating our food. However, they were kind enough to say nice things about the food!

Making Turkish coffee

View Istanbul July 2012 in a larger map Key: Yellow sights. Green visited on the Istanbul Eats food tour. Red eaten at and reviewed (outside of the food tour). Blue places stayed.

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