Una Faccia, Una Razza!

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It’s a saying which shaped the foundations of NazarBlue and a philosophy in which I have always believed; One face, one race.

Wherever I am in the Med I’m overcome with the same emotions: a sense of nostalgia invoked by musical laments, a sense of exhilaration from pulsating cities, and insatiable hunger spurred on by tempting street food. The air is thick and perfumed with pine resin, the crickets rasp in arid shrubbery and socialising is almost always centered around good food and wine. A plate of fried Calamari on the seafront is a must, cats with huge begging eyes lurk under taverna tables and swipe at falling scraps. Siesta time ceases with the whirrs of moped engines. People converse on lantern lit terraces with waving hands and raised voices. It doesn’t matter whether I’m in Italy, Greece or Istanbul, the scenes are always the same.

‘One Face, One Race’ is a saying which acknowledges the similarities between Italians and Greeks. In fact, I believe it can be said for any of the Mediterranean’s people who have been both unified and separated by slithers of sea. With the shifting of borders as empires advanced then retreated, cultures intermingled and languages, music and food were shared.

Some may patriotically claim Baklava, Turkish Coffee, and Falafel to be theirs, but in disregarding language barriers we can see a common knowledge and mutual love.                                   Ouzo, Raki, Arak and Sambuca may go by different names but essentially it is a liquor made with anise, consumed in the same way. Shakshuka to the North Africans is as Uova in Purgatorito to the Italians. Meze, Mezzeh, Tapas and Antipasti are a way of life, essientoal to the sociable ways of eating. Pizza as we know it hails from Napoli, yet what influenced this iconic food? Well, how about Greek Pitta bread or Turkish Pide – flat breads with various toppings. Then there is Manoush from the Eastern Med. Could the most famous dish from the chaotic port city have its origins further East?

Even the most frugal of dishes add a sense of pattern to the Med’s colourful mosaic. Farinata di Ceci, wet dough made from seasoned chickpea flour and baked with plenty of olive oil, is particular to Liguria. However Karantita from Algeria and Calentita from Gibraltar are both of uncanny similarity.

It’s rainbow season in London: The blustery winds are relentless and storms seem to roll pass often, appeased once in a while by brilliant bursts of sun. Last Saturday as I took shelter in my flat I sorted through my DVD collection and decided to watch Mediterraneo, a hilarious Italian film about a group of soldiers who are sent to a Greek Island during WWII. They find themselves stranded when after becoming intoxicated with Opium supplied by a Turkish fisherman, they come too, discovering their arms and transport have been stolen. The Italians soon forget their duties and ease into Island life, accidentally missing the fact the war ended some three years before.

‘Una Faccia, Una Pancia!’ one soldier says mocking the hefty appetite that Greeks and Italians share. One face, one belly! It’s not only appearance which unifies the Mediterraneans, it’s their mutual love of food too.

Here’s a more in-depth explanation of Una Faccia, Una Razza, written by my lovely sister.

A Breakfast Ritual – Turkish / Balkan Style

During a blistering Balkan summer, mornings greeted me with a vast breakfast spread. Coffee, sizzling beef sausage, fried eggs and buttery peppers perfumed the air and awoke me from my heat induced slumber before I could even open my eyes. Empty water drums clanged excitedly waiting in turn to be filled by a temperamental tap. Strays barked from dusty dirt roads in the near distance and the family Cockerell ended his doolde-doo on a bizarre flat note as if the heat had exhausted him too. As a guest I didn’t want to out stay my welcome as I was used to pulling my weight but my offer of a helping hand was politely refused. Eating in the open air beneath the shade of grape vines, we picked from a spread which took up the entire length of the table. Red and white checks poked out from small gaps between sun dappled plates. The elderly bumbled to and from the table as they pleased and kids unable to sit for long were soon distracted by the rural landscape’s hidey holes.

In Crete, the ritual of breakfast continued. Even bigger, more elaborate spreads became us complete with a backdrop of sparkling sea. Then in Istanbul as we sat at the table bleary eyed from perhaps a touch too much Raki the night before, the early afternoon call to prayer floated on the air reminding us we’d risen later than intended.  After the food was cleared away Murat’s sister prepared syrupy coffee, serving not only as a digestif but as a talking point as she read our fortunes from the empty cups.

The breakfast ritual is one worth keeping as long as it’s practiced in good company. Here’s how I intend to keep it going in not so sunny London..

Read on…

Vote Now! There could be a trip to Turkey in it for you too…

Dear readers, I am shamelessly begging you to vote for one of two of my photographs below taken in Istanbul, which I have entered in YouinTurkey‘s photographic competition run by GoTurkey.com and WOW Istanbul.

It takes just seconds to register, and if you vote you’ll be entered into a lottery whereby 100 lucky voters will win return tickets to Turkey from ANY European destination (how generous!) or Digital Camera – You have nothing to lose and a holiday to gain!

My photos have been submitted to ‘Life & Culture’ category (category 2) are named ‘Istanbul City of Dreams’ and ‘Nazar and Kahve’ seen in the slideshow below.

Step 1: Firstly you’ll need to register with the website, which will take just a minute. The login/register tab is at the top of this page: http://www.youinturkey.com/en

Step 2: Please go to this link: http://www.youinturkey.com/en/mediagallery/slideshow/category/2#

When you put your cursor at the bottom of the screen there is the option to scroll down even further as a big white arrow pointing down appears. Scroll down once – my photos ‘Istanbul City of Dreams’ and ‘Nazar and Kahve’ should be the third and fourth row up. Click on the photo you wish to vote for and press ‘vote now’

Done!

Voting closes on 15th April 2012. THANK YOU & GOOD LUCK!!

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SariBlue – One of Everything Please!

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Its amazing what or who you find on the internet. A fantastic product, a common friend or a kindred spirit.. Click here to read about SariBlue..

Istanbul – City of Dreams

 

I had always wanted to visit Istanbul. I imagined it would be similar to Napoli, an ancient chaotic city of contrasts on the Mediterranean sea with the added allure of straddling two continents. Arriving at Sabiha Gökçen airport on a humid Autumn day I joke to Murat, my partner, about not having the right visa to get into Turkey. At Passport control a young man checks every page of my passport and asks

“Didn’t you get a visa?”

“Visa?”

“Queue over there.” I look back to where he is pointing and see hoards of confused tourists waiting to part with 10 British Pounds.

Finally, I cross Turkey’s threshold and we greet two of Murat’s smiling friends. I try to take in my surroundings while whizzing towards the Bosphorus Bridge.The traffic is chaotic, but then I expected that. Sezen Aksu plays on the stereo, her sultry voice echoing the tired building facades surrounding us.

I’m leaning forward in my seat with my nose pressed against the window like a child without realising. Gokhan smiles in the rearview mirror. We can’t communicate in spoken word yet, only in signs and gestures.

Read on…

New Recipes!

Perhaps its the ever longing for heat and sunshine which always leads me to cook something from balmy climates.  London’s summer has proved a total wash out.. I’m counting down the days until I go to Crete and Antalya. Until then I have cooked some Kafta, Syrian Moussaka, Za’atar spice mix and Lebanese Breakfast breads, Manoush, to keep me going.

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Lentil Kofte & Menemen

This week, stuck in London when most of my friends and family are away in the Med, I thought to bring a little ray of sunshine to my kitchen. I am off to Istanbul in October, and in anticipation and longing I cooked two of my favorite Turkish recipes; Menemen and Lentil Kofte.

Afiyet Olsun.