Monthly Archives: October 2016

Publication Day

I remember the day I found myself crouched over a saucepan by the back window, camera in hand, prodding a rocket leaf with a chopstick. Behind me, a chorus of angry children demanded their lunch while it was still hot. I fiddled with exposures. I zoomed back and forth with the focus. I turned the pan. In the end, I climbed on a chair, balanced the leg of the tripod on the sideboard, and took the classic Instagram shot of the food, from above. It looked like a tidal wave of chicken pieces coming through a porthole. And then, to everyone’s relief, we ate. It wasn’t absolutely hot, but it was perfectly delicious.

Chicken pieces coming through a porthole

Chicken pieces coming through a porthole

The recipe was coriander chicken with lemon and sumac: it’s already something of a favourite, and you can find it on page 48 of Yashim Cooks istanbul, the culmination of all that zooming and recipe-collecting, all that tasting and testing, which really began when Ambassador Palewski came sniffing up the stairs to Yashim’s apartment, in an adventure called The Janissary Tree.

Today, in the UK and Commonwealth at least, is Publication Day. In the US and Canada, it’ll be November 15th – after elections, and before Thanksgiving.

And so, to my weepy Oscar speech.

Tuba's magnificent photos

Tuba’s magnificent photos

Many of the photos in the book were taken by me, or are taken from old maps, panoramas, and costume illustrations. Others, such as the splendid picture above, are by Tuba Satana. Her generosity and knowledge are boundless. She is an Istanbullite, a foodie, a photographer, a blogger and a guide. She is also a dear friend and you can see more of her work at and on Instagram at

If you think the design of the page above is crisp, clear and stylish, you will love the book. Hats off to Clive Crook, who produced the master design, and to Isaac Goodwin, who implemented it. He is at He is also responsible for the scattering of ‘little men’, or Ottoman figures, through the book.

We love the Little Men (and Women)

We love the Little Men (and Women)

When you use the book, whether to rustle up the coriander chicken, ruby pilaf or palace fig pudding, from dozens of recipes, the wonderful Sheilah Kaufman will have picked out the errors and the contradictions. She is a cook book editor, a lecturer and foodie based on the East Coast, with special expertise in Turkish cooking. Her patience and good spirits have helped make Yashim Cooks Istanbul. Further examples of her work can be seen at

Thinking about Widow Matalya's chicken soup?

Thinking about Widow Matalya’s chicken soup?

The testers have been you, Yashim’s readers, who so generously responded to my appeal on this blog. You saved recipes, and improved them. In particular, I owe a great debt to Amina Beres, Ann Barnes, Ann Bloxwich, Ann Chandonnet, Ann Elizabeth Robinson, Anthea Simmons, Beth Bandy, Beverly Firme, Bill Bosies, Britta de Graaff, Burcak Gurun Muraben, Carey Combe, Carmen Mahood, Carol Titley, Catherine Johnson, Chloe Potts, Claire Byrne, Clare Hogg (of the blog Saucy Dressings), Connie Hay, Daemon A. ‘Bunny’ Condie, David Lee Tripp, Diana Moores, Dianne Hennessy King, Donna Cummings, Dr Werner and Sonja Keck of Heidelberg, Eva Krygier, Evren Işınak Bruce, Francine Berkowitz, Rev. Fr. Gary Simpson, Genia Ruland, Geoff Perriman, Giles Milton, Giuseppe Mancini, Greg Burrows, Hira Najam in Pakistan, Indrek Koff, Irena Rywacka, Ivette Buere Cantu, Ivor Gethin, Jan Suermondt, Jean Stearns, Jeanette Kearney, Jill Patience, Jillian Wilkinson, Judith O’Hagan, Juliet Emerson, Kate Hubbard, Leary Hasson, Lennart Allen, Linda Gunderson, Lynda Dagdeviren, Maria Figueroa Küpçü, Mark Culme-Seymour, Marsha Frazier, Marta Bialon, Matthew Adams, Meg Officer, Melanie Ulrich, Olivia Temple, Pat Ruttum, Penny Harvey, Piret Frey, Rick Page, Robin Morris, The Rev. Roger Russell, Ron Garrison, Rosemary Petersen, Russell Needham, Ruth Peers, Sally Catton, Sid Cumberland, Simon Allen, Sophie Ransom, Stella Ruland, Stuart MacBride, Sue Aysan, Susan Dolinko, Suzi Clarkson, Tomas Eriksson of Malmo, and Veronica and Alfio Brivio.

And that, I think, breaks the five minute rule on Oscar speeches.

If you’d like a copy of Yashim Cooks Istanbul, signed and postage free, you can order one at In the UK, it’s on sale at a good bookshop near you, or of course on Amazon at Do leave a good review there, if you can!

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 14.12.15



Autumn falls – and Ottomans cook!

Walking today in the woods, the first fallen leaves rustling underfoot, made me long for a fire – and a taste of this slightly smoky dip taken, of course, from Yashim’s new cook bookimg_4631Aubergine (or eggplant) puree

patlican salatası

A classic Ottoman meze, absolutely worth doing whenever you fire up a charcoal grill. Unlike the real thing, ‘poor man’s meat’ is very forgiving on the grill, so you can start the aubergines off as soon as the coals get hot. The flame gives the finished puree an irresistible smoky taste. Don’t forget the humble home fire, either. If you are burning wood in your fireplace, or maybe a woodburner, use it: an aubergine takes only a few minutes to cook.



aubergines (eggplant) 2

garlic 2 cloves, crushed and chopped

olive oil 2 tbsps

juice of 1 lemon

plain yoghurt 225g/8oz



lemon wedges


If you can rotate the aubergines over charcoal, so much the better: char the skins and pop the aubergines into a plastic bag when the flesh is pulpy. Otherwise, burn the skins on the gas or prick the aubergines with a fork, wrap them in foil and cook for at least half an hour in the hottest oven. 

Hold the aubergine by the stalk and peel away the skin. Scrape the flesh away with a spoon. Drop the flesh into a colander, and squeeze it gently to get rid of some of the water.

Put the aubergines on a board and chop them to a pulp, while they continue to drain. Sweep them into a bowl, and mix in the garlic, the oil and the lemon juice. When they are well mixed, add the yoghurt, a pinch of salt and a twist of pepper and beat again. Check for seasoning.

Serve the puree with a drizzle of olive oil and wedges of lemon, to eat on crusty bread.

Some simple pide

Some simple pide

Everything connects, of course, and given centuries of war and exchange between Russia and the Ottoman Empire it should come as no surprise that the Russians, substituting sauteed onion and tomato for the yoghurt, wisely adopted this as their ‘poor man’s caviar’. Versions of both are very popular across the Caucasus.

This is just one of dozens of the recipes from Yashim Cooks Istanbul, out in the UK on Thursday October 27th and in the USA on November 15th. Signed copies are available, postage free anywhere in the world. Just click on this link:

Gliding down the Bosphorus

I’m often asked to name my favourite place in Istanbul.

A bollard on the quay

A bollard on the quay


It isn’t a place, at all: it’s a passage, or a vantage point, or an adventure, with deep dark waters under the keel, and spray at the prow, and a briny bench – and a glass of tea.

It’s a trip on the Bosphorus.

My favourite vantage point

My favourite vantage point

About  fourteen miles long, and sometimes no more than half a mile wide, this twisting strait divides Asia from Europe, and links the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. The name means the same as Oxford: where the cattle cross, from the legend of Io, transformed into a cow until she crossed the strait and regained her human form.


feeding the birds at Eminonu

There are all sorts of Bosphorus trips on offer, but I think it best explored on the ferries which morning and evening crowd around the ferry station at Eminonu. The slow vapur have high prows for punching through the seas which run in from the Sea of Marmara, and low thwarts for easy embarkation.


ferry at a stage

Their bright green hawsers are casually coiled on the planking.


on board at night

One day they’ll no doubt be replaced by fibreglass catamarans and a sensory world will disappear, composed of wet planks, splintered pilings, the bubble of thick paint on rust, and the old ferryboat smell which is the same the world over, a tincture of diesel oil, damp wood and the sour reek of air trapped in the cabins.


Rumeli Hisar

Meanwhile, buy a glass of tea at the counter and settle down on one of the outside benches that run along the bows; put your feet up on the rail, and watch the shores of the Bosphorus unscroll, like some Victorian panorama, their vistas of villas, palaces, restaurants and domes.

The galley of a Bosphorus ferry: I love the chopping boards!

The galley of a Bosphorus ferry: I love the chopping boards!

The last photo, above, shows where they make tea: a place I like so much I put it in Yashim’s new cookbook,  Yashim Cooks Istanbul. !

From Yashim Cooks Istanbul

From Yashim Cooks Istanbul