Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Robert Fulghum on St Valentine's Day

 Robert  Fulghum is an American author, mainly of short essays. I first came across his work in the piece he wrote All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Last year when looking for a book as a Christmas gift for a bookclub friend I found him again. He has written a novel Third Wish, the theme of which is "slowly, witness, surprise" It is a long book, it comes in two volumes an absolutely wonderful read.
He writes an online journal Robert Fulghum  The following is a piece he wrote following Valentines Day last year. It is so full of wisdom that I thought I'd share it .



"The setting: A small café at midday on February 15. 
Three young women are doing what men never do. 
They are sharing salads and secrets at lunchtime. 
It is the day after what they refer to as “St. ‘Tine’s Day.” 
And they have been forked.

And I, sitting at the next table alone, can’t ignore their conversation. 
In summary, none of them got what they wanted or expected. 
Valentine’s Day was a bummer. 
Wrong flowers, wrong chocolate, wrong food, chintzy gifts. 
And no mention of what they gave or did themselves.
I didn’t offer my opinion, but if I had, here’s what I would have said:

“Take a look at me. 
It’s clear that I’ve been around awhile, right? 
I’ve been a contestant in several love rodeos in my time. 
I have the scars and trophies to prove it.

Here’s what I know now: 
Call the list “Fulghum’s Eight Maxims on Giving and Getting Love:”
1. Love cannot be forced or bought.
2. You can only get from another person the love they are able and willing to give in the form they can give it in.
3. You cannot get from another person the love you demand and need in the form you wish.

4. If what they have to give is what you want, then love works. 
If not, it doesn’t and won’t.
5. If you concentrate on getting love, there will never be enough.
6. If you concentrate on giving love, there will always be enough.

7. Most people need the most love when they are the most unlovable. 
That includes you. And me.
8. Finally, love is not a present you give or get, but something you do.

If that seems like a solemn list, that’s because it’s meant to be. 
I take love seriously. 
And I tell you that if you never understand these maxims, then all the chocolate you ever receive on Valentine’s Day will be dark and bitter.”


Robert Fulghum


So how is your chocolate this St. Valentine's Day?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Turkish Meze

 Over the millenia Turkey has been a crossroads with many different civilizations including Hittites, Romans and Bzyantines fighting for its rich and fertiles soils,  In the 6th century tribes of Turkish origin migrated west from central Asia and Mongolia. In the 15th century many of the Turkish tribes came together to form the new Ottoman Empire.

Turkish cuisine today reflects this cultural heritage. It lays emphasis on seasonal freshness. I have found that while in Bodrum, even in the large supermarkets , if it is not in season I cannot buy it.

One of the delights of Turkish cuisine is Meze. Meze, like Spanish tapas, are lots of little things. Now served in restaurants as an entree they consist of appetisers, dips and salads. The word meze, originally from the Persian word mesaq means "taste, flavour snack, relish"

Here are a few of the recipes I used for the meze I cooked for my book club recently.

Acı Domates Ezmesi - Crushed Chilli and Tomato Dip.
Serves 4-6
Ingredients.
6 tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
1 small cucumber, grated
1 green pepper, finely chopped                                          
4 spring onions , finely chopped
6 garlic cloves crushed
grated lemon rind
Juice of half a lemon or 1tbs of sour pomegranate syrup
1tsp paprika paste
1 tbs olive oil
2 tbs tomato paste
handful of each of chopped fresh parsley, and mint ( 1 tsp of dried mint if fresh unavailable)
1/2 tsp sugar
salt and black pepper to taste.

Method
Place tomatoes and cucumber in a sieve, sprinkle with a little salt and leave to drain for half an hour. Combine all the ingredients and give quick blitz in a blender taking care not to over pulverize. Chill and serve with fresh crusty bread.


                                                                                     Haydarı - Mint and Yogurt Dip
Serves 4-6
4 cups thick strained yogurt
4 cloves garlic crushed                                                
4 tbs finely chopped mint (1 tbs dried mint) dill can be used instead or a combination of both.
1 cucumber grated and drained
squeeze of lemon juice.


Method
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Chill. To serve, place on a plate, garnish with fresh mint leaves, pour a little extra virgin olive oil on top and sprinkle with crushed chilli flakes. Serve with fresh crusty bread.

Pancar Ezme - Beetroot Dip.
4 cooked Beetroot
1 tbs chopped dill
1-2 cloves garlic                                        
1 cup thick natural yogurt
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp crushed black pepper

Method.
Puree beets and garlic. Mix all ingredients in a bowl with a spoon. Place in a serving dish and serve with fresh bread.







Sarımsaklı Kozlenmıs Kırmızı Biber - Roasted Red Peppers with Garlic.
 3 red bell peppers


Sauce
2-3 garlic cloves crushed
1 tbs cider vinegar
4 tbs extra virgin olive oil

Method
Prepare the peppers, cut in half, remove tops and seeds. Place under the grill for 15 mins approx. In the meantime whisk the ingredients for the sauce.
Remove the skin from the peppers.  Slice them in large chunks. Place on a serving plate, Pour sauce over and garnish with some finely chopped parsley.

                                                                                           
 Fırında Nar Eksili Soğan  -  Roasted Onion with Pomegranate Paste


Red onion cut into 4-6 chunks.
Salt and pepper.                                          
Pomegranate paste.

 Preheat the oven to 200C/ 400F
Place the onion on an earthenware dish. season with salt and pepper. Drizzle some pomegranate paste over them. Place in the middle of the oven and cook until the onion is tender.




Kısır Salad - Spicy Bulgur Wheat Salad
2 cups fine bulgur wheat
11/2 cups boiling water
1tbs tomato paste
2 tsp paprika paste                                              
1 tsp paprika flakes
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tbs sur pomegranate paste or juice of 1/2 lemon
4 tbs olive oil
4 spring onions, finely chopped
3 tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
handful of finely chopped parsley,
handful of finely chopped mint
freshly ground black pepper.
lettuce leaves to serve
lemon wedges to squeeze over

Put the bulgur in a bowl and add the boiling  water. Leave to stand for 20 min. Most of the water should be absorbed. Drain and squeeze out any excess water if necessary. The bulgur should be of a dry consistency.

Stir in the tomato and red pepper pastes, paprika flakes, cumin, salt and pepper and knead thoroughly. Add the pomegranate paste together with the olive oil and knead well again. Stir in the remaining ingredients and combine well. Refrigerate until required.
To serve, take spoonfuls and place in individual lettuce leaves. Garnish with lemon wedges to squeeze over.

Sigara Böreği - Crispy Cheese and Herb Filled Pastry Rolls
2 sheets yufka/filo pastry
225gr soft white Turkish cheese e.g. Lor / feta cheese.
2 egg yolks
1 cup chopped parsley, mint and dill.
salt and black pepper to taste.                                      
Sunflower oil for cooking.

Method.
Mix together the cheese, egg yolks and herbs to form a smooth paste. Season with salt and pepper.

Yufka, a Turkish pastry, comes in large circular sheets. Place on sheet on top of the other and cut the sheets into eights forming 16 elongated triangles.(If using filo cut into 16 elongated rectangles)
Take one triangle, place a generous tsp of the cheese mixture at the wider end.
Fold the pastry from each side to seal in the mixture and then roll up tightly like a cigar. Wet the end with water and seal. Do the same for the rest of the triangles, keeping the finished ones covered with a damp cloth to prevent the pastry drying out. Refrigerate until required.
Heat the sunflower oil i a shallow pan and fry the cheese rolls over a medium heat until golden brown and crispy. Alternatively brush with oil and place in a pre-heated oven at 180C and bake for 20 mins.

As usual, I forgot to take photos of what I had cooked so I found these pictures on the net. Most of the recipes I used come from either Angie Mitchell's Secrets of a Turkish Kitchen or from Binnur's Turkish Cookbook.

They went down a treat, with the Crushed Chilli and Tomato Dip being the favourite. Main  course will be next. Do you have a favourite recipe you would like to share?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Book Club Comes to Dine.

January was shaping up to be a busy month. I did not have a free weekend. Last weekend I was hauling myself and my camera equipment around Kerry. This weekend would still be busy but in a very different way.

It was my turn to host our book club. As I've explained before it is not like most book clubs, This one is all female, most mums of young children. I've been there done that and bought the tee-shirt four times, I'm like the granny of the group. We meet once a month, taking turns to host it in each others houses, for a full three course (four if you include the coffee) meal. After the meal we discuss the book.... maybe. It is a wonderful social evening and sometimes it even introduces us to good books.

Of course, being me, having everyone to dinner would be too simple. The date was arranged as it was the only Saturday evening I had free in January. It just happened that my Turkish class in Dublin was that morning, a 200km round trip.

I love to cook  but usually just stick to the same old things, time contraints and a family with unadventurous taste buds. With this in mind I had decided to give reign to my inner chef and  prepare a feast.

 My starters would be a spread of Turkish meze. I had spent weeks looking through my cookery books and trawling the internet for recipes. I eventually came up with a spicy tomato salsa, cheese rolls, beetroot with yogurt and garlic, kisir salad made with fine Bulgur wheat, haydarı which is the Turkish version of Greek tzatziki, made wıth yogurt, cucumber mint and garlic, roasted red onions with sour pomegranite sauce and roasted peppers with olive oil and garlic. Yes, the Turks love their garlic. Some of these I had never prepared before, but then I always love a challenge.

Main course would be my signature dish, Chicken with Plum Ginger and Soya. It comes from the Avoca Cookery book. Once you have eaten this in my house you can't be invited for a meal again as I do not have a follow up dish. I had thought of cooking a Turkish main course, again not tried it before but decided to play it safe because of time constraints.

 Last but not least would be Pavlova with fresh fruit salad and homemade raspberry ice-cream. This would probably take the most preparation time. Cutting up all that fruit into small pieces. But it is tasty. I don't use a sugar syrup, I use fresh orange and lemon juice.

I got up at eight, headed for Dublin and arrived in time for my 10.00 a.m class. The first part of the class was conversation so it was a nice way to catch up with my classmates. There are just four of us and it makes the three hour session intense but we are learning. I just have to remember to learn how to say the time before the next class. It keeps slipping my mind and I keep getting asked.

I got home at 4pm to continue preparing the meal, having stopped at the Avoca Shop in Kilmacanogue for their lovely cheese bread. I was also hoping for some gluten free bread as one of my guests is Coeliac, another has a nut allergy. No luck, they were out. I would just have to use the gluten free rolls I had got the previous day.

I had done a lot of the preparation in advance. Hubbie and No.1 daughter had cleaned the kitchen and bathroom, the only parts of the house my guests will see. So, in spite of the trip to Dublin, the prep went smoothly. Hubbie was surprised that I was so relaxed. But I was doing what I loved.....cooking for others.

8.30 arrived and so did my guests. They were complimentary of my directions....I had measured the distances the previous week....turn left drive 2.3km. etc. I really am going to have to learn to be brief.

Fee had brought a new member. We looked at each other in instant recognition. She is also a primary school teacher. I met her doing a course last year.

The meal? What can I say, my Turkish meze went down a treat. They want to have my next turn at hosting in Bodrum. No problem as far as I'm concerned. Main course was also a hit but paled into insignificance when the homemade ice-cream hit the table. Next time Aldi gets in a supply of ice cream makers there will be a queue outside to buy.

The book? Julian Barnes "Sense of an Ending" It won the Man Booker Prize. It was an easier read than many of the other Booker prize winners but there was only one winner this night......my food.

I'll post some of the recipes later in the week.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Day 2 Photography Workshop

Sunday morning dawned wet and dreary. I managed to haul my aching body out of the bed and downstairs to breakfast. I decided to fortify myself this morning with the "full Irish" It was not a wise move, as full of rashers, egg and sausage, the thought of crawling back into bed rather than scrambling around in the rain, was much more appealing.However Tutor Michael turned up at 09.00 as promised and he had a plan!

He decided we would go to Crag Cave in Castleisland, the rain would not stop us underground. As I was going to visit my brother that evening in Fossa, I was to drive my car as far as Killorglin and we would travel on from there together. Hoping I was going to be following a Formula 1 driver on the narrow twisty roads, I se out to follow the 2 Michaels. I needn't have worried, I was able to keep up.

Crag Cave
We arrived at the cave, we could only enter it as part of a guided tour. We were a little early so there was time for a nice big cappuccino while we were waiting. My knee was bothering me from the fall yesterday but I was doing my best to hide it, My biggest problem was that I couldn't put weight on it to get out of the car. When the others weren't looking I would grab it with my hands and lift it out. Once I got going I was fine.

The tour began and we were given the background information. It was discovered in 1983 and is thought to be over a million years old.  When it was first discovered the only entrance was through a flooded passageway. This is a 24 ft tube, it goes down 12ft under a shelf in the rock and up 12ft into another cavern and it was from this cavern that it was first discovered.

Surprisingly, the entrance lay behind a locked metal door. It could have been the door to the garden shed. No wonder I have a fascination with doors. You never know what lies behind them. We were warned that the steps down into the cave were slippy and the two Michaels were at pains to make sure I got the message. Hauling me up once, was enough for them!



So struggling with the tripod again, I finally got set up, ISO was changed and we were taking photos again. We didn't have a lot of time as there was another couple on the tour and at the end, the guide was anxious to get back. She was only supposed to be underground for a certain length of time, she had to be back to work above ground again.


Tutor Michael  enquired of other places of interest locally , and she told him of a viewing point and a River walk complete with castle. We found the viewing point with no difficulty but to be honest that day there was not much to see.. Tall Michael didn't get out of the car but Tutor Michael wanted to see if I had learned anything yesterday and could I reset the camera myself. Exam time..... score!! I got it right. He is a good teacher because I'm a slow learner.

 The clouds were the most interesting thing to be seen, maybe it is nicer on a sunny day.

We then went back to the river walk in Castleisland. The guide earlier had told us we could see a castle there. We found the castle but it seemed to be in someones back garden and there was no way to access it or even get near it, in spite of walking around the block. They were all terrace houses and the castle was at the back! Imagine having a famous monument and only being able to get a glimpse of it . So what was there left to do but to repair to the pub for lunch.
Time for some close up work, the colours and patterns in the rocks were amazing.


The weather had cleared a little so it was decided that once again I would follow the two boys to the Gap of Dunloe. I would be passing by my brothers front door. Tempting! It was still very windy with the occasional showers .Did you know that the weather is the main topic of conversation in Ireland? I had kind of lost the will....but off we went again.

The Gap of Dunloe, complete with horses
I'mplaying with Lightroom for the first time, please bear with me.

This is a truly beautiful part of the country, our Turkish friend told us when he visited last year it is how he imagines heaven.


Close up work again.

We drove right through the Gap until we were looking down on the Black Valley. Finally, the light gone we turned back.
Late evening, looking back over the lakes of Killarney
The Black Valley  This photo was taken when most people would have put their cameras away because it was getting dark.

But you couldn't go through the Gap without stopping at Kate Kearneys Cottage, another pub. You'd think we were hardened drinkers, but 2 coffees and a soda water soon gave this the lie.

We parted on great terms and hopefully we'll meet next June. Tutor Michael wants to photograph the birds on the Saltee Islands. I feel I learned so much this weekend in a relaxed stress free manner. In addition, I truly enjoyed the company of my two Michaels and the gorgeous Eva.

 I headed back to the brothers. Dinner was ready. How lucky am I, he is a chef and a good one. We spent half the night and the next morning talking before I set out for home. He was heading to Chile for a birthday party the following weekend. Cilgin Kiz has a Cilgin brother and she is very jealous of his trip.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Photography Workshop

 On arrival in Portmagee I rang Michael to tell him I had arrived. He arranged to meet me in The Bridge Inn in a short while as I wanted to check into the B&B first.I was given a warm welcome and was just dropping my bags when I heard male voices below. It was Michael and the other "student" come to collect me.

We headed for the pub. What else do you do in Ireland? My fellow student was also called Michael and  he too was German. He had flown in from Germany that morning especially for the workshop. And I thought I was mad, driving 5 hours from one side of the country to the other!  He was so tall I'm sure he was experiencing a different climate up there. I tentatively asked if he was taking photographs for long. The answer.....since he was 15! So not a beginner then. Tutor Michael  informed me that yes, he was advanced . He had been here last year to do another workshop with him. No pressure Mary!! Why do I do these things to myself????

In fact ,the next morning, Tall Michael  tells me he likes to do his own thing. Tutor Michael drives him around and he just asks for advice now and then. What do you know? One to one tuition, there's going to be no hiding in the back row for me.
At least it was not raining yet, though it is windy and cold. Means I've got to wear that old waterproof jacket that has a mean and nasty habit of not wanting to zip up on me. I've expanded somewhat in recent years! I have a nice comfy jacket on the back seat but it won't keep the rain out so it's suck in and off we go.
Well, that was the end of my nervousness. Once Tutor Michael had established that I really was a novice when it came to my cameras settings, he set to work. The first thing he had me change was to shoot in RAW. And then it was the tripod!! Dear God, it took me longer to figure out how to use that, than the camera. Who knew that a tripod could move in so many different ways. If I could move in the same way, I'd be a whizz on the dance floor.
My first photo of the day

And this was behind me.

Anyway, the lessons began. I learned to set the camera. Aperture and shutter settings slowly began to make sense. The West of Ireland is truly beautiful, the changing light meant I needed to keep shooting. I'm a little trigger happy, I know.

We visited many different locations, among them Cill Rialaig. This is an artists village, created from restored pre famine houses on Bolus Head. Artists, in many disciplines, apply for residency here. It gives them an opportunity to escape from everyday pressures to focus on their art. How they could not be inspired here, is unimaginable.
One of the restored cottages at Cill Rialaig.

One of the artists in residence.

Looking out to sea at Cill Rialaig.




Early morning at the beach......where's my tour guide now when I've forgotten the name of it?

And behind us......

Into the sun....

The waves come rolling in


.....and go out again

The rock pools.


A small stream




Moving on...
The Skelligs

 We also paid a short visit to Ballinskelligs beach where I had a chat with one of the locals in Irish once he discovered I was a múinteoir (teacher) I think it would have been easier for me to talk in Turkish as it is the first thing to comes to the tip of my tongue when not speaking English.
Ballinskelligs Beach

Lunch was in a small cafe in Waterville, a place that Charlie Chaplin visited regularly on holiday....you learn something new everyday. Tutor Michael complains that many tourist stop to take photos of the statue of Charlie and don't see the wonderful natural beauty in front of them.

Waterville beach

The sun breaks through...

........and continues to move like a spotlight.

There followed an afternoon of taking more photographs. The changing light was truly amazing and no two photographs taken within seconds of each other were the same. I looked forward to seeing them on the computer. It is hard to judge from the small screen on camera.

The light breaks through the cloud.



Beam me up Scotty!!


We went to visit Staigue Fort,  the ruins of a stone ring fort, probably dating from the 1st century B.C.  Inside the fort are seven healing stones, each related to a different part of the body. If you stand on each stone for a certain number of minutes, and repeat this over a number of days it is reputed to bring healing.  Tutor Michael, though German, knows more about the locality than many of the natives. If he  ever gives up photography he would make an excellent tour guide.
What caught his eye was a small stream and waterfall. So we headed off over the slippery grass to take  photos. We clambered down a slippy bank and scrambled through a thorny thicket. Tall Michael got down into the stream, well his tripod was in the stream while Tutor Michael set up the tripod for me. I declared myself a wimp and told him I would watch from my position of safety. Given my penchant for falling they would be pulling me out of the stream so I can't claim these photos to be mine......but I do know how to take them now. In spite of my carefulness, I managed to fall up the bank on the way back to the car. It wasn't too embarrassing, just two very muddy knees.


The whorl here just appeared as little eddies to the naked eye. Slowing down the shutter speed the magic appeared.


Our final assignment of the day was taking photos during the blue hour. I was asked did I know what this was. I thought it had something to do with late evening. I wasn't far off. It is the time just after the sun drops below the horizon.  So it was back to Waterville beach. The rocky part. So I'm carrying the tripod, camera bag on my back and camera around my neck and we are scrambling over rocks to the shore. There was only one problem ....seaweed!! It was wet and very slippy, you guessed it. Down I went, like a ton of bricks. It took the  two Michael's to haul me back up again. I'm glad it was the blue hour, it counterbalanced the red of my face. Once they checked I could stand, their immediate concern was for my camera. I would mend but the camera might not. I gave it a shake, luckily there was no nasty rattle. I regained my equilibrium and thanks to the tripod there was no noticeable shake when I took the following photos.

The "blue hour" at Waterville Beach


The lights of Ballinskelligs in the distance.
It was with relief we reached terra firma again. I was tired but had had a wonderful day. Thanks to Tutor Michael's relaxed attitude, I hadn't felt under any pressure or stress and in addition, felt I had learned a lot. I'm more comfortable with my camera now. I had missed the simplicity of my compact ultra zoom, not the new camera's fault, simply user problem

Looking back at Waterille,. This is one of my favourite photos of the day. I love the way the light caught the edge of the rocks.
Given time to brush off the muck, Tutor Michael invited us to dinner at his home. Eva, his wife, had cooked a lovely meal for us. What a wonderful way to round off the day, a welcome as warm as the glowing fire, good food, good conversation and finally a look at our photos and some editing tips.
Tomorrow is another day. If you would like to see some of Michaels work this is a link to his photo blog. http://www.skelligphoto.blogspot.com/