We caught up with Andy Harris to chat about the food of Istanbul and his stunning new cookbook with David Loftus, Eat Istanbul
Don’t miss their recipe for perdeli pilav, a chicken and rice pilav pie and Andy’s favourite from the book.
Eat Travel Live When did you first go to Turkey?
Andy Harris 25 years ago when I drove in a stuttering Citroen DCV from Athens to Istanbul.
ETL Can you describe the food and ingredients of Istanbul?
AH Istanbul is a city of hundreds, probably thousands, of villages each with their own unique food streets and markets and specialities, and as its one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, you can understandably find restaurants serving regional dishes from around Turkey so its perfect for trying all sorts of exciting food.
ETL What is your favourite food market in Istanbul?
AH My favourite market is the Sunday Kastimonu market, filled with farmers who drive down with their wares form the Black Sea.
ETL And what is your favourite restaurant in Istanbul?
AH My favourite restaurant has to be Ciya in Kadikoy, where you get to taste all kinds of dishes in one go.
ETL You have some incredible dishes like perdeli pilav (chicken and rice), kalamar dolmsai (stuffed squid) and menemen in the book, how did you manage to get hold of such authentic dishes?
AH Mostly I tasted them at restaurants and then recreated them myself or made dishes up like the stuffed squid, based on flavours I remember from early trips around Turkey’s Aegean coast
ETL Where was your best street food find?
AH I liked the late night food stands around the bars of Taksim Square serving mounds of chicken, rice and chickpeas or the slightly tacky, weird wet burger – meat patties, ketchup and bun steamed to gooey perfection, great after a bellyful of Raki or beer when you’re not too bothered what you eat.
ETL Turkey loves a kebab why do you think they get them so right?
AH Centuries of experience and handing techniques down from father to son all over the country. There are some basics though, using special curved scimitar style knives for chopping and dicing meat, adding highly prized, somewhat pungent, lamb tail fat and using charcoal grills. Simple really!
ETL You have some incredible vegetable dishes and salads, why do you think that Turkish people eat vegetables so well?
AH They still work the land so are used to seeing seasonal crops. They are fiercely loyal to seasonal gluts of cucumbers, aubergines, peppers turning them into all sorts of celebrated dishes.
ETL What is you most memorable experience from writing this book?
AH Meeting some amazing people, especially the 87 year old Pando, who has a celebrated joint serving fried eggs, kaymak (like clotted cream but made with buffalo milk) and honey.
ETL What is your standout dish in this book?
AH I love the perdeli pilav (right)
ETL Marrakesh, Istanbul, where are you off to next?
AH Peru…I’ve been going for 20 years on and off and love the people and cuisine! I’ve been dreaming about doing a book on the country for a long time now.
Eat Istanbul by Andy Harris & David Loftus published by Quadrille, £20 Amazon