Monday, June 29, 2009

Les Huitres

How to eat oysters:

Freshly picked from the mangrove, gently smoked, and then guzzled with fingers on a beach in Senegal's Sine Saloum delta.

How not to pick oysters:

For mangrove conservation reasons, it is forbidden for oyster collectors to cut mangroves in order to collect their bounty. The people who collect oysters are almost always women, who wade out chin deep into the creeks, and must use sharp knives to cut the oysters from the mangroves. It takes longer this way, but it means that there will be mangroves, and oysters, for tomorrow.

Our guide explained this to us. Then he and the boatman drew our pirogue up to the mangroves, and promptly uprooted a couple of branches. Apparently it's OK to destroy the habitat if you have a boatload of white people and are in a hurry...

Mangroves are an important habitat for a number of species, including humans. So, if you go to the Sine Saloum delta and see the guides tearing up the mangroves, let them know.

For more on mangroves visit Wetlands International.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Jiffling reshuffle

After my recent hiatus, I thought it might be time for a bit of reformatting chez Jiffler. The previous layout looked rather serious, so I've tarted it up a bit with a picture of an orange and a friendlier template.

The links on the right have changed too. A few old favourites remain, but some of the more, ahem, career minded, freebie tasting blogs have been banished. Previous favourite Dos Hermanos is also out, as there are only so many times one can read about eating expensive steaks in London, then complaining that they are not as good as at Hawksmoor. The Guardian food page is out as well (where did Jay Rayner go?), and the RSPCA will be sent round later on to have a word with them about the flogging of dead horses.

Welcome though to Around the World in 80 dinners, the story of one man's quest to taste 80 different world cuisines, mostly in Manchester. Also check out Khymos, an exploration of molecular gastronomy by a Scandinavian kitchen mentalist.

Finally, I'd like to give a push to The Great British Kitchen website. Next time a poorly educated American turns his nose up at British food you don't have to resort to violence, just point them in the direction of this website, maintained by the British Food Trust.

Back soon with some more tasty far flung stories.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Shifting the backblog

The backblog has reached Himalayan heights now. I need to get things moving a little, which sadly involves cutting the rest of the Istanbul trip into bite sized chunks, to be consumed at one sitting. Rather like tapas.

So, without further ado, here are some tasty street scenes:

Baklava? My favourites are the ones that filled with milk and honey that burst open when you pop them (whole) into your mouth.

Or perhaps some Turkish Delight? None of that dodgy Fry's stuff either, this is a serious business. Those nutty rolls along the bottom shelf are specifically designed for the removal of fillings.

Check out these jars of preserved vegetables. How cool would a bunch of those look on your kitchen shelves?

One of the friendlier stalls in Beyoglu (Sahne Sk, Balik Pazari No:3/A). I stocked up on apple tea here and the owner, Murat, gave me a little bag of mixed nuts to munch on as I tramped around the wet city.

It's far too easy to get lured into the tourist traps in Istanbul, but there are some great little places out there. Little cafes where you can buy strong tea and munch heavy slabs of borek (preferably for breakfast) are everywhere.

My top pick for Istanbul is the Sultanahmet Fishhouse ( , Te: +90 212 527 44 41) in the old part of town. The welcome here is super-friendly, the wine list is good (check out the Corvus Estate Okuzgozu Bogazkere 2005, pictured below) and it's the kind of place you can stop for a few tasty nibbles or a full on seafood extravaganza that smells like a good day at the beach.

Another oddity I came across, and thoroughly enjoyed, was a small place with a name I couldn't comprehend in Beyoglu. Wandering the streets alone one Sunday night I pressed my nose up against the window of a place filled with laughing Turkish families under strip lighting tucking into massive salads and skewered meat.

After finding myself a seat it quickly became clear that none of the staff spoke a word of English (unusual in an Istanbul restaurant) and the familiar game of smiles and hand gestures ensued. A can of Diet Coke in hand I observed my fellow diners - the place was packed with families and groups of young students, who all seemed to be eating the same thing and chatting away noisily. As the only none Turkish person there I realised I'd finally, and happily, escaped the tourist traps.

Plates of flatbread arrived, along with yoghurt, lemon slices, fresh parsley, mint, and coriander, spring onions, tomatoes and lettuce, and a chap brandishing thin skewers of lamb and beef. Self-assembly kebabs then? I haven't been able to find another word to describe this style of eating, but the food was zinging fresh, and it was very informal, and lots of fun. The whole lot, with a cup of tea at the end, came to about 5 euro. Happy days.

That concludes Istanbul Jifflings, rather too briskly I'm sorry to say. I think some reformatting of Jifflings is in order, so watch out soon for a new look blog, with some more reports from Senegal, the UK, Lisbon, and Kyrgyzstan.