Stoke Newington has a thriving Turkish community, and with its grand domed mosques, it’s coffee shops selling freshly baked Anatolian delicacies, and it’s traditional Turkish Hamaam tucked away in a side street, I sometimes feel as if I’ve been transported to Turkey itself.
I’ve been to Istanbul once before, and during the Autumn half term Team Haloodiefoodie decided to revisit the land where East meets West; the land of the Sultans and the Ottomans. Istanbul is a short 3.5 hour flight from London, so if you catch an early morning flight, you’ll still have plenty to explore on your first day.
The Sultan Ahmed area is the cultural heart of the city. It’s only a 30 minute taxi drive from Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, and has many hotels. I would suggest you stay in a 3-star hotel, which usually serves a simple but hearty Turkish style breakfast of cheese, sour cherry jam, honey, eggs and bread.
The hotels in Sultan Ahmed are within walking distance of the main Istanbul attractions: Topkapi Palace, Sultan Ahmed Camii (the Blue Mosque) and the Hagia Sophia.
I recommend getting a Muze Card for 85TL (£20), which gives you access to a range of attractions including Topkapi and Hagia Sophia. More information can be found here:
Topkapi Palace housed the Ottoman Sultan, his family and various service personnel. It is by far the most popular attraction with beautiful Ottoman Architecture and ornate furnishings. I recommend starting your tour of Istanbul here. I was in the ticket queue for 2 hours during my first visit!! This time, I avoided the queues by reaching the palace at 9am, and I was one of the first to purchase our Muze cards. Topkapi contains 4 main courtyards, various receiving rooms, and the Sultans private quarters. It also contained mosques, kitchens, the Treasury, bathing pools and a hospital!
The views overlooking the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus are breathtakingly beautiful!
The Palace also houses the Sacred Relics which include the cloak and Sword of Rasullah SAW, as well as other relics such as the Staff of Musa AS and the Turban of Yusuf (AS). No photography is allowed in the Sacred Relics section.
There’s so much to more see, you can easily spend a few hours in Topkapi, soaking up life in Ottoman Times!!!
Hagia Sofia was originally a Greek Orthodox cathedral with Byzantine architecture. It was converted into a Mosque and is now a museum. It has high domed ceilings, marble pillars and Mosaics depicting Jesus, the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist and other nobles.
The Blue Mosque is also in the same vicinity, I suggest you visit at a prayer time to hear the call to prayer echoing around the high domed ceilings. Stay after the prayer for the impressive recitation of the Imaam.
The sunset tour of the Bosphorus was another highlight of our trip. The most picturesque time to start the tour is about an hour before sunset. We boarded from Eminonu (A few stops on the tram from Sultan Ahmed). Eminonu is a busy transport hub, with ferries to the Asian Side of Istanbul and a bus station. (You can also take the 99A bus to Eyup Sultan from Eminonu).
Eminonu is very busy, with many sellers of Hamsi (Fried Anchovy Sandwiches). You can also buy freshly fried Lokma, (Turkish doughnuts).
The Mosque is built next to the grave of the famous companion of Rasullah Muhammed SAW
The Grand Bazaar is the perfect place for retail therapy. You can buy almost anything within its winding streets!!
The Spice Bazaar is where you can pick up all manner of spices, teas and the occasional love potion! You can get Urfa Pepper for your adana kebabs here! See my recipe for further details. http://haloodiefoodie.com/haloodiefoodies-adana-kebab-live/
The museum contains many ancient Quran manuscripts and relics of the Kabah
You are spoilt for places to eat in Istanbul, with all manner of cuisines available. We made a conscious effort to sample both the traditional and modern cuisine. Here are some of our highlights.
Situated near Sultan Ahmed’s tram stop is the famous Tarihi Sultan Ahmet Koftecisi which was established in 1920 and is, therefore one of the oldest Kofte houses in Istanbul.
These beef kebabs were cooked over charcoal, the lack of spice was substituted by the super succulent and unctuous kebabs!
I found out about Virginia Angus during my internet trawl for steak places in Istanbul. So after reading Isha prayer in Sulaymani Mosque, we walked through some narrow roads to finally get to the burger eatery. I was surprised to see what looked like takeaway from the EastEnd of London (no disrespect to the EastEnd!!). Nevertheless, the promised lure of Black Angus beef took us inside. As soon as I saw the aged meat on display, any doubts about the eatery soon disappeared. Virgina Angus is not your usual steak and burger joint, they farm their own Black Angus in the lush fields of Eastern Anatolia.
We ordered The Leave it to the Chef Platter, which started with thinly sliced subtly smoked beef. Served with soft and buttery bread rolls.
The burger and steaks were cooked over charcoal and were served medium, the steaks juicy and succulent. The french fries were a little underdone and lacked seasoning. The beef served on the platter wasn’t aged, although the quality of the black Angus beef was apparent.
As part of the platter we were also supplied with a cute mini Virginia burger, with smoked veal, double cheese and caramelised onions!! Totally luscious!!
After eating half of my the mini burger!! I just had to order another one!!
The Virginia burger came sliced in two, with grill marks on the inside of the patty! This patty was cooked rare and juicy. The smoked veal added a salty, smokiness to the juicy beef and the subtle sweetness of the caramelised onions came through in every bite. Mrs HF had a bite and commented that the patty texture was too rare for her liking. That was good news for me, as she concentrated her attention on the french fries while I enjoyed the burger!!
Cag Kebab is a horizontally rotating Lamb kebab cooked over a wood fire. The marinated lamb slices are stacked with layers of lamb tail fat, which help maintain the kebabs juiciness.
Kasab Osman is along the road from Sehzade. Established as a Butcher ‘Kasab’ in 1964, Kasab Osman opened as a restaurant in 1990. The doner kebab uses good quality lamb and is cooked over a wood fire! It’s nothing like the doner found in most takeaways in the UK, utilising lamb shoulder. Also try the amazing Iskinder Kebab here!!
Hafiz Mustafa is Istanbul’s premium dessert parlour. Established for over 150 years, Hafiz Mustafa serves a variety of Turkish sweets including Baklava, Kunefe, Turkish Delight, Creamy Rice puddings and all manner of sweet treats!
The quality of the Baklava was outstanding, and they don’t compromise on the quality (or quantity) of the nuts. The vividly green pistachio Baklava is a must.
If you prefer a more refined meal, then make your way across the Bosphorus to Chef Mehmet Gurs’ acclaimed Mikla Resturant. Situated on the rooftop floors of The Marmara Pera Hotel.
A modern take on Hamsi (Fried Anchovy Sandwiches) found in Eminonu. This was a creative dish which married the intense flavour of the anchovies, with the texture of crispy olive oil bread and the subtle coolness of the lemon dip. Very clever!!
Bonito served with Salicornia, Fennel, Sunchoke, Caper and Apple vinegar. The Bonito was firm and its taste was highlighted by the sharp vinegar dressing.
For my second course, I ordered the Pistachio crusted Grilled Lamb, served with Liver, Mushroom, bulgar and cornelian cherry. The presentation of the dish blew me away. The lamb was cooked medium rare, as requested, succulent and well seasoned. The pistachio crust gave the dish much need texture and the liver added a subtle earthiness.
Mrs Haloodiefoodie went for the fish dish as her second course. The monkfish was perfectly cooked and really meaty. The sauce with the red beans perfectly complimented the fish.
I wasn’t expecting this dessert to look so stunning, amazing colours and textures. I’m glad it tasted as good as it looked. The buffalo yoghurt was sweet and had a Khoya/Mava type of creamy smoothness. The sharp strawberry sorbet gave the contrasting freshness to the rich yoghurt. The fennel sauce added a hint of liquorice flavour to the dish.. I was a happy diner!!
The sharpness of the blackberry sorbet contrasted and cut through the richness of the bittersweet chocolate. This dessert was thoroughly enjoyed, and one of the best I’ve ever had.
The night ended with breathtaking 360° views of Istanbul from the Rooftop terrace!
I have uploaded some key places that we visited during our trip. I hope you find it useful!
We really enjoy our short trip to Istanbul. It’s the first time Mrs Haloodiefoodie has been away from all the children for an extended period of time! Don’t worry we have set a firm resolution to bring the Junior members of Team Haloodiefoodie to sample the cultural and culinary delights of this wonderful and unique city!
Growing up in a fast developing halal scene, I had my fair share of burgers and doner kebabs. The £2 burger and chips craze came, stayed for a while and went…
The era of mechanically retrieved, horse DNA infused beef Quarter Pounders is dead.
People are now craving for a new breed of burger. They query the quality of the beef and whether the burger patties are hand pressed?
I’ve been keeping this recipe up my sleeve since last Summer, I feel its time to release it to the masses. If I had a penny for every burger recipe request, I’d be giving a lot more zakaat this year!!
So, if you own a gourmet burger joint, look away now and I apologise for the lack of customers in advance!
Welcome to the Gourmet burger revolution…. Haloodiefoodie style.
Burgers are made from beef!!
Real burgers are beef, not lamb, mutton or chicken. I’m aware that some may have a cultural aversion to beef, however if you want the best tasting burgers you’ll need the correct ingredients.
Use a good quality beef mince, 80:20% Beef mince to fat ratio. The fat keeps the burgers moist. Too much fat and the burgers will taste greasy and may even break up when cooking. I usually get the butcher to mince a steak (Chuck steak is best). Don’t settle for pre-minced Beef unless you have complete confidence in your butcher.
The best burger joints use 28+ day aged beef, which elevates the taste and texture of the patties. If you know a of a respectable halal butcher who dry ages beef. Please forward detail to me!
DO NOT WASH THE MEAT!!!
It’s against the traditional teaching of Indian mothers but trust me you have to throw away the rule book for these wonderful tasting burgers!!!
HaloodieFoodie Gourmet Burger recipe
1 kg Beef mince
Using wet hands shaped into 5.5-6oz patties around 2cm thick with a piece of brie sandwiched in the middle.
That’s it!!! This recipe will give you the most moist, flavoursome burgers you’ll ever taste.
Ok, I’m an Indian!! Mrs HaloodieFoodie refused to eat unwashed and unseasoned burger patties! Certain cultural, culinary attitudes seem to be innate. Here is the recipe for my indianified gourmet burgers, suitable for all indian palettes including my honourable parents.
1 kg Beef mince (Makes 6 Patties)
1/2 tablespoon ginger
1/2 tablespoon garlic
1 heaped teaspoon Cumin (jeera) powder
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper powder
Lightly combine all the spices at least an hour before cooking. Don’t mix too thoroughly! You are making a burger and the texture is important, otherwise your burger patty structure will become more like a sausage or meat loaf.
Using wet hands shaped into 6oz patties around 2cm thick with a piece of brie sandwiched in the middle. This technique helps to cut through the meatiness of the beef. Remember to lightly pack the patties, you don’t want a dense patty structure. Place the patties on a tray and chill until its time to cook, don’t freeze!
The most observant of you will realise that the I have omitted salt! The patties are to be salted prior to searing. I cannot stress the importance of this step. It help ensure the structure and moisture of the burgers.
Drizzle 3-4 tablespoon oil onto a griddle pan (or frying pan) and heat on medium until the oil starts to smoke slightly. Season first side with salt just before putting burgers onto the griddle pan and second side just before flipping the burgers. Listen for the sizzle.
Cook for around 5 mins, check for a brown crust. This is caused when the protein is heated. Its called the maillard reaction and results in a slightly charred, smoky and caramelly taste..
These burgers are quite delicate, therefore avoid temptation to flip. Flip only to change sides. DO NOT SQUEEZE!! We are trying to retain the moisture, please don’t force it out. The patties should be medium and should have a thin layer of pink in the middle. Don’t worry it’s cooked!! The pink/red juice is not blood!! Its the breakdown of the protein myoglobin. However, if you can’t resist double checking, use a meat thermometer to check the temperature has reached 60°C for medium and 65°C for medium well.
2 minutes before the end of searing add your cheese. Use whatever cheese you like. I personally prefer gouda because it melts well and has a subtle flavour. Rest your burgers for 2 mins while you heat up buns or any other accompaniments.
Choice of Bun
Gourmet burgers are incomplete if the quality of the buns does not match the quality of the meat. Brioche is an enriched bread made with eggs and butter. It’s quite a durable bread which can stand the rigours of a big patty and multiple toppings.
Sourcing brioche buns can be difficult. Try your local independent bakery. Those residing in East London can pre-order from Rinkoffs Bakery in Whitechapel.
A burger is a blank canvas, you can add whatever you like. Dont be frugal!!!
Slow caramelised red onions, ketchup, turkey rashers, sweet chilli jam (See my instagram post for a recipe), guacamole, salsa, halloumi, mayo, mustard, little gem lettuce, rocket, jalapeno and whatever else tickles your fancy.
Just ensure that the flavours are balanced.
This was my menu for a recent event during Gourmet Burger night at HaloodieFoodie Dining
1. Classic HaloodieFoodie burger
Toasted soft fluffy brioche, 7oz beef patty stuffed with brie, caramelised red onions, cream cheese and sweet chilli jam, turkey bacon rashers, gouda cheese with fresh crispy little gem lettuce.
2. All Dancing and Singing Mexican Nàchó & Gàwo Burger
Toasted soft fluffy brioche, 7oz beef patty stuffed with brie, tangy salsa, creamy guacamole, sour cream, crunchy brown rice chips .
3. Sweltering, Scorching and Scolding Burger
Toasted soft fluffy brioche, 7oz beef patty stuffed with brie, caramelised red onions, sweet chilli jam, Bajan Scotch bonnet chilli Sauce, gouda cheese with fresh crispy little gem lettuce… Served with tempura chilli’s.
All our burgers are served medium/rare to ensure a fantastically succulent beef patty and served with seasoned French fries, Tempura Gherkins with blue cheese dip, Onion rings, and a selection of house sauces.
Dessert: Hot Sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream, drizzled with extra toffee sauce.
I hope you enjoy the HaloodieFoodie version of gourmet burgers, please don’t forget to subscribe and keep updated with the work of the HaloodieFoodie!!