Turkey Recap Pt 2: Datli Maya + Macrocenter Review

Ideally this part of my recap should have been focused on all the wonderful vegan restaurants and cafes I frequented in Istanbul. But one thing that no Lonely Planet book or Happy Cow app will tell you about the city is that during Bayram (Also known as Eid, the three day Islamic holiday that follows the Holy month of Ramadan), pretty much everything is closed. Or, as the locals put it: kapılı.

I tried hitting up the likes of Parsifal, Galata Kitchen, and Zencefil - all to no avail. I was even more disheartened when I realized that Datli Maya, a rustic eatery boasting vegan and gluten free Lahmacun was also closed for business on the first day of Eid.

But on the second day…

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My prayers were answered!

Located in Cihangir, an up and coming quirky neighborhood speckled with a plethora of antique shops and vintage clothing stores, Datli Maya’s bright blue storefront is hard to miss, and the heavenly aroma emitting from their traditional wood fired oven even harder to bypass.

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I fell in love with the interiors instantly, the staff was so lovely, from the free tea station to the incredibly well branded menus – the entire place gave off this undeniably cool yet charming and quirky vibe.datli-maya-review-istanbul-9

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Our waitress, who just happened to be vegan herself, recommended we start with a stew of fresh seasonal vegetables and a meze platter.

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Accompanied with some freshly baked bread, of course.

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I cannot stress just how FRESH everything tasted. The tomato sauce was light and not the least bit greasy, and the hints of sweet and savory were truly delightful. The flavors married brilliantly, nothing was over seasoned and I couldn’t help but marvel at the sheer simplicity yet sublime taste of the meze dishes.

Then came the vegan lahmacun and pide.

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Made with beet, Jerusalem artichokes, olive oil, parsley stems, Taşköprü garlic, dry and canned porcini mushrooms, and Himalayan salt and various spices.

To say it was delicious would be doing it a serious disservice.

datli-maya-review-istanbul-4 Wrapped up with some parsley and lemon juice, how the traditional lamb version of the dish is usually eaten.

I should note that because it was Eid, they didn’t have the GF dough available, so I wasn’t able to sample that which was a shame. But I happily chowed down on the wheaty version all the same, especially having read that 70% of all flour used at Datli Maya is whole wheat and whole rye, with the remaining 30% is white flour.

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A cup of licorice tea to seal the deal.

All in all, easily the best vegan meal I had in Istanbul. I spent the rest of my trip in Turkey hankering after their pide, and I would most definitely visit it again.

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It should come as no surprise that I thoroughly enjoy grocery shopping when I travel – and if one were to grocery shop in Istanbul, then MacroCenter would definitely be the place.

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Think of it as an upscale supermarket, meets gourmet deli, meets health food store. I noticed they were pretty much ubiquitous in Istanbul and yet again the sleek branding drew me in.

From wild rice and quinoa, to non-dairy milks and gluten-free products, they had it all.

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I was even surprised to find Siracha – which I myself have yet to experiment with although it’s readily available in Bahrain too.

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Raw snacks from Saf! I picked up a few for on-the-go snacks and they were a lifesaver.

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The fresh produce section was tempting as ever – but alas, lack of proper cooking facilities at my hotel restrained me from indulging. Instead I headed to the ready foods section and picked up some delectable looking mezzes for a quick dinner.

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Artichokes stuffed with sauteed tomatoes and peppers, red quinoa tabbouleh (which tasted nothing like tabbouleh, but delicious regardless), apple and raisin kisir (a post-modern take on a traditional Turkish bulghur dish), fava (a bean dip made from a high protein pea called Gambilia, native to Turkey, beluga lentil salad, curried lentil kofte (also known as mercimek kofte) and some gluten-free quinoa crackers. All atop some fresh greens – words can’t express how tasty and light this makeshift vegan dinner was.

Do you have some must-visit vegan or foodie spots when you travel?

That’s all from me for now, dear readers, but keep your ears peeled for the next installment of my trip recap, where I’ll tell you all about my peaceful retreat in Fethiye and the wonderful vegan cooking class I attended in Bodrum.

Turkey Recap Pt 1: Vegan Street Food in Istanbul

Merhaba!

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As you may have gathered by my recent posts on Instagram and Facebook, I spent the past two weeks galavanting and vegan-venturing around Turkey. In addition to Istanbul I also stopped over in Fethiye for a retreat in the mountains by the south coast of the Aegean, before ending the trip with a visit to a popular beach town in Bodrum.

It feels surreal to be back now after such a whirlwhind and hectic trip – but I enjoyed every last second of it. Needless to say, I tried to jam pack as much as humanly possible during all three legs of the trip, so I have much to share, but first; an introspective into something I did not expect to find so much of in Istanbul: vegan street food.

Stumbling across a Nohutlu Pilav vendor outside the port of the Besiktas – Kadikoy ferry was a delightful surprise.

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Yes, it is just chickpeas and rice, and yes it was delicious.

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With a sprinkling of salt and black pepper – the perfect mid-afternoon snack.

Just a stone’s throw away was an old man selling freshly sliced apples, and sliced cucumbers with salt.

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I didn’t get any, but it looked (and smelled) unbelievably fresh. Plus the apple-coring meets spiralizer device was pretty cool.

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On the topic of fresh produce – another thing found in abundance all around Istanbul, is juice bars.

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Or as they refer to them; vitamin bars.

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From this particular vendor in Eminönü I had a deliciously spicy carrot, orange and ginger juice. 

Perhaps the most ubiquitous street food item in Istanbul is simit – a circular type of bread coated generously with sesame seeds.

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While what appears to be Turkey’s answer to the Bagel is in fact vegan, I must admit that I wasn’t a fan, it was too sour and dry for my liking - had I had it with some jam and tea however I might be singing a different tune right now. But anyways, I digress.

Roasted kestane however, I love.

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Thankfully the roasted chestnuts almost just as ubiquitous as simit.

Also on offer was some grilled sweetcorn - the smoky smell of which evokes childhood memories of summers spent in Egypt.

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And of course after a long day of sightseeing – what could be better than an ice cold piece of juicy watermelon?

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But to be honest, the biggest (and tastiest) surprise of all, was discovering Çiğ köfte.

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Pronouced “chee kufta”, it literally translates to raw meatball. Funnily enough, the traditional recipe calls for raw minced meat (similar to kibbeh nayyeh, in Lebanese cuisine) as of 10 years ago, the government in Turkey dictated that  the version sold in fast-food outlets must be meatless by law due to hygienic reasons. So in fact, unless you’re eating it at someone’s home, it is completely vegan!

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To say my face lit up when I saw this 200 or meters or so away, is probably an understatement.

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And right around lunchtime too! I took the plunge and ordered a durum wrap with all the trimmings, minus the spicy spread.

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A good call, since the bulgur mix itself was already pretty spicy, though offset perfectly by the pomegranate molasses sauce.

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Perfectly filling and flavourful with a serious crunch factor courtesy of the crisp veggies. Definitely on my list to recreate soon.

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And that’s all for now! Stay tuned for part 2 of my trip recap for more delicious vegan eats in Turkiye.

What is street food like where you’re from? Is any of it veg/vegan friendly?

Vegan Ash Reshteh Soup

Prior to the revival of the blog I have to say I’m in awe of how many people got in touch via e-mail and social media just to reach out and share their story. One such person was The Persian Vegan – a Facebook page dedicated entirely to plant-based Middle Eastern dishes – sound familiar? Needless to say I was elated to hear from Cyrus -it’s so great to connect with like minded people and he has definitely found a fan in me.

Especially after I made his divine recipe for Ash Reshteh soup – a bean based Persian soup choc full of chickpeas, kidney beans and lentils not to mention green herbs galore and gluten-free noodles. Since I received so many requests to share the recipe, I asked Cyrus if he would mind and he happily gave me his blessing. So without further ado I present to you the best soup recipe I’ve made in a very long time!

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Vegan and Gluten Free Ash Reshteh Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked kidney beans
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 1 cup cooked brown lentils
  • 2 medium onions, chopped (reserve some for garnish)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup of gluten free noodles, dry
  • Small bunch of cilantro, parsley, dill and spring onions, chopped
  • 1 cup of baby spinach
  • 2 tbsp organic coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 a bouillon cube (optional, I use the Kallo Organic brand)
  • 2.5 cups of water

Instructions:
1. Sautée half of the onions with 1 tbsp of coconut oil in a large pot. Add the garlic and cook for roughly 4 mins on medium heat or until the onions are translucent.
2. Add in the beans and lentils along with half the water and let boil for a few minutes before adding in the chopped herbs and spinach.
3. Add in seasonings and the stock cube if using then allow to simmer for 10 minutes or so until greens cook down and flavour intensifies.
4. Add in the gluten-free noodles (I recommend breaking them up if they aren’t already) and the rest if the water. Cook until noodles are done then season with sea salt and black pepper.
5. Fry the remaining onions lightly until golden and garnish. Serve with a lemon wedge if desired, I found it added just enough zing to give the recipe a kick with the rich herby taste.

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Not only did this soup come together in no cinch it also made for great leftovers as the flavours only seem to get richer with time. Make it, and make it soon!


On a separate note I apologise for the funky formatting as I’m currently blogging from a Caribou Coffee at the airport waiting for my flight to board. Yes that’s right – I’m escaping on a short getaway for Eid break! As for where – you’ll have to wait and find out ;).

See you on the other side, dear readers!

Top 5 Vegan Beauty Product Picks

Greetings dear readers! I hope you’re all enjoying the archived posts – It’s taking me a while to get them up but on the bright side I’ve also had a chance to revisit my old content and even make minor improvements to some of the recipes.

But enough about food already. When I relaunched the blog one of my goals was for it to become more of a lifestyle guide and resource – of course food will probably always be the focus, but I’d like to offer my musings on different aspects of being vegan wherever possible, so this is exactly that.

Vegan beauty products, unlike vegan food, are not quite as easy to get a hold of here in Bahrain (I can’t speak for the rest of the Gulf or the Arab world but I’m willing to bet it’s around the same). They are available – you just need to dig a little harder to find them, as well as do some research on which mainstream brands are already vegan (you’d be surprised!). So without further ado I give you, my top 5 vegan beauty product picks of the moment!

1. Green Bar Rose Plant Water

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Not only does this stuff smell incredible  it also works wonders. I’ve been using it daily for about 5 months now and I’m in love with how soothing and cleansing it is to my skin without being abrasive like most commercial chemical toners. Rose water is traditionally used in Middle Eastern culture as an anti-inflammatory, so it’s also great for sensitive skin. I adore that it’s 100% natural and additive free, plus have I mentioned that Green Bar is a completely local brand and concept? Points all around in my book.

The rose plant water is available to buy here on their website, and the good news is they ship regionally and internationally too.

2. Sante Organic Compact Powder

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I generally don’t wear a lot of make-up, but my essentials are three-fold: bronzer, mascara and tinted lip balm. This one is a bit of a cheat because while it’s actually a compact powder, I buy a couple of shades darker and use it as a bronzer, and it works great. First I have to say I love that it’s matte – far too many bronzer powders come with an unnecessary glittery sheen that makes them impractical for everyday use. Second it’s completely organic, vegan and filled with all natural botanical ingredients including chamomile and organic jojoba. It doesn’t make my skin break out and is perfect for applying in layers too so you can gauge how much coverage you need.

I buy mine at the Organic Foods and Cafe in Seef Mall, but you can also order it online here (oh and another bonus? It doesn’t break the bank like my Guerlain bronzer used to).

3. OrganicCare Beauty Balm

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Another local Bahrain-based brand that I’m immensely proud of is OrganicCare. Entirely homemade and handcrafted by a truly dedicated and knowledgeable entrepreneur, all their products are organic, and natural with wholesome ingredients that are safe and toxin-free. Now on to the Beauty Balm – is perhaps the best face product I’ve ever used, hands down. The balm is highly nourishing and gentle, and while it’s intended as a make-up remover I actually use it as my daily moisturizer, morning and night.

A special blend of skin loving cold pressed organic oils and butter that feeds your skin. Use it with our 100% organic cotton and hemp cloth to remove oils, dirt and makeup. The results can be seen right after one use, with incredibly radiant, glowing skin with a smoother, more refined texture. The difference can be seen instantly and just keeps on improving with use. OrganiCare’s Beauty Balm can be used as a moisturizer, for face, lips, cuticles, dry patches on body or heels.

What I love about it is how light it feels on my skin (even though it’s oil-based), it never makes me break out. It also smells so citrusy and fresh, gives me a great glow in the morning and has made my skin incredibly soft. Not to be missed if you live in Bahrain I highly recommend you get in touch via the Facebook page here. For international readers, stay tuned – I’m sure she’ll be branching out soon.

4. Barry M Blink Precision Eyeliner

 

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Another one of my make-up must haves (although not a daily essential) is a solid eyeliner pen, because let’s face it; aint nobody got time for actual liquid liner. While I used to live for Rimmel and Maybelline’s eyeliner pens, I’m beyond happy to have found a vegan alternative. Yes that’s right, all Barry M’s products are 100% vegan and cruelty free! They also have a great line of nail polishes and a full range of make-up, so it’s definitely a great go-to. You can find them at Boots stores here in Bahrain, and virtually everywhere in the UK as well.

5. Bath and BodyWorks Fine Fragrance Mist

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Because it’s almost virtually impossible to find perfume that’s vegan (barring Stella McCartney – which I may have to try out sometime soon) I pretty much stopped wearing perfume. Instead I opt for body sprays from Bath and Body Works which I much prefer as they’re so light yet still fragrant, floral and sweet. My scent of choice varies but my favourite has to be the Japanese Cherry Blossom. I also love that they have smaller bottles for travel or when you’re on the go. Now as for the brand, this is a bit of a tricky one – not all BBW products are vegan as some do contain animal ingredients (including lactose and gelatin) but they are definitely 100% cruelty free and do not test on animals, so as long as you read the ingredients on what you buy, you should be fine.

Available at Bath and BodyWorks stores (obviously) – my favourite one to frequent is the one in City Centre Mall, downstairs next to Carrefour and Lakeland.

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So there you have it – a sneak peak into some of my favourite vegan beauty products! It’s worth mentioning that I’m still in the process of totally veganizing my make-up bag, so I do use a combination of vegan and non-vegan products, but I’m slowly transitioning and finding accessible products like these is a great help.

What are some of your tried and tested  vegan beauty/make-up/hair products? I’d love to know!

 

Return of the blog

That’s right, the blog is back!

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(The blog on the blog – blogception?)

This time my extended hiatus was due to a very unfortunate series of events in which my dreadful web host (I won’t name and shame, but I’m quite certain you might know which one it is already) decided to delete my ENTIRE site without so much as an e-mail’s notice. Needless to say I was beyond frustrated when I learned that there was nothing I could do to get it back.

After a good week of feeling upset, helpless and sorry for myself, I harassed my previous host through countless web chats to get access to my domain and purchased new hosting. I then thanked my lucky stars that Wellsphere had an online log of every post I ever made and decided it was time to get to work and redesign, rebuild and re-populate my blog from scratch.

The problem with this of course (besides being incredibly time consuming) is that all old comments have disappeared, along with some of the static pages of the blog. I also had to dig up all my old photos and re-upload to match them up with posts, so not all of them are exactly the way they used be. But despite it all, I have returned and I couldn’t be happier to be typing up a blog post once again! I have some fantastic new recipes and reviews up my sleeve and I can’t wait to share them.

I should mention that not all posts and recipes have been restored just yet – it’s proven to be a much slower process than I originally anticipated so please bear with me while I get all of the old content up and running. I’m also uploading all my recipes separately to recipage for quick retrieval, but again the collection on there is far from complete – so If there’s a recipe you’re looking for that you can’t find just leave me a comment below or drop me a message on Facebook and I’ll be sure to add it to the top of the recipe queue or even just e-mail it to you.

Before I depart – I’d like to wish all my wonderful readers who observe and celebrate it, a very warm Ramadan Kareem. And also – for every person who sent me an e-mail, Facebook message or tweet – thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your support means the world to me, and I can’t thank you enough for your patience. Stay tuned for new recipes and updates!