Cruising the Mediterranean – a day in Kusadasi, Turkey (and how to make spiced lamb flatbreads with homemade hummus)

During our cruising of the Greek Islands our ship made a stop on Turkey’s western Aegean coast. Kusadasi, where our ship docked, is a popular resort town and a major stop for the cruise ships.

Because we docked a little later than usual I was out on our balcony to watch as the ship pulled into Kusadasi harbour. The waterfront forms somewhat of a horseshoe, the city behind it sprawling up the hillside. Once again, we were lucky to have a fantastic view from our balcony.

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This particular stop caused much discussion between my husband and I. One of the main excursions from Kusadasi is taking a guided tour to Ephesus. Built in 10th century BC, this ancient city was prominent during the classical Greek era and prospered further under the Roman Empire. Apparently, what remains of Ephesus today stands as the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean. Quite something.

So the dilemma was this – should we sign up for the tour? We chose not to after much toing and froing. The thing about holidays is that sometimes you can try and do too much. When that happens the fun starts to leach out of it.

We’d already had a busy time in London and Italy before departing on the cruise and we’d had two fantastic but busy days in Mykonos and Rhodes. After leaving Turkey we had Santorini and Athens to look forward to. The fear was that by the time we got to Athens we might be feeling a bit over it. Considering Athens was one of the places I was most looking forward to we decided that a sacrifice was in order.

The decision was perhaps made easier for me because I was a little disappointed in any case that our stop in Turkey was Kusadasi and not Istanbul (not that we were anywhere near that area of Turkey). If it had been Istanbul I would have headed straight for the Spice Bazaar – somewhere I’ve always wanted to go. Another time.

So our day in Kusadasi was going to be a breather, a chance to get in a bit of relaxation and charge our batteries for the remainder of the cruise. Besides, my husband was keen to get in a bit of pool time at the top of the ship (he’s English, what can I say?)

But not wanting to miss out entirely, we decided to disembark and have a wander around Kusadasi. It was actually great fun. As the day before in Rhodes, the shops and markets were lively and colourful. In front of practically every shop and restaurant there was someone working extremely hard to entice us inside – and they don’t give up easily! My husband began to get irritated by it but I thought it was all part of the fun. And I admired their tenacity. We were in Turkey and that’s how they do things. If we didn’t want to experience that we should have stayed on the ship! When in Rome and all that.

We also took a walk around the Caravanserai, an impressive landmark in the city’s centre. This castle dates back to the seventeenth century and during the Ottoman rule it was used as a trading house. Today the Caravanserai is a hotel, with an open-air café in the large central courtyard.

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As for the local cuisine, there is plenty on offer. I love Turkish spices and flavours – and the way they charcoal grill their meat. In Kusadasi the restaurants were a mix. Some were charming and traditional looking while others had a more modern look and feel. Something for everyone.

After leaving the shopping area we headed for the waterfront. It’s a spectacular stretch and hard to resist taking a walk. We were lucky to have another warm and cloudless day.

Yet again, we were flooded with offers to stop at one of the cafes for refreshments. In the end we did decide to stop. Not that it takes much convincing for us to make a refreshment stop in any case but the young lady in front of the café we chose was so charming we couldn’t resist. She was also boasting free Wi-Fi and my husband had an urgent email to get away so that cinched the deal. (You can catch a glimpse of our ship in the photo on the right.)

Although we were taking a break from sightseeing for the day an interesting place to visit if you do want to learn more about the history of Kusadasi is Pigeon Island. It’s a peninsular that juts out from the mainland, not far from the harbour. The peninsular is famous for its fortress and Byzantine castle that was used for military purposes during the Ottoman rule. It was also effective in defending the area from pirates.

That evening it was later than usual when our ship sailed from Kusadasi. My husband and I were up on the sunset deck for pre-dinner drinks at the time and the views we had over the city as our ship purred out of the harbour were spectacular, as was the evening itself.

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Getting back to Ephesus briefly, although we didn’t make if there a friend of mine did visit Ephesus back in 2001 and she has graciously gifted me a few of her photos. Take a look . . .

The first photo on the left shows the main street of Ephesus with the ancient library at the end of the street. The photo below it shows the amphitheatre and the large photo to the right shows the library. Impressive. A big thank you to my friend Nic for the photos.

So – do I have any regrets? Yes and no. It would have been amazing to see Ephesus but our day in Athens (coming in a later blog!) more than made up for it.

I’ll end this blog, as always, with food. What a fantastic opportunity to share with you a Turkish inspired recipe – Turkish spiced lamb loin flatbreads. I say “Turkish inspired” because I won’t claim my recipe is authentic exactly but it works for me and tastes delicious.

You may remember my blog from a couple of weeks ago where I gave a recipe of Greek salad with spiced lamb loins. In the coming weeks I’d like to show you just how versatile these lamb loins are. I’ve changed the spice rub for this recipe to take the flavours more in the direction of Turkey. The spice that I’m particularly excited about is sumac. It originates from the berries of a wild bush that grows prevalently in the Mediterranean and Middle East. It has a wonderfully sour fruity flavour. I love using it in spice rubs but it’s also fantastic as a garnish. I’ll show you how to use it both ways in this meal.

And what a meal! Honestly, these flatbreads are such a joy to eat you’ll want to make them again and again – the spicy lamb, the smooth garlicky hummus, the tang of the yoghurt and the crunch of the radishes and red onion. And if all that isn’t enough going on in one mouthful, the mint adds a fresh fragrant note. It’s a perfect combination of textures and flavours.

The quantities for the spice rub below will make more than you need but it keeps well in an airtight container. Likewise, the four loins makes plenty of lamb but leftovers won’t be a problem.

(If you would rather stick with the spice rub from the Greek salad recipe it would still be delicious in these flatbreads.)

 

Spiced Lamb Loin Flatbreads with Homemade Hummus

Serves 4

 

4 x lamb loins

Spice rub for lamb

4 teaspoons ground sumac

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon freshly ground sea salt

 

Hummus

1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 fat garlic clove, roughly chopped

1½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3-4 tablespoons lemon juice

1 heaped tablespoon tahini

3 tablespoons water

Salt, to taste

 

Mint and Radish Salad

1 medium red onion, sliced thinly

4 radishes, sliced thinly (slices then halved)

Handful of fresh mint leaves

Dash of olive oil

Squeeze of lemon juice

Pinch ground sumac

Freshly ground sea salt, to taste

 

4 flatbreads, to serve (warmed in the oven)

Greek yoghurt, to serve

 

I always start by making the spice rub. This takes no more effort than measuring each spice into a bowl and giving them a quick mix to blend. Now rub the spices into both sides of each lamb loin. Put them aside while you heat a pan on the hob.

Now is a good time to get on with the hummus. Once again, this couldn’t be easier. Simply combine all the ingredients into the bowl of your food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. Start with three tablespoons of lemon juice and a little salt. Once it’s blended have a taste and add more lemon juice and/or salt until you’re happy. You can also add a dash more water if it needs it.

If you’re using the hummus as a dip to serve with pita breads or as part of a meze it’s quite nice to finish it off with a drizzle of olive oil and perhaps a sprinkling of paprika.

Now back to the lamb. Once your pan is nice and hot, drizzle the loins with some olive oil and smooth over. Add to the pan and enjoy the sound of that instant sizzle. As I said in my earlier recipe I find that around four minutes per side gives me a nice medium pink finish.

Once the lamb is cooked to your liking, transfer it to a plate and cover with tin foil. Leave it to rest for 10 minutes.

While the lamb is resting you can get on with the salad. Add the sliced onion and radishes to a bowl. Gently tear the mint leaves into pieces and add them also. Now for the dressing and this is quite important. The reason I’ve specified a dash of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice is because this salad is so fresh and crunchy it needs only a smidgen of dressing. So just a small drizzle of oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Grind over a little sea salt, add a small pinch of sumac and then carefully toss with your hands. Have a taste and by all means add a little more oil or lemon if you think it needs it.

Once the lamb has rested, carve it into very thin slices and serve on a plate or board as I’ve done. Spoon some Greek yoghurt into a bowl. Take it all to the table and and let everyone construct their own flatbreads.

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It might go quiet for a few minutes.

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Enjoy!

 

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5 Comments

  1. Keith says:

    Great account of Kusadasi, Tracey. Can I ask which tour provider you used for Ephesus? I’m putting together a ‘guide’ of guides for Ephesus for http://www.kusadasicentral.com and it would be great to have a reference. I can link to your article also if that works?
    Could I mention the page here also, and I’d like to discuss linking to a couple of images (with credit/backlinks) if you’re interested.

    Like

    • Hi Keith, thanks for your note. In regards to Ephesus, we didn’t actually take a tour of Ephesus. We only visited Kusadasi. The provider we used for the shore excursions we did book was CruiseCompete and they were very good. You’re welcome to link to my article. The photos I’ve included of Ephesus are not mine (they were gifted to me by a friend) so I can’t give permission for those. But all the photos of Kusadasi are mine and you’re welcome to link to these. Hope that helps.

      Like

      • Keith says:

        Hi Tracey,
        Ok, thanks for that. Apologies if I misunderstood about the tour! I’ll link up anyway in a tour article later. And the photos are great so I’ll give you a link + shout-out.
        Thanks!

        Like

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