We finally arrived back in Turkey at the weekend after what seemed a mammoth journey. As our less-than-favourite airline, Thomas Cook, once again cancelled our flight back from the UK, we decided to go off-piste and treat ourselves to a few days in France on the way back. This may sound simple, but it involves a convoluted route back here, as the French don’t come to Turkey for their holidays – they have other places to go (no doubt all with better wine), so the only flights are with the big carriers into Istanbul. And that’s very expensive indeed, plus it is a place I don’t feel comfortable hanging around in at the moment.
Smugly, I found an Easyjet flight from Bordeaux to Amsterdam, then a charter direct to Antalya the following day (the Dutch do come here on holiday because we have nice beer and they don’t care about the wine, and we have lots of sunshine and the local people are nice and don’t pretend they can’t speak your language).
The Easyjet experience at Bordeaux is outstanding – the low cost airlines have their own cattle shed (sorry, obviously I meant to say terminal there). Once inside, you are herded from place to place until you eventually arrive at the final holding pen – I’ve now done this journey twice, both times fully expecting to be rounded up by a couple of border collies and a man with a flat cap and a whistle. You are then challenged by someone with an unnerving resemblance to Annie Wilkes, the crazy woman from that awful 1980s film Misery, to give evidence as to whether you have something called ‘speedy boarding’ (or SB for short, as I now know, since I am practically an Easyjet frequent traveller after doing this journey twice in as many months). As we’d paid for extra legroom seats (that’s XLeg you know), it transpired that we did.
I can tell you there is nothing speedy about Speedy Boarding. It just means that you get to take the incredibly convoluted route to the aeroplane before the unfortunate folk who don’t have Speedy Boarding and are now being held at arm’s length inside the pen by scary people with electric cattle prods. I think they were also led through a sheep dip before being allowed to board. (I may have made some of those things up). The upside of SB, of course, is that you can get away from Annie Wilkes before she sets about your ankles with a block and mallet.
We stayed overnight at Schipol, in the hotel which is joined to the terminal – which meant not having to get anywhere by any form of transport other than our feet, either when we arrived at Schipol at 10pm or before we checked in for our Antalya flight at 10am the following day.
Up bright and early, we duly checked in for the final leg and then walked the 2km to the gate. Yes folks, I promise I did not make that up – it was actually 1.92km if we are splitting hairs, but that last 80m is neither here nor there (I’m not sad enough to have deliberately checked the distance, by the way, but Robin was wearing his Fitbit and when we arrived at the gate with the shoe leather of my brand new sandals showing its first sign of wear and a blister threatening, I was just curious).
Now I don’t mind a walk, I just would have liked a warning of the distance, so that I didn’t get sidetracked en route by the thought of one last decent coffee or the prospect of scoring an English newspaper – both scenarios which could have ended unhappily with me missing my flight (and I’d have preferred not to walk 2km in brand new strappy sandals, thank you very much, especially when a pair of perfectly serviceable Keens were lurking in my now inaccessible hold luggage). Luckily, having eschewed the coffee and newspaper, I had my croissant-enhanced bottom wedged firmly in seat 11A before the pilot even had his key in the ignition, but I do wonder how my parents would have fared, walking that distance with their carry-on luggage, or some poor person with a couple of toddlers, a buggy and about 87 nappy change bags.
Anyway, did I mention that it is nice to be back? We were greeted variously by the cats. Annie didn’t appear until the next morning and apparently hadn’t noticed we’d been away for six weeks. She didn’t even peep in the carry-on to see if we’d brought her duty-free ciggies and vodka, such was her Usain Bolt-style sprint to get to the Felix.
Charlie practically hurled himself into our taxi when we arrived, and Gorgeous Gordon RAN (he’s very big, so that’s unusual) up the steps to the kitchen terrace and threw himself at my feet. Marmalade still won’t speak to us at all and Toast said she’d only speak to us if we gave her food, and plenty of it. Mr Patch can’t really see or hear, so probably has no idea that we are not Earl and Jeanette, who have been staying with them while we’ve been away (ditto he probably didn’t ever spot that they weren’t us either). And Mrs Hissy was far too busy hissing at herself in her special mirror to worry about which particular member of her human staff was in charge of the food box. Business as usual then.
Earl and Jeanette have also been in charge of my pot of basil, which is now so big and lush that you can probably see it from the moon (it’s still the same one from my first ever blog post back in January). I feel pesto and many other basil-themed meals coming on. The avocado tree has produced its first crop of full-sized avocados, so I can’t wait to try some, and the parsnips are still alive and thriving – the first time they’ve reached this stage of the game in 12 years.
On the downside, the kitchen air conditioner is not working – this is something you really really don’t want to happen in August here, so I hope lovely Mehmet-Ali is coming this afternoon to go up the ladder and give it a good slapping, or whatever technical thing it is that he does to make them work again when they transgress. Other than that, everything is perfect.
Now then, before I started on about the unbridled joys of travelling with low-cost airlines, I believe I hinted at the possibility of a plum cake in the heading of this blog post. I am absolutely not taking credit for this recipe – it plopped into my inbox from onceuponachef.com – one of my favourite food websites. Plums are in their prime here at the minute and I love fruity cakes, so it would be rude not to spread the recipe around a little more. (I can’t see my bottom getting any smaller any time soon, as I seem to be doing a straight swap between croissants and cake.)
As a token attempt to make it look as though I have contributed something to this recipe, I have converted Jenn’s American cup measures into grams so that you don’t have to. It took ages you know. Three items and I had to look them all up on a table (if you ever need to convert American cup measures, here’s where to look). I’ve actually reduced the quantity of sugar – it’s unusual to have the same amount of sugar as flour, so I am wondering if it could have been an error, unless perhaps the plums she was using were very sour – I will leave it to you to decide, depending on how sweet your plums are – ours tend to be on the sweet side, so they don’t need a lot of help, but I remember the plums my dad used to grow in the UK were literally mouth-puckering. The amount below is what I used and it was perfect.
Late summer plum cake (recipe from Jenn Segal of onceuponachef)
Cuts into 8 slices (or possibly 10, depending on whether you need your bottom to still fit into an Easyjet seat by this time next week
You will need a 22cm loose-bottom cake tin (a Victoria sandwich tin would be fine), base-lined and well buttered
115g softened butter (or you could use margarine if you prefer)
115g sugar plus extra for sprinkling (use more sugar if your plums are very sour)
200g plain flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Large pinch cardamom (am saying large pinch because the WordPress special characters don’t include one eighth and I am too lazy to cut and paste from Word)
½ teaspoon salt (if you are using unsalted butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
400g plums (about 6), stoned and cut into quarters (or into six if they are very large)
Pre-heat the oven to 175C.
Mix together the flour, salt (if using), baking powder and spices, and set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, using an electric whisk (or using a wire whisk and old-fashioned elbow grease if you don’t have one).
Add the egg and vanilla and whisk in at a slow speed until combined.
Slowly beat in the dry ingredients and the milk, a little at a time, until everything is well combined. The batter will be quite thick.
Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the top. Arrange the plums on top (with the skin side showing) in a circular pattern – the plums will almost cover the batter. Sprinkle very generously with more sugar – this not only sweetens the plums but gives a delicious crunchy topping.
Bake for 60 – 70 minutes until the cake is golden brown and the centre is set. Remove from the oven, run a knife around the side of the tin to loosen the cake, then remove from the tin, but leave the cake standing on the base of the tin while it cools.
Allow to cool before serving, either warm or at room temperature with cream or ice cream on the side – Greek yoghurt or creme fraiche would be particularly delicious with the plums.