Having met our campsite owner, Tunay, only the previous day he had proudly embraced the visitors to his home town and invited us to eat with his family the following day.
As is often the way with home-cooking, the mix of dishes was delectably different from the occasional kebab street-eat we had sampled so far across Turkey. ‘Çay’ is the staple throughout the day- black tea sipped from small, tulip-shaped glasses with plenty of sugar. The tea kept flowing, topped up from a double teapot on the stove; strong black tea from one spout and hot water from the other.
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Tunay’s mother, Gülseren produced steaming bowls of Çorbası, a pearl barley soup with beef and spinach served with thick slices of bread and soft, salty Beyaz Peynir, Turkish white cheese. An array of dishes were brought to the table; ‘Manti’, soft triangular pasta with garlicky yoghurt and sprinkled with thyme and Tursu Bol Sekeli, bright pink, vinegary pickled cabbage.
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More family members bustled into the room, Uncle Sinasi carrying a TV satellite box to fire-up the kick-off of a football match between Istanbul’s Beşiktaş and Kayseri’s Erciyesspor. We budged up on the sofa to make room for excited Grandma, Zekiys, animatedly chanting the striker’s name ‘Demba Ba’ repeatedly.
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The next course was Dolma Sarma, meat and rice-stuffed parcels lovingly wrapped in vine leaves. Delicious and moreish, these skilfully- made bite-size packages of loveliness dripped a fragrant oily tomato sauce and were my favourite. Accompanying the dishes was a local speciality of Tokat Gemeni; a red paste of tomatoes, ground walnuts and chilli. More Çay followed, accompanied by sweet, homemade Gilek Regeli, a runny, sticky strawberry jam and nutty, buttery Halva.