Consuming has traditionally been each a pleasure and a peril in Cappadocia.
I’m standing on the summit of Uçhisar fort, the very best level in Cappadocia, Turkey, and reachable by climbing some 120 lung-busting steps.
Surveying the otherworldly panorama of conical rock towers and misshapen stone mounds under, it’s arduous to consider that is fertile floor for rising crops.
However an underground pure water reservoir and ashy terrain from prehistoric volcanic eruptions imply fruit and greens have flourished right here for millennia.
The world is without doubt one of the oldest on the earth for winemaking, simply behind Georgia, with a number of indigenous grape varieties.
It additionally has a wealthy regional meals tradition. I’m already pondering of the time-honoured dishes deeply rooted within the land’s bounty that await me on my descent.
Cooking in Cappadocia’s historic caves
Consuming has traditionally been each a pleasure and a peril in Cappadocia, as I be taught from a go to to the Göreme open-air museum.
This is without doubt one of the area’s high points of interest and the third most visited museum within the nation.
Göreme is a microcosm of Cappadocia’s pure and man-made splendours. For 1000’s of years, the world’s spectacular rock varieties, often known as “fairy chimneys”, have been hollowed out right into a warren of homes, monasteries and church buildings.
On the museum, I duck into cave church buildings and marvel at ceilings painted with brilliantly colored biblical scenes.
Returning to a corporeal degree, a go to right here can be an training on how the cave system’s earliest residents cooked.
Between the magnificent church buildings, I discover darkish, unadorned areas as soon as used as refectories. They home an extended desk and benches carved out from the smooth tuff stone and a distinct segment on the desk head for the priest.
A small spherical gap has been dug out of the ground that is named a tandir or tandoor. Over a wooden hearth, these early monks would have cooked meat, greens and a bagel-shaped bread referred to as simit in pottery containers.
Regardless of the romantic picture, cooking wasn’t a pleasing expertise. As early Christians have been persecuted by the pagan Romans, the cave dwellers couldn’t assemble chimneys for concern of being noticed by the smoke.
As such, the interiors have been crammed with ashy smog throughout cooking. In some caves the rock ceilings are nonetheless blackened from years of constructing meals.
What to eat in Cappadocia: Tandoor-cooked meat
Cappadocians nonetheless use this historic tandoor cooking technique, albeit now with smoke-extracting chimneys.
Guests to the area ought to look out for eating places providing testi kebap, or “pottery kebab”. This dish is product of lamb meat and greens are cooked slowly inside an earthenware pot in a tandoor. In some locations, the waiter brings the pot to the desk and smashes it in half earlier than diners.
For saç tava, as an alternative, a big metallic skillet is about over the tandoor oven to saute small items of meat together with aubergines, tomatoes and inexperienced peppers.
What to eat in Cappadocia: meat ravioli and pottery cheese
Apart from fire-roasted meat, there are many different meals being celebrated on restaurant menus.
At Argos, a legendary cave lodge cited by Nationwide Geographic as one of many 250 must-see locations on the earth, a brand new restaurant is serving up speciality dishes from Cappadocia’s Nevşehir province.
Referred to as Nahita, the eating spot inside these rock-hewn partitions gives a menu utilizing components from inside a 60-kilometre radius.
One dish on the menu is a straightforward salad impressed by shepherd’s meals containing tomato, cucumber, purple onion and Çömlek cheese. Also called “pot cheese”, this tangy artisan product is saved in earthenware pots and left to age naturally within the cool caves.
One other luxurious salad with grilled lettuce makes use of native Ezine goat’s cheese and hard-aged kasseri cheese for a creamy, peppery sauce.
For a fundamental course, I attempt selfmade yağlama (like skinny smooth tortillas) topped with wealthy minced meat within the Nevşehir trend, contemporary mint, yoghurt and tomato sauce.
The restaurant additionally prepares tandoor meals. Probably the most conventional dishes is Nevşehir tava, a cornucopia of pan-fried beef tenderloin, garlic, peppers and pita bread enlivened with allspice and cumin.
Of their sister restaurant Seki, I’m warmed by Cappadocia’s tackle consolation meals, Nevşehir mantı. These are like tiny ravioli crammed with meat smothered in a tomato and chickpea sauce.
There may be additionally a vegetarian model of mantı with fried onions and served with a garlic-infused yoghurt.
Cappadocia’s 3,000-year-old winemaking custom
1000’s of years in the past, vines would have clung to the sloping terraces of the fairy chimneys throughout Cappadocia.
The grapes would have been crushed contained in the caves, which additionally acted as good, naturally cool cellars.
At Argos Lodge, I descend a steep flight of stone steps that take me from the scorching solar into the chilly depths of their very own cave wine cellar.
Bottles are squeezed into each obtainable hole, crevice and crack. In a single room, there’s nonetheless a gap within the ceiling the place the grapes would have been dropped via right into a basin for crushing under.
Turkey’s modern-day winemaking trade is little identified outdoors the nation, partly due to the federal government’s conservative leanings which limit publicity on alcohol.
However there are nonetheless winemakers in Cappadocia creating merchandise from the area’s native grapes.
Argos produce a fruity purple from the boğazkere selection. In a wine tasting of their cave cellar, I additionally attempt a crisp, citrusy white wine from the emir grape.
It pairs completely with cave-aged cheese, and makes me marvel if Cappadocia’s historic cave residents have been additionally keen on a cheese and wine occasion.