Turkey

Turkey

Gluten Free Flying…British Airways

At the end of our Turkish adventure, Mr D and I flew home from Istanbul on British Airways. We were lucky enough to fly home in Business (Club Europe). We have a load of BA frequent flyer miles which we thought we ought to cash in since who knows how long BA will be in business if their cabin crew keep on striking.

Despite the cabin crew’s liking for striking, they are always so lovely. This flight was no exception.

When the meal service got underway, our steward came to see me. He said that although a gluten free meal had been ordered for me, he thought the bread it contained looked too much like gluten filled bread and advised me to be cautious with it. He said someone had been dispatched in Istanbul to find gluten free bead and I could tell from the raised eyebrow he was not convinced it had been successfully acquired.

So, step forward Mr D, guinea pig extraordinaire. I felt like a medieval King who had a food taster in his employ to check the food for poison before the King ate it.

Here’s the appetiser I was served, you can see the disk of bread:

With baited breath, I watched Mr D take a bite of the dubious looking ‘bread’. He proclaimed “that isn’t bread. And it certainly isn’t Genius bread”. So good news and bad news, then.
Appetisers were nice, especially since I had a glass of something fizzy.
The main meal came along:
What was on the menu?
– Tomato and cucumber salad (with one rogue black olive)
– Spicy prawns and spinach with rice
– Fruit salad
– Cheese and grapes
– (Turkish) gluten free bread roll
So how was it? Well, guess what? There was actually some spice in the prawns so not a bland gluten free meal for a change. The spinach had been cooked with some onions and had a reasonably deep flavour. 
I have to confess the cheese and grapes were a slight addition to my meal. I think the steward took pity on me and my fruit salad for dessert – Mr D had a chocolate and caramel cheesecake with raspberry compote – and so slipped me some extra cheese.
And as for the bread….Well after 10 days of watching Mr D devouring loaf after loaf of bread with hummus and other exciting dips, I found myself strangely interested in eating the rather odd tasting Turkish gluten free bread. Odd. That’s the only way I can describe it. Not massively unpleasant, just not what I would ever buy. Imagine a rice cake crossed with gluten free white bread and that’s more or less it. 
It’s easy to knock BA, and I’ve certainly avoided booking flights with them until the current cabin crew dispute is resolved, but they were friendly, professional and served a great gluten free meal on the flight back from Istanbul.  

Eating Gluten Free in Turkey

So exactly how easy is it to eat gluten free in Turkey? Would every meal
come accompanied with a side of couscous, bread or even flour coated frozen
chips?

About a month before our trip to Turkey I’d been to a Middle Eastern
restaurant in London. Although during that meal I had avoided the obvious
gluten-containing elements of the meze (like bread and filled filo pastry
parcels), foolishly I hadn’t checked the ingredients of the stuffed vine
leaves (assuming it was rice) or the gravy to my main course lamb stew. I
know, very schoolgirl error, and it’s no surprise that I ended up being
glutened. Having spent several weeks recovering from that episode, I was
none too keen to get ill again so I stayed away from shared meze plates
where I could not see individual components. I ordered separate dishes of
hummus with salad or had simple vegetable dish with it. Hummus wasn’t quite
the same without bread but at least I didn’t totally miss out!

So how easy was it to eat gluten free in Turkey? It was actually much
easier than I had feared before my trip. Rice, not couscous, appeared to be
the accompanying carb of choice for most main meals. Restaurants were able
to accommodate cooking gluten free (with the help of Coeliac Travel cards).
Almost all the meals I ate came served with plain boiled rice and grilled
vegetables in varying degrees of fanciness. As for the meat, I was quite
surprised by how flavoursome the lamb was. At home I don’t eat much red
meat so it was quite a treat! One item to watch out for which I hadn’t come
across before was orzo. It was essentially small grains of wheat pasta made
in rice shapes. I did look quite like rice, especially over dinner when the
sun had set and a couple of glasses of the delicious local Lal rose wine
has been consumed!

Here are some ideas of widely available menu choices which can be cooked
gluten free for your holiday in Turkey:

Chicken shish kebab
Lamb shish kebab
Grilled lamb chops
Grilled fish – try the “Akya” / silverfish – absolutely delicious grilled

Lamb shish kebab

Prawn kebab

Baked banana with flaked almonds (yum!)

The only real drawback with eating out in Turkey was that menu choices were
often quite limited for me. Although this wasn’t a massive problem in the scheme of things when you see the photos above of what was on offer! On our last night we went to an up-market place located right on the harbour front of the town we were staying in for what promised to be a very special meal.

The restaurant had a very extensive menu packed full of Turkish specialties to choose from and I was looking forward to a great meal. I selected a 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice from the menu’s main courses (just in case!) of dishes I thought should be safe to eat but it turned out none of them could be cooked for me. This was a big disappointment, my 3 top choices looked amazing. The waiter offered me plain grilled fish but in the end I settled on a fillet steak which came with boiled vegetables. Not very Turkish for the last night of our holiday
and I was totally underwhelmed by my meal. On the positive side, I felt the restaurant took my gluten intolerance seriously and the waiters came to check with me several times on what I could / couldn’t eat which was very reassuring at least.

When I look back on the week, the stand-out meal was probably one of the
most simple. A grilled Akya (silverfish) fillet, chunky like a
thick tuna steak which came served with homemade thick hand cut chips and salad.
Not only was it delicious, but the story of how the fish got to my plate was
somewhat unusual. A few minutes after I’d placed my order with the waiter,
a white van from the local fish market pulled up outside our restaurant. Out
jumped a man carrying a piece of fish wrapped in newspaper and delivered it
to the kitchen. The restaurant was pretty empty and soon after the fish’s
delivery and the smell of fish grilling soon filled the air so I’m sure it was my
little Akya! Sadly, it tasted so good I didn’t have time to take a photo of
it. You’ll have to take a trip to Turkey to experience it yourself!