Happy new year!

View from my roof terrace in Balat, Istanbul / A kitchen in Istanbul

2016 didn’t turn out the way it was supposed to. Fortunately, there was lots of good with the bad.

At this time last year, I was two months into a six-month language course. Few of the locals in Balat, the Istanbul neighbourhood where I live, speak English. Speaking Turkish at least a basic level is a necessity if you don’t want to constantly rely on others for assistance. However, with just four months left, it was also time to start thinking about what was coming next.

What should have been

The plan was to open a small lunch place in one of Istanbul’s business districts. After working white collar jobs in London for ten years I know from experience that you can never have enough places to get lunch. I also had a concept I truly believed in: fresh and healthy food in a landscape dominated by kebabs and köfte.

During the winter, I got to work with a partner. By summer, we were all but ready to get going. All we needed to do was to find suitable premises and we’d be up and running within weeks.

Meanwhile, a number of events had shaken Turkey and were rapidly changing the narrative about the country. July’s coup attempt in particular appeared to shake otherwise remarkably robust Turks. After a number of temporary postponements we decided to put the lunch place project on hold indefinitely a couple of months ago.

Still…pretty good year

The decision was made a whole lot easier by the response I’ve had to my Norwegian-language blog Et kjøkken i Istanbul. Launched just over a year ago as a hobby project alongside my language classes, the blog garnered little attention until a simple carrot salat was featured by a popular Norwegian Instagram account. Since then, visitor numbers have increased sporadically but steadily, reaching around 6,000 unique visitors in November.

The blog has also received acclaim beyond what I could have dream of. In the spring, esteemed food writer Andreas Viestad and his photographer Mette Randem came to visit me in Istanbul. I cooked up a few mezes for them and talked about my background and my neighbourhood. The result? A three-page feature on me, my neighbourhood and my blog in his column in Dagbladet Magasinet, one of Norway’s major weekend magazines.

Turkish meze / A kitchen in Istanbul
Meze for Dagbladet Magasinet (photo: Mette Randem)

A few months later, the blog was nominated in two categories awards at the Norwegian Food Blog Awards, one of only three blogs to receive more than one nomination. The event is held every two years in Oslo. To my big surprise, I won the award for Best Niche Blog, snubbing vegetarian, diet and health blogs much bigger and more established than mine. Receiving such acclaim has been truly humbling and an inspiration to keep up the work.

Of course, this has also been part of the reason I launched A kitchen in Istanbul in September 2016. There is an increasing interest in food from what I call the Eastern Mediterranean: Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa. In London, many of the most exciting new restaurant openings focus precisely on this sort of food. This is the food I eat almost every day. It is my hope that by sharing some of my favourite recipes, more people will be able to discover the wonderful flavours and history of food from this region.

So many plans!

2016 is now history. And I much prefer looking forward to looking back. And though I certainly could be more enthusiastic about 2017 for the world at large, I have every reason to think it will be an exciting year for both this blog and for me personally.

With the lunch place project on hold, I’ll be focusing a little more on the blogs in the coming months. I never started the blog to make money. (So far, I’ve made exactly nothing). However, with the unexpected and increasing attention the blog I’ve received in 2016, I’ll be exploring various forms of making a viable side income from the blog and other food related projects. So please bare with me if there are weeks I’m unable to post as regularly I would like.

Otherwise, expect regular updates from my with my favourite recipes, both new and old ones. I’ve still got so many more dishes that I make again and again that I’m looking forward to share with you. What’s more, my list of recipes and ideas to try out is longer than ever. The best from that list will no doubt also make it to the blog during the course of the year.

Vidar Bergum at Misir Carsisi, the Istanbul spice market / A kitchen in Istanbul
At Mısır Çarşısı, the Istanbul spice market. (Photo: Mette Randem)

In 2017, I will also share more than just recipes. I’ll take you along to food markets, and I’ll show you more of life in Istanbul as I see it. I’ll also be writing about ingredients common to the region which may appear slightly more exotic elsewhere. I’ll share my tips for how to make the best use of them, whether it’s vegetables or spices we’re talking about.

I’d like to thank everyone who has visited and used the blog in 2016. Your visits, comments, shares and likes make all of this worthwhile. I hope you’ll continue to come back this year.

Happy new year!

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