Eats like royalty on a vegetarian cookery course in Turkey with the ultimate sea view.

Sweet, syrupy, soft and with a textured, nutty finish – you haven’t tasted proper baklava until you’ve experienced Yediburunlar Lighthouse’s fresh and utterly delectable homemade version. With layers and layers of paper-thin pastry painstakingly rolled out by expert hands, it takes an entire morning to create, but the result is so melt-in-the-mouth it’s worth all the hard work!

Description: There’s plenty of time to cool off on the pool during the hottest part of the day

There’s plenty of time to cool off on the pool during the hottest part of the day

This traditional dessert – only made for special occasions – was the jewel in the crown of our week-long Turkish vegetarian cookery course at Yediburunlar Lighthouse on Turkey’s southern coast. And, believe me, once tasted, it’s never forgotten! Sitting on the mountain-top terrace eating a celebration dinner on our last evening together, with the sunset casting a rose-pink glow on the sea and peninsula far below, that sublime baklava had everyone in the group speechless with pleasure. This was no mean feat, as it followed a gorgeous and richly flavoured vegetarian moussaka, chard pie with homemade pastry that we’d all chopped onions for, dolmades we’d rolled ourselves that morning and a smooth and deeply savoury broadbean paté, washed down with a fruity local wine.

But you needn’t worry about your waistline with Turkish food, it’s naturally healthy, with meat and fish often grilled or barbequed without oil, and abundant local, seasonal vegetables with goat’s cheese or yoghurt. And while baklava is delicious in moderation, a more common Turkish dessert is watermelon with apple tea.

Description: Cosy rooms and the gentle sound of goats’ bells from the slopes below guarantee you relax

Cosy rooms and the gentle sound of goats’ bells from the slopes below guarantee you relax

Looking down on the eagles

Picked up at Dalaman airport late at night, the two-hour transfer to Yediburunlar Lighthouse had felt like the beginning of an adventure as we drove up the dark and rugged mountain on ever-narrower, steep roads. Even though I’d seen photos of the hotel online, walking up the next morning to the incredible view of the Yediburunlar Coast was still breathtaking. The main house is perched on a perfect sheltered spot, picked by our hosts Semra (an incredibly gifted cook) and Leon, who then built this boutique hotel themselves. The couple run a range of holiday courses, including yoga breaks and walking holidays that offer treks to secluded beaches and mountain hikes (to 1,130m) with stunning 360º views of the Mediterranean.

Beautiful and cosy, recently remodeled rooms above the dining and kitchen area enjoy panoramic views of the sea and mountains, the tranquility here only punctuated by the occasional tinkling of bells around the necks of goats foraging on the terraced slopes below. Other rooms in the grounds are private and romantic, with hammocks on their own balconies, making them ideal for couples.

Joining the other seven guests at breakfast, talk soon turned to the first cooking lessons of the day. Set in the dining room, Semra’s classes take place around a table set up with our own chopping boards and knives. Leon made us all feet at home with delicious tea made from garden-fresh sage and offered cubes of luscious watermelon. Semra quickly set us to work mincing garlic for Kirmizi biber salatasi (grilled red pepper salad) and onions for divine Peynir topu (cheese balls wrapped in parsley). We joked as our eyes watered – chopping alliums in unison is a great way to bond a group!

Semra demonstrated how to make a light Turkish-style rice pudding and banana bread filled with crushed hazelnuts and honey, which we couldn’t wait to taste later. There was time to retire pool-side to rest in the hottest part of the day, before enjoying the delicious fruits of our labour at lunchtime. At 5pm we convened for another class, where we discovered the revelation of tomato grating – the ultimate way to get the best juice out of a beef tomato! An aubergine and tomato-filled vegetarian shepherd’s pie, luscious green beans with yoghurt and oven-roasted tomatoes topped with cheese gave us a lot to look forward to at dinner time.

The next day, it was time to be tourists – after a drive to Fethiye we boarded a handsome, traditional Turkish wooden boat, called a gullet. Mooring in several bays where we could drive off the boat into clear azune waters, we relaxed on deck reading books and were treated to a three-course lunch on board. We rounded off the day by meeting Leon for a guided tour of vibrant Fethiye market, tasting and smelling spices, cheeses, herbs and fresh and dried fruits on the way. I snapped up a chain of dried chillies, sumac (a reddish purple spice often used in Turkish cuisine, that comes from the berries of a wild Mediterranean bush), sticky vanilla pods, eye-wateringly citrusy lemon salt, fragrant local oregano and sour pomegranate syrup to stock my home larder. On the way back to the hotel, the bus acquired the scent of a delicious kitchen cupboard!

Description: The food left us speechless with delight!

The food left us speechless with delight!

Learning from the locals

After all these gourmet meals, I felt the need to move my body, so the next morning I opted for a 7am start or gentle, restorative yoga by the pool, taught by Semra. Before the heat of midday, we took a short walk through stony olive groves to the small village of Yediburunlar for a lesson in making Turkish pancakes. Sitting by an open fire, the village mayor’s daughter showed us how to roll soft balls of dough into paper-thin rounds before cooking them on the hot plate directly over the flame, where they bubbled and toasted to perfection. Folder, these thin and delicious flatbreads can then be kept for several days, or filled with spinach and feta, or banana and honey. She made it look so easy, but rolling the delicate dough paper-thin is an acquired skill. Mine developed gaping holes in all the wrong places!

After our morning cooking class the next day, we all needed a serious scrub to remove the smell of onions from our hands! Fortunately, a visit to the pretty port of Kalkan gave us the chance to try out a proper Turkish hammam at the Kalkan Regency. Leaving wonderfully clean, fresh and gleaming, we squeezed in some shopping before drinking and dining on a softy-lit terrace overlooking the moored fishing boats.

We’d made friends and packed so much into the week, but still, the last day of cooking at Yediburunlar seemed to arrive all too quickly. We all made the most of our last session by bombarding Semra with culinary questions on how to use the ingredients we’d picked up at the market and the finer points of her dishes. Armed with a mini cookbook full of recipes, which I’d covered with copious notes. I couldn’t wait to recreate a little piece of Turkey at home in London!

On our last day, a few of us who felt like stretching our legs before the flight back to the UK got up with the birds for a guided walk along a small section of the Lycian Way – a long-distance coastal walk along ancient paths that pass by Yediburunlar. Picturesque olive groves and old stonewall terraces give way to stunning cliffs and views down to stony beaches below on a wonderful two-hour walk; I resolved to return one spring in cooler weather to discover more of this stunning coastline.

At home, I haven’t found the time to make that sumptuous baklava yet, but Semra’s recipes have added a whole new dimension to my cooking repertoire; once you’ve grated tomatoes there’s no looking back! Semra and Leon only offer one cookery course a year, so be quick if you don’t want to miss out.

Description: The views from the main house look out over the stunning Yediburunlar coastline

The views from the main house look out over the stunning Yediburunlar coastline

The details

Departing June 30, 2012, Turkey specialist Exclusive Escapes (020 8605 3500 or exclusive offers a Turkish vegetarian cookery break at Yediburunlar Lighthouse at $1860, or $1705 for a shared room. Non-participating partners pay $1085. The price includes seven nights’ full board, return flights (excluding Heathrow, Gatwick or Manchester) to Dalaman, transfers, lessons, excursions, a gullet cruise and one or two guided treks.

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