M. Hercule Poirot was a little late in entering the luncheon-car on the following day. He had risen early, had breakfasted almost alone, and had spent the morning going over the notes of the case that was recalling him to London. He had seen little of his travelling companion.
M. Bouc, who was already seated, gated a greeting and summoned his friend to the empty place opposite him. Poirot sat down and soon found himself in the favoured position of being at the table which was served first and with the choicest morsels. The food, too, was unusually good.
Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie, Poirot Refuses a Case
Last month I travelled to Istanbul. Despite two and a half days of pouring rain, I fell in love with this beautiful city: its architecture, generous and friendly people and especially (and predictably) its food. We were very well fed throughout our trip - we took a course in Turkish cooking, spent hours in the Spice Market tasting everything in sight, enjoyed an outstanding three-course meal in a dining room overlooking the Bosphorus, drank litres of apple tea, consumed endless mezes and wonderful breakfast spreads, overdosed on baklava, and spent an afternoon with my friend Will trying out all manner of street food, finally making it to a barbeque on the waterfront where we enjoyed the best fish sandwich I have ever eaten.
We spent the afternoon of our final day in Kadıköy, and in between the ice cream, stuffed mussels and the legendary fish sandwich, Will took us to the building below - an incredible snapshot of the past. It is the start (or end) of the old Orient Express train route. The building itself was nearly deserted (except for some wedding parties taking advantage of the beautiful façade) so we strolled around admiring the architecture and, for my part at least, imagining Hercule Poirot standing in a linen suit and hat at the ticket office. As a lifelong Agatha Christie fan, I was thrilled to see the place that inspired her to write one of her most revered mysteries.
The outside, and inside, of the station
Agatha Christie fails to describe any of the food consumed during Murder on the Orient Express (I think her focus is more on the ingenious solution to the murder), so I've had to take some liberties with this recipe. Hercule Poirot, a discerning fellow, is impressed by the 'unusually good' food on the train itself. And so, armed with pistachios and rosewater (sourced in the Spice Market in Istanbul), I made a cake I imagine could have a home in the dining car on the Orient Express.
Rose, Pistachio and Orange Cake
250g caster sugar
100g shelled and peeled pistachio nuts
100g ground almonds
60g spelt flour (or gluten free flour)
100g icing sugar
2tbsp lemon juice
Rose petals and chopped pistachio nuts to decorate
20cm loose-bottomed cake tin
Electric hand whisk
Food processor or spice grinder
1. Preheat the over to 160C and grease and line the bottom of the cake tin with greaseproof paper.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Beat the eggs in, one at a time. Blitz the pistachio nuts in the food processor until fine, then fold into the batter along with the almonds.
3. Grate the orange zest into the batter, and then juice the orange and add it along with the rosewater. Finally, fold in the flour.
4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, and place in the oven for fifty minutes. Cover the top of the tin with foil for the last ten minutes if it's browning too quickly. Check the cake is cooked by placing a skewer into the centre - it should come out clean.
5. While the cake is cooling, beat the icing sugar and lemon juice together until smooth, and then pour over the cooled cake. Decorate with the rose petals and pistachio and leave to set for half an hour.