On the Black Sea coast, pine-covered hills spill down into dark waters and long sandy beaches. The salty water is rich with shimmering anchovies, and the rolling hills are home to incredible local produce. Tea and saffron are plentiful, and buttery pastries are made in in every town and village scattered across the coast.
With all that culinary bounty, it's no surprise that the region is home to some of Turkey's most beloved dishes. Here are five you must try next time you visit the country.
A staple all over Turkey, but hailing from Samsun on the Black Sea, pide is a long, boat-shaped pizza. Local bakers perfect the dough and cook these heavenly snacks until crispy in old wood fired ovens. Without a doubt, my favourite pide is salami and egg. Thin slithers of salty beef salami are generously piled onto the pide and an egg is cracked over for the last few minutes of cooking. It is served with a large knob of butter that is left to melt lazily over the top.
2. Hamsi Pilav
Hamsi is a type of anchovy, and the best in the world come from the Black Sea. The small, silvery fish have a dark red flesh and a wicked little savoury flavour. They are eaten fried, boiled, stuffed and baked, but my favourite dish is hamsi pilav. A peppery pilav rice, mixed with nuts and herbs, is stuffed into a dish that has been lined with filleted hamsi. More hamsi are layered over the top of the rice, and the whole thing is baked together so that the flavours of the fish and the rice marry beautifully. Once cooked, it is tipped out ready to eat.
A cheese fondue was not what I expected to be eating whilst in the sleepy town of Samsun, but there I was dipping away into a classic cheesy slick called Kuymak. It is made from tal peynir (a cheese) that is mixed with butter and vibrant yellow cornflour. Once melted and gloriously oozy, the dish is served with loads of crusty bread.
This simple dish is a classic Black Sea breakfast. A light, eggy batter is made and mountains of finely chopped spring onions, spinach and herbs are folded in. This is fried until golden in a little butter, and served piping hot at the table. I love it with masses of Turkish tea and a light dusting of spicy pepper flakes.
5. Laz Böregi
A sweet börek, made from round wafer-like sheets of hand-made pastry, layered up with melted butter and filled with a custardy cream. The börek is then slowly baked until golden and crispy. It is always made in huge quantities and is one of the most incredible desserts that I know. The texture is soft and squidgy and the flavour is mild and creamy, with hints of vanilla and cinnamon.
John Gregory-Smith is a private chef and food writer. His new Turkish cookbook will be published later this year. You can find his recipes on Eat Travel Live.