It felt like home. Cats on the sofa and peering in windows. Toys stuffed onto shelves high on the walls. A small kitchen that displayed the trappings of culinary war.

Best of all, the two couples I was visiting—Zeynep Savci Yaslica and Turgut Yaslica, and Yuksel Kasitoglu and Ayse Kasitoglu—were best friends, finishing each other’s sentences and showing off photos of their joint adventures, such as swimming the Golden Horn, which harbored the Constantinople fleet during the city’s fall to the Ottoman Empire in 1453.

This was Anatolia, a straight shot across the Bosporus from Istanbul, and the former location of summer homes for wealthy Turks who would commute by boat during the season.

They showed me how to make homemade halva, tirit (revived stale bread topped with meat and yogurt) and bazlama (a Turkish flatbread), as well as cheesy mashed potatoes called patates paçasi, which roughly translates as “potato feet.” The recipe comes from a region up north near the Black Sea and highlights the intense creamy yellow garlic that is grown there.

Potatoes are cooked on the stove, mashed with garlic, yogurt, butter and eggs, then finished in the oven with a sprinkle of cheese and a drizzle of red-pepper oil. The texture is light, the cheese adds depth, and the red-pepper drizzle provides a final punch. Just the thing to serve before swimming the Golden Horn.