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Tuesday, 9 July 2013

As Ever, I Start On A Sweet Note - Turkish Delights

The flavours of Tradition

I always like to start my Ramadan Special with a sweet recipe, and this Ramadan is no different. 

I have chosen to begin with my favourite Turkish Delights recipe for two reasons. The first, I always thought I did not like Turkish Delights! Unable to trace back the memory to the day I have made the decision that I don't like these chewy delights, but somehow always thought I did not, and passed when served anything that even remotely looked like it (Arabic Raha included, very similar to Turkish delights but differently flavoured).

When I was in Istanbul earlier this year, and mainly out of courtesy to the merchants, I ate so much Turkish delights of all types and flavours. The first I was offered (a pomegranate and pistachio delight) presented me with an honest turmoil (in thought), in my head I did not like it, but there I was having to try it. I held on to it, and tried to distract the man with questions about how it's made and this and that. As he explained, he kept on telling me "when you try it you will see... followed by now try it and you will see..." there I was, with a chewy red delight in my hand, and an enthusiastic maker eagerly awaiting the verdict, I ate the first delight and a real delight it was. I reached out for more! Cliche? Yes, but honest too. I truly do not remember why I thought I did not like it. It was chewy, sweet, very well flavoured and absolutely delicious. Ever since then, Turkish delights have become a delight I really like to indulge in, my favourite being pomegranate and pistachio, while the rest are equally good. 

While some delights are better done and better flavoured than others, most are really tasty. So if you have never tried them, or have mysteriously decided you don't like them, I will eagerly tell you to try them, they are good.

Assorted delights

The most important Ramadan Tradition that is shared by all is the gathering of Families and Friends. It is the sense of belonging to a bigger self.
The second reason for choosing this recipe is that I know you will be entertaining this Ramadan, and I know you will be having guests very often. Most of us will serve our guests Turkish coffee, or any other coffee, at some point during the evening. These delights make an excellent accompaniment to coffee, and look very elegant on the side of a coffee cup. It is another choice instead of the same old piece of chocolate. Once made and sliced the delights store well in an airtight container (refrigerated in very hot areas). This makes them accessible and always ready to serve. 

My dad loves his Turkish coffee, and when breaking fast he can't wait to have the coffee alongside some delights. If he could, he would have the coffee and delights before the food. I am kind of following in that path and serving you this Ramadan the Delights before the food.

This is how Delights are made....

Pomegranate and Pistachio Turkish Delights

Pomegranate & Pistachio Turkish Delights

Makes lots :)

While delights are a little tricky to master, they are doable. Follow the recipe and keep in mind practice makes perfect.

You Need
1 Litre freshly squeezed pomegranate juice
500 ml water
600 ml water
500 g glucose (found in most large supermarkets)
2.5 Kg sugar
375 g corn flour
250g whole shelled pistachios
500 g shelled pistachios, sliced
Juice of 1 lemon

In a large pan, over medium-high heat, stir the glucose, sugar and 600 ml water well together to incorporate. Bring the mixture to a boil, occasionally stirring. 

Meanwhile, place 500 water in the blender with the the corn starch and blend to incorporate. Pour this mixture in a separate pot and gradually pour the pomegranate juice over the cornstarch mixture stirring well to incorporate. Place over medium heat, continuously stirring until the mixture comes to a slow boil. At this point you should have a creamy paste-like texture. Remove from heat.

Gradually add the pomegranate paste to the hot glucose mixture, vigorously stirring in order to prevent lump formation. (be careful as the sugar is hot and sugar burns are very dangerous) 

Once all had been incorporated, slowly bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to the lowest setting possible and cook uncovered for 3 hours, stirring frequently. This must be done over very low heat otherwise the bottom will caramelise / burn. It helps to place over a heat proof tube, so the bottom of the pot is not in direct contact with the fire.

To know if the mixture is done, drop the back of a spoon into the mixture and cover with the back of another spoon. As you pull out if you see gum like threads between the 2 spoons (clung to both spoons), that means the mixture is ready. If not, then cook further until the right consistency is achieved. Once done, add the lemon juice and stir vigorously to incorporate. Cook for 2-3 minutes longer and stir in the whole pistachios.

In the meantime line shallow baking sheets with parchment paper and dust them with cornstarch. Top with 1/3 the sliced pistachios and set aside.

Once the Delight has finished cooking, pour it while its still hot over the prepared trays. Even out with a lightly greased heat proof offset spatula. Sprinkle 1/3 sliced pistachios over the top. Leave the sheets to set for 24- 36 hours. 

Once done, cut the set delights into long rectangles, remove from the baking sheet and dip the sides in the remaining sliced pistachios. Line in an airtight container, separated with parchment paper. When ready to serve only slice the ones you are serving to keep the flavour fresh.

Serve alongside coffee, tea or in a plate alongside other desserts.


Food For Thought
Challenge everything. Limitations are mostly self-inflicted

Photo of Poster in Modern Art Museum, Istanbul

Hope you have enjoyed learning how Turkish Delights are made. Yes slightly challenging but worth the effort. Ramadan Mubarak to you and your families, hope it brings you a month of wealth in everything.

Drop by again tomorrow for 
Ramadan in Iraqand a delicious Iraqi Recipe :)

The world is beautiful, all its people are beautiful, all cultures equally important, and all the same in the end - all out there for us to explore...
Ramadan Kareem