Christmas is approaching and I thought it would be useful to unearth some recipes for traditional sweets and treats. Turkish Delight is made from starch and sugar and is often flavoured with rosewater, mastic (an evergreen shrub of the Pistacio family which is cultivated for its aromatic resin, mainly on the Greek island of Chios), cinnamon, mint or lemon; rosewater gives it a characteristic pale pink colour. Some types contain small nut pieces, usually pistachio, hazelnut or walnuts.
The story behind the origins of Turkish Delight claims that it was invented in the late 1700s, when Ali Muhiddin Haci Bekir, confectioner to the imperial court in Istanbul, was commanded to create a soft sweet by the Sultan. It was named Rahat Lokum which means "comfortable morsel" and is nowadays called simply Lokum. You can still buy Lokum at Ali Muhiddin's shop in Eminönü today, almost 250 years since the intrepid confectioner created his masterpiece for the Sultan.
Lokum originally had honey and molasses as sweeteners, with water and flour as binding agents. The recipe as we know it today, using the new ingredients of sugar and starch, was invented and popularized by the Haci Bekir company during the 19th century.
9 cups icing sugar
3 pints water
6 tbsp corn flour
¾ pint cold water
rose water (you can find this in the Health food shop)
Make a syrup of the icing sugar and 3 pints of water by boiling together in a heavy pan. Mix the corn flour with the ¾ pint of cold water, making sure that the corn flour is completely dissolved. Add the corn flour mix very carefully to the boiling syrup and continue boiling until reduced by about two thirds. The mixture will become very thick and stringy.
Remove from heat. Pour half into another saucepan. Flavour one half with lemon and the other with rose water. Pour into two dishes greased with almond oil. When set turn both onto a board dredged with icing sugar. Use kitchen paper to absorb any excess almond oil which was used to grease the two dishes. Cut Turkish Delight into cubes and roll in icing sugar. Store in a dry place.
Champagne is a great pairing with sweet dishes (think how well it goes down with a slice of wedding cake for example). However it pays to choose what type of Champagne to drink with a sweet as sugary as Turkish Delight. I'd recommend Seconde Collard Blanc de Noirs (£16.13) which is made purely from red grapes as opposed to Blanc de Blanc which is made from white grapes. It is a fruity Champagne with the scents of spices, wheat, fresh flowers, plums, peaches and pears.