Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sultan's Delight

Sultan’s Delight/ Turkish Delight

It’s the daily question every mother dreads, “Mom, what’s for dinner?” You’ve already jaded your family with every fried meat, casserole and pasta dish in your arsenal, so what’s left? Don’t despair-Turn to a country known for hundreds of years for turning out succulent meals, the Republic of Turkey.

Turkish cuisine is the result of 600 years of the Ottoman Empire rule where hundreds of the Sultan’s Chef’s would perfect their specialties and compete to please the royal family in the Imperial Kitchen of the Topkapi Palace. Here, thirteen hundred kitchen staff were housed in several buildings under ten domes with elaborate kitchens. How else could they have come up with such enticing desserts as twisted turban, sultan, saray (palace), lady's navel and nightingale's nest? Even little Edmund Pevensie couldn’t resist the White Witch when she offered him Turkish Delights. The Sultan also had the benefit of controlling the Spice Road and the crossroads of the Far East and Mediterranean. In this fashion, the taste of the royal family became the taste of the people.


"To drink one cup of coffee together guarantees forty years of friendship". This Turkish saying sums up the ancient pastime of socializing over coffee and sweets. Once the coffee is gone, the hostess reads each guests fortune by placing the saucer over the coffee cup, swishing and inverting both the cup and saucer. The patterns of the coffee ground remaining in the cup are then “read”.

Elaborate rituals and social customs emerged as coffee fused itself into the culture. According to Burak Sansal, a tour guide for Turkey, when a man wishes to marry a lady, he and his family pays a visit to her family’s home. Her efficiency as a potential wife is judged by her preparation of the coffee. It is also her chance to make her opinion known. A definite yes is conveyed by serving sweet coffee. A no is conveyed by serving coffee with no sugar, or even serving coffee with salt.

In Turkey, food is a way of life. Our American lifestyle of eating on the go or grabbing a bite to eat would be an alien concept in Turkey. The food protocol of the Turkish Embassy states that “It is inconceivable for the household members to eat alone”. They are expected to enjoy three sit down meals a day where they share the events of the day. They also enjoy elaborate picnics, which they refer to as "stealing a day from fate."

Take a tip from the Turks and steal your own day from fate. If you can’t live like a king, with these recipes, you can at least eat like a Sultan.

Chicken Shish Kebab (Tavuk Sis Kebap) www.turkishcookbook.com
2 pounds chicken breast, boneless, cut in medium sized cubes1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp red pepper, powder
1 garlic clove, smashed with salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil

Mix ingredients in a gallon size zip lock and marinade. Overnight is best, but 30 minutes will do. Divide up the chicken cubes and place on four to six skewers. Grill the chicken until the juices run clear. Make sure to turn the skewers so that all sides are cooked equally.
Makes 4-6 servings.


Sultan Reshad's Pilaf (Sultan Reşat Pilavı) www.turkish embassy.org
2 cups basmati rice
4 cups water
6 tablespoons butter
1 ½ teaspoons salt

1 medium onion- chopped
1 slice bread, make wet with water
1 pound ground hamburger
1 ½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large tomato, diced

Put water, butter and salt in a saucepan, bring to a boil. Stir in rice; mix slowly. Cover and simmer for 15-21 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove from heat. Let stand covered for 15-20 minutes. Set aside.
Combine ground meat, bread (made wet with water and squeezed dry), diced onions, salt and pepper; in a bowl; mix well. Shape into balls 3/4 inch in diameter. Put flour in a shallow bowl and roll the meatballs to coat them. Heat oil in a non-stick pan. Brown meat balls on all sides in oil. Remove from skillet. Add minced tomatoes into drippings; mix well. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in meat balls. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Arrange rice pilaf on a serving plate in circular form (donut shape). Place meat balls with sauce in center. Serve hot. This dish was prepared in the kitchens of Sultan Reshad’s Court.
Makes 6 servings


Turkish Delight (Lokum) www.recipezaar.com

1 ½ tablespoons unflavored gelatin (2-packages -7 grams each)
¼ cup cold water
¼ cup boiling water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flavored extract-(recommend raspberry)
1/8 cup pistachio nuts, chopped
½ cup confectioners' sugar
Food coloring (Use appropriate color to match flavor.)

Soften gelatin in cold water. Add sugar to boiling water. Bring to boil. Stir in softened gelatin. Simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Add flavoring and coloring. Pour into ungreased, 4-inch square pan (or plastic storage container). Add nuts and stir gently. Chill in fridge for @ 30 minutes. When firm, remove from container and invert onto confectioner sugar dusted cutting board. Cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Roll in confectioners' sugar. Store in a jar at room temperature.
Makes 8 servings

Nightingale's Nest (Bülbül Yuvası) www.yemek-tarifi.info

1 cups walnuts, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 frozen filo pastry (strudel) sheets
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1/4cup white corn syrup
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Optional toppings- ground walnuts & whipped cream

Mix walnuts, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Set aside. Place one sheet of filo pastry on a clean surface. Brush with butter. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon walnut filling evenly over the sheet. Place a thin 1-inch rolling pin (or thick handled spatula) at the narrow end of the sheet and roll up the pastry on the pin. Gently push the rolled-up pastry from both ends towards the center to compress. Pull out the rolling pin. Form into a spiral/nest shape and place on a buttered baking tray. Repeat with the remaining pastry sheets. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Add lemon juice to syrup and mix to combine. Pour syrup over hot nests, allow time to absorb syrup and cool. Transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with ground walnuts and whipped cream

Makes 6 servings.

Turkish Coffee (Türk kahvesi ) www.epicurious.com

The sweetness can be adjusted to your liking. This version falls somewhere between orta and sekerli. Depending on the amount of sugar added per cup, Turkish coffee is served in four variations: Sade -without sugar, Az Sekerli- 1/2 sugar cube, Orta- 1 sugar cube, Sekerli- 2 sugar cubes.

2 cups water
1/4 cup finely ground strong coffee beans (Arabica ground for espresso)
2 tablespoons sugar
optional- sugar cubes, half & half
Combine water, ground coffee, and sugar in small saucepan or Turkish coffeepot. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves; bring just to simmer (coffee will foam and rise to top edge of pan). Divide half of coffee among 6 small cups, pouring slowly to avoid breaking foam on top. Return pan to low heat and let mixture foam again to top edge of pan. Carefully pour remaining coffee into cups, leaving grounds in saucepan. Serve immediately. Gingerly sip coffee, but stop before you get to the grounds at the bottom of the cup. You can also put a sugar cube in your cheek to sweeten the coffee as you sip it.
Makes 6 servings.
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