Today I am starting a feature that makes me grin when I think of it: Literary Nibbles.
I have been a voracious reader since I was a little girl “reading” books upside down from my perch inside a galvanized bucket. I devoured Little House on the Prairie and Narnia, was enthralled by the tales of Peter Pan, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Hans Brinker.
Although I loved the characters, their grand adventures, the amazing worlds the authors created, I was also enchanted by the food. Who could imagine Harry Potter without butter beer, Anne of Green Gables without raspberry cordial, or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe without Turkish Delight?
So, dear readers, in the weeks, months and years to come, I hope to revisit my literary favorites once a week by making the foods that still delight my memory.
I’ll start with the one that charmed me most as a child: Turkish Delight.
Well I remember my Dad reading aloud to us the adventures of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. I listened raptly as he read of Edmund stumbling into snowy Narnia, where it is “always winter, but never Christmas.”
I pictured Edmund cold, wet and scared, wandering alone through that winter wonderland until he heard the swish of a sleigh and was suddenly face to face with the beautiful but terrifying White Witch.
I shivered with anticipation and fear as the White Witch assumed a false loving nature and plied him with a magical warming drink and a jeweled box full of Turkish Delight. At the time I had no idea what such a thing was, but I just knew it was amazing, heavenly, delicious beyond reckoning.
It wasn’t until I was in my teens that I tasted Turkish Delight for the first time, discovered in the gleaming glass case of a sweet shop in Calgary, Alberta. With my carefully horded money I bought a few pieces, watched as the shopkeeper wrapped them up in paper, then carefully carried them out to the car as if they were breakable and precious.
I remember my fingers covered in powdered sugar as I picked up the first one, the taste of that sugar melting on my lips and tongue as I bit into the soft gelatin, the first hints of flowery flavor hitting my tongue as the candy dissolved in my mouth. It was strange and wonderful and I felt I had discovered something exotic and magical. Though I must confess that after four pieces I was more than ready for something salty! I could not for the life of me imagine why Edmund would be entranced by “whole rooms of Turkish Delight” that he could eat “all day long.” Too many pieces of this sweet confection and I’d be sick as can be. 🙂
This week was my time to make it for myself. I researched all sorts of recipes, finally nailing it down to one that seemed as close to authentic as I was going to get. I didn’t have the traditional rosewater, so I made lavender water instead, mixed with a bit of mint, smiling to myself at the sound of Lavender Mint Turkish Delight. 🙂
It was rather time-consuming but not difficult, and if I didn’t have to make the lavender water from scratch, it wouldn’t have taken very long at all. I know real Turkish Delight is supposed to be liberally coated with powdered sugar, but I just couldn’t make myself cover over those glistening chunks of what looked like lavender ice. 🙂
It was a noble first effort, but some kinks need to be worked out. I felt the end result was too stiff and here and there were chewy bits of not quite dissolved candy, like those small lumps of Jell-O that result when it doesn’t get stirred enough. 🙂 It tasted lovely though, delicate and flowery and not too overpowering.
Next time we’ll have a proper tea with Mr. Tumnus. 🙂
Lavender Mint Turkish Delight
(Adapted from Middle Eastern Food)
4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups cornstarch
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 1/4 cups water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons rosewater
1 cup confectioners sugar
Vegetable oil or shortening
- In a 9 inch baking pan, grease the sides and bottom with vegetable oil or shortening. Line with wax paper and grease the wax paper.
- In a saucepan, combine lemon juice, sugar and 1 1/2 cups water on medium heat. Stir constantly until sugar dissolves. Allow mixture to boil. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer, until the mixture reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Combine cream of tartar, 1 cup corn starch and remaining water in saucepan over medium heat. Stir until all lumps are gone and the mixture begins to boil. Stop stirring when the mixture has a glue like consistency.
- Stir in the lemon juice, water and sugar mixture. Stir constantly for about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low, Allow to simmer for 1 hour, stirring frequently.
- Once the mixture has become a golden color, stir in rosewater. Pour mixture into wax paper lined pan. Spread evenly and allow to cool overnight.
- Once it has cooled overnight, sift together confectioners sugar and remaining cornstarch.
- Turn over baking pan containing Turkish delight onto clean counter or table and cut with oiled knife into one inch pieces.
- Coat with confectioners sugar mixture. Serve or store in airtight container in layers separated with wax or parchment paper.