Are you looking to win over a long-lost love? Or do you just need something to surprise your friends with at the regular pot luck after the winter break? Or maybe it is simply that all your New Year resolutions not to eat any sweets in 2015 have (already) vanished… With the December festivities just behind us, the Literary Kitchen wants to cheer up those January blues with an enchanted (and, indeed, enchanting!) recipe: Turkish Delight, as it appears in C. S. Lewis’ first episode of The Chronicles of Narnia — The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950).
Whatever your reason to make Turkish Delight, this will be the ultimate temptation for the start of 2015 — not only is its taste delicious and just simply addictive, but it is also ‘full of Eastern promise’, as Cadbury has been advertising their own, chocolate-covered version of Turkish Delight for decades now. With such a promising title in English, Turkish Delight is actually the exoticized name of some middle-eastern candies called lokum, after Turkish rahat loukoum, literally meaning “rest for the throat”. They are made from a combination of cornstarch, sugar, honey, lemon juice, and typically rose water, which gives it an Oriental twist, and are coated with icing sugar. This basic recipe often sees the addition of chopped pistachio nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, or other nuts. Rose water can also be substituted with orange blossom water, mastic, or simply lemon. Yet, rose water, a fundamental ingredient in Iranian cooking, has always stirred a particular sensation in my own culinary unconscious: its ambiguous presence in perfumeries and beauty shops, as well as in supermarkets (look for it in the ‘world food’ section), opens up a number of magical possibilities of food and flowers, which would be otherwise quite unimaginable, in most of Western Europe’s culinary culture.
Quite early in the tale of the four Pevensie siblings’ adventures in the parallel world of Narnia, C. S. Lewis has Edmund meet the Queen of Narnia, aka the White Witch, in a wood, covered with deep snow: the White Witch has much of the fearsome appearance of H. C. Andersen’s Snedronningen (Snow Queen), and of the Japanese spirit and folk figure of the yuki-onna 雪女 (Snow Woman) —
‘On the sledge, driving the reindeer, sat a fat dwarf who would have been about three feet high if he had been standing. […] behind him, on a much higher seat in the middle of the sledge sat a very different person — a great lady, taller than any woman that Edmund had ever seen. She also was covered in white fur up to her throat and held a long straight golden wand in her right hand and wore a golden crown on her head. Her face was white — not merely pale, but white like snow or paper or icing-sugar, except for her very red mouth. It was a beautiful face in other respects, but proud and cold and stern.’ (p. 123)
The Queen of Narnia is as white as the icing-sugar covering the Turkish Delight Edmund will choose for his own personal “damnation”: the Queen of Narnia/White Witch, provides him precisely with what he would ‘like best to eat’, which bewitches him, so that ‘the more he ate the more he wanted to eat’ (p. 125), making him completely give in to the Queen/Witch. This scene, not far in its symbolical meaning from the Biblical episode of Eve and the serpent, sanctions Edmund’s loss of control over himself as well as his moving over to the White Witch’s side, and so against his siblings.
The very words ‘Turkish Delight’ summon up images of exotic enchantments: something so otherworldly which could only originate from a completely different culture, or be suddenly made to appear by a witch. ‘Each piece was sweet and light to the very centre and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious.’ ~ be ready for some magic in your kitchen this winter!
Happy New Year!
Turkish Delight Recipe
½ tablespoon lemon juice
420 g granulated sugar
180 g cold water
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
67 g cornflour
344 g cold water
1 or 2 tablespoons rose water, to your taste (or orange blossom water, or any essence you like really)
Chopped nuts (I used pistachios, and you could also make it nutfree and simply flavour it with your favourite essence)
- Place the first three ingredients in a saucepan and bring to boil. Once this is boiling, turn down the heat and simmer until the syrup thickens (it will take a while, at least twenty minutes).
- While this is simmering, prepare the dough for your Turkish Delight. Place cornflour and cream of tartar in a saucepan, add cold water to it by carefully whisking so that it won’t make any lumps, and then slowly cook on low heat until it thickens.
- Once both are thickened, put the syrup in the saucepan with the other mixture, and keep cooking (and stirring) for about an hour on low-medium heat. Add rose water (or essence) to the dough at this stage.
- Now line a small square/rectangular baking tin with baking parchment and sprinkle with vegetable oil.
- Pour your mixture into the tray so that it is smooth and evenly 2cm thick.
- Sprinkle chopped nuts on the mixture (optional).
- Leave the dough on tray for at least 12 hours.
- Chop into small cubes and coat in icing sugar.
Clive Staples Lewis. The Chronicles of Narnia. London: Harper Collins, 2001.
For more on the history of lokum or Turkish Delight, see Haci Bekir’s website (the inventor of lokum, in Istanbul) http://www.hacibekir.com/en/menu/haci-bekir/history.html .