“Let us eat sweets and have sweet conversation” is an old Turkish saying and while we do not know if sweets actually sweeten conversations, they have been used as accompaniments to Turkish coffee for centuries. Here are a few of the typical of such accompaniments:
Turkish Delight, “Lokum”
The origin of Turkish delight (“Lokum”), like Turkish coffee dates back to the time of the Ottoman Empire. A part of Turkish culture for centuries, the recipe has remained virtually unchanged from its inception.
Before the 18th century, honey and grape molasses were the only sweetening agents available to Turkish confectioners. With the introduction of sugar in the late 18th century, a new era of sweet making opened in the Ottoman lands. Sugar brought with it the beginning of endless creative possibilities to Turkish confectioners. It was during this time that Lokum, one of the oldest known confections in the world was created in the great kitchens of the Ottoman Court.
A whimsical tale tells of the creation of Turkish delight: In an attempt to appease his many wives, a famous Sultan ordered his confectioner to create a unique sweet. Eager to please his Sultan, the confectioner blended a concoction of sugar syrup, various flavourings, nuts and dried fruits then bound them together with mastic (gum arabic). After many attempts, the delicately scented and sugary sweet Lokum - better known in the West as Turkish delight - was created. The Sultan was so taken by this elegant new creation that he appointed the sweet maker the court’s Chief Confectioner. Thereafter, a plate of Lokum was served at daily feasts in the Ottoman Court.
Lokum was unveiled to the west in the 19th century. During his travels to Istanbul, an unknown British traveler became very fond of the Turkish delicacies, purchased cases of Lokum and he shipped them to Britain under the name Turkish delight.
Today, Turkish delight remains the sweet of choice in many Turkish homes. Enjoyed world wide, the subtle flavours of Turkish delight finely compliment coffee and sweeten the breath at the end of a meal. Traditionally offered at Christmas in the West, Turkish Delight is becoming increasingly popular as a confection to be enjoyed year-round.
This is a thick honey based dessert first made for the sultans in the Ottoman lands centuries ago and gained fame as an aphrodisiac for men. While there are many different recipes for sultan’s paste, it generally contains honey and a mixture of herbs, sometimes as many as 40 plus herbs.
While it is not certain that sultan’s paste has the promised aphrodisiac effect, it has been used as a sweetener for coffee for centuries for its taste.
Halva is one of the oldest Turkish sweets and has a long history with some thinking that it is the oldest Turkish dessert.
While there are many types of halva, the most famous form consumed throughout the Middle East and the Balkan is the tahini halva made with crushed sesame seeds. It is commercially produced and sold in blocks by weight and may be plain, chocolate flavored or pistachio flavored.
In the manufacture process of tahini halva, first the sesame seeds are sifted, washed, dried and ground. Another herb called “coven” (root of soapwort) is mashed and mixed with sugar and is used to give halva its white color. The sesame, çöven and sugar are cooked by stirring in large cauldrons. Then various flavors such as nuts, pistachio, almond, and cocoa are added and pour into moulds in which they are cooled.
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