One of the oldest sweets in the world, going back almost 500 years, the Turkish Delight recipe has remained almost unchanged since the day of its inception. As the story goes, the Sultan, trying to cope with all his mistresses, summoned his confectionary chefs and demanded the production of a unique dessert. It was through this summon that the Turkish Delight was born.
Every home in Turkey has a stash of these succulent, sugary cubes, which are offered with tea and coffee, and after breakfast, lunch and dinner. The trays of dusty pink, yellow and green lokum are as much a part of Istanbul life.
Turkish National Identity
Turkish delight must be the only sweet in the world that is so embedded in a country's national identity. We do not think of Britain and mint humbugs or America and bubblegum, but we do think of Turkey and Turkish delight.
The Turkish name for the sweet comes from the Arabic rahat-ul hulkum, which means "soothe or heal the throat". This was abbreviated to rahat lokum and then lokum. The name "Turkish delight" evolved in the 18th century when an English traveller took home some Lokum to his relatives. He could not pronounce the Arabic name and so coined Turkish delight. It stuck like syrup.
Little has changed in 225 years. The classic flavours remain: rose, lemon, mint and mastic. But the Turks' favourite - and the biggest seller - is a plain jelly studded with pistachios.
We are experts of Lokum
Keeping the original taste of lokum is hard because making Turkish delight is slow. First a slurry is made of starch and water, and then sugar is added and the mixture cooked for two hours. It is poured into wooden trays dusted with starch and left to rest for two days before being cut into squares. Some people prefer their lokum "double-cooked", where the solution is cooked for a full four hours to give it a caramel taste and firmer texture.