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Sunday, June 10, 2012


How many of you remember the song "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" from 1929 and the line, “Now it’s Turkish Delight on a moonlit night”?  Probably not very many, but you still may have heard of Turkish Delight.  (Not the Erotica kind.)


Actually, Turkish Delight, or Lokum, is a family of absolutely yummy confections concocted of a gel made from starch and sugar and dusted with icing, sugar, copra, or powdered cream of Tartar, to prevent clinging.

Oh, I’m gaining weight just writing this.

Last month when I visited the Spice Market (Misir Carsisi) in Istanbul, Turkey, I learned there are many varieties, with fillings of chopped dates, pistachios and hazelnuts or walnuts bound by the gel and most frequently flavored with rose water, mastic, lemon, orange, cinnamon or mint.

Originally, honey and molasses were used for the sweeteners, and water and flour as the binding agents, and rosewater, lemon peel, and bitter orange as the most common flavors.  They are usually made in bars or logs and cut into approximately 1” square pieces.  But I saw many other shapes labeled as Turkish Delight.


The Turkish words lokma and lokum are derived from the Turkic luqma(t), meaning morsel and mouthful.  Egypt, Bulgaria, Syria, Greece, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina all have their versions of the delight and their own names.  In English, it was formerly called Lumps of Delight.

It’s precise origins are unknown.  Like most foods, it no doubt existed in some form for centuries, made from locally available ingredients.  Turkish legend has it that a Turkish sultan, tired of rumbling of discontent within his harem, summoned all confectioners in the land and ordered them to come up with a new dessert to quell the unrest.  As a result, lokum was born.

The sweet as we know it today is credited to Bekir Effendi, who moved from his hometown Kastamonu, Turkey (although some references say Anatolia – maybe that’s the region) to Istanbul and opened a confectionery shop in 1776.  He was a hit.  Soon, fashionable ladies began giving Turkish Delight to their friends in special lace handkerchiefs.  These were also used as acts of courting between couples, as documented by traditional Turkish love songs of that era. 

The confection was introduced to the western world in the 19th century.  Unconfirmed stories tell of an unknown Briton become fond of the delicacy, purchased cases of lokum, and shipped them to Britain under the name Turkish Delight.

The term Turkish Delight can be a euphemism for hashish candy, as hashish is sometimes thought to have been an ingredient in the original recipe.  The candy’s other claim to fame is its mention in C.S. Lewis’ "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" where the White Witch tempts Edmund with Turkish Delight. 


And speaking of recipes, here are a few.  I’ve never made Turkish Delight, or seen it made, but the ones I had in Turkey all had pistachios or other nuts in them.

Recipe 1, without nuts, is from  by Saad Fayed,

Preparation time:    15 minutes
Cooking time:          1 hour, 10 minutes
Total Time:               1 hour, 25 minutes


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 sugarVegetable 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, and 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.

Cuisine:                                 Middle Eastern
Dietary considerations:      Low sodium
Yield:                                      Makes about 36

This little sweetmeat is very popular throughout the Middle East. The Turkish term for the confection, rahat lokum, literally means "throat's ease."


1/2 cup shelled natural pistachios
Four 1/4-ounce envelopes unflavored gelatin (about 3 tablespoons)
2 3/4 cups cold water
1 cup cornstarch
3 cups granulated sugar
5 teaspoons rosewater1 drop red food coloring if desired
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar plus additional if necessary


Oil an 8-inch square baking pan and line with plastic wrap. Oil plastic wrap.

In a small saucepan of boiling water blanch pistachios 3 minutes and drain in a sieve.

Rinse pistachios under cold running water and pat dry. Rub skins off pistachios.

In a small bowl sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water and let soften.

In another small bowl stir together 1/8 cup cold water and cornstarch.

In a 4-quart heavy kettle stir together remaining 1 1/2 cups cold water, granulated sugar, and rosewater and bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Stir in gelatin and cornstarch mixtures and boil over moderate heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spatula, 10 minutes (mixture will be very thick). Stir in pistachios and food coloring and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Pour mixture into baking pan, smoothing top with spatula, and cool.

Chill confection, loosely covered, until set, about 4 hours.

Sift 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar onto a work surface. Invert confection onto sugar and peel off plastic wrap. Cut confection into 1/8-inch cubes. Sift remaining confectioners' sugar over cubes and toss to coat.

Wrap cubes in parchment paper (do not use wax paper, plastic wrap, or airtight containers because confections will weep) and chill.

Turkish delight may be made 2 weeks ahead and kept chilled, wrapped in parchment paper.

Just before serving, recoat Turkish delight in additional confectioners' sugar.

The man in the photos is making Turkish Delight commercially.  Please comment and let me know if tried the real Turkish Delight before?  And if you’ve made it yourself, what you think of these recipes?  How about other Turkish desserts?  They make a mean baklava, too.


Janice Seagraves said...

Sounds great. I'm getting a cavity just thinking about eating it.

Sandy said...

I've always wanted to go to Istanbul, Turkey. The Turkish Delight sounds delicious.

Molly Daniels said...

LOL:) The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (cartoon version and book) was the first time I'd ever heard of TD:) Always thought it was some sort of cake.

Thanks for the recipe:)

Paris said...

This sounds wonderful! I could probably eat an entire batch by myself which is why I'd only make it if I was having company, lol!

Tina Donahue said...

Wow - you're making me hungry. :)

LKF said...

Wow, those sound amazing, and not very diet friendly. :} But thats not going to stop me from trying them Ill have to have will power and only have a few...Yah right. I'll make a small batch.
Thanks for sharing

Cara Marsi said...

Yum, yum, yum. They sound wonderful and decadent. I'd love to visit Istanbul. Sweets to the Sweet is the title of one of my short stories.

Liz said...

been there, done that. still NOT my favorite food after living there 3 years. but a fun post. thanks!

msspencerauthor said...

I need to keep checking this blog--Hi Ann--I do remember It's Istanbul not Constantinople so well--of course I grew up out of the U.S. so more dependent on my parents' music (missed a lot of rock n roll). Lokum with pistachios--that's the good stuff!I miss Istanbul! M. S. Spencer

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