Aromatic, sweet, and soft, my vegan rose-flavoured Turkish Delight is really simple to make, and is a luxurious treat any day of the year… not just at Christmas time!
As a child living with my grandparents, Christmas meant one thing… well, actually, it meant a lot of things – but what I remember most vividly is being allowed to have a snowball (advocaat and lemonade), and the welcome appearance of the large round wooden boxes of rose and lemon Turkish Delight that made their way into our home every December…
For some reason, we only ever had Turkish Delight at Christmas time but for me, those soft, icing sugar-covered, delicately-flavoured rose and lemon cubes of confection heaven were the best thing ever. Better than the family visits, better than all the Elvis films on TV, better than the huge pillowcase-full of presents at the end of my bed.
I’m not joking. I guess I’ve always been about the food!
Plus, I was a huge fan of the Narnia stories – and in particular, Jadis – so I guess it was only right that I should love Turkish Delight so much.
In fact, come to think of it, perhaps that’s why it was traditional to only have Turkish Delight at Christmas in Britain… because Jadis cast a spell of eternal winter over Narnia, and Christmas falls in winter.
When I was a bit older, and was allowed to have chocolate bars (a sure sign I was growing up because in my family, kids were only allowed penny sweets – bars were reserved for grown-ups and teenagers, and once a year in Christmas stockings), Fry’s Turkish Delight was always high on my list of sweetie yums. It was nothing like the stuff we had at Christmas but I loved the chocolate coating, the intense rose flavour, and of course, that translucent squidgy pink centre.
In 2000, I spent some time in Turkey, and resolved to positively stuff my face with Turkish Delight for as long as possible (never let a good nomming opportunity go to waste, I say) … and what a surprise! It was nothing like I was used to: far from just the usual rose and lemon, it came in myriad flavours, and was not as sweet as I remembered it. Some of it was even covered in coconut instead of icing sugar. (Actually, it’s a combo of icing sugar and cornflour… but let’s not split hairs here.)
I loved it!
The first time I went to the home of one of my Turkish friends, I was shown to the best room in the house – a room which was reserved for receiving visitors, much like parlours and reception rooms in British households – and plied with apple tea and lokum. My friend told me that the reason for the tea and lokum is because it’s believed that if you put something sweet in the mouth, then something sweet comes out… that is to say, good conversation. After drinking apple tea, and eating a few pieces of lokum, I cannot imagine having a bad word to say about anything.
Speaking of tea – many people seem to be under the impression that Turks only drink coffee and apple tea. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Go to any market, and you’ll see scores of different types of herbs and flowers for making tea.
Another Turkish friend described lokum as being ‘Turkish Viagra’… as he winked at me, and ate yet another piece!
Of all the different Turkish Delight I ate while in Turkey, my favourite was always the rose, though. Chalk that up to my childhood. And CS Lewis.
When amato mio and I lived in Belgrade (Serbia), I was delighted (no pun intended) to discover that because of the Ottoman influence still prevalent in the country, Turkish Delight is a big thing there too. Yay!
In Serbia, Turkish Delight is called ratluk, which is a corruption of the Turkish, rahat lokum, itself a corruption of the Arabic, rāḥat al-hulqūm, which translates as ‘comfort of the throat’, and alludes to its early medicinal use, around the 9th century.
When we lived in Transylvania (Romania), we discovered that there too, Turkish Delight is a thing. And it’s called rahat… which Google Translate tells me means ‘shit’. Pretty sure Google is lying to me.
The name, Turkish Delight, was allegedly coined in either the late 18th or early 19th century by an un-named British traveller who brought a sizeable stash of lokum home with him (and not, as some claim, by the eminent Victorian explorer, Sir Richard Burton). During the mid-19th century, when lokum began to be imported into Britain on a regular basis, it became known by the rather less glamorous name of Lumps of Delight…
… which just makes me think of this painting by the wonderful Beryl Cook!
How to make Turkish Delight
I am aware that some people make it with gelatine but that’s not the authentic way to make Turkish Delight. Real lokum is vegan; it’s made with cornflour (cornstarch for you non-European readers) – there really is no need to add gelatine, especially as doing so would render it non-vegetarian, much less vegan.
Making Turkish delight is simply a case of adding sugar syrup to a cornflour and cream of tartar paste, cooking for an hour, flavouring and colouring the mix, turning out into a suitable container, waiting for it to cool, then cutting into cubes, and dusting with icing sugar and cornflour to prevent sticking. It really is as easy at that.
You can buy rosewater from online retailers, such as Amazon, or at Middle Eastern and Indian supermarkets.
Vegan Rose-Flavoured Turkish Delight
- mighty dangerous for the waistline!
Although this is for rose-flavoured Turkish Delight, you could have citrus instead (pink grapefruit is lovely, as is orange flower water), or pistachio, or, as we discovered in Serbia, walnut… which is truly delicious.
Or you could experiment with other flavours of course. I imagine that lavender would be rather good, especially if coloured a pale lilac. Or indeed, pale lavender!
However you flavour yours, enjoy!
What are your favourite flavours for Turkish Delight?
Simple Vegan Rose-Flavoured Turkish Delight
For the Turkish Delight:
- 400 g granulated sugar
- ½ tbsp lemon juice
- ½ tsp cream of tartar
- 435 ml water
- 65 g cornflour (cornstarch)
- ½ tbsp rosewater
- A few drops of red food colouring make sure it’s vegan
- 80 g icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
- 2 tbsp cornflour
Other stuff you’ll need:
Not strictly necessary but it will save your arms:
Prepare the syrup:
- Place the sugar, lemon juice, and 185ml (¾ cup) of the water into a heavy-based pan over a medium heat.
- Stir constantly, until the sugar has dissolved, bring to the boil, and brush down the inside of the pan with cold water (this will stop crystals forming). Insert the thermometer - don’t let it rest on the bottom of the pan though, or you’ll get a false reading.
- Boil the syrup (keep stirring), until it reaches 115°C (240°F). (This is the soft ball stage. If you’re not using a thermometer, you will need to test the syrup by dropping a teaspoonful into a glass of cold water. If it forms a soft ball, the syrup is ready. It should take anywhere between 10-15 minutes to reach this stage.)
- Remove the pan from the heat. The syrup will be a light gold colour.
Make the Turkish Delight:
- While the syrup is cooling slightly, place the rest of the water (250ml / 1 cup + 2 tsp) into another heavy-based pan over a medium heat, along with the cream of tartar (to stop the sugar crystallising), and the cornflour. Whisk to make sure there are no lumps.
- Whisk the mixture constantly, until it boils, and you have a very thick paste. Turn off the heat.
- Carefully, and slowly, pour the syrup into the cornflour paste, a little at a time, making sure to keep whisking. Once you’ve added in all the syrup, whisk a little more to ensure that there are no lumps, and you have a smooth, golden, semi-translucent paste.
- Scrape down the sides of the pan, or else you’ll get crusty stuff falling into the paste.
- Over a medium heat, and stirring all the time, slowly bring the paste to a boil.
- Turn the heat down to its lowest setting, and gently simmer for an hour or so, stirring every few minutes to prevent sticking. The paste will now be a deep golden colour. Turn off the heat, mix in the rosewater and food colouring (if using).
- Oil the dish or baking tin, and line with baking parchment. Oil the baking parchment.
- Pour the Turkish Delight into the prepared dish, and give it a bit of a shake to ensure the mixture gets right into the corners.
- Cover with a piece of oiled baking parchment, and leave for around five to six hours to cool and set.
Finish the Turkish Delight:
- When it’s ready, it will feel firm, and slightly tacky on top.
- Sift together the icing sugar and the rest of the cornflour into a large bowl, then sieve some of this over the surface of the Turkish Delight, until it’s all covered.
- Sieve more icing sugar/cornflour over a large chopping board or work surface.
- Turn out the Turkish Delight onto the powder, and gently peel away the baking parchment. Sieve more of the icing sugar mix over the surface.
- Using a large oiled knife, cut the Turkish Delight into 36 cubes. I’ve been told that a pizza cutter works really well too.
- Place each cube of Turkish Delight into the bowl with the rest of the icing sugar mix, and toss them around to ensure they are all well-coated.
- Store at room temperature in between sheets of baking parchment, and covered with the rest of the icing sugar/cornflour mixture in a container with a loosely-fitting lid.
- 1 cup = US cup = 240 ml
- 1 tbsp = US/UK = 15 ml
- 1 fl oz = US = 30 ml