Friday, July 24, 2009

Turkish Delight

There was no post last Friday because I took the last part of the day to prepare for and attend a concert by Peter Murphy, one of my all-time favorite musicians. He is one of the most compelling performers out there, a charismatic, limber frontman in the tradition of David Bowie and Iggy Pop, with a resonant, powerful baritone and a mystical bent that manifests itself in his lyrics.

I've been a fan of Peter's since I was about fourteen, when 88.7FM (CIMX) began its switch from adult contemporary to New Wave and alternative. I didn't always know what his lyrics meant, but I loved the mysterious, fanciful imagery ("The djinn men smash the ark/Four guides afloat, four dots of God"). And of course, I loved his strange, rich voice; singing along, I reached for those low notes until my throat was sore. Someday, I hope to tell him about all the little babies I've sung to sleep with snatches from "Huuvola," a lovely song he wrote for his own children. As most couples have a "song," our song is "I'll Fall With Your Knife;" it was our first (and only!) dance together at our wedding (my husband's not much for dancing).

I was lucky enough to meet Peter in 2000; he clasped my hand and said, "How are you, darling?" in response to my nervous "Hi, Peter." At another show on that same tour (I told you he's one of my all-time favorites), he autographed my copy of Coleman Barks' The Essential Rumi, after I handed it to a new friend, who handed it through a van window to Peter. He inscribed the book "To Moe," my nickname (usually minus the "e"), because that's the only name my new friend knew me by. This book is one of my treasures, and I nearly wept with relief when I found it intact after the fire that destroyed my apartment building several years ago. On the flyleaf, in blue ink now slightly smudged by water damage from that awful night, he wrote:

"Be as you are
Be as you appear to be..."
Peter Murphy

Peter is married to the beautiful Beyhan Murphy, founder and head of Modern Dance Turkey. They live in Ankara, Turkey, home to all kinds of marvelous sweets. My personal favorite is baklava, but I also like Turkish Delight. Unlike Edmund Pevensie, I can only eat a couple of pieces at a time, as it's very sweet.

This recipe contains no gelatin and comes from, Liz Upton's superlative blog. Please do go to the site and read the fascinating history of Turkish Delight, then try tackling this recipe. Serve the candy with strong coffee, as is traditional; it really takes the edge off the amazing bitterness of real Turkish coffee.

Rahat Lokum (Turkish Delight)

For 80 pieces (40 orange-flower flavour, 40 rose flavour) you'll need:

4 cups sugar
4 1/2 cups water
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup cornflour (cornstarch for Americans)
1 teaspoon cream of tartar (this stops the mixture from crystalising)
1 tablespoon essence of rose water
1 tablespoon essence of orange-flower water (both of these ingredients are made by the English Provender Company and are available in the UK in supermarkets) [American and Canadian friends, check Indian and Middle Eastern grocers -- MB]
1 cup icing sugar (confectioners' sugar for Americans)
1/4 cup extra cornflour

Begin by boiling the sugar with the lime juice and 1 1/2 cups of water. Use a jam thermometer and remove from the heat when the syrup reaches the soft ball stage (115C/239F).

While you are boiling the sugar syrup, combine the cream of tartar and a cup of cornflour with three cups of cold water. (Using cold water should prevent lumps.) Mix well and bring up to a simmer, stirring all the time. Continue stirring at a simmer until the mixture has made a thick, gluey paste. Stir the sugar syrup into this paste. (If you end up with lumps at this stage, push everything into a saucepan through a sieve with the back of a ladle.)

Simmer the sugar and cornflour mixture, stirring every few minutes, until it's a golden-honey colour and about 120C/248F (this is halfway between soft and hard ball on your jam thermometer, and will take about an hour). Divide the mixture into two, and pour it into two prepared trays lined with oiled cling film (American readers - this is what we call Saran wrap over here). Add a tablespoon of rose water and a few drops of pink food colouring to one and stir, a tablespoon of orange-flower water to the other, and stir. Cover and chill for a few hours until set.

Turn out the wobbling sections. You will be glad for that oiled cling film. Slice the set Turkish Delight into cubes, and roll in a mixture of 1 cup icing sugar and 1/4 cup cornflour so that they don't stick together. Set before the ravening hordes. If, unaccountably, they don't raven their way through the whole lot in one go, store in airtight boxes between layers of greaseproof paper, well-dusted with the icing sugar/cornflour mixture.


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