Turkish Delight

This friends, is what I call a “culinary adventure” -ripe with nostalgia and passion, failure and triumph, gummy things and sugar, and enough science to shake a stick at. Shake two sticks at. Really, a multitude of sticks.

What does that phrase even mean? For some reason I’m thinking it has something to do with snakes. oh well. To the gummies!!

Turkish Delight is a confection from the Ottoman Empire made popular in England by travelers and has had a modern surge in popularity due to a fantastic cameo appearance in C.S. Lewis’s “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.” I devised my recipe to incorporate flavors that I loved from my own travels in the Middle East and to utilize fresh ingredients that grow in my Louisiana back yard. When I was traveling one of my favorite flavor combinations that I encountered was lemon and mint. The most notable was a sweet, minty lemonade kind of drink. Citrus grows very well here in Southern Louisiana, and we have a big Meyer Lemon tree. Meyer lemons are a hybrid type of lemon-meets-orange, making them sweeter and milder than a standard lemon. We also have an abundance of mint!

A Note on Candy Making

Turkish Delight is a gummy candy. Think gum drops. Candy making is major science. I mean, all cooking is science, but this is like SCIENCE kind of science. (now “science” sounds weird in my head…) In this particular adventure I learned a lot about chemistry and got to look up words like “heteropolysacharides,” which I still don’t understand. Instead of confusing you with all that I will direct you to another blog post about Turkish Delight that I stumbled upon conveniently after I did all my mistakes, er… “research.” Candy making is precise and can be tricky, but you can do it! I promise! I will give you the keys! Unlock all the gummy goodness!

A Note on Recipes:

In doing a general search for Turkish Delight recipes I found two major kinds on the interwebs: 1- Uses just cornstarch and very long cooking time, 2- uses cornstarch and gelatin with a shorter cooking time. The longer version is the more traditional version and much closer to the ancient recipe. The shorter version is more modern but can be more conducive to candy making problems. The one I experimented with is the second version, and therefore I can explain how to avoid some of those problems. However, in the future I myself will use the longer version (no gelatin, more cornstarch, longer cooking time), along with the tips in this post, to make a more stable candy. My recipe was adopted from allrecipes. I will also make half-batches, because this makes a lot of gummies.

Tools:

  • Cooking Thermometer: this is a must! You should be able to see the 240F mark clearly
  • Sauce pan
  • Mixing bowls
  • Whisk
  • Cooling Pan
  • Wire Mesh Sifter (for the powdered sugar)
  • Clean counter top to work with candy

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup Cornstarch
  • 1 tsp Cream of Tartar
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 3 cups Granulated Sugar
  • 1 cup Meyer Lemon juice, divided and strained of seeds
  • 3 tablespoons Meyer Zest
  • 3 (.25 ounce) Envelopes Unflavored Gelatin
  • 1 cup Water
  • Mint Leaves
  • 3 tablespoons Steen’s Syrup (or light corn syrup)
  • 1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
  • 3/4 cup Chopped Pistachio Nuts
  • Confectioners’ Sugar for dusting

The Set Up:

The first thing to do is to set up your ingredients so that you are ready to toss them all together in the cooking process. This is part where you get to be your own Sous Chef. Yay!

In small bowl: Combine cornstarch and cream of tartar. Cream of tartar is an acid and it acts to even out the texture of the gummies and it stabilizes the way that cornstarch thickens. Slowly add in the 1/2 cup cold water to dissolve cornstarch. This will sit a while before you use it- just make sure to run a whisk through the mixture before use. This will loosen it up after it settles, it may be hard but it will smooth out.

In medium bowl: Measure out the three cups of granulated sugar

In medium bowl: dissolve gelatin in 1/2 cup lemon juice and add zest. Let sit to the side.

On chopping board: chop the pistachios. This is a traditional ingredient and adds a great texture to the candy.

In saucepan: boil water with mint leaves to extract the oils and flavor. This takes just a few moments- after boiling measure flavored water and add extra to measure up to one cup. Add the other 1/2 cup of lemon juice and Steen’s syrup and put back on heat

The Cooking:

1: In the saucepan there should already be 1 1/2 cups of liquid and the Steen’s Syrup. Add to this the granulated sugar and bring to a boil. Use the cooking thermometer to monitor the heat and bring the mixture up to 240F- this is the temperature of “soft-ball” candy.

2: Have the cornstarch, tartar, and water mixture on the ready when the temperature gets close. Make sure the mix is smooth by whisking it right before use.

3: When the syrup reaches 240F (this will take a bit of time), add the cornstarch mixture and whisk so that no clumps form.

4: Heat the new mixture until it reaches a thick, gluey consistency- this will not take long at all. Heat makes the starch thicken (starch gelatinization).

5: Bring off heat and add the cooled gelatin and lemon mixture. This will have become stiff by now, just scoop out and whisk into hot mixture- it will break down and even out.

6: Add in the pistachios and vanilla extract and pour out onto a greased/powdered pan. Put in a cool dry place overnight, up to 2 days for curing. DO NOT PUT IN THE REFRIGERATOR. The candy needs to cool slowly and evenly. The candy also needs to dry out and expel moisture evenly- neither of these can happen in the refrigerator. Rapid temperature changes will cause sweating- leading to goo, which is discussed later.

The Coating

Turkish Delight is know for it’s crusted outside and it’s soft chewy inside. To get this effect requires a powdered sugar and cornstarch coating and some time to cure.

First: Cut the candy out of the pan. This can be difficult at first- but use a spatula. Cut the candy into squares.

Second: roll and dust the squares in a mixture of cornstarch and powdered sugar. Set the squares on paper towels on the counter to cure for several hours. DO NOT SEAL. Sealing will trap in heat and moisture causing the candy to sweat. The candy needs to dry out for about another day and then it can be stored or gifted in paper boxes/bags.

Sweating or THE GOO

This is the section where I try and give you some tips on preventing candy sweating. This is when the gel (formed by cornstarch alone or the combination of cornstarch and gelatin) of the candy pushes excess water out of itself. This moisture will combine with the sugar coating and make a lovely goo mess of epic proportions. When I made my candy I did several things that contributed a great big gooey mess. One of my biggest problems is that living in Southern Louisiana my house is high on both heat and humidity, but nonetheless, I was able to fix the goo and make the candy awesome.

Follow these tips to prevent goo:

  • Make candy at least humid time of day, and let it rest in a low-humidity area of your house.
  • Do not refrigerate to set. Let pan set at room-temp in a dry place.
  • Let candy cure both in the pan and in the coating stage.
  • Do not store in air-tight container. Store in paper.

If you do get goo:

  • Take the candy out of the container and place on paper towels. You might have to “wipe” it off to get all the excess moisture off.
  • Do a coating with just cornstarch and let dry out for several hours/overnight.
  • When dry an firm to the touch, dust with a little bit of sugar and place back in paper.

Enjoy!!

-Fearn

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Balsamic Vinegar Marinade/Sauce

mmmmmm meat sauce….

Balsamic Vinegar is a fantastic item for your pantry, not only for salad dressing (mmmm oily leaves….), it works great in a reduction for savory dishes. This is another recipe that utilizes great things found (or planted) in your garden/window sill. Once mixed either use the sauce as a marinade for meats, reduce and use as a sauce over vegetables, or to baste and cook meat in.

Ingredients

  • Garlic- 2 large cloves minced, or two spoonfuls of the pre-minced
  • Balsamic Vinegar- 1/2 cups
  • Olive Oil- 1/4 cup
  • Nutmeg (ground)- 1 tsp
  • Ginger (ground)- 1 tsp
  • Cloves (ground)- 1 tsp
  • Fresh Rosemary- couple of sprigs

Method

Mix all ingredients together.

Marinade: Pour over meat and let rest for 30 min – hour. Good for pork, beef, chicken, lamb… really anything that used to make a noise.

Cooking Sauce: Pour over meat and put in oven. In my picture I am using pork loin sections, and the pan of pork and sauce was cooked for about 45 minutes. The sauce will reduce and mix with the meat juices and be very delicious.

Reduction: Leave out olive oil. Bring to boil in a saucepan on the stove, then reduce and simmer until about half of the liquid has evaporated. Use a strainer to remove the flavor chunks and serve over veggies, rice/starch, or other meats. Great for spicing up leftovers. Refrigerate leftover sauce and keep using.

Note: Your whole house will smell vinegar-y whilst doing the reduction or cooking with the sauce. I like to shut bedroom doors and turn the fans on to keep air circulating. Just a warning, things will get real. But the tastiness that is left over will blow your mind.

-Fearn

Stawberry Ginger Crisp

One of my favorite things about spring is the arrival of strawberries!! When I was a little girl in North Carolina I remember stopping at the highway-side farms to pick bucket-fulls of berries on the way to my grandparent’s home on the coast. Now, living in Southern Louisiana, strawberries are a major local cash crop and the grocery stores are just jam-packed with them at this time of year. I wanted to do something a little different with them then the standard shortcake so I devised this simple strawberry and ginger crisp.

Ingredients for Fruit Mix:

  • Strawberries- 1 lbs (one container, about 4 cups when chopped)
  • Orange juice- 1/2 cup
  • Orange zest- 1 tsp
  • Candied ginger- 2 tsp
  • Ground ginger- 1/4 tsp
  • Steen’s Syrup- 1/2 cup
  • Cinnamon- 1/4 tsp
  • Nutmeg- dash
  • Corn starch- 2 tbs

mmmm my favorite part!

Ingredients for Crisp top:

  • Oats- 1 cup
  • Chopped nuts- 1/2 cup (any kind you like)
  • Flour- 2 tbs
  • Brown sugar- 1/4 cup
  • Ginger- 1/4 tsp
  • Cinnamon and Nutmeg- dash each
  • Butter- 1/4 cup, melted

Method:

Wash and chop the strawberries and combine all of the ingredients for the fruit mix and place in an 9 X 9 pan. Steen’s syrup is a local pure cane syrup, so it is more of a carmel-y complex sweetness than the flavor of white sugar- molasses, maple syrup, or brown sugar would make a good substitute. Combine the dry ingredients for the crisp topping in a separate bowl and then add the melted butter on top and mix with to achieve a crumbly texture and then spread over the top of the strawberry mixture. Bake in a 375F oven for 30-40 minutes. You want the fruit to be bubbly and the topping to be crisp.

Enjoy!

-Fearn

Root Stew

So this recipe is coming quite past the season of snow drifts and cozy scarves, but being a little behind is no excuse to ignore your veggies!! This is a hearty, flavorful stew filled with the good things that winter can grow. You can still get most of these veggies in our year-round grocery stores but you might want to summer-ize it by substituting potatoes or throwing in some nice colorful bell peppers. I love to make a big pot’o’tasty at the beginning of the week and package it into smaller containers to take for work lunches. It saves time, money, and it gives you an awesome mid-day vitamin boost.

At the heart of this stew is really getting a chance to embrace some of those root veggies that are easy to pass up in the produce section: parsnips and turnips. Both will cook down to a soft texture and the turnips will turn sweeter while the parsnips add a nice zest. Fill in the rest of the stew with the garden goods you have locally and this will be a great way to tailor the recipe to seasonal pickings. This is a “throw-together” kind of stew so don’t worry about exact measurements of the veggies and if you find yourself using a lot more or less then the measurements below just add the seasonings slowly to get a flavor that is good for you. My family are quite the carnivores so I have added the meatballs for them, but they can easily be taken out and replaced with beans for our vegetarian friends out there.

Ingredients:

  • Onion- 1 medium
  • Parsnips- 1 lbs
  • Turnips- aprox. 1 lbs, just grab a few good looking ones
  • Carrots- 1 cup
  • Fresh Green Beans- 1 cup
  • Cabbage- 1/2 medium head
  • Lean Ground Beef- 1.5 lbs
  • Beef Bullion- 1 tbs
  • Season Salt Mix (whichever brand is your favorite)- 1 tsp
  • Worcestershire Sauce- 1 tsp
  • Turmeric- 1 tbs
  • Paprika- 1 tsp
  • Ginger- 1 tsp
  • Cumin- 1/2 tsp
  • Olive Oil- enough for a pan drizzle

Method:

The first thing I did was to make the meatballs and for these I like to make them as simple as possible. Take the ground beef and add your season salt and Worcestershire Sauce. My salt mix is this German stuff that I honestly don’t know what is in it unless I whipped out Google translate, so just use whatever you like your make your own by mixing salt, ground garlic, onion, and an herb mix. You just want to add a little something to bring out the flavor in the beef. Once you have it mixed together roll the mixture into spoon sized meatballs- this step is all about portion size, you want to make them small enough to fit on a spoon. Spoon sized!! Place in a bowl off to the side until you are ready to throw everything together.

To prep the veggies, the parsnips, turnips, and carrots need to be peeled and cubed into, yes, SPOON SIZED pieces. Not only does this make stew eating far less awkward but also lets the hearty veggies cook quicker. The green beans and cabbage do not need pealing, but they do need a small chop. In a big bowl pile up the parsnips, turnips, carrots, and green beans because they will take the longest to cook, and the cabbage can sit off to the side to be added towards the end of the cooking. Dice the onion into cute little onion bits.

Cooking: Drizzle your pan with the olive oil and add the diced onion, throw on a dash of salt to get the onion to sweat and saute for a few minutes. Add the meatballs right in and roll them around so they brown on all sides- they will cook all the way through during the whole process so right now it is all about adding that brown flavor. If you are using lean beef then you shouldn’t have much if any grease from the meatballs, but in case you have fattier meat or they just hate you, then you can spoon out some of the grease onto a paper napkin and toss in the trash (meat grease will clog your sink drain!). Add a couple of cups of water and bring it up to a boil, this will allow the bullion to dissolve easily. I *love* using Better than Bullion which is a bullion paste rather than a dried cube- you add as much as you want and it gives a nice flavor. Once the bullion is dissolved add the bowl of chopped veggies and enough water to cover, bring to a boil.

Add the spices. SPICES!! This is the best part of the dish and a heavy hand will do you well because of the time it takes to cook the roots a light seasoning will wash out. The turmeric will turn the stew a lovely yellow, so enjoy your colors! Simmer the stew for about 20 minutes and then top off with the cabbage and cook until tender. Ladle up and and enjoy!

-Fearn