Ali's Blogs

History of Turkish delight

9th August 2013

It has literally delighted millions of people over the years, but have you ever wanted to discover more about this most synonymous of Turkish treats? 


What is it?


Lokum or Turkish delight as it is known comprises of a gel made from starch, sugar corn syrup and water. It contains no gelatine or animal fats but is carefully bound together by the gel and decadently finished with icing sugar. 


Luxury varieties will often feature honey, chopped nuts such as pistachios and dates as well as rosewater for an extra depth of flavour. Other traditional versions incorporate bergamot or orange for a zesty finish.


How did it originate?


Lokum was soon to spread worldwide, but how did it all begin? Sit down dear friends and marvel at this delightful tale!


Created in 1777 by renowned confectioner Bekir Effendi, fondly known as Haci Bekir, he was the proud owner of a sweet shop located in the Bahcekapi area of Istanbul. 


Time has not changed as this shop currently welcomes many hungry mouths in the exact same location. This family run venue is believed to be one of Turkey’s oldest businesses stretching back an impressive five generations.


Nowadays, the variety of flavours have dramatically changed from chocolate and vanilla to lemon and even one type that would make Her Majesty proud - clotted cream.


Legend has it the original recipe for Turkish delight was a sweetmeat recipe which included honey or grape molasses (pekmez). Yet in spite of modern times, the recipe has remained true to its culinary heritage.


As Lokum grew in popularity, soon enough Haci Bekir was honoured for his creation as head of confectionary for the prestigious Ottoman Court. Now that’s a sweet gesture!


Hungry for more


Turkish delight was so popular that the Ottoman Sultans started to have a penchant for it, especially after meals. This was to offset the bitterness from that other favourite Turkish coffee. 


Now ingrained in Turkish culture, Lokum is extremely common during the so called “Sugar Feast” (Seker Bayrami)


This three day festival usually takes place after Ramadan, whilst it is in high demand at the anniversary of someone’s funeral (mevlit), which happens in the mosque or at home.


Lokum was introduced to Europe via an unidentified English voyager who simply labelled them on boxes with the words “Turkish Delight!”


Soon, it was considered to be a popular gift among high society which was delicately enclosed in lace handkerchiefs and was a pertinent symbol of love. 


Delightful appearances


Turkish delight even made it to the silver screen. In 2005, it featured in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.


Meanwhile, British company Fry’s were inundated with demands after the film for their delectable Turkish delight chocolate bars. 


This clever marketing ploy has seen a long association with the chocolate cream bar stretching back to 1914. Its motto, "full of Eastern Promise", blended together the very best of Eastern and Western cultures. 


Celebrity bites


Did you know Picasso had a hankering for a bit of Turkish delight? He ate this daily in order to assist his concentration whilst Sir Winston Churchill and Napoleon Bonaparte also had a penchant for the stuff.


Talk about sweets for your sweet.


Written by Simon Lazarus



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