This week, it’s request time. Most weeks, I come up with the subject and recipe myself, either inspired by something I’ve read about, seen or, occasionally, eaten.
My iPhone is stuffed with little notes and photos of things for consideration when I get back to base – blurry shots of food often taken surreptitiously as the people on the next table get something great-looking for lunch, and badly-spelled aides-memoire, hastily jotted down with clumsy fingers during meals or squashed into aeroplane seats.
When I get home, I decipher these cryptic hieroglyphics and try to remember why I wrote them in the first place. And the recipes appear from the gloom, ready to be tested, photographed and written up.
But sometimes I get asked by people if I’ve ever considered this or that.
My thoughts on a classic Salade Niçoise, for example (we may come to this if the weather improves – as it is, it’s Jubilee weekend and absolutely hosing it down!) or a cake recipe people have always wanted to try.
This week’s request came from Natalie, who runs the lovely little florists just next door to the café, and who is a regular tester of recipes coming out of the kitchen, especially those involving chocolate. Quite how she maintains a sylph-like figure is beyond me!
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been enjoying making various chocolate bar treats by way of alleviating my diet cravings, and they’ve all been universally enjoyed.
After trying the toffee crisp bars a few weeks ago, our neighbour asked if I’d consider making a Turkish delight bar, as it was her favourite.
I immediately thought of those delicious, heavily-scented slabs of chewy rose-flavoured jelly, enrobed in chocolate, and the vivid purple foil wrappers, and simply HAD to get working on a recipe immediately.
Turkish delight is one of the very oldest sweetmeats, invented by an Istanbul confectioner in 1776, and its popularity quickly spread around the far end of the Mediterranean.
Originally made with honey and molasses, it is a dense, chewy and very sticky jelly-paste, flavoured with rosewater or lemon, and made manageable by rolling cut cubes in a mixture of cornflour and icing sugar.
There, as in many countries, it is called ‘lokum’, which means morsel or mouthful. Eventually it crossed Europe and became a popular treat in the UK, although these days, in no small part due to the fact that it is unbelievably sweet and not quite to our evolving tastes anymore, it’s becoming less popular.
The familiar sweet-shop bars are incredibly hard to find, and chocolate-covered Turkish delight is no longer a guaranteed feature of an assortment box of chocolates. So someone had to step in.
I thought I’d make a few bars of my own, and it turned out that the recipe is very easy to make, and, although a bit messy, results in several very satisfying bars of Turkish delight, enrobed in thick chocolate, and very definitely full of Eastern promise!
You could always add lemon essence if you’re not keen on rose flavour, as many aren’t. And that would be quite nice dipped in white chocolate. Feel free to experiment, as usual. Aprons on!