This is a fantastic Sultan’s Delight recipe, you will be proud to serve it for family and friends.
The recipe dates back 600 years. It originates in the Royal Kitchens at Topkapi Palace in what is now the city of Istanbul. The sultan was so delighted with this meal and the name, Sultan’s Delight, stuck.
There are many variations of Sultan’s Delight. We ate it in a restaurant in Turkey and made it at home. We liked the one at home better and this is the Sultan’s Delight recipe below.
But first a bit of context, as mentioned in the introductory post about Turkey, one of the major influences on modern Turkish cuisine is the Imperial Kitchen. With a tour of Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, this influence comes to life. And provides context for much of what you see while wandering around Turkey sampling Turkish cuisine.
History of Topkapi Palace
The Topkapi Palace, built between 1460 and 1478 by Mehmed the Conqueror. The Palace was used by many Sultans until the mid 19th century when Dolmabahce Palace replaced it. Prominent on the Istanbul skyline, if you have the chance -visit it! We toured the Palace and the Harem. At the time of our visit the history of Turkish coffee was a special exhibition. Turkish coffee is the subject of another post as it worth an explanation all its own.
The ceramics in this palace and the Blue Mosque are spectacular, and a longer explanation of Turkish ceramics is worth a read.. Ceramics and Turkish rugs are two of the most popular souvenirs from Turkey.
The Imperial Kitchen
But back to the Imperial Kitchen, this area is part of the tour but unfortunately for you dear readers, it is not an area where you can take pictures. So this picture shows the ten towers comprising the kitchen area. It is an extensive area within the Palace grounds.
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At its peak, the Imperial Kitchen employed approximately 1500 people and fed close to 10,000 people daily. This includes the royal family, workers at the Palace, visitors, and guards. The kitchen staff was responsible for provisioning, record keeping (accounts, payroll, management of supplies) and of course food production.
Work in the Imperial Kitchen was highly specialized. The guild system was in place and apprentices trained in the culinary arts including: butchers, bread bakers, confectionery, pastry, butchers, hunters, jams and preserves, cheese makers, and many more.
The confectionery kitchen, where jams and preserves, desserts, puddings, bread, medicines, drinks and elixirs, and essential oils were made. Herbs and flowers were used to create medicines, tonics, elixirs, “sherberts” (drinks served in beautiful urns infused with flavors), and rose water puddings by specialized staff in the confectionery kitchen.
Wandering around modern Istanbul today you still see highly specialized eateries following these long established divisions: shops selling borak (a large flat pastry similar to filo but not as flaky), grilled meats (kebap), pastry shops, pudding shops, fish restaurants. This system survives from the strong influence of the guilds and the Imperial Kitchen. (The influence of the guilds is also evident in the organization of the Grand Bazaar.)
The Royal Family and the Harem
The Harem conjures up pictures of barely clad women lounging around waiting to attend to powerful men. In reality, Harem is the term for the private rooms of the Royal Family. The Royal Family, the concubines (girlfriends in today’s terminology), and the eunuchs (castrated males) responsible for looking after the concubines all lived in these quarters.
There is a series of novels by Jason Goodwin, featuring a crime solving character, Yashim, a eunuch. The setting for the novels is the 1830’s, when the Ottoman Empire still reigned supreme. Both of us read the second book The Snake Stone while travelling. It is a great book for imagining what life might have been like during this time period. You can also view our other recommendations for Turkish novels and books in our shop.
So without further ado, here is a true comfort food. A beautifully rich lamb stew sitting on a bed of smoky eggplant puree. A perfect main course for a dinner party or family meal.
More Winter Warming Foods
Fancy trying some other great, winter comfort foods from around the world? Here are some to try:
Pork Goulash from Romania may surprise you. It’s beautifully spiced and the sour cream gives it a real touch of class. Popular with all family members.
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