Why Merle’s Turkish Delight is essentially Sussex

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Really good Turkish Delight still can claim the right to be a slightly mysterious exotic treat – but only when it’s top notch.  Otherwise, you can just feel the sugar slowly melting your tooth enamel and the tinny taste of food colouring.

Merle (brilliant name!), who is part Turkish Cypriot, cooks up small batches of her finely honed selection of handmade Turkish and Mediterranean sweets.  She cooks from her kitchen in Lewes with recipes handed down from her family.

A finely made Turkish Delight isn’t just a sweet to hand around.  Chopped cubes are a beautiful addition to a pudding and go brilliantly with chocolate tart or dark fruit (cherries and blackcurrants), as a garnish with thick cream or ice-cream.

Turkish Delight is obviously sweet, but the sugar doesn’t have to overwhelm the flavour.  Merle uses seasonal, local herbs and flowers to bring authenticity to her pretty, delicate palette of colours and flavours. We love the idea of mixing traditional Turkish flavours with quintessentially English touches…such as the Earl Grey or Walnut (as opposed to traditional pistachio)…and when they are in season, edible Sussex flowers.

Merle doesn’t use added preservatives or additives so her Turkish Delight so is best eaten fresh.  But the texture is so beautiful, softer and more roundly flavoured than commercially made sweets that this doesn’t seem a problem.

After dinner, we love the idea of a small dish of chocolates or sweets with hot, strong coffee, instead of a large pudding (by the way, can we request this on more menus please?) Turkish Delight is also naturally gluten and dairy free – and suitable for vegans and vegetarians.  Note here – Merle cooks in a kitchen where wheat and nuts are used, so can’t claim to be completely allergy free).

Even off menu, Merle’s sweets are picture of delicate pastel rose pink and nutty cream.  Turkish Delight has very few ingredients, so anything used has to work hard…which means the best rosewater, flower waters and essential oils have to be sourced.

British socialites discovered Turkish Delight around 200 years ago and it was a fashionable gift to give wrapped in a silk handkerchief – which would still make a really beautiful present.  Less attractively, it was called ‘Lumps of Delight’ – a rebrand in Victorian times did it something of a service.

If you aren’t convinced about Turkish Delight then just find your old copy of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and flick through to the bit about Edmund meeting the Queen.  I’m sure this is embedded in the psyche of generations of children who view steaming rose-scented bowls as something mystical and dangerous….

As a pudding, however, it is divine – just check out this cheesecake from Marcus Wareing…

TurkishdelightcheesecakeTurkish delight cheesecake recipe

Serves 8

  • 80g of unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp of honey
  • 200g of Rich tea biscuits
  • 3 tbsp of cocoa powder
  • 4 gelatine leaves
  • 250g of cream cheese
  • 250ml of sour cream
  • 2 tbsp of semi skimmed milk
  • 25g of caster sugar
  • 3 50g bars of Turkish delight, bars, each weighing 50g
  • rose water

To Serve

  • 2 2/3 handfuls of rose petals
1.  To make this Turkish delight cheesecake, start by melting the butter and mix with the honey. Then add to the crushed biscuits and cocoa powder, mixing well. Then press into a greased 20cm springform cake tin and refrigerate
  • 80g of unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp of honey
  • 200g of Rich tea biscuits
  • 3 tbsp of cocoa powder
2.  Soak the gelatine leaves in a little cold water and leave in the fridge
  • 4 gelatine leaves
3. Mix the cream cheese until soft, then add the sugar and sour cream and beat well
  • 250g of cream cheese
  • 250ml of sour cream
  • 25g of caster sugar
4.  Heat the milk, then add the strained gelatine, stirring well
  • 2 tbsp of semi skimmed milk
5.  Add 4 spoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture to the milk, mix well, then pass through a fine sieve into the remaining cream cheese mix
6.  Mix well, then fold in the Turkish Delight and enough rosewater to suit your taste. Blend lightly using a stick blender
  • 3 50g bars of Turkish delight
  • rose water
7.  Pour onto the chilled base and allow to set in the fridge for a couple of hours until firm. Serve with some rose petals if desired
  • 2 2/3 handfuls of rose petals

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Why Merle’s Turkish Delight is essentially Sussex

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