Lokum (Turkish Delight)

This world-famous confection is surprisingly simple and easy to make, and is extremely versatile: this basic recipe can be adapted to incorporate a wide range of flavours and toppings.

Preparation time: 10 minutesCooking time: 30 minutes
Refrigeration time: 12 hoursDifficulty: Moderate
Serves: 10

Ingredients

For the lokum:

  • 400g/14oz/2 cups of granulated sugar
  • 70g/2.5oz/just over half a cup of cornflour
  • 590ml/5.9dl/1pt/2 and a half cups of water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp rose water or orange extract
  • A pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1 tbsp vegetable or flavourless oil
  • A few drops of food colouring (optional)

For decoration:

  • 1 tbsp cornflour (optional)
  • 70g/2.5oz/1/2 a cup of icing (confectioner’s) sugar (optional)
  • Finely chopped pistachios (optional)
  • Desiccated coconut (optional)

Special Equipment

  • A large saucepan
  • A wooden spoon
  • A sieve
  • A square plastic tub or baking dish, approx 15x15cm
  • Clingfilm

Method

  1. Line a baking dish or plastic tub with clingfilm or wax paper, and brush it with some vegetable oil.
  2. Add the sugar, lemon juice and 1 1/2 cups of water to a saucepan and place it over a medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat a little and leave it to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until slightly reduced.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir the cornflour, cream of tartar and remaining cup of water together until they’re well combined and there are no lumps.
  4. Add a few tablespoons of the hot syrup mixture to the cornflour mixture and stir together thoroughly. Then pour the cornflour mixture into the pan of syrup and return the pan to the hob.
  5. Continue to cook for a further 15 minutes or so over on a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and jelly-like. Then remove from the heat and stir in the rose water or orange extract and food colouring, if using.
  6. Pour the syrup through a sieve into the prepared tub or baking dish to remove any lumps. Allow it to cool for a few minutes, then put the tub in the fridge overnight, or for a minimum of 6 hours.
  7. When the Lokum is set, invert it onto some grease-proof paper. Using a sharp knife, cut it into squares.
  8. You can coat the Lokum with icing sugar, chopped pistachios or coconut by gently rolling the squares in the coating of your choice. If using icing sugar, roll it in cornflour first before rolling it into a little icing sugar and spooning extra sieved icing sugar around it. Transfer the Lokum and any toppings that haven’t stuck into a serving dish, and serve.
  9. Afiyet olsun!

Tips

  • If coating the Lokum in icing sugar, roll the squares in cornflour before rolling in the sugar. Otherwise, the icing sugar will cause the Lokum to ‘sweat’ (especially if the weather is hot/humid), which means the Lokum will end up sitting in a bowl of weird looking (though still tasty) translucent goo.

Background
Pronunciation:
 /lɔkʊm/ (low-kum)

Home: Turkey, the Balkans, the Levant

Relatives: Masghati (Iran), Rahat (Romania), Jelly Beans (USA), Botan Rice Candy (Japan)

History

Turkish Delight, or Lokum, is popular worldwide and ubiquitous in countries which were formerly part of the Ottoman Empire, to the point that multiple countries claim it as their own: the confection is often marketed as ‘Greek Delight’ in Greece and ‘Cyprus Delight’ in Cyprus. It’s not usually marketed as ‘Turkish Delight’ in Turkey itself; instead it’s usually called Lokum of Lokma. Both words derive from the Arabic word luqma (pl. luqūm), meaning ‘mouthful’ or ‘morsel.’ Another Turkish name for the sweet is Rahat-ul Hulküm, which is also derived from an Arabic phrase: Rāḥat al-Hulqūm (‘comfort of the throat.’) In surrounding countries it tends to be known as either Rahat or Lokum, while in Iran, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Israel and Romania, its name is amalgamated into varieties of Rahat-Lokum, which means ‘comfort morsel.’

There are various Turkish legends surrounding Lokum‘s origins. These generally involve the Sultan, his confectioners and his harem. According to one story, the Sultan believed the way to a woman’s heart was through her stomach, so he encouraged his confectioners to prepare intricate foods and sweets for him to please his mistresses with. They thus invented Lokum for him, which was an instant hit with the Sultan and his harem. A similar story suggests the Sultan’s confectioners were in fierce competition for his favour, and that one day the Sultan ordered them to each invent a new dessert for himself and his harem. One invented Lokum, and when the Sultan sampled it he was so pleased that he appointed the man chief confectioner on the spot.

The Arabic origins of its various names suggest Lokum has Arab roots. It’s perhaps inspired by old Arab sweets, sold by apothecaries for the alleviation of symptoms of a sore throat or cough- these date back as far as the 9th century. A version of these sweets may have been brought to Istanbul from Arab lands when the Ottoman empire was at its height, and its territories stretched from the Maghreb to Western Asia. Lokum may also be inspired by ancient Persian sweets eaten at Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which also contain copious amounts of sugar and are solidified with starch.

The modern form of Lokum is attributed to an 18th century confectioner, Bekir Effendi. Effendi hailed from Araç, a town in Kastamonu Province in northern Anatolia. In 1777 he relocated his confectionery business to the Ottoman capital, Istanbul, and in doing so introduced his Lokum sweets to the city’s population. Effendi’s particular recipe for Lokum incorporated cornstarch as a firming agent. His Lokum became so popular that they eventually reached the table of the Sultan, Mahmud II, who enjoyed them so much that he appointed Effendi his chief confectioner. Effendi’s shop, Haci Beki, now 240 years old and run by his great great granddaughter, still does a roaring trade in Lokum, and also sells Halva, hard sweets, pastries and nut pastes.

Istanbul
Ben Morlok, Istanbul panorama and skyline, 2012 <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Istanbul_panorama_and_skyline.jpg > [accessed 24/05/2020] (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en)

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