Monday, 21 April 2008

Passover goodies: tiny Turkish treats

Last night Eco Sis and Eco Bro hosted our family Passover meal. We had a really good time – they’d gone to loads of effort, the food was lovely, and the festivities were fun. I’m actually going to save most of the details for my next post, when I will also write about the headline dessert (which got a lot of thumbs up, especially from Eco Sis), as I want to get this one in in time for Phe/MOM/enon’s Blogging for Babies event in aid of March of Dimes. This is an American fund-raiser for research into care for premature babies (details are at the bottom), and there are several reasons why I particularly want to log my support of it. But first, some background.

As I said in my last post, Passover is all about celebrating the escape of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. There’s actually quite a lot of messy retribution and smiting on both sides in the story as we noted last night (most of it gets skimmed over when you’re a child!), but the main focus is on the idea of freedom. Eco Sis had some really thoughtful readings on the subject from Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, which made me feel as though I’d been rather flippant about the whole thing. She also got each of her guests to draw a picture of an object that symbolised freedom to them. The Scientist drew a ‘www.’ symbol, and Eco Sis drew a picture of Eco Bro’s internet-capable phone. They were both getting at how technology has given us freedom of information, and I take their point entirely, but it got me thinking about other ways that technology has improved our basic freedoms, of which one of the most important would seem to be the improvement of the chance of survival at all.

So that’s what led me to thinking of the March of Dimes and Blogging for Babies. I’d seen the event advertised a few weeks ago, but hadn’t been sure what to make (it just has to be something mini), and also I feel a bit weird about plunging into a lot of charity ‘events’ when you’re not actually contributing anything worthwhile to fundraising. I try to save up just the ones which are most personal to me, and this one is for two reasons.

Firstly, Munchkin Gramps has spent his whole working life (and he will flare his nostrils and deny it but it’s true) working to push back the boundaries at which premature babies can survive. The survival outcomes for tiny babies are now much much better than they were when I was born (at term in my case, I’m happy to add) but there are still a lot of very sad and sensitive issues around their quality of life. The second reason this subject means a lot to me is that one of my very best friends, whose name has appeared on this blog in the past, had to have her baby delivered by emergency caesarean at 27 weeks when she developed pre-eclampsia. Thankfully both she and the little one were ok, and he is now a bonny, bright and beautiful two and a half year old (and my birthday buddy, thanks to his unexpectedly early arrival). But I know that she and her partner went through a pretty horrible time before they knew that. So, like the Livestrong yellow food event, I feel that it’s one that’s worth a bit of extra publicity.

Happily, after all this introspection, one of my dessert offerings for the Passover meal last night fit the bill perfectly: Turkish delights. They’ve been on my list of things I’d like to make for ages, and I gave them a go over the weekend. Truly they harness the magic of science (sorry Scientist – I imagine that sentence is anathema to you!). I used a no-gelatin recipe though I’d like to a try a veggie-gelatin one another time just for comparison, and the only hard thing about it was that my jam thermometer catapulted itself out of the saucepan half way through the procedure and broke so I had to guess the temperatures. Luckily (since making sweets is one of those things where reaching the right temperature is pretty crucial), the recipe I was using said about how long to expect it to take, and it worked fine.

I’d done some web-surfing (of course) and found a recipe on another blog I like to read, Gastronomy Domine. Liz had made two flavours, but I halved the total and just made a rose batch (I’ve gone a bit mad with the rose theme since my friend T named her new baby Rose, and had bought some rose syrup which was waiting for an outing). It’s basically a sugar syrup boiled up to the soft ball stage, and a separate cornflour-water mixture which you simmer to an attractive grey glue, and then mix. You heat the mixture for about an hour, flavour and colour it, and chill it. Then you cut and sugar it, and hey presto: you have created beautifully glistening wobbly little gems of Turkish Delight. I was as proud as punch over how it turned out just because it seemed so entirely magical to have created it from scratch. I take no credit – it’s all down to the clever little molecules doing their thing. Anyway, I took them off to Eco Sis’s and everyone loved them. That set the seal on entering them for this event, so I’m sending them off as my sugary ambassadors to Blogging for Babies.

As to the other symbols of freedom – we had a money sign, a brain, some mountains, and the best – a bed, for the freedom to lay down your head wherever you need to.

Rose Turkish Delight (based on a recipe from Gastronomy Domine)

Makes about 40 pieces

2 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups water
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 cup cornflour
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar (Liz helpfully says this is there to stop the mixture from crystalising)
1 tablespoon essence of rose water (I used rose syrup which I assume is thicker, so I just put in a few squirts)
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/8 cup extra cornflour

Firstly boil the sugar with the lime juice and 1 1/4 cups of water. Remove from the heat when it reaches the soft ball stage (115C).

While you are doing this, combine the cream of tartar and 1/2 cup of cornflour with 1 1/2 cups of cold water. (Liz says using cold water should prevent lumps.) Mix well and bring up to a simmer, stirring all the time. Continue stirring at a simmer until the mixture has made a thick, gluey paste. This happens very quickly. Stir the sugar syrup into this paste. It went a bit lumpy but I stirred it vigorously and it smoothed out. Liz advises pushing the mixture through a sieve back into the pan if it stays lumpy.

Simmer the sugar and cornflour mixture, stirring every few minutes, until it's a golden-honey colour and about 120C (this is where Liz's instructions came into their own as my thermometer had gone kamikaze by this stage: it will take about an hour). Pour the mixture into a tray lined with oiled cling film. Add a tablespoon of rose water and a few drops of pink food colouring to one and stir. Cover and chill for a few hours until set.

When you come back to it it will be a quivering mass of Turkish Delight. I lifted it out of the tray still on its cling film, but needed to coat the knife in a mixture of icing sugar and cornflour (in the ingredients) so that it would cut rather than stick. Cut into squares, and roll them in the sugar/cornflour mix. Smile at the wonders of science before stuffing your face. Oh no, I meant taking them as a gift to your lovely sister.

Want to know more about Little Wonders March for Babies Team? Fantastic!! Here is the Team Page. Any amount that you can sponsor is extremely appreciated. Please, please help spread the word and sponsor Little Wonders if you can! Thank you!


Tracy said...

Aww, your birthday buddy sends his love and gratitude! But it's really not fair that we can't taste these lovely treats. Maybe next time?

PheMom said...

Thanks again so much for participating. I love that you made Turkish Delight. I love all the Narnia books and have always wondered what it actually is. Now I have a recipe to try too!

LisaRene said...

What a fun and smart family you have!

Your tiny Turkish treats are very appropriate for a March of Dimes event. I had initially wondered about the charity blogging events and if the participating bloggers sent in monetary donations. I suspect it all comes down to bringing awareness to the cause and as your pointed out, publicity is a good thing.

Glad your Turkish delights were a success! Looking forward to dessert number 3!

Lysy said...

Tracy: absolutely next time! I will make them galore for next time I see you!

I really wanted to write about the Narnia connection in my post but was worried I'd wittered on a bit long already! It's probably why it seems like such a magical sort of thing to make though, and so evilly tempting. I would urge you to try the recipe - it's much easier than I'd imagined.

Lisa: I feel the same about not actually giving money, though any publicity is good. I do intend to make a donation as well - there, I've put it here, now I have to remember!

Barbara said...

You had my vote even before I saw the shout out for LiveSTRONG Day. Thanks. I love Turkish Delight.