It has been a peculiar summer for me. Some extreme highs where wonderful things have happened, and some lows where things that I have wanted have felt just out of my reach. I needed to take a little time out from everything and rest my head for a while, while I figured things out. What I do next, what I can do and what I want to do.
I, of course, love what I do and at times this is a problem. I jump from idea to idea and project to project, taking on too much and wanting to do everything all of the time, exhausting myself in the process. So, it was time to focus and make decisions.
In the meantime, I have found myself craving the food that I cooked and loved in my childhood. Seeking a little balance and reconnecting to the person that I was before and, of course, that I still am. This has coincided with an enormous spring clean where I have rediscovered so many things that I had forgotten about. All in the process of attempting to let the whole lot go. It has been a curious time.
I have unusually wanted lots of sweet things like lemon meringue pie, swiss roll and chocolate éclairs, staples of my childhood cooking repertoire. Savoury things like shepherd’s pie (which I have been playing around with lots) and quiche. One thing I really wanted to make was Turkish delight, and to make it in the microwave too.
Odd? Well, not as odd as you would think. When I was a wee ‘un, my mother was gifted with an enormous microwave, which seemed like the most amazing thing in the world to me. She used to buy me Microwave Know How weekly, a crazy little magazine which I would devour, and make the most improbable and sickly sweet microwave meringues and Turkish delight too.
The memories of this always made me giggle, and then a couple of years ago, I spied the most fantastic piece from food writer extraordinaire Harold McGee, extolling the virtues of microwave Turkish delight in The New York Times. It has always been at the back of my mind that I should make it, and with my flatmate about to move out and possibly the microwave too, I thought that I should rediscover my childhood joy and do it.
It was fun to do it again, and with great results, although it is a bit fiddly. I adapted the recipe, instead of making Harold’s saffron version, I made mine with gooseberry and elderflower, making a compote first.
I grew up eating lots of gooseberries straight off the bush in my aunt’s garden and also in an abandoned fruit orchard up the road. Their sourness suits my palate well and they are great as a sweet and savoury ingredient. For me they are always summer, wandering around aimless as a child with a full endless day, plucking them randomly from sour to super sweet and ready to burst on the bush. They bring back many fond memories.
They are perfect for this Turkish delight as they cut deliciously through the intense sweetness. If you haven’t had them – and from twitter it seems like a lot of you haven’t – seek them out.
Note on the recipe: as it is a US recipe, it was in cups. I have translated to metric for you and included the original cup measurements too.
Recipe adapted from Harold McGee at The New York Times.
Recipe: Gooseberry & Elderflower Turkish Delight
3/4 cups + 1/2 cup / 115g + 75g cornflour, plus more for dusting
3 cups / 600g sugar
1/4 cup / 60ml golden syrup
juice of half a lemon
Cooking oil, for greasing pan
1/2 cup / 50g icing sugar
200g green gooseberries, topped and tailed
2 tbsp elderflower cordial (mine was homemade but you can buy it too)
First, make your compote by topping, tailing and halving the gooseberries, then stewing with a couple of tablespoons of water until they burst. Add the elderflower and taste – you may want to add more depending on how strong your cordial is. Pass the mixture through a sieve so that you only leave the skins and seeds behind, leaving a lovely puree in the bowl.
Pour the water into a glass bowl. Slowly whisk in the 115g cornflour until smooth. Transfer to the microwave and cook on high power for 2 minutes. Carefully remove and stir with a heat-resistant spatula. Return to the microwave and heat for 1 minute at a time, stirring between until the mixture thickens, bubbles and becomes translucent, about 5 to 6 minutes. Then heat on half power for 3 minutes.
Mix in the sugar and golden syrup. Heat on high power for 5 minutes. Stir and repeat, then stir and repeat again. After the last time, stir in the lemon juice and the elderflower and gooseberry compote.
Continue to heat on high power for 3-minute periods, stirring in between, until a little syrup scraped onto the edge of a cold plate quickly sets to a tacky solid, from 12 to 21 minutes.
Grease an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with cooking oil and scrape
and spread the mixture into it. Allow to rest, uncovered, until it is firm enough to handle, several hours or overnight.
Dust the top with cornflour. Invert onto a small cutting board, using a spatula if needed, and dust the other side with cornflour. Transfer the board to the freezer for 30 minutes.
Cut into 3/4-inch squares with scissors or a knife.
Combine the remaining 75g cornflour and the icing sugar, and toss the squares in it. Store the Turkish delight in this mixture in a wide, shallow container.