LIFE MADE SWEETER
The work of an expert Turkish delight-maker is garnering a following at a new Auckland eatery.
While the thick gelatinous lumps often left in the bottom of a box of assorted chocolates may deter some from ever seeking out proper Turkish delight, a new Auckland eatery is set to rebrand the traditional Middle Eastern treat as something to be celebrated.
It may even end up with a new name - or two. "I don't know why people only say 'Turkish delight'. I call it Greek delight or, in Greece, we call it loukoumi," says Denada Becoku, as she regards her latest batch of the silky soft, delicately flavoured sweet, sitting under its dusting of snowy icing sugar on the low marble counter where she works.
Nada is the confectionery chef at Bodrum Kitchen, a newly opened eatery in The Brickworks dining lane of Auckland's LynnMall. Wanting every element of his restaurant to be authentic, co-owner Alex Isik was averse to the idea of importing Turkish delight.
Instead, he spread the word about his dream of hiring an expert maker of loukoumi to work in his kitchen. He got in touch with Nada through a mutual friend. Nada had run a business with her husband in Greece, where they made 200 kilograms of it each day.
Traditional loukoumi is made from a gel of sugar and starch, sometimes with chopped nuts added, and flavourings such as rosewater, orange or lemon. It's believed to have its roots in the Ottoman Empire and remains popular in the Middle East, but is also made in parts of Europe, including Greece.
Customers can watch Nada prepare her piles of tempting loukoumi at the marble counter that Alex designed especially as a "sweet factory". The key to her recipe is its simplicity: free of gelatine, little more goes into her mixture than sugar, cornflour, water and flavouring (the one sitting before us is filled with nuggets of chopped hazelnut).
She says the trickiest part of the process is the continual stirring to avoid burning the dough and notes it's important to keep an eye on the consistency, as it's easy for it to become too dense or too gooey, making it difficult to cut.