At the weekend I went to join in the fun that was Med Fest at West Dean. It was the first time for this event and is a celebration of all that is Mediterranean. There was a lot of food of course and music. West Dean is very local to me and is shorthand for West Dean College and Gardens. A large Edwardian mansion converted into a college which runs not only foundation courses in restoration and tapestry but many short courses on all manner of arts and crafts in a beautiful setting nestling in the South Downs.
Med Fest was held in the grounds and in between the many delightful cookery demonstrations, there was a demonstration on how to make Turkish Delight. Who would have thought? The herbalist Steve Taylor, who gave the demonstration brought along a typical copper distiller which is used throughout homes in the Middle East to extract oils and essences from all manner of herbs and flowers by passing steam through them. So the steam teases out from the rose petals their essence miraculously and carries it through the droplets to end up as rosewater or orange blossom into orange water etc.etc.
One of the many Greek myths around the creation of roses, Steve told us, is that Aphrodite or Venus, wept over the wounds her lover Adonis suffered and her tears mingled with his blood and created the red rose. This is where the connection between red roses and love stems, if you’ll excuse the pun. The best roses grow in high altitudes he told us, and the mountainous regions of Troodos area in Cyprus for example do indeed, yield very good roses. What has all this to do with Turkish Delight you might ask? well this little morsel of delight is made up simply by mixing a sugar syrup together with cornflour and water and adding rosewater. The little cubes of this refreshing sweet, which we were offered to us at the end of the demo. known in Cyprus as loukoumia, were the lightest and most delicious morsels I have ever tasted. These can often be offered at the end of a meal with coffee, the stickiness lines the oesophagus and the rosewater calms and soothes to aid digestion.
Now, when I get that sugar thermometer, I’m going to try making some of my own delight right here in my English kitchen.