Turkish Delight – patience required

Turkish delight is quite the opposite of some of the other recipes I have made, which have a vaguely healthy tone. There is nothing healthy about this. It consists predominantly of cornflour paste and syrup. The only healthy thing about it is that your arms may get stronger with the constant stirring you have to do (see recipe below). If you are impatient, like me, it might also help you learn to garner some patience and just take…. your….. time…

I, however, have seen no healthy benefits at all. My first attempt was a disaster. I wasn’t patient enough with mixing together the cornflour paste and the syrup and, as with my usual attempts at custard, it ended up in a lumpy mess. I therefore didn’t even get to the arm strengthening mixing stage. My second attempt was better. My boyfriend, Ian, who has siginificantly more patience than me, did the combining and the mixing. I watched and took the role of official taster. There was therefore no patience development or arm stengthening for me – just sugar and cornflour eating.

Here is the recipe I used anyway. Dating back to the 15th century, this is a true sweet classic.


125g cornflour plus a little extra
650ml cold water
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tbsp natural essence of rose water
1tbsp grenadine
500g white sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
Icing sugar

Grease and line a baking tin approx 24x15cm and then dust lavishly with sifted cornflour.

Place the sifted cornflour, 150ml of the cold water and the cream of tartar in a mixing bowl. Stir the dry, pastey mixture until smooth. Add the water gradually to avoid any lumps.

Place the remaining 400ml water, white sugar and lemon juice in a spacious, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir with a wooden spoon over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon juice and continue stirring as the liquid simmers and turns from cloudy to clear. Stir the cornflour again until smooth, then stir in a couple of spoonfuls of the syrup before VERY carefully adding to the sugar syrup (add it gradually, not all at once or it’s likely to go lumpy).

Stir the ungainly mixture constantly, working in a figure of eight and going round the sides to keep the liquid on the move until very thick. If it begins to form jelly-like globules, lower the heat and stir more assiduously until they disappear. Add the rose water and grenadine.

Continue until the mixture turns glossy and so thick that it won’t run off the spoon – this arm-aching job will take at least 35 minutes, probably longer. To check for setting, drop a little mixture on a saucer for a minute or so. If it sets hard, the mixture is ready. Pour into the tin and leave to set (0vernight is best). Dust a sharp, thin knife with cornflour. Spread a layer of icing sugar on a work surface, turn out the Turkish delight, gently slice the soft block into about 40 pieces and roll through the sugar.

Store in a cool dry place (not the fridge). Make sure the storage container is NOT airtight. Turkish delight will sweat if it’s put in an airtight container and will just end up as a liquidy gooey mess – not really what you want after all that effort!