[Sca-cooks] Dinner in the Topkapi Serai

Lilinah lilinah at earthlink.net
Sun Nov 11 13:40:57 PST 2007

Last night i - with the help of three other cooks - prepared a feast 
for Mists Fall Investiture. It was a meal of dishes from the late 
15th C. Ottoman cookbook written by Shirvani, as well as a few 
recipes i reconstructed - dishes featured in late 15th and in 16th C. 
menus, and some described by Europeans who ate in the Topkapi.

I had intended to do some prep work a few weeks ago, but had a bout 
of... mmm... intestinal distress... and i did not want to be handling 
ground meat that i would be serving to others.

Therefore, we started at a disadvantage, spending several hours 
making things i'd meant to make in advance.

We did manage to get the feast out pretty much on time - the first 
dishes went out about 10 or 15 minutes late. And there were some 
server issues in the second course that delayed the service of food 
that was just sitting there waiting to be served.

Additionally, the weather turned pretty bad yesterday, so while about 
72 tickets had been pre-sold (that limit was 60, but i approved an 
additional 66, plus the High Table), we only served about 48 diners 
plus High Table, which meant i had a lot of extra food.

However, despite these disadvantages i got the impression the feast 
was well received.

One of the dishes called for gourds, and i used a type of Old World 
gourd. It had an Asian name in the market - opo - but it looked just 
like the gourds in the pictures in the Tacuinum Sanitatis. They were 
a medium-light green with a smooth surface and of varying shapes. 
None of us had eaten one before. So we passed around little sliced of 
the raw vegetable. It was clearly related to cucumbers, but not wet 
like them, and with a milder flavor.

I purchased all the lamb and chicken from a local halal butcher.

Here's the menu - some dishes may seem familiar because of 
discussions on this list:

A 16th Century Dinner in the Topkapi Serai

---== FIRST COURSE ==---

Terbiyeli Tavuk Chorbasi (Egg-Lemon Chicken Soup)
Organic chicken broth, wheat pasta (orzo), organic lemon juice, eggs, salt.
-- in feast menus throughout the 16th C
-- reconstructed based on descriptions

Kadin Tuzlugu Chorbasi (Sweet-and-Sour Meatball and Fruit Soup)
Lamb, honey, onions, apples, almonds, grapes, apricots, barberries, 
salt, cloves, rosewater
-- served in the feasts of the circumcision ceremonies of 1539
-- from the recipe by Shirvani

Manti (Meat-filled Dumplings in Yogurt Sauce)
Filling: Lamb, chickpeas, wine vinegar, cinnamon, salt, pepper;
Purchased Wonton wrappers: wheat flour, egg, salt;
Sauce: yogurt, sumac, garlic
-- served to Mehmed II in 1469 and in the palace in autumn in the 16th C
-- from the recipe by Shirvani

---== SECOND COURSE ==---

Bread - wheat flour,

Cucumber Pickle - Cucumbers, wine vinegar, salt
-- mentioned in feast menus

Rose Jam - Rose petals, water, sugar
-- mentioned in feast menus

Bulghur with Chestnuts
Bulghur wheat, onions, chestnuts, vegetable broth, butter, salt, pepper, ginger
-- served to Sultan Mehmed II in 1469 and in the palace in the 16th C.
-- reconstructed based on descriptions

Four Colors of Rice
All: rice, butter; Yellow - saffron; Green - spinach; Red - 
pomegranate molasses & pekmez (grape molasses)
-- mentioned in 16th C feast menus along with the coloring agents
-- reconstructed based on descriptions

Kachkul-i Kabak (Spiced gourds)
Gourds, chickpeas, onions, carrots, sugar, parsley, oil, salt, 
cinnamon, ginger, cloves, pepper
-- from the recipe by Shirvani

Mahmudiyye ("Mahmud's dish" - chicken with fruit and noodles)
Chicken, salt, honey, almonds, apricots, grapes, fine wheat noodles, butter
-- in winters menus at Topkapi, as well as in feast menus of the 
festivals of 1539
-- from the recipe by Shirvani

Merserem (lamb with greens and yogurt)
Lamb, chickpeas, chard, onion, yogurt, butter, mint, parsley, garlic greens
-- from the recipe by Shirvani

Sour Cherry Syrup Beverage
Mulberry Syrup Beverage

---== DESSERT COURSE ==---

Helwa-i Sabuni
Corn starch (I was unable to find wheat starch), honey, almonds, sesame oil
-- in feast menus in the 15th and 16th C.; many varieties: white, 
red, yellow, green, with tamarind
-- from the recipe by Shirvani

Sheker Burek (Baked Almond-Topped Pastries)
Flour, almonds, cane sugar, butter, rose water, yeast, saffron
-- Mentioned in the "Danichmendname" (an epic poem), palace accounts 
of 1490, and the feasts of the circumcision ceremonies of 1539.
-- from Shirvani's translation of al-Baghdadi

Senbuse Mukellele ("Crowned Triangles" - Fried Almond-Filled Pastries)
Almonds, cane sugar, purchased phyllo dough, rose water, cinnamon, butter
-- mentioned in "Nazmut-tebayi" (an early 15th C. medical work), 
served at two religious ceremonies in 1556, and in feasts of the 
circumcision ceremonies of 1582
-- from the recipe by Shirvani

Muhallebi (Delicate Rice Flour Pudding)
Milk, cane sugar, rice flour, butter, rose water, cinnamon, salt
-- served to Mehmed II, in the feasts of circumcision ceremonies, in the palace
-- from the recipe by Shirvani

Zerde ("Yellow"- a rice pudding)
Rice, water, cane sugar, almonds, pistachios, butter, saffron
-- served in public soup kitchens/alms houses on special occasions, 
during the public feasts for the celebrations of 1539, and in winter 
in the palace
-- from a 17th C. Moghul recipe

Coffee - Peet's Italian Roast
-- a popular beverage in Constantinople beginning in the mid-16th C. 
prepared Turkish style
Served with rough brown sugar cubes on the side

Urtatim (that's err-tah-TEEM)
the persona formerly known as Anahita

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