Week 7: Turkish Delight, or, how sweets made my fingers bleed

I have blisters on my fingers. I have blisters on my fingers from making sweets. I’ve also just started using twitter, so to get into the spirit here goes an attempt at a witty ironic hashtag: #firstworldproblem. (oh god. such hashtagging makes me feel immediately uncomfortable, for its capitulation to the lure of social networking, and for its dubious politics of condescension. I go straight to good old Guardian comment is free to recover.)

To make turkish delight you put an overwhelming assortment of very sweet ingredients into a saucepan and heat over a hot stove until you find yourself wading (metaphorically…sort of) through what resembles a bubbling grey gluey cement. Or the hot sulphurous mud I once bathed in as a salutary novelty on a family holiday to, fittingly, Turkey.

“Stir for forty minutes without interruption in the same direction,” the recipe (from Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra’s Sugar and Spice) states. “Do you think you can do that?” my girlfriend asks me with a look of skepticism on her face (and the knowledge that it is just a matter of time before she is frantically called on to take over the stirring). “No problem,” I say with a cute smile and a decisive head nod.

It takes just fifteen minutes before, sweating with aching arms and paranoid about any warned-against interruption to the stirring process, I cajole her into taking over for me, “just for a minute”. I take over again and only Alastair Cooke’s Letters from America on a podcast on my iPhone can distract me from the torture. Forty minutes of stirring bubbling cement with a wooden spatula takes its toll and the blisters are still present when I bring the pistachio-filled, coconut covered delights to the PhD study room for tasting a few days later (in the time it takes to attend a workshop on Herbert Marcuse, they’re all gone. Good sign. Worth the effort? My fingers say no. Still, someone suggests I can tell my supervisor my hands are red from writing so hard and long, and they might just be on to something – baking turkish delight, baklava and three loaves of bread in a weekend has got to produce something that gets me kudos in a supervision beyond the likely stupefied and vaguely disapproving “you made that?”).

Turkish delight has marked only the first of our weekends’ baking relay races: cooking for my parents’ visit to the pad two days later I have decided to make meringues. When I remember that the electric whisk is lying dormant in Small House #1, I refuse to give up on the promise of meringues topped with cinnamon, raspberries and dark chocolate (another from Nigel Slater’s Dish of the Day) and there we go, taking it in turns to whisk egg whites and sugar by hand. “I’m doing what Jamie Oliver recommends”, I say to begin with, “alternating between my upper and forearms so I don’t ever get tired.” Five minutes later both my upper and my forearms are shot and our now-team-building meringue-making mission resembles a personal training session as each of us manages “just one more” rep of the taskmastering whisk and all I want is to get back to my computer to do some ache-free typing. #procrastinationforthewin.

Leave a comment


  1. Love Baclava Clara but no coconut on my Turkish Delight please!!! Don’t forget to let me have some Xmas suggestions. Hope blisters are healing


  2. Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra

     /  November 22, 2012

    I just read this with a smile and simply had to respond. So glad you persevered – and thank you for not holding the blisters against me 🙂 Now that you’ve made just about the most difficult recipe in the book – and with such success – the rest should be plain sailing. Hope you enjoy. And I hope the blisters are healing well.

    • Gaitri, wow, how flattering to have you read my blog! I simply love your book. It’s a pleasure from start to finish, from reading the introduction in bed to browsing through the pages and choosing sweet treats to make for christmas presents for my friends and family. I made the rose and cardamom biscuits last week – yum. Thank you so much, and please do keep reading!

      • Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra

         /  November 22, 2012

        So glad you’re enjoying Sugar and Spice. Those biscuits are one of my (many) favourites too 😉 Looking forward to reading more about your adventures in the kitchen with the tiny oven!

  3. I clicked this link looking for Turkish delight recipe as I got curious by its mention in the Chronicles of Narnia. Yea strange people end up on your blog 🙂 However, I was amused by this sweet post about nothing in particular. I have to say this made me smile. And hence I had to comment. Now, here I go ransacking your blog.

    • You should really try Gaitri’s book – it’s beautiful, and the turkish delight recipe doesn’t use any gelatine which makes its texture much more like the real thing.


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