After studying Byzantium history at Cambridge, the author Jason Goodwin contributed to our knowledge of the past, especially the East, with his book, ‘The Gunpowder Gardens or A Time For Tea: Travels in China and India in Search of Tea’. For this book, he used family history of China and India to reflect on the past with regards to tea. ‘On Foot to the Golden Horn’ is the results of his travel, on foot, walking to Istanbul from Poland; this won the John Llewellyn Rhys/Mail on Sunday Prize in 1993. Following this, he published ‘Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire’. His fascination with the Ottomans has continued with a series of historical mysteries based in Istanbul, and a Turkish cookery book. the recipes in the book come from his Detective Yashim novels. Inspector Yashim is a eunuch living in Istanbul. Set in the latter years of the Ottoman Empire, 1830’s -1840s; the books are a delight, introducing the reader to Istanbul of that period with interesting plots imbued with authenticity and recipes. The newly published ‘Yashim Cooks Istanbul’ is not just an ordinary cookbook. Its recipes are a reflection of the wonderful rich cuisine of the Ottomans; that, if you look, can still be found in Istanbul. The book also contains extracts from the novels and is beautifully illustrated with early photographs and scenes reminiscent of that period. Both the series and this unusual Turkish cookery book are highly recommended reading.
Turkey is a country with a long gastronomic history; it’s unique traditions reflect their cultural heritage. As part of the Silk route for many years, and it’s position juxtaposed between Europe and the East, many of the Turkish food traditions centres around being sociable to the many travellers that have passed through. Turks are very social people, welcoming family and strangers alike to share their food. Mealtimes are typically fun, noisy, with food aplenty. Turkey is a vast country with many Turkish food traditions special to a particular area. You will find many a Turk will wax lyrical about ‘Balik Ek MEK’ (fish sandwich bought In Eminonu) Istanbul or Kahramanmaras (ice-cream made in the traditional way). The making and serving of Turkish coffee is a fine art, with a long history back to the Ottoman times. Turkish girls still serve Turkish coffee to potential mothers in law, but there is not as much pressure as there used to be earlier, for it being perfect! Turkish food in the UK is traditionally linked to kebabs and doners, and while these are wonderful, Turkish cuisine is so much more. A Turkish Cypriot chef brings modern culinary arts to traditional cuisine in London, mixing favourites with traditional dishes. Here you can find the ‘ocakbasi’ concept, an indoor BBQ where people can sit and watch their food being cooked. Popular all over Turkey they again epitomise the social aspect of eating. Turkish food offers much to a discerning foodie so if you have not tried anything other than a kebab you are in for a very pleasant surprise.