Foods From Fiction: Turkish Delight & Raspberry Cordial

by Emily Weiss and Katie Heaney

After our last post about fictional foods and the lively discussion that followed in the comments (we MUST read these Redwall books), a very nice editor from Penguin emailed and told us about this very charming book they published in 2010 on the very subject of fanciful foods from literature.

Among the many adorable recipes and games the book provided, we found a recipe for Turkish Delight and another for Raspberry Cordial, and decided to set about making our youthful food-related dreams come true. Except that Turkish Delight is, as it turns out, a radioactive rose-flavored nightmare.

Katie: I generally don’t cook anything with more than three components, so it was lucky that Emily is basically a professional chef (i.e. someone who has a spice rack) and had 98% of the necessary ingredients already. I supplied an 8 x 8 pan, raspberries, and food coloring.

Emily: Yes, it’s true that I had more than one jar of Cream of Tartar, but that is one of those things you need so infrequently that it’s hard to remember if you really do have it. Then you go shopping for stuff to make Snickerdoodles and decide to just buy the extra jar so you aren’t S.O.L. in terms of C.O.T., which would be SO EMBARRASSING. I really just wanted an excuse to use my new Babushka measuring cups:


Katie: First we’re going to talk about the raspberry cordial, because it was much easier to prepare. At least it seemed easier. I didn’t really touch it, I took a hands-off approach with the cordial. As you will come to see, my hands were full with a pot full of beeswax masquerading as Turkish Delight.

Emily: The cordial was essentially raspberries steeped in simple syrup and then strained through a cheesecloth (or potato ricer in our case, because I was fresh out of cheesecloth. Again, so embarrassing), so as to remove all the pesky seeds. Then you are supposed to cool the syrup and add it to seltzer water. We were on a schedule, so we drank it kind of… tepid. But it was, as Diana Barry would say, “awfully nice.”

Cordial-drinking ladies. You can’t tell really but please note that my (Katie’s) nails are GALAXY NAILS.

Katie: Maybe it was because we tried it after the Turkish Delight, but the raspberry cordial was GOOD. Too warm? Yes. Too sweet? Yes. But it reminded me of other things I’ve appreciated having in my mouth, food-wise, which is more than I can say for the Delight. This isn’t sanctioned by the book, but Emily and I feel that a little vodka mixed in with the cordial and seltzer would go a long way. Or maybe just a glass of vodka with a splash of seltzer and cordial. Or just a glass of vodka with some cordial off to the side, for the pleasing color. Who knows!

Katie: So, Turkish Delight. This process generally involves boiling two separate pans of various forms of sugar and then throwing them together, which you would think would be awesome. I had reign over the pan of cornstarch, cream of tartar, and water (above), which Emily aptly described as “looking like something a food stylist would use to represent mashed potatoes.” It was also a little like Oobleck, and impossible to stir.

Emily: It’s true. I started to feel a little bad for inviting Katie over and making her do cooking-related circuit training. I had the task of making the looser of the two sugar concoctions, which Katie kept telling me I had to get to something called “soft-ball stage” and which I kept imagining as “softball stage” as in, “stir until mixture forms one large softball-sized ball” which never happened.

Katie: We got a little bit frantic about the soft-ball stage (would we ever get there? Had we missed it somehow? WHERE WERE THE SOFT BALLS?!), so we went ahead and poured the syrup into the slime pot and stirred it together anyway, and boy was that gross.

Emily: Once combined, this mixture popped and oozed and made gasping, geyser-type noises not unlike ones that came from the Bog of Eternal Stench from Labyrinth.

Katie: Yeah, it was…angry. Right about then, I noticed that there was a fairly important recipe direction that I had overlooked: the one that read “Allow to stand overnight at room temperature.” Though we briefly contemplated a raspberry cordial-fueled sleepover, we decided we’d improvise and throw the pan into the freezer. It turns out that as far as Turkish Delight goes, 10 minutes in a freezer will neither substantially improve nor worsen the thing you’ve decided to eat for unknown reasons. It will be harder, but only barely.

Emily: At this point, before we flavored it with rosewater (the recipe says!), we decided we should probably take a taste of this mixture. “Looks almost exactly like Vaseline,” I said. “Or some sort of homemade hair product,” said Katie. It smelled vaguely of corn, which was puzzling. Katie declared that it tasted better than it looked, though that wasn’t saying much. I thought it tasted kind of like nothingness and that cleanup was going to be a real bitch-a-rooney-dooney.

Too much! Too much!

Katie: I was the designated food-color-adder, and I took to my job with zeal. Too much, actually. Emily told me I could stop, but I couldn’t. I wanted to make sure it was red enough. Food coloring never looks like anything, but then you mix it. And then our Turkish Delight glowed, like the sickly evil gelatinous poison that it was. Then Emily threw in the rosewater, to add a nice grandmotherly soap twist, and we were “done.”

Emily: It said to finish with powdered sugar which seemed like a good idea, presentation-wise, but totally unnecessary sweets-wise. Edmund must have had to get serious dental work done.

Weiss and Heaney give it two red-stained thumbs down.

Katie: I hate it. I hate it so much. The amount I bit off couldn’t have been any bigger than a fingernail, but it was potent. It tasted like corn plus rose plus sugar. Rosecorn is a flavor that should not be aspired to. Plus, it was strangely and mysteriously heavy. This is another recipe note that I overlooked: the 8 x 8 batch you end up with weighs three pounds. To be honest, it felt like more — heavier than my five-pound lady weights, for sure. I sort of wanted a picture of us eating it, but neither of us could bring ourselves to put it in our mouths again.

Emily: For a minute I considered bringing in the remainder of the bars to work, but I have a reputation to uphold. Instead, I just left the plate on my dining room table and didn’t budge it even an inch for close to a week. It remained unchanged and unamused.

Objects in picture may be heavier than they appear, ha, ha.

In summary:

Things Turkish Delight Looks Like:

– Vaseline

– Lush bath bar

– A human being’s insides

– A lemon bar injected with blood

Things Turkish Delight Doesn’t Look Like:

– Food

Things To Do With Turkish Delight Instead Of Eating It:

– Build a bomb, maybe (?)

– Home insulation

– Put it in your hair, see what happens

– Throw it at the house of someone you dislike

Ways Turkish Delight Should Make You Feel, But Doesn’t

Like a previously-mummified princess being breathed back to life in the desert.

Should a queen ever offer you any of this stuff, don’t take it. Don’t leave your family for it. They will never forgive you, and you will never forgive yourself.

None of this is to knock the recipe, which might be magically 1,000 times better if only kept overnight (though we doubt it), or the book, which is adorable and full of other great and surely tastier recipes. Next time we think we might pick something safer, like a nice chocolate cake.

Emily Weiss and Katie Heaney want to thank Penguin Books for their generous gift and David McCrindle for documenting our experience in photos.