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How to Eat Like Turkish Royalty

Channon Mondoux, food historian; at right, she demonstrates a recipe with an interesting past. (Bonnie Benwick -- The Washington Post)

What did you eat last night: leftover brisket? A cuisine that is Lean?
I had 16th-century Turkish.

The venue was the cooking demo room at Sur La Table in Pentagon Row, not Topkapi Palace. But chef Channon Mondoux’s dishes were transporting nonetheless. The Michigan food historian and personal chef was invited to be part of the festivities involved in Turkish Restaurant Week, leading up to Turkish Festival 2009 on Oct. 4.

The story of how Mondoux, a 45-year-old mother of three with family roots in Ontario, Canada, came to know so much about the food served to Suleyman the Magnificent says a lot about her research abilities. In the past six years, she has been able to trace documents that verify the recipes and culinary practices of the Ottoman ruler’s palace kitchens – some of which were recently discovered after hundreds of years.

Mondoux characterizes the cuisine as mostly simple and clean-tasting; her theory is that it is “of the moment” and should be eaten soon after it is made. She has produced a multi-media cookbook on DVD called “Celebration at the Sarayi: Reliving a Feast in the Palace of Suleyman the Magnificent” (TEC Publishing). Turns out, the sultan ate variations of five recipes at every evening meal: soup, meat, burek, baklava or tart and sherbet – that last one consistently pronounced “sure-BET” during her demonstration. So she shared some of those with the group of 20 or so.

Qatlama boregi, or fried flatbreads, before they turn crisp and golden brown. (Bonnie Benwick -- The Washington Post)

The chef began by handing out small warm bowls of pirinc corba, a lemony rice soup: “I like to start off with a warm welcome,” Mondoux said. Then she made stuffed grape leaves (etli yaprak dolmasi) the old, old-fashioned way. In Suleyman’s time, the filling consisted of lamb, spices and green, sour plums. She tried the recipe using tart black plums to approximate the flavor, and eventually came to use prunes, which are easier to find year-round. She added sautéed onion, garlic and lots of parsley to the filling and came up with a way to cook them so the grape leaves stay tightly wrapped and juicy. And they were some of the best I've had. (Once the recipe's been tested, I'll add it to our Recipe Finder database.)

A baklava or tart made with rice-flour pancakes. (Bonnie Benwick -- The Washington Post)

With the help of Turkish Cultural Foundation volunteers, local cookbook author Sheilah Kaufman and Sur La Table assistants, Mondoux breezed through the rest of her menu: small flatbreads called qatlama boregi, filled with minced walnuts and feta; a smooth and barely perfumed (easy on the rosewater) rice-flour custard called muhallebi; a baklava of rice-flour pancakes layered with ground pistachios, almonds and mastic, an aromatic resin; and that sherbet, with a fascinating history.

She told stories of how the 17th-century Turks saved ice and snow from the mountains in thick-walled ice houses built at the foot of those mountains. It was an engineering feat, and it provided a year-round treat served to Suleyman at his palace after dinner.

Flower syrup poured over crushed ice creates Suleyman-style sherbet. (Bonnie Benwick -- The Washington Post)

That’s how Mondoux’s session ended as well: with glasses of sherbet flavored with her own concoction of oregano flower syrup, plus small cups of Turkish coffee. All in all, a royally delicious affair.

Mondoux’s DVD cookbook costs $24 and can be ordered online. The chef is giving a lecture on 16th-century Ottoman cuisine and its interaction with Arab and Persian cuisines at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, at the Middle East Institute, 1761 N. St. NW. Seating is limited; for reservations, e-mail.

Turkish Restaurant Week in D.C. began Sept. 18 and continues through Sunday; click here for a list of participating restaurants. For information on the upcoming festival, check this out.

-- Bonnie Benwick

By The Food Section  |  September 22, 2009; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Chefs  | Tags: Bonnie Benwick, cooking class  
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Can you please post the recipe for the rice-flour pancake baklava? I'm gluten intolerant but used to love baklava - I'd really enjoy trying out the recipe!

Posted by: Agfras | September 22, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Do you have a recipe for Kuru Fasulye? I believe it has meat in it, but I was wondering if it could be left out?

Posted by: ORB21 | September 23, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Can you please post the recipe for the rice-flour pancake baklava? I'm gluten intolerant but used to love baklava - I'd really enjoy trying out the recipe!

Posted by: Agfras | September 22, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

The recipe for the rice flour baklava, along with other gluten free friendly recipes can be found in Celebration at the Sarayi;Reliving a Feast in the Palace of Suleyman the Magnificent found at only $19 downloaded, $24 hard copy CD

The recipe is as follows;

Sultan Suleyman's Baklava

Serving Size : 6



1 1/3 cups rice flour

4 egg whites -- slightly beaten

1 3/4 cups water

2 teaspoons light sesame oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt


3 cups walnuts

1/4 cups granulated sugar

3 teaspoons rose water

1/4 teaspoon mastic – generous pinch


minced pistacio, pomegranate seeds etc


Batter for Rice Wafers;

1. With a whisk; blend rice flour, beaten egg whites, water and salt. Allow to rest for 1 hour

Meanwhile prepare filling

2. In food processor, combine nuts, sugar rose, water and mastic. Grind until very fine, it will begin to stick together.

Making Wafers

3. Heat a 9 inch non stick crepe pan or regular pan that has been prepped with non stick spray or a rubbing of sesame oil.

4. Over Medium heat, pour in 1/3 cup of the prepared batter. It will begin to cook, sometimes bubbles will form, and it will be finished when the edges begin to pull away and the surface becomes dull. It will be quite dry- allow to cool.

5. Gently ease the wafer into a pan for.

6. Place 1/3 cup of nut mixture over pancake.

7. Continue to make wafers and repeat nut layer until you have used up the batter and filling (generally you will get 8-10 pancakes depending on how generous you are with your measurements).

8. Allow to rest at least a few hours or overnight. Invert onto a decorative serving plate, garnish with minced pistachios or edible flowers or pomegranate seeds. Cut and serve in wedges.

Do you have a recipe for Kuru Fasulye? I believe it has meat in it, but I was wondering if it could be left out?

I don't have my own recipe for Kuru Fasulye- a fairly common recipe can be found online at, the meat (pastrami) could easily be left out

Posted by: channonmondoux | September 25, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

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