How to Eat Like Turkish Royalty
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.
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.)
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.
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.
-- Bonnie Benwick
The Food Section
September 22, 2009; 12:00 PM ET
Categories: Chefs | Tags: Bonnie Benwick, cooking class
Save & Share: Previous: Say Cheese: Grilled, Please
Next: Shop for This Week's Dinner in Minutes
Posted by: Agfras | September 22, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ORB21 | September 23, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: channonmondoux | September 25, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.