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Write: Vedat Başaran Photos: Serkan Eldeleklioğlu
Changing world conditions have also transformed the conceptual structures of Ramadan and preparation for Eid.
Known as the “sultan of eleven months” in the Islamic world, Ramadan and its holiday, Eid, were celebrated at a degree approaching that of a festival as socialization was at its most concentrated, particularly in our country. It included such activities as having various foods and drinks at all tables, according to what everybody could afford; praying more than usual; and participating in events which were joined by rich and poor alike. The days of Ramadan and of the Eid, when the activities of people of all ages intensified, were a time when varieties of food reached new heights and when dining tables shone brightly.
As Eid approached, the most important preparations were for special holiday clothes, gifts, tips, and offerings of food and drink. Tips and gifts, especially, were presented on the arife, or the day before the holiday.
On the eve of the arife, head cooks at mansions would prepare flour cookies (with mastic) and flour halvah, serving them to the masters of the house on trays adorned with decorations made from gold leaf and beeswax. Small pouches would be placed on the emptied trays, which were then sent back to the cooks.
Eid offerings largely consist of sugary foods and drinks such as Turkish delight with mastic, almond paste, akide candy with musk (a type of hard candy which is unfortunately not made anymore), coffee with cardamom served in gold enameled cups on silver stands, sherbet, and baklava. Perhaps this is why Eid is also known as the “sugar holiday”. Baklava, which was part of the Eid feast of 1650 according to the palace kitchens’ “Taam-ı Paşayan” food lists, is the most important dessert among those offered at Eid and still preserves its importance to this day. Homemade baklava has especially been produced in our country as part of holiday tradition. Housewives in particular would gather with their friends end neighbors, working in a pleasantly feverish and grandiose – if somewhat anxious – manner as they made preparations for the holiday baklava. Baklava, which is quite laborious to produce at home, is an offering which the lady of the house prepares with her own hands and is proudly served to holiday visitors.
In my opinion, due to the skill needed in its preparation and the great pleasure in tasting it, baklava is the apex of desserts.
250 g powdered almonds, white of 1 egg, 300 g confectioner’s sugar
Knead powdered almonds, egg white, and confectioner’s sugar in a bowl or on a marble counter. Cut as desired.
500 g dried figs, 1 kg milk.
Remove stems from figs and chop finely, then place them in a bowl. Add enough warm water to cover them and let sit for 15-20 minutes. After draining the figs, put them in a pot and add half of the milk.
Cook over a stove on low heat , slowly stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula. When it has boiled, add the remaining milk and cook over a slow flame for 25 minutes until it has reached the consistency of puree. Serve when it has cooled down, adding powdered walnuts if desired.
HOME STYLE BAKLAVA WITH WALNUTS
500 g flour, 100 g starch, 250 g butter, 10 g salt, 2 eggs, 150 g walnut halves, 100 g water.
Combine flour and salt and filter through a fine sieve. Make a depression in the middle. Add eggs and knead. Add water and knead strongly until dough has reached a consistency thicker than that of an earlobe.
Divide the dough into small lumps of equal size. Cover with a damp cloth and let them sit for 30 minutes. Then sprinkle starch between lumps and roll into thin sheets.
Grease a pan and lay out sheets, drizzling melted butter between them. Sprinkle crushed walnuts over sheets when half of them have been laid out. Cut as desired after laying out the remaining sheet and drizzle the remaining butter over them. Bake for approximately 40 minutes at 175 °C. Drain oil that has accumulated in pan once it becomes crispy.
Drizzle the syrup which has been boiling in the meantime over the baklava (the syrup and baklava must be hot).