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[Ottoman Dishes]


Service sequence of the Ottoman dishes starts with the soups. Soups are prepared using rice, boiled and pounded wheat, sun dried food made of curd, tomato and flour, dry or fresh vegetables or vegetable roots by adding meat stock, chicken broth, yoghurt or fish broth. Especially preferred soups are wedding soup, yoghurt soup and tarhana (sun dried food made of curd, tomato and flour) soup.

Red meat, poultry meat and game meat were flavored with ingredients like paste, onion, garlic, etc, and they were simmered over low heat for a long time. Kebabs and meat balls were baked in oven, barbecued or grilled. Meat dishes were served with salads, pickles, yoghurt, eggplant salad, tomatoes and pepper. The importance of pilaf in the palace kitchen should not be neglected. Pilaf was not only made from rice, but from boiled and pounded wheat and granular pasta as well. There were over twenty pilaf types; aside, brain pilaf, pea pilaf, tomato pilaf, wedding pilaf, soft and mushy pilaf, eggplant pilaf, plain pilaf, vermicelli pilaf, chicken pilaf, almond pilaf, pistachio pilaf, and raisin pilaf are the famous types and they were flavored with various ingredients. Rice pilafs were prepared as different types of rice, and they were served with saffron and rice pudding (zerde) in the weddings. Especially Circassian chicken, ad roast stuffed turkey were the most preferred dishes served for the guests.

Bluefish, bonito, red mullet, plaice, sole, mendole, horse mackerel, turbot, anchovy, gilt head bream were of top priority fishes. Fishes were fried, grilled, poached, salted and dried, baked in oven, or soups were made from them.

In the Ottoman kitchen there were rich assortments of olive oiled vegetables and vegetables simmered with meat. Green bean was the leading vegetable, and it is known that 40 types of eggplant dishes were prepared. All the fresh and dried vegetables were the indispensables of the Ottoman cuisine.

Pastry in Ottoman kitchen can be divided into two parts as filled pastries and the desserts prepared from paste. Pastries filled with cheese, spinach, ground meat and milk were even served as the main course. Sometimes a meal included only filled pastries and yoghurt drink (ayran).

Desserts are divided into three groups in the Ottoman kitchen; desserts prepared from paste, milk puddings and desserts made from fruits. Main ingredients of the baklavas are thin phyllo pastries, butter, sugar and honey. They are filled with hazelnut, pistachio, or walnut, and served with clotted cream on top. Milk puddings include, white pudding with caramelized surface, white pudding with chicken breast, milk and almond pudding and starch wafers filled with walnuts in milky syrup and rose water. The most common sweet of the Ottoman kitchen is Noah’s pudding (ashure). Ashure is a ceremonial dessert and it is customary to prepare it at a certain time of the year. Halva has also a symbolic representation and prepared for the remembrance of specific events. Births and funerals are the events where halva is prepared and shared with the neighbors. This tradition is still carried out today.

In addition to Ottoman palace kitchen, it is required to mention the alms houses, family meals in daily life. Alms houses were established to feed the poor and where people had their meals together. In these soup kitchens which were founded by sampling the religious rituals in Islam such as paying of alms and charity, meals were free and the costs were met by the foundations constituted by the rich people. At least 4-5 thousands of poor people were given meals at the alms houses in Istanbul. During the feasts and festivals this figure was increased.

Typical Ottoman family, just like as in the palace, had meals twice a day. Family members sit down together for meals; father was placed at the centre of the table; elder members of the family sit on either sides of the father and the mother sit next to the children in order to help them.

Cushions were placed around the large tray and every body was given a separate spoon. First meal was usually a soup which was brought in a large copper bowl. Families didn’t usually talk or laugh during meals. Meals were eaten from the same bowl; breads were eaten in small pieces, it was not eaten by biting.

After the soup, a meat dish was served with rice, and afterwards a cold dish or a filled pastry was served and finally a dessert plate or assortment of fruits was brought to the tray. After the meal usually the elder daughter of the family prepared coffee; by that time, it was not accustomed to have tea after the meals.