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Turkish Cuisine

Information about Turkish Food, Turkish Cooking and Turkish Recipes


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Turkey is officially classed as being in both Europe and Asia. The Bosporus and the Dardanelle straits separate a small portion of the country (bordered by Greece and Bulgaria to the west in Europe) from mainland Anatolia which has borders with Georgia, Armenia, Syria, Iraq and Iran (Asia) to the east. 



Its climate ranges from temperate to extremes of heat and cold which enables a varied range of fresh produce to be cultivated, from tea in the cooler north to chili peppers in the south. The staples are rice and wheat and whilst it is a secular society, with most of her population being Islamic, Lamb and chicken are the main meats with little pork being consumed.



Ancient Times and Influences on Turkish Cooking


Turkey has a long and rich history. Most of us will have heard of the Ottoman Empire (1299-1923), however well before this the Hatti (Hattians) who were the indigenous people in Central Anatolia circa 2500B.C. were one of the leading civilizations of the world at that time.


With so much coastline and varying climatic conditions, Turkey has always had an abundance of fresh produce and fish, making for a varied diet. The basis of current day Turkish cuisine was established in very early times. Wheat was cultivated as far back as the nomadic period, and the practice of cooking meat on skewers (kebabs) and the use of dairy products also dates back to this time.


However, it is perhaps during the Ottoman era that Turkish cuisine developed the most. By the l7th century the Sultan's palace housed around thirteen hundred kitchen staff with hundreds of chefs amongst them. It was these chefs who refined and perfected Turkish cuisine in an effort to please the royal palate. Literally hundreds of dishes were created during this period.


Turkey's geographical location made it a natural route for traders, travelers and migrants who all influenced Turkish cuisine. For instance certain Turkish habits such as using sweet spices, fruit and nuts with meats is reminiscent of North African cooking and with the Sultan having complete control over The Spice Road many spices and seasonings were added to flavour traditional dishes.


Current Day Turkish Cuisine


As mentioned above, Turkey is blessed with a very wide variety of fresh produce. It may be this factor which is stemming the advancement of "fast foods".


The climatic and geographical differences within the country also heavily influence regional cooking, from extreme heat in the south-east where the food tends to be more spicy and meat dishes such as kebabs are common, to temperate fertile zones to the west where seafood and olive oil are frequently used ingredients. Then there is the eastern region with its long cold winters where dairy produce, honey, cereals and meat are popular.


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The basics of Turkish cooking today are relatively unchanged from that of the Ottoman Era. Rice and wheat based goods are still the staples. Many dishes shared with neighbouring Greece such as Mezes (hors d'ouevre) and Baklava (a sweet pastry dessert). Kofte, pilavs and both shish and doner kebabs are popular dishes as are yogurt salads, fish in olive oil and stuffed vegetables and vine leaves (Dolma).


Cheese, olives, bread, eggs and jam are served at breakfast although regional differences may mean that foods such as sausage, tomato and cucumber and also served. As lunch isn't usually the mean meal of the day, soup or salads are often served and desserts, meat and dishes which take a long time to prepare are not eaten. Dinner, which is usually the main meal of the day, can consists of soup, a main course, salad and dessert.



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