Phases of Turkish Cuisine - Seljuk Cuisine
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Phases of Turkish Cuisine - Seljuk Cuisine

Dane and Müza’fer

Earlier, I had written in that it had not been determined how the foods mentioned as dane and müza’fer were made. Later I added a note saying that according to an explanation in a charter of the Hasan Paşa imaret (soup kitchen) dated 1508, the Arabic for these foods was “Erzü’l-müfelfel” and “Erzü’l-müza’fer” = tane (grain/piece) and zerde in Turkish. At last as a result of our research, we learned how these foods were made. According to the explanations of late head chef Yunus Gürbüz from İlyaslar village near Mengen, with whom I spent time in the hospital and who was chef for several of our governors: the food called rice with pepper, or dane in Turkish is what we call pilaf today. As the name appears as “rice with pepper,” it is not bulgur pilaf. Accorsing to Yunus Gürbüz, it is made as follows: The rice is washed (as the rice in some areas is very hard, it is left to soak for a few hours beforehand). It is then boiled, no tomato/pepper paste or other such thing is added; it is drizzled with oil and sprinkled with pepper, and taken to steam. It steams for up to one hour (I remember that 45 years ago in Boyabat village, rice pilaf was eaten with pepper).


Called “zerde” in Turkish, this food is a sort of sweet pudding made from rice and colored yellow (Persian zerd) with saffron15. According to the late Yunus Gürbüz, it is made as follows:

First the rice is cooked until very soft, as for soup. After it is cooked, sugar is added, and in another bowl, saffron is crushed with hot water to give it its yellow color. This is added to the sweetened rice. Following this, wheat starch is mixed with cold water, and some of the rice mixture is mixed into the starch mixture, then this is added to the rice and boiled a few minutes more. It is now done and is poured into serving dishes. (I found zerde at the Ilgin Restaurant. They said that in addition to saffron, they added rose water as well.)

Kalliyat = Kalye

Today these is known as kalye in Anatolia; they are meatless vegetable dishes in which the vegetables are first sautéed in oil and then simmered 16, as in eggplant and squash kalye17. Kalye is also made from certain fruits. Forty-five or fifty years ago, in the villages around Boyabat, a plum kalye was made in this way: Dried plums were washed well and boiled until they came to a molasses-like consistency. It was eaten topped with melted butter and crushed walnuts. A winter squash kalye was made in the same way.


Vegetable dishes in which the vegetables are boiled, then sautéed are called borani. Herbs such as spinach, amaranth, dock, mallow and sorrel are simmered in water and then drained. They are then sautéed in oil/butter and topped with yogurt flavored with garlic. These are called borani in Anatolia. In Senirken, only the variety made with spinach is called borani.

The term borani also refers to dishes in which the vegetables are cooked together with rice or bulgur and then topped with yogurt 18. It is said that borani is so called because the color of spinach mixed with rice resembles the famous “pearly green carpet” which came to the Caliph Me’mun in the trousseau of his wife Boran 19.

Foods cooked this way are also called “aş” in various parts of Anatolia, as are foods with rice cooked to a pap, to which ground meat, kavurma or butter is added. The word aş (Persian, “stew”) appears commonly in old texts20.

Halavat = Types of Halvah

Halvah appears in the Selçukname, as well as the poetry of Mevlana 21.

He says, “Do not hurry, be slow and patient, because only with time does the green fruit become halvah.” Among the high Mevlevis it is rumored that after Sheykh Sa’di wrote his famous Gülistan, he came to Konya and paid his respects to Mevlana. The next day, Sheykh Sa’di asked the Master for his thoughts on his work:

Mevlana said: “bi nemek,” in other words, “without salt.” At this, a sad expression came over Sheykh Sa’di’s face. The Master spoke again: “Helvast.” In other words, it is without salt, but it is sweet like halvah, which made Sheykh Sa’di happy. This shows that halvah existed during the Selçuk period. Today as well, many different types of halvah are made in Anatolia 22.

1 - Un helvası (Flour Halvah): Flour is cooked in a pan in butter, after which pekmez, thinned honey or a sugar syrup is added, and mixed well.

2 - İrmik helvası (Semolina Halvah): This is made in the same way as flour halvah, but semolina is used instead of flour. In Kilis today, this halvah is known as memnüye. The food called me’muniye in the Selçukname may be the same dish.

3 - Nişasta helvası (Wheat Starch Halvah): Made in the same way, with wheat starch rather than flour or semolina.

There are also other halvahs, such as mastic, sesame, tahini, gaziler, almond, walnut, “paper” halvah (a light wafer), and flaxseed halvah.

As the word helavat as it appears in the Selçukname is a plural, we understand that during the Selçuk period many types of halvah were made, most probably flour halvah in particular, and as the words mümessek and muattar (“infused with musk” and “infused with attar,”) are added, that various fragrances were added to these halvahs.


Yahni is a Persian word meaning “meat cooked in a sauce.” Mutton or beef is cut into pieces and washed. After browing, salt and onions are added as well as pepper and spices, and it is simmered till done. There are also versions with garlic, onion, and chickpeas. There are various types of yahni, including “wedding yahni,” chicken  yahni, yahni with cumin, yahni with parsley, etc.23. It also appeared earlier in the text quoted at the beginning of this section 24.

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