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Yashim Cooks Is­tan­bul

Ja­son Good­win (Arg­onaut Books, £25)

When not sleuthing around 19th-cen­tury Is­tan­bul, Ja­son Good­win’s Yashim likes to work in the kitchen, pon­der­ing his in­ves­ti­ga­tions at the chop­ping board. Mainly he cooks for his friend the Pol­ish Am­bas­sador, who vis­its ev­ery Thurs­day evening to sam­ple some of the culi­nary de­lights of the Ot­toman em­pire.

Mr Good­win has writ­ten five nov­els fea­tur­ing the Ot­toman de­tec­tive and, when his read­ers re­quested the recipes so that they, too, could have a taste of Yashim’s world, he wrote a cook­book.

Surely, these days, I won­dered, no­body buys a cook­book to ac­tu­ally use? It’s to be read in bed, not over a hot stove. Be­sides, hasn’t ev­ery­thing there is to say about pome­gran­ate mo­lasses al­ready been said by Yo­tam Ot­tolenghi? These were my ini­tial thoughts, but soon I had to set them aside. I was first se­duced by the look of the book, with its maps of 19th-cen­tury Is­tan­bul, its pho­tos of suc­cu­lent veg and prints of tur­baned Turks go­ing about their Ori­en­tal busi­ness.

Then there’s the au­thor’s charm. In­ves­ti­ga­tor Yashim has an alarm­ing phys­i­cal dis­abil­ity and Mr Good­win sup­plies a dish called Ram’s Fries, not­ing that, al­though they’re hard to source, it would be a shame not to of­fer a recipe for tes­ti­cles. he quotes his own story about the French empress eu­génie’s de­light in the Sul­tan’s aubergine with lamb, adding: ‘It is less well known that Sul­tan Ab­dul­me­cid II cour­te­ously pre­sented eu­génie with the Ot­toman Or­der of Chastity, third class.’

hav­ing been half won over, I then found that lots of the recipes were easy and de­li­cious, even if you live far from the kind of shop that sells pul biber. The baked lamb steaks will hence­forth be a sta­ple in my kitchen, along with the co­rian­der chicken with lemon and sumac, and the hummus is the best ever. I’m go­ing to try Palace Fig Pud­ding next, stuff­ing wal­nuts into dried figs with a cin­na­mon syrup, and I’m drool­ing al­ready. He­lena Drys­dale

Se­lect­ing spices from the Is­tan­bul bazaar

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