Ottoman Palace Cuisine of the Classical Period

by Arif Bilgin Published on: 9th April 2009

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Turkish cuisine is largely the heritage of Ottoman cuisine, which can be described as a fusion and refinement of Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines. Turkish cuisine also influenced these cuisines and other neighbouring cuisines, as well as western European recipes. The Ottomans fused various culinary traditions of their realm with influences from Middle Eastern cuisines, along with traditional Turkic elements from Central Asia such as yogurt. The following article focuses on Ottoman Palace cuisine of the classical period in the 15th-17th centuries mentioning certain cuisine favourites in the palace kitchen.


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. The Organization of the Kitchen and the Structure of Personnel

3. Food Supply for the Palace

4. Food Culture of the Palace

4.1. General Features
4.2. Bread
4.3. Dishes
4.4. Sweets and Pickles
4.5. Drinks

5. Conclusion

6. Further reading

6.1. Articles on food, agriculture, cuisine and cookery published on
6.2. Publications and online resources on the Islamic cuisine


Note of the editor

This article was first published in Turk Mutfagi (Turkish Cuisine), edited by Arif Bilgin-Ozge Samanci, Ankara: Kultur ve Turizm Bakanligi Yayinlari, 2008 (read our review of the book: Turkish Cuisine: A Book Review). We are grateful to Dr. Arif Bilgin, author of the article and to the publishers of the book, the Turkish Ministry of Culture, for allowing publication. The version we publish was edited anew, and it was augmented with the final section containing further resources on Ottoman, Turkish and Islamic cuisines.


1. Introduction

Palace cuisine is the culmination of Ottoman cuisine in terms of organization, refinement of palate and food culture. The term ‘Ottoman cuisine’ must refer to kitchen combinations from a substantially broad regional range. In other words, the culinary culture of each of the Ottoman domains must be included within this concept. Considerable portions of the Arabic world, North Africa, the Balkans, Northern Black Sea, Anatolia, Aegean Isles, the Caucasus and the Persian zone must be included in this frame. Ottoman cuisine reflects a format derived from aspects of the cultures belonging to this vast geography, yet shaped according by the Turkish subjects’ cultural richness and habits.

We can cite three main factors contributing to the creation of Ottoman cuisine in general and palace cuisine in particular.

1. Habits inherited from Central Asia.: The continuation of meat and milk based eating habits of Turks (generated by their Central Asian lifestyles and caused by the peculiarity of the geography) during the Ottoman period clearly indicates its longevity.

Ottoman Palace Cuisine of the Classical Period

Figure 1: Sherbet Makers (Şerbetçiler), from Surnâme-i Hümayun, Topkapi Palace Museum Library, MS H. 1344, folio 238a.

2. The influence of Arabic and Persian cultures during the migrations: During the period of migration to Anatolia, Turks benefited from the eating habits and foods of the countries where they stayed. Adopted elements of Persian and Arabian cultures during this process remained in the Ottoman culinary culture up to the 19th Century. The most significant evidence indicating this interaction are Arabic or Persian dishes and food product names. Nonetheless, it is known that the food picked up from these two cultural basins was changed in content and adapted to the Turkish palate.

3. Acquaintance with Anatolian staples or the influence of the Byzantine cuisine: In the 15th century, the Ottomans preferred fruit, vegetables and greens in their diet more than ever. Neither in Central Asia nor during the period of the Great Seljuk’s had they consumed such abundant fresh produce. Thus, it would not be wrong to assume that the Turks immediately started consuming new produce that had recently become available to them.

However, the primary concern here is, did Turks learn to utilize these products by themselves or did they receive help in this from Byzantine Greeks? Although, we encounter elements in the Turkish kitchen showing us the Byzantine effect [1], unfortunately we are concrete information is not available to show us the areas and the dimensions of this mutual effect.

In this study, we are mainly going to explore three significant subjects in the Ottoman palace kitchen: organization, provisioning and food culture [2].

2. The Organization of the Kitchen and the Structure of Personnel

Since we do not have sufficient information about the organization of the kitchens in the palaces of Bursa and Edirne, we are going to discuss only the kitchen organization of Topkapi Palace, with the following exception: until the reign of Murad II the çaşnigirs (tasters) provided a food service to the Ottoman Sultans. During this next period, this service was transferred to a newly established foundation of head butlership (kilercibaşilik) and the range of services provided by çaşnigirs was limited to external services (such as food presentation for the members of the Court) [3]. In the early period, the palace catering groups who provided a food service were not limited to servants and butlers as a considerable number of cooking groups also existed. Sources of the era yield almost no information regarding the said class and kitchen organization.

It has become obvious that the palace kitchen organization known as Matbah-i Âmire Emâneti (The Office of Imperial Kitchen Superintendent) was established for the first time during Mehmed II’s period in the Topkapi Palace. Then as we understand from its name, Matbah-i Âmire was an administrative unit run by an emîn (superintendent). These superintendents had the rank of Imperial Court Masters (Hâcegân-i Divan-i Hümayun) and they worked under a chief known, as iç kilercibaşi (inner butler) who had authority to give submissions to the sultans. The inner butler was a chief of the Kiler Odasi (Office of Pantry) in the Enderun (Inner Apartments) and at the same time, he oversaw the entire kitchen personnel. He authorised employing new personnel, increasing salaries and he would decide on the promotion of personnel, which became necessary when other staff were promoted or left. However, responsibility for the disciplining of personnel and implementation of penal sanctions was left to the superintendents and their assistants.

The duties of the kitchen superintendent were not too limited. He was obliged to regularly provide the palace kitchens’ foodstuffs and to organize distribution of the provisions. The superintendent, in this role, with the support of his assistants, used to determine the quantity of consumables and to issue necessary orders accordingly. Additionally, supervising the costs and revenue of the premises was the duty of superintendent. He was also in charge of receiving the treasury allotment and with this money, he used to do the necessary procurement and make payments to the concerned parties for other expenses. Moreover, every superintendent, for each Hegira year he was in office was obliged to explain his expenditure to the revenue office. Therefore, he had to register the costs and revenue of his premises in the ledgers every year.

Kitchen superintendents were often selected from among the çaşnigir, çavuş (palace guards) and müteferrika (one of the elite corps of the Imperial Household) of the Dergâh-i Âlî (Sultans Court). When they were nominated, they initially received a considerable increase in their salaries, as well as having the allowance of a sinecure fief fee along with many other benefits.

The Sultan’s Kitchen clerk (kâtib-i Matbah-i Âmire) and chief cook (ser-tabbâhîn-i hassa) were attendants (or assistants) of the Superintendent and assisted him with administrative affairs [4]. In the palace kitchens, a large number of clerks were employed. Of these, the most important ones were the Sultan’s Kitchen clerk. Others were storehouse clerks, tallying provisions going in and out of the palace storehouse (Kilâr-i Amire).

The clerks of the Sultan’s Kitchen who were also known as the head scribe’s clerks, were generally nominated from of kitchen while storehouse clerks were chosen from the butlers. The most important task of the clerks of the Sultan’s Kitchen was to keep their balance sheet accounts. Clerks also carried out the task of controlling the entire accounts of the trust.

Ottoman Palace Cuisine of the Classical Period

Figure 2: View of Topkapi Palace from the sea. (Source: L’Illustration: Journal universel, Tome: LXVII, Paris 1876; Coşkun Yilmaz Archive).

The chief cook who was the master (üstad) and head of the Private Kitchen (Matbah-i Has) was at the same time the chief officer of the entire kitchen personnel. Chief cooks, in a way, were acting as steward (kethudâ). The Chief cooks’ other responsibilities, besides overseeing kitchen staff, were controlling the cooking of meals, taking delivery of kitchen personnel wages and apparel, and handling and keeping the tableware etc.

The Sultan’s Kitchen was organized into several units and service branches. The most significant two units of the Office of the Kitchen Superintendent were the kitchens where food for the palace household was prepared and the Helvahâne (Confectionery Kitchen) buildings, which covered the entire right side of the second courtyard and consisted of ten different sections. Eight of them were kitchen buildings named according to the class they served, such as Has (Privates), Divân (Court), Aǧalar (Elders) etc. The other two sections were assigned to the Confectionery Kitchen. While the palace household food was prepared in the kitchens, an assortment of sweets, jams and juices like compotes and syrups, pastes and pickles were prepared in the Confectionery Kitchen.

In the third courtyard of the palace, there was a separate kitchen, called a Kuşhâne. Although not belonging to the Office of the Kitchen Superintendent this kitchen, where skilful chefs of the Sultan’s Kitchen worked, provided a catering service to the sultan and prominent members of the Inner Apartments. Pageboys belonging to the office of pantry also served in this kitchen. The Kuşhane might also have served the two meals for the kitchens belonging to the Office of Superintendent.

Cooks working in the palace kitchens were divided into three classes; üstâd (master), halîfe (headman) and şâkird (apprentice). Apprentices were further divided into smaller sections and were also split amongst themselves into squads. At the head of each squad was assigned a captain. Above all the cooks was a chief cook who supervised the entire Trust staff. Overseeing the confectioners, who were similarly organized, was a ser-halvaciyân-i hassa (head of the confectioners).

Other units associated with the Office of Superintendent were: a storehouse where provisions were stored (Kilâr-i Âmire); ovens (Firin-i Has and Firin-i Harcî) where bread and other bakery items were cooked; a butchery (kârhâne-i kassâbîn) where sheep and fowl purchased for the palace were slaughtered and prepared; a poultry workshop (kârhâne-i mâkiyân); a yogurt-makers workshop (kârhâne-i mastgerân) where milk and dairy products were produced; a paraffin workshop (kârhâne-i şem‘gerân) where the palace’s candle requirements were met; a greens house (sebzehâne) where purchased vegetables were cleaned and prepared ready for cooking; a freshwater supplier (sakahâne) who provided water to the palace kitchens; a compound (mirî mandira) where cattle belonging to the palace were cared for and which produced clarified butter and cheese from their milk; and a workshop located in Bursa (simid kârhânesi) which was responsible for the purchasing of wheat from the Southern Marmara region and milling and transporting it to the palace. All these groups working in this unit adopted names corresponding to the range of their services: pantry men (kilâriyân), bakers (habbâzîn), butchers (kassâbîn), and poultry-men (mâkiyâniyân).

Included among the Office of Superintendent employees were; seasonally employed snow and icemen (buzcuyân), healing herb pickers (aşşâbân), unofficial serving petty officers (müteferrikagân), low salaried staff (eytâm) whose fathers were former chief cooks and a wheat-pounder from the Beykoz mill who ground wheat for cooking. Finally, it should be mentioned that the bakery branch — one of the service groups whose responsibility was to purchase the produce and prepare it according to their branches — was divided into three subgroups as cooks (pişiriciyân), dough mixers (hamurgerân) and sifters (elekçiyân).

Palace kitchen personnel in the beginning were originally vassals (gulâm). That is, they were non-Muslim recruits. They had been recruited as conscript pages, then at the request of the chief pantry man Chief Commander of the Janissaries, were assigned to the service of Sultan’s Kitchen. After serving as conscript pages for a while, they were transferred to one of kitchen units as footmen. But the basis of vassal origin personnel begun to change by the 16th century. In this century, relatives of kitchen personnel started to get employment in the kitchens.

Ottoman Palace Cuisine of the Classical Period

Figure 3: Palace Kitchens: Kitchen alleyway from Halva Kitchen to Royal Storeroom.

When we look at the assignment records of the era we can see cooks’ sons (üstâd oǧlanlari), siblings of the vassals (kul karindaşlari), brothers of headmen and apprentices. This situation indicates a parallelism with Metin Kunt’s thesis about the change of the vassal structure of governor-generals and sanjak governors by the 16th century. If the attitude change in the appointments of high level bureaucrats also reflected on kitchen staff, who used to be considered as low level public servants, then we can reach the conclusion that the structure of vassal origin recruitment begun to break down by the 16th century and staff of Muslim origin begun to take the place of vassals.

Reports of cooks from the Bolu region entering and dominating the palace kitchen during the reign of Mehmed II reign are baseless. The running of the palace kitchen based on conscript pages, master boys and vassal siblings continued until the 18th century. Therefore, an influx of urban dwellers into palace kitchens did not occur until this period. The first influx into the palace kitchens took place during the Damat İbrahim Pasha Period with the employment of cooks from the Nevşehir region. The domination of Pasha’s fellow townsmen in most of the palace as well as in the kitchens continued until the abolishment of the Janissary corps. The friendship of cooks from the Nevşehir region with the Janissaries had reached a level that worried the palace lords, and after the abolition of the corps, fear of the lords resulted in the removal of these cooks from their posts. The heavy employment of cooks from the Bolu region coincides with this period [5]. The preference for cooks from Bolu over kitchen personnel from the Nevşehir region also proves that cooks from Bolu had the reputation of being excellent cooks — at least in Istanbul.

The number of palace kitchen employees increased continuously in line with the expansion of the state. However, we should mention that the increase in staff numbers in the second half of the 16th century suggest staff numbers were in excess of requirement. When we compare the increase in the consumption of staple foods and the increase in the number of personnel, we can see that the latter was much higher. Such a comparison is based on the assumption that the amount of consumption is in line with the number of persons served. Consequently, we can easily say that there was no correlation between the increase in the personnel giving service and the increase of people receiving that service. As a matter of fact, writers of the era, complain about the excess of kitchen personnel [6]. This criticism was probably noted because in 1594 Ferhad Pasha reduced the number of personnel by paying compensation to 136 pantry men, which had been 286 in total [7]. These reductions continued into the first half of the 17th century.

The following facts illustrate the changes mentioned above: The number of kitchen staff was around 100 during the reign of Mehmed II (1451-1481) and during the final years of reign of Sultan Bayezid II (1481-1512) this number had reached 160; at the beginning of the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent this number exceeded 250 and towards the final years of his reign this number reached 500; on the accession to the throne of Selim II (1566) together with those who came from the prince’s sancak of Manisa, the number of staff had reached 600; during the final years of Murad III (1574-1595) staff numbers exceeded 1000; during the period between the throne of Mehmed III (1595-1603) and the middle of 17th century, in a space of about 60 years a 30% increase brought numbers into the 1300s. Although the numbers of permanent kitchen personnel was limited, we must not forget the existence of young conscript pages (acemi oǧlan) who were not included in this number since they were not registered as permanent. Towards the end of the 16th century, it is likely that more than 200 young conscript pages were employed in the kitchens and associated premises.

Ottoman Palace Cuisine of the Classical Period Ottoman Palace Cuisine of the Classical Period

Figure 4: Aşçilar Mescidi (Masjid of Cooks). Wooden building and kitchen chimneys.

Figure 5: The Superintendent of the Kitchen Halil Efendi, who was promoted to Royal wedding feasts superintendent. (Source: Surnâme-i Vehbi, Topkapi Palace Museum Library, MS H. 3593, folio 12b).

In the second half of the 17th century, there were no large-scale changes in the numbers of personnel, and they had even reduced in number. In 1660, the number of staff went up to 1370 and in 1665 increased to 1372 but then during the last quarter of the century, it went down to 1253 and, up to the beginning of the 18th century, it remained at the same level.

The most important income for the workers of the Sultan’s Kitchen was their quarterly salary (ulûfe). Like every military class member, kitchen personnel received their salaries according to a calculation of their daily wages. The amounts of daily wages were determined according to stature, seniority, achievement and quality of the work performed. After the superintendent and clerk, the chief cook received the highest daily wages. Excepting the salaries of the superintendent and clerk who received their salary from another office, the daily wages of personnel in 1478 were between half a silver coin (akça) and 10 silver coins; in 1631 that changed to being between 2 silver coins and 55 silver coins, with the chief cook receiving the former and the apprentice the latter. Upon entering a new career, the apprentice received half a silver coin in the 15th century but by the 16th century, this amount had increased to 1 silver coin and at the end of the century it increased to 2 silver coins. Sometimes two different people who were doing the same job could have an almost 18-fold salary difference but resentment never occurred between them. The reason for this is that the understanding of the concept of ‘the more you work the more you get’ was the basis of Ottoman personnel management so that every worker, regardless of his years in service, had the opportunity to increase his daily wage by performing “exceptional service”.

The palace kitchen personnel mostly wore underwear and long shirts made out of linen with sashes around their waists and conical hats on their heads. In winter seasons, senior personnel wore winter green clothes made out of broadcloth while other personnel wore dark blue. In every Erbaîn [8], the chief cook distributed these garments, which were made in Thessaloniki, to his staff.

During the reign of Mehmed II assistant cooks wore blue coloured dresses (câme-i kebûd), shirts (pîrehen), underwear (zîr-câme) and conical hats (külâh), sashes (kuşak) and baggy trousers (çakşir) made from Bursaian velvet and shoes (pabuç). In later outfit records, the last four are mentioned. During the reign of Sultan Bayezid II in addition to the underwear and shirts, which were distributed to all staff, a shoulder shawl made out of lordin broadcloth for the administrators of the catering groups, a raincoat (bârânî) for the middle class personnel and a dress called a mirahurî for the low class personnel were also provided. Flordin is an expensive fabric. Made of dark blue broadcloth the difference between the bârânî and mirahurî was the use of more cloth and intricate seaming in the former.

Ottoman Palace Cuisine of the Classical Period Ottoman Palace Cuisine of the Classical Period

Figure 6: Allotment Ledger: First pages of an allotment made to tables of elites during the game organization of Sultan. (Source: Ottoman Archive of Prime Ministery, D. BŞM 10523, pp. 4-5).

Figure 7: Chief Cook Mouradgea d’Ohsson. (Source: Tableau général de L’Empire Othoman, III/2, Paris 1820; Coşkun Yilmaz Archive).

During the first half of the 17th century, the shoulder shawl (eyin) was replaced with another shoulder shawl called the kaba. However neither of them were mentioned in the records from the middle of the century; only the sobraman is mentioned. It would therefore appear that in the middle of the 17th century the distribution of eyin and kaba ceased and they were replaced by a sobraman, which was made from green coloured and expensive broadcloth.

3. Food Supply for the Palace

Provisioning was one of the biggest problems of pre-industrial societies. Every state was obliged to make arrangements in order to feed their subjects and particularly people living in the big cities. Owing to their dense populations and citizens of a higher class, cities such as Rome, Paris, London and Istanbul had to pay special attention to provisioning [9].

Topkapi Palace had the appearance of a miniature city within the capital. Maintaining a population of 4 to 5 thousand people at the beginning of the 16th century, this palace kept and employed more than 10 thousand people by the beginning of the 17th century. Including as it did, the most prominent empire classes, the feeding of this crowded population depended on having reliable organization. Centralized management had established an excellent network for provisioning and had set up the most modern kitchen organization of the era.

The palace was the residence for both the Sultan and for members of the dynasty as well as being the centre for the administrative mechanism, therefore due to its dual function; special attention was given to the provisioning of the palace. One firm indicator of this was the recognition of priority rights for the palace clerks in terms of procurement allowing them the choice of the best of the best (the right of monopoly). In fact, in terms of purchases made both from Istanbul markets and from provincial markets, the selling of any produce to customers before the palace was prohibited. The reason for giving priority to the palace was not only to prevent the possibility of shortages but also to provide the palace with the best quality products. Even in cases where the supply was greater than the demand, if the priority right had not been utilized a shortage in food supplies could have occurred, because if the high quality of food ingredients were not supplied to the imperial kitchens, low quality ones were given. If the palace household did not demand these goods, an artificial shortage could emerge.

Provisions for the palace were supplied by Istanbul markets and from the countryside. All perishable food items and most other food products were purchased from Istanbul markets. Therefore, there was a close relation between provisioning of the palace and the provisioning of the capital city. However, for staple food products provincial markets were preferred, to prevent the people of Istanbul from experiencing food shortages. For example, almost the entire amount of basic food products such as sugar and rice were supplied from the provinces. In the cuisine ledgers, a term mübâyaa for the direct purchases from Istanbul markets and a term havâle for the purchases made from provincial towns was used. As a system of provincial provisioning havâle expressed the responsibility of the local administrators whose task was to provide certain items. In this context, for the expenses of local sources providing supplies, the central treasury was utilized. Such an application could be seen as a precaution for preventing cash outflow from the central treasury, aside from the difficulty of transferring the money. Within the system of havâle, goods were provided by the methods of irsaliye and ocaklik. İrsaliye meant local administrators to Istanbul shipped goods and the expenses of this process were met by local income sources. Instead of İrsaliye, the system of ocaklik needed to be implemented at the beginning of 17th century. The difference between ocaklik and irsaliye was that the sources of income used for the former were stable and unchangeable. The system of ocaklik was able remove the problems in provisioning and for this reason were used in most of the provisioning areas within a very short period.

Ottoman Palace Cuisine of the Classical Period

Figure 8: Ceremony on the Second Courtyard of Topkapi Palace. (Source: Melling, Voyage Pittoresque de Constantinople et de Bosphore, Paris 1819; Coşkun Yilmaz Archive).

There were several stages within the so-called “supplying process” which started with listing the required amounts of goods and went through to their transportation and arrival at the palace. For procurements, there were different stages; in the first stage the kitchen superintendent would decide on the quantity of the items and where to buy them; for that he would write order (ferman) to the authorities and would assign procurement clerks for purchasing. Upon the arrival of the clerk to the area, a second stage would commence. With the edict in his hand and carrying certain rights and privileges and with the help of local authority, he would buy the requested items, store them and then arrange their shipment to Istanbul. The kitchen superintendent was primarily responsible for the tasks summarized in the first stage. The second stage in this process, or implementation of procurement was also the responsibility of kitchen superintendent. Responsibility for carrying out the second stage, the smooth implementation of supplying, was left to the provisional clerks and local administrators, but centralized administration continued to fulfil its role in inspection and handling.

The areas for buying provisions were scattered over a large and geographically diverse lands. However, some regions were obvious centres for supplying food to the palace, including southern and northern parts of Marmara, Eastern Anatolia, the Aegean Islands, Balkans, Wallachia and Moldavia, Egypt, Cyprus and Feodosiya. Bursa and the valleys of the Southern Marmara region, in today’s Greece, provided the palace with wheat; Wallachia, Moldavia and the Balkans provided sheep; Egypt and Plovdiv provided rice; Feodosiya clarified butter; and finally Egypt and Cyprus supplied sugar. These areas could meet almost all items the palace required.

The consumption of these items changed significantly between the 15th and 17th centuries. From the end of the 15th century to the middle of the 17th century, there were increases in the annual consumption of flour from 380 to 1500 tons; in mutton consumption from 15000 to 90000 carcasses; in rice consumption from 900 to 1200 tons; clarified butter consumption from 44 to 200 tons and finally sugar consumption from 5 to 67 tons. In this period, the highest recorded increase observed in the palace was for sugar. Although quickly becoming a popular sweetener sugar had still not overtaken the preference for honey.

Most of the food products, with the exception of sugar, were used to feed the palace household. However, certain goods were reserved solely for members of the dynasty and upper level administration. Meat from sheep, duck, pigeon and goose, certain fruits, dairy products such as clotted cream (kaymak) and caciocavallo cheese (kaşkaval), caviar, and beverages and pastes made out of fruit and healing herbs were served only to the elite. It is worth mentioning that the palace household did not consume beef or goat’s meat.

Ottoman Palace Cuisine of the Classical Period

Figure 9: Kuşhane Kitchen. Kuşhane Kitchen’s chimney.

For ease of shipment of provisions to the palace in Istanbul, regions with access to sea transportation were preferred and chosen deliberately. Shipping over the land was relatively slow and costly compared to sea. Yet despite the drawbacks of land shipment demands for food products from the inland regions was never abandoned. Nonetheless, almost all perishable foods were sourced from either nearby places or from areas suitable for the short-distance sea trade.

For the transportation of provisions bought from the countryside, carts and camels, packhorses and mules were used for overland shipping and different type of boats and caiques for sea routes. For shipping on the Sea of Marmara at kayiǧi, frigate, caique, şayka and karamürsel were used. On the Mediterranean Sea, the types of vessels used were rowboats such as karamürsel, iǧrip, şayka, frigate and galley as well as sailing ships such as galleon and burtun. The most preferred modes of sea transport were karamürsel, iǧrip and burtun. For large shipments they usually used merchant marine vessels; especially for voyages from Egypt where a navy ship would escort them.

The period for transporting palace provisions both by land and by sea was relatively limited. In fact, this was the case for almost all transportation activities throughout the Ottoman classical period. For the period of shipment archival documents contain expressions such as “vakt ü mevsimiyle” (in time and season) and “mevsim-i deryâ ile” (season for sea transportation), meaning the period extending from spring to November was ideal for transporting items. In the early spring months, the roads were of limited use due to heavy rains and winter flooding. The best shipping times with the least risks on the Mediterranean Sea were the end of early spring and beginning of the autumn. The best shipping period for the Black Sea was limited to six weeks starting from August 15 and ending 30 September. Since navigation was relatively safe on the inner seas such as the Aegean and Marmara, transportation could take place for longer periods.

When comparing damage incurred while transporting the goods, we can see that land shipment was always safer. Apart from the threats of bandits, the causes of damage during land transportation were rain and rain-affected muddy roads. Despite some small-scale losses over land, the damage caused by stormy weather and piracy via sea routes was apparently much higher. For instance, in 1604 there had been a shipment of rice from Egypt to Istanbul, but only one quarter of the annual consumption of the palace arrived due to said difficulties at sea. Nevertheless, we should also underline that such damage to cargo was quite rare.

4. Food Culture of the Palace

4.1. General Features

The meat and milk based eating habits of Turks acquired in Central Asia that were carried to Anatolia under went immense changes in the 15th century. We can assume that these changes were quite limited in the rural areas, sources from the early periods clearly indicate these changes in the cities. Possibly the earliest site where these changes took place was the Ottoman palace. All the characteristics identified exclusively for the Ottoman palace were generally applicable for Istanbul and Anatolian folk kitchens.

First of all, eating habits at the Ottoman palace were not based on just one or more staple foods, on the contrary whatever produce they had to hand they consumed in a well-balanced way. Although there were regional differences, during the Middle Ages and Modern Times, in the kitchens of the Far East, Southeast Asia, India and Persia, the domination of rice was obvious. In most of the aforesaid regions wheat and meat at meals was almost non-existent, whereas meat took precedence over vegetable produce in Europe. In contrast, in the Ottoman palace, almost every item — whether meat based or vegetable based — produced within the borders of empire was subject to consumption. Meat, wheat, rice and clarified butter all played significant roles in the menus, but the palace household also consumed all other animal and vegetable products in a well-balanced way. Therefore, we can say that the Ottoman palace food culture had to some degree combined the tradition of East and West.

Ottoman Palace Cuisine of the Classical Period

Figure 10: Kilar-i Amire building. Kilar-i Amire building, now seat of the Topkapi Palace Museum Archive.

Another important characteristic of Ottoman palace culinary culture was predicated on an approach of understanding the close relationship between food and medicine. This concept had grown out of Islamic medicine, which the Ottomans also followed. According to this concept, in the human body there are four humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. Balanced humours indicate healthiness and unbalanced humours indicate sickness. One of the factors determining the quantity and level of the humours is food and drink. Therefore, a balanced dietary regimen was necessary in order to keep the humours in balance throughout the year. If one got out of balance, he/she had to adjust the diet and get a medicine supplement [10]. In addition, these humours were thought to show variations in every season. In spring and autumn blood-making foods should be preferred, in summer time biligenic foods, in wintertime expectorant foods and again, in autumn black bile reducing foods. Palace doctors were well informed on every fine detail of this Islamic medicine and some of the kitchen personnel may also have had some knowledge, and therefore would serve the palace household seasonal menus for balancing the humours.

In most of the palace kitchen ledgers there are references to dietary foods [11]. Preparing meals for special dietary requirements needed talent. Therefore, a cook specializing in dietary foods and called “regimener” (perhizî) was employed in the Ottoman palace kitchen [12]. It was also stressed in the Ottoman foundation registers that cooks employed in the hospitals (Darüşşifas) should know how to prepare dietary foods [13].

In the Ottoman palace, laws determined eating and eating manners. There were certain rules of etiquette outlining who would sit at which table and other rules to obey during meals. Table seating was arranged according to hierarchy. After the implementation of Mehmed II’s Organizational Code, Sultans began to have their meals only with their families [14]. At the Divân-i Hümâyûn the grand vizier and head treasurer, viziers, other treasurers and nişanci (chancellor, secretary) shared two different tables. For military judges they used to set up another table. Once high-level officials had left the table, the lower ranks would sit at the same table and eat whatever was left over from the previous sitters. Those tables, which reflected the generosity of Sultan, secured the devotion among both high and low-level officials. Thus, they had a symbolic function.

The palace household had two meals a day. Morning breakfast time was at mid-morning and dinner time was after the mid-afternoon prayer [15]. Meals were served on a low table made from hide called bulgârî and people sat on the floor to eat. With the exception of banquets thrown in the honour of foreign envoys, luxury and pomp was avoided [16]. The eating time was not prolonged; it was so short on some occasions to surprise foreign ambassadors. Food was served on a large plate and everyone sitting around the table ate from the central plate. In the palace gold, silver and porcelain plates were used, but this kitchenware was for the elite minority; most of the incumbents were served meals in shallow pans made from tin-coated copper. There were no knives and forks on the tables; instead, for the elite they used jewelled spoons while others ate their food with wooden spoons. When compared with Western palaces and excluding banquet and festive tables and those of some elites, most meals consisted of low budget menus [17].

4.2. Bread

The Ottoman palace baked bread from of two different types of flour: has (best quality) flour and fodula (normal quality) flour. There were two different fodulas: meyane (medium quality) and harci (lower quality). Two different breads were baked with these flours: Has bread and harcî bread. Harcî bread was from both has flour and normal quality fodula flour. Therefore, we can divide the palace breads into three groups; good quality has bread, medium quality has bread and low quality harcî bread. The bread made out of has flour was served to Sultans as well as to members of the court and harem, viziers, chamberlains, Sheikh ul-Islam, Nakib-ül eşraf, ministers, imam of sultans and retired palace lords; bread made out of fodula flour and harcî bread was served to large sections of the population, from sultanas to conscript pages.

In the Ottoman palace, apart from these breads, different kinds of bread and bakery products were also produced: round bread (nân-i müdevver), nân-i pîç, chickpea bread (nân-i nohut), nân-i mirahûrî, nân-i kirde, sweet bread (nân-i sükkerî), pita bread (nân-i pite [18]), imam bread (imam ekmeǧi), bun (çörek), scones (poǧaça-i revganî and poǧaça-i pîç), kinds of bagel (semiz halka orsimidhalka), savoury pastries (gözleme, börek), sweet pastry (börek-i sükkerî1 [19]), savoury pastry with chicken (tavuk böreǧi), thin sheet of pastry (rikak oryufka), biscotte (peksimed), sweet pastries (nukul and nukul-i sükkerî) [20]. All these bakery products were served to the palace household according to their positions.

Ottoman Palace Cuisine of the Classical Period Ottoman Palace Cuisine of the Classical Period

Figure 11: Bakery Door: The door entering palace bakeries section from the front side of Kilar-i Amire building.

Figure 12: Task assignment order to supply wheat to palace (Ottoman Archive of Prime Ministery, İbnülemin-Tevcihât, no. 11).

In the bread and bakery products, herbs such as sesame seeds and nigella seeds, mastic and anise as well as eggs were used. During the reign of Sultan Mehmed II, sheep’s tail fat and fennel seeds (Semen foeniculi) were also used in the preparation of has breads.

In the 16th century, apart from breads baked for the public, there was a decrease in the weight of the palace breads [21]. In the second half of the 15th century the weight of one loaf of has bread was 630 grams and during most of the 16th century it was below 500grams (458 grams). By the 17th century, it had further decreased to 401 grams weight. Harci bread which was 550 grams at the end of 15th century, decreased to 428 grams during the first half of the 16th century and to 401 grams during the last quarter of the same century. Throughout the first half of the 17th century, it maintained a weight of 377 grams.

Bread consumption at the palace increased along with the increase in its population. Towards the end of the 15th century, annual has bread production went up from 230,000 to 500,000 loaves during Sultan Bayezid’s reign (1520-1566) and approached 1,000,000 in the last quarter of the century. At certain times it looked lower, although for the next half of the century bread consumption was generally between 1,500,000 and 2,000,000. Similar figures can be seen in the consumption of harcî breads. At the end of the 15th century, the consumption of this bread was around 320,000 but at the end of the 16th century it exceeded 1,000,000 and during the first half of the next century it had gone up to between 2,000,000 and 2,500,000 loaves.

When we calculate daily bread consumption from the amounts of annually consumed bread we can get a better insight into the daily bread consumption of the palace. Thus, at the end of the 15th century daily bread consumption in the palace was 650 loaves of has bread and about 915 loaves of harcî bread. In the first half of the 17th century, has bread consumption was between 4041 and 5982, and harcî bread consumption was between 4774 and 8720 loaves [22]. So, palace bread consumption at the end of 15th century was 1600, and in the first half of the 17th century it was over 6000.

4.3. Dishes

Names of dishes were partly recorded in the palace archives, but none of their recipes were mentioned in detail, although all those dishes served at the palace were mentioned in details in the cookbooks of the time [23].

For the classical period of Ottoman cuisine, we can make some generalizations about the palace dishes: in terms of content and taste, classical period dishes were very different from today’s food and even from the food of the 19th century. Clarified butter (clarified butter is butter that has had the milk solids and water removed) was used in preference to olive or vegetable oil in cooking. Sauces made with spices were used to flavour meals. Use of tomato paste was linked with the early 19th century. In the combination of stews, unlimited fruits were also used (e.g. plum soup, tüffâhiyye, stuffed apple etc.) We can also observe in recipes of the time many different tastes within a meal. For example, foods that contained both honey and vinegar were cooked, although each has a separate, distinct taste in the mouth [24].

image alt text

Figure 13: Starch puding (paluze) makers. (Source: Surnâme-i Hümayun, Topkapi Palace Museum Library, MS H. 13 44, folio 300a).

Meat was used in most foods , but many vegetable meals were also cooked [25]. We also know that many different types of soup were cooked [26]. The Turks’ fondness for pilaf was such that it attracted the attention of travellers.

A dish with meat, soup and pilaf was common at both the palace tables and in peoples’ kitchens in general. A favourite food of the Turks of Central Asia was offal and a distinctive feature of the Ottoman kitchen was the presence of offal up until the last days of empire. Purchase records in the palace logbooks reveal the use of boiled sheep heads, calves feet, liver, intestines, şirdan (the second stomach of a ruminant) and tripe.

The meat consumed most, both in the palace household and nationwide, was mutton. Although there were records of limited numbers of goat kid and calf there is not even a single record about the consumption of beef. Beef in the Ottoman palace was used only in pepperoni (sucuk) and pastrami (pastirma).

On the other hand, as a white meat, the palace consumed a lot of chicken. Some palace elites even had the privilege of eating birds such as goose, duck and pigeon. But we must also note that in the 15th century, the consumption of red meat was higher than white meat. In the 17th century, the gap seems narrower. It is possible to see this from annual consumption figures. For example, at the end of the 15th century there was an annual consumption of around 10,000 chickens and 15,000 sheep. In the first half of the 17th century, annual consumption was 160,000 chickens and 100,000 sheep. During this 150-year period, chicken consumption had risen 16-fold and sheep consumption had only increased 7-fold.

Kebabs and stews with every kind of meat were cooked in the palace kitchens. Birds such as chicken and duck were mostly roasted on a spit. Spit roasted meat, was at the time one of the foremost foods of the banquets. Apart from main meals, meats were also used in soups and vegetable dishes.

Ottoman Palace Cuisine of the Classical Period

Figure 14: İftar meal, by grand vizier d’Ohsson. (Source: Tableau général de L’Empire Othoman, II, Paris 1790; Coşkun Yilmaz Archive).

Almost all historians of the era noted the fish consumption of the palace as being very limited. In fact, archive records concerning fish are very poor [27]. Other sea foods such as oysters, shrimps, roe and caviar were encountered more often in the 15th century lists, but in later centuries these dishes do not appear with the same frequency. Although limited seafood was consumed in the palace, but when we compare that with seafood consumption of the regions where the travellers came from, palace consumption was a long way behind. Finally, we should mention that not all fish consumption was recorded as some of the elite bought their fish from fishermen on the coast.

4.4. Sweets and Pickles

Apart from pastry sweets, almost all sweets, pickles and drinks were produced in the Confectionery Kitchen. The favourite sweets of the palace were at times baklava and at other times a sweet pastry called rikak baklava. As one of the customs of Ramadan and festive tables they were also distributed to the Janissaries on the days of wage payments and during the Hirkai Sharif visits on the fifteenth day of Ramadan. The pastry cooks fried pastries of rikak baklava in clarified butter and in those that were served to Janissaries; they used abundant honey and a little sugar as a sweetener. They also added almonds. Another sweet, which we learn about from the palace logbooks, is kadayif (shredded pastry). Kadayif was recorded as kadayif-i hassa, which also stressed that these sweets were served only to the Mother of the Reigning Sultan, and to the Sovereign; which meant that a few people in the palace could only consume this sweet.

Another favourite sweet in the palace was a starch-based pudding called zerde. Its consumption was so common that the entire palace household would have enjoyed this sweet which contained rice, sugar and starch as well as saffron colouring, ground hazelnut and almond. Although not detailed in the kitchen books starchy puddings (pelte, paluze) and milk puddings (muhallebi) were also mentioned. However, the Ottomans called any mixture containing rice flour, milk and sugar pudding (muhallebi).

Figure 15: Bread makers carrying breads on trays. (Source (Surnâme-i Hümayun, Topkapi Palace Museum Library, MS H. 1344, folio 152b).

Being one of the foremost icons of the traditional culture halva was popular among common people as much as in the palace. According to records, the most popular halva made in the Confectionery was zülbâye halva, which was also recorded as zülbiye or zülâbiye. The consumption rate of this halva during festive days was a nightmare for the confectioners. Other halvas produced in the palace were almond, baş, zerd, tahini, lokma, chestnut, bayram, kepçe (menfiş) and halkaçini halvas. A sort of almond halva known as kirma badem halva was the most popular one, and although there is no mention in the records it was customary at the banquets. The halvas such as ak halva, fistik halva, sabunî halva which are not mentioned in the records were also popular at banquets. Finally, in the records of the Confectionery, an entry mentions the existence of a halva known as pişmaniye but that name in the records was written as pişmani.

Inside the Confectionery was another unit where they made jams. Also known as the jam kitchen, in this section they made jams with almost every type of fruit. Some of the fruits used in the jams were fruits still familiar today such as apple, pear, quince, cherry, sour cherry, rose, bitter orange, cornelian cherry, medlar, peach and green almond, but other fruits which are not so familiar today were also used in jams: melon, watermelon, walnut, jujube, lemon, pumpkin, eggplant, mürekkep (a fruit from citrus fruits), citron and limon-i Frengî (also from citrus fruits but there is not enough evidence to distinguish today’s equivalent). Although most of the palace jams were produced here, some of them were brought from the provinces. In this context, we can cite many other local jams such as that from Edirne province, Shemseddin Sâmi’s type of rose jam, which he called gülbeşeker and various jams from the Adana region.

There were two more jams mentioned in the palace records: rub and murabbâ. Rub or murabba were a thicker-style jam and resembled to a kind of marmalade. To yield a jam out of these fruits, first they used to get the sap of the fruit, and then they used to boil the sap until the liquid got thick. The sap was dried in the sun to make dried fruit pulp. In the kitchen records there are some entries about dried fruit pulp but the types are unknown. Rubs made at the Confectionery were limited to apple rub (Pirus malus), myrtle rub (Myrtus communis) and jujube rub (Zizyphusjujuba). In addition, some of the halva makers used to go to the royal gardens of Istanbul and make rub from the roses of these gardens. Other rubs supplied for the enjoyment of palace elites were quince and rose rubs from Edirne, evergreen verjuice rub and pomegranate rub of Bursa, barberry rub (Berberis vulgaris) of Yanbolu/İslimye, emblica rub (Phyllanthus emblica), hummas, ginger rub (Zingiber officinale), nutmeg rub (Semen myristicae) and kabuli false black pepper rubs (Embellia ribes) of Egypt.

Ottoman Palace Cuisine of the Classical Period

Figure 16: Meal carrying cooks. (Source: Mouradgea d’Ohsson, Tableau général de L’Empire Othoman, III/2, Paris 1820; Coşkun Yilmaz Archive).

The other function of the Confectionery was to act as the palace pharmacy. Once a year they produced syrups and capsule sized pastes (kurs) for patients’ use. Some of the pastes (macun) were not considered drugs; therefore, elites consumed them as treats and body supplements. In the Confectionery, every year in the spring (during Nevruz), in the night’s so-called “wormwood night entertainments” the cooks would blend pastes and this activity would go continue for some time. In the kitchen log books, there are entries of some first day pastes: cornelian cherry, quince, musk, balm, cevarish, karabash (a type of lavender) tiryak-ifaruk, mesir, tiryâk-i erba’a,filoniya, itrifil, felâsife and scorpion pastes. According to Mustafa Ali of Gelibolu mesir paste was a noon time favourite of the palace elites, but there was another mesir paste that was a traditionally blended treat of the Manisa region; between these two pastes the difference was the number of spices in their content. In the preparation of Manisa mesir paste they actually used 41 different spices. But two other mesir pastes blended exclusively for sultans contained 61 different spices.

Although they have a completely opposite taste, pickles, like sweets, were produced in the Confectionery. The most popular of the pickles here was cabbage pickle. Thus, the numbers of cabbages purchased was very high. For example, for making pickles in 1615 the number cabbages purchased was 10,875 and in 1620 it was 11,114. According to tally books, cooks made pickles from lemon, bitter orange, cucumber, gourd, artichoke, eggplant and turnip. In the production of these pickles, they used the renowned yellow vinegar of the Bursa province. The pickles available in the palace were not limited to these pickles as ready-made pickles were bought in the provinces. The best known of these was the caper (Capparis spinosa) pickle of Osmancik province. In Turkish cuisine, evidence of capers goes back to the first half of the 14th century; it is one of the traditional pickle staples. Caper pickles were made both from the bud and the branch with mandrake added (Mandragora atumnalis) to provide scent. Grape pickles of Gelibolu and mint pickles of Bursa were also shipped to palace. All the pickles, whether purchased from the provinces or made on the premises, were stored in the pickle storage of the Confectionery for consumption throughout the year.

4.5. Drinks

Apart from water, beverages consumed in the palace consisted of compote (hoşaf), sherbet, lemonade, boza and coffee. There is not a single record about the alcoholic beverage consumption of palace inhabitants. This is because alcoholic beverages were not considered legal from the perspective of Ottoman religious and customary laws. Therefore paying for them from the treasury was an unthinkable act. Those who wished to drink alcoholic beverages had to pay for them from their own budget. However, for non-Muslim imperial statesmen there was an allotment of alcoholic beverages. Those non-Muslim statesmen were allowed to drink these liqueurs only within their own residences. When they were attending official dinners, they were not served alcoholic beverages.

Compote was one of the basic drinks of the Ottomans but in compotes less fruit varieties were used than for jams and sherbets. According to logbooks, fruits used in the preparation of compotes were limited to grapes, figs, apricots and pears. In these records, almost all types of jam and sherbet were mentioned but on the same lists, only a few types of compote were listed. If each drink consumed at the palace was prepared with as many different types of fruit then we can assume that at least apples and plums were used in the preparation of the compotes.

Although there is uncertainty about the types of compotes, it is possible to list almost every sherbet made in the Confectionery. There was violet, gül maa gülşeker (rose and sugar flavoured with rose), rose and lemon, red rose, water lily, buckwheat, berry, jujube, quince, quince leaf, sour cherry, tamarind, narcissus, usul, dinarî and sahtere sherbets and ecza sherbet, which was made out of assorted leaves. Sherbets brought from the provinces to the palace were hummas sherbet [28] of Egypt, ribas (Rehum ribes) sherbet [29] of Damascus, pomegranate sherbet of Bursa, barberry (Berberis vulgaris) of Yanbolu and red rose and rose and lemon sherbets of Edirne. If we can consider lemon water as a sherbet, it was made at the palace as well as in the citrus fruits centres of Kos Island and in Chios and Alanya. During warm summer days snow gathered at snow deposits in Istanbul and snows brought from the peak of Uludaǧ mountain (in the province of Bursa) were used in drinks as coolers. Sherbets both made at the palace and brought from the provinces were consumed in large quantities and some of them were used for the treating of the sick people.

Ottoman Palace Cuisine of the Classical Period Ottoman Palace Cuisine of the Classical Period

Figure 17: Poultrymen carrying chicken in cages and eggs in the baskets. (Source: Surnâme-i Hümayun, Topkapi Palace Museum Library, MS H. 1344, folio 347a).

Figure 18: View of Kitchen Chimneys from the Justice Tower of the Topkapi Palace.

The amount of boza (fermented wheat, barley or rice) made at the palace was tremendous. The records regarding boza production are limited to the amounts of rice used in the preparation of the boza. In 1626, 6.7 tons of rice, in 1631 7.5 tons of rice and in 1638 3.9 tons of rice were used in the boza production. These high figures show the importance of boza consumption in palace drinking culture.

Coffee entered the daily lives of Istanbulers in the first half of the 16th century, however the time when it was introduced to the palace household is unknown. In the kitchen records, entries of this luxury item are in the first half of the 17th century and those records show only the allocation of sugar used in the coffee. Those records also showed that coffee was not consumed on its own but together with sugar. Since it was considered a luxury there were no coffee purchase records as these items were not supposed to be paid for by the kitchen budget. Payment for coffee from the kitchen budget would have started in the second half of the 17th century. Drinking coffee at the palace was the sole privilege of the Sultan, his mother and prominent members of the Harem, court members and palace lords.

Ottoman Palace Cuisine of the Classical Period

Figure 19: Bayram Ceremony: Ceremony in the Second Courtyard of Topkapi Palace. (Source: d’Ohsson, Tableau général de L’Empire Othoman, II, Paris 1790).

5. Conclusion

In conclusion, Ottoman palace cuisine was the product of a continuum that partly maintained the habits from Central Asia that developed in the Near East and then flourished in Anatolia. In terms of organization and staff numbers, it was perhaps the most developed cuisine of Turkish history. Both kitchen organization and sophistication in taste continued along with the political and economic development of the state. In fact, the pinnacle of the cuisine was the 16th century when the empire was at its peak in terms of political and economic standing. The most significant problem that overshadowed the success of the kitchen organization was excesses in staff numbers. However, the state tried to lower the numbers of personnel and by the end of the 16th century, it was successful in this respect. At the end of the 15th century though purchasing fewer than 20 types of spices, by the last quarter of the 16th century this figure had risen to over 200. The increase in the number of spices over this period indicates elegance in the dishes and refinement of their tastes.

Figure 20: Banquet given for sheiks and ‘ulema. (Source: Surnâme-i Vehbi, Topkapi Palace Museum Library, MS H. 3593, folio 30b).

Despite disruptions at certain times, during the classical period provisioning of the palace was maintained successfully. Supplying problems, which occurred due to economic and social disturbances towards the end of 16th century, were overcome by introducing new systems. The other reason for the success of provisions to the palace was the privilege of priority given to the food supply clerks of the palace, also be called the right of monopoly.

In the Ottomans’ palace, the consumption of cereal, meat, milk and dairy products, vegetables, fruit and other produce was balanced. On the tables of the palace, elite there were a variety of dishes, sweets as well as drinks. Although not always desirable for visitors coming from foreign countries, the palace tables always offered a desired place for any Ottoman. Although there was an abundance of produce in the dishes, it was either not until the 17th century that okra, tomatoes, beans, green peppers, cauliflowers, potatoes and oranges appeared on the palace tables or in the people of Istanbul’s homes. As most of these were staples of the American continent, these products only appeared in Ottoman territory after the discoveries of the Americas. Okra and tomatoes would have appeared in the 17th century; beans, green peppers, cauliflowers and oranges in the 18th century; and potatoes in the 19th century. If we consider the significance of the tomato, beans (especially dried beans) and the potato in today’s Turkish cuisine, we can imagine how much Turkish cuisine has been transformed.

6. Further reading:

Articles on food, agriculture, cuisine and cookery published on


[1] Süheyl Ünver, “Türkiye Gida Hijyeni Tarihinde Fatih Devri Yemekleri”, İstanbul Risaleleri 3, Istanbul 1995, pp. 152-154.

[2] This article is based on the following works: Arif Bilgin, Osmanli Saray Mutfaǧi (1453-1650), Istanbul 2004; op.cit. “Seçkin Mekânda Seçkin Damaklar: Osmanli Sarayinda Beslenme Alişkanliklari (15.-17. Yüzyil)”, Yemek Kitabi, ed. by Sabri Koz, Istanbul 2002, pp. 35-75.

[3] Tayyarzâde Ahmed Atâ, Târih-i Atâ, I, Istanbul, undated, p. 34.

[4] Although certain studies mention a steward who helped the superintendent with administrative issues, there was no such officer. (Barnette Miller, Beyond The Sublime Port The Grand Seraglio of Stambul, New Haven 1931, p. 189; İ. Hakki Uzunçarşili, Osmanli Devleti’nin Saray Teşkilati, Ankara 1984, p. 379; Halil İnalcik, “Matbakh”, Encyclopaedia of Islam, IV, Leiden 1991, p. 810).

[5] Arif Bilgin, “Bolulu Aşçilarin Osmanli Saray Mutfaǧina Girişleri”, Bolu’da Halk Kültürü ve Köroǧlu Uluslararasi Sempozyumu, Bolu 1998, pp. 43-55.

[6] Lutfi Paşa, Âsafnâme, published by Mübahat Kütükoǧlu, in Bekir Kütükoǧlu’na Armaǧan (Istanbul 1991), pp. 92-93; Kitâb-i Müstetâb, published by Yaşar Yücel, in Osmanli Devlet Teşkilatina Dair Kaynaklar, Ankara 1998, p. 14.

[7] Selânikî Mustafa Efendi, Târih, published by Mehmet İpşirli, Istanbul 1989, p. 387.

[8] Forty days of midwinter (Dec. 22nd-Jan. 30th).

[9] See for Paris and Istanbul examples; Steven Laurence Kaplan, Provisioning Paris: Merchants and Millers in the Grain and Flour Trade during the Eighteenth Century, New York 1984; Rhoads Murphey, “Provisioning Istanbul: The State and Subsistence in the Early Modern Middle East”, Food and Foodways, vol. 2 (1988), pp. 217-264.

[10] Nil Sari, “Osmanli Sarayinda Yemeklerin Mevsimlere Göre Düzenlenmesi ve Devrin Tababetiyle İlişkisi”, in Türk Mutfaǧi Sempozyumu Bildirileri (31 Ekim – 1 Kasim 1981), Ankara 1982, pp. 245-257.

[11] For example, see. BOA (Ottoman Archive of Prime Ministery), Maliyeden Müdevver Defterler (MAD), no. 2003, p. 72-78; MAD, no. 2111, p. 42; MAD, num. 5095, p. 35; MAD, no. 274, p. 40; MAD, no. 292, p. 2; MAD, no. 7502, p. 39.

[12] An assignment tezkire (official document) referring to the end of the 16th century shows that a bölükbaşi (senior apprentice) was appointed asperhizî i.e. regimer (BOA, Bâb-i Asafî Ruus Kalemi, num. 1471, p. 19).

[13] Nil Sari, “Osmanli Darüşşifalarinda Meslek Ahlâki”, Osmanli, VIII, Ankara 1999, pp. 494-517; Nilüfer Gökçe, “Edirne Sultan II. Bayezid Darüşşifasi Vakfiyesine Göre Darüşşifada Çalişan Personel ve Kullanilan İlâçlar”, in IV. Türk Eczacilik Tarihi Toplantisi Bildirileri (İstanbul:4-5 Haziran 1998), Istanbul 2000, p. 316.

[14] “Ve cenâb-i Şerifim ile kimesne taâmyemek kanûnum deǧildir. Meǧer ki ehl [u] iyâlden ola. Ecdâd-i izâmim vüzerâsiyla yerler imiş. Ben ref‘ etmişimdir” (Abdülkadir Özcan, “Fâtih’in Teşkilât Kanûnnâmesi ve Nizâm-i Âlem İçin Kardeş Katli Meselesi”, Tarih Dergisi, XXXIII (Istanbul 1982), p. 45).

[15] Ottoman and other sources mention only two meals (Tayyârzâde Ahmed Atâ, Târih-i Atâ, I, Istanbul no date, p. 159; C. G. Fisher – A. Fisher, “Topkapi Sarayi in the Mid-Seventeenth Century: Bobovi’s Description”, Archivum Ottomanicum, X (1985-87), p. 30). While some travel writers give the meal number as three or four, this is not correct. Those who want to have a meal outside the main repasts had it by themselves. It could be surmised that persons in the Inner Apartment (Enderun) and Harem (for example, the Sultan and his family) would meet their additional food needs from the Inner Kitchen (Kuşhane).

[16] Metin And, 16. Yüzyilda İstanbul: Kent, Saray, Günlük Yaşam, Istanbul 1993, p. 180. Feasts for envoys were generally organized on the paydays of the Janissaries following the Divan assembly. Thus foreign envoys were shown the financial power of state through the money paid to Janissaries. The prosperity of state was also implied with the abundance of food served up at table. In short these feasts were turned into a stage for displaying prosperity and resplendence. Despite the richness of menu, it was observed that most of the visitors did not like the dishes much (Lucette Valensi, Venedik ve Bâb-i Âli: Despot’un Doǧuşu, trans. by A. Turgut Arnas, Istanbul 1994, p. 100; And, 16. yüzyilda İstanbul, p. 174). This is likely to be due to visitors who came from different cultural environments were not used to the flavours and tastes of Ottoman cuisine at the time. For the recognition of food as an insturment for showing of strength in the 14th and 16th centuries of Europe, see: Massimo Montanari, Avrupa’da Yemeǧin Tarihi, trans. by Mesut Önen, Istanbul 1995, pp. 112-115.

[17] Busbecq states that the food expenses of one person in his home country equals ten days expense of a Turk (Edward Seymour Forster, The Turkish Letters of Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, London 1968, pp. 52-53). Turkish foods are generally simple and for eating to meet needs. For details see: Tülay Reyhanli, İngiliz Gezginlerine Göre XVI. Yüzyilda İstanbul’da Hayat (1582-1599), Ankara 1983, p. 67; Metin And, 16. Yüzyilda Istanbul, p. 174.

[18] We know that three kinds of pide bread that were prepared in the palace during the reign of Mehmed II were spinach, gourd and cheese. Egg was also used in its preparation. See: Ahmed Refik, “Fâtih Devrine Aid Vesîkalar”, TOEM, VIII-XI/49-62 (Istanbul 1988), pp. 24-26. Compare. Ö. Lutfi Barkan, “Istanbul Saraylarina Ait Muhasebe Defterleri”, Belgeler, IX/13 (Ankara 1979), pp. 196-197, 200, 206.

[19] For the recipe see: Stefanos Yerasimos, Sultan Sofralari – 15. ve 16. Yüzyilda Osmanli Saray Mutfaǧi, Istanbul 2002, p. 136.

[20] Accounts of these bakery products are found in three separate kitchen accounts from the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. See: BOA, Kamil Kepece Tasnifi (KK), 7094, p. 10; BOA, Bâb-i Defterî Başmuhasebe Kalemi Defterleri (D. BŞM), 10525, p. 20; Barkan, “Istanbul Saraylarina…”, p. 143. In the feasts organized for the circumcision of Mehmed II’s sons, Bayezid and Mustafa, that along with the weel-sugared nukul, and nukuls prepared with almond, pistachio, coriander, pine nut (habb-i sanevber), cinnamon and carnation were seen. (Tursun Bey, Târîh-i Ebü’l-Feth, published by Mertol Tulum, Istanbul 1977, p. 88).

[21] Both in the West and in Ottoman lands, bread prices generally did not fluctuate but quality and weight decreased so take society did not react in the times of famine. [Barnette Miller, Beyond the Sublime Porte, p. 164; Salih Aynural, İstanbul Firinlari ve Deǧirmenleri, Istanbul 2002, p. VII (Suraiya Faroqhi’s presentation- French Example), p. 146 (Istanbul Example)].

[22] Bilgin, “Osmanli Sarayinda Beslenme Alişkanliklari”, pp. 46-47.

[23] In his work, Sultan Sofralari, Stefanos Yeresimos provides some recipes for dishes prepared in the palace from the translation of Şirvani’s Kitâbü’t-tabîh (Sultan Sofralari – 15. ve 16. Yüzyilda Osmanli Saray Mutfaǧi, Istanbul 2002). For the review of some meal names and readings in this book see: Mustafa Argunşah, “Sultan Sofralan Üzerine Bir Deǧerlendirme”, İlmî Araştirmalar, 14 (Istanbul 2002), pp. 231 -246. Şirvani’s work was published by Mustafa Argunşah and Müjgan Çakir (15. Yüzyil Osmanli Mutfaǧi, Istanbul 2005). Also see. Marianna Yerasimos, 500 Yillik Osmanli Mutfaǧi, Istanbul 2005; Özge Samanci-Sharon Croxford, XIX. Yüzyil İstanbul Mutfaǧi, Istanbul 2006.

[24] For the recipe of salma including both honey and vinegar, see: Yerasimos, Sultan Sofralari, p. 64.

[25] For the food items used in the Palace kitchen and the list of the names of dishes, see: Bilgin, “Osmanli Sarayinda Beslenme Alişkanliklari”, pp. 54-75.

[26] Ingredients in soups cooked in the palace included cereals, fruits, vegetables and herbs such as like parsley, cucumber, gourd, unripe grape, plum, chestnut, kendene (Marrubium vulgare), carrot, lemon balm, zirişk (Berberis vulgaris), lemon, nardeng (treacle made from the juice of pomegranate), sumac, peppermint, egg, noodle (home made macaroni), almond and turnip (Bilgin, “Osmanli Sarayinda Beslenme Alişkanliklari”, pp. 56-57).

[27] While providing figures for the purchase of fish, rmost kitchen accounts did not mentioned the species of fish. Some records list cod, eel, and carp, which were certainly consumed in the palace. (Bilgin, Osmanli Saray Mutfaǧi, pp. 196-197). Fish consumption in the Ottoman palaces in the 19th century increased (Özge Sa-manci, “Sultan II. Abdülhamit’in Sofrasinda Baliklar” Yemek ve Kültür, 11 (Istanbul 2007), p. 150-154).

[28] Evliya Çelebi cites hummâs grown in Egypt as “lemon of hummâs” which shows us that the fruit of hummâs resembles a lemon (Seyahatnâme, X, Istanbul 1938, p. 504). Supporting this information, Steingass gives the definition of “portakal usaresi (orange juice)” (F. Steingass, A Comprehensive Persian-English Dictionary, Beyrut 1998, p. 430). This sherbet was made by boiling the juice of hummâs fruit, musk, ambergris and sugar.

[29] Ribâs sherbet is a beverage prepared by mixing liquid (ribâs) from ripe date with sugar, musk and ambergris.

*Assoc. Prof., Sakarya University, Faculty of Art and Science, Department of History.

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