As far back as the mid 16th century, the Ottoman Empire realised the power of food and wine when it came to diplomacy. The earliest coffee houses were places where people would gather to talk politics and make connections and as the Empire spread so too did the cuisine.
When Suleiman Aga was sent by Sultan Mehmet IV as ambassador to the court of King Louis XIV of France in 1669 he took several sacks of coffee, which he described to the French as a "magical beverage", and Parisian society was soon begging for an invitation to meet him.
"He was using coffee as a nice way of luring important people into his residence to talk business," says the Turkish Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Ufuk Gezer, who has perhaps done that very same thing here, inviting us to celebrate Turkish Cuisine Week at his residence in Red Hill.
Turkish Cuisine Week is celebrated world wide, from May 21-27, to showcase the rich gastronomic history of the country.
"Turkish food is something special because for us, eating together with others, with friends and family, creating a bond between people, is something we take very seriously," Mr Gezer says.
He's a firm believer in the idea of "gastrodiplomacy", where, like in the 16th century court, important discussions take place around a dining table.
"That's one of the perks of this job," he laughs, "that we do get to dine with others while discussing business.
"As a Turkish diplomat food is a very important instrument in creating that welcoming environment."
Mr Gezer, and his wife, Mrs Sebnem Feriver Gezer, alongside long-time embassy chef Mesut Avci and Turkish celebrity chef Somer Sivrioglu, presented several dishes on the day.
Chef Sivrioglu, who is a judge on the Turkish version of MasterChef, demonstrated how to make kunefe, a sweet cheesy dessert made with katafi pastry and soaked in a sugar-base syrup.
"I enjoy being able to showcase Turkish cuisine to people around the world," Sivrioglu says. He is best known for his Sydney restaurants Efendy, Maydanoz and Anason. He also co-authored the book Anatolia: Adventures in Turkish Cooking with David Dale and appeared on television series alongside Adam Liaw and Maeve O'Meara.
"Turkey is a country of many different regional cuisines and this year we are showcasing the area of Hatay, an area that was devastated by the earthquakes earlier this year."
The cuisine from this area is Meditteranean-based, characterised by fresh vegetables, quality olive oil, legumes and cereals.
Dishes on offer in the embassy dining room included muhammara, a roast red capsicum dip with walnuts; kuru dolma, dried eggplant and zucchini dolma with pomegranate sauce; kisir, a fine bulgur salad; alongside the kunefe.
As far as a swap in cultural cuisines, I asked Mrs Feriver Gezer if she'd tried Vegemite with their young children.
"I haven't as yet," she laughed.
Gastrodiplomacy only stretches so far.
1. First make the syrup, so it has time to cool. Put the sugar and 500ml of cold water in a saucepan and bring to the boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for eight minutes.
2. Add the lemon juice and simmer for one more minute. Remove from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature.
3. Roughly chop the mozzarella. Put the pastry in a bowl with half the ghee and mix with your hands until completely combined.
4. Brush a little ghee onto the base of a frying pan (or divide into smaller frying pans to make individual kunefe). Spread half the pastry over the pan, pressing it down with the (clean) base of another pan. Spread the mozzarella evenly over the pastry and spread the other half of the pastry over the mozzarella. Press down again on the second layer of pastry.
5. Place the pan over medium heat. After about six minutes, as the bottom is turning golden brown, turn the kunefe out onto a plate, and then put it back into the pan with the uncooked side down.
6. Cook the second side for a further four minutes. Turn off the heat and slice the knefe into four segments. Pour the cold syrup over the segments. Divide the kunefe between each plate, sprinkle with pistachios and serve.
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