Different kinds of fish that were specially caught, cooked and served were an indispensible part of the palace cuisine.

SEAFOOD DISHES OF THE OTTOMAN PALACES

The foundation of the Ottoman palace’s interest in seafood took place at its first capital, Bursa. The rivers of Uludağ Mountain were made to pass through the palace in Bursa with marble canals, and fish was provided for the sultan and his inner circle from this river. In Bursa, the fish motif was even used on porcelain.

 The interest the high officials of the Ottoman palace showed in seafood becomes clear for the first time at Topkapı Palace. One of the palace doors, which were all named after the products which were brought in such as Otluk (hay), Ahir (stable), was named “Balıkhane” (fish market) Gate. The palace’s seafood was brought into the kitchen through this door. It is known that Mehmed II was particularly fond of seafood, that the special fish of Terkos Lake were caught and brought to him, and that he especially ate eel with thyme (mâhî-i mar).

It has been recorded that during the period of Mehmed II, roe, caviar, abalone, and shrimp were purchased for the palace. It is also recorded that during the rule of Suleiman the Magnificent, caviar and dried fish were purchased for the palace. He was born in Trabzon and ruled there when he was a prince. On the handle of one of his swords, which is displayed today at the Topkapı Palace Museum, there is a hamsi (European anchovy) motif. Records also show that during the rule of Murad IV, around 1 ton of fish was purchased for the palace. Sources show that during the rules of Mahmud II and Abdulmecid, sardine and sturgeon were eaten, and during Ramadan, seafood was served as part of iftar feasts. The daughter of Abdulhamid II, Ayşe Osmanoğlu, said that her father preferred haddock or rockling for lunch.

In his books, the expert French historian of Ottoman history Prof. Robert Mantran mentions how Ottoman Istanbul was famous for its seafood, how Western travelers were amazed by Istanbul’s fish markets -especially Galata- and how Galata was the best fish market in the world.


RECEIPT 1

1 canned sardine / 1 dried onion / ¼ bunch dill / ½ bunch parsley / ¼ cup olive oil / 3 tablespoons vinegar / 3 tablespoons lemon juice

Place the canned fish in a sieve to drain the oil. Whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, and olive oil until pale and creamy. Add to the fish and then add the finely chopped onion, parsley, and dill, and serve.

 

RECEIPT 2

1 kg fish (from the variety above) / 2 tomatoes / 2 onions / 1 lemon / ½ bunch parsley / ½ cup olive oil / ½ teaspoon black pepper / ¼ teaspoon cinnamon / ¼ teaspoon cloves / ¼ teaspoon salt

Clean and wash the fish, and slice. Prepare the spices, slice the tomatoes and the onions into rings, chop the parsley, and mix together. Place half of this mixture into a deep tray. Place the fish on top, add the peeled, sliced lemon, and the remainder of mixture on top of the fish. Pour the olive oil and cook in the oven for 40-45 minutes. Once out of the oven, squeeze some lemon onto the fish and serve. If desired, the dish can also be served cold.

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