Exploring the First Cookbook of the Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire was a multinational, multicultural and multilingual empire spanning three continents. For several centuries, from 1299 to 1923, or 624 years, the Ottoman Empire experienced rich periods both economically and culturally.

The Ottoman People consisted of different ethnic groups: Turks, Kurds, Arabs, Greeks, Albanians, Greeks, Jews, Central Asian Nomads…

The influence of different ethnic groups living in the capital city of Istanbul on the Ottoman culinary culture could be seen. The capital has attracted people with their own culture, which explains why Istanbul’s cuisine is rich and diverse. 

Istanbul, the Crossroads Between East and West

With Istanbul as its capital and its control of the lands around the Mediterranean basin, the Ottoman Empire was at the center of interaction between the eastern and western worlds for six centuries.

During the Ottoman Empire, there was no tradition of writing cookbooks. The first documents are the 15th century manuscripts of Shirvani. Over forty cookbooks published in Ottoman Turkish between 1844 and 1927 were identified. 

The first cookbook published in Istanbul in Ottoman Turkish and Arabic alphabet was  Melceü’t – Tabbâhîn (Cooks’ Shelter), written in 1844 by Mehmet Kamil, a professor of medicine.

The Cooks’ Refuge  also served as a reference for other cookbooks published in the 19th century. The New Cookbook published in 1880/1881, The Housewife  published in 1882/1883,  and the Chef’s Head  published   in 1900   share common aspects with Cooks’ Refuge .

The book contains 12 chapters and 284 recipes.

The chapters of this book are:

> Soups (5 types)

> Kebabs (22 kinds)

> Stews (31 kinds)

> Pans (11 types)

> Pastries (21 types)

> Pastry sweets (44 varieties)

> Milk desserts (15 types)

> They printed (26 kinds)

> Stuffed stuffed with olive oil and plain oil (14 types)

> Rice (13 types)

> Compotes (14 types)

> Desserts and drinks to eat before coffee (20 types)

This cookbook was  translated into English by Türabi Efendi in London in 1864 as A Manual of Turkish Cookery.

Mehmet Kamil explains how he prepared this cookbook and his thoughts on old dishes and cooks in a very ornate way in the introduction.

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