A Turkish outpost of delight in Stellenbosch

Of all the tasting experiences you’d expect to find in Stellenbosch, Turkish Delight and Turkish coffee is probably not one of them. But Dilek Aktan of TurkSpirit brings an authentic taste of her home country to a hidden café off Plein Street.
It’s called lokum in Turkey. The story goes that an intrepid 19th century traveller to Istanbul took the sweet confection home to Britain, but couldn’t remember the proper name for it and so, not very imaginatively, dubbed it Turkish Delight. It’s gone by that name ever since in the English language, too often referring to an over-sweet, mouth-cloying and palate-sticking sugar-fest scented overpoweringly with rose, that bears little resemblance to the real fresh deal. Fry’s Turkish Delight, I’m looking at you.
I had a first taste of TurkSpirit’s authentic lokum recently and it was a revelation in flavour and texture, so much more interesting than my childhood experiences of the sweet in 70s England.
The only time we had Turkish Delight was at Christmas, when it was an essential part of the extravagant array of what our family called dessert, laid on only at that time of year. Pudding was pudding, the word “dessert” was reserved for what followed. Once the Christmas pudding and brandy butter, jelly and cream had been cleared away, amid the detritus of Christmas crackers, bad jokes and paper hats, various boxes and pretty glass bowls took over the centre of the table for desultory nibbling by the adults with coffee or, in the children’s case, enthusiastic samplings of pure greed.
Dates in a long box with rounded ends and a plastic imitation stalk for pricking them out of the box; still soft and chewy dried figs; jewel-like crystallised fruits, their centre a liquid dash of syrup that inevitably dribbled down your chin; a big bowl of nuts in their shells – Brazils, walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds – to be attacked noisily with the nutcrackers, littering table and floor with shards of shell; Turkish Delight exotically scented with rose in a round balsa wood box which opened with a puff of powdered sugar. There were chocolates of course, whatever had been received as gifts: truffles, liqueur chocolates, Dairy Milk Tray, Quality Street and sophisticated Bendicks Bittermints. This cornucopia is what comes to mind whenever I encounter the word “sweetmeats” – that sense of over-the-top sugar heaven.
The collection would stay on the sideboard over the whole Christmas period until, ...