Mersın Carrot and Coconut Balls

Cezerye

Every city in Turkey makes a sweet they claim is ‘a natural Viagra’. Cezerye (pronounced ‘jez-air-yeh’) is the natural Viagra of Mersin on the southeast coast. It was once the ancient Greek city of Zephyrion, and now it’s Turkey’s largest port.

I have no evidence to support the alleged aphrodisiac value of carrots, but you could say that this is one of the healthier deserts you can consume from the region of excessive sugar and butter. I confess I have added turmeric mainly for visual impact, because carrots outside of Turkey have a less vivid colour—and presumably less potency.

Ingredients

  • 75 g (2⅔ oz/½ cup) hazelnuts
  • 4 carrots
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 110 g ( oz/½ cup) sugar
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 30 g (1 oz/½ cup) flaked coconut

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4).

Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and bake for 5 minutes. Remove the tray and set aside to cool, then rub off the skins using your fingertips. Put the nuts in a food processor and coarsely grind.

Put the carrots and 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of water in a saucepan over high heat and boil for 10 minutes. Put 2 tablespoons of the boiling water in a bowl with the honey and cornflour and stir to combine.

Strain the carrots and then transfer to a blender. Add the sugar and blend into a purée. Put the carrot purée back in the pan over low heat and stir in the spices. Add the honey and cornflour mixture and then simmer for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat and discard the cloves. Add the hazelnuts and then leave to cool to room temperature.

Using a teaspoon, shape the mixture into small walnut-sized balls. It should make about twenty balls. Spread the coconut flakes on a tray and then roll the balls in the coconut to evenly coat. Put the tray in the fridge and leave until you are ready to serve.

Put the cezerye on a plate (with toothpicks, if you like, so that people don’t have to use their fingers) and serve.