Harem navels

Harem navels

Lisa Cohen and William Meppem

Many Turkish pastries and desserts have names as sensual as the treat itself. Should the urge take you, you can nibble on ‘ladies’ thighs’, ‘beauty’s lips’, ‘vizier’s fingers’ or ‘harem navels’. The latter are small, syrup-drenched doughnuts, also known as lokma, and I like to stud them with a hazelnut, just to reinforce the belly-button idea.

These are delicious served warm with ice-cream.


Quantity Ingredient
3 teaspoons dried yeast
600g plain flour
pinch sea salt
70g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup caster sugar
440ml milk
3 free-range eggs, plus 1 yolk extra
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
roasted hazelnuts, peeled, to garnish
candied orange peel, to garnish (optional)

Orange syrup

Quantity Ingredient
300g caster sugar
100ml water
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 orange, finely zested
1 tablespoon corn syrup


  1. To make the syrup, combine all the ingredients in a large, heavy-based saucepan and heat gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and leave to cool.
  2. Mix the yeast, flour and salt in a large bowl. Put the butter into another large bowl.
  3. Gently heat the sugar and milk in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Do not boil. Pour the milk mixture onto the butter and stir to melt, then leave to cool to lukewarm. Whisk the eggs and egg yolk into the milk mixture, then stir this into the flour by hand until the batter is smooth. Cover the bowl and leave in a warm, draught-free spot for 1 hour, by which time the dough should have doubled in size. (The batter can be made to this stage up to a few hours ahead of time. Keep in the refrigerator to slow the yeast activity, but allow 2–3 hours at room temperature before recommencing.)
  4. When ready to cook, heat the oil in a large saucepan or deep-fryer to 180ºC. Spoon the batter into a piping bag fitted with a wide, plain nozzle and hold it above the hot oil. Squeeze gently, snipping the batter into small, even round blobs as it falls. The doughnuts should be about the size of a small walnut. Fry 8–10 doughnuts at a time for 1 1/2–2 minutes until a deep golden brown. Move them around in the oil with a large slotted spoon, so they colour evenly. Scoop the doughnuts out of the oil straight into the pan of syrup and leave for a few minutes to soak.
  5. When cool enough to handle, stud each doughnut with a hazelnut and garnish with candied peel, if using.
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