Noah's Pudding is a Turkish dessert I have known and loved all my life as Ashure. I heard the nomenclature Noah's Pudding only after I started living in North America. The name made so much sense to me as I thought of the story of Noah and the species of every kind that filled his ark. I was making a connecting between the idea of the ark's motley crew and that of the ingredients which go into ashure, rendering it just as varied, imaginative and colorful.
Much later, with a growing interest in food lore, I researched the anecdotal history and I learned that when his family wanted to celebrate the landing of Noah's Ark on top of Mount Ararat – known as Agri Dagi in Turkish – in northeastern Turkey with a special dish, their supplies were almost exhausted. Thus they threw whatever was left together to create a pudding consisting of various grains, legumes and dried fruits. Thus was born what is now known as Ashure, or Noah's Pudding !
I was a senior at McGill University when I announced my discovery one evening at the dinner table, as we were digging into our very desserts, adding that I preferred my own version of the story far better to what I had read. Babacim, smiled and replied to me and my sisters then, that he actually liked both versions, but neither was really true to the real tradition and folklore behind this delightful dish.
Oh? There was a tradition to this?
Apparently, this pudding was traditionally prepared on the Day of Ashura, whih marked the end of the Battle of Karbala. Today it is prepared almost in every Turkish household during the Ashure Month as a cherished tradition. Though it is not declared as a public holiday, this month-long Ashure celebration is still observed as a religious occasion in Turkey which immediately follows the Kurban Bayrami - or Feast of Sacrifice. During this time of the year large quantities of Noah's pudding is cooked in almost every household in all regions of Turkey. It is traditionally served to guests at home while leaving aside separate bowls of it to be shared with the neighbors, relatives, and friends.
Although ashure was made and consumed during the colder months of the year as a healthy, calorie-packed pudding, nowadays it is enjoyed year-round because of its richness in omega fats, healthy grains, dry fruits; and it is specially attractive to omnivores and stricktly vegetarians alike. The essence of sharing Ashure with other people has become a common practice not only to Turks, but also to the other neighboring Middle Eastern countries.
Whenever my mother cooked ashure, she made sure there was enough to send a big bowl of it with me to our neighbors and friends as an offering of peace and love, regardless of their faith or religion.
Over the years I may have altered my mother's recipe often by omitting the dry figs and rosewater-for which I personally don't care much- and adding dried cranberries or occasionally sprinkling coconut on top, but the basic tradition of sharing and love is something I've carried on from my cultural roots - unconditionally.
Ashure does not have a single recipe; recipes vary among regions and families. I was taught to include at least seven ingredients among which are barley, rice, beans, chick peas, sugar, nuts, and dried fruits of which there are many variants. Many renditions add citrus peel to lend depth to the pudding. Condiments, such as pomegranate seeds, and nuts, as well as cinnamon are sprinkled on top before serving.
1 cup pearled barley
1 cup chickpeas
1 cup dry white beans
1/3 cups short grain rice - I use Basmati
10-12 cups water
10 dried apricots, quartered
1 cup seedless raisins
1 small orange, zest grated
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons rose water
3/4 cup walnuts (or hazelnuts-skinned)
1 cup pistachio nuts, unsalted
1 small pomegranate (optional)
cinnamon, for sprinkling on top
•Wash the barley thoroughly. Measure 4 cups of water in a pot and bring to boil in high heat. Immediately add the barley and cook for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Turn the heat off and leave the barley (in this water) overnight.
•Repeat the same procedure for the chickpeas and white kidney beans leaving them overnight in the same water they were boiled in.
•Measure 4 cups of water in each of three separate pots. Boil the barley, white kidney beans and chickpeas separately – because they cook at a different length of time – until cooked. Discard the cooking water and drain.
•Remove skins from the white kidney beans and chickpeas.
• Fill a large pot with 10 cups of water.
•Add the barley, white kidney beans, chickpeas, rice, orange rind and bring to a boil. Cook for about 15 minutes over high heat uncovered. Stir.
•Add the sugar, raisins, and dried apricots while reducing the temperature to medium heat. You may also add water occasionally as necessary because barley absorbs a lot of water.
•Continue boiling for another half hour or until the chickpeas are soft.
•Turn off the heat and allow the pot to rest for half 20 minutes.
Remove from heat. Stir in rose water.
Spoon into individual dessert bowls. Cool. Garnish with walnuts, pistachios and pomegranate seeds*.
Serve cold or chilled.
* I prefer a generous sprinkling of cinnamon in place of pomegranate seeds before garnishing with pistachios or walnuts, and also leave out the rose water.
Classic Turkish Cooking - by Ghillie Basan
The Sultan's Kitchen - A Turkish Cookbook - by Ozcan Ozan
Video Clip - Courtesy YouTube
~The sources for photos and references are as acknowledged above~
Füsun Atalay ~ Copyright © Will of my Own - 2011