As the onslaught of winter holidays are preparing to commence in the US, Turkey has a few unofficial holidays of their own. While you may be spying colored leaf decor, pilgrim hats, and probably a few Christmas trees, in the states…in Turkey you will be seeing tons and tons of aşure!
Aşure (Ah-shur-eh), or Noah’s Pudding, is a dessert that I personally adore. Sweetened with both sugar and fruit, aşure is a sure sign of the changing season. At least, it is right now.
Along with being a dessert, this is also the nickname of the Muslim month of Muharram (the first month on the islamic calendar- which operates by the moon phases). For this reason, the months change over time- so in 10 years we may be preparing aşure around Easter rather than Christmas!
But I digress.
This dessert comes from the ubiquitous story of Noah (or Nuh) and the flood. While Muslims and Christians don’t necessarily agree on how big the flood was, we can all agree that there was a guy on a boat for quite some time. At the end of that time, there was only so many ingredients available to prepare much of anything. With what remained, Noah prepared aşure. There is a lot of significance to this month that you can search for on your own, I’m sticking to the dessert!
When one prepares aşure, they prepare A LOT. That’s because you share your dessert with the whole neighborhood! Invite over your closest neighbors, say some prayers, read a little Quran, then eat! Later, load up a tepsi (tray) with as many bowls as you can and distribute them to the neighbors on your block. More likely than not, you have some coming your way as well! Just last week we visited Amca and his family, their aşure flavored with orange and clove felt like being back in the states again.
My favorite part of eating/making aşure is that everyone does it differently. While the base is pretty much the same, how people chose to flavor it can vary. Some people put figs and apricots, others put orange and apple. Rose water? why not. Clove? Bring it on. And the toppings sprinkled on top are always a treat! It literally took us one entire day to prepare the toppings. Cracking, blanching, toasting, and pulverizing your own almonds and walnuts is not an easy task. Oh, but the reward…
Without further ado, here is our recipe for aşure. It makes a huge stock pot worth, so if you don’t plan on sharing with a dozen people- feel free to cut down the recipe. Change it as you like! We prepared the beans the day before.
1kg whole bulgur wheat
2c dried chickpeas
2c dried great northern beans
3 apples, peeled and diced
3 mandarine orange rinds, diced finely
1tbsp rose water
toasted almonds, pulverized
toasted walnuts, pulverized
toasted pine nuts
1.Soak the dried beans separately for several hours until ready to cook. Add a generous hand-full of salt to the water.
2. Wash the bulgur wheat very well*, then cook in a pressure cooker until done.
3. Remove the bulgur and place in a large stock pot. Cook the chickpeas in the pressure cooker until soft.
4. Cook the beans and rice separately in standard pots, until soft.
5. Put all of the legumes and grains, drained, in the same stock pot, add sugar. Meanwhile, boil the mandarin rind twice, removing any undesirable bitter flavors.
6. Fill stock pot with water until everything is submerged, plus two or three inches more.
7. Add the fruits/rind/clove and bring to a boil, letting everything mush together (its ugly but delicious). Add the rose water after boiling and stir it in.
8. Try and maintain a pourable consistency with hot water. Serve with garnish, hot.
*you know, go ahead and wash everything well. EVERYTHING. Even the raisins. Any residual color compounds can make your dessert ugly and discolored!