Asure – Noah’s Pudding

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We’re in the month of Muharram according to the Islamic calendar. The first month of the Hijri lunar calendar. There is a strong and very common tradition regarding this month in Anatolia, Balkans and most other parts of the Middle East and Central Asia. Noah’s pudding is made in most homes and distributed to neighbors hoping that it will bring that household a bountiful year in return.

We believe that Prophet Noah and his people when they embarked on their voyage of salvation on the infamous ark, made this pudding from whatever they have left in stock onboard, fruits, grains, nuts and spices. The essential rule of making asure (pronounced ush-oo-rah) is that it should be made using at least seven ingredients and should be given out to seven different neighbors. There are other tips and tricks like boiling all the ingredients separately and soaking the legumes and other grains ahead of time, but this is it, basically, get seven ingredients: sugar, wheat, chickpeas, water (I don’t know if that counts as one), cinnamon, walnuts and dried figs. Make your pudding and hand it out to your neighbors hoping they won’t think that you’re some kind of psycho trying to poison them with that weird-looking blobby thing. My dear readers, try the recipe below or use it as a general guide, feel free to get creative and make up your own, as Noah’s pudding tradition -metaphorically- points out to diversity as a source of blessing. Let me know of any ideas that you come up with!

Ingredients: 10-12 servings (150ml each)

1 cup of wheat grains, soaked overnight and then boiled al-dente

1/2 cup of dry navy/lima beans, soaked overnight and then boiled al-dente

1/4 cup of corn kernels, (soak and boil if not canned)

1/2 cup of chickpeas, soaked overnight and then boiled al-dente

1/4 cup of rice, washed and drained

100g of dried figs, small variety, soaked and boiled until soft

50g of dried apple slices, soaked and boiled

100g of dried sultanas,

50g of black currants,

Zest of 1 lemon/orange,

1 tablespoon of lemon/orange juice,

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3 sticks of cinnamon,

8 clove buds,

1/2 teaspoon of allspice powder,

A dash of powdered cardamom seeds,

1/4 teaspoon of ginger powder,

1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg,

1 star anise,

A dash of powdered coriander seeds,

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2 tablespoons of rose water- edible type,

1,5 cups of sugar,

A dash of salt,

2 tablespoons of wheat starch, mixed with 1/2 cup of cold water

2,5 liters of boiling water (add more if need be)

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50g almond slices,

100g chopped walnuts/pecans

40g pine nut kernels,

100g of pomegranate seeds,

50g shredded coconut,

1 tablespoon of poppy seed,

What takes time is preparing all the ingredients, like soaking, washing, chopping and boiling… The rest is easy breezy. Add all the ingredients into a deep pot except for the nuts, pomegranate seeds, poppy seeds and shredded coconut. Save those for decoration purposes. Cook on medium heat stirring until rice cooks well, the mixture thickens and becomes glossy. Laddle into pudding bowls. When it cools off, top up and decorate with nuts, pomegranate seeds, coconut and poppy seed. Serve cold. Remember: Sharing and diversity is the key to a perfect asure.

Lor Tatlisi – Creamy Cottage Cheese With Sour Cherry Jam

Lor tatlisi is an unforgettable Cunda treat… 2 weeks ago, my husband and I had a short vacation to the northern Aegean coastal town of Ayvalik, more specifically an island called Cunda. We stayed in an old Anatolian-Greek house, now turned into a hotel with only 7 rooms. Hotel’s decoration had an antique touch to it and the house itself was built from a local stone called sarimsak tasi. It had a very high ceiling, wooden floors, gorgeous wooden windows, vintage heaters with flower patterns and antique furniture.

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Cevizli Irmik Helvasi – Semolina Halva With Walnuts

I need a getaway, urgent, seriously! Any suggestions, around Istanbul?

Finally today, sun is up and spring seems to have arrived! Yesterday, I was watching the weather report (yeah I am watching the weather report, that’s how serious my need to have a break is) and apparently it’s 25 degrees Celsius in Kiev!?! What the heck! What’s wrong with you Istanbul! Yet, I guess I am the only person to catch a cold and get an almost 2nd degree sunburn on the very same day!

Enough with the weather, I know, my dear beloved reader… In coming weeks I’ll make it up to you with stories from my soon-to-be-planned weekend vacation, promise.

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Tahin Helvasi – Tahini Halva

No no, I didn’t make this one. It’s a store-bought sweet here in Turkey, called Tahin Helvasi. It’s made of tahini (sesame paste), egg whites, sugar, soapwort, pistachio nuts. It’s a long and tiresome process, ingredients are processed seperately, then churned, then beaten and finally kneaded into a dough before becoming that delicious, crumbly, crispy helva we know. Here are a few links to videos of its production process:

video 1- the churning step- http://vimeo.com/6714556

video 2- beating stage- http://vimeo.com/6714660

video 3- kneading the halva-final step- http://vimeo.com/6714805

 

 

Kabak Tatlisi – Candied Pumpkin

Fall is over already and yet, I am not over with pumpkins and chestnuts. I even invested in a handful of pumpkin seeds which I’ll be planting this summer and hopefully enjoying my mini-pumpkins end of next year, here is a picture of what I am hoping to achieve:

For now, I’ll have to suffice with squares of candied winter squash, Turkish style of course. Some recipes from the southern part of Turkey also call for soaking the pumpkin slices into edible lime before cooking, so that the dessert turns translucent and attains a crunchy feel when cooked. This recipe here is the wider used version. (more…)

Saray Helvasi – Royal Halva

Halva is the generic term for flour and/or butter and nuts based dense sweets in various world cuisines including Ottoman cuisine. This one is called royal halva and it is made of butter, wheat flour, caster/icing sugar and ground nuts (almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts). It obviously tastes somewhat like shortbread cookies, as they both contain the same ingredients, but method of preparation is what separates the two.

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Tulumba Tatlisi – Fluted Fritters In Syrup

While we were in Kahramanmaras, we went on a day trip to a place called “Icme” which literally means “drinking / to drink”.  No no, it’s not a bars street, there is a spring resort in “Icme”. People travel to the place from all over South Eastern Anatolia and the Mediterranean region just to drink and possibly take back home as much mineral water as they can to restore or  preserve their health.

The mineral water in Icme is quite bitter and not very pleasant to drink. Locals came up with a solution to this. Just next to the main spring, there are dozens of stalls selling sweets, especially in-syrup types, providing the visitors with a chance to get as thirsty as possible. They serve generous  amounts of sweets followed by bottles of mineral water, fresh from the springs. So if you survive the glucose coma,  you’ll have drunk lots of water from the fountain of health. Yeah, I am all for healthy living, so give me more of that dessert!

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Sakizli Muhallebi – Mastic Pudding

I just realized that I have put up only a few dessert recipes. I need to add more. Especially in Ramadan, I crave sweets, after iftar. I am sure there is a medical explanation to this, but when the cravings are here, all I need is sugar, no explanations for me, thanks. I totally love milk-based sweets and they constitute an important role in Ottoman cuisine with their calming and subtle flavors.

Mastic pudding –sakizli muhallebi- derives its name from mastic gum. I know all it reminds you is construction supplies but trust me there is a lot more to this word. Mastic gum, also called damla sakizi (droplet gum) in Turkish, with its exquisite aroma is exuded from the bark of the mastic tree. The tree is native to the Aegean Island of Chios. According to the hearsay, during the Ottoman rule of Chios, mastic was worth its weight in gold. Apart from the culinary uses of its deep, woody and slightly bitter aroma, mastic gum has been used as a medicine since antiquity. It contains antioxidants, and also has antibacterial and antifungal properties, it’s also good for your gums and teeth, no wonder my mom used to chew mastic gum once or twice a month. To me, she was a crazy woman back then, for gnawing on such a hard and intensely flavored matter.

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Visne Pelteli Irmikli Muhallebi – Semolina Pudding With Sour Cherry Jelly

I made this one up, but both semolina pudding and sour cherry starch pudding are traditional Turkish recipes. Ottomans began using fish-gelatin in the 19th century (remember the surprise book my hubs gave me?), before that, they used fruit pectin (quince seeds in particular) and starch in dessert recipes as thickeners, to achieve that jelly-like texture.

It’s quite easy to make this naturally colorful sweet and sour dessert. For the base, I used digestive biscuits, simply lined them up to the base of the tray. For the white pudding layer, you can find the semolina pudding recipe here.

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Irmik Tatlisi – Semolina Pudding

I’ve always been a dairy fan. I can’t go one day without milk, yogurt or cheese. My dear hubs is lactose intolerant, so making milk desserts all the time is a bit unfair. Besides, I’ve come to notice that I can still survive with less dairy intake. I can’t really say I have a sweet tooth, so spending a lot of time in the kitchen for making desserts is not my cup of tea. This one’s different though, milk calms down the taste of sugar a bit and it makes a wonderful light dessert. There are other ways as well of using semolina as a dessert ingredient in Turkish cuisine. It goes into savory recipes and even meat dishes as well.

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