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.

Guvecte Sucuklu Kuru Fasulye – Navy Bean Casserole With Sujuk

There is one common rule all over Turkey in regards to cooking dry beans: You must serve it with rice. Apart from that, there is not much of a rule. Here, I’ll pass my favorite casserole recipe with navy beans. It’s more of a winter dish, but depending on the cravings of our household, i.e. my husband, I end up cooking dry beans in summer time as well. It is perfect if you can find an earthenware bean pot in order to achieve over-the-top flavor but you’d be fine with any casserole dish. 

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Icli Kofte – Bulgur Balls With Meat and Walnut Filling

This kofte is not just crafty stuff but definitely an artistic touch to your dinner tables. In Southeastern Anatolia elongated icli kofte is usually served fried and boiled round icli kofte is enjoyed in Eastern Mediterranean towns like Adana and Kahramanmaras. The recipes for the stuffing and bulgur mix do not differ much throughout Turkey. Various Arab countries have bulgur balls, called kibbah. The only variation between these and the Turkish version is the use of spices I suppose.

My grandma was an icli kofte master and she was famous for it in the town we used to live, I even remember strangers (friends of friends of friends and so on) dropping by our house on the days she made kofte. Yes, it requires a lot of time and skillful hands, but it is totally worth it. Here we go:

Ingredients:

3 cups of fine grind bulgur (parboiled cracked wheat, you can find it in the organic food section of your supermarket or at Middle Eastern grocery shops)

500g of lean minced beef or lamb (ask your butcher to double grind it, it’s crucial)

2 onions, finely grated

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Yumurtali Ispanak – Eggs With Spinach

It’s good for you, it’s green, leafy, crispy and aromatic. It releases its aroma when heated. Turks like it with yogurt, nutrition experts advice against this as yogurt will block the absorption of iron in spinach. If you wash, drain and prepare spinach leaves beforehand, eggs with spinach recipe serves as a very quick and fulfilling lunch or dinner, a very healthy option indeed. Here comes one of the most homely, motherly recipe of Turkish cuisine.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons of butter

1 medium size onion, chopped finely

1/2 kg spinach leaves, washed, drained and chopped into 1 inch pieces

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

3 large free range organic eggs

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Karnabahar Oturtma – Cauliflower Medley

Cauliflower is not everyone’s favorite vegetable, I know. Daughter of a close friend put it bluntly when she was only 2, by saying “Please mom, I can’t eat flowers or trees” when offered cauliflower for the first time. For some, it is the sight of this pretty vegetable, for others it is the smell that is off-putting. For me, cauliflower is one of those saponin-flavored beautiful winter vegetables. Au gratin and this medley recipe I’m giving here are the two most common ways of cooking cauliflower in Turkey.

Ingredients:

100 g butter

1/2 kg minced beef

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Kavun Dolmasi – Stuffed Melon

These days, the hype in Istanbul is (not-so) fine dining restaurants that claim they serve Ottoman palace cuisine. Are all of those places bad? Of course not! Some are very genuine and not overpriced considering the food they serve. But for others, all I can say is “overrated”! Kavun dolmasi or stuffed melon is one of those dishes that existed since the 15th century, maybe even earlier. I guess it is Persian and Armenian influence what made Ottoman cooks combine meat and fruits, which when done right creates an excellent balance of flavor. The trick to this recipe is picking the right size and type of melon, small, round, aromatic variety that is, adding the right amount of spices and nuts and using good quality minced meat (preferably lamb meat ground with a chopping knife) with a good amount of fat content.

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Siron – Baked Pastry Rolls With Yogurt

Dear Reader, I can’t promise you a very exciting intro to this post, sorry but you’ll have to bear with me till the end of this memoir which I’m about to tell you.

Last year, mid-July, we, my hubs and I, were driving back to Istanbul from Gallipoli where my in-laws reside each summer. While in the car, browsing through radio channels, Greek, Turkish, Bulgarian ones… We stumbled upon one and were quite puzzled because we could swear we recognized the language, it sounded exactly like the Eastern Black Sea Region accent of Turkish. It felt like we could understand what it was saying but no, we couldn’t. Then we found out that it was the radio channel of Pontic Greeks who migrated to Greece from Black Sea Region of Turkey in the last century. There were dozens of words I could recognize in the songs besides the accent and the sound of it as a whole. “Sirona gel sirona” (come and join the siron) was one phrase upon hearing we went “hey, did you hear that?”. Yes, dear reader, Black Sea Region is where siron and Pontic Greeks come from. It is the name of both a dancing style and a manti-like dish. The song was probably talking about the dance unless the songwriter was a food-maniac like myself and took the trouble of writing a song about a dish. Oh no, even I haven’t done anything like that, yet!

I’m an epic fail when it comes to dancing, but here is the recipe to the food version of siron:

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Karniyarik – Stuffed Aubergines With Ground Meat

Eggplant’s last stand before winter arrives. Did you guys know that the eggplant is a close cousin of tomatoes? Did you know that the Ottomans prepared hundreds of dishes with this vegetable? Did you know that it contains nicotine? Maybe that’s why Turks like it this much. Keywords: nicotine, Turks, smoking…

Karniyarik literally means “slashed belly”. It’s not a very complicated recipe, especially if you consider how sophisticated the final outcome looks, and of course tastes. Here’s how to make this famous Turkish dish:

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Cacik – Cucumber and Yogurt Dip

What could be more cooling than a bowl of cacik on a hot summer day? Greeks make it thicker, Turks like it more in a liquid form. Mix up some yogurt, crushed garlic, chopped cucumber and fresh mint, it’s that easy. Garlic is yogurt’s best friend in a Turkish kitchen and mint leaves freshen up the whole thing. Serve it with bread, legumes cooked in tomato sauce or with meatballs. I know I know, it’s not the healthiest thing to consume yogurt and meat together, as it prevents the body from metabolizing the iron in meat.

The trick to a good cacik or tzatziki as Greeks call it, is to avoid the temptation to grate the cucumbers and to chop them finely with a knife instead.

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Balik Corbasi – Fish Soup

Balik Corbasi - Fish Soup

It’s definitely not the best time of year to crave fish, but I can’t help it. Period. Those cravings would not be satisfied with frozen or farmed fish and I’m not an easy going person when it comes to less than perfect food. ‘Perfect’ fish is a bit expensive around this time of year, so the best thing to make with it is a fish soup, of course Ottoman style. In certain parts of the Black Sea region this recipe is still very common, with generous amounts of lemon juice and a hint of saffron, just like it used to be served in the Ottoman Palace. I’ve met a lot of people who fell in love with this soup at first sip, even those who claim to not like seafood. Here is the guide to your ‘Love at first sip’!

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