Turkish Cuisine 101: Aşure

Let’s start with the pronounciation: It’s like ah-shoe-reh. The name in Turkish comes from food , but I read it may originate from the word 10th in Arabic, because it is traditionally made on the 10th day of Muharrem (a month in Islamic calendar).

In Turkey Aşure (Noah’s pudding) is a very traditional dessert. Interestingly it’s one of the few vegan Turkish desserts.

The dessert is a tribute to Noah’s ark and the great flood. The story says that after the great flood when Noah’s ark landed, he made this with all the food that remains and shared!

As I said, it’s not done very often, usually it’s once a year most probably because it takes quite a lot of time! But nowadays in Turkey you can find it in dessert shops any time of the year.

As you use many ingredients, the last product is usually huge. And it’s a good thing considering when you make aşure, you share it! It’s traditional to bring it to your neighbours, colleagues, friends… And living in the French suburbans, I miss that tradition! I wonder what my neighbours thought of it when I shared aşure for the first time…

There is no fixed recipe for aşure and it makes sense considering you need to mix whatever you have! But the main ingredients are grains, dried legumes, sugar, nuts and dried fruits.

Two ways to do it, traditional and easy. I’ll give you the traditional method with notes on how you can skip the queue. However I’m telling you, the tastes are not exactly the same.

Below are the ingredients I used for the main dessert.

Start preparations the night before. Separately soak wheat, white beans and chickpeas in water overnight.

First and main ingredient is wheat. You need to cook the wheat in water for about two hours, until it softens. (Taste from time to time it can be anywhere between an hour and four if you don’t soak enough!) What cooking slowly does is to release the starch into the water. It’s important! So if you want to go quick, then use quick-ready wheat and add wheat starch to the water before you start cooking. Remember to put enough water initially to still have some water after they are done.

Next you need to cook chickpeas and white beans, separately, in water. Here you can comfortably use canned ones. If you are doing the hard way, you can add a little bit of cooking water to the water where you cooked wheat (maybe a few spoons each). This way you will have more flavour.

Prepare a spice pack (teabag for instance) with cloves and cinnamon stick, prepare orange peels (you can stick the cloves to orange peels instead of a tea bag), cut dried fruits in small pieces and put it all in the wheat and water mix with sugar when you have half an hour of time left for cooking the wheat. Add the cooked beans, chickpeas and milk when you reach the last 10 minutes. Taste! Can you taste the cloves? The orange? The fruits? If not, either add a bit more and cook, or continue cooking a bit more without adding anything. When the mixture is tasty enough, take away the clove pack and orange peels.

At this point the texture should be liquid but quite thickened. If it’s not thickened enough dissolve wheat starch in a bit of cold water and add it to the mixture and cook for five more minutes.

Then put them in serving size dishes and let cool. Refrigerate for a few hours.

When it’s time to eat, decorate with nuts, dried fruits and traditionally pomegrenade. The picture abome is an exagerrated presentation that I usually use. But I keep the mixture relatively simple by adding dried raisins (sultani) and apricots. Others put all types of nuts and dried fruits. I prefer using them generously on the dessert. This way they are more refreshing, and crispy.

This dessert is done by instinct but if you need some estimation, for 200 ml wheat (about a cup), 100 ml beans, 100 ml chickpeas and 2lt of water for boiling wheat, 200 ml milk should be a good start. Sugar completely depends on your taste. I’m not a sweet tooth so I would start by adding 100 ml sugar and add more if necessary. 10-15 cloves should be good with one orange peel. All dried fruits and nuts are optional but get nuts with them!

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