(Ash – oo – ray)
There are times when a new recipe develops through hours of research. Others flash into life from a simple word, smell or taste whilst I’m thinking of something completely unrelated. Then, like this one, inspiration visits me via someone else. Noah’s Pudding appeared in a novel my husband was reading, the main character prepared and served the dessert for dinner guests. The description included grains, pulses and dried fruits combined in a sweet, porridge-like consistency. John thought it sounded tasty and the name itself had me hooked.
The story behind the dish makes Asure one of the oldest desserts in history. Legend tells that, in the last few days of life on the Ark, with waters receding and food stocks running low Noah himself threw everything in a pot and hoped for the best. Every cook has at some point found themselves in a similar situation and will understand the trepidation that comes with impromptu cooking. As it happens the Asure was a hit and provided tasty sustenance until the Ark found dry land on Mount Ararat.
Back in the 21st century, Asure is now a sweet dessert eaten on the day of Ashura during Muharram. Ashura is a day to remind Shia Muslims of the sacrifices the Prophet’s family made for the sake of mankind. In Turkey, it has come to represent diversity, peace and friendship and it is customary to make a large pot and share it amongst neighbours and friends.
There is no standard recipe for Asure, although there are a number of ingredients which form the initial building blocks. These include wheat, pulses, dried fruit, nuts, sugar or honey to sweeten and aromatics such as rose, orange blossom or lemon peel. It is a perfect way of satisfying the sweet cravings of a cold day and uses up many of the store cupboard leftovers from Christmas. The following recipe is The History Girls version of Noah’s Pudding.
- 130g pearled spelt
- 100g tinned chickpeas
- 70g pudding rice
- 250ml skimmed milk
- 350ml water
- 1tbsp honey
- 11/2 orange blossom water
- small pinch ground cinnamon
- 60g of a mixture of walnuts, pistachios and hazelnuts
- 5 dried dates
- 3 ready to eat figs
- 20g sultanas
- Almond slices, pomegranate seeds and pomegranate molasses to serve
Pour the spelt into a large container with just enough water to cover. Leave to soak overnight.
The following day, combine the spelt, chickpeas and pudding rice in a medium-sized pan with the milk and water. Stir well and bring to the boil. Simmer carefully for 10 minutes, covered, stirring regularly to help release the starches.
Whilst the grains are cooking, finely chop the nuts, dates and figs.
After 10 minutes check the pan and stir in the honey, orange blossom water and cinnamon. Simmer for another ten minutes stirring regularly until the spelt and rice are cooked through. Add a little more water if you wish the texture to be thinner.
Take everything off the heat and fold in the dried fruit and nuts. Taste for sweetness, using a little more honey if desired.
Serve at room temperature in small bowls. Scatter with almond slices and the tart pomegranate seeds and molasses.