Noah’s Ark Pudding

Aşure

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This could well be the oldest pudding in the world. The Turkish name aşure means ‘ten’ because you’re supposed to eat it on the tenth day of the first month of the Islamic calendar (which, being lunar, changes every year). It’s staggering how many important events need to be remembered on that date—Moses crossed the Red Sea; Abraham’s son Ishmael was born; Adam’s plea for forgiveness was accepted by God; the prophet Jesus was born; and Noah’s ark landed on Mount Ararat as the waters receded after the Great Flood.

It’s the last event that explains why the full version of this pudding has forty-one ingredients. To celebrate his return to dry land after forty days on the water, Noah cooked up all the remaining supplies in the ark—nuts, pulses and dried fruits, but definitely no animals—and shared the resulting stew with everybody who had survived the flood. We’ve simplified Noah’s recipe, but the spirit of generosity remains—you’re supposed to offer this dish to anybody who could smell it cooking.

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Ingredients

  • 100 g ( oz/½ cup) white haricot beans
  • 100 g ( oz/½ cup) dried chickpeas
  • 3 cloves
  • 150 g ( oz) dried figs
  • 200 g (7 oz) dried apricots
  • 100 g ( oz) currants
  • 100 g ( oz) sultanas
  • 100 g ( oz) hazelnuts
  • 50 g ( oz/ cup) blanched almonds
  • 100 g ( oz) walnuts
  • 350 g (12 oz/2 cups) pearl barley
  • 880 g (1 lb 15 oz/4 cups) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) milk
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • zest of 1 orange

    Decoration

  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 80 g ( oz) walnuts, coarsely ground
  • 80 g ( oz) hazelnuts, coarsely ground
  • 140 g (5 oz/1 cup) pistachios, coarsely ground
  • 75 g (75 g (2⅔ oz/½ cup) dried apricots, finely chopped
  • 200 g (7 oz) pomegranate seeds
  • zest of 2 oranges

Method

Soak the white haricot beans and chickpeas in water overnight, in separate bowls. Strain and rinse under cold running water and then place the beans and chickpeas, together, in a saucepan. Cover with water, bring to the boil over medium heat, then boil for 40 minutes until they are soft.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4).

Crack the cloves with a wooden spoon and soak in warm water for 1 hour. Finely chop the dried figs and apricots, and then place in a bowl with the currants and sultanas. Cover with lukewarm water and leave to soak for 30 minutes.

Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and bake for 5 minutes. Remove the tray and set aside to cool, then rub off the skins using your fingertips. Halve the hazelnuts. Halve the almonds. Put the walnuts in a food processor and coarsely grind.

Wash the barley in cold running water to remove the excess starch. Half fill a saucepan with water and bring to the boil over high heat. Add the barley and cook for 10 minutes. Strain the barley, half fill the pan with fresh water and boil the barley again for 10 minutes. Strain the barley a third time, add to the pan with 1.5 litres (52 fl oz/6 cups) of water and boil for a further 40 minutes. Add the strained chickpeas and beans and continue to boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the almonds and hazelnuts. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring slowly.

Next, add the strained dried apricots, sultanas, currants, figs and sugar. Dilute the cornflour in the milk, then add to the cooking mixture. Simmer for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the strained cloves, honey and orange zest. Simmer for another 7 minutes until the mixture starts to thicken.

Divide the pudding into each serving bowl and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Decorate the top of the pudding with cinnamon, sesame seeds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, chopped dried apricots, pomegranate seeds and orange zest, and serve.