Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Hazelnut Chocolate Dacquoise with Mixed Berries

Here is another dessert I made a while ago and forgot to post. The recipe is from Alice Medrich's A Year In Chocolate. It is basically a layering of a dacquoise shell (chock full of toasted bits of hazelnuts and chocolate), sweetened whipped cream and a fruit topping. The original recipe used only blackberries but I splurged since I happened to have raspberries as well. Simple and delicious... I'll definitely make it again.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Ashura: Noah's Pudding

Toward the end of Prophet Noah's journey, there wasn't much left to eat on the Ark. So the Prophet put together whatever was left of the various grains and dried fruit to make this pudding which sustained them until the end of their journey. This is the origins of ashura, acclaimed to be the oldest dessert known to mankind.

In Turkey, ashura is traditionally made in Muharram, the first month of the lunar Islamic calendar which we are in now. A word of caution is in order here: since ashura has many ingredients, even if you keep the quantities small, chances are that you'll end up with more than you can comfortably consume. This works just fine in Turkey because ashura is meant to be shared with friends and neighbors, and as tradition goes the residents of forty houses to your east, west, north and south are considered your neighbors. However, it poses a problem here in USA because ashura is something of acquired taste and quite humble in its looks, and your neighbor is very likely to eye it suspiciously when you knock on his/her door with a bowl of ashura in your hand, and he/she might not be thrilled after he/she tastes it, either. Acquired taste as it may be, this pudding is loved by so many in Turkey that one can find dessert shops specialized in making ashura year round. There are many variations on the recipe: some use barley instead of the traditional wheat, some refrain from adding walnuts and dried figs to the pudding lest it darkens the color, some swear by adding milk to make it lighter, yet others use only grains to make the pudding and add the nuts and dried fruit as topping. Another favorite way to decorate ashura is with pomegranate seeds. Whichever recipe you decide to follow, you will end up with a very nutritious low-fat pudding which you can equally enjoy for breakfast, snack or dessert.
  • 1 1/2 c wheat
  • 1/2 c rice
  • 1/4 c chick peas
  • 1/4 c white beans
  • 3/4 c pecans
  • 15 c or more water
  • Peel of a small orange
  • 2 1/2 c sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 c blanched almonds, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 c rice flour
  • 1 c golden raisins
  • 10-15 hazelnuts
  • 1/2 c diced dried apricots
  • 1/4 c diced dried figs
  • 1/3 c rose water
  • 1 c pomegranate seeds
Soak the wheat and rice together, chick peas, white beans and walnuts separately in water to cover overnight. Chop the pecans coarsely. Drain the chick peas and white beans; place them in seperate pans, cover with water and boil until almost tender. Drain and remove the skins. Set aside. Meanwhile combine the drained wheat and rice in a heavy-bottomed large pot with 15 c of water and orange peel cut into thin slices. Cook until wheat is tender. Add the cooked chick peas and beans and cook together for another half an hour. Add sugar, mix and cook for 10 minutes. At that point, dissolve the rice flour in some water, stir into the pudding and simmer for a couple of minutes more. Now add the diced fruit, nuts and the rose water, give it a good stir and remove the pot from heat. Pour the pudding into serving bowls and refrigerate for several hours. Decorate with pomegranate seeds. Ideally, the dessert should have the consistency of pudding.

When I posted this recipe in my Turkish blog, one of my readers wrote that she soaked the wheat the morning of the day before she planned to make ashura. In the evening, she placed the soaked and drained wheat in a heavy pot, covered it with water and let it boil briefly. After she removed it from fire, she wrapped the pot with towels and let it rest for the night. She said that wheat prepared in this way softened very well eliminating the necessity to thicken the pudding with flour.(Recipe adapted from Ayla Esen Algar's Turkish Cooking)