In İstanbul in the late eighties when Don was selling kilims and copper to the U.S. market hot for Turkish stuff, and we four lived in a "marble palace" apartment (Turkish homes are sparkly with chandeliers, marble floors and countertops; we broke a few milk bottles on that unforgiving marble), on a certain special day two or three neighbors brought a dish of Noah's pudding to us. Aşure günü (say the ü with your lips rounded and a u just behind your teeth) is the holiday celebrated in Turkey on the 10th day of the Islamic lunar month of Muharrem, this year December 27. Noah's is one of the biblical stories shared by Christians, Jews and Muslims. In the Qur'an, Noah is a prophet.
The story goes that when Noah's ark landed on Mt. Ararat (in Turkey), after so much time bobbing on water with no land in sight, the inhabitants celebrated by making a pudding out of the remnants of what lay in the hold: nuts, dried fruits and grains.
The apartment neighbors who brought our bowls of Noah's pudding took a bowl of it to every neighbor in the building. Tradition says that your "neighbors" are inhabitants in forty houses to your East, West, North and South. I imagine "everyone in the building" is the adaptation for modern times. When we explained this tradition to Inge and Lar when we served them some aşure for dessert Saturday (the first time I made it), Inge (of the German steel trap mind) asked, "you mean everyone took some to everyone else? Doesn't that sort of cancel the whole thing out?" Well since we weren't taking aşure to anyone, I never thought about it.
The aşure holiday is about keeping up good relations with neighbors no matter what their religion or beliefs might be. It is common Turkish practice to make big cauldrons of aşure to distribute to the poor. Everything goes into the pot, and what is in the pot goes to everyone.
Here, Neighbor, I am sharing a bowl of aşure with you. It's nice for breakfast. If you make it, share with your neighbors and tell them you appreciate them. You can do that with fruitcake too, which is sort of the same idea, but I like this better. No, that is pudding it too mildly. I would rather toss a fruitcake than eat it. I've co-opted aşure and sharing with neighbors as a new Christmas tradition at our house. Hey, Santa Claus started in Turkey too, and look how far he got!
Aşure - Noah's pudding
2 cups instant barley, it will be much more when cooked
1 cup canned white Northern beans, washed and drained
1 cup canned chickpeas, washed and drained
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
10 cups water
10 dry apricots, soaked in water overnight, cut in pieces
10 dry figs, cut in pieces
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup walnuts, crumbled, slivered almonds, currants, pine nuts, pomegranate seeds
Cook barley according to directions on package. (If using non-instant barley, get it to boil on high heat. Then as soon as it boils, turn it down to medium-low heat and cook for about half an hour.) Set aside 1-2 cups of cooked barley and put into a food processor or blender. To the barley in the pot add the beans, chickpeas, vanilla, apricots, raisins, figs, sugar and 6 cups of hot water. Simmer for about 45 minutes on medium to medium-low heat. Stir occasionally. Process 1-2 cups cooked barley that you set aside in a food processor or blender, mixing water if needed to make it pudding-ish. Add this to the pot to thicken it. Cook a couple more minutes, then pour into a large service bowl and let cool.
Keep Noah's Pudding refrigerated. When serving, garnish with crumbled walnuts, roasted slivered almonds, currants, pine nuts and pomegranate seeds. The garnish is the best part, and you might think of different ones.-