Ask Mehmet: Dessert is served

A dish of asure sits ready to be served Nov. 18, 2014 at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Asure, or Noah’s Pudding, is a traditional Turkish dish that has been cooked during the holidays for thousands of years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Krystal Ardrey)

A dish of asure sits ready to be served Nov. 18, 2014 at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Asure, or Noah’s Pudding, is a traditional Turkish dish that has been cooked during the holidays for thousands of years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Krystal Ardrey)

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- Editor's Note: Ask Mehmet is a forum for people to ask questions of the local area, as well as the outer confines of the region and the country as a whole. To submit a question, send an e-mail with the subject "Ask Mehmet" to 39abw.pa@us.af.mil.

Mehmet, my Turkish co-workers bring their food for lunch from home. From time to time they ask me to join them when they bring something special. Yesterday, they brought a kind of desert that I've never seen or tasted before. It contained some fruit and spices. What is it?

The dish you are referring to is called 'asure' in Turkish. Asure (ah-sure-eh) is one of the greatest indicators of the cultural heritage and richness of Turkey. It dates back thousands of years and is believed to have been cooked since Noah's time in this country. It ıs also known as Noah's Puddıng. There's actually a tale behind it.

As known, Noah sailed in his ark for 40 days and nights after the big floods. During those 40 days, the people in the ark ate nearly all the food. Noah gathered all the remaining food from the corners of the ark and bottom of the sacks and put it in a huge pot and cooked them altogether. The result was a delicious dish that came to be called asure.  It lasted until the ark landed and the waters withdrew.

It's believed that Noah's Ark landed on top of Mount Ararat, located in eastern Turkey. Mount Ararat is called 'Agri Dagi' in Turkish.  

The ark is believed to have landed on top of the mountain around the tenth day of the Muharram, the first month of the lunar calendar. Asure means tenth in Arabic.

On that day every year, in appreciation to God and commemoration of the ark's landing, asure is cooked and shared with friends and neighbors. Last week we received asure from nine different neighbors. We distributed our home-cooked asure to more than 20 houses and neighbors.

Depending on the cook there may be some slight differences, but generally asure is cooked the same way. Here is my family's recipe:

The major ingredients: Two pounds of dehusked wheat, one pound of chickpeas, one pound of white beans and five pounds of sugar.

The secondary ingredients are mostly dried fruits like raisins, apricots, figs, plums, etc. Additionally, chickpeas and beans are put in water and soaked separately for one day. That way, they absorb water and become ready for cooking. The wheat is put in a big pot with lots of water. When it starts to boil; sugar, chickpeas and beans are added. They are stirred continuously and water is added as required.

Then, the dried fruit is added. The dried fruit may be soaked in water for a while before adding them to the pot. If they're big in size, they could be cut into smaller pieces.
A glass of milk could be added to the mixture.

Some people add various fragrant and tasty spices to the pot, while others boil those spices separately and pour their extract into the pot.

When the mixture becomes jelly-like, pour it onto plates. Right before serving, put cinnamon, pomegranate and crushed walnuts on top. It is served cold.