Our Christmas Day in Fethiye usually involves us inviting Turkish friends to our house for the day and force feeding mince pies and other Christmas ‘delights’ upon them. This year, we decided to keep it quiet and just do the rounds, bearing gifts. We were to go to our friend’s house and give them their Christmas present, up to another friend’s in Fethiye and then across to Çalış to visit Barry’s parents and eat Christmas dinner with them.
The visits to Turkish friends was supposed to be a quick, ‘Hello, Merry Christmas and here’s your Christmas gift. Must dash.’ However, what we should be more than fully aware of by now, is that that is just not possible with Turkish friends. Hospitality is everything – the guest is everything! Luckily, we’d given ourselves a bit of leeway with regards to time.
And so a Christmas Day stroll, in the warm sunshine, along Fethiye harbour and to ‘house visit’ number one. ‘We can’t stay. We’re just dropping these off and then we’re going to…’
‘Nonsense. You can come in for ten minutes.’
Before we knew it, we were taking our shoes off, slippers were placed on the doorstep for us and we were sat in their house exchanging gifts. Then came the food…
This is aşure. The story goes that aşure is what Noah made as a last meal on the ark once the floods had subsided. It’s also known as Noah’s Pudding or Noah’s dessert. As there wasn’t an abundance of food left in the ark’s food stores, Noah used the various ingredients that were left over (grains, pulses, dried fruit) and produced this bountiful and very filling concoction. Today, ingredients vary slightly between different regions of Turkey and countries of the Middle East.
Aşure is one of the oldest recipes of this part of the world and at the moment, unbeknown to us (until yesterday) it is aşure time of year. Turkish people make aşure and serve it to family, friends and neighbours. It’s served as a symbol of peace and love – and we arrived just as aşure was being distributed. Spoons were handed to us and a rather large bowl of aşure – not something you want to be eating when you’re just on your way to eat Christmas dinner – but hey, it’s Christmas! What better time for us to be eating aşure?
I swirled my spoon round and round in the bowl to try to identify the ingredients in there. Our friend is no cook and just told us there were ‘lots of things’ in it. I spotted barley, white beans, chickpeas, crushed walnuts, pomegranate seeds, cinnamon (lots of cinnamon). A quick scout around Google pages this morning has revealed that there was possibly rice and rosewater in there as well. A dessert containing chickpeas and beans is not something I would have considered – but it works. We shared a bowl of warm aşure and I have to say, I’m not sure I could have gotten through one to myself. Very rich, very festive (that must be the cinnamon) and then a burst of freshness as the crunchy pomegranate seeds pop between your teeth. Oodles of calories!
We arrived at house number one expecting to offload some gifts and make our bag a bit lighter for our walk to house number two. We left house number one with more gifts than we arrived with and very full tummies! Very fitting that we should arrive at our friends’ house on our Christmas Day in Fethiye just as they were sharing out aşure; a symbol of love, peace and merriment.