The first time we came across aşure was Christmas Day a few years ago.
We were doing the rounds, bearing gifts and a few stops had been planned. Then we would return home for Christmas dinner.
The visits to Turkish friends were supposed to be a quick, ‘Hello, Merry Christmas and here’s your Christmas gift. Must dash.’
However, what we should have been more than fully aware of, 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 a bowl of food appeared.
This is aşure.
The Legend of Aşure
One of the most popular stories as to why aşure exists is that once the floods had subsided, Noah made a last meal on the ark. Aşure is also called 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, in the 21st Century, ingredients vary slightly between different regions of Turkey and countries of the Middle East. Generally, if you are offered a bowl of aşure, you are likely to find ingredients such as:
- Sesame seeds
- Orange peel
- Pomegranate (when they’re in season)
- Dried fruits such as raisins, figs and apricots
- Lots of cinnamon
When Do You Eat Aşure?
On that Christmas Day, all those years ago, it was also aşure time of year. But that doesn’t mean aşure time and Christmas always coincide.
Aşure is one of the oldest recipes of this part of the world and is traditionally made, served and eaten during Muharram, the first month of the Islamic Calendar. As the Islamic calendar follows a lunar pattern, so does ‘aşure time.’
So, in the 2020s, we are going to be eating aşure during the summer months.
Turkish people make aşure and serve it to family, friends and neighbours and it’s served as a symbol of peace and love – no arguments about those sentiments!
Some people, like our neighbour, make so much for giving out around the neighbourhood that they serve it in foil trays.
But if you’re walking past someone’s house and they’re sitting outside eating their aşure, don’t be surprised if those people shout you over to join them in the eating of this Noah’s Pudding.
And if you think the ingredients listed above seem like aşure is a filling pudding, you are perfectly right to think like this. Sitting with a Turkish family, eating a generous serving their aşure when you’ve possibly just eaten lunch is no easy task!
And if you think the ingredients listed above seem like an odd combination, they are an odd combination. Slowly, slowly, over the years, however, we’ve grown to love aşure time.