Our Favorite Ancient Vegan Pudding

Asouré (or aşure) also called ‘Noah’s pudding’ in Istanbul, is an ancient, delicious, sweetened grain risotto with nuts and fruit, both dried and fresh. It is the perfect vegan dessert and we make it often in the spring, especially the days of Lent before Easter.  

 

Read also about kollyva, another version of the ancient sweet. 

 

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Asouré is probably the continuation of polysporia the mixture of grains symbolically offered by ancient Greeks and other Eastern Mediterranean people to their gods, especially Demeter (Ceres), the goddess of agriculture, much like kollyva which in ancient Greek the meant “small coin” or “small golden weight,” as well as “small cakes.” The Turkish and Greek asouré or asourés, also called ‘Noah’s pudding’ in Istanbul, is a similar age-old sweet.

In this the wheat berries are not drained as in kollyva, but simmered with sugar, sometimes, especially in Istanbul  together with beans and/or chickpeas until the cooking liquid thickens.  Nuts and dried fruits are added, and the soupy ashure is served in bowls, traditionally decorated with pomegranate seeds. It solidifies when it cools, like a real pudding.  In Israel and throughout the Middle East I found similar sweets, with the grains cooked in milk and sweetened with honey. Obviously, they all share the same ancient roots. (more…)

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Melomakarona Tart with Fruit or Lemon

The Greek old-fashioned Christmas cookies are vegan because people ate them during the days of Lent that precede Christmas. You can use the dough –an olive-oil-shortcake– as a pie crust, filling it with cooked apples, quince, or other seasonal fruit. I particularly love to make a fragrant Lemon tart, using Lemon Curd, or your favorite lemon cream. 

No specific recipe needed. Use half the Melomakarona dough, and lay it on a parchment-paper- lined 9-inch pan. Bake in the center of the oven for about 20-25 minutes, let cool completely on a rack and then fill with your favorite Lemon Cream or with Lemon Curd and serve sprinkling with coarsely ground walnuts. 

To make a Quince or Apple Tart, fill the crust with poached quince or apples, using as an inspiration the filling from the Quince Rolls. You can also mix the poached fruit with Quince Preserves, and serve sprinkle liberally with walnuts. 

 

 

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Chocolate-Olive-oil-almond-and-ginger Cake

‘Eat olive oil and come tonight’ (Φάε λάδι κι έλα βράδι) as the old Greek saying commended, pointing out the lightness, as well as the aphrodisiac properties of our indispensable ingredient. Both our savory and sweet dishes and treats are better with olive oil, I think, and I am not alone; this truly sumptuous cake is based on Nigella Lawson’s popular recipe

 

 

The glaze is based on  Smitten Kitchen’s  vegan olive-oil chocolate cake, but I prefer to use honey instead of corn syrup. I love to top the cake with crystalized ginger, but you can use candied orange slices if you prefer. 

Serve with cream and fresh strawberries or sliced oranges, preferably the spectacular-looking blood oranges, if you can get them. 

 

 

For a 9-inch cake (more…)

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The Most Delicious, Lemony, and Frugal Pie

This for me is the epitome of lemon pie and the simplest one to make.

It all started with a reference to an old pie created by cooks who adored lemons but did not have plenty, so they considered them precious…

 

 

This fruit/condiment which for us is trivial and almost worthless, was truly precious for the Shakers, the early nineteenth-century religious group living in communities throughout New England. “Shaker lemon pie uses the entire lemon, from yellow peel through white pith […] This means slicing two whole lemons absolutely paper thin and macerating them for hours in sugar. If you can drape them over the knife blade like the watches in Salvador Dali’s surrealistic paintings, you’re on the right track. The resulting pie includes a subtle sharp flavor from the pith, and the texture tends toward the chewy side, but it all works for the aforementioned lemon-lovers like myself,” writes Nancy McDermott in her book Southern Pies.

 

Away from New England, Shakers also established “…a vibrant fellowship in Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. Preserved as a living history museum, today’s Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill illuminates their traditions and creations […] Their restaurants serve this signature confection, Shaker Lemon Pie,” concludes McDermott in her introduction to the brilliant recipe that inspired me.

 

As soon as I came upon this incredibly simple, yet exquisite lemon cream, I felt compelled to try it. I had lemons, of course, and eggs from our neighbors’ hens. I wanted to make the pie fast, so I didn’t bother making a pie crust; just lined the pan and topped the cream with some leftover shredded phyllo (kunefe or kataifi) pastry that I happen to have in my freezer. Because it was not enough, I halved the recipe and after I baked the pie I didn’t even have the patience to wait for it to cool completely, and took a bite: it was even more delicious than I had imagined! And, strangely enough, the next days its flavor deepened and got even better.

Once I decided to definitely use the shredded phyllo, I followed the Serious Eats well described instruction for Kunefe, the traditional Middle Eastern sweet that basically uses it.

 

Knowing me and my affinity for substituting olive oil for butter –which I usually don’t have in my fridge– you probably have guessed that I rubbed the shredded phyllo well with olive oil before spreading it on the pan and topping the lemon cream. You can certainly choose butter if you like.

We have particularly sweet lemons, but the recipe works well with all kinds and, I assure you, it is foolproof.

 

Adapted from Nancy McDermott

 

Makes a 9-inch (23 cm.) pie (more…)

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