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Sat Dec 8, 2018, 04:21 PM

Even Better Than the Original Ashure

'Sarit Packer is constantly looking over her shoulder, squinting at the past, because more than anything else, her cooking is inspired by what has come before. She and her husband, Itamar Srulovich, steep their employees in the traditions and history that inform the menu at Honey & Co., their warm, tiny, Middle Eastern restaurant in central London. Every few years, they take their cooks on research trips throughout the region. Together they’ve cooked with a Kurdish-Iraqi grandmother, roasted Arabica coffee and cooked biblical dishes with a historian in their native Israel. Reflecting this adherence to tradition, Honey & Co.’s menu often includes a thick, impossibly silky hummus, simmering shakshuka laced with spicy green zhug, a Yemeni hot sauce, and boureka, a classic flaky pastry stuffed with mushrooms and fragrant herbs. Like a flavorful, aromatic beacon, the menu attracts homesick Israelis and other Middle Easterners from across the city.

When Packer was looking for a sweet yet distinctly Middle Eastern dish to feature on the breakfast menu, ashure came to mind. “If you’re interested in food, and everyone in Israel sort of is,” Packer told me when I asked her about the dish, “you’ve heard of ashure.” According to legend, when his ark made landfall, Noah’s family threw whatever was left in the larder into a pot and transformed it into a celebratory pudding of grains, nuts, seeds and dried fruits. The cereal is eaten throughout the Middle East, but especially in Turkey, where the dish somehow transcends typical religious tensions and holds significance for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.

But each time Packer tested the recipe, she grew increasingly dissastified with its texture. “It’s actually quite disgusting,” she said, speaking with her signature Israeli frankness. Ashure is essentially a porridge, so when it cools down, it gets stiff and gloopy, like cold oatmeal. “And when it’s hot, it’s a bit slimy and chewy,” she conceded. “I think you might have to grow up eating it, otherwise it’s a bit gross.” So she did what she always does, and looked backward for inspiration. This time, though, she didn’t have to consult a source quite so ancient.

“When I was 5, I visited the States for the first time,” she told me. “I’d never had sugary cereals before that, and I grew obsessed with them.” Guided by her memory of crisp grain cereals such as Cheerios, Honey Smacks and Corn Pops, Packer tweaked the recipe. “I was trying to capture how those cereals explode in your mouth and stay crisp. And I loved drinking the milk afterward, because it was so sweet.”'>>>


Recipe, Ashure Cereal

˝ cup/85 grams neutral-tasting oil, such as canola
6 tablespoons/110 grams honey
˝ cup/110 grams dark brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
˝ teaspoon ground mahaleb
˝ teaspoon ground cardamom
10 cups/160 grams puffed wheat
Scant 3/4 cup/85 grams halved pecans
⅓ cup/50 grams pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons/30 grams sesame seeds
˝ cup/85 grams almonds, very roughly chopped

Adjust oven racks to lower-middle and upper-middle positions. Heat to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside.
Combine oil, honey and sugar in a medium saucepan, and set over medium-high heat. Whisk well, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.
In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients, and mix well. Once the honey mixture comes to a boil, carefully pour it over the dry ingredients. Working quickly, use a large silicone spatula to stir, turning the contents of the bowl over until everything is coated evenly with the syrup. Transfer mixture to baking sheets, and use spatula to flatten out cereal into an even layer.
Place baking sheets on prepared oven racks, and bake for 10 minutes. Carefully remove 1 tray at a time, and use spatula to stir cereal around. Rotate trays 180 degrees, and switch oven positions to ensure even baking. Bake for 4 to 6 minutes longer, until golden brown and well caramelized. Remove from oven, and allow to cool entirely on the trays before breaking cereal into large clusters.
Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.


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