Ashura: The Historic, Nutritious, and Religious Dessert
BY: Noura Anwar/Ambassador Blogger
As I check the Islamic calendar, I find that it is the day of Ashura. To celebrate with my family, I decided to cook the popular dessert for that special day, Ashura pudding.
Looking back to the history of Ashura, I found that it has biblical roots with Noah and his Ark. The legend tells that when Noah’s Ark came to rest on Mount Ararat, his family celebrated with a special dish. At that time, food supplies started diminishing after many long days on the ark, so the little bits of what was left over from grains, nuts, and dried fruits were put into a pot and cooked together. The outcome was a pudding that has traveled through the ages. Today, many cooks in modern kitchens are familiar with the celebratory dish.
The dessert was named after the day of Ashuraa in the Islamic Calendar, which in Arabic means “the tenth day.” The event, Ashuraa, is the tenth day of the month of Muharram, which is the first month in the Islamic Calendar. The day is significant in Islamic history, as it is the day that honors Moses. It is the day that Moses parted the sea, freeing the Israelites and destroying the Pharaoh’s army.
Ashuraa is also the day of the martyrdom of Al-Husayn Ibn Ali, which is recognized by Shia Muslims. It’s claimed that Ashuraa is the day Adam was accepted by God, Ibrahim was saved from the fire, Idris was taken to heaven, Jacob got his eye sight back when he reunited with his son, Youssef came out from the pit, Ayoub recovered from his illness, and Younis got out from the belly of the whale.
Muslim celebrate Ashuraa following the Sunnah of prophet Muhammed when he was in the city of Medina and saw that Jews were fasting. He asked about the reason for their fast and he was told that, “God saved prophet Moses and his followers from their enemies on this day. To show his gratitude, Moses fasted on that day.”
Upon this answer, Prophet Muhammad said: “I am worthy of doing the same thing that my brother Moses did,” and fasted. Afterwards, fasting on the Day of Ashura became a Sunnah tradition.
Celebrating that day with a special dessert became a Turkish tradition that was transferred to Arabs during the Ottoman Empire. The Turkish way of cooking the dessert is made with a mixture consisting of 10 types of grains, fruits, dried fruits, and nuts. They don’t use any animal products while cooking as a way of protesting all kinds of violence and bloodshed.
Arabs changed some of its ingredients slightly to make the pudding with milk, grains, and nuts. It became a tradition in some Arab countries to celebrate and share that special dessert with their families, friends, and neighbors.
Ashura pudding is more than just a flavorsome dessert; it is also great for the immune system, especially during the winter months. Because it is made from wheat, this pudding is rich in carbohydrates and calories that keep you warm and give you the energy you need to stay active and healthy. The nuts in Ashura also provide the body with iron, calcium, vitamin E, and vitamin B, making it a favorite for the holiday season.
Ashura is a special, nutritious dessert reflecting religious celebration with a long history. Try making this dish at home with the Egyptian Ashura recipe below.
1 liter of milk
1 cup white sugar
½ cup of cooked whole wheat/grain cereal
4 teaspoons of starch
1 teaspoon rose water
Chopped nuts, chopped dried fruit, cinnamon, raisin or coconut
In a pot, add milk to the cooked whole grains (boiled in water) and sugar.
Heat it up until the sugar dissolves, then add the starch and let the mixture boil together.
When it is almost pudding, add rose water for flavor.
Pour the mixture in serving cups and garnish with your choice of chopped nuts, cinnamon, coconut, raisin or chopped dried fruit.
Leave it to cool down then refrigerate it.
Noura Anwar is a professional in education development and likes reading in history. She has publications in different fields and an award research winner of UNDP-EEC in corporate social responsibility.