Monday, January 30, 2012

Ultimate Turkish Comfort Food

Rice Pudding (Sütlaç)

Can you imagine a dessert made with wheat kernels, beans and chick peas? Last month several neighbors rang our doorbell to drop off sweet friendship offerings: bowls of aşure. I love aşure, but I have to admit it’s probably an acquired taste.  You might have to live in Turkey for five years before you can get used to the idea of a dessert with beans. 

Making aşure is literally an all-day affair that I haven’t undertaken in a long time.  Wheat, beans, chickpeas, raisins, currants, dried apricots and figs are all boiled separately, and then made into a pudding that is garnished with chopped nuts, sesame seeds, cinnamon and pomegranate.   During the first month of the Islamic calendar, women make it and take bowls to their neighbors.   

When your neighbor leaves you a bowl or a dish, of course you are expected to return it with something you’ve cooked or prepared yourself.  No one ever returns a dish empty. In December and January, I was too tired of holiday cooking to consider making aşure myself, so I returned several bowls with a humbler offering: sütlaç (rice pudding).

Sütlaç is my favorite Turkish comfort food.  
It’s simple to make, and delicious warm or cold. We often make it on Sunday evening and eat it instead of dinner. (Somehow you don’t feel so bad having dessert for dinner if it’s made from milk, right?) Unfortunately you have to babysit this while it simmers, so it won’t boil over or scorch on the bottom. I often sit at the kitchen table with a book or my computer, getting up to stir my sütlaç from time to time. It’s a relaxing way to spend a winter evening.
Turkish Rice Pudding

3/4 cup rice
2 cups water
7 cups milk, divided
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 TBSP margarine
3 TBSP corn starch
2 packets of vanilla crystals
(or 2 tsp vanilla)
cinnamon to garnish

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a large pot and stir in the rice.  Cover and turn down to simmer for 10 minutes.

Add 6 1/2 cups milk, reserving 1/2 cup. Turn up the heat and add sugar and margarine.  Stir occasionally, being careful to scrape the bottom of the pan to prevent it from sticking and scorching.  When the milk boils, lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring frequently.

After 25 minutes the rice should be tender. Whisk 3 TBSP corn starch into 1/2 cup milk and pour slowly into the pudding, stirring with a whisk until it's boiling again and thickened.  Stir in the vanilla and turn off the heat.  Let it sit for a few minutes before ladling into serving bowls. Let cool and sprinkle with cinnamon before serving.

This makes a lot, but we like leftovers, and it’s practical to have on hand for guests.  After ladling into bowls the number of servings that will be eaten right away, I store the rest of the pudding in a covered container in the fridge.

Question: What is your favorite comfort food where you live?


momto8 said...

this looks and sounds so different than what we eat,...I think it would be fun to try! the pomagrants add a twist too!!
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Lynn Pottenger said...

Olive - Thanks for stopping by my blog and encouraging me! I think this sounds interesting, but dessert with beans is a bit much to contemplate. I like the rice pudding though :). Here in Kenya, my comfort food of choice are chapatis. Maybe you have them there too? flat bread fried in oil and often eaten here with greens or other vegetables or even fried meat. They are really yummy.

Have a blessed week! Lynn

OliveTree said...

Chapatis sound like a great comfort bread. No, we don't have that here.

us5 said...

it sounds lovely. i'm just computing the cost of those 7 cups of milk...! but you say it makes a lot... do you serve anything else with it?

OliveTree said...

I don't serve anything else with it since it's actually a dessert. We eat it sometimes on Sunday night since I'm too lazy to make anything else, and it's more nutritious than cookies or cake for the kids to snack on.