Serving the Guest: A Sufi Cookbook
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What is the scent of the rose?
The breath of reason and intelligence,
a sweet guide on the way to the eternal kingdom.
A ritual dish with a long and colorful history.
Noah's Ark
Soaking: Overnight
Total second-day time: 4-½ + hours
½ cup chickpeas
½ cup white kidney beans
1 cup whole hulled wheat or bulgur
1 tbsp. rice
½ cup hazelnuts
½ cup walnuts
⅓ cup golden raisins
¼ cup figs
¼ cup dried apricots
¼ cup pitted dates
1-½ cups sugar
2 tbsp. rose or orange flower water
2 tbsp. cinnamon
½ cup walnut halves
½ cup blanched and slivered almonds
½ cup pine nuts
¼ cup dried black currants
½ cup pomegranate seeds
Preparation, the night before cooking

The cook will need four bowls to soak ingredients. In one bowl, cover the chickpeas with cold water and soak overnight. In another bowl, cover the white kidney beans with cold water and soak overnight. Rinse the wheat and rice together, put into a third bowl, cover with cold water and soak overnight. Toast the hazelnuts for 5 minutes, transfer to a dish towel, rub off their skins, then chop coarsely. Coarsely chop ½ cup walnuts; combine with hazelnuts in another bowl, cover with cold water and soak overnight.

Preparation, the next morning

Soak the raisins in hot water for ½ hour, then drain and reserve the soaking water. Soak the figs and apricots in hot water for ½ hour, then drain and reserve the soaking water; chop them, add them to the raisins and set aside. Chop the dates, add them to the raisins, figs and apricots, and set aside. Drain the hazelnuts and walnuts, set them aside and discard their soaking water. Rub chick peas between the hands, underwater, discard the loosened skins; drain and discard soaking water, then put chickpeas in a large soup kettle (holding at least 3 gallons). Drain the white kidney beans, discard soaking water, then put the beans into the kettle with the chickpeas. Drain the wheat and rice and put into a large saucepan (minimum capacity 3 quarts).


Cover the chickpeas and white kidney beans in the kettle with 1 gallon of cold water. Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat until the beans are just tender, about an hour. Turn off the heat and drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid. Discard any chickpea skins that have come loose during cooking. Return the beans to the pot.

While the beans are cooking, boil 2-½ quarts of water, stir in the wheat and rice, and simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, until the wheat is tender, about an hour. (If bulgur is being used, less time will be needed.) Set a sieve over a bowl and drain the wheat and rice. Stir all but ½ cup of the wheat/rice mixture into the kettle with the beans. Using a blender, food processor or mortar and pestle, puree the last ½ cup of wheat/rice with a little of its cooking liquid, then pour it into the kettle.

Add the reserved fruit soaking water and enough of the reserved bean cooking liquid to the wheat-rice liquid to total 4 quarts (1 gallon). Pour this liquid into the kettle; add the sugar, chopped walnuts and hazelnuts to the kettle; and bring it all to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Simmer and stir for 30 minutes or more. Allow the mixture to thicken slightly; it should be like a thick soup. (It will thicken further after the heat is turned off.) If necessary, add more water a bit at a time to keep the ashura from getting too thick. Add the raisins, figs, apricots and dates, and cook for another 20 minutes, stirring constantly.

Turn off the heat and blend in the rosewater. Let the ashura stand at room temperature for an hour or more. It may be served warm or cool, sprinkled with cinnamon, and garnished with walnut halves, slivered almonds, pine nuts, currants and pomegranate seeds.