Every year, on prophet Muhammad’s (phuh) birthday (El Mouled), Tunisians make a delicious pudding called Assidat Zgougou. It is made from the grains of the Aleppo pines. This dessert consists of a thick layer of the pine pudding and then a thin layer of regular vanilla custard. It is then decorated with ground nuts, whole nuts, and little pieces of candy.
This tradition is done in every household and Tunisians exchange their sweet bowls with friends and family. In my family, we have a tasting session and decide who made the best Assida. The winner doesn’t get a prize, but they do get bragging rights.
There are two main ways to make this dessert – one is more time consuming than the other.
The traditional way is to buy the Zgougou grains (you can find them in spice & nut shops around Tunisia). Then, using your fingers, you filter the grains and remove any small stones and bad grains. You wash what you have left, and let it air dry. Then you toast them in the oven until the grain becomes a bit dark. You can easily burn the grains so make sure to pay attention to this step. Once removed from the oven and completely cooled, you grind the grains. Some people take it to the bakery or mill shops, and others grind it using a meat grinder. After this step you will obtain a paste. It is not a thin and smooth paste like other nut butters, it is bulky and grainy.
The other method which is the easier option is to skip all those steps and buy the paste ready from the spice & nut shops around Tunisia. The only downfall of this option is you don’t know the quality of the grains packaged. You need to choose a good and reputable brand. For this recipe I chose the brand Ben Yaghlen and it was really good.
INGREDIENTS: (Serves 15-20 bowls)
For the Zgougou
- 500 g of Zgougou paste
- 2.5 L of water
- 300 g flour
- 250 gr sugar (more or less depending on your sweetness preference)
For the Vanilla Custard
- 2 package of vanilla custard
- 1 Liter of milk
- 8 tablespoons of sugar
- spalsh of geranium water
RECIPE OF ASSIDAT ZGOUGOU:
- Start by emptying the Zgougou paste in a large pot/bowl. Add 1.5 L of water to the paste and mix well. You can use an immersion blender to mix. Let it sit for at least 30 min, this will help the flavors come out strongly. The longer you let it sit, the more flavorful it will be.
- Take the liquid and filter it using a sieve in another pot or bowl. Make sure to squeeze the remaining grains really well with your hands. Put back the grains in the first pot and add 1 liter of water. Let it sit for another 15 min then run it through the sieve again and add it to other Zgougou water.
- Take 0.5 liter of the Zgougou water and place in a bowl. Add the flour and mix with an immersion blender. You need to make sure the liquid is completely smooth with no lumps. Run that through the sieve and add it to the Zgougou mixture.
- Put the pot on the stove on medium heat and keep stirring using a wooden spoon. You’ll need to stir until the liquid starts to thicken. If for some reason it starts to form clumps, use an immersion blender to smooth it out. Add the sugar while stirring. Pour a little bit of the pudding in a small bowl to check the thickness and sweetness. Once ready, turn off the heat and transfer to a pitcher so you can pour it in small individual bowls. Let cool completely.
- To make the custard, mix the vanilla custard packets with 1 L of milk and 8 tablespoons of sugar. Put on medium heat and keep stirring until you get a nice pudding texture. Add the splash of geranium water. Pour the custard on top of the cooled Assidat Zgougou bowls.
- Once the custard is cool, decorate with ground nuts, whole nuts & seeds. Use your creativity! This has always been my favorite step.
This Tunisian dessert of Assidat Zgougou recipe is part of the #TasteTunisia initiative launched by Carthage Magazine. In search of Tunisian cuisine, through a series of articles/videos, Carthage Magazine offers a window to the Tunisian food, recipes and how they are prepared.
The Taste Tunisia initiative is supported by Carthage Magazine and led by international registered dietitians-nutritionists from Tunisia, making it the ultimate initiative that celebrates and promotes Tunisian cuisine.
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