Friday, April 22, 2005

Mawlid Nabawi Mubarak

So yesterday was the Mawlid Nabawi (or the Mouled as it’s said in some dialects) which marks the birth of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). I wish all Muslims of the world had a blessed Mawlid… 1 day late, but I had no time to blog yesterday ;)
Like all Muslim occasions, the goal is to remember events, celebrate them by keeping in touch with families, getting closer to religion and helping others in any way possible. It was never about partying all night long, or spending big amounts of money or any selfish, or materialistic perspective.
And like all occasions, Mawlid is celebrated in different ways across the Muslim world. One of the traditions that come along this occasion is preparing something sweet and sharing it with close ones and families. Each country chooses something specific to prepare, or simply prepare any kind of sweets, nothing special. Point is, celebrating in a close kind of way.

Yet in Tunisia, there’s this kind of sweet that is specially prepared for the occasion of Mawlid, you hardly find it in other times of the year. It’s called: Assida. An extremely delicious Tunisian delicacy prepared with something called: Zgougou, a very cute name for the black seeds of a Pine-like tree. I think that tree is called: Sarw in Arabic (Sarwel in Tunisian). And what shocks me is the fact that these trees are available in the Middle East in big quantities, yet I’ve never seen Zgougou being eaten in any other country but Tunisia, and for that I love Tunisians :) I think all countries that have these trees should start eating those little seeds!
This is a picture of how Assida looks when it’s done:

Anyway, when I first came to Tunisia and Mawlid came, I knew they cook this Assida, but I didn’t know how should it taste in the end, should it be more of a liquid or a solid sweet! So I simply followed a book of Tunisian Cuisine and the result was somehow fine for a first time, it was a bit too sweet and a bit too dry. Anyway, on that day I tasted Assida prepared by Tunisians and knew how it should be. So next year I was determined to make it right, problem was Tunisia had a shortage in Zgougou because most of the trees were ruined by excess waters. So I couldn’t prepare Assida.
But this year, I was determined more than ever, I mean being married to a Tunisian, living in Tunisia and loving this delicacy are enough reasons for me to feel ashamed of myself for not making it right. So when I left work, I went to buy the stuff I need, got back home and started the party ;) I enjoyed every little bit of the preparation although I was alone and dead tired!
First I grounded the seeds bit by bit with my coffee grounder :) Then I started mixing and squeezing the seeds in water, added flour, cooked it, struggled to keep it smooth….etc. (Here are some illustrated steps(FR), but I used different ingredients and there are some differences in the method of cooking, so this is just to give a general idea).
In short, it took me 4 hours to prepare it and cook it! After I was done I realized I forgot to bring the nuts and other ingredients used to decorate, so I went to Carrefour around 9:30 p.m. and got what I needed.
I was so afraid that my efforts will go down the drain, but my husband (a big fan of Assida) gave me his quality-control certification, and I passed with honor ;) Not only this, but my mother in law, of course a professional in Tunisian cooking, loved it :)
So yes I’m so happy, so proud, and my efforts paid off. Now I made sure I can cook the hardest recipes of the Tunisian cuisine and they will taste really good :)
I love cooking…
  • Related: Mouled & Assida