‘Weird enough, there are some very traditional food from Turkish cuisine that I heard all my life but never tried until I moved away from Turkey. No, that is not about feeling homesick, no not at all. I am not really feeling homesick. But sometimes my friends expect me to introduce new tastes to them, preferably from Turkish cuisine, so I try my hands on these traditional recipes that I had never tried before. This pudding, called Keşkül, is one of those. Essentially, it is a very easy and fast milk pudding with almond and coconut, generally served with coconut flakes or pistachios. Some recipes call for coconuts in the pudding itself (such as my recipe), whereas some only use it for serving on top. But here is the little story behind the name of this dish…
In Ottoman times, keşkül was the name of the bowl that dervishes used to beg for money or any other goods in public. In that time, it was forbidden to beg without such a thing. Each dervish lodge had their own carvings and ornaments on their keşkül bowls, so if someone gave money or something else to the begging dervish, it would surely go to that specific lodge as a donation. The money collected with those bowls would then be used to make this milk pudding and served to the poor again using the same bowls. Therefore, the name of the pudding eventually got the name of the bowl, keşkül, coming from the Ottoman saying, “Keşkül-ü Fukara (Poor Man’s Keşkül)”.
If you are at all familiar with the famous painting by Osman Hamdi Bey, an Ottoman artist and intellectual, called “The Tortoise Trainer”, you can see a keşkül bowl carried by the trainer himself on his back. The painting dates from 1906 and 1907 (there are two versions) and it depicts an old man dressed in old clothes dating before Western reforms in late Ottoman period, attempting to train tortoises using his musical instrument, ney. It is a satire of the ineffective and slow attempts of reforming Ottoman Empire at the turn of 20th century.
Ok, enough with history course.. Enjoy your pudding!
Difficulty: ★☆☆ (Easy)
1 lt. milk (I used whole milk)
1/2 cup / 1.2 dl. rice flour
1 cup / 2.4 dl. white sugar
3 tbsp / 45 ml. coconut flakes
3 tbsp / 45 ml. ground almond
Coconut flakes or roasted and ground pistachios to serve
1. In a small bowl, put rice flour. Take a little bit (like half a cup or even one cup) from 1 lt. milk and stir it well, until you form a paste. This is only to mix rice flour with rest of the milk in an easier – otherwise I sometimes ended up with lumps.
2. Put rest of the milk in a pan, add sugar, coconut flakes, ground almond and rice flour paste. Whisk a little.
3. Put on medium heat and while constantly stirring, cook it until it gets thick.
4. Once thick, take out of heat and divide between bowls using a ladle.
5. Leave the bowls for a while on the counter, until they cool down close to room temperature. Then cover with stretch film and put in the fridge, for about 3-4 hours.
6. Serve with coconut flakes or ground pistachios. Best served the same day, but if not, then leaving in the fridge overnight is still ok.