For a wonderful and unusual project I was asked to ‘translate’ a short story by German language Austrian writer Anna Weidenholzer into a recipe. The story ‘Sessel und Sätze’ (Chairs and Sentences) concerns cultural difference, racism and the desire to know and understand other cultures with a plot focussed on a caretaker in a school with a lot of second generation Turkish pupils. I tried to make a recipe that reflected the story.
Milchreis is rice pudding in German. Sütlaç is rice pudding in Turkish.
(Milchreis) (Sütlaç) is a rice pudding that looks like German rice pudding and I served it with cherries in juice which are a very popular accompaniment to rice pudding in Germany.
However the rice pudding was flavoured with unfamiliar tastes (for Germans/Austrians): I ground up gum mastic crystals – a tree resin used in Turkish and Greek ice creams and puddings – with a smoky flavour of pine forests and dropped in a teaspoon of rosewater.
Rice pudding is popular and ‘characteristic’ of both Germanic and Turkish cooking and is the sort of maternal, milky, comforting, simple food that makes people think of home and of school or their childhood.
In Germany where people of Turkish descent are the largest minority there has been intercultural mingling as well as suspicion – as depicted in Weidenholzer’s story. I liked the idea of both Germanic and Turkish cultures claiming the rice pudding as their own and bumping into each other in the process, seeing the other in themselves. There is also a less-well-remembered history of Germans who migrated and sought refuge in Turkey.
I wanted people to eat the rice pudding and find it both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time in a way that would create a pleasurable dialogue between self and other.
German Milchreis with Cherries
Turkish baked Sütlaç
1 litre of creamy milk
500ml of water
100g short grain pudding rice
200g caster sugar
2 teaspoons of rosewater
1 teaspoon of gum mastic, pounded in a pestle and mortar
2 tablespoons of corn our mixed with 4 tablespoons of milk
a pinch of salt
2 tablespoons of chopped pistachios
1 jar of wild cherries in juice (I bought them from Lidl)
How to make:
Warm the milk in a pan and whisk in the sugar until it had dissolved. Set aside. In another large pan, put the rice and the water in a pan with a pinch of salt. When it is boiling turn it down to low. Leave for 10 minutes or so until cooked and the water is absorbed. Stir towards the end.
Then, pour the milk and sugar into the rice pan and stir gently but constantly on a low for 10 minutes. Do not allow it to simmer or boil – if it does, remove from the heat for a moment. Be careful that it does not stick to the bottom or it will burn.
Then, stir in the corn our-milk mixture for 2 minutes, until it starts to thicken, stir in the gum mastic and the rosewater.
Place into a large serving bowl or individual bowls and allow to cool. Place in the fridge.
Serve with chopped pistachios and wild cherries.