According to the legend, the ancient Turks used to celebrate the winter solstice with a festival they called the Nardugan (meaning rising sun). I recently read an article dealing with this topic written by famous Sumerologist Muazzez İlmiye Çığ. So how does this relate to my New Year’s dessert? Well, in fact I composed this dessert over a year ago and tried to find a name for it but just didn’t like any of the names I came up with. So I let it linger and decided to wait until the right moment. Then this year just recently, as I was reading this article it just occurred to me that Nardugan was the right name for my dessert. New Year is not intrisically a festival for us. But for me, the start of a new year implies rebirth. It’s a time for new hopes or maybe a time to make a fresh start – a time for renewal. And since I had planned to make this dessert specifically for our New Year’s family dinner this year, I chose to name it with this symbolically meaningful ancient festival’s name.

Essentially this is a simple, quite easy-to-make, milk and fruit-based light dessert, the making of which I was inspired by “bars” or “squares” as well as a fruit pudding and blancmange dessert called ‘elmasiye’ from Ottoman cuisine. So then, shall we start?

Ingredients

Shortbread Crust 
  • 125 gr (½ cup + 1 tbsp) butter, softened at room temperature
  • 40 gr (1/4 cup) confectioner’s sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract (or 1 tsp vanilla sugar)
  • 150 gr (1 cup) all purpose flour

Step by step method

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  1. Grease and line a baking tray of about 20×25 cm (ca. 8×10 inches) with baking paper and grease over the paper too. Heat oven to 170 C (340 F). Place butter, sugar, salt and vanilla in a bowl and work with a wooden spoon until pale and creamy.
  2. Sift flour and add to butter mixture.(Omit one heaping tbsp of flour and add cocoa instead if you want to make a chocolate crust) Blend well until you obtain a soft but somewhat sticky dough.
  3. Spread dough into the prepared baking tray using a spatula to even out the layer. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Leave to cool before you use a base for your dessert, may it be a panna cotta or cheesecake or any some kind of bar.

This is a highly versatile recipe for a shortcrust base. You can use it as a base for any kind of bar or maybe some panna cotta as well as your favorite cheesecake.

Ingredients & Method

For the milk pudding layer
  • 400 ml milk
  • 3 tbsp (30 gr) cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp (40 gr) granulated sugar
  1. To make the blancmange place milk and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  2. In a small bowl mix the cornstarch with a little bit of water (1 or 2 tbsp should be enough) then lower the heat and add this slurry to the milk. Keep stirring quickly with a whisk to avoid lumps from forming.
  3. Take off the heat once it comes to a boil and thickens. Pour onto the prepared and cooled shortcrust base.
  4. Wait until pudding has cooled and set well before continuing with the next layer. Then once it has set, spread the milk pudding layer with plenty of pomegranate arils before you start making the pomegranate pudding.
For the pomegranate pudding layer
  • 400  ml  pomegranate juice (preferably fresh)
  • 3 tbsp (30 gr) cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp (25 gr) granulated sugar
  1. Place the pomegranate juice and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  2. In a small bowl mix cornstarch with 1-2 tbsp of water. Add this slurry to the pomegranate juice and lower heat. Bring to a boil while constantly stirring with a whisk.
  3. Pour the pudding over the milk layer from as low as possible. Then gently tilt the tin around to make sure pudding spreads evenly. Leave to set at room temperature and then refrigerate  at least 6-8 hours or preferably overnight.
  4. Remove dessert from tin using the baking paper. Dip knife into hot water, dry with a towel then cut your dessert into squares or triangles, whichever shape you prefer, and serve cold.

You can decorate your dessert with extra pomegranate arils, chocolate shavings or chocolate chips, some ground pistachios or slivered almonds etc.

Bon Appétit!