When Sephardi Jews immigrated to the Middle East, they adopted from the Arab locals the ashura - a dish that symbolized for them the harvest holiday, that is, the festival of Sukkot. The ashura is a colorful and rich dish made from cooked wheat, sweetened with honey or silan and enriched by dried fruit and nuts. This comforting dish was traditionally served at the end of the fast on the 10th day of the Muharram in the Islamic calendar (which corresponds to the Jewish month of Tishri ). Ashura means "one-tenth" in Arabic, which is where the day of fasting for Muslims and the Sephardi dish for Sukkot got their names.

Preparation of ashura during the Sukkot holiday is a reflection of the abundance and diversity of the land's yield. It is traditionally served in a big pot at the center of the table, to bolster the feeling of equality around the tribal-family campfire, while everyone is gathered in the sukkah. Because the dish is rich and concentrated, it is customary to ladle a heaping spoonful of it into small metal bowls that will warm your hands in the nighttime chill outside in the sukkah. The natural garnish for the dish is pomegranate seeds - one of the holiday's main symbols.

Generally the ashura contains wheat kernels soaked in water overnight before being cooked; for the sake of diversity, you can substitute spelt, whole oatmeal or even white or whole round rice. The wheat is cooked in water and honey for one and a half hours, stirring constantly, in a slow process that produces soft and sticky kernels.

In the dairy version, the wheat is cooked with milk and butter. Various kinds of chopped dried fruits and lots of nuts are added to the sweet ashura to create a festive dish that is comforting, colorful and satisfying. Seasonings for the ashura differ from country to country: Some people add cinnamon, cardamom, orange blossom water or rosewater for a richer aroma. The following recipes serve four.

Ashura of broiled peaches, pistachios & chocolate

1 cup wheat, soaked in water overnight

1/2 cup sweetened concentrated milk

2 cups water

2 cups milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tbsp. Grand Marnier

2 tbsp. butter

For the broiled peaches:

2 yellow peaches, sliced in half

2 tsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

For the garnish:

chopped pistachios

grated bittersweet chocolate

In a medium pot combine the presoaked wheat, concentrated milk, water, milk, and vanilla and cook on a gentle boil until the wheat kernals are soft and slightly sticky. This takes about an hour and a half or a bit longer. Stir every few minutes throughout. If necessary add more water. Take the pot off the heat, add the Grand Marnier and butter, and stir well. While the wheat is cooking, heat the oven to 200C, place the peach halves in a roasting pan, sprinkle them with sugar and cinnamon, and roast for 20 minutes. Ladle hot ashura onto flat plates, place a peach half in the center of each plate, top with chopped pistachios and grated chocolate, and serve immediately.

Almond syrup ashura with pears in silan & wine

1 cup wheat, soaked in water overnight

1/2 cup sweetened almond syrup (rosetta )

2 cups water

2 cups milk

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

2 tbsp. butter

For the pears:

4 pears, peeled

1 cup water

1 cup wine

1/2 cup silan

1 cinnamon stick

For the garnish:

chopped almonds

In a medium pot combine the presoaked wheat, almond syrup, water, milk and cinnamon and cook on a gentle boil until the wheat kernals are soft and slightly sticky. This takes about an hour and a half or a bit longer. Stir every few minutes throughout the cooking. If necessary, add more water. Take the pot off the heat, add the butter and stir well. While the wheat is cooking, place the pears in a medium pot, add water, wine, silan and cinnamon, and cook for approximately 40 minutes until the pears soften, turning the pears over occasionally.

Pour hot ashura into individual bowls or deep dishes, place a pear in the center of each portion, drizzle with the thick sauce from cooking the pears, sprinkle chopped almonds on top and serve immediately.

Ashura of dried fruit, nuts & rosewater

1 cup wheat, soaked in water overnight

4 cups water

5 tbsp. honey

1 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp. rosewater

2 tbsp. butter

5 chopped apricots

2 chopped figs

5 chopped dates

5 chopped prunes

25 gr. chopped almonds

25 gr. chopped walnuts

25 gr. chopped pistachios

For the garnish:

pomegranate seeds

In a medium pot combine the presoaked wheat, water, honey and cinnamon; cook over a gentle boil until the wheat kernels are soft and slightly sticky. This takes about one and a half hours or a bit longer. Stir every few minutes throughout. If necessary, add more water. Take the pot off the heat, add the butter and rosewater, and stir well. Add the chopped dried fruit and nuts, decorate with pomegranate seeds and serve immediately.