Moro’s Noodle Pudding

vermicelli-like pasta moro pudding

I’ve had all three cookbooks from Moro in London stacked up in my apartment for about a year, and haven’t made anything from them. They’re very personal cookbooks, the recipes and photos invoking a time and place, with the food arcing between Moorish cooking and the foods of North Africa, along with the Middle East, nodding toward sustainability. I keep picking them up, leafing through them and looking at the lush, yet unfussy photos of food, but never tried any of the recipes.

orange flower water frying noodles

Their most recent book, Moro East, was the result of their growing their own food in their “allotment”; a place on the outskirts of London where 81 people tended their own gardens and foraged for foods. The book begins with the sad warning that by the time readers pick up the book, the bulldozers will have plowed the century-old gardens under to make way for the upcoming Olympics, in order to create a pathway between two stadiums.

fried noodles moro east cookbook

When you flip through any of the Moro books, they’re the kind of cookbooks where everything—on every page—sounds good. I’m one of those people who reads cookbooks while I’m eating and it’s hard not to jump up from the table and start cooking. So I’m glad I finally got off my duff and start cooking from them. (I’ve bookmarked the Warm Pumpkin and Chickpea Salad with Tahini and the intriguing combination of Dates with Coffee and Cardamom with Turrone Ice Cream.)

A curious thing has happened in the past few years. The British have always had a less-than-stellar reputation for their food, yet many of the nicest cookbooks I have, including the Ottolenghi book with the chocolate-dipped Florentines, are gorgeously produced, and they use fresh, vibrant ingredients presented without pretense or novelty. Plus many take on dishes from other cultures, such as Italy or Spain, and stay true to the original intent of the dish with respect to the culture.

grinding cardamom

We have a cooking channel in France called Cuisine.tv and it’s unfortunate the difference between the polished British cooking series that they show with Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver, who use gorgeous, just-picked produce and meats, and the ones produced locally, which are made on the cheap and the dishes rarely look very interesting. They are often more about chirpy presenters and contrived presentations rather than what the French have traditionally excelled at: mastery of techniques, and celebrating their terroir through the ingredients.

cooking noodles cooked noodle pudding

Public television in France has wonderful documentaries which highlight the various regions and the cheese, wines, and confections that are produced around the country, so it’s unfortunate the cooking shows are generally uninspiring, rather than showcasing the best of traditional and modern French cuisine, the younger generation of cooks, and those still willing to take the time to use regional ingredients and celebrate artisan products that are facing extinction.

Like American cooking, British cooking gets a bad rap. But books like the ones from Moro are proof that there’s good food to be found in even the most unlikely places, such as a bulldozed lot surrounded by steel electrical towers and factory-like bunkers.

my kitchen shelf

The flavors presented in the Moro books really shine through in the recipes; there’s generous use of wilted herbs, fresh shelling beans, meats braised with fruits, alluring spices, and salads spiked with things like pomegranates and fresh cheese. And some are quite unusual, like this one, which is the last recipe in Moro East.

It’s an unusual pudding made with vermicelli, cardamom, and milk. I had some whole wheat vermicelli-style noodles that I bought a while back in Barcelona, which I’d intended to make fideos (a Catalan-style pasta dish, sometimes called fideuà), but never got around to. So like the cookbook itself, I figured it was time to take them off my shelf, and put them to use, too.

moropuddingblog

The allotment no longer exists. And it a bit sad to leaf through the pages of this book, which document a lively, verdant place that’s now gone. It’s perhaps not a recipe that everyone would be drawn to. Like the first photo page in the book, which shows a bleak, industrial area where the allotments were, it had a certain allure that was hard to put my finger on.

For lack of a better term, perhaps it’s because this dessert is ‘comfort food’, even though it’s from an unfamiliar place. Maybe it was the page facing this recipe, showing someone pouring two cups of steaming Turkish coffee on a ruddy kitchen counter. I ate my pudding on the rooftop, over looking the city of Paris—which I sometimes like to think of as my little allotment, which I hope doesn’t get bulldozed any time in the near future.

a sunny day in Paris

Noodle Pudding

Six to Eight Servings

Adapted from Moro East (Ebury) by Sam and Sam Clark

The original recipe said to use “broken up vermicelli nests”, so you can use them, or any very fine strands of pasta. I’m not a fan of rosewater so I used orange flower water, which I buy at the Arab market. If you can’t get either, a dash of vanilla would be a good substitute or a dab of orange oil.

In addition to the chopped pistachios the original recipe called for, I topped the puddings with plumped sour cherries, which I made by putting dried sour cherries in a small saucepan, covering them with water, and heating them until the liquid boiled then left them covered, off the heat, until plump. I strained out the liquid then reduced it with a generous spoonful of honey until syrupy.

  • 2 tablespoons (25 g) unsalted butter (preferably clarified butter)
  • 4 ounces (100 gr) vermicelli noodles
  • 2 3/4 cups (625 ml) whole milk
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (200 ml) evaporated (unsweetened) milk
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons rosewater or orange flower water (See Note)

shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped
plumped sour dried cherries

1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan or skillet. Add the noodles (if using nests, break them up first), then cook over moderate heat, stirring vigilantly, for about five minutes, until well-browned.

2. Add the whole milk, evaporated milk, sugar, salt, and cardamom and cook, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes or so, until the noodles are completely cooked through. (The whole wheat noodles I used took about fifteen minutes.)

3. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cool, add the rosewater or orange flower water, then refrigerate until thick.

4. Spoon the pudding into individual bowls or glasses and top with coarsely chopped pistachios and plumped dried cherries, if you like.

Storage: The pudding will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days. If it becomes too thick, once cool, stir in a little milk to loosen it up.

Note: I get my orange flower water in markets that specialize in Arabic ingredients. Like rosewater, it’s one of those things where price indicates quality, so buy a decent brand.

Orange flower water, which is sometimes called orange blossom water, is available online . Well-stocked liquor stores often carry it, as well as rosewater, too.

Related Links

Moro East: The Allotment (Video & final tour of the allotment)

Moro (Restaurant website)

Moro East

Moro: The Cookbook

Casa Moro

Orange Flower Water (Wikipedia)

Rosewater (Wikipedia)

Fideo (Wikipedia)

Vermicelli (Simply Recipes)

Aunt Millie’s Noodle Kugel

Quick Coconut Ice Cream with Saffron

Baba Ganoush

Cabbagetown Hummus

Ottolenghi’s Florentines


perfectscoop.jpg

Rome Gelato Walks

For those of you in Rome or planning to visit, I’ll be doing two Gelato Walks on June 7 and 9, 2010. We’ll visit the laboratory of Giolitti, perhaps the best-known gelato shop in Rome, for a special behind-the-scenes look at how traditional gelato is made. Then we’ll stroll to other gelato-makers for tastings, as well as stopping for espresso along the way. This trip is limited to 8 guests and you can sign up at the Context Travel website.

An additional event, a book signing, will be held at a yet to be determined location in Rome, which I’ll put on my Schedule page when it’s confirmed.


55 comments

  • David,
    This pudding is a traditional dish made during Indian festivals.It’s called “vermicelli kheer” in Northern region of India and “Semiya Payasam” in Southern region of India.
    You could make this dish more fragrant by adding 1/4 tsp saffron strands soaked in warm milk for 30 mins.This really takes the dish to another level

  • I never thought about using noodles for a sweet pudding. Interesting but looks delicious.

  • Hi David, in Pakistan we call this ‘Seviyon (vermicelli) ki Kheer’ or ‘Sheer Khurma’ depending on how it is made. The traditional way is to cook the vermicelli with milk, sugar and cardamoms and add dried fruit as desired. At home, we add raisins, slivered almonds and slices of dried dates (which are briefly soaked in warm water and drained) a few minutes before taking the pudding off the heat. But many people make a milkless version; the vermicelli is fried in ghee with cardamom and sugar syrup (sheera) is added and the pudding cooked till the noodles are soft.

    Its ok but less comforting and creamy than the other version and far too sweet in my opinion. We also make kheer with rice, milk and dried fruit; sheer heaven if well made and only a step up from traditional British rice pudding which is ofcourse baked.

    I’ll stop my blabbing now. I have just discovered you and your website and am obsessed! I am now in the process of hunting down your books. I made your vanilla ice cream recipe (yummy) and the salted butter caramel ice cream which was sheer pleasure.

  • I had this last week at Tiffin Wallah, a South Indian restaurant in New York, and its fabulous.

  • David,
    You mentioned Bugles a few posts back. Today the store had some caramel Bugles and they are really amazing-crisp, sweet, and salty all at once.

  • This looks/sounds devine!!
    On another note: I find funny that there is currently and ad for “I can’t believe it’s not butter!” on your blog! How ironic is that?!

  • This is an interesting looking recipe. I would never have thought of putting vermicelli noodles in a desert. The fried noodles almost look like a cereal we have in Australia called All Bran. I am sure these add some texture to the dessert.

  • Next time, replace the milk with fresh coconut milk for a refreshing flavourful version. For a richer version, use condensed milk. Vermicelli can also be replaced by Sago or Poha (beaten rice).

    Never knew the humble “Payasam” had an international appeal.

  • I used to leaf through the Moro cookbooks all the time when I worked at a bookshop…. now I regret never taking the leap and buying one! Love the look of this with the combination of spices and pistachios. Plus, I think it could be pretty easily adapted to be dairy free, which is a big plus!

  • Thank you for this interesting post! I’ve been thinking of buying the Momo’s book for long, but am now inspired to make my decision. Yes, I also found many books on my shelf were from Britain. Love blogs and cooking books which are able to share many cultures on our planet!!

  • I’m such a huge fan of Moro – so fortunate to work just around the corner from the restaurant and it’s so so good! I agree – England does have a bad reputation that is most definitely unfounded, given the number of unbelievable restaurants, both expensive (Moro!!) and inexpensive. I really must get hold of the Moro cookbooks as that dessert looks amazing. The Ottolenghi cookbook has to be my most used cookbook and a recent discovery I made is that Yottam Ottolenghi has a column in the Guardian with a whole bunch of new and equally gorgeous recipes!

  • I love your blog, especially as I am often in Paris (an easy hop from London on Eurostar) BUT you are way behind the times in giving British cooking a “bad rap.” London, especially, has a huge selection of fantastic restaurants at every price level and is now among the best places to eat out in the world – helped by a battery of enthusiastic young chefs, many trained by the late, much lamented, Rose Grey of The River Cafe. London restaurants are now certainly better and more varied than in Paris. Now that you have been in Berlin (and thanks, just in time for my son & daughter-in-law to profit from your advice) it’s time for you to take a good look at London!

  • I have the first two Moro cookbooks and I use them all the time. Like you say, David, the recipes are disarmingly simple, yet the results are always incredibly tasty, and a bit different from what you’d maybe normally cook on a day-to-day basis.
    I’d strongly recommend you try the saffron potatoes in the second book – it is one of my all-time favourite recipes, and whenever I cook it for friends, they are blown away by the flavours.
    I’m sure one of the reasons that this kind of food is so popular in the UK is that we have such a huge multicultural population here now. And, in London at least, each country’s immigrants have set up little versions of their homelands with shops, restaurants etc, that have become just as popular with the UK’s indigenous people. (And it’s also perhaps down to the fact that we didn’t have much of a food culture to fiercely protect in the first place, which, I think, is what happens to some extent in France.)

  • PS David, if you’re ever in London, do go to the Moro restaurant – it really is fabulous!

  • I am a great fan or this new ‘British wave’ you noticed, and it shines even more because the average food in UK is just so bad. But here and there there are a lot of gems to be discovered, and a lot of great products (since when I moved away from Wales, I basically stopped eating meat because it is nowhere near as good as the one I could get there). I think that having no deep tradition of their own, British are ready to experiment and play around with flavours more than other countries.
    By the way, I also ate a similar dessert prepared by an Indian friend, that also cointained saffron, like Divya suggested. It was good!

  • Jo-an: I said that British cooking ‘gets a bad rap’…but I didn’t say myself that it was bad. In fact, I mentioned both Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver, as well as the Moro and Ottolenghi books, as further evidence that British cuisine and cooks can be quite extraordinary.

    Just like in America (and in France, and elsewhere) there’s good…and sometimes not-so-good food, to be found in Britain, too.

    marlee: I can’t believe it! ; )

    Anni, Divya and Amber: Thanks~ I didn’t know that there were so many cultures that made similar desserts. In the Moro East book, they attributed this to a friend who cooks Iranian and Pakistani food. I do l like the idea of simmering dried fruits in it, or alongside.

    Bare Cupboard: Yes, I do plan to go there. Plus Ottolenghi as well.

  • Very unique! I would love to try that.

  • Poor little Britain. It does get a bad rep, but I agree with you that the thing we do well is we have a very multicultural approach to food. We accept all cuisines and do our best to recreate them with respect and authenticity. Walk around in any major city in England and you will find Japanese, Italian, French, Chinese, Indian (of course), Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, etc, etc. Of course we have a lot of crap, but doesn’t everybody?

    We are more and more becoming a nation obsessed with food and cookery, so I hope things will only get better and better.

  • What an amazing combination of flavors. I like unordinary recipes that use unexpected ingredients such as noodles in a pudding here.

  • My first thought is: Field trip to Moro!!

    My second thought is that I could use a little comfort food after reading about the gardens. It’s so sad. (I wonder if they thought about incorporating them into the Olympic park at all — could have been so cool!) Do you know if their are any plans to relocate the plots?

  • Barbra: According to the book, they tried to get the Olympic site organizers to incorporate the allotments into the site, but they didn’t do it. I think some of them didi get relocated. Unfortunately, they not relocating them to Paris, though, so “Oui” on the field trip!

    Becci: Well, if it’s any consolation, America gets a bad rap, too. But I’ve had European friends go to the US and are stunned when they see the farmer’s markets and eat in some of the great restaurants we have. Then they realize that we don’t all eat at McDonald’s, which is often the perception. I think that’s changing…although not quickly enough.

  • David, I love this take on the Indian-style Seviya Kheer. And that ghee in the recipe definitely works wonders and gives the pudding a lovely taste.

    Great post!

  • I am just getting to know you through your blog and have ordered several of your books. Love your style and share your views. (Oh, like I need another blog to read before I get anything done in the office.)
    ? You ate the pudding on the rooftop and say it is a comfort food. But, did you like it? Gotta get some of the cook books you made references to, you know, to read while I eat a take-out.

  • We were at a friends birthday party for one of their 6 children and were served a very similar dish to this. They are Pakistani and the sweet, creamy noodle dish that they made for us is very traditional comfort food for them. I don’t remember it having cardamom or any flavour for that matter. It was pretty neutral, slightly sweet and lovely. Thanks for this post David! I will definitely try this version.
    Oh, and the cookbook sounds really special. I’d love to have a look at it.

  • Thomasina Miers writes: “It is almost as if the British and the Mexicans were related in a former life….Our food is rich with spices, and we share a passion for puddings.” Comparing English cuisine to Mexican cuisine makes me giggle, but I do agree that English food often rises above its bland, pasty stereotype. As for this pudding? It’s just what I need on this cold, rainy NYC day.

  • In Trinidad & Tobago this is a custom dessert of Muslims and is usually served at eid-ul-fitr we call it Sahwine (sa-ah-wine). So if your neighbours are Muslim this is a dish they give as a gift. I have never tasted it because I don’t like how it looks.
    But I’ve heard it’s tasty, and you yourself enjoyed. We serve it warm or cold.

    Tip: If you leave it overnight in the refrigerator it becomes a thick, gelatinous substance that is used to make another type of dessert/treat which is fried—not sure what that one is called.

  • Sigh… I love Moro. I’d probably count all three of their books among my top ten. Funnily enough I don’t use them that much either, though…what’s up with that?

    Do you think if I use whole-grain pasta too that I could get away with having this for dinner? :)

  • Hey seygra, I was also about to chime in that in Trinidad we call it sawine and it is a traditional Muslim dessert. I quite like it :) I believe the fried version has the same name but may be wrong :)

  • Hi David –
    Their recipes are gorgeous, aren’t they? I love the fava bean soup or bessara with argan oil and cumin.
    Not quite dessert, but really comforting and warming in this rain.
    As a reluctant Londoner, I have to admit that when the Brits do good food, it is — as they would say — very civilized.
    Gabriela
    The Picky Foodie

  • Funny, when not living in San Diego, we live in London and I have always contended that I gain at least 8lbs when we go back to the UK. I love the food. “Gastropubs” are one thing, but our place in Islington is surrounded by great food. Ottolenghi is just 2 blocks up the road from us, Moro is but a 7 minute drive (when the traffic cooperates!) There’s also just the basics like good bread from either fancy Euphorium (below our maisonette on Upper Street across from the green) or Raab the baker on Essex Rd (who is just a tiny bread baker with no fancy displays or ambiance, but lines out the door and awesome bread for £1.50). There’s Conran’s Almeida, Smiths of Smithfields, St. Johns, Club Gascon, Eastside Inn all in our neck of the woods. Not to mention The Fat Duck, La Gavroche, La Manoir, Babylon, Oxo. . . Time to go back.

  • Hi David,

    I have fond memories of eating a desert like this while traveling in Southern India – it is indeed comfort food, even if you’ve never had it before. Maybe eating foods you’ve never had before that make you feel warm and fuzzy creates a whole new category, “comforting foods”.

    I also had the chance to take a spice tour in Kerala that was such a special experience – even managed to bring back some cardamom which was a treat.

    Thanks for sharing the story and the recipe!

  • Love the recipe but love the picture of the Pillsbury Doughboy more. I need one for my kitchen!

  • Thanks for this post David. I too have the Moro cookbooks and they have enlivened many a feast at our house. The food scene in London is indeed inspiring and there are always new finds-especially Turkish and Indian restaurants.
    I too enjoy reading the Guardian’s food writers especially Yotam Ottolengghi as well as Nigel Slater, Allegra McEvedy and Dan Leopard.
    Your reference to the demise of small farm unpasturized milk cheese production reminded me of an article that I read a number of years ago in Food Arts magazine, January/February 2000, titled “Food Losers of the Century”. It chronicled the loss of cheese producers in the Ardeche region of France and highlighted the work of British photographer, Tessa Traeger who documented the lives of the farmers in the Ardeche.
    The haunting beauty of those photos has stuck with me over the years and I recently viewed Tessa’s photos at Purdy Hicks Gallery in London. Well worth the visit.

  • I *love* this dessert. I find it gets even better after a day or two in the fridge…

  • I’d buy that book for the cover alone..
    As people have rightly mentioned before, this is called seviyan (i.e. vermicelli) kheer in India. Another way with the nuts is to stir-fry slivered almonds in the clarified butter (ghee) before the vermicelli. Interestingly enough, vermicelli in India is eaten more often in its sweet rather than savory form.

  • Not like rosewater! how is this possible? Mon Dieu!

  • Hi David, just last week I picked up a bag of these vermicelli noodles for about $.49. Isn’t it nice to find a bargain sometimes? I figured there must be something I can make with them. I was thinking about Mexican dry soup until until I saw this recipe!

  • David, this recipe you gave, makes me remember a Portuguese recipe we make on special ocassions. Since Portugal has a strong Moro influence,( just look at Algarve`s arquitecture), I have no doubts from where it came. There, it is called “Aletria”, they use Cinnamon sticks, cloves and at the end they throw a peel of orange, which is later fished. Baked in milk and sprinkled with ground cinnamon as a finish touch. I´m not Portuguese but Brazilian, but have a strong influence in my family recipes and costumes, though my family is very traditional here, around 500 years American root.

  • I was sure this was going to be a Passover sweet noodle dish :) Funny how each culture has their version of sweet noodle pudding. If only the entire Middle East could have a summit over a big bowl of noodle pudding!

    And I totally agree about Cuisine.tv here…severely lacking substance!

  • I love the framed Patricia Curtan in the picture of your kitchen shelf! Is it a menu from your Chez days, or an original print?

  • Hi David, I have been reading your blog for a while, but this is my first comment. Thank you for another inspiring story and recipe from yet another cookbook that I need to get my hands on! (Where, oh where do I put another bookshelf??) Also the last picture of your view over Paris is one of my favourites. I just love Paris and can tell that you do too. Thanks for a wonderful site! :-)

  • Can’t wait to go back to London, stock up on cookbooks and get into some real good ethnic restaurants – no competition here!
    A cookbook I just found and fell seriously in love with: Nadia Sawalha’s “Stuffed wine leaves saved my life”. Worth checking out.
    BTW: Love your blog, David!

  • I was just looking through your schedule for 2010 and hoping you’d have something planned in Paris in September when I’ll be visiting… guess not ;-(

  • It is sad that allotments and community gardens are becoming a thing of the past. Here in my town we have several and they are so popular that the waiting list can be years long. I put my name on the list two years ago and it has not come to the top yet!

  • David — of course, this is also a very Jewish dish that I have had as dessert at Saturday lunch in London with observant friends… the family that makes it are Londoners, by way of Egypt and then Paris. A very common path– Jews were forced to leave Egypt in the 50′s, and they were very sophisticated and all spoke french. Also, my English husband’s family (he is 76 — and I am a very California girl) had a grocery store on the site of MORO — and my husband had his first job there, selling boxes of broken biscuits (broken cookies!!!) He still insists they taste better that way. And I am sure, less fattening when in pieces……..

  • Hi David~ You should try Faloodeh~ Persian ice dessert made with noodles ~ rosewater,, fresh lime~ sour cheery syrup ~pistachios & fresh mint
    great for summer days!

    Faloodeh ~Persian Rose Water Ice~refreshing!

    Love your site. I have used a lot of your recipes . Thank you, my dinner parties have been fabulous because of you! Best recipes!

  • I remember having something like this a long time ago somewhere in the south of France, maybe at a friends house. It was an unexpected combination, but satisfying in a feel good way. I think you nailed it when you described it as comfort food. Sort of the Mac & Cheese of north African desserts…

  • Brings back wonderful memories of my late grandmother and simpler days. It’s also fascinating to discover the many different guises of what I know as payasam.

  • Gorgeous post. I covet those books.

  • David-please try the cauliflower soup recipe from the Moro East cookbook. You’ll be transported to a higher plane.

    And the flatbread they serve at Moro restaurant is unforgettable. I still think of it fondly two years on….get on the Eurostar!

  • This is now on my after-Passover menu.

  • david, this is one of the most typical dishes that every indian muslim/pakistani housewife cooks up on the morning of eid ul fitr (the feast at the end of ramadan). hundreds of millions of people on the subcontinent know it by its local name: siwaiyan or sewaiyan. consequently, there are as many different recipes as there are muslims in the subcontinent. all involve cooking down the fried noodles with milk, cardamom pods and rose water until you get a semi-liquid thickish consistency that i, when i was a child, would always lighten up with a little extra milk …….

  • on another note, i am not sure whether british cooking is any good, really. i mean, can you define a national cuisine’s quality by the sort of food that is being served up in restaurants? i doubt it very much, especially since one of the world’s main gastronomic traditions, ie indian cooking, is done mainly at home. there is really no such thing as a deeply established culture of eating out, at least not compared with europe and the us. and most of what is considered to be so “wonderful” about british cooking is to be found almost exclusively in restaurants. i wonder how many people in britain genuinely know how to cook traditionally british dishes, beyond the sunday roast, and how large their repertoire of recipes is. that to me would define a country’s culinary greatness. i actually believe that the further north you travel, the less exciting cooking becomes, mainly because of the climate……
    really like your blog

  • as soon as i saw this i was reminded of a dessert my girlfriend’s indo-guyanese mother used to make. in her accent, she’d just called it “vormazelli” but i always figured it had a “proper” name. now i know.

  • Long time reader of this blog, as well as owner of your fabulous and never-fail cookbooks. Just wanted to say this was a really gorgeous post. The writing was pitch perfect and I loved the story shared about the ruined plot.