spiced gurdthu with fresh figs

Gurdthu with Cardamom, Vanilla, and Bay Leaves

When writing about Middle Eastern food, it's often impossible to assign particular dishes to particular cultures. For instance, baklawa, hummusgrape leaves, and labneh, (and many, many more) are central to many different cuisines throughout the region. But while there is a lot of overlap and influence, there are also some important differences and nuances, and each cuisine has its own specialties and unique creations.

That's all just to say that I often blog about dishes that Assyrian cuisine has in common with many other cultures (some are our own inventions that have become widespread, and some are dishes that we have adopted from the many nations we inhabit), but there are some things that we make that are unique to our culture. As far as I can tell, gurdthu is one of those things.

Yogurt and Rice

Gurdthu marries two of the most important staples of our cuisine, yogurt and rice, to create the creamiest rice porridge imaginable. To make very traditional gurdthu, we ferment yogurt from scratch, but we let it go extra long until it becomes very sour. Then we mix together the yogurt, rice, egg, and water and stir it constantly while bringing it to a simmer. Once it's simmering, we reduce the heat to low and let it cook until the rice becomes very soft and the whole thing thickens into a beautiful, rich, velvety custard.

cardamom, vanilla, bay leaves

Gurdthu is delicious plain, but it's also traditionally served with a variety of toppings. If you tend to like sweet rice pudding, it's lovely with a drizzle of honey or date syrup. My favorite traditional gurdthu topping is melted butter, and swirling in both butter and honey makes this comfort food at its absolute best. Some people even like to eat gurdthu with Turkish coffee dusted on top, but that's just a little too efficient for my taste.

I'm currently working on a traditional gurdthu post, with homemade yogurt and the whole shebang, but for now I'll leave you with my current favorite, since I love finding new ways to enjoy gurdthu. Lately I've been steeping it with bay leaves, cardamom, and vanilla, and then drizzling honey on top and serving it with fresh figs, which are at their sweetest right now. Bay leaves seem to have become pigeon-holed in savory foods, but they can add flavor to a lot more things than a pot roast. They work perfectly with vanilla and cardamom, and give everything a floral flavor that's not too cloying. But the flavor of bay leaves is subtle, so it's important to make sure you're not using expired ones.

Gurdthu with Cardamom, Vanilla, and Bay Leaves

spiced gurdthu with fresh figs

yield: 8 servings
total time: 40 minutes
active time: 20 minutes
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  • 4 cups plain whole milk yogurt (1 quart container of non-Greek yogurt or 1/4 of a homemade batch)

  • 1 1/2 cups water

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 beaten egg

  • 2/3 cup medium grain rice, rinsed (e.g., Calrose)

  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped

  • 1 large or 2 small bay leaves

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, plus more for sprinkling

  • Honey, for serving

  • 6 to 8 figs, cut into pieces (or another fruit if figs are not in season, such as berries or cherries).

  1. In a stock pot, whisk together the yogurt, water, and salt.

  2. Beat the egg in a small bowl and then whisk it into the yogurt mixture.

  3. Stir in the rice, vanilla bean pod and scrapings, bay leaves, and cardamom, and place the stockpot over medium heat. Stir constantly while you bring it to a simmer, about 10 to 15 minutes. Once it comes to a simmer, lower the heat until it is maintaining a bare simmer (low or medium-low heat).

  4. Continue to stir occasionally for 20 minutes, until the rice is cooked through and the yogurt has thickened. Remove the bay leaves and vanilla pod once it is done.

  5. Serve it hot or let it cool to room temperature. Serve with a drizzle of honey, a pinch of cardamom, and a few fig pieces.

Gurdthu with Cardamom, Vanilla, and Bay Leaves

baklawa frozen yogurt

Baklawa Frozen Yogurt

This spring, I've been making so much baklawa (also known as baklava). And I mean, really, a lot. I'm pretty obsessive about tinkering with and testing my recipes before posting them here, so I've lost track of the number of trays I've made in the last couple months while fine-tuning my recipes for cardamom baklawa and olive oil botanical baklawa.

Luckily, the baking method I use is super easy, so the "problem" with making heaps of baklawa isn't really the amount of time it takes, but the sheer quantity left over. In other words, when it's as simple as slicing, pouring, and baking, it's pretty easy to end up with way too much. After you've shared plates with friends, left some at the neighbors' doors, stuffed plastic containers into your guests' luggage, and eaten some for breakfast every day for a week, you need to figure out what to do with all those delicious leftovers. That's where baklawa frozen yogurt comes in.

cardamom baklava
cardamom baklava
frozen yogurt
frozen yogurt

The key to making baklawa frozen yogurt is to remember to freeze some leftover baklawa next time you make a batch, so that you can easily make it into frozen yogurt later on. You know it's time to freeze the leftover baklawa once it starts to feel like a chore to have to finish the rest of the tray—at that point, stop what you're doing (because eating should never feel like work!), freeze those leftovers, and enjoy them in frozen yogurt form after a few weeks, once baklawa is a novelty again. But, honestly, this frozen yogurt is so good, I've baked baklawa just so that I could have some left over to make this recipe.

baklava frozen yogurt
baklava frozen yogurt
baklava frozen yogurt

If you're using my recipe for cardamom baklawa, this frozen yogurt recipe will work well as is. But if you're using another kind of baklawa or baklava, feel free to substitute the cardamom with something that works better with the particular baklawa you're working with. For instance, you might replace some or all of the cardamom with cinnamon, cloves, or allspice, and you might add a teaspoon or so of rosewater or orange blossom water to the yogurt. It's entirely up to you.

baklava frozen yogurt

baklawa frozen yogurt

Active time: 20 minutes
Total time: 25 1/2 to 28 hours (including the time it takes to chill the ice cream core)
Yield: 10 servings

One quart plain whole milk yogurt
1 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
11 ounces leftover cardamom baklawa *

Special equipment: ice cream machine **

  • At least 24 hours before you plan to make the frozen yogurt, freeze your machine's core.

  • At least 1 hour before making frozen yogurt, coarsely chop the baklawa and divide into 8 ounces (about 2 cups chopped) and 3 ounces (2/3 cups chopped). Freeze the chopped baklawa.

  • At least 1 hour before making frozen yogurt, put a 6 cup freezer-safe container in the freezer.

  • Combine the chilled yogurt with the sugar, salt, and cardamom. This step can be done a day ahead of time and kept refrigerated or it can be done right before transferring to the machine.

  • Once everything is properly chilled, freeze the yogurt mixture according to your machine's guide.

  • Once the frozen yogurt has thickened significantly and finished processing, stir in the 8 ounces (2 cups) of chopped, frozen baklawa.

  • Transfer the frozen yogurt to the frozen storage container and immediately cover and place in the freezer.

  • Store the frozen yogurt in the freezer for 30 minutes for soft serve, or continue to freeze for about 3 to 5 hours for hard ice cream.

  • To serve, top with the 3 ounces (2/3 cups) of chopped, frozen baklawa (some on the whole batch and/or some on individual servings).

* If you are using another kind of baklawa, feel free to substitute another spice for the cardamom to better match your baklawa's flavor (e.g., allspice, cinnamon, rosewater, orange blossom water). Also feel free to use store-bought baklawa.
** If you do not have an ice cream machine, you can use David Lebovitz's method.

baklava frozen yogurt