Christmas is celebrated worldwide on Dec 25. Thats what I thought till I heard that Serbia celebrates Christmas on January 7. This is because the Orthodox Christian Church in Serbia and Montenegro follows the Julian Calendar which is slightly different from the general Gregarian Calendar used worldwide. Well whatever it is, now that today Serbia is celebrating Christmas while we are in New Year 2015, I thought of trying an interesting Serbian festive pudding.
Zhito or Zito or Koljivo as is it also known is made from wheat berries which are pretty common in Eastern European countries. In fact even Poland has a wheat berry pudding as a part of Christmas traditions. Coming back to Serbian pudding, this is a traditional pudding served during Christmas,Slava (Patron Saints Day) and even a funeral. The recipe varies from house house but has commonly boiled wheat berries, sugar/honey and walnuts. In case of a funeral then the pudding is decorated containing a cross made of nuts or currants.What's also interesting is the way in which the pudding is made.
Wheat berries are soaked in water and then washed and this process is repeated seven times or so before cooking the berries. The intention I suppose is to remove the chewiness of wheat berries. Well. I didn't wash exactly seven times, instead pressure cooked for atleast 2 whistles and then also cooked on stovetop adding more water, till the wheat berries were fully cooked.
Wheat berries: 1/2 cup
Walnuts: 1/2 cup+
Powdered Sugar: 1/2 cup +/-
Coloured sugar , currants, black raisins or nuts or anything of your choice.
Soak wheat berries in water overnight. Next day soak it again in hot boiling water for an hour atleast 2 times. I just went for one time and that too under an hour. Cook the wheat berries stove top adding enough water - atleast double the quantity of berries- and also a small pinch of salt. Else you can pressure cook for three whistles adding enough water and salt.
Even after pressure cooking, they were cooked but not mash-able consistency. So I cooked the berries for about 20 minutes till they were like falling apart.
Strain the wheat berries over a bowl and let it drain overnight.
Next day grind the berries to a fine consistency. Also grind the nuts and powdered sugar along with sspices or flavours if using. Mix in /grind together the ground berries and nut-sugar mix
Spoon in serving dishes and garnish as per taste.
The pudding tasted good and ofcourse we could compare it with the wheat rava sweets we cook in India.It was very filling thanks to the nuts and obviously festive. I have adapted my recipe from How-to-cook-with-Vesna. The site also gives an insight into the Serbian traditions and cooking.
You can leave aside the grinding the berries if feeling lazy and simply mix the ground nuts and powdered sugar to berries which are cooked as per taste- tender or falling apart. This is mentioned in this recipe from about.com.