Tomorrow, December 24, is the prophet’s birthday and Tunis is alive with anticipation. That it’s so close to Christmas is a once-in-a-435-years event.
There are huge baskets in the supermarkets of zgougou, the black seeds of the Aleppo pine. On Mouled, the prophet’s birthday in colloquial Arabic, Tunisia cooks and eats its signature holiday dish, Assida zgougou. The black seed of the Aleppo pine is a key ingredient.
I’ve seen accounts that describe it as follows: two layers of differently flavored and colored creams, the black made out of zgougou and the white a bit like a crème patisserie.
To me it sounds like a Tunisian kheer, using seeds, wheat, sugar and milk, cooked on a low heat till it thickens and elaborated decorated with nuts. But its Tunisian uniqueness lies in the use of the zgougou and the essence of orange blossom that imparts its fragrance to the white crème patisserie layer.