Chickpea Puree

Cook the chickpeas in water, then mash them in a mortar to make a puree. Push the puree through a sieve for wheat, unless it is already fine enough, in which case this step is not necessary. Mix it then with wine vinegar, the pulp of pickled lemons, and cinnamon, pepper, ginger, parsley of the best quality, mint, and rue that have all been chopped and placed on the surface of the serving dish [zubdiyya]. Finally, pour over [this mixture] a generous amount of oil of good quality.

This recipe comes from the thirteenth century Kanz al-Fawa id fi tanwi’ al-mawa id (“The Treasure of Useful Advice for the Composition of a Varied Table”) which was written in Egypt. It can be found in Lilia Zaouali’s Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World (p 66).


200g dried chickpeas, OR 1 can chickpeas 1/2 tsp cinnamon tbs finely chopped parsley
2 tbs wine vinegar 1/4 tsp pepper 2 tbs finely chopped mint
pulp of 1/2 pickled lemon 1/2 tsp ginger 1 tsp finely chopped feverfew or rocket
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil


  1. If using dried chickpeas, soak the chickpeas overnight, then boil them for at least two hours in fresh water, until they are tender. If using canned chickpeas, drain and rinse well.
  2. Put the chickpeas in a mortar and pound to a paste, then pass through a fine sieve. You can also do this step the modern, painless way in a food processor.
  3. In a bowl, mix together the preserved lemon pulp, spices and herbs, and spread over the bottom of the bowl.
  4. Put the chickpea puree on top of the lemon, spice and herb mix, then mix together well.
  5. Transfer the puree to a serving bowl and drizzle the olive oil over the top.


  • Rue is a very bitter herb that is mildly toxic; it can bring about abortions and often provokes allergic reactions. For this reason, I have substituted feverfew or rocket, two other bitter herbs which tend not to have the side effects.
  • Preserved lemons are preserved in salt, and have an extremely strong flavour. This recipe is somewhat unusual in calling for the pulp, as the skins are more often used. You can find them at Middle Eastern grocers.
  • A zubdiyya is a small, decorated ceramic bowl, used to serve small appetiser dishes such as this.

A C13 zubdiyya from Syria

Chickpea puree

Further Reading

Zaouali, Lilia. Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World. Los Angeles, 2007.

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