Black Barida Dish

Source: Kitab al’Tabikh, by Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq

Carefully crush some black raisins, mix with a little vinegar, strain, and add a little cinnamon, just enough galangale, and a little ginger, oil and chopped rue.  Pour [sauce] over the chicken.

Ingredients

500g chicken breast 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
1 ½  cups raisins 2 tsp ginger
2 tbs wine vinegar ½ tsp galangal
3 tbs olive oil 1 tsp salt

Method

  1. Poach the chicken breast gently in water or chicken stock.  When cool, shred it.
  2. To make the sauce, pulverise all other ingredients in a food processor.
  3. Combine the sauce and the chicken and serve cold.
  4.  

    Notes

    • A Barida is a cold dish served at the start of the feast.  It was believed the stomach took a while to “warm up,” and putting hot food into an unwarmed stomach would cause indigestion.
    • I have omitted the rue.  It has a regrettable tendency to cause allergic reactions (and miscarriages), plus is very bitter.  If you would like to add a bitter taste to the dish, I would suggest using rocket or feverfew, which have a similar flavour profile without the problems.
    • I recommend using powdered galangal rather than fresh – fresh galangal can be tough, so it’s difficult to peel and cut.

Chicken and Cucumber Barida

This recipe comes from ibn Sayyar al-Warraq’s Kitab al-Tabikh (“A Cookery Book,”) which is contained in Annals of the Caliphs’ Kitchens.

 Take some vinegar and murri and in them macerate coriander [seeds].  Chinese cinnamon, pepper, dried and fresh thyme, cumin, caraway, fresh coriander, mint, rue, celery, the pulp of a cucumber, and elecampane.  Put everything in a grinder, mix and pour over the grilled chicken.

 Ingredients

1kg chicken breast , sliced finely ½ tsp cumin
1 large cucumber, peeled and deseeded 1 tsp caraway
2 stalks celery 2 tsp fresh thyme
1 tbs Soy Sauce 1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbs white wine vinegar 3 tbs fresh mint leaves
2 tsp coriander seeds 3 tbs fresh coriander leaves
1 tsp cassia, ground 1 tbs rocket
½ tsp pepper Salt, pepper, olive oil

Method

Grind spices and mince herbs finely. Dice celery and cucumber. Put all sauce ingredients in a food processor and blend well, then leave to stand in the fridge overnight. (takes approx. 10 minutes to do).  Place some cling film on the surface, to prevent discolouration.

Rub olive oil, salt and pepper into chicken and grill on both sides. Allow to cool, then pour sauce over chicken, coating thoroughly. It is better if this is done at least 1 hour before serving, to give the chicken a chance to absorb the sauce.  Place some clingfilm on the surface, to prevent discolouration.

Equipment required: knife, chopping board, food processor, fry pan/grill, fridge

Total Time: approx. 30 minutes preparation, plus overnight plus 1 hour.

Difficulty Rating: XX

Prep ahead of time?  Yes.

Serves: 8 as a main dish/ 10-12 if part of a feast

Leftover Potential: reasonable.

Notes

  • A Barida is a cold dish served at the start of the feast.  It was believed the stomach took a while to “warm up,” and putting hot food into an unwarmed stomach would cause indigestion.
  • Murri is a medieval sauce made from fermented barley, and isn’t made anymore.  Charles Perry, one of the major scholars of medieval Islamic food, is probably about the only person alive who’s managed to reproduce it, and he says Soy Sauce is an acceptable substitute, which is good enough for me.
  • Chinese cinnamon is cassia.  You can substitute ground cinnamon if you like.
  • You can use ready ground spices in place of grinding them yourself, but really, grinding the spices is not that difficult, and makes a huge difference.
  • The chicken is very easy to cut precisely if you do it when the chicken is half thawed, and if your knife is sharp. But you shouldn’t be using blunt knives anyway.
  • I have suggested substituting rocket for the rue and elecampane because it’s easier to find, and also rue has a regrettable tendency to cause allergic reactions (and miscarriages), plus is very bitter.  Elecampane is also bitter, and is slightly toxic.  Rocket has a similar flavour profile without the problems.

Allergy Notes

  • Gluten Free
  • Lactose Free
  • Egg-allergy friendly
  • Nut-allergy friendly