Black Barida (Chicken in Raisin Sauce)

Pound black raisins very well. Stir and mash it with a small amount of vinegar. Strain the liquid and add a small amount of cassia, galangal as needed, and a little ginger. Pour over it some olive oil and add a small amount of chopped rue. Pour sauce over [roasted] pullets.
Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq, Kitab al’Tabikh Chapter XXXI (The Book of Dishes, trans. Nawal Nasrallah)

Baridas are cold dishes served at the start of the feast, after fresh fruit was served (Zouali, 2007, 56). They are generally composed of light foods – fish, chicken or vegetables, though there is an occasional recipe for red meat (Zouali, 2007, 63). It was believed the stomach took a while to “warm up,” and putting heavy food into an unwarmed stomach would cause indigestion (Zouali, 2007, 64).

Ingredients

1 roasted chicken, or 1.5kg roasted chicken pieces
375g raisins 2 tsp powdered ginger
80mL wine vinegar 3 tbs olive oil
1 tsp cassia or cinnamon 2 tbs finely chopped feverfew
½ tsp powdered galangal 1 tsp salt (optional)

Method

  1. To make the sauce, grind the raisins and vinegar to a pulp in a mortar and pestle, or pulverise in a food processor.
  2. If the sauce is too dry, add more vinegar.
  3. Pass the mix through a sieve, add the rest of the ingredients and stir well.
  4. Combine the sauce and the chicken and serve cold.

Notes

  • I have followed Nasrallah’s lead in using roast chicken with this dish (Nasrallah, 2009, 167) – most chicken barida recipes in the same book specify roast chicken. However, it also works well with sliced poached chicken breast.
  • When using roast chicken in feasts, I like to use chicken wings chopped in half and roasted. They don’t take long to cook, and are very easy to portion (and they’re cheap!).
  • Cassia and cinnamon are spices obtained from the bark of related trees, and are often both identified simply as cinnamon. When powdered, cassia has a stronger smell, and is reddish in colour. You will probably need to go to a specialised spice store to find them differentiated (Hemphill, 2006, 156-163).
  • If using ginger, try to track down whole dried ginger which has to be grated before use. This is the way ginger would have been purchased in the medieval period, and it has a far more powerful flavour and scent.
  • I have replaced the rue with feverfew.  It has a regrettable tendency to cause allergic reactions (and miscarriages), plus is very bitter.  If you can’t find feverfew, you could also use rocket (arugula), in greater quantities. Both feverfew and rocket are also bitter, without the severe allergen problems.
  • I recommend using powdered galangal rather than fresh – fresh galangal can be tough, so it’s difficult to peel and cut.

Black Barida

Further Reading

Click on the links below to order books directly from the Book Depository.
Hemphill, Ian (2006) Spice Notes and Recipes
Nasrallah, Nawal (2009) Annals of the Caliphs’ Kitchens
Zaouali, Lilia (2007). Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World.

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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