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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Krautsuppe (Soup of Greens)

Setz Kraut zu mit einer Krautsuppen es sey geschnitten oder gehackt nimm gantzen Pfeffer und gantze Muschatenblüt darunter laß darmit sieden und wenn du es wilt anrichten so nimm darzu gebeht Schnitten von einem weck oder Ruckenbrot schmältzs mit heisser Butter und besträw es mit Ingwer. Marx Rumpoldt, Ein new Kuchbuch CXLIIr (1581)

Set potherbs to boil with a potherb soup, whether they are cut or chopped, and add whole pepper and mace to it, let it boil with that and when you want to serve it, take toasted slices of white bread or rye bread, enrich it with hot butter and strew ginger on it.

The text and translation of the recipe can be found in Volker Bach’s excellent collection of medieval period recipes that can be cooked in a camp setting, Plain Fare, which is available for download here.

“Pot herbs,” or leafy green vegetables, were staples of the medieval diet for all classes of people. However, green leaf soups for noble households invariably included costly spices, which made them very different to the soups that would have been served in a peasant household.

Ingredients

½ small head cabbage 1.5 L vegetable stock 1 tsp ginger
½ bunch chard ½ tsp pepper 25g butter
Bunch parsley ½ tsp mace Optional: Toasted bread

Method

  1. Finely shred the cabbage, chard and parsley.
  2. Bring the vegetable stock to the boil, then add the vegetables, pepper, mace and salt. Cook until the leaves are soft. This will only take around a minute.
  3. Mix through the butter, and sprinkle with the ginger, just before serving.
  4. If desired, serve with toasted white or rye bread.

Notes

  • Do not cook the vegetables for long – otherwise they will go bitter and be unpleasant to eat.
  • The leafy vegetables I have used are suggestions only. You could use any other herbs such as chervil or coriander, or spinach in place of the cabbage or chard. You could even use kale, though I honestly don’t know why you’d bother.
  • You can find a C14 English recipe for a potherb soup here.

Potherb soup

Bowres (Duck Braised in Beer and Sage)

xv. Bowres.
Take Pypis, Hertys, Nerys, Myltys, an Rybbys of the Swyne; or ellys take Mawlard, or Gees, an chop hem smal, and thanne parboyle hem in fayre water; an þan take it vp, and pyke it clene in-to a fayre potte, an caste þer-to ale y-now, & sawge an salt, and þan boyle it ry?th wel; and þanne serue it forthe for a goode potage.
 MS. Harleian 279, Leche Vyaundez, xxxi.

Take lungs, hearts, ears, spleen and ribs of the pig; or else take mallard or goose, and chop them small, and then parboil them in fair water; and then take it up, and pick it clean into a fair pot, an caste thereto ale enough, and sage and salt, and than boil it right well; and then serve it forth for a good pottage.

When I first saw this recipe, I was struck by the simplicity. However, I decided I would not be using the innards of the pig; aside from the extreme difficulty of obtaining some of the bits, I was worried I’d be stuffed head first into the pot if I tried to serve it to anyone (I discovered this would probably be true when I mentioned the possibility of lung in a dish). I decided to use duck, as goose is expensive.

However, in writing up the recipe, I was suddenly struck with a thought – was the cook meant to use the innards of duck or goose, not the flesh? I decided to look for other recipes in other manuscripts. Fortunately, a quick search revealed Daniel Myers’ excellent site Medieval Cookery had already gathered all fifteenth century recipes similar to Bowres. These recipes used a variety of meats, with varying herbs and spices; the common thread was the braising in ale.

The version of Bowres in MS Harleian 279 is very plain, and uses everyday ingredients; if using the suggested pig innards, this would likely be the sort of dish cooked by a peasant or lower class urban family.

Ingredients

1.5 kg duck pieces bunch sage leaves
600mL beer or ale 1 tsp salt

Method

  1. Joint the duck, and put in a pot.
  2. Cover the duck with water, and bring the pot to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook the duck until the skin and meat are opaque and much of the fat has been rendered from the duck.
  3. Allow the duck to cool slightly, and then pick the meat from the bones.
  4. Transfer the duck to a clean pot, and add the beer or ale, salt and shredded sage leaves.
  5. Simmer the duck until the liquid is considerably reduced, and the meat is falling apart.
  6. Serve the duck either in its cooking liquid, or strained.

Notes

  • If you are lucky enough to find true ale (that is, brewed without hops), it will give you a more authentic result.
  • You may find this recipe works better with duck legs and thighs. Though the breast has a thick covering of fat, the meat itself is quite lean, and not well suited to long, slow cooking (it turns rubbery and is unpleasant to eat).
  • Parboiling the duck before braising it renders the fat from the duck. Modern braises would suggest frying the duck first to achieve the same purpose; you may find this easier.

Bowres

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Austin, Thomas (ed.). Two Fifteenth Century Cookbooks

Jurjaniyya (Sour Lamb Stew)

Jurjaniyya: The way to make it is to cut up meat medium and leave it in the pot, and put water to cover on it with a little salt. Cut onions into dainty pieces, and when the pot boils, put the onions on it, and dry coriander, pepper, ginger and cinnamon, all pounded fine. If you want, add peeled carrots from which the woody interior has been removed, chopped medium. Then stir it until the ingredients are done. When it is done, take seeds of pomegranates and black raisins in equal proportion and pound them fine, macerate well in water and strain through a fine sieve. Then throw them into a pot. Let there be a little bit of vinegar with it. Beat peeled sweet almonds to liquid consistency with water, then throw them into the pot. When it boils and is nearly done, sweeten it with a little sugar, enough to make it pleasant. Throw a handful of jujubes on top of the pot and sprinkle a little rosewater on it. Then cover it until it grows quiet on a fire, and take it up. Kitab al Tabikh Chapter I (The Book of Dishes, trans. Charles Perry and published as A Baghdad Cookery Book).

 

Ingredients

For explanations of the ingredients, see the Notes below.

1.5kg lamb 2 tsp coriander seed 30g pomegranate seed 2 tsp sugar
3 onions 1½ tsp cinnamon 30g raisins 15mL rosewater
4 carrots 1½ tsp ginger 200mL almond milk 25g jujubes
1½ tsp salt 1 tsp pepper 45mL wine vinegar

Method

  1. If you are using dried jujubes, put them in a bowl with just enough water to cover them, and leave aside to rehydrate.
  2. Cut the lamb into roughly equal sized pieces, removing any sinew (the silvery membrane you find on the edges of the meat).
  3. Put the lamb into a pot with just enough water to cover it, and the salt. Bring to the boil.
  4. Meanwhile, peel the onions and dice finely.
  5. Peel the carrots and slice into julienne strips, leaving out the core of the carrot.
  6. Finely grind the spices in a mortar or electric grinder.
  7. When the pot with the lamb is boiling, add the onion, carrot and spices. Stir well and reduce to a simmer.
  8. Meanwhile, put the pomegranate seeds and raisins in a mortar with enough water to cover them, and pound well.  This can also be done with a blender.  When the mixture has reached a smooth consistency, strain it through a fine cloth to remove any pieces of pomegranate seed.
  9. When the meat has started to soften and the liquid has reduced a little, add the raisin and pomegranate mix, vinegar and almond milk to the pot and continue to simmer.
  10. When the liquid has reduced and the meat is falling apart,  remove from the heat and add the sugar and the rose water, and mix well.  Transfer to a serving platter
  11. Drain the jujubes if necessary, and pour on top of the meat.  Serve warm.

Notes

  • The name of this dish derives from Gorgan, a city on the Caspian Sea (Perry, 2005, 31).
  • Jujubes (Ziziphus jujuba) are also known as red dates or Chinese dates (the Chinese names are da zao or hong zao – many thanks to Facebook user Andi Houston for the Chinese names), and you may be able to find them dried in Asian grocers. The can also be found in Middle Eastern grocers. They have quite a tart taste, which in this case complements the rich flavour of the lamb and the slight sweetness of the cooking liquid. If you can’t find true jujubes/red dates (and they aren’t the easiest thing to find) do not substitute regular dates, as they are too sweet. I would suggest sliced, red-skinned plums to imitate the taste and colour.
  • Stewed dishes such as this often specify “fat meat,” which becomes extremely tasty and succulent when cooked for a long time and slowly, such as in this dish. Look for cuts such as forequarter or neck to get the best results.

Mutton stew

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Perry, Charles (2005). A Baghdad Cookery Book.

Bāqillā bi-Khall (Broadbeans in Vinegar)

Bāqillā bi-Khall: Take green broad beans as soon as they are rough. Remove their external husks, then boil them in salt and water until they are done, and dry them off. Sprinkle a little caraway and finely pounded cinnamon on them. Pour a bit of sesame oil on them. Put good vinegar to cover on them, and use them. Kitab al Tabikh Chapter VII (The Book of Dishes, trans. Charles Perry and published as A Baghdad Cookery Book).

Anyone who has ever used broadbeans can work out quickly why they were largely replaced with New World varieties. Within the pods, each bean is enclosed by a hard, pale skin which should be removed before they are eaten, and this becomes incredibly tedious to do in quantity. However, anyone who has tasted broadbeans can work out why they never fell completely out of use – they are extremely delicious!

This dish would have been classed as a bārida, a cold dish with a vinegar based sauce, served at the start of a meal as an appetiser (Zaouali, 2007, 63).

Ingredients

For explanations of the ingredients, see the Notes below.

500g broad beans ½ tsp caraway
30mL virgin sesame oil ½ tsp ground cinnamon
45 mL vinegar

 

 

Method

  1. Remove the broadbeans from the pods. Boil them in salted water for about a minute, then leave to cool.
  2. When the broadbeans are cool, remove pale, hard skin from the bright green inner bean.
  3. Sprinkle the spices over the beans.
  4. Pour the sesame oil over the beans, then pour over the vinegar.
  5. Serve the beans at room temperature.

Notes

  • Broad beans is another name for fava beans. If you can’t get them fresh (as this recipe clearly calls for) you may be able to find them frozen. You can also get them dried or canned.
  • If you are used to Asian cooking you’ll assume sesame oil should only be used sparingly, as the type of sesame oil used in Asian cooking can be overpowering if used heavily. However, this type of sesame oil is produced from toasted sesame seeds, which heavily concentrates the sesame flavour and aroma. If you are familiar with modern Indian or Middle Eastern cooking, you might have come across virgin or cold-pressed sesame oil, which is much paler and more subtly flavoured. This is the sort you need to use for baking.If are going to be cooking for anyone with a sesame allergy, almond oil, rice bran oil or canola oil make good substitutes (the last two don’t have any flavour).

Broad bean salad

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Perry, Charles (2005). A Baghdad Cookery Book.
Zaouali, Lilia (2007). Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World.

Hais (Date and Nut Treats)

Hais: Take excellent dried bread or biscuit (ka’k) and pound it well. Let there be a pound (ratl) or it and three quarters of a pound (ratl) of fresh or preserved dates – let their seeds have been removed – and three ounces (uqiya) of pounded almond and pistachio meats. Macerate everything well and strongly by hand. Then refine two ounces (uqiya) of sesame oil (by frying spices in them) and pour it on it. Knead it continuously until it is mixed. Make it into balls and dust them in finely pounded sugar. If you want, replace the sesame oil with clarified butter. This is good for travelers. Kitab al Tabikh Chapter X (The Book of Dishes, trans. Charles Perry and published as A Baghdad Cookery Book).

In Middle Eastern cultures, sweet dishes are not served at the end of the meal – instead fresh fruit is eaten. Dishes such as these tend to be reserved for celebrations or social occasions, and are an important part of guest hospitality. However sweet dishes are not exclusively served only at special times – they can be eaten whenever desired (Salloum et all, 2013, 1).

Hais developed from a Bedouin dish (Salloum et all, 2013, 211), as suggested by the direction that it is good for travelers. No doubt the Bedouin version was much simpler than the Baghdad version.

Equivalents of weights and measures
Ratl 400g
Uqiya 33g
(Perry, 2005, 22).

Ingredients

For explanations of the ingredients, see the Notes below.

400g bread crumbs 65mL virgin sesame oil
300g pitted dates ½ tsp ground cinnamon
50g almonds ½ tsp ground ginger
50g pistachios 20g caster sugar

Method

  1. Put the pistachios in a bowl of boiling water for about 10 minutes, then rub off the skins. Allow to dry.
  2. In a mortar and pestle or food processor, roughly grind the nuts. They don’t have to be finely or consistently ground.
  3. Add the dates and bread crumbs to the mortar and pestle or food processor, and process until the mix has come together. If using the mortar and pestle, use the pestle until the dates are mashed, then use your hands.
  4. Put the sesame oil and spices in a frypan, and fry over a medium heat until you can smell the spices.
  5. Pour the spiced oil over the date, bread crumb and nut mix, and continue to process until the mixture binds well.
  6. Roll the mix into balls, then roll these balls into the caster sugar until they are well coated.
  7. The Hais will keep very well in an airtight container in a cool place. However they are unlikely to remain uneaten for long.

Notes

  • It is far better to make your own breadcrumbs rather than use bought ones – the texture of freshly made crumbs is superior. You can either use a fine grater or a food processor to produce breadcrumbs.
  • If you are used to Asian cooking you’ll assume sesame oil should only be used sparingly, as the type of sesame oil used in Asian cooking can be overpowering if used heavily. However, this type of sesame oil is produced from toasted sesame seeds, which heavily concentrates the sesame flavour and aroma. If you are familiar with modern Indian or Middle Eastern cooking, you might have come across virgin or cold-pressed sesame oil, which is much paler and more subtly flavoured. This is the sort you need to use for baking.If are going to be cooking for anyone with a sesame allergy, almond oil, rice bran oil or canola oil make good substitutes (the last two don’t have any flavour).
  • Refining oil means to gently fry spices in it. As with medieval European recipes, specific spices are often not specified. The spices I have chosen are popular additions to Middle Eastern sweets.
  • Clarified butter is also known as ghee – butter with the milk solids removed. You can buy it in supermarkets or Indian or Middle Eastern grocers, or make your own. Heat butter over a gentle heat until it is completely melted and bubbling. You will see a white scum on the surface. These are the milk solids. Strain the melted butter through a strainer lined with a double layer of muslin and you will be left with lovely clear clarified butter. Because the solids are the bit that makes butter go rancid, clarified butter does not need to be stored in the fridge. Some lactose intolerant people are fine with clarified butter, as most of the lactose is
    removed with the solids. This is also great for people with sesame allergies.

Hais

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Perry, Charles (2005). A Baghdad Cookery Book.
Salloum, Habeeb; Salloum, Muna and Salloum Elias, Leila (2013). Sweet Delights from a Thousand and One Nights.

Lentils with Raisins

Boil lentils quite slowly, put a fried onion to it, sour it, spice it, add raisins, and serve it over toasted bread as an evening meal. Balthasar Staindl, Ain künstlichs und nützlichs Kochbuch, 257.

The text of this recipe is taken from The Kitchen, Food, and Cooking in Reformation Germany (2016) by Volker Bach (p 123).

Lentils are among the oldest domesticated crops known to man, and are a useful crop, as lentils themselves are high in protein and the plants can be fed to animals. However, in the medieval period, there are very few recipes featuring them. This may be because they don’t grow well in northern Europe, or it could be that they have been associated with the poorest people for almost as long as there have been written records. However, this is also true of beans and peas, and there are multiple recipes for these. (Albala, 2007, )

This recipe, featuring expensive spices and dried fruit, could never have featured at a peasant’s table. There are a number of dishes from the medieval period that take lowly ingredients and pair them with the costliest ingredients, perhaps as a medieval joke.

Ingredients

200g lentils 50g raisins 1/4 tsp pepper
1 white onion 600mL vegetable stock 1/4 tsp cinnamon
20mL olive oil 40mL vinegar 1/2 tsp ginger

Method

  1. Peel and finely dice the onion, then fry it until it softens and changes colour.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a pot, using enough liquid so ingredients are well covered.
  3. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  4. Cook until the lentils have softened, adding more liquid if necessary.
  5. You can either serve the lentils as a side dish – in which case the lentils need to be drained, or as a soup, in which case the soup should be served with toasted bread.

Notes

  • There are many different sorts of lentils, and many have been staple foods since prehistoric times. However it’s often to decide which type of lentils to use, especially when looking at regional cooking. In the dish illustrated below, I have used French green lentils (sometimes called Puy Lentils), as I like the taste, and they stay whole when cooked so are great to use when lentils are to be a side dish. If making this as a soup, I would probably use brown or red lentils, as these start to go mushy when cooked, and make an excellent basis for a soup.
  • The recipe is vague as to what spices should be used, giving the cook licence to use any spice mix, or whatever was to hand. I have used spices that to me complement the sweet and sour flavours of the dish.
  • 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.
  • For examples of other dishes that create a “noble” dish from “peasant” food, check out these recipes for Bohemian Peas and Turnip with Pudding Inside.

German Lentils

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Albala, Ken (2007). Beans: a History.
Bach, Volker (2016). The Kitchen, Food and Cooking in Reformation Germany.