Persian in origin, the judhaba was one of the emblematic dishes in medieval Arab cuisine, and usually referred to a kind of drip pudding with layers of flatfloaves interspersed with fruit being infused by the basting juices of a chicken roasting above it. Its fame spread across the Mediterranean, to al-Andalus, perhaps even by the famous aesthete Ziryab. However, wherever it went, it was given a new lease of life through a number of permutations, yet all the while retaining its original name.
The judhaba recipe recreated here is drawn from a 13th-century Tuniso-Andalusian cookery book. It differs considerably from its Near Eastern ancestor; it is made without meat, with home-made crepe-thin flatbreads (رقاق, ruqāq) alternating with layers of almonds, sugar, various aromatic spices, and saffron. After pouring on rose water and olive oil, it’s ready for the oven. The author recommends eating it with rose syrup sweetened with sugar and fresh butter, though adds — thankfully — that one can omit the syrup. Either way, it’s amazing, especially when paired with a refreshing pomegranate oxymel (the recipe for which will come in a future post). More importantly, it is just perfect for sharing with that special person on Valentine’s Day!