Andalusian chickpea pancakes

This recipe from 13th-century Muslim Spain is a whimsical twist on a popular dish in that period and region, the isfiriyya (اسفريا), a kind of omelette. This particular variation is known as ‘counterfeit’ (مزوّرة, muzawwara), because it uses chickpea (gram) flour to make something that looks like isfiriyya. Gram flour is widely available now, but for the purists, this is how you can make it yourself from scratch (which is both cheaper and more fun, anyway!): pound chickpeas, remove the skins and grind. For the batter, add eggs and yeast, as well as some fennel seeds and other spices. The mixture is pan-fried into a thin cake, like a crepe. Serve with honey or a melted cheese mixture. A delicacy!

Mediaeval Moroccan honey bread pudding

Although the recipe appears in a 13th-century Andalusian cookery book, it was said to be a specialty of the people of Fez, which at the time was the capital of the Marinid sultanate, a Berber empire. This also explains the clearly Berber name of the sweet, tārfist (تارفست). It starts with flatbreads being baked in the oven before being crumbled up. The crumbs are then stirred into a mixture of water and honey, coloured with saffron. The end result is a paste which, after hardening, is shaped into a ring with some clarified butter (ghee) being poured into the hole in the middle. Serve with a sprinkling of sugar, cinnamon, spikenard, cloves, and taffy (fānīd, فانيد).

Egg-and-cheese dough bread

Ideally, this bread should be made in a traditional dome-shaped clay oven, known as the tannūr (تنور), but in case you don’t have access to a palace kitchen, feel free to use a good home oven. The dough is made with flour, dried cheese (for best results use drained cottage cheese), twenty eggs (yes, you read that right) for every 2.2 kilograms of flour, and milk. The seasonings for the dough include fenugreek, mastic, anise, nigella, coriander, sesame and caraway seeds. Shape the dough into loaves and then bake. This bread is absolutely scrumptious and ideal to make last week’s sandwiches.

Stamped Andalusian bread

A 13th-century recipe for a bread you can either make with white flour or semolina. Add yeast, salt and warm water, and knead into loaves of your choosing ; for the recreation it was decided to make small round ones. Leave to rise before baking, and that’s it! In addition, they are stamped with home-made bread stamps. The stamping of food goes back to Antiquity and was also widely used in the medieval Muslim world, often to mark ownership (think of the famous apple in the Arabian Nights story of the Three Apples), or simply as a gimmick, when it could involve an animal, a saying, etc. (which would also be extended to tableware). Two of the stamps contain text: كُل هَنِيئًا (kul hani’an, ‘Eat and enjoy’, i.e. bon appétit) and وليمة السلطان (walīmat al-sultān, ‘the Sultan’s Feast’). The third and fourth stamps represent a gazelle and a geometric design, respectively.

Mediaeval Egyptian ravioli (شيشبرك, shishbarak)

This recipe, which is found in 13th- and 15th-century Egyptian cookery books, is the ancestor to the modern Lebanese favourite. Its name betrays a Turkish origin and it is likely that the dish was imported by Turkic tribes from the Central Asian steppes. The oldest recorded ravioli-type dish is the Chinese laowan from the third century CE. The Egyptian recipe requires dough to be made like tuṭmāj, from which round shapes are cut. After adding the stuffing (meat, spikenard, saffron, onion, mint), fold like ravioli and then boil in water. They are served with either yoghurt or macerated pomegranate seeds extract. It’s a good idea to make a good-sized batch so you have enough to freeze for future lunches!

Rubbed bread (خُبْز مَعْرُوك)

ِA delicious Abbasid bread recipe from the 10th century. It takes its name from the fact that after making the dough and letting it rise, it is rubbed with olive oil. Preheat the oven (or a tannur if you happen to have one out in the back!), and bake. Don’t forget to drizzle on water and milk before putting the loaves in the oven.

Ring-shaped biscuits: ka’k (كَعْك)

This recipe is unusual in that it is one of the few attributed to a female cook, in this case al-Hafiziyya (الحافِظِيَّة), who was a servant to al-Malik al-‘Adil (d. 1218), the younger brother and successor of the great Salah al-Din (Saladin). The biscuits were extremely popular, and their preparation often involved them being cooked twice (e.g. baking and toasting). This particular variety is made with semolina, almond oil and milk. [Wusla, No. 7.99] Note that they are not sweet but savoury — a wonderful accompaniment for, for instance, pâté, or any kind of dip.

ِAndalusian semolina egg bread (إسْفَنْج, isfanj)

This is a recreation of a 13th-century recipe made with semolina flour, yeast and eggs. Braided and served with a sprinkling of sesame seeds, it bears more than a passing resemblance to challa bread! It derives its name from the sponge-like (isfanj) texture. The isfanj dough can also be used to make fritters stuffed with various kinds of nuts. It is in the latter guise that the dish has survived in present-day North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya) as a type of doughnut, which, depending on the country, is known as sfenj (سفنج), sfinz (سفنز), bambalouni (بمبلوني), ftayer (فطاير), or khfaf (خفاف). [Andalusian, fol. 26r.]

Pasta (تُطْماج, tutmaj) with yoghurt and meat

This tagliatelli-type pasta is referred to in several culinary treatises, and sheds some interesting light on the history of pasta. In the recipe recreated here it is part of a dish which also contains sour yoghurt, meat (you can use chicken, lamb or beef), garlic, pepper, onions, and coriander (both fresh and dried). Some of the meat is cut into slices, the rest is shaped into balls. The pasta is served on top of the yoghurt, with the meat being put on last. [Ibn Mubārak Shāh, fol. 12r.]