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 13th-century Syrian recipe is made with semolina, almond oil and milk. Note that they are not sweet but savoury — a wonderful accompaniment for, for instance, pâté, or any kind of dip. The birthplace of ka’k is Egypt — indeed, the word itself is derived from the Coptic ϭⲁⲁϭⲉ (kaake), or its variant ⲕⲁⲕⲉ (kake), meaning ‘baked loaf, cake’.

ِ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.]