Medieval Egyptian tahini fish

This delicious recipe from The Sultan’s Feast is made with fish coated in flour and fried in sesame oil — in case this reminds you of something, well, yes, it does bear an uncanny resemblance to the national English fish dish! What makes the recipe exceptional, however, is that the fish is put on a bed of tahini, spiced with pepper and the aṭrāf al-ṭīb spice blend, added with onions, and cooked in vinegar and saffron. It goes extremely well with some crusty bread!

Tuniso-Andalusian dried tuna omelette

This 13th-century recipe from a cookery book compiled by an Andalusian emigré who settled in Tunisia is one of the few to be made with dried tuna.

After the dried tuna is chopped and fried, it is folded into a mixture containing breadcrumbs, a variety of spices including pepper, coriander, ginger, spikenard, mastic, and saffron), as well as eggs. This is baked in the oven with egg yolks on top, and a dusting of cinnamon and ginger. Once it’s browned on top, it’s ready — leave to cool down and enjoy!

Tuniso-Andalusian Pickled Fish

This 13th-century pickled fish is unusual in that it is one of the very few in the medieval Arabic culinary literature. It is quite simple to make with a fish of your choosing. After gutting and cleaning the fish, it is slightly boiled and then the fermentation fun begins with salt — of course! –, as well as home-made medieval lime vinegar, oregano (or thyme), and our old friend nigella. The fish is kept brined in a jar until required for delectation — as the author usually says: ‘Eat and enjoy, God willing!’

Andalusian bedded sardines

This is a rather unusual recipe from a cookery book written by a 13th-century Andalusian emigré to Tunis which is the only source to include sardine dishes. Besides sardines, you need fresh coriander, fresh mint, fresh fennel, and onions, all of which are chopped very finely. The greens and fish are layered alternately into a casserole and then baked in the oven, after adding some more spices like cinnamon, ginger and mastic. Wait until it is golden brown and then enjoy!

Tuniso-Andalusian fish casserole

A recipe from a 13th-century treatise by an Andalusian emigré in Tunisia, it is made with fresh fish, which should be salted and left overnight with a weight on top. After boiling the fish, it is cooked with olive oil, murrī (a fermented barley condiment which can be replaced with soya sauce), oregano, fennel stalks, citron leaves, pepper, saffron, spikenard, ginger, and a little mastic. Onions are also added after having been boiled in salty water. The dish is finished off in the oven until the broth has been reduced, and the fish is browned on top.

Fish barida (باردة) with herbs

A delicious 10th-century Abbasid recipe for a ‘cold dish’ (bārida), made with watercress, parsley, leeks, fish, and eggs, spiced with pepper, coriander, cumin, and caraway. Of note is the fact that you need to extract the juices from the herbs after crushing them. You can also make three dishes by making it with one of the herbs in separate pots. The fish should be boned — or you can just use fillets, of course!

Andalusian fried red mullet

For this 13th-century recipe, the fish is cleaned and dusted with flour before being fried in olive oil. Then, it is doused with a deliciously rich sauce made with crushed garlic, vinegar, parsley and mint, as well as coarsely pounded walnuts.

Garlicky tuna brochettes

Tuna recipes are few and far between in the medieval culinary tradition and are found in only one cookery book, written by a 13th-century Andalusian author. This particular dish is as simple as it is delicious and involves cutting up tuna into kebab-sized pieces and then threading them on a skewer (the text specifies it should be iron, but any material will probably do!) before roasting. The tuna should be coated with salt, olive oil, murrī (use soya sauce instead), crushed garlic, pepper, and cinnamon, and cooked until golden brown. You can eat it like that, or add olive oil and some crushed cooked garlic as an accompaniment.

One eel of a dish…

The recipe this week is truly an exceptional treat, since it is the only one in the Arabic culinary tradition for an eel (سلباح, silbāḥ) dish. Preparation is key and not for the faint-hearted as someone needs to scrape off the skin and gut the critter — though you can always ask your friendly local fishmonger to do the squeamish bit for you. Once that is done, it’s time to cook it in water (not too much), salt, lashings of olive oil and many of the usual goodies, like pepper, cumin, saffron, vinegar, and garlic. When the liquid has been absorbed, put it in the oven for browning. And voilà, ‘eel à l’andalouse‘ 13th-century style! As the author of the cookery book tends to say at the end of each recipe: Eat and enjoy! For accompaniment, keep it simple with some fine olives and bread.

Andalusian fish meets fish…

A delicious fish recipe by the 13th-century Andalusian exile in Tunisia, Ibn Razīn al-Tujībī. It involves garnishing fried fish with… another fish. The garnish is made by mashing fish meat and then mixing it with flour, salt, and pepper. This mixture is then shaped into balls which are cooked with pepper, dried coriander, coriander juice, oregano, and crushed garlic. Then the dish is ‘crusted’ with breadcrumbs and eggs, on top of which you add yolks for decoration. Once you have fried some fish, the fish balls and other ingredients are arranged over them. It goes wonderfully well with the recently made bread.