Mulukhiyya (مُلُوخِيَّة)

Strictly speaking, the word refers to Jew’s mallow (Corhorus olitorius), a plant commonly associated with Egypt. It derives its name from the Greek molokhê (μολόχη), meaning ‘mallow’. Greek and Roman authors referred to its extreme bitterness, with the first-century Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder already mentioning that it was eaten in Alexandria. The word also denotes a stew made with the leaves of this vegetable, which was quite a popular dish in mediaeval Arab cuisine as several recipes are found in a number of the cookery books. In Islamic medicine and pharmacology, Jew’s mallow was recommended for inflammations, liver and urethral blockages, as an emmenagogic and against headaches. Today, mulukhiyya is still very popular in a number of countries, but the preparations vary somewhat. In its original homeland of Egypt, the leaves are chopped up to make a stew with meat (most often rabbit or poultry). In Lebanon, the method is similar, except that it calls for whole leaves, garlic and coriander. In Tunisia, on the other hand, mulukhiyya is usually eaten on Eid al-Fitr (عيد الفطر), which marks the end of the Ramadan fast, and is prepared rather differently; the leaves are dried and ground, and the subsequent powder is added to tomato paste and olive oil to make a sauce in which meat (typically beef) is then cooked. The recipe recreated here is from the 15th-century, and besides Jew’s mallow and chicken, it includes spices like coriander and caraway, as well as garlic. It can be made with a variety of meats, including rabbit and pigeon, and is delicious with some crunchy bread. [The Sultan’s Feast, No. 88] Although Jew’s mallow may not readily available in supermarkets where you live, you can easily find it in specialty stores these days. If you can’t find it fresh, the frozen variety (often already pre-chopped!) is perfectly fine as well.

Invigorating lamb

This is a recipe by Nasir al-Din al-Tusi (1201-1274), one of the most famous scholars of the Middle Ages. He claimed the dish remedies foul temperament and strengthens sexual potency. It is made with lamb and onions, coconut oil. cardamom, cinnamon, and musk. It is recommended for lunch. [Sultan’s Sex Potions, pp. 102-3]

Stuffed Rabbit

This rabbit feast comes from a 13th-century Andalusian treatise and involves stuffing the meat of one rabbit inside another! The meat for the stuffing is made with onion, fresh coriander juice, various spices, and eggs. This is then sewn inside the second rabbit, which is roasted on a spit, or in a pot. Any meat that cannot fit into the rabbit is turned into meatballs, which are roasted or fried with the rabbit. The final stage of the preparation requires making a lid with almonds, sour leaven, walnuts, eggs and rue to continue the cooking of the rabbit. When the dish is ready, the rabbit is opened up and decorated with eggs, meatballs and spices. [Andalusian, fol. 15v.]

Banana judhaba (جوذابة)

This highly popular delicacy (also known as judhab), is a drip pudding; a chicken is roasted above a kind of bread pudding made by layering flatbread and, in this case, bananas (though other fruit, such as dates or apricots, was used as well). The juices of the chicken suffuse the pudding and keep it wonderfully moist. It was usually served with pieces of chicken on top of the pudding, but you can also simply have parts on the side. This particular variety is said to have been the creation of the third Abbasid caliph Ibrahim al-Mahdi (779-839), a renowned gourmet (and author of a cookery book), as well as a gifted poet and singer. In the course of its history, the dish underwent a number of transformations (in Muslim Spain, for instance, it referred to layered waffles and nuts stuffed with chicken) before disappearing from the Arab culinary repertoire altogether.

Chicken cooking in the oven over the bread pudding.

Stuffed mince omelette

A layered omelette with mince meat of your choosing (but chicken works best). The meat is cooked with spices (except cumin), olive oil and rose water. The meat is then layered in between omelettes and cooked. [Andalusian, 20v.-21r.]

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.]

Vinegar stew (سِكْباج, sikbaj)

This is a recreation of a recipe dating from 1226CE for a popular stew, known as the ‘king of dishes’. While it has not survived in contemporary Middle Eastern cuisine, a descendant can be found in the Spanish escabeche, fish (or meat) marinated and cooked in vinegar. The ingredients include chicken, wine vinegar, coriander, ginger, saffron, black pepper, parsley, and rue. Sometimes, it was made with various cuts of meat and garnished with bazmāward (sliced sandwich wraps), sausages, and topped with cheese. Mustard is the condiment of choice. [al-Baghdādī, 1964, pp. 13-4]

Andalusian dripped meatloaf

A 13th-century dish made with lamb or veal, salt, pepper, coriander, onions, ginger, saffron, spikenard, cinnamon, and rose-water syrup. What is unusual about this recipe is that you use a couscoussier, placing cut onions in the top (colander) pot, and the meat in the bottom one so that the onion juices drip into the meat. Afterwards, it is finished off in the oven. [Andalusian, fol. 51r.]