Muhallabiyya (مُهَلَّبِيَّة)

This is medieaval classic has survived to the present day, albeit in a slightly different form. It was named after a seventh-century governor of Khorasan (a region stretching from present-day Iran across Central Asia) and involved a type of rice (or milk) pudding. The typical ingredients were rice, milk, sugar, and chicken. Interestingly enough, the dish was also known by an Indian name, bahatta. The Arabs passed the recipe to Christian Europe, where it became known as blanc-manger and was a staple of the mediaeval diet. The modern reincarnations of blancmange and muhallabiyya are no longer made with meat, but a taste of the original dish can be found in the Turkish tavuk göğsü. The recipe recreated here is a variant from the fifteenth century and requires meat and saffron-dyed rice, with honey or date syrup (dibs), rather than sugar, providing the sweetness.

Fried hard-boiled eggs

ِA thirteenth-century Syrian recipe, which is as easy to make as it is succulent; after boiling the eggs, they are peeled and fried in sesame oil until the skins turn golden brown. The author recommends serving them with cold vegetable appetizers (bawārid), such as a yoghurt dip or the chicken pâté. In fact, the eggs are equally delicious as a side, or as part of breakfast!

Apricot surprise

Remaining with the apricot theme — and making good use of newly made apricot leather –, this 13th-century Syrian recipe is one of the few that requires it. Chicken meat (fillets is the easiest) is chopped up and fried with onions, coriander leaves and spices, before adding apricot leather (though, the dish can also be made with dried apricots). The anonymous author of the cookery book recommends using Byzantine or Medinese apricot leather, but the one made with apricots from the supermarket tastes amazing, too! Additional ingredients include honey, lemon juice, and mint. A further twist to the recipe is that some of the chicken meat is pounded and shaped into small meatballs (made with spices, mint, coriander leaves, and onions), which are added at the end. Serve garnished with coriander seeds and chopped coriander leaves. [Wuṣla, 2018, No. 6.135]

The Caliph’s mustard chicken

This delightful recipe is attributed to the Abbasid caliph al-Wathiq bi-‘llah (‘He who trusts in God’, 842-847CE), who apparently also wrote a recipe book. It is roast chicken smothered in a sauce made with mustard, sugar, (ground) walnuts and asafoetida. Serve decorated with rue and pomegranate seeds. [al-Warrāq, 1987, p. 69]

Garlic chicken (ثُومِيَّة, thumiyya)

This delicate stew from the 13th century was apparently a favourite of the governor of Marrakech, and derives its name from its principal ingredient, garlic (Arabic thūm), of which 150 grams are used. The recipe also includes spices like pepper, cinnamon, spikenard, ginger, cloves, and saffron, as well as almonds. [Andalusian, fols. 9v.-10r.]

Fried rabbit in a garlic and walnut sauce

There are very few rabbit dishes in mediaeval Arab cuisine. This particular recipe is entitled qanūra qunayna fī miqlā ‘ajība (‘wonderful rabbit en sauce in a frying pan’), qunayna being the Andalusian Arabic word for rabbit, while the qanūra method referred to frying with a sauce. It is included in a 13th-century treatise from Muslim Spain and is extremely flavoursome, as well as very simple to prepare. It goes well with rice, crusty bread or, why not, mashed potatoes! [Andalusian, fol. 16r.]

Lemon chicken wrap (بَزْماوَرْد , bazmaward)

A tenth-century recipe, made with flatbread, chicken, walnuts, mint, basil, tarragon and citron pulp. However, you will find that using lemon makes the sandwiches taste a lot better! Roll up the bread around the stuffing like a pancake or Swiss roll, and cut into slices of your choosing. If you want to gussy up the bazmaward, decorate with lemon slices, and include some olives on the side! [al-Warrāq, 1987, p. 57]

Lemon chicken (لَيْمُونِيَّة, laymuniyya)

This recipe is found in Egyptian culinary treatises from the 13th and 15th centuries. It has a delicate sweet and sour taste through the addition of rose-water syrup to the lemon juice (from seven lemons). Other ingredients include almonds, starch and, to finish things off in style, musk and rose water. The sauce is prepared separately from the chicken, which is added to it. [Ibn Mubārak Shāh, fol. 9v.]