Apricot leather (قَمَر الدِّين, Qamar al-Din)

The present-day Qamar al-din refers to a drink made from apricot leather (usually added with rose water), rather than the paste itself. It is a very popular drink (often associated with Ramadan) all over the Middle East, especially in Syria (its original homeland) and Egypt. In the Middle Ages, it was also used in cooking, and is specifically mentioned in a 13th-century Levantine recipe. None of the medieval Arabic culinary treatises provided instructions on how to make it, but thankfully the famous blind Christian physician Dawud al-Antaki (d. 1599) did, in his medical handbook entitled ‘Memento for the wise and a collection of marvellous wonders’ (تذكرة أولي الألباب والجامع للعجب العجاب). It is very straightforward and not different from today’s methods, except in the absence of sugar. After macerating the apricots, they are beaten into a mash, placed on boards coated with sesame oil and left out in the sun. (in case you live in a country in short supply of sunlight, a dehydrator does the trick very nicely, too!) The result, so al-Antaki tells us, should be thin sheets. [al-Antaki, 1884, I, p. 307] In Iran, it is known as the children’s favourite lavashak (لواشک) and denotes fruit rolls, made with a variety of fruits.

Layered date galettes

This 13th-century recipe was a speciality of the region around Constantine (Algeria), and was associated with the Kutamiyya Berber tribe. It is known in Arabic as al-murakkaba (المُرَكَّبة, ‘the compound one’) because it involves layers of flat loaves (or galettes) made with semolina dough and eggs, alternating with layers of date paste. After completing the stack with however much dough you have made, pour over honey and clarified butter (ghee). Dust with cinnamon before serving. [Andalusian, fol. 65.r.]    

Candied citron

The recipe for this delightful sweet can be found in 13th- and 15th-century cookery books. Citron is fried in sesame oil and then smothered in honey and rosewater syrup before adding aromatics like saffron, agarwood, and musk. It is served sprinkled with sugar. [Ibn Mubārak Shāh, fol. 22v.]

Maqrud (مَقْرُوض)

This is the 13th-century ancestor of a modern North African favourite, which still bears the same name, even if the result is somewhat different. These sweetmeats are made with semolina dough, stuffed with sugar and almonds, or dates, and then deep-fried in oil until golden and crispy. Sprinkle on sugar before serving. [al-Tujībī, 2012, p. 79]

Frying the maqrud