Fried cauliflower

In case you have any cauliflower left from pickling, you might want to try this Syrian recipe for battered and fried cauliflower pieces. The batter is made with eggs, flour, olive oil, spices, walnuts, rue and parsley. Use sesame or olive oil to fry the cauliflower. [Wusla, No. 8.114] As you can eat the dish both hot and cold, it’s a great addition to a picnic! And why not try it as a side with a curry, instead of aloo gobi?

Fried fish-shaped gourd

A 13th-century vegetarian dish which is made by cutting gourd into the shape of a fish before frying it in a batter made of eggs and flour seasoned with cinnamon and coriander. It is served sprinkled with vinegar, murri (a fermented barley condiment which can be replaced with soya sauce) and coriander juice. Vegetarian dishes were commonly made to look like meat or fish dishes in order to entice diners. Indeed, the author introduces the recipe by stating that the dish is able to “mislead sick people who crave fish and the like.” [Andalusian, fol. 54r.]

Cold vegetable and yoghurt dish

This recipe is one of a number of cold snacks (known as بوارد, bawārid) found in what is thought to be the earliest cookery manual (10th century). These cold dishes were served prior to the main course and eaten with bread. This particular dish is highly nutritional as well as very simple to make. It requires gourd, chard, mallow and purslane added with sweet yoghurt, mixed with ground mustard and olive oil. Though not in the original recipe, it seemed a good idea to decorate with some freshly sliced cucumber! It is wonderful with some crusty bread and makes for a perfect picnic dish! [al-Warraq, 1987, p. 118]

Andalusian cheese balls (مُجَبَّنة, mujabbana)

This was a speciality of the mediaeval Islamic west (al-Andalus, North Africa) and the cookbooks include quite a few recipes for mujabbanas, which were conspicuous by their absence from tables in the Near East. Flour, yeast and water are used to make a dough which is then shaped into balls filled with cheese before deep frying in oil (though shallow frying also produces nice results). Don’t forget to drain them after removing them from the pan. They can also be turned into a sweet snack very easily through a generous dusting of sugar and cinnamon and with honey and rosewater for delicious dunking! [Andalusian, fols 63v.-64r.]