Three-way fish

This is one dish that is guaranteed to wow your guests as much as it did the tenth-century Baghdadi chef! As with many things, its genius lies in its simplicity. The principle is to cook fish in three different ways simultaneously; the head is roasted (mashwī), the centre poached (maṭbūkh), and the tail fried (maqluww). But that is not all! The fish is also stuffed with a rich filling fish, salt, eggs, honey, a variety of herbs and spices (among them spikenard, cloves, ginger, cumin, rue, coriander) and olive oil. To complete the package, citron leaves, apple peel, salt, thyme and rue are put inside the mouth of the fish. And for the main event thick cloth soaked in water is wrapped around the centre of the fish, with the lower part bandaged with linen also soaked in oil. Cook in a pre-heated oven until it is done. Remove the wrapping before serving (with three sauces, one for each part of the fish!). This is a dish that travelled beyond the Arab world very early on as a very similar recipe is found in the Vivendier, a 15th-century French cookery manual .

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