Borage stew

This is a unique recipe for a beef stew from The Exile’s Cookbook made with borage (Borage officinalis), known as lisān al-thawr (لسان الثور, ‘ox tongue’) — a loan translation from the Greek boúglōsson (the etymon of the English ‘bugloss’) — but as Abū khuraysh (أبو خريش) in Andalusian Arabic. The dish is made with lamb, borage leaves, salt, olive oil, pepper, coriander and onion. The beautiful star-shaped flowers also serve as an attractive garnish.

This is the only time borage appears as an ingredient in a food dish, as it was used primarily in medicinal compounds (often its water in beverages), most notably in stomachics and anti-nausea drugs.

The best-quality borage allegedly came from Syria or Khorasan. Medicinally, burnt borage was thought to be useful against mouth ulcers, palpitations and melancholic conditions. When cooked with sugar, it was beneficial for coughs and roughness of the chest. It is still used today in Unani medicine (where it is known by its Persian name, ‘kavzaban’, گاو زبان) for a variety of conditions, including palpitations and nerve health.

Andalusian Narjisiyya

This recipe from The Exile’s Cookbook has deep roots, which can be traced back to Abbasid times and possibly further, to Persia. The earliest narjisiyya (نرجسية) recipes involved adding egg yolks at the end of the cooking process thus creating the impression of narcissus flowers (نرجس, narjis) floating on top, hence the name of the dish.

In al-Andalus, the dish appeared in a different guise, namely as a lamb omelette of sorts being cut up in the shape of a narcissus flower, with the carrots serving as the stamens. The recipe calls for ram (but lamb will do just as well, of course), which is cut up and then cooked halfway through with salt, olive oil, pepper and coriander. Then carrots are cut up lengthwise and ‘planted’ on the meat, while adding some water, vinegar and saffron. Afterwards, it is time to sprinkle on washed rice and then — it is an Andalusian dish, after all! — eggs whipped with saffron. You can cook it either in the pot or in the oven (as in the recreatino). When it is done, the resultant omelette — or quiche — is cut up in the shape of narcissi. The narjisiyya was thought to have aphrodisiac properties as well as being beneficial for those engaged in strenuous exercise.

The Iranian Nargesi Esfanaj is the closest modern descendant, though it may well have predated the Arab dish.

Mamluk Date Stew

This is a recreation of a recipe from The Sultan’s Feast for a date stew with lamb, known as tamriyya (تمرية), in reference to the word for ‘dried date’, tamr (تمر). There is also a variant made with fresh dates (رطب, ruṭab), called ruṭabiyya (رطبية).

The meat is cut into pieces and then boiled before frying it with salt and spices — the recipe requires sheep’s tail fat, but it works with with any oil or fat of your preference. When the meat is almost done, a layer of almond-stuffed dates is added on top. Use some of the same kind of meat, fashion into date-shaped oblong meatballs, and stuff an almond stuffed inside each. A sprinkling of rose water and saffron finished it all off and the pot should be left to simmer down.

Andalusian leg of lamb with fig vinegar

A succulent recipe from The Exile’s Cookbook for a leg of lamb with salt, pepper, coriander, fig vinegar, murrī and olive oil. However, it wouldn’t be a medieval Andalusian dish if it did not contain eggs, now would it! In this case, you need five eggs which are beaten together with flour and breadcrumbs into a mixture which serves to coat the meat. The suggested serving is i a bowl, and there really is no reason not to comply with that recommendation! For accompaniments? Well, it goes well with some bread and salad of your liking!

Egyptian barberry and taro stew

A wonderful and unusual recipe from Mamluk Egypt from The Sultan’s Feast with barberries (Berberis vulgaris), known in Arabic as amīrbārīs (أمير باريس) and anbarbārīs (أنبر باريس), or by their Persian name zirishk (زرشك). The other core ingredients are taro, chard and salted lemons (also from The Sultan’s Feast!). The dish, aptly called amīrbārīsiyya, is actually a variation of a sumac stew (summāqiyya). The author tells us that some people would sweeten it with sugar, though this is by no means necessary. According to the 11th-century Baghdadi pharmacologist Ibn Jazla, this stew (which he calls anbarbārīsiyya) is particularly useful for those with hot temperaments and inflamed livers; it is one of the best astringent dishes, and should be made with pullets and partridges. The Sultan’s Feast also contains a recipe shared with a 13th-century Aleppine collection, for a barberry conserve which, when added to chicken with a bit of mint, is beneficial for diarrhoea.

Andalusian lamb and orache stew

This thirteenth-century recipe from The Exile”s Cookbook is a variation on a spinach stew made with ram, though lamb works very nicely as well in case you can’t get your hands on some ram meat. The meat is cooked first and then the orache, known in Arabic as qaṭaf (قطف) or baqla dhahabiyya (‘golden herb’). It’s not readily available in shops, but very easy to grow and so for the re-creation, the one grown in the garden was used. It is no coincidence that this vegetable is given as an option since it has a very similar taste to spinach. Other ingredients include suet, coriander — both fresh and juiced — and mint. Apparently, this was a dish that was served at banquets, in which case it would have been garnished with fresh cheese before serving. And why not, indeed?

Tuniso-Andalusian lamb and asparagus casserole

This unusual dish from The Exile’s Cookbook is made with a vegetable that had been imported from the East by the famous Ziryab (9th century). The lamb is cut into chunks and cooked wit olive oil, murri, onions, garlic and a variety of spices and herbs, such as cumin, coriander and citron leaves. The asparagus is cooked separately with vinegar, and coloured with saffron. The third component is eggs, which are fried in a casserole dish with aromatics, after which the asparagus and lamb are added in alternate layers. To cap things off, some more eggs are required — it’s an Andalusian dish after all! — combined with spices and saffron. The mixture is poured on top, followed by egg yolks for garnish before taking the casserole to the oven and so the yolks can set. Not enough eggs, I hear you shriek? Not to worry, why not add a garnish of split [boiled] eggs before serving, as well as a sprinkling of cinnamon and ginger. Not only does it taste wonderful, but it also gives you a few days’ worth of proteins!

No 250! Tuniso-Andalusian apple stew (تفّاحية, tuffahiyya)

Named after its principal ingredient (tuffāḥ, ‘apple’), this 13th-century recipe is made with fatty yearling ram (though I think it’s even better with tender lamb!), which is carved up and cooked with salt, olive oil, pepper, coriander seeds, a little cumin, and some onions. It also requires apples, of course — both sweet and sour, which are peeled, cored, seeded, and chopped. Round off with some saffron and vinegar and then serve with a sprinkling of cinnamon and ginger. If you really want to push the boat out, perfume the dish with musk, ambergris, rose water and camphor, which, so the author assures us, will strengthen the soul and gladden the heart.

Tuniso-Andalusian lamb stew with unripe green almonds

Almonds are used very frequently in medieval Arab cooking, not least as a thickener. In Muslim Spain, the area of Jerez was particularly known for its high-quality almonds. This 13th-century dish is somewhat unusual in that it requires unripe green almonds, which are cooked whole in a wonderful lamb dish with, among other things, onion, garlic, coriander, citron, fennel and (loads of) chickpeas. When the meat and almonds are almost done, it’s time to add some colour with saffron before boosting the dish with some vinegar. The dish was also made with a layer of eggs and spices at the end. Before serving, sprinkle on ginger and, as the author says, and eat and enjoy! To mix things up, the dish can be made with veal, as well.

Tifshila, Tuniso-Andalusian ِlamb and chickpea stew

This is an Andalusian recipe of an eastern dish — sometimes known as tafshīl (طفشيل) — for which recipes can also be found in two Baghdadi cookery books, from the 10th and 13th centuries, respectively. It could also be made without meat, while the usual ingredients included chickpeas, lentils and other pulses, with, in some cases, aubergine, chard, or leek. The Andalusian variant is made with diced yearling ram meat (lamb works well, too!), pepper, coriander seeds, onion, chickpeas, saffron, and vinegar. The texture is supposed to be similar to the famous harīsa (meat porridge), a staple at medieval markets across the Arabic-speaking world. Medicinally, it was said to be beneficial for the chest and for removing phlegm.