Invigorating lamb

This is a recipe by Nasir al-Din al-Tusi (1201-1274), one of the most famous scholars of the Middle Ages. He claimed the dish remedies foul temperament and strengthens sexual potency. It is made with lamb and onions, coconut oil. cardamom, cinnamon, and musk. It is recommended for lunch. [Sultan’s Sex Potions, pp. 102-3]

Stuffed Rabbit

This rabbit feast comes from a 13th-century Andalusian treatise and involves stuffing the meat of one rabbit inside another! The meat for the stuffing is made with onion, fresh coriander juice, various spices, and eggs. This is then sewn inside the second rabbit, which is roasted on a spit, or in a pot. Any meat that cannot fit into the rabbit is turned into meatballs, which are roasted or fried with the rabbit. The final stage of the preparation requires making a lid with almonds, sour leaven, walnuts, eggs and rue to continue the cooking of the rabbit. When the dish is ready, the rabbit is opened up and decorated with eggs, meatballs and spices. [Andalusian, fol. 15v.]

Banana judhaba (جوذابة)

This highly popular delicacy (also known as judhab), is a drip pudding; a chicken is roasted above a kind of bread pudding made by layering flatbread and, in this case, bananas (though other fruit, such as dates or apricots, was used as well). The juices of the chicken suffuse the pudding and keep it wonderfully moist. It was usually served with pieces of chicken on top of the pudding, but you can also simply have parts on the side. This particular variety is said to have been the creation of the third Abbasid caliph Ibrahim al-Mahdi (779-839), a renowned gourmet (and author of a cookery book), as well as a gifted poet and singer. In the course of its history, the dish underwent a number of transformations (in Muslim Spain, for instance, it referred to layered waffles and nuts stuffed with chicken) before disappearing from the Arab culinary repertoire altogether.

Chicken cooking in the oven over the bread pudding.

Stuffed mince omelette

A layered omelette with mince meat of your choosing (but chicken works best). The meat is cooked with spices (except cumin), olive oil and rose water. The meat is then layered in between omelettes and cooked. [Andalusian, 20v.-21r.]

Pasta (تُطْماج, tutmaj) with yoghurt and meat

This tagliatelli-type pasta is referred to in several culinary treatises, and sheds some interesting light on the history of pasta. In the recipe recreated here it is part of a dish which also contains sour yoghurt, meat (you can use chicken, lamb or beef), garlic, pepper, onions, and coriander (both fresh and dried). Some of the meat is cut into slices, the rest is shaped into balls. The pasta is served on top of the yoghurt, with the meat being put on last. [Ibn Mubārak Shāh, fol. 12r.]

Vinegar stew (سِكْباج, sikbaj)

This is a recreation of a recipe dating from 1226CE for a popular stew, known as the ‘king of dishes’. While it has not survived in contemporary Middle Eastern cuisine, a descendant can be found in the Spanish escabeche, fish (or meat) marinated and cooked in vinegar. The ingredients include chicken, wine vinegar, coriander, ginger, saffron, black pepper, parsley, and rue. Sometimes, it was made with various cuts of meat and garnished with bazmāward (sliced sandwich wraps), sausages, and topped with cheese. Mustard is the condiment of choice. [al-Baghdādī, 1964, pp. 13-4]

Andalusian dripped meatloaf

A 13th-century dish made with lamb or veal, salt, pepper, coriander, onions, ginger, saffron, spikenard, cinnamon, and rose-water syrup. What is unusual about this recipe is that you use a couscoussier, placing cut onions in the top (colander) pot, and the meat in the bottom one so that the onion juices drip into the meat. Afterwards, it is finished off in the oven. [Andalusian, fol. 51r.]

Aphrodisiac chicken

This is a dish not from one of the cookery books, but from a medical treatise on aphrodisiacs, written by the great astronomer al-Ṭūsī in the 13th century.

“Take some pullets; slaughter them; dry, wash and cut them up into slices. Sprinkle rock salt on the sides and grill on live coal, turning them over on each side until they are cooked. Then take five dirhams* of black cumin, three dirhams of goat’s beard, four dirhams of common ash and half a dirham of coconut. Pound all of these and sprinkle on the meat. This dish is eaten for supper. It strengthens the principal organs, increases innate heat, removes coldness from the back and loins, expels moistness and superfluities from the body, reddens the face, and purifies the blood. It also strengthens coitus to the extent that even when one has intercourse for three days running, one need not worry about growing weak. One is able to pleasure ten slave girls and freewomen every night, without any trouble or discomfort, as stated by the ancient philosophers and physicians.” (The Sultan’s Sex Potions, p. 103)

1 dirham = 3.125 g.

The Recipe

  • 1 plump chicken
  • 1-2 teaspoons of rock salt
  • 2.5 teaspoons of black cumin
  • 1.5 teaspoons of desiccated goat’s beard (salsify)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of common ash
  • 3 teaspoons of desiccated coconut
  1. Cut the  chicken into thin slices
  2. Mix the salt, cumin, salsify, common ash and coconut, and grind thoroughly  with mortar and pestle
  3. Sprinkle the chicken with rock salt and grill on charcoal for 45 mins on  each side
  4. Sprinkle the spice mixture on the cooked meat, and serve.

Eat with some rice and/or (Middle Eastern) flatbread (failing that, a foccacia would also be a great complement!).