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.]

Fried rabbit in a garlic and walnut sauce

There are very few rabbit dishes in mediaeval Arab cuisine. This particular recipe is entitled qanūra qunayna fī miqlā ‘ajība (‘wonderful rabbit en sauce in a frying pan’), qunayna being the Andalusian Arabic word for rabbit, while the qanūra method referred to frying with a sauce. It is included in a 13th-century treatise from Muslim Spain and is extremely flavoursome, as well as very simple to prepare. It goes well with rice, crusty bread or, why not, mashed potatoes! [Andalusian, fol. 16r.]

Lemon chicken wrap (بَزْماوَرْد , bazmaward)

A tenth-century Iraqi recipe, made with flatbread, chicken, walnuts, mint, basil, tarragon and citron pulp. However, you will find that using lemon makes the sandwiches taste a lot better! Roll up the bread around the stuffing like a pancake or Swiss roll, and cut into slices of your choosing. If you want to gussy up the bazmaward, decorate with lemon slices, and include some olives on the side!

Andalusian lamb with prunes

A wonderful stew with prunes from 13th-century Muslim Spain. It is made with fatty lamb, salt, pepper, coriander, cumin, saffron and vinegar. Once the meat is done, the prunes are added. They should be of the small black variety, known as ‘cow’s eyes’ (ayn al-baqar), preserved in vinegar. When serving, spread everything out on a plate, and decorate with crumbled egg yolks, little meatballs and spices [Andalusian, fols. 10v.-11r.]

Aromatic spice mix: atraf al-tib (أَطْراف الطِّيب)

A highly fragrant blend of key spices, which was also known as afwah al-tib (أفواه الطيب) and already appears in the earliest Arabic recipe collection. It continued to be in use until the 15th century. Fortunately, the author of a 13th-century Levantine cookery book provides a list of the ingredients: spikenard, betel leaf, bay leaf, nutmeg, mace, cardamom, cloves, rosebuds, ash tree fruit, long pepper, ginger, and black pepper. The mixture was used most often alongside mint, rue, or saffron. In about one-third of the recipes where it is called for, there is also pepper, olive oil, sesame oil or wine vinegar present. It is not used very often in meat or fish dishes; instead, it is found in beverages, sweets, pickles, perfumes, and even the ancestor to the modern hummus. In this recreation, betel leaf and ash tree fruit were omitted.

Mediaeval Arab banquet at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha (Qatar)

Last Saturday, I joined the team at the Alain Ducasse restaurant Idam led by Executive Chef Damien Leroux for a culinary feast. The menu included mediaeval Arab dishes culled from cookery books from the tenth to fifteenth centuries, from both the Middle East and Muslim Spain (al-Andalus). The meal was preceded by a talk on the museum’s extraordinary collection of mediaeval Arab kitchenware and tableware.

Lemon chicken (لَيْمُونِيَّة, laymuniyya)

This recipe is found in Egyptian culinary treatises from the 13th and 15th centuries. It has a delicate sweet and sour taste through the addition of rose-water syrup to the lemon juice (from seven lemons). Other ingredients include almonds, starch and, to finish things off in style, musk and rose water. The sauce is prepared separately from the chicken, which is added to it. [Ibn Mubārak Shāh, fol. 9v.]