How about letting that fish soak in red grape juice before supper. Maybe try some chicken cooked in rose water syrup...or perhaps use some of those pomegranates you've seen at the supermarket but never knew what to do with them. In this section, you'll find a number of authentic recipes from ancient times, straight out of pages of the Annals of the Caliph's Kitchens, the earliest known Arabic cookbook. So, if you're feeling adventurous and fancy a journey back in time to 10th-century Baghdad, step into your mind's kitchen and let the exotic aromas, colors and tastes of these recipes treat you to a most unique culinary experience!
Barida (cold dish), tried and true:
- Grill a chicken or pullet and put it on platter.
- Take almonds, grind to fine powder.
- Add sugar or sweet jullan (syrup flavored with rose water).
- Pour sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with chopped rue.
- Pour sweet olive oil over it.
- Garnish the dish with boiled egg yolk and pomegranate seeds.
Bazmaward (rolled up sandwich) with citron pulp:
- Chop cooked chicken and spread it on ruqaq (thin sheet of bread, like lavash).
- Under the chicken, put some skinned walnut, citron pulp, mint, tarragon, basil, and salt. Roll up the bread; slice into thin discs and serve.
Mutajjana (braised dish) of plump pullets
- Put olive oil in a pot, as needed and let it come to a good boil.
- Add disjointed pullets to the pot with a little ground white rock salt.
- When both sides are browned, stir the pot with a ladle, and pour in a little wine vinegar and water, enough to make the dish taste slightly tangy.
- When vinegar is cooked, drizzle the pot with a little murri (liquid fermented sauce, similar to soy sauce), add a few sprigs of rue, then stir until the rue emits its aroma.
- Season the pot with black pepper and cumin.
- When it is ready to serve, add some breadcrumbs to the pot.
- Remove the rue that is already in the pot and replace it with fresh chopped rue.
Roasted fish by Ibn al-Mahdi (brother of Caliph Harun al-Rashid):
- Choose a huge live fish and throw it into a basin filled with juice of red grapes.
- The basin should be big and wide enough for the fish to dive and swim in.
- Let the fish drink as much as possible of the juice.
- Noticeable decrease in the juice level in the basin is an indication it has penetrated into its whole body.
- Take out the fish, then clean it and roast it.
- Serve it with a sauce made of asafetida leaves, murri (liquid fermented sauce), wine vinegar, juice of parsley and mint, and caraway seeds.
Eggplant Burani (named after Buran, wife of Caliph al-Mamun):
- Take small eggplants and cut them lengthwise into halves.
- Let them soak in salted water.
- Take a small pot and heat in it a mix of sweet olive oil and sesame oil.
- Fry the drained eggplant pieces until done.
- Sprinkle the eggplant with murri (liquid fermented sauce) and add to the pot cassia and galangal, a piece of each.
- Add as well sprigs of rue.
- Spread the eggplant on a platter, grind 10 shelled walnuts, and sprinkle them over the eggplant while it is still hot.
- Cover the plate with a piece of cloth to let the walnuts release their oil.
- Spread on the dish a small amount of the fresh leek, which has been fried in olive oil along with cilantro and rue.
- Serve the dish.
Rummaniyya (stew soured with pomegranate juice):
- Cut 1 chicken and 2 pullets into pieces, wash them, and put them in a pot along with chopped onion and uskurruja (1/2cup) (water).
- Pour olive oil on them and bring the pot to a boil.
- Then pour juice of 2 sour pomegranates.
- The third pomegranate may be either sweet or sour. Continue simmering.
- Add to the pot, a small amount of murri (liquid fermented sauce), black pepper, coriander seeds, caraway seeds and cloves.
- Continue simmering the port until meat is done and serve it.
Unlatticed zalabiya (cake) by al-Wathiq (Abbasid caliph):
- Sift fine sameedh flour (high in starch and bran-free) or starch, if you wish.
- Take as much as you need of it.
- Beat together, eggs, milk, and the sifted flour.
- Do this until the mixture becomes like a thick froth and rises to the top of the big wide bowl. Put mixture in a pot.
- Take a clean pot and arrange some cane leaves in the bottom.
- This pot should be large enough to accommodate the smaller cake pot, and should be tight enough when covered to lock in steam when water boils.
- Now place the cake pot on the cane leaves inside the big pot and pour water into it to surround the cake pot.
- Start as low-heat fire underneath the big pot and let it boil covered with a tight lid.
- Keep on feeding the fire until the side of the cake looks golden brown.
- Besides, when you knock at the side of its pot, it should sound hollow.
- Turn the cake upside down onto a big wide bowl and let it cool down.
- Then turn it up again onto another bowl to let the other side cool down, too.
- Slice cake into pieces.
- Pour milk, clarified butter, and honey all over it, enough to moisten the pastry.
- Sprinkle it with sugar and black pepper.