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Arabic Medieval Cookbooks - two recipes

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From an article that translated ancient Arabic cookbooks from the 9th - 14th Century - a peek at what perhaps they cooked in the Middle East in Jesus' times.



03-cooks-at-work.jpg  Cooks at work. Folio from Divan of Jami, 52.20.4. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1952.


Green Dip of Mashed Chickpeas with Tahini




(Makes 4 servings)

This is the precursor of today’s ubiquitous condiment of hummus bi-ṭaḥīna.

1 cup boiled chickpeas

2 tablespoons tahini, stirred with water and wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of each

¼ cup finely ground walnut, stirred with 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon wine vinegar

½ cup chopped parsley

¼ cup chopped mint

3 tablespoons olive oil

¼ teaspoon of each of caraway, coriander, black pepper, ginger, and cinnamon, all ground

½ teaspoon salt

A quarter of a salted lemon (see this recipe), cut into small pieces

For garnish: olive oil, coarsely crushed pistachio, chopped parsley, and cinnamon


Put all the ingredients, except for the salted lemon and the garnishes, in a food processor, and pulse the mix until it looks smooth. It should look green; add more of the herbs if needed. In consistency, it should be thick enough to pick up with a piece of bread. Add a bit more lemon juice if needed. Fold in the chopped salted lemon.

To serve the dish, spread the condiment on a plate and drizzle a generous amount of olive oil all over its face. Garnish it with the chopped parsley and crushed pistachio, and give it a light sprinkle of cinnamon.

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Nuhūd al-ʿAdhārī




Virgins’ Breasts

(Makes 20 cookies)

Scrumptious cookies, which seemed to have been popular in medieval times. The recipe does not explain how they are exactly shaped. Studding them with raisins is my improvisation.

1 cup white all-purpose flour

1 cup finely ground almonds (or almond flour)

¾ cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

A pinch of salt

½ cup oil (such as canola)

3 tablespoons rosewater

20 raisins


Put the dry ingredients (the first six ones) in a food processor and pulse once or twice to mix them. Add oil slowly through the tube, and pulse a few more times. Add rosewater, and pulse several times until the mix clumps together. Add a bit more if needed.

Take a walnut-size piece, roll it by hand into a ball and place it on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Slightly moisten your hands with a bit of rosewater while handling the mix. Repeat with the rest of pieces, leaving a space between them. Press a raisin in the middle of each piece, and bake them in the middle shelf of a preheated oven (375 F.) for about 13 minutes (do not let them over bake). Finish the baking in the top shelf of the oven during the last two minutes.


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