A digestive of lemon and quince

Recently I had been given Nawal Nasrallah’s recent translation of 14th century Egyptian cookbook “Treasure Trove of Benefits and Variety at the Table” or Kanz al-fawāʾid fī tanwīʿ al-mawāʾid. I thought to try out a few of the recipes for digestives, although there is only one included in this post. From page 252, recipe number 353, Sharab laymun safarjali (concentrated syrup for lemon-quince drink).

Take a quince, peel it, cut into pieces, and remove the seeds. Boil it in water until it softens and is half cooked. Put the quince aside, and keep the boiling liquid.
Dissolve sugar in the water and boil it until it thickens. Throw in the reserved liquid in which the quince was boiled, and resume boiling it until the syrup is thick enough. Throw in the [boiled] quince and bring it to the boil once or twice, and then remove it. Squeeze one or two lemons on it, and scent it with rosewater.

My redaction-
3 quinces (peeled, cored and chopped)
5 cups water
2 & 1/2 cups raw sugar
2 lemons
3 tablespoons rosewater

Boil the water & quince together until tender.

Remove quince, add sugar and a few strips of lemon peel from the lemons. Boil until half reduced.

While reducing liquid, squeeze two lemons and strain to remove pips.

After liquid has reduced, remove peel and return quinces to pot.

After fruit has fallen apart, mash/blitz with blender. Add lemon juice and rosewater. Strain into jars.


In my Barony a Cooks’ Guild meeting was held. Having just gotten Nawal Nasrallah’s most recent book Treasure Trove of Benefits and Variety at the Table (available from Brill Publishing) I thought to try a recipe that had caught my eye.

In the “miscellany of dishes” chapter (the largest in the book) recipe 85 reads-

You need meat, rice, black pepper, coriander, and dill (shabath).
Boil the meat, [take it out of the broth] and brown it. Pound the fat solids attached to it, and return them to the meat.
Pound black pepper and coriander with some meat and a bit of rice, and shape into meatballs (mudaqqaqa). After the rest of the meat brown [as mentioned above], pour it’s broth [back] on it. Add the meatballs, and let them cook until done.
Wash some rice, and add it to the pot along with a bit of dill, [and let them cook] and simmer gently and serve.

800g minced beef
Bunch of coriander and dill
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried and ground coriander
1 & 1/4 cups Basmati rice
1 litre beef stock
1 egg
1 tablespoon ghee
1 table spoon olive oil

Mix minced beef, chopped coriander and dill (roughly one cup), black pepper and ground coriander in a large bowl with the egg and 1/4 cup rice. Roll into meatballs.
Heat oil and ghee in pressure cooker pot then fry the meatballs until brown. Remove from pot. Place washed rice in oil for 1 minute, stirring. Add stock and 1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill, then place meatballs back. Once simmering, put lid on & pressure cook for 15 minutes. Once finished, stir and serve.

Pros and cons-
Needed much more pepper! The ghee was too heavy to make fluffy rice but I was unable to get any sesame oil. Recommend sesame oil if anyone wishes to try. Very easy to do, and doesn’t need a pressure cooker. I just wanted to do something relatively fast. The recipe didn’t have egg mentioned, but I tried to mix it without the egg and it wouldn’t hold together. The rice in the meatballs makes a difference from adding breadcrumbs. Beef was used although most likely to have been lamb. I picked up a packet of mince with a high fat content since the rendered fat is returned to the dish in the recipe. Tasted better the next day!

Stuffed cookies

This is an Arts and Sciences entry into the Barony of Krae Glas’ Twilight Tourney.

A dessert served on a Constantinople table

Entry by Miriam bat Shimeon.

Based on “A recipe for stuffed cookies (halwa mahshuwwa), delicious and unusual (tarifa)”:

Take equal amounts almonds, pistachio and hazelnut. Shell them finely ground them and add equal amount of sugar. Miz and moisten the ingredients with rose water you have dissolved a lump of musk.

Make dough with fine smidh flour (high in starch and bran free), milk, sesame oil and yeast. When dough ferments, flatten portions into small discs, using a rolling pin. Line a concave mold (qalab) carved into decorative shapes (suwar al-tamathil) with a flattened disc and fill the cavity with some of the sugar nut mixture. Put another flattened disc on the filling and seal the edges. Take the cookie out of the mold [and repeat with the rest of the dough].

[Bake the cookies] by sticking them to the inner wall of the tannur. Alternatively you can arrange them in a shallow copper pan with a handle similar to that of a bucket (satl). Lower the pan into the tannur and cover its upper opening with a lid for a short while [to create moisture then remove it]. When the cookies are done, [take them out and] serve them while still hot.

You also have the choice to put some fat in the pan [before lowering it into the tannur]. When the cookies come out of the oven and while still hot, dip them in ‘asal mutaffa [purified honey in boiled water] which has been skimmed and scented with aromatic spices (mutayyab). Let the cookies absorb the syrup then take then out and arrange them on a platter. Sprinkle them with sugar and serve them. This variety (hadha al-fann) is called raghunin ratb muluki (royal moist cookies), so know this, God willing.”

This recipe comes from the Annals of the Caliph’s Kitchens as translated by Nawal Nasrallah (page 426-7). This is a translation of a 10th century cookbook called the al Baghdadi. It was written by a man named Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq with only a few manuscripts around, the most whole manuscript being a copy dated 1270 in the Topkapi Saray Museum in Istanbul.

The stuffing-
100g ground almonds
100g ground pistachios
100g ground hazelnuts
100g raw caster sugar
7ml rose water
I blitz them all together in a mixer, until they looked like fine breadcrumbs.

The dough-
3c plain flour
2 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
7g powdered yeast
2 tablespoon sesame oil
200g warm water
1 tablespoon milk

I put all these ingredients into my bread making machine on the pizza dough setting. These values are based on recommended recipes from the instruction manual. It took 2 hours to make the dough. I didn’t rest it, as the recipe states the dough is used straight away. I had a wooden mold, which had been washed and oiled with sesame oil. I then used this to form the cookies. img_0816 This is it, being oiled with sesame oil.

img_0818 This is it in the process of being stuffed. It is around one heaped teaspoon of the nut and sugar mixture.

I placed them on a tray and baked them. At the pastry setting on my oven for just over ten minutes at 200 degrees. I glazed them with melted butter as the recipe calls for a fat. img_0819

The syrup-
100ml water
100ml honey
1 teaspoon mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice.

Boiled together in a pot, although most honey now has been pasteurised and therefore no need to skim. img_0820

The syrup was poured hot over the cookies, which aids the absorption. They were then sprinkled with raw caster sugar lightly.
img_0821 This is the cookies half glazed.

Things for next time
1)The dough (being yeast based) must be baked immediately. I left some waiting to be baked on the tray and they now look like scones.
2)The dough must be rolled out very thinly. Very elastic dough- it pulled back as soon as it was cut.
3)Drop the nut mixture right down. The total could be 50:50:50:50 with 2ml rosewater so less leftover.

Sorry there is no picture for the serving but they all vanished within 15 minutes! Best served hot. For this entry I won a ring from the hand of Baroness Elspeth Caerwent herself.

“Annals of the Caliph’s Kitchen” translated by Nawal Nasrallah. Brill, 2010. ISBN: 9789004188112.

A Night in Palermo- event

The Guilds of Middle Eastern Dancing and Cookery in these Baronies of Stormhold & Krae Glas invite one and all to
“An Night in Palermo”
Before the armies are sent off on Crusade, there will be an evening of frivolity and competition, to appease the Norman Court of Sicily. Dishes reflecting the best of the different peoples of Sicily is to be presented, to be judged on authenticity, presentation, execution, documentation and complexity. The Greeks, Arabs, Italians and Normans can thus enjoy a friendlier rivalry (for the time being)! Please email the Steward to book and advise if entering the competition.

Members $11.00, Non-members $16.50, children $5.50. Please email Miriam Staples on miriam.staples@gmail.com to book and advise if entering the competition. This is a potluck feast, so please bring a plate.The event will be at the Chandler Room, Surrey Hills Neighbourhood Centre, 157 Union Road, Surrey Hills VIC 3127, Melbourne Australia from 5pm.

Please be aware that if you have said you will be attending on FB (https://www.facebook.com/events/294670073962625/) it is not considered a booking! I do need all your membership details.

I am the steward of the event. The prizes are already chosen and are just waiting to be won!

There are a few resources on-line to help in the competition. There is Master Cariadoc of the Bow’s works, many links through this site and a translated Annals of the Caliphs’ Kitchens, a tenth century Baghdadi cookbook. I look forward to catching up with everyone at the feast!

“An evening in Palermo”

The Guilds of Middle Eastern Dancing and Cookery invite one and all to-
An evening in Palermo
Before the armies are sent off on Crusade, there will be an evening of frivolity and competition, to appease the Norman Court of Sicily. Dishes reflecting the best of the different peoples of Sicily is to be presented, to be judged on authenticity, presentation, execution, documentation and complexity. The Greeks, Arabs, Italians and Normans can thus enjoy a friendlier rivalry (for the time being)!
This event is a potluck feast.
Steward- Miriam Staples (Miriam bat Shimeon)
Please email the Steward to book on miriam.staples@gmail.com
Date: 3rd November, 2012
Time: Hall opens at 5pm
Address: Chandler Room, Surrey Hills Neighbourhood Centre, 157 Union Road, Surrey Hills
VIC 3127
Cost: members $11, non-members $16.50, children $5.50
Please advise the Steward if entering the competition.

All are welcome!

If you have documentation on 11th century Norman, Byzantine or Italian food, please let me know. I will be getting recipes from the entrants & will post (if they let me). Thanks & I look forward to seeing everyone in November.


The al-Baghdadi cookbook was written in the 13th century, by Muḥammad bin al-Ḥasan bin Muḥammad bin al-Karīm al-Baghdadi.

As filo pastry was invented in the 17th century, very thin bread or even crepes were used in layers with sugar (or honey) with nuts and spices. It was replaced with filo in the 17th century where baklava grew to such popularity that there was even the “Baklava Parade” a gift from the Topkapi Palace to their Janissary guards.

I used David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook’s work on the Internet, known as Cariadoc’s Miscellany as a base to work from. The recipe can be found here. However, there are some differences which is easy to explain.

Take fine white flour, and with every ratl mix three uqiya of sesame-oil, kneading into a firm paste. Leave to rise; then make into long loaves. Put into the middle of each loaf a suitable quantity of ground almonds and scented sugar mixed with rose water, using half as much almonds as sugar. Press together as usual, bake in the oven, remove.

Cariadoc’s recipe is 2 c white +1 c whole wheat flour, 1/2 c sesame oil (from untoasted sesame!!!), 6 oz almonds (1 c before chopping), 12 oz (1& 1/2 c) sugar, 1 T rose water, 3/4 to 7/8 c cold water or 1/2 c water, 1/2 c sour-dough starter and additional flour for rolling out dough. I used 2 cups sour-dough bread mix, 1 cup plain white flour, 1/2 cup sesame oil, a full cup of warm water, 1& 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast and 1 tablespoon raw sugar. I then cheated by putting all this in my bread maker and turning on the pizza dough setting. I made two batches of this dough. I then covered them & placed them in the fridge overnight. This is known as retarding the bread dough.

I also made two different types of filling. One was almond, the other pistachio. The almond mix had 1 cup almond flour with some course almonds mixed in, 1 tablespoon rose water, 1 cup raw caster sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cardamom. The pistachio mix was one cup pistachios coarsely pulverised, 1 cup raw caster sugar, 1 tablespoon orange blossom water and 1/2 teaspoon cardamom. I used raw sugar as that is the sugar I usually bake with. While there was no mention of spices in the original recipe, I chose to put in cardamom for two reasons. No-one knows what “scented sugar” was, as rose water was mentioned separately in the recipe and cardamom was thought to aid digestion.


The bowl on the left is the almond mix. The one in the middle is the pistachio mix and the one on the right is dough waiting to be kneaded.

I thought that I would try to make the almond mix by layering it like baklava, or like the popular Armenian bread dish.

Here is one of the doughs spilt into four to be rolled out and made into layers.

Baking in the oven.

The almond cooked at 180 degrees for about 30 minutes. I did find that it was still a little raw in the middle so these pieces were cooked again.

The cooked almond pieces. I found the sugar caramelised nicely.

I did the pistachio mix according to the recipe, into little loaves.

Cooling down.

I took both to the Krae Glas Ottoman Twilight Tourney where both types were finished off. I found the pistachio rolls were very bread-y when I cut them up. I got the impression that many preferred the almond, as a more subtle flavour but the pistachio was also liked. Everyone who tried it is welcome to leave a comment!

Recommended reading on Baklava
Baklava on the Turkish Cultural Foundation.
Baklava on the New World Encyclopaedia.
Repast: Quarterly Publication of the Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor: Vol XXIV, #4, Fall 2008. Via Google Docs.
Baklava– Stefan’s Florilegium.


Rosewater is created when rose petals are distilled to make rose oil. Essentially it is the by-product! It was first mass produced by the Persians and was mentioned in the works of Abū ‘Alī al-Ḥusayn ibn ‘Abd Allāh ibn Sīnā who is known in the West as Avicenna.

The Damask Rose

It was made from the Rosa damascena, or the Damascus or Damask rose. The rose was thought to have been spread to Europe from the Crusaders, and had reached England by Henry VIII’s reign. This website tells you how to make rosewater at home. The rosewater can be used in food (quite extensively in all the cuisines over the Middle East) and as a skin toner, as it is very mild on the skin as well as an astringent.

Fair warning though- a 13th century Al-Andalus cookbook does say that if you use too much rosewater, your hair will go white!

Saudi Aramco-cooking with the Caliphs.
Saudi Aramco-The World’s first soft drink.
Saudi Aramco– the roses of Taif.
Fragrantica– the Taif rose.
Herbalism, Medieval, Magical and Modern by Jadwiga Zajaczkowa/Jenne Heise.
The Toilet and Cosmetic Arts in Ancient and Modern Times by Arnold James Cooley. This is via Google Books, so is only a preview.

Other blogs to search

I have been very lucky to find other SCAdian’s blogs which cover a lot more that I could even think about! Please check them out, they are wonderful.

Anahita bint ‘abd al-Karim al-hakim al-Fassi’s website, Dar Anahita is here.

Greet’s Middle Ages.

Mary Ostler’s page for Bedouin tent making is here but you can follow it back to her pages.

Sayyeda al-Kaslaania’s blog covers her interest in Fatimid Egypt and can be found here.

Lalita Dasa‘s website covers Indian interests.

Roxalana’s Redactions which covers food! I am looking forward to going through this one a little more thoroughly.

Our first event- the Ottoman Caravanserai

Our first event was held  on the 14th of August 2010 at Allsaints Hall in Hawthorn. I was your autocrat and Lady Antonia di Lorenzo was the feastocrat.

Our Menu

Bawarid (cold dishes):

Fresh dates
‘Ijja min Badhinjan [eggplant balls]
Baridat silq [spicy spinach and fava bean puree]
Sibagh [fried fish with raisin sauce]
Zaitun [marinated olives]
Herbed yoghurt
Selection of breads

Hot Dishes:

Maqluba-e Na’na Mukhallal [lamb and walnut rissoles with dipping sauce]
Narjisiya [spicy lamb stew with asparagus]
Zirbat [chicken with almonds and rosewater]
Khoreshe Fesenjan [duck in pomegranate and walnut sauce]
Fustaqiya [shredded chicken with pistachios]
Aruzz mulfalfal [rice pilaf]
Badhinjan mahshi [eggplant with fried onions]
Baridat al-lubya [beans with mustard dressing]


Almond milk rice pudding
Klaicha [date-filled pastries]
Manalsama [walnut-filled pastries]
Khushknanaj [sesame rolls with scented marzipan filling]
Fresh fruit
Sugar dome with rosewater toffee, sesame toffee and pistachio nougat

To drink:

Sharbat-e sekanjabin [crushed ice with syrups] – ginger, pomegranate, spice
Turkish coffee
Mint tea

There were some photos taken, which are up on Facebook here. Thanks Geoffrey! . I will post the link to them once I get the public link. Here is a link to Stormscroll which has the recipe for duck with pomegranate and a review of the event.