Medieval Cooking experiments at Pennsic, Summer 2014

July 2014

Michael of Safita, Ladyship Neathery of Safita, al-Sayyid Abu Shadi Da'ud ibn Zahir (Da'ud), Lady Genevieve, and Olaf cooked several dishes during an open fire cooking experiment in Griffin's Rest encampment at Pennsic. Michael and Neathery focused their recipes on the Annals of the Caliphs' Kitchens: Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq's Tenth-century Baghdadi Cookbook translated by Nawal Nasrallah (published in 2007 by Brill). All of the cooking vessels used in the experiment were copper vessels manufactured in Turkey and tinned in Chicago.

It took 3 hours to cook five dishes for dinner; the process was hindered by the fact that it rained for most of the time. We started with a cold firepit and raw cooking materials (except for soaked chickpeas). The feast fed 9 people including the cooks.

The main dish that I prepared was a beef stew that required 3 pounds of beef, 5 pounds of lamb, and 3 pounds of chicken. This dish is called Sikbaja and is described in the Caliph's Kitchen (2007:248-249).

Small cookpot with chickpeas and onions slowly cooked on the fire. They were a side dish.

Sweet vinegar is put into the cook pot, then the beef is added.

The sweet vinegar and beef is brought to a boil three times. The beef is removed and vinegar is discarded. The lamb is boiled three times, then removed. Finally, the chicken is boiled three times, then removed. Fresh vinegar is used each time.

The three meats are combined and brought to a boil. Ground coriander seeds are added as well as saffron.

Mint, cilantro and garlic cloves are added to the stew pot. A quart of honey is added and the pot is allowed to simmer.

I tasted the stew to make sure it was neither too tart from the vinegar nor too sweet from the honey.

Beef and lamb were put on one platter and the chicken on a second platter.

Chicken disappeared almost before I got get a photograph.

Side dishes included stewed quinces.

Side dishes included stewed chickpeas and onions.

Side dishes included stuffed grape leaves, humus with zarta (wild thyme prepared by friends in Jordan), and bread.

Side dishes included both black and green olives.

Pickles preserved in salt were a side dish. Several "Safita" wines were served including a Peach/Honey wine.

Rice prepared with a spice combination from Jerusalem was served with the meat.

One plate with all the meats and side dishes.

Cold water was available for the children too young to drink the wine.

Sweet brought from Jordan were served after the meal.

Dried figs brought from Jordan were served after the meal.

Dried dates brought from Jordan were served after the meal.

Everyone enjoyed the meal.

Neathery and Amira were a great help and moral support for a wet cook.

I participated in a 3 hour cooking experiment hosted by Baron Janos Meszaros in the Ethelmark royal encampment. My experiment was to prepare "Dressed Eggplant" (Arabic, Badhinjan mashshi by Ibn al-Mahdi) based upon the recipe in the Caliph's Kitchen (2007:227). My plan was to make this for the feast, but that was impossible because of the heavy rain on the day of the feast. It was barely possible to keep the fire burning during the rainstorms.

Eggplant when it was fresh was flawless, then it got held at room temperature for 3 days.

I had to cut away many bad spots on three large eggplants, then I diced the reamining good portion and boiled it in water until done. The diced eggplant was taken out of the hot water and put into cold water.

Eggplant boiled until soft, then removed for a cold water rinse.

A small amount of chopped onions plus fresh herbs were put into a small pot, then fried with olive oil.

Onions plus fresh herbs cooked down.

The large cookpot has the egglant. The middle pan was used to create a Tamarind sauce (as a substitute for murri sauce and binn sauce). The small cookpot contained the onions frying in olive oil.

I used Tamarid that I had purchased in Irbid as a substitute for murri sauce. That was what a Jordanian herb expert had recommended.

Small handful of Tamarid pulp used to create a sauce.

I mixed the pulp with a cup of water to create the sauce. The water and pulp were slowly simmered for approximately half and hour.

The eggplant was drained.

Vinegar, the tamarind sauce, caraway seeds, and cassia were added to the fried onions. The egglaplant and onions were combined.

The plated eggplant/onions was drizzled with a small amount of olive oil and tasted. It was delicious!

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