Recipe Source: al-Warraq, Ibn Sayyar. Annals of the Caliphs' Kitchens. Nawal Nasrallah, trans. Brill Press, Leiden, 2007 p. 315.
This was a very quick recipe that I made for last week's Sunday dinner. I'd gotten out of the habit of serving medieval food on Sundays for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons was that I felt like I was only referring to this one book. Don't get me wrong. I love this book. That's part of the problem. The problem is that whenever I think, "Oh, I'd like to do a medieval recipe," the first thing I do is grab this book. And then I stop. I love this book. This is a problem because I then stop referring to other books and soon this will become an al-Warraq blog instead of a general cooking blog. I don't speak enough Arabic to make this an al-Warraq blog, or to find the bathroom, or to get off the plane. So I have to restrain myself, and try to force myself to cook from other sources. Those other sources aren't nearly as wonderful, so I'd rather just make things up.
Don't worry. Next weekend is Martino Week - I'll be serving dishes from Martino, among other things.
At any rate, I was very excited to make this dish. I've had my eye on it for a while, I'm just usually stuck making vegetarian recipes for whatever reason. I suspect that it is a little wetter than it was originally intended to be. I used the water in which the chickpeas had been canned, which might have been too much. Also, the recipe called for "two ladlefuls" of verjus. My ladle is about 3/4 cup in volume. I don't know about his. I did make one major error in that the two spices at the end were not added. The spikenard I had on hand is frankly elderly and had begun to smell a lot more like the plastic jar in which it had been housed than like spikenard. It's not exactly a spice you can pick up at the local grocery around here. My stash of ground cloves had also disappeared - we've been doing some serious cleaning of the kitchen cabinets thanks to an infestation of pantry moths and it still hasn't turned up so I think it's just gone. This frustrated me because it meant that my dish was not an accurate re-creation despite my best efforts.
Despite my ultimate dissatisfaction with the accuracy of the re-creation the dish was well-received. Do you know who its biggest fan was? My daughter. Viking Baby was obsessed with getting every chickpea she could get her little spoon on out of the bowl, even to the extent of stealing them off her neighbor's plate. (This resulted in an quick lesson in table manners and tears. She isn't yet three, after all.) She liked the meat well enough and spooned as much of the cooking liquid as she could get onto her millet. So there you go - this is officially a toddler-approved dish, and apparently a medieval aristocrat approved dish as well.
Medieval Fast Meat Dish (serves 10 as a side dish; approx. cost per serving not available)
1 pound boneless leg of lamb, sliced thin
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 15-oz can chickpeas, with its liquid
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups verjus
1/4 cup tamari (soy sauce will work just fine)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
6 grams ground spikenard (I omitted, see above)
6 grams ground cloves (I omitted, see above)
- Heat the oil in the saucepan.
- Add the meat, cinnamon and salt. Saute briefly.
- Add the chickpeas with their liquid. Saute/boil until the meat is done.
- Add the verjus with the tamari. Bring to a boil.
- Simmer until the flavors marry. Remember, this is described as a "fast" dish, so don't leave it too long.
- Add the spices, transfer to a serving vessel and serve.