Recipe Source: Anonymous. The Treasure of Useful Advice for the Composition of a Varied Table. Thirteenth century AD, probably Egyptian. Published by Lilia Zaouali in Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World, M. B. DeBevoise trans., University of California Press, Berkeley, 2007 p. 130
I served this, as you probably already guessed, as a dish at our most recent and probably final Sunday open house of 2010. Hummus is a great dish to serve at things like this: it keeps for a while, so even if you don't eat all of it you can still enjoy it later in the week. I decided to make this variant because of a discussion of this recipe on one of the email lists to which I subscribe. Not that I followed the discussion, mind you – it got incredibly verbose and therefore dull, so eventually I just ignored that thread. It did, however, put the seeds in my mind, and so I made this.
When I'm trying to re-create a medieval recipe I try not to make many changes, but some are inevitable. In this case, I had to omit the mint to accommodate my husband's food allergy. I had to use rosemary for rue because rosemary is readily available and some sources suggest rue could be vaguely toxic. I just couldn't get the jar of pickled lemons open. Neither could my husband. We decided to use lemon juice instead. And finally, I declined to drizzle the lot with olive oil. The oil part is controversial (at least it is on that mailing list.) One woman insists up and down that the "oil of good quality" should be sesame oil (not toasted sesame oil, but raw sesame oil.) She may be right, and it may have been the more appropriate cooking fat in medieval Alexandria, but I'm not necessarily sold on its appropriateness here. The translator specifically mentions how she prefers this recipe in some respects to modern hummus in that it is "lighter." The reason she feels that it is lighter is because modern hummus is usually made with tahini. Sesame oil would return that heaviness to the dish. Now, I'm not saying that the other woman on the list is wrong, I'm just applying my interpretation of this recipe. Either way, I omitted the oil step because adding oil to the dish would really disagree with my husband's digestive system. Since he was the one most likely to eat this if we had leftovers, I had to keep his needs in mind.
Medieval Hummus (serves 8; approx. $0.44/serving)
2 14-oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
3 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ bunch chopped fresh parsley
½ bunch chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- Large bowl
- Immersion blender
- Combine the first 5 ingredients in the large bowl and puree with the immersion blender. If you feel that the mixture is too thick, you may add some olive oil.
- Sprinkle the herbs onto your serving platter. (I mixed them in a little so you could see them for the photo, but the recipe says specifically to scatter the herbs on the bottom of the serving vessel.)