The inspiration for this section was an article
in Medieval Arab Cookery . In “A Thousand and One ‘Fritters', The
Food of The Arabian Nights” Charles Perry talks about one of the
stories from 1001 Nights, ‘The Tale of the Porter'. In the ‘Tale
of the Porter', a wealthy lady by out a confectioners shop.
I could not find recipes for everything
on the wealthy lady's tray but was inspired to fill my own tray
of sweetmeats from Medieval Arab Cookery . Medieval Arab Cookery
is a collection of 3 period Arabic cookbooks as well as articles
about medieval Arabic cooking.
Sabuniyya – (sabun, soap)
Dissolve sugar, then take half of it up from the
cauldron and put it in another cauldron or a vessel. Then throw
sesame oil into the cauldron, and when it boils, take some good
starch, as much as needed, a sixth as much. If it is rice starch,
better. Then stir it uninterruptedly, and when it is nearly thickened,
throw the (other) half if the syrup on it bit by bit, stirring continuously.
Then take two ounces of honey for every pound of sugar (and throw
it in). Then throw in some pounded peeled almond, two ounces for
every pound, and a quarter ounce of rose-water, and moisten it with
sesame oil and stir it continuously. When it is entirely done, spread
it out and sprinkle it with pounded sugar.
2 lb. Sugar
¼ cup Sesame oil (more may be needed)
2 oz. Rice starch
2 oz. Peeled almonds
1 tbs. Rosewater
4 oz. Honey
Make thick sugar syrup. Divide in half, reserve
half. Add oil to syrup and bring to a boil. Add rice starch, stirring
in to the syrup. Add the other half of the syrup. . Add Honey, stirring
constantly cook mixture until at the soft-ball stage. Stir in the
almonds and rose water. Moisten with sesame oil if needed.
Spread out on an oiled pan. When cooled cut into
squares and coat in powder sugar.
Nuhud al-‘Adhra (Virgin's Breasts)
I found two versions of this recipe in the cookbook.
I have listed both here, but I like the #2 recipe. It is the recipe
I have prepared. Recipe #1 proportions seem wrong to me, more of
a candy than a cookie.
#1- One part flour, one part clarified butter,
15 parts ground sugar. Everything is mixed and made well. Then
it is made like breasts and baked in a tray (tabaq) in the bread
oven. It emerges nice.
¼ cup flour ratio 1/1/15 actual
¼ cup clarified butter
3 cups sugar
Mix, shape into breasts, bake on trays at 350. Cool
#2- Knead sugar, almonds, samid and clarified
butter, equal parts and make them like breasts, and arrange them
in a brass tray. Put in into the bread oven until done, and take
it out. It comes out excellently.
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour (Semolina flour is what is called
1 cup almonds, ground
1 cup clarified butter
Mix together, form into breast shape. Bake on cookie
sheet at 350 until lightly browned. Makes 2 ½ dozen cookies.
*Note - it has been suggested that this may be calling
for “hard wheat flour” like Semolina, not specifically Semolina
flour. I know from making this recipe several times with both All-purpose
flour and Semolina, that I can form the cookies much easier with
finer ground flour, maybe Cake flour.
Take a pound of finely ground sugar. Take a third
of a pound of peeled almonds, and grind them fine also, and mix
them with the sugar and knead with rose water. Take some thin
bread, like sanbusaj bread, the thinner the better; the
most suitable is kunafa bread. Spread out a sheet of
that bread and put the kneaded almonds and sugar on it. Then roll
it up like a belt, cut it in small pieces and arrange them in
a vessel. Refine (viz. By frying with spices) as much fresh sesame
oil as needed, and put it on them. Then cover them with syrup
to which you have added rose water and sprinkle them with sugar
and pistachios, both pounded fine. And if the pistachios are fried
and thrown in the syrup, it is a marvel.
A variation of the batter:
Take flour and knead it stiff, and when it stiffens,
macerate it until it becomes like fresh milk. Take the mirror
of Manqush (literally of the painted or engraved thing)
and put the batter on it with the ‘emptier' (mifragha )
and take it up.
¼ to ½ cup Sugar
1 pkg. Almond Paste
Rose-water, to moisten
1 ½ cup flour 1 ½ to 2 cup water
a pinch of salt oil
or use Phyllo dough
2 cup sugar / 1 cup water / 1 tbs. rose-water
Mix the almond paste with the sugar. Add the rose-water.
Knead until a smooth paste. Roll it out into a thin sheet.
If making your own dough, in a large mixer, place
your flour and salt. Add the water a little bit at a time, with
the mixer running. The amount of water will vary with the dryness
of the flour. Keep adding water until it is the consistency of a
light cream. Heat a griddle up, brush with oil to coat. Pour the
batter on the griddle like a crepe. Do not let the batter brown,
you just want it to set well. Remove and stack on wax paper or parchment.
If using phyllo dough, take the phyllo dough sheets
and layer two or three of them together with oil in between them.
Place the sheet of paste on to the crepe or phyllo.
Roll it up together like a pinwheel. Cut into small pieces about
a inch long. Bake in a low oven until golden. Brush with sesame
oil. And place them in the sugar syrup. When coated sprinkle with
ground pistachios and sugar.
Asabi ‘Azinab (Fingers of Zenobia)
Take a pound of flour and knead it with three
ounces of sesame oil. Then knead it with hot water and put it
on a cane and fry it somewhat. Then take it out (and remove the
cane) and throw it in honey and water, and take up. Stuff it with
plenty of pistachios and musk and rose-water, and sprinkle sugar
on it, and it is taken up.
Sugar syrup was used instead of honey due to the
fact that I need for other recipes and had extra.
2 cups flour 3-oz. Sesame oil
Hot water Oil for frying
Sugar syrup* Sugar
Mix flour and oil together. Knead the paste with
hot water until smooth. Roll the paste out into a thin sheet and
form around a cane or dowel to make a cylinder. Fry on the form,
drain. Remove the form and place in the honey. Drain the pastry
and let dry.
Mix the nuts, mush and the rose-water. Stuff the
hollow cane of pastry with the nut mixture. Sprinkle with sugar.
(Untitled) , Golden Clouds
, fried puffs
Mill starch fine and sieve it and take for every
dirham of it an egg white and beat it well. Then take
a nice quantity of it with a spoon and throw it in sesame oil
and put it in syrup. It comes out excellently.
3 or 4 Egg whites
4 oz. Rice starch
Oil for frying
Beat egg whites until stiff, add rice starch slowly.
Fry spoonfuls of the mixture until firm. (Make sure that your oil
is hot enough or the puffs will absorb it and be greasy. ) Drain.
Place in sugar syrup. Drain.
This is my basic sugar syrup recipe. The KITAB WASF
AL-AT'IMA AL-MU'TADA does not give a recipe for syrup. I think that
the assume that you should know how to make one.
2 cups sugar 1 cup water
1 to 2 tsp. Rose-water
Add the sugar and water together in a heavy bottom
pan. Stir while bring to a boil. Cover. Cook until sugar is dissolved
and syrup will coat the back of a spoon, about 200 degrees.
Halwa ‘Al (al, excellent)
which I ate and found wonderfully delicious. Thicken
halwa: two pounds of sugar, half a pound of bees' honey, half
a pound of sesame oil, four ounces of starch. Then roll it out
like thin flatbread, or a little thicker, and put four ounces
of sugar and three ounces of finely pounded pistachios in it,
and musk and rose water. Leave another thin sheet of this sweet
on it, and cut it into triangles.
2 lb. Sugar 1/2lb. Honey
½ lb. Sesame oil 4oz. Rice starch
4 oz. Sugar 3 oz. Pistachios, chopped
Mix the first four ingredients together, divide
into two parts, rolling out each piece into a thin sheet, about
¼ inch thick. Reserving in one half of the mix for later. Mix the
filling ingredients together. Scatter the filling on top of the
roll out piece. Top with the second sheet, pressing together. Cut
into triangles. Serve.
Take some of this mentioned batter* and put it
in a coconut pierced at the bottom. Then you put your finger on
the hole and you fill it with batter. You put sesame oil in the
cauldron, and when it boils, you take your finger from the hole
and move your hand around. Rings of latticework are created from
it. So take them up and throw them in syrup and it come out excellently.
* Barad (hail) – knead good flour as
for qata'if and zulabiyya , and its flour should
be first-rate, good. Its kneading should be closer or milk. Leave
it until it sours. Then put the cauldron on the fire and put sesame
oil in it, and when it boils decidedly, you ladle out some of
the dough with the fingers and move the hand repeatedly so that
the dough fall in drops. Whenever a piece stiffens in the cauldron,
ladle it out and throw it in syrup and honey which have been boiled
on another fire until they take their preferred consistency. Then
take it out and put it on a woven mat until it dries. Then take
as much honey as needed and thin it on the fire with rose-water,
then whip it in the cauldron with the poker until it is beaten
white. Throw the barad on it, and they put them on a
smooth tile and gather them into one loaf and take it up.
2 cups Flour oil for cooking (sesame is listed
in the original)
Water Yeast (preferably sourdough)
Sugar syrup – sugar / water / rose-water and/or
Make a thin batter with flour water and yeast. Set
aside until risen and bubbly. Thin if nessairy with more water,
it should be the consisty of heavy cream.
Heat the oil to frying tempera. Take the batter
and place a ladle full of it in a funnel, covering the hole with
your finger. Over the hot oil, release the batter in a stream while
moving your hand (like a funnel cake). Fry until golden. Drain and
coat in the syrup.
Natif (natafa, to dribble)
Thicken dissolved sugar or honey on a quite fire
to the degree that when a piece of it is taken and cooled, it
breaks and shatters. Then knead what you want of sesame, walnuts,
pistachios, almonds and poppy seeds with it. It cools and is taken
2 cups Sugar or honey
Cook sugar syrup or honey until it reaches the hard
crack stage. Fold in the nuts of choice. Pour onto a marble sheet
or a oiled cookie sheet. Be very careful, it will be Very Hot !
When it is cool enough score the top of the candy into pieces. When
totally cold, break into pieces.
Take a pound of flour and knead it with water
and 2 oz. of sesame oil. When it rises, take sugar and almonds,
both finely pounded in thirds ( two thirds sugar and one thirds
pistachios from K. Wush )and knead them with rose-water and
syrup. Make morsels of it as large as you want, and coat them
lightly with that batter and fry them in sesame oil. Then take
them out and dip them in syrup and dry them and sprinkle with
spiced sugar and take them up.
2 cups flour 2-oz. sesame oil
2 cups Sugar 1 cup Almonds or Pistachios, chopped
2 tbs. Rose-water Sugar syrup (2 cups sugar and
1 cup water)
Oil for frying
Spiced sugar (sugar and cinnamon)
Dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup warm water, set aside
for 5 minutes. Mix flour, sesame oil and yeast mixture together.
Add more water if neccessary to make a thin batter. Set aside until
doubled in size.
Mix together filling sugar and nuts. Moisten with
rose-water and some of the sugar syrup. Knead until you can form
balls of it. Make balls of nut mixture approximately the size of
After the batter has risen, coat the balls of nut
mixture with the batter. Fry in oil until golden. Drain. Dip in
sugar syrup, let dry. Roll in spiced sugar. Serve.