Arabic Recipes

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.

My version:

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

Powdered Sugar

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.

My version:

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 and serve.

#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.

My version:

1 cup sugar

1 cup flour (Semolina flour is what is called for, samid*)

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.

My version:


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

Sugar syrup

2 cup sugar / 1 cup water / 1 tbs. rose-water

Pistachios, ground


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.

My version:

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


Pistachios, chopped



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. Serve.

(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.

My version:

3 or 4 Egg whites

4 oz. Rice starch

Oil for frying

Sugar syrup*

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.


*Sugar Syrup

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.

My version:

2 lb. Sugar 1/2lb. Honey

½ lb. Sesame oil 4oz. Rice starch


4 oz. Sugar 3 oz. Pistachios, chopped

Musk Rose-water

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.

Mushabbak (Latticework)

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.

My version:

2 cups Flour oil for cooking (sesame is listed in the original)

Water Yeast (preferably sourdough)

Sugar syrup – sugar / water / rose-water and/or spices

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 up.

My version:

2 cups Sugar or honey

Sesame seeds

Walnuts, chopped

Pistachios, chopped

Almonds, chopped

Poppy seeds

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.

Luqam Al-Qadi

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.

My version:


2 cups flour 2-oz. sesame oil

Water yeast


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 a hazelnut.

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.