History Dish Mondays: Bazmaawurd, Mulahwajah and Juudhaab

Bazmaawurd ready to be rolled.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the article Cooking with the Caliphs, which analyzed a medieval cookbook from the court of 10th century Baghdad:

“A little over a thousand years ago, an Arab scribe wrote a book he titled Kitab al-Tabikh (The Book of Recipes)… The book has come down to our time in three manuscripts and fragments of a fourth—and what a treasure it is. These are the dishes actually eaten by the connoisseurs of Baghdad when it was the richest city in the world.”

Yesterday, I had a few friends over, and we tried some of these 1,000 year old dishes.

To begin, I presented Bazmaawurd: chicken, walnuts, fresh herbs and lemon (it was supposed to be citron, but I couldn’t find one fresh) rolled up in a Lavash.  I think this was everyone’s favorite.  The flavors were so fresh, light and zesty.  I found it to be a little dry–but it went nicely with some labneh.
Next I dished up a seasoned lamb dish called Mulahwajah, of which I neglected to take any photos (tipsy).  I stewed lamb meat with leeks, onions, a cup of water, and a fascinating spice blend:  coriander, cinnamon, caraway, pepper, and galangal.  The latter is a spice with a light, flowery, almost citrus taste.  And this recipe calls for a lot of spice: 5 1/2 teaspoons for a 1/4 pound of meat.  It covered the meat completely, but lamb has such a pungent flavor it stands up well to heavy spicing.  The result was a dish that blurred the boundary between sweet and savory with flavor unfamiliar to western tongues.
Lastly, I made Juudhaab: “The supreme roast meat dish was juudhaab (or juudhaabah), where the meat was served on a sweet pudding which had been baked at the bottom of the tannur to catch its dripping juices.”   This dish is vaguely similar to Yorkshire Pudding, in that a soft bread is cooked using fat from the meat it is served with.  But the resemblance is remote; in fact, I have never heard of a food prepared quite this way before.
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Juudhaab
From Kitab al-Tabikh by Abu Muhammad al-Muzaffar ibn Sayyar, approx. 945 AD

Translated by Linda Dalai Sawaya for Cooking with the Caliphs.

1 whole chicken
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons rosewater
ground saffron
1 pound dried apricots
2 fresh lavashes, pitas or other flatbreads, 12″ in diameter (or more, if smaller)
½ cup brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place apricots in small saucepan, add water to cover apricots by ½ inch. Bring to a boil and stew until apricots are soft and the water has reduced to a thin syrup, about 15-20 minutes.

2. In a baking pan or bottom of a broiling pan, place one lavash.  Strew with apricots in syrup, sugar and 1/4 cup rosewater in which pinch of saffron has been dissolved, then cover with remaining lavash.  Cover with a wire rack or top of the broiling pan.
3.  Wash chicken and pat dry. Mix 2 tablespoons rosewater with pinch of saffron and rub on chicken, inside and out. Place on rack or on broiling pan.
4. Bake at 500 degrees for 20 minutes, then turn heat down to 325.  Roast until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 160-165.
5.  Carve chicken and serve in slices over the lavash and apricot pudding.
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The result was interesting: I wasn’t thrilled with the slightly greasy taste and texture of the sweet pudding.  But my guests tore into it with grunts and “mmm”s.  The lone vegetarian was mortified.  But we still love her.

Check out all of these recipes and more in the original article here.

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