13th Century Al-Andalus Cookbook: Bread, Crepes and Puff Pastry

The Book of Cooking in Maghreb and Andalus in the era of Almohads, by an unknown author. Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook is from the 13th Century with a variety of recipes. My source for the cookbook was found over here complete (I believe this is a reposting from David Freeman’s version, but I am not 100% sure).

Charles Perry was the translator of the text.

With Thanksgiving coming, I figured some bread and crepe recipes may be helpful to change things up in your menus:

Recipe for Folded Bread from Ifriqiyya [Tunisia]
Take coarsely ground good semolina and divide it into three parts. Leave one third aside and knead the other two well [with water].
Roll out thin bread and grease it. Sprinkle some of the remaining semolina on top and fold over it and roll it up. Then roll it out a second time and grease it, sprinkle some semolina on top and fold it over like muwarraqa [puff pastry]. Do this several times until you use up the remaining third of the semolina.
Then put it in the oven and leave it until it cooks. Remove it when tender but not excessively so. If you want, cook the flatbreads at home in the tajine. Sprinkle it with cinnamon and serve it.

You can then crumble it and with the crumbs make a tharida like fatir, either with milk like tharida laban, which is eaten with butter and sugar, or with chicken or other meat broth, upon which you put fried meat and a lot of fat.

[This sort of folded bread, heavy in butter or oil, is a common Asian bread, served with meals. It is usually made into one-person rounds, rather than a large loaf. It is made fresh before a meal, otherwise the bread stales very quickly.]

Preparation of Khubaiz [starch] that is Made in Niebla [and starch crepes]
Take good wheat, put it in a washtub, and cover it with good, fresh water. Change the water after two or three days so that the wheat softens and makes talbina [releases its starch into the water], as is done for starch.

Then remove the water and press [the wheat bran] with the feet in the bottom of a rush basket or sack, or by hand if there is only a little of it, and beat it all over so that it whitens until it forms crumbs the size of grains of wheat, or a little larger. Sieve into a bowl what [liquid] comes out of the pith. Then pour a little fresh water over the wheat bran to wash it. Squeeze it until none of the pith remains.

Put all this [liquid] in a bowl and leave it in the sun until it binds together. Strain from it the flour water that is left over, time and again, until it thickens. Then pour it in a cloth and hang it so that it drips until it dries, and expose it to the sun if you want to make starch. Leave it on the cloth in the sun until it dries. This is the recipe for starch. Do not let it get near dew or it will spoil.

When the khubaiz [starch] has been made, take some of it before it dries — it will be like yogurt — and beat it until it is smooth. If you wish, dissolve dry starch in fresh water so that it comes out according to this description. [You make a thin batter.]
Then put a frying-pan over a moderate fire, and when it has heated, smear it with a cloth soaked in oil [lightly brush with oil]. Then take some of the dissolved starch [batter] with a spoon and pour it in the frying-pan. With your hand, move it around the pan so that it [the batter] stretches out thin. When it has bound together and whitened, take it to a board or a cloth [set it aside] and grease the frying pan with oil [again, for the next one]. Pour in another large spoonful until you have a sufficient quantity. [You are making starch crepes or thin pancakes, just as the French crepes are made.]
[To make honey cheese crepes:]
Have prepared filtered skimmed honey, thickened in a pot on a weak fire. Leave it on the hearthstone so that it remains fluid.
Then put a frying pan full of fresh oil over a moderate fire. When the oil is boiling, put in fresh cheese while the oil boils. Remove it right away in a sieve so it does not burn and drain off the oil from the cheese.
Every time you take a khubaiz from the frying-pan, drain it of its oil and throw it into this melted honey [then remove it], and overturn the [cooked] cheese onto it with a spoon, bit by bit, and stir it with [the back of] a spoon until they are mixed one with the other [spread the softened cheese over the crepe slowly until it cools and become firm], it hardens and forms one mass.

Preparation of Muwarraqa Musammana [buttery, flaky, puff pastry dough]
Take pure semolina or wheat flour and knead a stiff dough without yeast. Moisten it little by little [with water] and don’t stop kneading it until it relaxes and is ready and is softened so that you can stretch a piece without severing it.

While a [frying] pan is heating, take a piece of the dough and roll it out thin on marble or a board. Smear it with melted clarified butter or fresh butter liquified over water. Then roll it up like a cloth until it becomes like a reed. Then twist it and beat it down with your palm until it becomes like a round thin bread, and if you want, fold it over again. Then roll it out and beat it down with your palm a second time until it becomes round and thin. [This process mixes the butter into the dough.]

Then put a new frying pan on a moderate fire. Then put the dough round in a heated frying pan after you have greased the frying pan with clarified butter, and whenever the clarified butter dries out, moisten [with more butter] little by little. Turn the dough around until it cooks, and then take it away and cook more [rounds of dough] until you finish [cooking] the amount you need.
[This makes puff pastry rounds, like crackers. You can sprinkle them with sesame seeds or poppy seeds.]

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