Here are the recipes I used for my portion of the feast. I have included the translation of the original Arabic language recipe I consulted and my work-up for 100 servings. You should be able to scale them back to smaller quantities. Always remember to taste your dish as it cooks and adjust the seasonings to your taste. The spices should be distinct but not overpowering. And in dishes that use the same or similar spices, adjust so different ones dominate. A meal in which half the dishes have identical spice flavor is not interesting.
Zaitun Mubakhkhar - Smoked Spiced Olives
This recipe was quick and easy to make. The original calls for smoking the olives. As I don't have the necessary equipment, I added a few drops of smoke flavor to the drained olives.
My Recipe:4-1/2 pounds cracked green olives in brine, drained
NOTE: It is difficult to find plain zataar herb. Every shop I visited that had zataar had the kind that was a blend of zataar herb, salt, sesame seeds, and sumak. This blend is not suitable for this recipe. A friend of mine of Lebanese descent suggested I try the herb called "Greek oregano". This is NOT the standard oregano sold in supermarkets, which is "Mexican oregano" and which flavor I do not like. I did see "Greek oregano" in some of the Near Eastern markets and will try it when I make these olives again, which I most definitely will, as they were delicious.
Sals Abyad - White Sauce
Spiced Walnut-Sesame Butter
The name of this dish is from some European word for sauce. The recipe is purely Near Eastern, however. Mustard was used to spike up some dishes. In Southwest Asia cooks used powdered mustard seed, while in al-Andalus and al-Maghrib they used prepared mustard.
My Recipe:4 pounds walnuts
NOTE: I suspect this is supposed to be more liquid than the very dense nut butter I got. If I make it again, i'll add enough water and lemon juice to give this the consistency of modern hummos-bi-tahihi.
Badhinjan Buran - Princess Buran's Eggplant
Eggplant pureed with yogurt and spices
This is a dish of legend. And I may have created one of my own, as people came up to me after the feast and confessed that they hated eggplant and had eaten three servings of it.
Bustaniya - Orchard Dish
Spiced Chicken and Lamb with Pears, Peaches, and Almonds
Fruit and meat cooked together is typically Near Eastern. "Bustan" means "orchard" and this dish contains pears, peaches, and almonds from the orchard.
I was not sure what was going on with the pears. Were the dried pears being soaked and drained? soaked and sieved? Was only the liquid used? Or was a puree used? It wasn't clear to me, so I used firm, tangy winter pears which cooked down.
I used half chicken breasts and half thighs to save some money.
My Recipe:25 Bosc pears
Arruz al-Zafran - Saffron Rice
There are no recipes for cooked rice alone. Most recipes that include rice include meat and spices, a main dish. So I concocted this one from several that I read. It leaves a lovely chewy golden "crust" in the rice cooker that my team was snacking on in the kitchen. For a smaller dinner, you can serve the "crust" cut up in wedges to the diners.
My Recipe:nearly 5 pounds Basmati rice
The following is the procedure I used to cook the rice in a couple medium-large rice cookers.
Rutab Mu'assal - Honeyed Dates - stuffed with almonds, scented with rosewater
Although I find even dates NOT cooked in honey to be cloyingly sweet, these were a big hit. People came from the dining room to pick them off the trays after my course had been removed.
My Recipe:100 pitted Deglett-Noor dates
al-Mauz - Batter-fried Bananas
I served this dish for the surprise factor. Bananas at a Medieval feast? Yes, if it's in Medieval Persia or Baghdad. Bananas travelled from South and South East Asia to Persia and to the Arab world, although they would remain a rarity in the Western world until the advent of refrigeration.
My Recipe:33 bananas cut into thirds
NOTE: These were surprisingly well received. I figured that once the initial surprise was over, no one would be terribly interested in fried bananas. There were very few pieces left after the course was cleared and some folks came back to nibble or take them home.
The original was made of some sort of semolina sourdough batter. Although it is described as being for "pancakes", there really aren't any pancakes like our modern ones that I can think of in the Near Eastern corpus. Rather there are some very flat, almost translucent, stretched-out, stove-top cooked pan breads. I haven't eaten any Near Eastern sourdough breads that I know of... so this would be something to test and experiment with... I did use semolina flour, which give the batter a golden color, more flavor, and a chewy-crunchy texture that many folks commented on positively. I added a couple eggs to my batter to help hold it together and give it some lift, since I wasn't working with a kneaded sourdough.
Laimun Safarjali - Lemon-Quince-Rosewater Syrup Beverage
When I was shopping for ingredients for the feast, I went to a Persian food store. I searched the shelves in hopes of finding a (synthetic) musk flavored extract or syrup called for in a couple recipes. Much to my surprise, I found a bottle of Lemon-Quince syrup from an American Persian food supplier. I bought it to taste test. It was delicious. My homemade syrup was even more delicious.
My Recipe:2 dozen quinces
Lauzinaj - Phyllo-wrapped rose-scented marzipan
This is a originally a Persian dish. References to it can be found in pre-Muslim Persian literature. It was the only dish in the pre-Muslim legendary history "King Khusraw and His Page" recommended as being suitable for both summer and winter.
My Recipe:1 package phyllo / filo dough sheets
The directions look complicated, but this was actually a rather simple and easy procedure.
NOTE 1: I used three large baking sheets as work surfaces - one covered with waxed paper for the marzipan "snakes", a second covered with waxed paper to hold unfolded phyllo sheets and on which "snakes" were rolled in phyllo, and a third on which to actually bake the phyllo-wrapped marzipan. All the sheets were approximately 18 inches long and 12 inches wide.
NOTE 2: For the event, the marzipan snakes were a bit larger in diameter and only wrapped in one sheet of phyllo. The directions above will make what I think is a better pastry.
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Translations copyright by their authors, as noted.
My recipes, copyright by me, Anahita al-Qurtubiyya bint abd al-Karim al-Fassi, 2001