Iron Chef Persian - Recipes

Principality of the Mists Fall Investiture
Saturday 10 November 2001


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.

Rosewater: I have noted the brand I used in the recipes. Every brand seems to have a different strength, and you will need to adjust the quantities you use accordingly. The Costas brand, made in Lebanon, is the one most commonly carried by the Near Eastern and South Asian markets I shop in. When I was in one market that had several different brands, I asked the woman which she preferred and she chose Costas. It was neither the least nor the most expensive. I cannot say how it compares to other brands as it is the one I have been using now for 2 years.

Sesame Oil: For cooking I used light sesame oil, as it is called for in most Medieval Near Eastern recipes. It is a revelation and a delight to cook with and certainly adds to the flavor of the dishes. Unfortunately it is not easy to find. I have only found it so far in health food stores, where it is a bit expensive. The light is cold-pressed, has a wonderful nutty flavor, and lends a delectable richness to dishes which I have found no other oil approaches. For the feast to save money, I purchased one pint of the more-expensive, cold-pressed, light-colored sesame oil and one pint of the less-expensive, roller-pressed, medium-color sesame oil, which is darker in color and has a stronger flavor. Then I combined the two. For home use get the light, cold-pressed kind. Under NO circumstances substitute the East Asian dark roasted sesame oil - it is used primarily as a flavoring and is MUCH too strong to cook with in any cuisine and is not suitable for Near Eastern food. If you cannot find light sesame oil, use clarified unsalted butter for the sweet dishes and good quality olive oil for the savory dishes, but this will change the flavor of the dishes.


Medieval Resources

At the end of each original recipe, I refer to its Medieval source. I've used a shortened version of the name of the book or author, as listed below.

  • al-Warraq = al-Kitab al-Tabikh (The Book of Dishes) by Abu Muhammad al-Muzaffar ibn Nasr ibn Sayyar al-Warraq. This late 10th century cookbook is a compendium of recipes from cookbooks from several centuries which are now lost to us. It includes forty recipes from the great gastronome Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn al-Mahdi (779-839 CE), half-brother of the Caliph Harun al-Rashid, as well as a number of recipes from Abu Samin, a chef to the Caliph al-Wathiq who died in 847 CE. [some recipes in In a Caliph's Kitchen by David Waines]
  • al-Baghdadi = al-Kitab al-Tabikh (The Book of Dishes) by Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn Karim al-Katib al-Baghdadi, a 13th century cookbook. [some recipes in In a Caliph's Kitchen by David Waines, and the complete text in "A Baghdad Cookery Book", trans. A.J. Arberry, notes by Charles Perry, Medieval Arab Cookery]
  • Familiar Foods = al-Kitab Wasf al-At'ima al-Mu'tada (The Book of the Description of Familiar Foods), 1373 [complete text translated and introduced by Charles Perry, Medieval Arab Cookery]


Bibliography

  • Maxime Rodinson, A. J. Arberry, and Charles Perry. Medieval Arab Cookery. Prospect Books, Devon UK: 2001. ISBN 0907325-91-2
  • David Waines. In a Caliph's Kitchen. Riad El-Rayyes Books Ltd., London: 1989. ISBN 1-869844-60-2


Recipe Index

Zaitun Mubakhkhar
Smoked Spiced Olives
Laimun Safarjali (Persian)
Lemon-Quince Syrup, a beverage mixed with water
Sals Abyad - White Sauce
spiced walnut-sesame butter
Badhinjan Buran (Persian)
Princess Buran's Eggplant
Bustaniya (Persian) - Orchard Dish
chicken and lamb with pears, peaches, and almonds
Arruz ( Persian)
Saffron Rice
Rutab Mu'assal
Honeyed Dates
al-Mauz (Persian)
Batter-fried Bananas
Lauzinaj (Persian)
Phyllo-wrapped marzipan
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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.

Original Recipe:
Take olives when fully ripe. If you want take them black, and if you want take them green, except that the green are better for smoking. Bruise them and put some salt on them, as much as needed, and turn them over every day until the bitterness goes away. When they throw off liquid, pour it off. When the bitterness is gone from them, spread them out on a woven tray until quite dry.

Then pound peeled garlic and cleaned thyme, as much as necessary. Take the quantity of a dirham of them, and a piece of walnut with its meat in it, and a dirham of wax, and a piece of cotton immersed in sesame oil, and a piece of date seed. Put these ingredients on a low fire on a stove [kanun] and seal its door, and put the tray the olives are in on top of it, and cover it with a tray so that it is filled with the scent of this smoke, which does not escape. Then leave it that way for a whole day.

Then you return them to a container large enough for them and mix the pounded garlic and thyme with them, and a little crushed walnut meat, and a handful of toasted sesame seeds. Take as much fresh sesame oil as needed and fry it with cumin seeds, and throw them on it and mix them with it.

Then take a greased pottery jug [barniyya] and smoke it in that smoke. Put the olives in it and cover the top, and it is put up for [several] days. It is not used until the sharpness of the garlic in it is broken.

(Familiar Foods, p. 403, "Medieval Arab Cookery")
My Recipe:
4-1/2 pounds cracked green olives in brine, drained
- - I bought these Greek olives in a resealable plastic barrel for under $10 at a Near Eastern food shop
a few drops smoke flavoring
1-1/2 heads garlic, peeled
a couple tablespoons dried thyme or zataar herb
1 cup shelled walnuts
1 cup white sesame seeds
1-1/2 Tablespoons light sesame oil
2 to 3 Tablespoons whole cumin seeds
  1. Drain olives well.
  2. Add a few drops of smoke flavoring to the drained olives. Be sure to mix very very well.
  3. Crush garlic cloves in a food processor or by hand with in a mortar with a pestle (the latter is what I did).
  4. Add thyme to garlic and crush further.
  5. Add garlic and thyme to olives. Blend well.
  6. Crush walnuts medium-fine in a mortar with a pestle. Add to olives and mix well.
  7. Toast sesame seeds in a frying pan with NO oil, over medium to medium-low heat, stirring very very frequently, until toasted fairly evenly to a rich gold. Add to olives and mix well.
  8. Put a few tablespoons of sesame oil in frying pan, add several tablespoons of whole cumin seeds, and cook on medium to medium-low heat until cumin darkens slightly and aroma comes out. Be careful not to burn. Stir into olives.
  9. Taste. Add more smoke if necessary - use a sparing hand, as too much is awful.
  10. Let olives season for several days well covered in a cool place, stirring once a day to distribute flavorings. I made them Tuesday night and served them Saturday night.

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.

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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.

Original Recipe:
Walnuts, garlic, pepper, Chinese cinnamon, white mustard, tahineh and lemon juice.
(Familiar Foods, p. 389, "Medieval Arab Cookery")
My Recipe:
4 pounds walnuts
4 quarts sesame tahini from a Middle Eastern store - health food sesame paste doesn't work as well
several ounces prepared garlic paste with NO additives or preservatives
2 Tablespoons pepper
1/4 cup powdered cinnamon
2 ounces yellow mustard powder
juice from 10 lemons
  1. Grind walnuts finely.
  2. Mix walnuts with 2 quarts of tahini
  3. Mix garlic, pepper, cinnamon and mustard into one quart of tahini
  4. Mix seasoned tahini into walnut-sesame paste.
  5. Let stand overnight for flavors to develop.
  6. Shortly before serving stir in fresh lemon juice
  7. Serve with Near Eastern flat breads - I served Lavosh and a Persian flat bread whose name I have forgotten.

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.

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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.

I altered the dish by leaving out the meatballs so this would be edible by vegetarians.

As for the history of the dish, Charles Perry has an entire essay devoted to it in "Medieval Arab Cookery". I'm sure that my interpretation was also colored by all the multitude of other Buran and Buraniyya recipes I read.

Original Recipe:
Take eggplant and boil lightly in water and salt, then take out and dry for an hour. Fry this in fresh sesame oil until cooked: peel, put into a dish or large cup, and beat well with a ladle, until it becomes like khabis [pudding]. Add a little salt and dry coriander. Take some Persian milk, mix in garlic, pour over the eggplant, and mix together well. Take red meat, mince fine, make into small kabobs, add melting fresh tail, throw the meat into it stirring until browned. Then cover with water, and stew until the water has evaporated and only the oils remain. Pour on top of this eggplant, sprinkle with fine-ground cumin and cinnamon, and serve.
(al-Baghdadi, p. 59-60, "Medieval Arab Cookery")
My Recipe:
12 pounds eggplant
I used the large ones because they were cheaper, but I suspect that smaller Asian eggplants would be better
1 pint light sesame oil (or olive oil)
2 quarts whole milk yogurt with NO additives or thickeners
I used Pavel's Russian Yogurt - there's nothing in it but milk and yogurt culture - no gums, no gelatin, no thickeners, etc.
1/4 cup salt
1 Tablespoon pepper
2 to 3 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons ground coriander seed
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons ground cumin seed
Fresh mint
1 fresh pomegranate
1 pint whole milk yogurt
  1. If using large eggplants, remove stem end and quarter. Small eggplants, leave whole.
  2. Boil briefly, until just barely tender. I did this in multiple stages as all the eggplant wouldn't fit into one pot.
  3. Put eggplant in a sieve or colander over a bowl or in a clean sink and let drain. Again I did this in stages. Since modern eggplants have been bred to be less bitter than Medieval eggplants, I didn't drain the pieces for a whole hour. After batches had drained for 15 minutes or so, I removed them to a large bowl.
  4. Put enough sesame oil in a large frying pan to cover the bottom, then heat on a medium-high fire.
  5. When oil is hot, add some of drained eggplants - one layer of eggplant only. Cook until tender, then remove - I drained them in a colander as I removed them from the pan.
  6. When all have been cooked and allowed to cool, puree them. I used a food processor but a blender would work. And a potato masher or ricer should work too.
  7. When all the eggplants were pureed and in a big container, I added two quarts of Pavel's yogurt. I honestly believe the quality of the yogurt affected the taste of the finished dish. But use the best plain yogurt you can find.
  8. After mixing yogurt and eggplant, add spices. Allow to sit overnight in a cool place for flavor to develop.
  9. Peel pomegranate and remove white pith. Separate seeds into a bowl.
  10. Dish eggplant into serving bowls, decorate the edge with fresh mint leaves or sprigs, place a dollop of yogurt in the center of each dish and top with pomegranate seeds.

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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.

Original Recipe:
Take small sour pears, wash and wrap in a moist cloth if they are dried pears, but if they are fresh, then macerate them in water and strain through a sieve. Then take chicken breasts, and cut them lengthwise in finger-sized strips and add to it as much meat [lamb] as you wish. Next throw in peaches and boil. Season the pot with pepper and ma'kamakh, oil, some spices, some sugar, wine vinegar, some almonds ground up fine; add to the pot. Then break eggs over and allow to settle.
(by Abu Samin, "Father of Corpulence", in al-Warraq, p. 119, in Waines)
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
50 dried sulfured peach halves
10 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs
10 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
10 pounds of cubed lamb (cut as for stew or kabobs)
water
1 ounce Ceylon cinnamon sticks
1 ounce powdered ginger
2 Tablespoons ground coriander seed
2 Tablespoons white pepper
1/4 cup salt, to taste
water, as needed
1 cup granulated white sugar
2 cups red wine vinegar
2 cups ground blanched almonds
20 eggs, beaten
  1. Cut of stem and blossom ends from pears, halve, core, then cut so each pear is in eight pieces.
  2. Cut peach halves in half.
  3. Cut chicken into finger-like or fajita-like strips.
  4. Check lamb and trim off excess fat, remove any bones, and cut too large chunks into smaller pieces.
  5. In wide deep pot place fruit, meats, spices, and salt. Add water, a couple cups to each pot - more liquid will develop out of both the meat and the fruit as the dish cooks.
  6. Put on high heat, bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium or medium-low, so liquid develops out of meat and fruit, and contents simmer until done, about 1 hour.
  7. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary - I added more salt.
  8. Add sugar and vinegar, tasting and adjusting as necessary - should have a pleasant slightly sweet-and-sour flavor.
  9. Stir in almonds - sauce should thicken.
  10. Stir in eggs - sauce should thicken further. I did not pour eggs on top as the original recipe suggests, since I was cooking all the meat in two 3 gallon pots and there would be no way to distribute the eggs evenly over the meat in the serving dishes.
  11. Dish meat into serving dishes - surround with rice, and garnish.

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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.

Arruziya:
Take red meat from the lower thighs and also from the tail fat and cut both into fine thin slices. Then smoke the meat until it is well done. Next take a pot and pour oil into it and when sizzling, throw into it the tail and the smoked meat and fry until cooked. Then sprinkle salt and water over it but do not use murri so as no to spoil it. Next, take a large pot and pour freshmilk into it half full and boil. When at the boil throw in a stick of galingal, cinnamon, and salt as much as needed. Then take therice and wash it very well and add it to the milk. When cooked through take the fried meat and its oil, add to the pot and stir in vigorously and serve. God willing. ----- Ibraham ibn al-Mahdi ("In a Caliph's Kitchen", p. 113)

Arrus Mufalfal:
Take fat meat and cut into middling pieces. Dissolve fresh tail and throw away the sediment. Pour in the meat and stir until browned. Sprinkle with a little salt and dry coriander fround ifne. Then cover with water and boil until cooked, throwing away the scum. Remove from the pan when the water has dried and it is itself jucy, and not absolutely parched. Throw in dry coriander, cumin, cinnamon, and mastic brayed fine, as requred, and likewise salt. When quite cooked, remove from the pan, draining off the water and oil and sprinkle with the seasonings mentioned. Now take a kail rice and three and a half kail of water. Dissolve fresh tail, about one third the weight of the meat. Pour water into the pan, and when boiling, throw in the metled fat, add mastic and cinnamon bark and bring thoroughly to the boil. Wash the rice several times, colour with saffron, and place in the water without stirring. Then cover the pan for a while until the rice swells and the water boils. Now remove the cover, and lay the meat in strips on top of the rice and cover again. placing a cloth over the cover, wrapping it up so that no air can get in. Leave the pan to settle over a gentle fire for a while. Then remove. Some make it simple, without the saffron colouring.
----- al-Baghdadi

My Recipe:
nearly 5 pounds Basmati rice
almost 1 gallon whole milk
water in a quantity to equal milk
1 teaspoon saffron
2 teaspoons salt

The following is the procedure I used to cook the rice in a couple medium-large rice cookers.

  1. Put three rice cooker measures of rice into rice cooker.
  2. Add 1/4 teaspoon of saffron, crumbled in your fingers and sprinkled over the rice.
  3. Put three more rice cooker measures of rice into rice cooker.
  4. Add another 1/4 teaspoon of saffron.
  5. Add six rice cooker measures of milk.
  6. Add six rice cooker measures of water.
  7. Turn on rice cooker.
  8. After liquid has been bubble for a little while, give the contents of the rice cooker a stir, to more evenly distribute the saffron.
  9. Cook until done (rice cooker stops cooking).
  10. Remove liner with rice in it and turn upside down in a deep container. There should be a lovely soft chewy golden-brown crust on the bottom. This is considered a delicacy in modern Persia/Iran.
  11. With a good knife, cut off the crust and set aside, then with a rice paddle, unclump the rice.
  12. Repeat the above process until you have completed sufficient rice. I used the equivalent of four rice cookers full for one hundred people.
  13. You can serve the crust cut into wedges or feed it to your grateful cooking staff...

    To use regular pots on the stove, put equal quantities of milk and water, bring to a boil, add saffron then a quantity of rice equal to one of the liquids, stir, reduce heat to very low, cover and cook for about 15 minutes. Heat must be VERY low or bottom of rice will burn.


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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.

Original Recipe:
Take fresh-gathered dates, and lay in the shade and air for a day: then remove the stones, and stuff with peeled almonds. For every ten ratls of dates, take two ratls of honey: boil over the fire with two uqiya of rose-water and half a dirham of saffron, then throw in the dates, stirring for an hour. Remove, and allow to cool. When cold, sprinkle with fine-ground sugar scented with musk,camphor and hyacinth. Put into glass preserving-jars, sprinkling on top with some of the scented ground-sugar. Cover, until the weather is cold and chafing dishes are brought in.
----- al-Baghdadi ("Medieval Arab Cookery", p. 88, and "In a Caliph's Kitchen", p. 39)
My Recipe:
100 pitted Deglett-Noor dates
200 blanched peeled whole almonds
1-1/2 cups honey
1 capful rose water, Cortas brand
  1. Put almonds into dates, one at a time - some dates won't hold 2 almonds. Also, check for pits - dates are mechanically pitted and the machine could miss something and you don't want to break any of your diner's teeth.
  2. When all dates are filled, warm up honey in a saucepan on medium heat. You just want it to be smoothly flowing.
  3. When honey is warm, stir rosewater into it.
  4. Then put dates into pan of honey on the stove. There should be just barely enough to cover the dates. DO NOT STIR.
  5. When honey just gets bubbly around the edges, remove from heat and let cool. DO NOT STIR. I assume the type of dates they were using were somewhat hard. Most of our dates are pretty soft and stirring them after they've cooked in the honey will break them up or even dissolve them.
  6. When cool, carefully remove dates one at a time to decorate serving dishes as desired.
  7. To serve: On ten round flat serving trays, make a ring of rice around the outside. Mound the meat in the middle. Then place 10 dates evenly around the outer edge of the rice, and fill the spaces between them with cooked garbanzo beans.

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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.

In the original, the bananas are batter-fried, then layered with bread and cooked under a roasting chicken. I just served the bananas.

Original Recipe:
Jawadhib al-Mauz - Banana Jawadhib (a sort of parallel to Yorkshire Pudding) (Jawadhib are Persian in origin)
Take bananas that are fully ripe. Peel them and immerse them in a fine samid [semolina] sourdough, kneaded as for pancakes (Anahita sez: see my note below - using the word "pancake" is misleading). Then take them up and leave on something woven [a basketry tray?]. Boil sesame oil, fry the bananas, take them out and throw them in syrup. Take them up and throw them in pounded sugar, then arrange them in a tray with thin flat bread above and below. Hang fat chicken above it [in the tannour [oven]].
(Familiar Foods, p. 411, "Medieval Arab Cookery")
My Recipe:
33 bananas cut into thirds
semolina flour
unbleached white wheat flour
2 eggs, beaten
water as needed
sesame oil for frying
crushed almonds
cinnamon powder
  1. Peel bananas and cut into thirds - they were easily handled on a clean dry baking sheet - I think this was better than dumping them all in a bowl.
  2. Mix together semolina and white flour in a large bowl.
  3. Beat eggs in a smaller bowl and beat in a cup of water.
  4. With a whisk, beat eggs into flour, adding water as needed to achieve a batter thicker than pancake patter. Keep some water handy, as over the course of the frying process, you will likely need to add more water.
  5. Put banana pieces into batter - I could fit about five whole bananas into my bowl and into my pan...
  6. Put enough sesame oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet and put on a high fire. When pan begins to warm, turn fire down to medium.
  7. Put batter covered bananas into hot oil - I allowed them to drain a bit over the batter bowl before putting them on to cook. Make sure that there is only one layer of bananas in the pan so they will cook evenly.
  8. Cook on one side until golden - turn to brown whole surface - I found my bananas ended up with three sides.
  9. While bananas are cooking, put another bunch of pieces into the batter.
  10. When medium golden brown on all sides, remove to tray or serving dishes to cool slightly. Keep them in one layer, don't pile them on top of each other. When cooling/draining tray gets full, move banana pieces to serving dishes.
  11. Keep repeating process, adding more oil to pan as necessary (I added about every three or four pansful I cooked); add more water to batter if it gets thick and make more batter if you run out.
  12. When all banana pieces are cooked and on serving dishes, sprinkle with crushed almonds and powdered cinnamon. This was a last minute idea - if you think of another way to garnish them, feel free. They are certainly sweet enough that they don't need honey or syrup in my opinion.

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.

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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.

Original:
One part quince juice and three parts filtered syrup, in both of which you have boiled pieces of quince until nearly done. They are taken up, and the syrup takes it consistency. To every pound of the whole you add two ounces of lemon juice. Then return the pieces of quince; they improve the consistency. It is scented with musk, saffron and rose-water and taken up and used.
(Familiar Foods, p. 442-443, "Medieval Arab Cookery")
My Recipe:
2 dozen quinces
5 - 8 pounds granulated white sugar
juice of 12 lemons
several capsful rosewater, Cortas brand
  1. Cut quinces in quarters. Core and remove flower and stem ends. Cut further into eighths (that is, each quince is ultimately cut in eight pieces).
  2. Put quinces in deep kettle, cover with water and turn fire to high.
  3. Pour in 5 lb. sugar. Stir well.
  4. When liquid begins to boil, reduce fire to medium and continue to simmer, stirring frequently so bottom of pan doesn't burn.
  5. Do NOT mash quinces. I did and it was a BIG mistake. I did not get enough syrup, although the mashed quinces were delicious.
  6. When liquid has thickened and has become a lovely amber-rose color - many hours later - remove from heat and allow to cool.
  7. When cool enough to manage, put a strainer over a deep bowl, and begin scooping out quinces and liquid. Allow to strain without mashing or pressing fruit. Remove resulting liquid to another large container.
  8. After you've drained the quinces well, and syrup has cooled, check the consistency and flavor. It should be somewhat syrupy and have a tart-sweet flavor. It doesn't need to be clear. In fact, the original recommends having some fruity bits in it, so you can add some mashed quince at this point. If syrup isn't sweet enough, put in kettle on high fire, add more sugar, stir well, bring to boil, then reduce to high simmer, and cook down a little more.
  9. When syrup is thoroughly cooled, add lemon juice and rose water.
  10. To drink, fill a pitched about 2/3 full of water and add a bit of syrup. Taste. Add more syrup until you are satisfied (the commercial syrup, much denser than mine, is diluted 1 to 5). It should have a sweet-tart flavor, redolent of quinces and roses.

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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.

Isa ibn Hisham said, "Bring us some throat-easing Lauzinaj, for it slips into the veins. Let it be... [fresh], the crust paper thin, generously filled, pearled with almond oil, starry in color, melting before it meets the teeth..."

Another writer said, "lauzinaj... in a wrapper as gossamer as grasshopper wings."

Original Recipe:
Lauzinaj: One part almonds, pounded coarsely. Put a like quantity of finely pounded sugar on it with a third as much rosewater, and melt it with it. When it thickens, throw one part sugar on it and take it from the fire. It is dry lauzinaj.

As For The Moist: It is that you take a pound of finely milled sugar, and you take a third of a pound of finely milled blanched almonds, and knead it with rose-water. Take thin bread such as sanbusak bread - it is better if even thinner; the best and most suitable is kunafa - and spread out a sheet of that bread and put the kneaded sugar and almonds on it, then roll it up and cut it in small pieces. Arrange them in a vessel and refine as much fresh sesame oil as needed and put it on them. Then cover them with syrup dissolved with rose-water and sprinkle them with sugar and finely pounded pistachios, and serve.

Another Variety: It is that you take starch [sc. flour?] and knead it hard, and as much as it stiffens, thin it carefully so that it becomes like fresh milk. Take the carved mirror and heat it and pour in it with the "emptier" and take it up. Then roll up pistachios, sugar, musk, and rosewater in it. Pack them snugly, cut them, and put hot sesame oil and syrup on them, and sprinkle them with sugar. This can be eaten right away.

(Familiar Foods - which has over 1/2 dozen Lauzinaj recipes - pp. 456-457; also in al-Baghdadi, p. 84; both in "Medieval Arab Cookery")
My Recipe:
1 package phyllo / filo dough sheets
5 pounds marzipan (almonds, sugar, bitter almonds)
several capsful rose water, Cortas brand
1 cup light sesame oil or clarified unsalted butter
1 cup honey
6 ounces shelled natural (i.e., uncolored) pistachio nuts

The directions look complicated, but this was actually a rather simple and easy procedure.

  1. Thaw and prepare phyllo according to package directions - thaw for several hours then place on a clean plate, cover with waxed paper and then with a clean damp towel. Do not let the towel touch the phyllo.
  2. Put marzipan in a large bowl and with the hands work rose water into it.
  3. Prepare a clean dry surface large enough to hold 10 marzipan snakes about 1/2 inch in diameter as as long as the largest dimension of your phyllo sheets. Cover with waxed paper.
  4. Then with the hands, roll the marzipan into "snakes" no more than 1/2" in diameter and as long as the longest dimension of your phyllo sheets, then place them on the waxed papered surface. Make ten "snakes".
  5. Prepare a clean dry baking sheet about the size of a phyllo sheet - cover with baker's "parchment" - this is a type of paper available in baking and gourmet shops. It will keep the pastry from sticking to the pan.
  6. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.
  7. Cover another clean dry surface the size of a phyllo sheet with waxed paper. Fold back the damp towel and the waxed paper, very carefully and gently remove one phyllo sheet, and place on prepared waxed paper surface. Recover remaining phyllo sheets.
  8. With a pastry brush, gently brush phyllo sheet with sesame oil, being sure to get the edges very well.
  9. Again, gently take a phyllo sheet from the pile, lay it on top of the first prepared sheet, and brush well with sesame oil.
  10. Then place one marzipan "snake" about 1" from the long edge of the phyllo sheets. Carefully draw up the one inch margin over the "snake", then roll "snake" in the dough.
  11. Gently remove phyllo-wrapped "snake" to parchment covered baking sheet and brush well with sesame oil.
  12. Continue process of brushing phyllo sheets with oil, layering them, and rolling marzipan "snakes" in them, then transferring them to baking sheet and brushing outer surface with oil. Repeat until you have make ten "snakes".
  13. Although my directions look long, this whole process went rapidly with me and one assistant.
  14. With a sharp knife mark the top "snake" into ten equal pieces. Then with the knife, cut through all ten "snakes" so that you have one hundred pieces. Size will vary depending on size of phyllo sheets. Mine were 18 inches in the largest dimension, so each cut piece was approximately 1-3/4 inches long.
  15. Put baking sheet in center of oven and bake for about 5 minutes. Check to see if pastries are browning evenly. If not, turn pan so paler pieces are in the warmer part of the oven.
  16. Bake for several more minutes and check again. The phyllo will brown fairly quickly and you don't want to over cook them. Most ovens don't heat exactly accurately, some being hotter and some cooler, which is why it is important to check frequently.
  17. When pastries are a medium golden-brown, remove from oven and let cool on heat-proof surface.
  18. If you decide they aren't brown enough, you can reheat them before serving.
  19. Just before serving, gently and carefully remove pastries from baking sheet onto serving plates, drizzle with warm honey and sprinkle with crushed pistachio nuts.

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