Bustaniya - Orchard Dish
Fruit and meat cooked together is typically Near Eastern. "Bustan" means "orchard" and this dish contains pears, peaches, and almonds from the orchard.
Spiced Chicken and Lamb with Pears, Peaches, and Almonds
Abu Samin ("Father of Corpulence"), in al-Warraq
in Waines, In a Caliph's Kitchen, p. 119
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.
MY NOTE: 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.
20 pears (whatever was least expensive - Bartlett)
40 dried sulfured peach halves
6 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs
10 pounds of cubed lamb (cut as for stew or kabobs)
2/3 ounce Ceylon cinnamon sticks (real cinnamon - wow! not the cassia that's sold as cinnamon)
2/3 ounce powdered ginger
1 Tb + 1 tsp ground coriander seed
1 Tb + 1 tsp white pepper
2 Tb + 2 tsp salt, or to taste
water, as needed
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
1-1/3 cups red wine vinegar
1-1/3 cups ground blanched almonds
12 eggs, beaten
1. Cut of stem and blossom ends from pears, quarter, core, then cut so each pear is in eight pieces.
2. Cut peach halves in half.
3. Check lamb and trim off excess fat, remove any bones, and cut too large chunks into smaller pieces. (I skipped this step, and the lamb this time had plenty of bones, so I should have)
4. 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.
(might be good to cook the lamb in with the fruit first, then, after it's partly cooked, add the chicken)
5. 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, at least 1 hour.
If you want the meat very tender, cook longer, adding water as necessary. This shouldn't be too liquid, but water helps keep the fruit from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
6. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.
7. Add sugar and vinegar, tasting and adjusting as necessary - should have a pleasant slightly sweet-and-sour flavor.
8. Stir in almonds - sauce should thicken.
9. 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.
10. Dish meat into serving dishes - surround with rice, and garnish.
Badhinjan Buran - Princess Buran's Eggplant
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've been told it has a new name in The Kingdom of the West: Eggplant Hunu (who knew?)
Eggplant pureed with yogurt and spices
I left out the meat balls so this would be suitable for 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, as they show up in every "period" cook book.
al-Baghdadi, Book of Dishes
pp. 59-60 in Medieval Arab Cookery
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.
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.
1-1/3 cups light sesame oil (or olive oil)
2 Tb + 2 tsp salt, or to taste
2 tsp. pepper
4 to 6 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 Tablespoons ground coriander seed
4 Tablespoons ground cumin seed
1 fresh pomegranate
1 pint whole milk yogurt
1. If using large eggplants, remove stem end and quarter. Small eggplants, leave whole. (I also peeled them)
2. Boil briefly, until just barely tender. I did this in multiple stages as all the eggplant wouldn't fit in 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. After batches had drained at least an hour, I removed them to a large bowl.
4. Next, i removed the seeds - eggplants have seed chambers, just like tomatoes, to which they are related. Removing the seeds makes the dish less bitter and "mouth prickly".
5. Put enough sesame oil in a large frying pan or cast iron dutch oven to cover the bottom, then heat on a medium-high fire.
6. When oil is hot, add some of drained eggplants - one layer of eggplant only. Cook until tender, then remove, and put in a clean bowl.
7. When all have been cooked and allowed to cool, puree them. I used a food processor last November and a blender for this feast. A potato masher or ricer should work too, in a situation without electricity.
8. 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.
9. After mixing yogurt and eggplant, add spices. Allow to sit overnight in a cool place for flavor to develop.
10. Peel pomegranate and remove white pith. Separate seeds into a bowl.
11. Wash mint and pick small sprigs off large stalks.
12. Dish eggplant into serving bowls, decorate the edge of each bowl with fresh mint leaves or sprigs; then place a dollop of yogurt in the center of each dish and top with pomegranate seeds.
Al-ruz al-Zafran - Saffron Rice
There are no single recipes for cooked rice alone - most recipes include the rice with meat - so I concocted this one from several that I read. It leaves a lovely chewy golden "crust" in the bottom of the rice cooker. This was stirred into the rice that was served to the hall. For a smaller dinner, you can serve the "crust" cut up in wedges to the diners.
ORIGINAL Recipes Consulted:
Arruziya and Arruz Mufalfal
Both in trans. David Waines, In a Caliph's Kitchen
2. 5 pounds Basmati rice
The following is the procedure I used to cook the rice in a couple medium-large rice cookers.
1/2 gallon whole milk
1/2 gallon water
1/2 teaspoon saffron
1 tsp salt
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.
On the assumption that most folks would be full, we did not make enough rice. This was an error on my part.