2008 - Fall Coronet
Small Private Feast for Prince & Princess of the Mists

cooked by Urtatim


I cooked this small feast for the delightful Prince and Princess of the Mists, Sigifrith and Kamiilah, at their Fall Coronet in 2008, a weekend camping event. The menu was centered around 14th, 15th and 16th century Middle Eastern dishes.

I started cooking around 3:30 PM. I intended to start serving dinner while there was still some light. I didn't get the first course out until around 7 PM, however, in large part because of the state of the chicken and chicken soup.

A couple days before the event, I cooked the chicken pieces with the skin on in water to make broth. The chicken was still flavorful and the soup was good - it gelled when cold it was so rich. But to make sure I didn't poison anyone, I froze them, separately. Then I loaded up a small old cooler on Saturday morning - with NO ice - figuring the chicken/soup would keep the other food cool and the chicken/soup would thaw.

Hah!

So there I was with rock-hard chicken and icebergs of soup. That added an extra hour to cooking time, as I thawed the chicken and the soup together. If the chicken hadn't been frozen, I could just have shredded it for the Barida. And warming the soup wouldn't have taken long at all.

I was going to make some period sweets, but it was the Princess Kamiilah's birthday and other members of her court bought a chocolate cake.

In the end, all I brought home were a couple servings of the soup and of each of the three colors of rice.


The Menu

Prepping Chicken for Barida and for Soup

FIRST COURSE
SECOND COURSE
  • Terbiyeli Tavuk Shorbasi - Chicken Broth with Gourds and Chestnuts, and with Egg-Lemon Sauce - reconstructed, 16th c. Ottoman
THIRD COURSE

The Recipes


Chicken Preparation

Several days ahead of time:

  • 20 chicken thighs
  • 16 cups water

In a large stock pot, put chicken thighs with skin on (skin adds richness to the broth) and cover with 16 cups water.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer until chicken is tender, about 40 - 45 minutes.

Remove chicken pieces from broth, saving both thighs and broth and cool them separately. When the thighs are cool enough to handle, slip off the skins and discard them. Then drop the thighs into 4 double zip freezer bags - only 5 thighs to a bag so they'd cool more quickly - and place them into the freezer.

Let the soup cool for a while longer, then divide it more or less evenly into several double-zip freezer bags - more or less 1 quart of liquid per bag - and place carefully the bags in the freezer.


Barida of Abu Ja'far al-Barmaki - Cold Herbed Chicken Salad

from ibn Sayyar al-Warraq's 10th century Kitab al-Tabikh
a collection of 9th and 10th century 'Abbasid recipes, food poems, humoral theory, and dining etiquette.

A fowl is taken, roasted, jointed and thrown in a jar into which are put coriander, pepper, cumin and cinnamon. Verjus is added, and mint, tarragon and fresh thyme are cut over it, and good oil is poured over it. Fresh spices are minced onto it, and it is decorated with chopped cucumber.
-- Charles Perry,
from his article "In the Kitchen of the Caliphs"
in Saudi-Aramco World on-line, Spring 2006

My Version
to serve 20

  • 20 Chicken Thighs, boiled
  • 3 Tb. ground Coriander Seed
  • 1 Tb. ground Cumin
  • 2 tsp. ground Black or White Pepper
  • 1 tsp. powdered Cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh Tarragon
  • 3 TB minced fresh Mint
  • 3 TB minced fresh Thyme
  • 2 cups Verjuice
  • 1 cup Olive Oil
  • 2 Tb. Salt
  • 8 Persian Cucumbers, sliced
  1. When chicken is cool, remove skin, and tear meat off bones into small pieces into large serving bowl.
  2. In small bowl mix coriander, cumin, pepper, cinnamon, mint, tarragon, thyme, verjuice, and oil.
  3. Toss chicken with herbs and spices and season with salt.
  4. Next add diced cucumber.
  5. Finally, pour in verjus and oil and toss.

Comments:
Persian cucumbers are small, not shiny skinned or watery fleshed, and my new favorite cucumber. Substitute fewer of the larger "English" "hot-house" cucumbers, maybe two will be enough. If you must buy standard cucumbers, peel them and seed them and cut in smallish pieces.


Terbiyeli Tavuk Shorbasi - Chicken Soup Seasoned with Egg-Lemon Sauce

16th century Ottoman, reconstructed

There are no exact recipes surviving for this dish, but there are descriptions from the 16th century of various kinds of soups served for ordinary meals at the Topkapi Serai to the Sultan, to the highest echelons of Eunuchs and Pages in the palace, and at the circumcision festivals of the Sultans' sons. From these descriptions I made the soup. The inclusion of chestnuts is typical of fall and winter dishes.

My Version
to serve 20

  • 1 gal (16 cups) Chicken Broth
  • a little finely chopped Onion
  • 1 Opo Gourd, peeled and cubed
  • 1/4 tsp. powdered Cinnamon
  • 1/4 lb pre-cooked Chestnuts
  • 1/4 lb (1/2 small can) pre-cooked Chickpeas, drained
  • 4 Eggs, beaten
  • scant 1/2 cup Lemon Juice
  • Optional Garnish: toasted Almond slivers
  1. Heat broth.
  2. Add opo and continue cooking until tender.
  3. Stir in chestnuts, chickpeas, and cinnamon.
  4. Beat together eggs and lemon juice.
  5. Stir warm broth into lemon-eggs, a little at a time, until eggs are warm.
  6. Stir lemon-eggs into broth. Do not let boil.
  7. A soon as the broth becomes "creamy" from the eggs, remove from the fire.

Zirva - Lamb with Fruit

Mehmed bin Mahmoud Shirvani, folio 123 verso
mid-15th century Ottoman

Composition of zirva. Brown the meat. When it is a little cooked, add some broken chickpeas, some apricots, some grapes, some black plums, and chop as well several onions. Also add some almonds, some figs, and a little saffron. Salt and put in a little starch to thicken. Also put in a quantity of honey from which one has lifted the foam. One should not put too much so that it does not give heartburn. Then arrange it [in the serving dish] adding poppy seeds. If the meat is first cooked with the honey it will be exquisite.
-- My translation

My Version
to serve 20

  • 2 large Onions, chopped
  • a few Tb. Olive Oil
  • 3 lb Lamb for stew
  • a little Saffron
  • 2 tsp. Salt
  • 1 tsp. Black or White Pepper
  • 20 dried Apricot halves
  • 20 dried light-colored Figs
  • 20 dried Plum halves (NOT prunes - these are from a different plum)
  • 1/2 small can Chickpeas, broken and peeled
  • 2 Tb. Honey
  • 2 cups fresh Pink Grapes
  • 1 Tb. Wheat Starch
  • 1/4 c. Water
  • 1/2 cup or more slivered Almonds
  • 2 Tb. black Poppy Seeds
  1. Fry onions in oil until tender.
  2. Add the lamb and brown, stirring occasionally, to prevent burning.
  3. Then add a little water, just so it won't stick to the bottom of the pan, and cook until tender. How long will depend on the size of your lamb pieces and the age of the critter (most lamb in the US isn't lamb, but hogget, that is adolescent sheep)
  4. With kitchen shears (or knife) cut dried fruits into strips into a bowl, then cover with just enough water and soak, stirring from time to time.
  5. When lamb is tender add a generous pinch of saffron, salt, and pepper, and mix well.
  6. Add chickpeas, apricots, grapes, figs, and plums until warm.
  7. Then add pink grapes.
  8. Add honey, stir well to mix thoroughly.
  9. Dilute starch in water, then stir into meat to thicken the sauce.
  10. Pour into serving bowl, and decorate with slivered almonds and poppy seeds.

Comments:
-- I may have gone a little overboard with the dried fruit - it sure looked like a lot. But my lamb chunks were pretty big, and several people made enthusiastic comments, so I guess it was ok.
-- Zirva was originally a Persian dish, the name meaning "cumin-flavored". Obviously there's no cumin in this recipe. There are zirva recipes in 'Abbasid cookbooks, such as al-Baghdadi's, but the details are extremely different. The 'Abbasid recipes use vinegar, a multitudes of spices, and no fruit, quite unlike the Ottoman recipe. Pretty much the only things they have in common is the lamb and the name.


Isfanakh Mutajjana - Pan-fried Spinach with Garlic and Spices

Kitab al-Tabikh by al-Baghdadi
early 13th century 'Abbasid

Original
Take spinach, cut off the [lower] roots, and wash: then boil lightly in salt and water and dry. Heat sesame-oil, drop in the spinach, and stir until fragrant. Chop up a little garlic, and add. Sprinkle with fine-ground cumin, coriander seed, and cinnamon: then remove.

My Version
to serve 20

  • 1 c. Cold-Pressed Sesame Oil (NOT Asian roasted dark sesame oil)
  • 3 pkgs. baby Spinach Leaves
  • 8 cloves Garlic, smashed
  • 1 Tb. ground Cumin
  • 1 Tb. ground Coriander Seed
  • 1 tsp. powdered Ginger
  • 1 tsp. powdered Ceylon Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 3/4 tsp ground Black or White Pepper
  1. Put 1/3 c. oil into a heavy shallow pan on medium heat.
    When warm, add 1 pkg. chopped spinach, stirring until wilted, adjusting heat as necessary.
  2. Remove to serving bowl when just wilted.
  3. Repeat steps (1) & (2) until all spinach is wilted.
  4. Stir the smashed garlic and spices into the oil - of the spices, the cumin should predominate.
  5. Cook until the spices become fragrant, only briefly so the garlic doesn't burn.
  6. Then add spinach, stirring to distribute spices and warm thoroughly, and remove from heat immediately. The consistency of the dish should be a bit unctuous, but not too oily.

Ottoman-Style Rice of Three Colors

16th century Ottoman, reconstructed

There is no recipe for this, so it was reconstituted from a combination of memoirs, menus, and purchasing records. There are descriptions of colored rice dishes in the feast menu lists from the 16th century, and often several colors were served at one time, along with rice cooked with noodles, with chickpeas, and more. For a big ceremony there could be a half dozen or more rice dishes. I based my colored rice on these descriptions. The rice would likely have been cooked in chicken broth, and enriched with almonds. Since I knew there would be vegetarians dining, I just used water, and I omitted the almonds, since they were in the lamb dish with which the rice was served.

My Version
to serve 20

  • 6 cups raw Basmati or Thai Jasmine Rice (makes 4 cups cooked for each color)
  • 12 cups Water
  • 1/4 lb. Butter
  • 1/4 tsp. Saffron
  • 1 or 2 Tb. Turkish Grape Molasses (Turkish: pekmez)
  • 2 or 3 Tb. Middle Eastern Pomegranate Molasses (Arabic: dibs rumanni / Turkish: nar pekmez)
  • several Tb. chopped Parsley
  • several leaves Spinach
  1. Put rice in large pot, add water, let soak 15 minutes, then bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook until done, about 15 minutes.
  2. Add butter, stirring so that butter melts and is evenly distributed.
  3. Divide cooked rice into three equal parts.
    Red:
    Add 1 or 2 Tb. grape molasses (Turkish: pekmez) and 2 or 3 Tb. pomegranate molasses (Arabic: dibs rumanni / Turkish: nar pekmez), and toss to distribute evenly. The result will be pink and have a fruity, sweet and sour flavor.
  4. Yellow:
    Soak saffron in warm water for 15 or 20 minutes and stir so the water is nicely yellow. Pour the saffron water into the rice, then fluff well to distribute the color.
    Green:
    Puree spinach and parsley in a blender or food processor with a little water. Pour the puree into rice and toss well to distribute evenly.

Note: Basmati or Thai Jasmine rice are far more aromatic and flavorful than standard Amercian rice.

Comments:
As I mentioned above, the rice would have been cooked with broth, mostly chicken. The butter, probably clarified, would have been poured in more generously than I did. Finally, there would be almonds, definitely blanched (i.e., skinned) and probably halved - although I'm not certain if they'd be tossed with the rice or just sprinkled on top of the dish.


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