Mists Spring Investiture 2008

Sweets for Princess Kamiilah and the Populace


Refreshment Table at Mists Spring Investiture 2008
by
Urtatim al-Qurtubiyya bint 'abd al-Karim al-hakam al-Fassi

As our new Princess of the Mists, Kamiilah al-Sudania, has a North African persona, i offered to cook some things for Her. She wanted to serve sweet refreshments at Her Investiture on Saturday 17 May 2008, so i prepared a series of both simple and complex items. She was not concerned about historical accuracy, so i made a few items based on simple modern recipes that use historical ingredients. My thanks to Na'arah for baking the delicious walnut macaroons.

Red and purple are Her Highness's favorite colors, hence the colors on this page.

The Menu

Sweets:
  • Halwa bi-Tamar (13th C. Andalusian) - A Sweet of Dates and Nuts
  • Abbasid Qataif (13th C. Andalusian) - spiced nut filled wonton half moons in syrup
  • Pomegranate Khabisa (13th C. Andalusian) - balls of semolina cooked with pomegranate juice, sugar, rosewater, saffron, and ground almonds, rolled in powdered sugar
  • Carrot paste (13th C. Andalusian) - carrots and honey cooked to a puree and seasoned with ginger, galangal, cubeb and clove
  • Senbuse Mukallele (15th C. Ottoman) - small triangular almond-paste filled phyllo pastries dusted with powdered sugar
  • Tamar bi'l Luuz (modern, peri-oid) - Dates filled with Almond Paste
  • Jauz bi'l Luuz (modern, peri-oid) - Walnut Halves with Almond Paste
  • Briwat bi'l Fakiya (modern, peri-oid) - small rectangular nut and sesame filled phyllo pastries in honey
  • Mustachados (traditional, peri-oid) - Walnut Macaroons - walnuts, sugar, and egg
Beverages:
  • Homemade Sharbat - Beverage Syrup
    1. Lemon (13th C. Andalusian) - organic lemon juice, cane sugar
    2. Cherry (15th C. Ottoman) - cherry juice, cane sugar
  • Mint Tea (modern Moroccan) - fresh mint and gunpowder green tea - served with sugar and Splenda on the side.

Due to circumstances beyond my control (during which my car was totaled), i did not get to make the Briwat or the Carrot Paste, but i include the recipes here.


Homemade Almond Paste

Before doing anything, i needed almond paste. Quite a bit of it. It's quite simple to make, if one has a food processor. A blender does not work so well.

Makes about 2 cups

1 lb. blanched almonds
2 cups white granulated sugar
3 Tb. plain water (more or less as needed)
-- alternately, use 1 Tb. rosewater, 1 Tb. orange flower water, 1 Tb. lemon juice, or 2 tsp. almond extract
  1. Put granulated sugar into food processor or blender and process until it becomes powdered sugar. Remove from appliance.
  2. Put blanched almonds in food processor and grind coarsely.
  3. Add powdered sugar and process, adding a small amount of rosewater or plain water after a few seconds. Continue processing to a medium-fine or fine paste.
  4. Store almond paste tightly sealed in refrigerator. Seal well as it can pick up food odors.


If the almonds you get are not very fresh (but do not use if rancid! which have an unpleasantly bitter flavor), soak them overnight and use a little almond extract.
Almond paste will keep several weeks tightly sealed in the refrigerator. Some people say the flavor improves with a couple days' aging.


Uncooked Sweets

Halwa bi Tamar - A Sweet of Dates and Honey

Original Recipe
13th C. anonymous Andalusian cookbook
translated by Charles Perry

Take Shaddakh dates. Clean them of their pits and pound a ratl of them in a mortar. Then dilute with water in a tinjir on a gentle fire. Add the same amount of skimmed honey. Stir it until it binds together and throw in a good amount of peeled almonds and walnuts. Put in some oil so it doesn't burn and to bind firmly. Pour it over a greased salaya (stone work surface). With it you make qursas (round cakes). Cut it with a knife in big or little pieces.

My Version

I do not know what Shaddakh dates are. I used Medjool dates, which are really wonderful, soft and creamy, tender and flavorful. Quite different from the more common Deglet-Noor dates.
Mixing equal weights of dates and honey is just too sweet for me, so i altered the recipe a bit

1 lb. Medjool dates
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. blanched almonds, chopped
1/4 c. walnut pieces, broken up
sesame oil
baking parchment paper
  1. Medjool dates really don't need to be cooked. With my fingers, I pitted the dates and removed the calyxes (the hard caps at one end).
    If you use Deglet-Noor, buy them pitted, then soak them in just enough warm water to cover to soften.
  2. In a large smooth bowl, knead dates by hand to make a relatively smooth homogenous mass.
  3. Add honey and knead to mix evenly.
  4. Add nuts and knead to mix evenly.
  5. Form into a ball.
  6. Using sesame oil, oil a smooth surface, like a marble pastry board or shallow baking pan.
  7. Put date-nut ball onto surface and with hands spread it out evenly to about 1/3" thickness and the shape of your serving platter.
  8. Cut paper to fit dish, then transfer date-nut paste onto the paper.
  9. Score through the paste with a knife. To make neat "diamonds", first cut one series of parallel lines as wide apart as you like, then rotate about 45 degrees and cut another series of parallel lines the same distance apart.
  10. Because this can be sticky, especially if the weather is warm, it's useful to have a short wide knife or spatula when this is served.
Variations:
• Include several kinds of nuts, such as pine nuts or pistachios.
• Use one kind of nuts only.

Modern recipes may include other flavorings:
• A little grated lemon rind.
•ÝSpices such as cinnamon and cloves.

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Modern but Peri-oid Recipes

Tamar bi'l Luuz - Dates with Almond Paste

Medjool Dates
Almond Paste, homemade or purchased
(note: i find purchased marzipan to be too sweet, but the almond paste available to me is much nicer)
  1. Cut each date in half, remove the pit and the calyx.
  2. Roll a little bit of almond paste between your fingers to form into the shape of the cavity left by the pit.
  3. Put almond paste into cavity and smooth surface - it should stick up a little beyond the edges of the date half.

Jauz bi'l Luuz - Walnuts with Almond Paste

Walnut halves
Almond Paste, homemade or purchased
(note: i find purchased marzipan to be too sweet, but the almond paste available to me is much nicer - yes, there is a difference.)

Pinch off a little almond paste and smooth it onto the upper sides of a walnut half.

Because there was almond paste in nearly every dessert, i decided to vary the flavor a bit.
In half the almond paste i kneaded in bitter orange marmalade and orange blossom water.
In the other half of the almond paste i kneaded in pomegranate syrup and rosewater.
I put one flavor on half the walnuts and the other flavor on the other half and served them on separate plates.

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Fried Sweets

Abbasid Qataif

Original Recipe
13th C. anonymous Andalusian cookbook
translated by Charles Perry

It is made from the pierced musahhada that has already been mentioned. Take peeled almonds, pound them and let them dry until they are like semolina. Add as much again of sugar, spikenard, cloves, and Chinese cinnamon. Then take a flat bread (raghif) of the aforementioned musahhada, free of burns, and sprinkle it with those almonds and ground sugar aplenty. Sprinkle it with rosewater in which some camphor is dissolved, and fold it until it is a half circle. Glue the edges with dough wetted in rosewater, and put it in a frying-pan full of fresh oil. Boil it, and then take it out immediately and remove it so it drains of the oil. Let it float in a syrup of roses or julep or skimmed honey. You might make raghifs on raghifs, filled inside, and glue the margins together, and they will turn out circles and halves.

Urtatim says: musahhada are a flat thin pastry sheet, made perhaps rather like modern Moroccan warqa.

My Version

Makes as many as wonton wrappers in your package or till you use up all the almond paste
I made about 55

Filling:
1 cup almonds
1 cup sugar
1/4 to 1/3 tsp. cloves
1/2 to 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. rosewater

1 pkg. circular wonton wrappers
mild vegetable oil for frying
--- i used a blend of safflower and sunflower oils

Syrup:
1/4 c. honey
1/2 c. water
1 tsp. lemon juice

Prepare Filling:

  1. Grind almonds with sugar in the food processor to a medium stage
  2. Mix in cloves, cinnamon, and rosewater by hand.
  3. I did not use spikenard, since people seem to find its flavor odd.
  4. I did not use camphor because it is a potential health hazard.

Assemble Qataif:

  1. Fill a small bowl with plain water and set it next to the work space.
  2. On a baking sheet with low sides, lay out several wonton wrappers.
  3. Put a small amount of spiced ground nuts on one half.
  4. With a finger dipped in the bowl of water, moisten half the edge of the wonton, then fold it over the filling forming a half-moon, pressing the edges firmly together with the soft pad of the finger tip to seal.
  5. Repeat until all the filling is used up or all the wontons, whichever comes first.

Fry:

  1. Heat about 1 inch of oil in a cast iron skillet, or a bit more in wok.
  2. Fry as many half-moon as will comfortably fit - i did 6 to 8 at a time - until golden, transferring them to a baking sheet with low sides covered with paper towels as soon as they are done.
  3. Let cool.

Syrup:

  1. Put honey, water, and lemon juice in a small saucepan.
  2. Bring just to a boil
  3. Turn off the heat and let the syrup cool.
  4. When it is cool, put it in a container.
  5. Shortly before serving, pour syrup over the fried pastries.

In this instance, i fried them on Friday night and served them on Saturday afternoon, and they were nice and crispy - of course, it has been quite dry here. If you live in a humid climate, they need to be well-sealed as soon as they are fried to keep the humidity out. However, given the instructions to soak in syrup, perhaps they are not meant to be crisp.

I think these would have been quite good in a syrup of rose petal jam diluted with a little water...

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Senbuse Mukallele [pronounce all the "e"s] - Crowned Triangles

Original Recipe
late 15th C. Ottoman translation and alteration by Mehmed Shirvani of the 13th C. recipe from al-Baghdadi's Kitâb al-Tabîkh
Translated by Stephane Yersimos from Eski Osmanlici (Old Ottoman) into French.
Translated by me from French into English.

The art of preparing them is the same as that of the senbuse, with the difference that for the mukallele one brays sugar and almonds, one kneads it all with musk and rose water and one fills the dough in place of meat (one takes the dough, one works it in fine leaves, one cuts it in strips, one places the filling, and one fashions them in the form of a triangle). Next one fries them in the frying pan in sesame oil and certain people after having taken them out of the sesame oil plunge them in sugar syrup, they take the out of the syrup and they eat them. They plunge them in sugar in powder mixed with musk or camphor.
--- Shirvani's translation of al-Baghdadi, folio 69
--- pp. 124-125, À la table du Grand Turc

My Version

How to fold SenbuseMakes 150 to 200 for the Fall Investiture Ottoman Feast
For Spring Investiture i made about 1/3 of this recipe

Senbuse:
3 lb ground almonds
2 lb granulated sugar
1/2 cup rosewater
1 package phyllo
clarified melted butter or sesame oil
cold pressed sesame oil for frying
    NOTE: do NOT use dark roasted sesame oil
            regular sesame oil is sold in natural food stores and some gourmet markets

Syrup:
2 lb granulated sugar for syrup
3 cups water for syrup

Garnish:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 c ground cinnamon
1 capful small bottle mint extract

Assemble Senbuse:

  1. Mix almonds, sugar, and rosewater to make a paste in a food processor.
  2. Cover several sheet pans with baking parchment paper.
  3. Fold each sheet of phyllo in half, then fold it in thirds, and cut along folds to make 6 strips.
  4. Phyllo not in immediate use needs to be covered with paper (waxed paper or baking parchment paper), then with a water-moistened, not wet, towel.
  5. Brush phyllo with melted butter.
  6. Place a very small amount of the almond paste at the end of the strip and fold diagonally into a triangle, then continue folding - like folding the American flag before putting it away. [i can make a graphic]
  7. Place each pastry triangle on the parchment on the baking sheet. When a sheet is full, put it in the freezer.
  8. Continue to make and fold Senbuse and put in freezer. After about 1/2 hour a sheet's worth will be frozen enough to put in a double-zip freezer bag. Keep frozen.

Fry:

  1. Put 1/4 cup of sesame oil into a large wok or other wide pan and heat until a drop of water sizzles and evaporates.
  2. Fry frozen pastries until golden brown. Regulate heat - oil should not burn, but pastries should brown.
  3. As they fry, put them on a plate covered with paper towel.
  4. As oil is used up add another couple tablespoons.
  5. Continue until all pastries are done.

Syrup:

  1. If desired, make syrup with 2 lb sugar and 3 cups water.
  2. Just before serving cover the fried triangles with the sugar syrup.
    We did not bother to do this.

Garnish:

  1. Put about 1 cup powdered sugar in a bowl, add ground cinnamon and mix until well-blended.
  2. Sprinkle mint extract evenly over sugar, then mix well to distribute evenly throughout.
  3. Dust pastries with flavored sugar.

NOTE 1: I used this blend of cinnamon and mint to simulate camphor, which is not really safe for consumption. Camphor has a menthol-like coolness, hence the mint, and is in the same family of trees as cinnamon, hence the cinnamon. Also, Yerasimos notes that they are seasoned with cinnamon in the Nazmu't-tebayi', a work of medicine from the beginning of the 15th century.

NOTE 2: For people with dietary issues, we also made about 1 dozen of these using ground almonds and Splenda(tm), served with no sugar syrup or powdered sugar.

NOTE 3: These can be completely finished the day before serving, or fold the pastries many days ahead of time and freeze, then fry the day before serving or on site.

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Briouats with nuts and sesame seeds
(modern Moroccan)

2 oz. almonds
2 oz. walnuts
2 oz. pistachios (shelled, undyed)
2-2/3 oz. hulled sesame seeds
3 Tb powdered sugar
1/8 tsp ground mastic
1/8 tsp. powdered cinnamon
1 Tb. orange flower water
1/2 Tb. butter, melted
1 lb. honey
8 oz. phyllo
Oil for frying
  1. Roast almonds in 350F oven until golden brown. Cool slightly and rub off their skins.
      Roast walnuts in 350F oven until golden brown. Cool slightly and rub off their skins.
      Rub skins off pistachios (may need to roast briefly to loosen skins).
  2. Roast sesame seeds in a dry frying pan until until you hear a few start to pop, then remove from heat.
  3. Grind nuts, sesame seeds, and powdered sugar until smooth.
  4. Add mastic, cinnamon, orange flower water, and melted butter.
  5. Knead well to obtain a thick dough.
  6. Form dough into balls the size of a cherry.
  7. Cut phyllo with kitchen shears into rectangles 2-3/4" by 8" (7 cm by 20 cm).
  8. Center a ball of nut paste at one end of phyllo rectangle, and spread just a little along short end.
  9. Fold in both long sides, then fold up several times to form a rectangular package.
    Continue until all the filling is used up.
  10. Fry briouats in deep hot oil.
  11. As they are cooked, put them hot into the honey, then drain on wire rack over paper towels on a baking sheet.
  12. Serve at room temperature

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Simmered Sweets

Khabisa with Pomegranate

Original Recipe
13th C. anonymous Andalusian Cookbook
translated by Charles Perry

Take half a ratl of sugar and put it in a metal or earthenware pot and pour in three ratls of juice of sweet table pomegranates and half an uqiya of rosewater, with a penetrating smell. Boil it gently and after two boilings, add half a mudd of semolina and boil it until the semolina is cooked. Throw in the weight of a quarter dirham of ground and sifted saffron, and three uqiyas of almonds. Put it in a dish and sprinkle over it the like of pounded sugar, and make balls [literally, hazelnuts] of this.

My Version

1/2 lb. = 1-1/8 cups white sugar
1-1/2 quarts = 3 pints = 6 cups pomegranate juice
1/2 oz. = 1 Tb. rosewater
1/2 liter = 2 cups semolina
1 gram = 1/4 tsp. crushed or powdered saffron (real saffron, no safflower, no turmeric)
4 ounces = 3/4 cup ground almonds
1/2 lb = 1-3/4 cups plus 2 Tb. icing/powdered sugar (you may not need all of it)
  1. Put sugar in a pot and pour in pomegranate juice.
  2. Stirring from time to time, bring to boil.
  3. Then simmer gently for about 15 minute.
  4. Stirring all the time, pour in semolina very very slowing.
  5. Simmer, stirring, until the semolina is cooked.
  6. Stir in saffron, rosewater, and almonds.

  7. Pour it in a large flat pan, such as a baking sheet with low sides and allow to cool.
  8. Make into hazelnut-sized balls, rolling each in powdered sugar.

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Carrot Paste

Original Recipe
the 13th c. Anonymous Andalusian cookbook
translated by Charles Perry

Take a ratl of carrots, of which you have cleaned the interior. Cook it in a ratl of water, some two boilings, then take it off the fire and let it dry a little, over a sieve. Add it to three ratls of honey, cleaned of its foam, and cook all this until it takes the form of a paste. Then season it with ginger, galingale, cubeb and flowers [of clove], half an uqiya in all for each ratl. Eat it like a nut at meals. Its benefits: it fortifies coitus and increases desire beautifully; it is admirable.

My Version
serves about 75

5 lb. carrots (no need to remove interiors, since modern carrots are not woody)
5 c. water
2 lb. honey
2 cups sugar
1 Tb. + 1-1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 Tb. + 1-1/2 tsp. ground galangal
1 Tb. + 1-1/2 tsp. ground cubeb
1 Tb. + 1-1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  1. Cut carrots into pieces
  2. Cook carrots in water to cover until soft.
  3. Add honey and sugar to carrots.
  4. Cook until very tender, mashing a bit, add a bit more water, if necessary.
  5. Cook and continue mashing until it forms a cohesive paste. If you mash by hand, there will be some lumps, which is what i did. For a smoother paste, you could puree the pulp in a blender.
  6. Remove from heat, then season with ginger, galingale, cubeb and clove.

To serve:
One idea is to put a little of the carrot paste into tiny fluted paper cups.

NOTES:
* I added sugar instead of more honey because i find the flavor of the honey to be overpowering, whereas sugar adds sweetness with a less assertive flavor.

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Baked Sweets

Walnut Macaroons : Mustachados
Traditional Sephardi Pesach recipe - pareve
Makes 24 to 30 cookies

I cannot show that this is an SCA-period recipe. But since the ingredients and basic procedures are not out of place, this is a peri-oid recipe.

My thanks to Na'arah for baking these, since i was running short of time due to the accident.

1 large egg
1-1/2 cups (6 oz.) finely ground walnuts
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 325† F.
  1. Grease two large baking sheets.
  2. In a medium bowl, beat egg with a fork until well blended.
    Then add rest of ingredients and mix to form a thick paste.
  3. Use moistened hands to form into 1-1/4 inch balls or drop by scant tablespoons.
    Place two inches apart on baking sheet.
    Flatten with moistened finger tips.
  4. Bake 15-20 minutes until edges brown.
    Remove from pans immediately.

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Beverages

Sharbat - Homemade Fruit Syrups

I made the two fruit syrups for the Spring Investiture Refreshment table, cherry and lemon.

Use equal weights of granulated cane sugar and of pure unsweetened juice
These proportions follow the recipes in the 13th C. anonymous Andalusian cookbook.

By volume that would be approximately:
4-1/2 cups granulated white sugar
1 quart juice
However, i tend to use equal volumes of sugar and juice.
So 4 cups sugar to a quart of juice

I used organic pure lemon juice
and pure unsweetened cherry juice
  1. Put the sugar into a saucepan, then pour in the juice. Stir to help the sugar dissolve and let it sit for a few minutes. Then stir again. The sugar will be moistened and much will have dissolved.
  2. Turn on the fire and bring it to a boil, first stirring constantly until all the sugar dissolved into the juice. Then stir from time to time. This doesn't take vary long and it's good to be there so it doesn't foam up and boil over.
  3. As soon as it is at a rolling boil, turn the fire down to a simmer - there needs to be movement on the surface of the liquid.
  4. Let it cook for a while - say 15 minutes - stirring occasionally. Let the liquid pour slowly off the spoon and watch it. At first it will be very "wet", but after a while it becomes more cohesive, coming off in something of a "sheet". When it has reached this stage it will be a thin syrup. It will not appear to be syrup, but it will thicken as it cools. I usually cook a little longer to a medium syrup stage.
  5. Let the syrup cool.
  6. Have ready a well-cleaned glass bottle or jar with a lid that screws on tightly for each flavor. When the syrup is below body temperature, pour it into the bottle and seal.

I have found that thicker syrups keep fine out of the fridge, while thinner syrups need to be refrigerated.

Other flavors of syrups i have made are:

  • pomegranate, from pure unsweetened juice (from a 13th C. recipe)
  • quince, from fresh quinces (from a 13th C. recipe)
  • black currant, from pure unsweetened juice (the berry, Ribes, not the tiny dried raisin)
  • peach, out of season from a mix of dried and canned fruit
  • pear, from dried fruit

If using fresh or dried fruit, it helps to have a jelly bag (a muslin bag held up by a wire support), this will let the syrup drain out into a bowl and will hold back the pulp. First pour off as much syrup as you can. Then put the rest into the bag and let stand overnight. The left-over pulp can make a tasty spread.

As an inspiration to making more syrups, here is a list of syrup flavors used in the Ottoman capital, Constantinople, in the 15th-17th centuries.

  • bitter orange
  • date
  • date palm flower (i don't know what this would be like)
  • grape
  • honey
  • lavender
  • lemon
  • mint
  • mulberry
  • peach
  • pear
  • rose
  • sour apple
  • sour cherry
  • sour pomegranate
  • sweet pomegranate
  • tamarind
  • violet
  • water lily

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Mint Tea
Modern Moroccan

Fresh Mint
Gunpowder Green Tea
Sugar