A Type of Ahrash Called Isfîriyâ

Medieval Moroccan Lamb Burgers

This was an entry into a cooking competition calling for Moroccan recipes. After it was pointed out that there are no surviving Medieval Moroccon cookbooks, it was changed to be any culture that had contact with Morocco... I decided to stick with a recipe identified as Moroccan found in the 13th c. anonymous Andalusian cookbook.


Original Recipe

A Type of Ahrash

This is the recipe used by Sayyid Abu al-Hasan and others in Morocco, and they called it isfîriyâ. Take red lamb, pound it vigorously and season it with some murri naqî', vinegar, oil, pounded garlic, pepper, saffron, cumin, coriander, lavender, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, chopped fat, and meat with all the gristle removed and pounded and divided, and enough egg to envelop the whole. Make small round flatbreads (qursas) out of them about the size of a palm or smaller, and fry them in a pan with a lot of oil until they are browned. Then make for them a sauce of vinegar, oil, and garlic, and leave some of it without any sauce: it is very good.

Commentary
This is the third recipe in the 13th century anonymous Andalusian cookbook (Anwâ‘ al-Saydala fî Alwân al-At‘ima). It is the second one for Ahrash, and there is another recipe for Ahrash, #78. Although the other recipes for Ahrash are not identified with a particular region, this one is identified as coming from Morocco.

My Version

Ahrash Ingredients

1-1/2 lb. ground lamb
3 Tb. soy sauce, instead of murri naqî' (source 2)
2 Tb. white wine vinegar
2 Tb. olive oil
6 cloves garlic, pounded
1 Tb. coriander
1-1/2 Tb. lavender buds
2 tsp. cumin


1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. pepper
scant 1/4 tsp.cloves
1/8 tsp. saffron, crumbled
chopped sheep tail fat, omitted
2 eggs, beaten
olive oil for frying
Sauce Ingredients See Note Below

3/4 c. white wine vinegar (red wine vinegar is fine)
2 Tb. olive oil
6 garlic cloves, smashed
1. Take red lamb, pound it vigorously.
• I purchased ground lamb. Pounded meat has a different texture from ground meat, finer, smoother. To achieve this, I ran the ground meat through the food processor.
• Do not process too much. When the eggs are mixed in, if the texture of the meat it too fine, the patties will not stay together.

2. Season it with some murri naqî', vinegar, oil, pounded garlic, pepper, saffron, cumin, coriander, lavender, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, chopped sheep fat, and meat with all the gristle removed and pounded and divided, and enough egg to envelop the whole.
• I used soy sauce, rather than murri based on Charles Perry's experiments of making murri from scratch, using "rotted" barley loaves - his conclusion was that it tasted like soy sauce.
• I did not add sheep fat because modern sheep are less lean than the sheep that were moved from homestead to summer mountains and back to the valley in the autumn, burning off fat with their transhumance.

3. Make small round flatbreads (qursas) out of them about the size of a palm or smaller.
• These come out about the size of a hamburger patty.

4. Fry them in a pan with a lot of oil until they are browned.
• Patties shrink while cooking.

5. Then make for them a sauce of vinegar, oil, and garlic. Leave some of it without any sauce: it is very good.
• I made the sauce by pureeing the garlic, mixing it with the vinegar, then stirring in the oil. I served it on the side, it needs to be stirred before using.
• NOTE: I felt that this sauce was only OK. A better one, which accompanies meatballs elsewhere in the same cookbook, includes murri/soy sauce, which is more flavorful.

Sources

  1. anonymous 13th century Andalusian cookbook. Charles Perry, trans., commonly known as "The Anonymous Andalusian cookbook" http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/Cookbooks/Andalusian/andalusian_contents.htm
    According to Nawal Nasrallah, in personal e-mail exchanged between us in the summer of 2008, the actual title of the book is Anwâ‘ al-Saydala fî Alwân al-At‘ima, which I translate as Phamacopeoia on the Preparation of All Kinds of Food.

  2. Charles Perry. "What Rot!", Los Angeles Times, 14 January 1998
    ____________. "Still Rotting", LA Times, 18 February 1998
    ____________. "Rot of Ages", LA Times, 1 April 1998
    ____________. "O.K., It's Rotted", LA Times, 1 April 1998

  3. Alan Davidson, editor and contributor. The Penguin Companion to Food. Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: 1999, 2002.