Two 9th C. 'Abbasid Cold Chicken Dishes

A Barida is a cold dish, part of the service of what are called Bawarid.
These two recipes make what we might call chicken salad,
but are also quite different from our typically mayonnaise slathered versions.

1. Barida of Ibrahim ibn al-Mahdi


translated by David Waines in In a Caliph's Kitchen, pp. 82-83

Two parts almonds and sugar and two parts vinegar and mustard mixed together in a vessel with partially dried safflower adding colour around the edges. Cucumber peeled - qutha and faqqas - and pomegranate, chopped up small and sprinkled around the vessel. Add a little oil. Take a fine young chicken, cooked in vinegar, jointed and cut up in pieces and placed over the other ingredients in one vessel. Decorate the dish with pomegranate (seeds) and with almonds and olives chopped up fine.


This cold dish made from chicken was devised by Ibrahim ibn al-Mahdi. The recipe is expressed in poetic form, not surprising from a man who was not only a gourmand, but well known as a poet too. He describes the dish as perfect summertime fare. The physician al-Razi observes that such dishes of the bawarid type, when made with vinegar or with the juice of sour fruits, serve to cool the temperament and moderate it. Qutha and faqqus, mentioned in the original recipe, are species of cucumber.

David Waines, In a Caliph's Kitchen, pp. 82-83

My Version

Makes about 20 servings

9 lb. chicken parts
bottle (about 24 oz.) rice vinegar
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup prepared Dijon mustard
partially dried safflower petals
2 English Cucumbers, diced (no need to peel or seed)
seeds from 3 pomegranates
1/2 cup sesame oil
2 cups slivered blanched almonds
1 cup pitted purple/black olives
1 cup pitted green olives

  1. Cook chicken in vinegar, adding a little water, as necessary.
    The liquid doesn't need to completely cover the chicken, as long as the cook periodically turns pieces so all pieces spend time submerged. I don't remember how long this took - 1/2 hour? Cool when done.
  2. Mix together almonds and sugar, with vinegar and mustard and spread around serving dish, then put safflower around the edges.
  3. Cut cucumber into medium sized dice. No need to peel or seed.
  4. Peel pomegranates over a bowl of cold water, dropping seeds into water. When done, remove "floaty bits" and drain seeds. Take care because pomegranate can stain.
  5. Sprinkle cucumber and 2/3 of pomegranate seeds around serving dish on top of mustard sauce.
  6. Sprinkle with a little oil.
  7. Joint cooled chicken, and cut up in pieces.
  8. Place chicken over the other ingredients in serving dish.
  9. Decorate the dish with additional pomegranate seeds, slivered almonds, and sliced olives.


  1. I used rice vinegar to cook the chicken because it is milder than wine vinegar and i didn't want the vinegar taste to be too strong in the chicken.
  2. Prepared Dijon mustard was a short cut. It is unclear whether powdered mustard seed or prepared mustard would be used in the original.
  3. I used safflower, but i think saffron would be more effective, and i wonder if Waines made an error with his translation.
  4. English cucumbers are the closest i could find to Middle Eastern cucumbers. They are so much nicer than the usual cucumbers, much less bitter, less watery, and not "burpy" at all.
  5. For the Vigil, we skinned the chicken, then separated the meat from the bones, discarding fat and connective tissues.
  6. For the Vigil, we tossed the cucumber with the mustard sauce, and took all ingredients to the site in separate zip-close bags, then tossed chicken with mustard-tossed cucumber and 2/3 of pomegranates.
  7. I used two colors of olives for aesthetic purposes.

2. Barida of Abu Ja'far al-Barmaki


Translated by Charles Perry from the 9-10th c. Islamic collection of Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq

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.


This recipe was brought to my attention by Duke Cariadoc via e-mail. I have not yet made it, but i present below a moderized version of the recipe above. It says to mince fresh spices, which i think would actually be herbs...

My Incomplete Redaction

Makes about 8 servings

one chicken, approximately 4 lb.
1 Tb. ground coriander seed
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 - 2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 - 1/2 cup verjus, adjust to your taste and the flavor of the verjus
1/2 cup fresh mint
2 Tb. fresh tarragon
1 Tb. fresh thyme
1/2 cup fragrant olive oil or sesame oil (unroasted, cold pressed)
fresh herbs, minced - 1/2 cup cilantro greens, 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley
1 chopped English cucumber
  1. Roast a chicken. Let it cool somewhat. Then separate into pieces at the joints.
  2. Put chicken into a bowl with coriander, pepper, cumin, and cinnamon.
  3. Sprinkle with verjus. Toss lightly.
  4. Sprinkle with fresh mint, tarragon and thyme.
  5. Pour in some good oil. Toss lightly.
  6. Sprinkle with fresh minced cilantro and parsley.
  7. Decorate with chopped cucumber.
  8. Serve.


  1. The phrase "good oil" seems to imply olive oil. However, in later 'Abbasid cookbooks, sesame oil was more commonly specified. If you use sesame oil, be sure to avoid roasted sesame oil, the very dark colored kind that is sold for Chinese cooking. It is not what the 'Abbasids would have used. I have tried the kind sold in Middle Eastern markets and found it bitter and greasy feeling. I recommend the sesame oil sold in health food stores - you get what you pay for, in this case - it costs more and it tastes so much more delicious.
  2. It is unclear what the "fresh spices" are. The word translated as "spices" can mean "seasonings". So i chose to use common herbs not already included.
  3. Most spices were imported other than, for example, caraway, cumin, and coriander. It is possible that ginger could have been locally grown, but i am skeptical that is what is meant here. Rather, i think that fresh seasonings probably indicates cilantro, and may include parsely, mint, and rue.
  4. English cucumbers are the closest i could find to Middle Eastern cucumbers. They are so much nicer than the usual cucumbers, much less bitter, less watery, and not "burpy" at all.
  5. For my taste, i would do all steps up to the addition of the oil. Then i would let the chicken rest for some time to let the seasonings "soak in". Then i would sprinkle with the fresh herbs and cucumber and serve.
  6. For ease of eating, this could be made with boneless skinless chicken.

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Created 13 January 2005 - Finally saw the light of the Internet 20 December 2005