Lamtûniyya

Magribi fowl well-dressed with a creamy spiced nut sauce and many garnishes

This was an entry in a Moroccan focused cooking competition. There are, in fact, no surviving medieval Moroccan cookbooks. Fortunately there are some recipes identified as Moroccan in the 13th century so-called anonymous Andalusian cookbook.

I recommend including the broken-up bread to the sauce not long before serving because in my experience bread-thickened sauces can get gummy and unpleasant if the bread is added too far ahead of time.

Original Recipe

Lamtûniyya[154]
It is made in the country of al-Andalus and in the Gharb [almost certainly an error for the Maghrib = North Africa]. It is made with all kinds of birds, such as chickens, geese and capons, that are fattened, as well as young pigeons and so on. Take what you have on hand of them, cleaned and with the breast split, and partly cook them as white tafâyâ. Then take from the bread oven and raise on the spit and baste with the sauce specified for roasts. Turn the spit over a moderate charcoal fire, little by little, carefully, until it done and browned. Leave to one side.

There are some who make it fried and immerse it after frying in this sauce, with garlic pounded with almonds and walnuts.

Then make well-made thin breads of white flour. When done, break them into crumbs the size of a dinar[155]. Strain [the bones] from the chicken broth and return the pot to a moderate fire and add a quantity of oil, pepper and cumin. When the pot boils, take it off and put in garlic pounded with walnuts, almonds and cheese grated on the iskalfaj. Add these crumbs and then take the roasted chicken and put it on top of the platter after rubbing and rolling in the sauce. Top it with eggs, olives and split almonds. Dust it with grated cheese and cinnamon and cover it with a sheet of isfîriyya made with egg.

Footnotes:
[154] The Lamtuna were the main Almoravid tribe. More exactly, they were the dominant tribe of the Sanhaja confederacy, the nomadic Berbers of southern Morocco who were the basis of the Almoravid power, and constituted the aristocracy of the Almoravid state. The MS has a marginal notation explaining "iskalfâj" as "isfanâkh," spinach, but we can recognize it as a variation on the Romance word "iskarfâj"/"iskanfâj," grater. (Charles Perry)
[155] A gold coin. (David D. Friedman (SCA: Duke Cariadoc of the Bow))

Commentary

This recipe is number 381 in the 13th century anonymous Andalusian cookbook.
Comments in [square brackets] above were made by the translator, Charles Perry.


My Version

Preparing the Fowl
2 Rock Cornish game hens, cleaned and with the breast split
1/2 large yellow onion, smashed and juice extracted
1 Tb. olive oil
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 Tb. ground coriander seeds
water so that birds are half-covered
Sauce
1-1/2 pita made with white flour
4 cups strained chicken broth
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1 tsp. ground cumin
6 cloves garlic pounded
3/4 cup pounded walnuts
1 cup pounded almonds
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
(dry Manchego, a Spanish cheese, would be good, too)
Garnish
2 eggs, hard cooked and sliced
1/2 cup olives, black and green, pitted and sliced
1/4 c. split almonds
2 Tb. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Isfîriyya (see Isfîriyya Note)
2 eggs
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
olive oil for pan frying
Cooking the Fowl:
1. Clean fowls and split breast.
• I choose to use "Rock Cornish game hens", which are young chickens, a cross of the Cornish and Plymouth Rock breeds. I split them open along the breast.
2. Partly cook them as white tafâyâ.
• The cookbook has at least three recipes for White Tafâyâ, #117-119. In them small pieces of lamb are cooked in onion juice, oil, and "enough water", sometimes with other ingredients.
I cooked the fowl according to the simplest recipe (see White Tafâyâ Note, below), braising them until tender in oil, water, ground coriander seed, salt and pepper, and onion juice.
• If i'd completely covered the birds with water in my pot, that would have been too much. So i half-covered the birds and turned them from time to time as they braised, so they would stay moist and cook evenly.
3. Then take from the bread oven and raise on the spit. Baste with the sauce specified for roasts. Turn the spit over a moderate charcoal fire, little by little, carefully, until it done and browned. Leave to one side. There are some who make it fried...
• Because i do not have access to a spit and a charcoal fire, i opted to pan fry the birds. Because i pan-fried the birds, i did not research "the sauce specified for roasts".
4. ...and immerse it after frying in this sauce, with garlic pounded with almonds and walnuts.
• Since the sauce recipe that follows includes garlic pounded with almonds and walnuts, I have used this sauce.

Making The Sauce:

1. Break thin breads into crumbs the size of a dinar (a large coin)
2. Put strained chicken broth in the pot on a moderate fire.
3. Add oil, pepper, and cumin.
4. When the pot boils, take it off and put in garlic pounded with walnuts, almonds and grated cheese.
• I am not sure what sort of cheese would have been used. Hard sheep's milk cheeses were made in Christian Spain, and Parmesan is not terribly different than those, but Manchego might be a bit closer.
5. Add the bread crumbs.
• I stirred well to moisten the bread, but not so hard as to break the "coins". I had to do this repeatedly so they would absorb the liquid, and not just be dry coin-sized pieces floating in the sauce. I assumed they should be well-moistened because of the following step.

Preparing To Serve:

1. Rub and roll the roasted chicken in the sauce.
2. Then put it on the platter.
3. Top it with eggs, olives and split almonds.
4. Dust it with grated cheese and cinnamon.
5. Cover it with a sheet of isfîriyya made with egg.
    • For what i did, see Isfîriyya Note, below.

Notes

* White Tafâyâ Note

I used the recipe below as the format for the basic cooking of the birds. I cooked them in a few Tb. of olive oil, and the quantities of ground coriander seed, salt, and pepper listed above, as called for in the first part of the White Tafâyâ recipe, below. I did not follow the recipe after the point where it calls to add the meatballs. After all, as directed in the Lamtuniyya recipe, the birds are only to be partially cooked by this method, and they will have their own sauce.

117. Simple White Tafâyâ, Called Isfîdhbâja
This is a dish of moderate nutrition, suitable for weak stomachs, much praised for increasing the blood, good for the healthy and the scrawny; it is material and substance for all kinds of dishes.

Its Recipe:
Take the meat of a young, plump lamb. Cut it in little pieces and put it in a clean pot with salt, pepper, coriander, a little juice of pounded onion, a spoonful of fresh oil and a sufficient amount of water. Put it over a gentle fire and be careful to stir it; put in meatballs and some peeled, split almonds. When the meat is done and has finished cooking, set the pot on the ashes until it is cooled. He who wants this Tafâyâ green can give it this color with cilantro juice alone or with a little mint juice.

* Isfîriyya Note

I could find no individual recipe for isfîriyya. The only other mention i found for isfîriyya was in Andalusian recipe, #113. Tharda of Khabîs with Two Chickens, in which it says:
"Then take the breast of the second chicken and make isfîriyya with it, with pepper, cinnamon, and two eggs or however many are needed."
What this means is not entirely clear. However, since the breasts of chickens are often ground or shredded in Andalusian recipes, I suspect this is like an omelet or Spanish frittata, in which the ingredients are mixed together, then fried or baked in a pan.

In this recipe for Lamtûniyya the isfîriyya is the final garnish for the cooked birds, which have already been dressed with sauce and garnished with olives, almonds, grated cheese, and cinnamon. And since in the Lamtûniyya recipe it says to make it with eggs, but does not mention chicken, I have interpreted it as a thin omelet. I beat 2 large eggs with pepper and cinnamon, as mentioned in the Tharida recipe, and cooked it into a thin sheet with a little oil in a cast iron pan on a low fire.

I took the further step of cutting the sheet of egg into slices to be more decorative, and so as not to completely obscure the eggs, olives, almonds, grated cheese, and cinnamon. I draped the strips over the birds.

Source

  • A 13th Century Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook
    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.



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