[Sca-cooks] Middle Eastern Food Questions

lilinah@earthlink.net lilinah at earthlink.net
Tue Aug 22 13:42:00 PDT 2006

Patrick Levesque <petruvoda at videotron.ca> wrote:

>The first focuses on food presentation.
>For most dishes this is not an issue, as you can just prepare bowls for
>individual tables, but in some cases eggs are broken on top of the surface
>before the lid is set.
>As I don't eat eggs, I'm not too familiar with how they react to different
>forms of cooking, but I'd guess they'd form some kind of fried egg over the
>dish (say, meatballs and pieces of meat and veggie). How could you reproduce
>that effect if you were serving, say, 12 tables of 8 (and did not have
>access to 12 small cooking pots)?

Actually it rather depends on the topping. In some cases the eggs 
pretty much poach (not fry, at least in the recipes i've made) in the 
sauce. In other cases the eggs are beaten with vinegar or almonds or 
bread and then poured on to make a topping.

As for how to serve them, clearly you can't put, oh, say, 96 egg 
yolks on top of a pot. So while i've never done this, i'd suggest not 
long before serving, taking the meat out of the "sauce" and putting 
the sauce in a couple wide shallow pans, heating it to a simmer, 
dropping in the egg yolks, covering the pot, and cooking a few 
minutes until they're done. Then slip them out, if you can, although 
if not, oh, well, do your best. Then plate the meat, pour the sauce 
it, then top each dish with 8 yolks.

In the case of eggs beaten into vinegar or almonds or bread or 
whatever, again, shortly before serving, remove the meat from the 
"sauce", heat the sauce to simmering, pour in the beaten eggs, cook 
until done. Plate the meat, add sauce and the topping. It won't be as 
lovely as the single pot, but hey, we have our limits.

>My second question concerns grapes. A number of dishes mention grape, sour
>grapes, sour grape juice, or wine vinegar. Often it is not easy to
>distinguish from the recipe whether dark or light grapes are intended. Does
>anyone has data on the kind of grapes consumed in the Muslim world in

I don't really know... except that modern Middle Eastern sour grape 
juice is always light in color. So for sour grapes, or verjus, or 
sour grape juice, i'd use light colored grapes.

When a recipe called for vinegar (even if wine vinegar is not 
specified) i use wine vinegar. I've used both red and white. For 
color in a dish and also seeing that sour grape juice is light, i 
lean toward white wine vinegar.

But if the dish is made with lamb, rather than chicken or fish, and 
if red wine vinegar is more available or cheaper, then i don't think 
red wine vinegar would be a problem.

I have to say that while i think that some Persian wines were red, i 
have so far not found definitive information on wine in the 'Abbasid 
world (doesn't mean it isn't out there, i just haven't noticed any).

>Incidentally, some time ago, there was a discussion about whether meat was
>browned before it was stewed in period - it appears that this is done quite
>commonly if one judges by this text. (This was some time ago, and I don't
>remember if the argument had been made already. My apologies if I'm a
>redundant twit :-))

Indeed, in both al-Baghdadi and in the 15th c. Ottoman recipes, lamb, 
at least, is very frequently browned first, before being cooked with 
other ingredients.
Urtatim (that's err-tah-TEEM)
the persona formerly known as Anahita

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