[Sca-cooks] Sekanjabeen

Lilinah lilinah at earthlink.net
Thu Oct 11 15:50:48 PDT 2007

On another SCA list, the topic of sekanjabeen came up. I erroneously wrote:
>  > The only period recipe for it translated into English is in the 13th
>>  C. Andalusian cookbook, and it does not include mint. Here's the
>  > original recipe: (snipped)

And a listee named Asma replied:
>Actually, there is a second period recipe.  It is a 9th century one
>that comes from _The Small Dispensatory_ written by Sabur ibn Sahl,
>and translated by Oliver Kahl in 2003.

(due to Giano's kindness i actually have a copy of this, and although 
i read through it, i didn't remember the sekanjabeen recipe)

Here's the original recipe from the Small Dispensatory:

The preparation of sugar-and-honey-in-one oxymel which is useful 
against fevers and thirst and clears the stomach.

You take ten ratl of good aged wine vinegar and pour it over about 
twenty ratl of pure fresh water, more or less depending on how acid 
and how exquisite the vinegar is; add from the root peels of fennel 
and celery three uqiya each and from the seeds of fennel and anise 
one uqiya each, but wash it all in water before soaking it in the 
liquid, and leave that for a day and a night, after that cook it on a 
low flame until one sixth of it vanishes; then take it off the fire, 
and leave it to cool; then strain it through a cloth of cotton, let 
two parts of  this decoction from water and vinegar and roots and 
seeds share one part of white sugar candy and add for each two and a 
half parts of it one part honey water, cook that over a low flame 
until one half of it is left, take it of the fire, let it cool , 
strain it, and use it after having previously skimmed the froth off 
of it.

The extracted ingredients are;
good aged wine vinegar
pure fresh water
fennel root peels
celery root peels
fennel seeds
anise seeds
white sugar candy (this may be fanid, for which there are surviving recipes)
honey water

Asma continued:
>The resulting sikanjabin is very tasty, and has a slight liquorice
>flavor.  _The Small Dispensatory_ has a whole section dealing with
>beverages, although some of the are more medicinal than the one above.
>The really nice thing about this source is that since it is a medical
>text, the directions and the quantities are really precise, so it is
>possible to work directly from the original text.

In al-Kindi's 9th C. Medicinal Formulary, sekanjabeen is an 
ingredient in a topical application to cure baldness and an 
ingredient for a tooth cleaning powder, although i haven't found a 
recipe in the Formulary for sekanjabeen.

And in Chapter One of the Medicinal Formulary of al-Samarqandi (early 
13th C.), there is a lengthy discussion about sekanjabeen (translated 
by Levey as "oxymel"), including that it "...is beneficial in acute 
fevers since it calms the heat..."

Al-Samarqandi further notes:
"The ratio of its parts differs from one to another because of the 
difference in vinegar and sugar, depending on the heat of the fever, 
its humor, and the attributes of the nature of the drinker. In this 
regard, the kind made from vinegar sharply sour with a double 
quantity of very white sugar, cooked finely, is good to drink for 
fevers which are extremely acute and hot. is good for those who can 
endure it and do not dislike it. The viscous kind made from strong 
wine vinegar with three times it of red sugar is for compound fevers 
from yellow bile and phlegm. The vinegar may also be reduced from 
that to the ratio of one fifth or less. It is necessary that the 
sugar be washed a little at first, then thrown into the pot; on it 
the vinegar is poured. It is placed over a slow burning fire until 
the sugar dissolves. Then water in the same amount, more or less, is 
poured on it according to the requirement. It is boiled, and then its 
froth is removed. Honey is not good for acute fevers; it is effective 
for the compound ones whose humors are cold. The ratio of the vinegar 
to the honey depends on the thickness of their humors, viscosity, 
thinness, and strength of putrefaction. The vinegar cools and quiets; 
honey is a warming and easing agent.

"...The seedy oxymel is a compound with seeds to increase its 
capability to open obstructions. In acute fevers, cold seeds are used 
but in the fevers whose humor is cold and in the case of other 
illnesses, then hot seeds are indicated. In the compounded ones, with 
hot and cold together, one is concerned with the ratios as regard to 
those of the humors and the organs. For example, if it is to be taken 
for acute fevers, choleric humors, and for venal obstructions, then 
it is made up of seed of the endive and the rind of the root, the 
seed of cucumbers, and the water melon seed so that it is from seeds 
which are cold and cause diuresis; it is especially effective against 
blockage of the veins and for allowing the bile to flow."

This goes on for 2-1/2 more pages in the translation, with several 
recipes for medicinal sekanjabeen.

One recipe includes:
fennel root rind
celery root rind
marshmallow root rind
caper root rind
fennel seeds
celery seeds
"sticky fig"
raisins without seeds

along with vinegar and sugar

Depending on the ailment, galangal may be added, or blue lily root, 
lily root, and maiden hair (a fern), or violet, marshmallow seeds, 
quince seed, jujube, sebesten (a fruit, Cordia Myxa, which is still 
used in herbal medicine in the Middle East and India), and poppy.

Let me add that the beverage al-Samarqandi thinks is best is pure clear water.
Urtatim (that's err-tah-TEEM)
the persona formerly known as Anahita

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