[Sca-cooks] 15th C. Ottoman Bulghur w/Chestnuts

Lilinah lilinah at earthlink.net
Thu Sep 20 13:10:52 PDT 2007

Thanks to all who have responded. (and i welcome more comments)

Adamantius wrote:
>Bulgur's steamed before drying, I'm pretty sure, so you can pour
>boiling water over it in the right proportions, and it'll soak it up
>and "cook", if it's not too coarse and you stir occasionally... this
>assumes you don't want it _really_ soft.

Yep. That's how i make tabouli. And i don't want it really soft  for 
this feast. I'm going to have some very soft rice desserts, so i want 
some textural variety.

>I've cooked bulgur in food service operations, when no one was
>looking, with hot water from the coffee urn ;-). People kept asking
>what my secret for perfect bulgur was.

It's the water-o... it's the water, and a lot more... ;-)


Jadwiga wrote:
>Sunflower seeds are New World, I believe. So your genetically modified
>rapeseed oil (canola) and your sunflower oil are both equally
>non-period; at least the Ottomans had olive oil, so that may be a better
>bet.  On the other hand, how does untoasted  sesame oil rate in the
>current cholesterol diet? And does that show up in the Ottoman diet at

And Vittoria wrote:
>Would grapeseed oil be appropriate?  And I may have been reading too fast
>and missed mention of this, but why not sesame oil?

Sunflower oil is quite popular in Eastern Europe these days - and 
Istanbul is in Eastern Europe. However, if it's New World, i'll skip 

Not too much use of sesame oil in purely Ottoman recipes, although it 
was used in al-Baghdadi's recipes.

I haven't heard back yet from some of the folks with health-related 
dietary issues i wrote to personally, asking if they'll be at the 
feast. If they are coming, i'll consider some kind of oil; if not, 
i'm going for butter.


Johnnae wrote:
>Marianna Yerasimos in 500 Years of Ottoman Cuisine has two pages
>on bulgur. She mentions the various accounts that list it, including
>the purchasing records from 1473 that record chestnuts and bulgur being
>purchased and cooked in the imperial kitchens.
>She indicates that the chestnuts were omitted and return as an ingredient
>in the pilavi in the 18th century. She then gives an 18th century recipe for
>Kestaneli Bulgur Pilavi. It's on page 131. It's bulgur, meat stock or plain
>water, chestnuts, onion, butter, raisins, cumin, allspice, dill, and 
>salt. I am
>not sure how early that the allspice would have made its way east to the
>Ottoman Empire. I just read that it was one of the things Columbus brought
>back from the New World, but how soon it would have traveled from there
>east I don't know.

Thanks! I really gotta get that book!

So, as i thought, bulghur, broth, onion, butter, salt, and chestnuts 
will definitely work, as based on my analysis of the late 15th C. 
recipes and the 18th C. recipe - there's a 1764 Ottoman cookbook. 
Raisins are also a possibility - i'll have to see how much other 
dried fruit i'm using. And i suspect that cinnamon would be a 
possibility in the 15th or 16th C., but i don't want to use it in 
this dish.


Rainvaig wrote:
>You still need a burner to heat the broth/water, and its likely to take longer
>than you expect. And use a vegetarian broth if you hope to serve it to

Yeah, but i only have to heat the broth - i won't have to continue 
cooking for another 25 minutes or more, so that saves about 1/2 hour.

And, of course, i'm going to use vegetable broth, as i do in all my 
feasts, for the non-meat dishes.

>You can buy frozen roasted and peeled chestnuts.  The ones stashed in my
>freezer are from Trader Joe.  I'd look into that, because it is a 
>major pain to
>peel the inner skin.  It takes me an hour or more for a pound. The peeled
>ones were cheaper too.

Thank for the hint. I'll have to see if they have them this year - 
unfortunately there are so many products they don't carry for long.

>I'm not sure where you would find tail fat anyway.  It comes from a special
>breed of sheep.  I don't think any old sheep fat would be the same.
>They couldn't use Sunflower oil, since that is a New World food.  If you are
>going to use any oil at all, I'd use olive oil, or perhaps sesame 
>oil if you can
>find it at a good price.  Maybe they didn't use olive oil in the 
>palace cooking,
>but I'll bet the cooks used it in the dishes they cooked for 
>themselves.  If you
>use sesame oil, DON'T buy the dark Chinese kind.

Oh, yeah, i know about this. I've been buying unroasted sesame oil 
since the late 1960s, when i used it either alone or half-and-half 
with butter to make pie crust and cookies. And i always mention this 
when posting my recipes, such as on this list or my website.

And i will add, as i've done in other messages, that i've bought 
unroasted sesame oil from Middle Eastern markets to compare it with 
the more expensive sesame oil made by Spectrum in the US. The modern 
Middle Eastern oil was bitter and had an unpleasant "greasy" feel, 
while the Spectrum brand tasted very fresh, very nutty & sesame-y, 
and was not unpleasantly "greasy". I did use the Middle Eastern oil, 
but i blended it about half-and-half with the health food brand to 
improve it. However, i haven't bought it again.

As i have often said, or at least implied, the quality of the 
finished dish depends not only the quality of the cook, but also on 
the quality of the ingredients. I am forced to make some compromises 
when making SCA feasts to keep within budgets, but i try to keep the 
quality up as much as possible.

I remember being eagerly served a dish by some friends at a pot luck. 
They expected me to recognize the dish, but i didn't. It turned out 
they'd used one of my recipes. But they had simplified it, skipping 
several important steps, cutting out a number of ingredients, using 
only one of the seasonings called for, and using lesser quality of 
others. I not only hadn't recognized it, but i didn't like it at all. 
While i believe that recipes can be altered and still taste good, 
this wasn't one of those cases, and their compromises in ingredient 
quality had had a negative effect, at least on me.

And this is one reason why i asked about pouring hot liquid over the 
bulghur and letting it stand versus simmering it in the liquid. I 
don't want to take shortcuts that will decrease the quality of my 
dish. I think in this case, pour hot liquid over it will work. I may 
need to simmer the chestnuts, however, which i can try to do the day 
before, or else put them in the broth as it's heating...
Urtatim (that's err-tah-TEEM)
the persona formerly known as Anahita

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