[Sca-cooks] Scapece, samak musakbaj ... just something I came across

Christiane christianetrue at earthlink.net
Thu Jan 3 12:20:32 PST 2008

Awhile ago, the food writer Charles Perry had told me that the samak musakbaj in the Baghdad Cookery Book and scapece alla Vastese, a preserved fish dish from Abruzzo, were virtually identical. I had wondered how this dish got to Abruzzo; after reading a book about the Muslim colony of Lucera, it became apparent. When the coloby was destroyed in 1300, a large chunk of the enslaved inhabitants were sent to Abruzzo. Some of the inhabitants of Lucera also beat feet to Abruzzo before the going got bad.

Frederick II also liked scapece; while at the Colloquium of Foggia in March 1240, he ordered the cook there to make him "askipeciam et gelatinum." So, pickled fish in jelly? And early form of gefilte, maybe? ;-)

In an Italian review of Anna Martelloti's "I ricettari di Federico II" I found mention of another form of scapece from Puglia, which some recipes called "scapece alla Gallipoli." In this case, instead of large pieces of whitefish or hake, fried, and preserved in vinegar and saffron, the fish is small, whole "pupiddi" (any ideas on what these fish are most akin to, let me know), fried, and layered in grated bread soaked in vinegar and saffron, all packed into wooden tubs. The town of Gallipoli was conquered in 900 by the Muslims, but I don't think they held onto it very long.

I found some photos of scapece di Gallipoli:



I can't say that it looks attractive ... and I don't recall any recipes from the Baghdad Cookery Book where the fish is layered in grated bread soaked with vinegar and saffron. I'll have to look at the fish recipes in there again. If anyone knows of anything similar to this, please speak up! 


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