[Sca-cooks] Period substitute for tomatoes?

lilinah at earthlink.net lilinah at earthlink.net
Fri Aug 21 21:54:29 PDT 2009

Since i'm behind in reading my Digests (not to mention missing 6 of 
them), this may already have been covered...

Judith Epstein wrote:
>Anyone got an idea of what to substitute for tomatoes in things like
>tabbouleh, Jerusalem salad (entirely made of cucumbers, tomatoes, and
>onions, plus oil and spices), or the various biryanis and other Indian
>cooking which heavily features tomatoes or tomato paste? Tomatoes make
>up such a big part of my modern diet that I'm having trouble figuring
>out how to do without them in my medieval life.

I'm not sure why you'd want to do that... Why not just cook period 
recipes? After all, the real question is, what were tomatoes a 
substitute for in medieval cooking?

There are quite a few surviving Arabic language cookbooks (see link 
below to my annotated bibliography). And there are surviving Indian 
recipes in several sources. I know of two off-hand, but there are 
probably more.

Ain-i Akbari
circa 1590
Ain-i Akbari, the third volume of the Akbarnamah, was written by 
Shaikh Abu al-Fazl ibn Mubarak, who was Akbar's minister and friend. 
It was written in Persian. This volume in particular, is an account 
of Mughal India, especially Akbar's court, in the late 16th Century. 
It contains information regarding Akbar's reign. Apparently it isn't 
always completely accurate, but it helps in understanding its time. 
It catalogues facts for which, in modern times, we would turn to 
administration reports, statistical compilations, or gazetteers. It 
is essentially the Administration Report and Statistical Return of 
his government in about 1590 CE.

There are several sections on foodstuffs, including one with recipes.

The translation into English by H. Blochmann 1873, and completed by 
Colonel H. S. Jarrett in 1907, has been made available on-line by The 
Packard Humanities Institute. Here's the index for Volume 1 (of 3) of 
the Ain-i Akbari, which has the section with recipes, as well as 
other sections that have food info:

His Grace, Duke Cariadoc, has worked out four of the recipes: for 
Bread; for Sag, a spinach dish; Qutab or Sanbusa, like modern meat 
Samosa; and Khichri, sometimes called kedgeree, a dish of rice and 
mung dal. They can be found on:

The Ni'matnama Manuscript of the Sultans of Mandu
1495 to 1505
A Moghul recipe and medicinal book, written in Urdu. There is only 
one known copy of this book in existence, in the Oriental and India 
Office Collections of the British Library (BL. Persian 149). It's 
illustrated with fifty miniatures, the first few  painted in a 
distinctive Shiraz (Southern Iranian) style by imported Persian 
artists, but increasingly the later illustrations show the indigenous 
styles of book painting from Central and Western India.

Compiled between 1495 and 1505, it contains recipes for food, betel, 
medicinals, aphrodisiacs, perfumes, and more, written for Ghiyath 
Shahi, Sultan of Mandu (now Madhya Pradesh), from 1469-1500, and 
continued by his successor, his son Nasir Shah. It reflects Moghul 
culture that was highly influenced by Persia.

It is available in English as:
The Ni'matnama Manuscript of the Sultans of Mandu: The Sultan's Book 
of Delights
translated by Norah M. Titley
RoutledgeCurzon: Abingdon, Oxon, UK, 2005
ISBN 0-415-35059-X

This scholarly publication includes a complete translation with notes 
and a complete reproduction of the original book in photographic 
plates. Because of the color plates, it costs over $100 US, so i 
recommend ILL'ing it, too.

These descriptions i've excerpted from the page, "Some Extant 
Medieval Near and Middle Eastern Cookbooks", on my website, Dar 
where i have listed these and more cookbooks, currently available 
versions, and some websites with significant numbers of recipes.

With you interested in Southwest and South Asian cuisines, you may 
find something useful.
Urtatim (that's err-tah-TEEM)
the persona formerly known as Anahita

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