[Sca-cooks] Hummus, was Period substitute for tomatoes?

lilinah at earthlink.net lilinah at earthlink.net
Tue Aug 25 14:08:07 PDT 2009

On Aug 23, 2009, at 11:30 PM, David Friedman wrote:
>>  Hummus should be nice and period and requires no cooking.
>  Assuming you mean hummus bi tahini, I don't  know of any period 
>  recipes for it. There's an Islamic recipe in the expanded version of 
>  al-Baghdadi that has hummus and tahini in it, but if you try to make 
>  it it's pretty clear that it isn't the familiar dip. And there's a 
>  white salsa that I'm told tastes rather like hummus bi tahini, but I 
>  haven't actually tried it.
>  --
>  David/Cariadoc
>  www.daviddfriedman.com

Judith Epstein <judith at ipstenu.org> replied
>Right. The ingredients are Period, so the dish is Period-plausible,
>but not documented. (Then again, how much documentation do we have for
>other things that are way more complicated? Bread would've been hard
>to come up with, originally, but it's as old as... well, beer,
>actually. Hummous is chickpeas, sesame seeds, olive oil, and lemon
>juice; all other ingredients are just variations on the theme.

Actually, hummus means "chick peas".

What you mean, as Cariadoc notes, is hummus bi-tahina. Most of the 
hummus bi-tahina i'm familiar with does not involve olive oil except 
perhaps as a drizzle on top, but not as an essential part of the 
puree. Real Middle Eastern style tahini is oily enough.

I've had the misfortune to buy cosmically groovy, organic, grown by 
peace-and-love hippies tahini and it was too dense and a bit bitter. 
Let me note that i frequently am happy with the cosmically groovy, 
organic, grown by  peace-and-love hippies foods i buy. But i 
definitely prefer Middle Eastern tahini.

There's an actual period recipe for chickpea puree that's easy to 
make and involves olive oil,lemons, and spices.

>hard to believe that no one put those things together before the end
>of Period. They just probably didn't write it down, because why write
>something down that's so simple? But... no, not *provably* Period.)

Well, it may *seem* like they must have made it, but the earliest 
evidence for hummus bi-tahina is 18th century. There are many 
possible combinations of ingredients that never were, and we 
currently have available to us in the US such a vast range of 
ingredients from all over the world, but we don't commonly combine 
them. So just 'cuz they had certain ingredients does NOT suggest that 
they went ahead and combined them.

If you want plausibly period food, i highly recommend looking in some 
actual period cookbooks.

Just removing modern ingredients from modern recipes does not make 
plausibly period dishes.

For example, in modern Turkish cuisine are many dishes with the same 
names as Ottoman dishes from the 15th and 16th centuries. In 
comparing recipes sometimes the only ingredient they have in common 
is salt. Cuisines evolve and change. Over the centuries changes are 
made incrementally - or sometimes suddenly if an ingredient become 
unavailable because of war or drought or crop failure. So a recipe 
can change little by little from, oh, say, the 9th century to the 
21st century, and the modern recipe is totally unlike the SCA-period 

So here's a period recipe for hummus puree:

Hummus bi-Zinjibil
Ginger Spiced Chickpea Puree

Kanz al-Fawa'id fi Tanwi' al-Mawa'id
(The Treasure-Trove of Delicious Things for the Diversification of 
the Table's Dishes)
Mamluk Egypt - between 1250 - 1517, probably 14th c.

Cook the chickpeas in water, then mash them in a mortar to make a 
puree. Push the puree through a sieve for wheat, unless it is already 
fine enough, in which case this step is not necessary. Mix it then 
with wine vinegar, the pulp of pickled lemons, and cinnamon, pepper, 
ginger, parsley of the best quality, mint, and rue that have all been 
chopped and placed on the surface of a serving dish [zubdiyya]. 
Finally pour over a generous amount of oil of good quality
----- translated by Lilia Zaouali, "Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic 
World: A Concise History with 174 recipes", p. 65,  University of 
California Press, 2007


one 1-lb can chickpeas
1/4 c. white or red wine vinegar [see Note 1]
the pulp of 2 Moroccan salted lemons (or to taste - you may prefer less)
[see Note 2 for substitution]
1/2 tsp powdered cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
[naturally adjust spices to taste]
3 Tb. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 Tb. finely chopped mint
1/4 cup high quality extra-virgin olive oil or cold-pressed sesame 
oil (i used a bit more)
additional high quality extra-virgin olive oil or sesame oil for garnish
[do NOT use dark roasted sesame oil - that's Far East Asian]

1. Drain canned chickpeas well.
2. Remove skins by hand: gently rub a handful of chickpeas between 
your hands and discard the skins. You don't have to be perfectionist 
- a few getting through is OK.
3. Puree the skinned chickpeas.
4. Mix puree with wine vinegar, the pulp of salted lemons, and the 
cinnamon, pepper, ginger. Adjust flavor. Note that flavor will 
develop if this is allowed to sit for a while and not eaten 
5. To serve, reserve some of chopped parsley and mint, then sprinkle 
most of chopped herbs over the surface of the serving dish [zubdiyya].
6. Put puree in center.
7. Sprinkle with the reserved herbs
8. Top with a generous amount of oil - really green extra-virgin 
olive oil will look and taste very nice - and high quality 
cold-pressed golden sesame oil will taste lovely as well.

Note 1: a blend of white wine or champagne and sherry vinegar would 
taste nice, although sherry vinegar would not be historically 
accurate for this recipe.
Note 2: If you didn't make your own salted lemons, here's a substitute:
Wash well, then quarter (preferably organic) lemons. Put lemons in a 
small sauce pan and cover with much *non-iodized* salt and just 
enough lemon juice or water to start dissolving the salt - more juice 
will come out of the lemons as they cook. Simmer, stirring 
occasionally, until the lemon peels are just translucent. If this is 
too dry add a bit more lemon juice or water - this should NOT burn or 
even caramelize at all.

How this Hummus was eaten was not specified.

Since modern pita is not much like period bread, i served it as a 
"dip" with lavash which is VERY like period ruqaq, and with some 
modern Persian and Afghan breads. Yes, these are not necessarily like 
period breads, but they seem quite close, after reading the vast 
number of bread recipes in ibn Sayyar's 10th c. compendium. Plus they 
are a pleasant change from the same-old same-old boring dull pita. 
There's a lot more to the Near and Middle Eastern bakers' repertoire 
than pita!
Urtatim (that's err-tah-TEEM)
the persona formerly known as Anahita

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