[Sca-cooks] looking for lentil recipe

lilinah at earthlink.net lilinah at earthlink.net
Tue Mar 8 16:48:53 PST 2011

Gwen Cat wrote:
>  not particular to period, or location (norther Europe and 13-1500s 
>is fine, but
>  honestly I adore mujadarah (though have not found a period recipe for it)
>  I am looking specifically for vegetarian or better yet vegan safe. 
>(last week I
>  did a pea soup that has onions browned in olive oil, and is seasoned with
>  pepper, (I added some salt) and herbs. dont want to repeat but something
>  similar would thrill me

The 13th c. anonymous Andalusian cookbook (on Cariadoc's web site) 
has several lentil recipes, including one for mujaddara.


A Muzawwara (Vegetarian Dish) Beneficial for Tertian Fevers and Acute Fevers.
as translated by Charles Perry

Take boiled peeled lentils and wash in hot water several times;put in 
the pot and add water without covering them; cook and then throw in 
pieces of gourd, or the stems [ribs] of Swiss chard, or of lettuce 
and its tender sprigs, or the flesh of cucumber or melon, and 
vinegar, coriander seed, a little cumin, Chinese cinnamon, saffron 
and two uqiyas of fresh oil; balance with a little salt and cook. 
Taste, and if its flavor is pleasingly balanced between sweet and 
sour, [good;] and if not, reinforce until it is equalized, according 
to taste, and leave it to lose its heat until it is cold and then 

Urtatim sez: Modern mujaddara is eaten over rice, but within SCA 
period in the Near and Middle East, rice was, for the most part, the 
food of the wealthy and privileged (outside of the rice growing 
province in Persia). But lentils were eaten by everyone. The basic 
food for all was wheaten flat bread (and i do not mean modern pita), 
so this would be eaten with bread rather than over rice.


As for the similarity or dissimilarity of muzawwara and mujaddara, i 
wrote to this list in Oct. 2006:

A. Muzawwara
Charles Perry explains the source of "muzawwara":
in his article in the on-line Saudi Aramco magazine, Cooking With the Caliphs:
"The book gives only a few vegetarian dishes, called muzaw-waraat 
(literally, "counterfeit" dishes, which reminds us of the Turkish 
name for vegetables with a meatless stuffing: yalanci dolma, "lying 
dolma"). They were known as the dishes that Christians ate on fast 
days, and they were thought to be good for the health - and they had 
indeed been introduced by the Nestorian Christian physicians favored 
by the caliphs. There were also cold dishes, sometimes 
vegetable-based but more often containing meat, called baaridah. Some 
of them are probably descended from the pre-Islamic Persian dishes 
called aamiz."

B. Mujadara
According to what i've read, the word "mujadara" suggests that the 
final dish looks "pock marked", which the round lentils may give to 
the surface of the rice or bulghur.

So there may be some superficial similarities between the dishes, and 
"mujadara" may be a sub-set of "muzaw-warat", but they are not the 
same thing. One is a specific dish and one is a class of dishes.


I found this recipe in Cariadoc's Miscellany. It is vegetarian, but not vegan.

The bibliography of the Miscellany says:
>La Cocina Arabigoandaluza,** translated from Arabic into Spanish by 
>Fernando de la Granja Santamaria and from Spanish into English by 
>Melody Asplund-Faith. This consists of selections from a much longer 
>Arabic original. It is referred to below as "al-Andalusi."

This is, in fact, the 13th century Fadalat al-khiwan fi-tayybat 
al-ta'am Wa'l-alwan
by Ibn Razin al-Tujibi, who was an Andalusi...

Cooked Dish of Lentils (adasiyya?)
al-Andalusi p. C-5 (no. 377)

Wash lentils and put them to cook in a pot with sweet water, oil, 
pepper, coriander and cut onion. When they are cooked throw in salt, 
a little saffron and vinegar; break three eggs, leave for a while on 
the flame and later retire the pot. Other times cook without onion. 
If you wish cook it with Egyptian beans pricked into which have been 
given a boil. Or better with dissolved yeast over a gentle fire. When 
the lentils begin to thicken add good butter or sweet oil, bit by 
bit, alike until it gets absorbed, until they are sufficiently cooked 
and have enough oil. Then retire it from the flame and sprinkle with 

Cariadoc's interpretation
1 1/2 c dried lentils = 10 oz
2 1/4 c water
1 1/2 T oil
3/8 t pepper
1 1/2 t coriander
2 medium onions = 1/2 lb
3/4 t salt
12 threads saffron
2 T vinegar
4 eggs
(Egyptian beans)
4 T butter (or oil)
more pepper

Slice onions. Put lentils, water, oil, pepper, coriander and onion in 
a pot, bring to a boil, and turn down to a bare simmer. Cook covered 
50 minutes, stirring periodically. Add butter in lumps and cook while 
stirring for about 5 minutes. Add salt, saffron (crushed into 1 t 
water) and vinegar, and bring back to a boil. Put eggs on top, cover 
pot and keep lentils at a simmer; stir cautiously every few minutes 
in order to scrape the bottom of the pot without stirring in the 
eggs. We find that if the heat is off, the eggs don't cook; if the 
heat is up at medium, the eggs cook, but the lentils start to stick 
to the pot. A larger quantity might hold enough heat to cook the eggs 
without leaving it on the flame. When the eggs are cooked, sprinkle 
with a little more pepper and serve. Makes 5 1/4 c.

[Urtatim sez: olive oil is likely in al-Andalus]


This recipe is from a 15th c. cookbook attributed to Ibn al-Mabrad; 
the recipes use relatively few spices. It was translated by Charles 
Perry, in "Medieval Arab Cookery". It is vegan.


The best way of cooking lentils is to crush them and then cook them 
and put with them chard and taro. When it is done, sumac, fried 
onion, parsley, vinegar and oil are put with it.

Here is Cariadoc's interpretation from The Miscellany

1 c lentils
1/2 lb chard
2 lb taro
2 t dried sumac
3/4 t salt
1/2 lb onion
2 T parsley (chopped)
1 T vinegar
1 T oil

Grind the lentils in a mortar or a spice/coffee grinder (a gadget 
like a miniature food processor), then simmer them in 4 1/2 c water 
about 1 hour. Simmer the taro about 15 minutes, drain, peel, and 
slice. Rinse and chop the chard. At the end of the hour add the taro 
and chard. Simmer together about another 1/2 hour. Chop and fry the 
onion in a little oil. At the end of the half hour, add onion, 
parsley, vinegar, oil, salt and sumac. Stir together and serve. Note 
that taro is sometimes available in Chinese or Indian grocery stores.

[Urtatim sez: taro, colocasia, is available in Berkeley also in the 
Berkeley Bowl, as well as]
[Urtatim won't shut up and sez further: this Syrian recipe likely 
uses yellow sesame oil or possibly olive oil]


An earlier lentil recipe includes meat:
     You cook meat with chopped onion in oil and when the pot has been 
brought to the boil, and the scum removed, husked lentils are thrown 
in and cooked thoroughly. Then you pour in vinegar and spice it with 
coriander and cumin; throw in garlic (as well). Whosoever wishes may 
throw in ground cheese; whosoever wishes may colour it yellow with 
saffron. Throw in beet root [Urtatim says: actually chard leaves] 
without the cheese and garlic. Whosoever wishes may throw in 
something sweet.
     ----- Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq, Kitab al Tibikh, 10th c., printed in 
In a Caliph's Kitchen (trans. David Waines)

Urtatim has even more to say:
In certain situations, when cooking for camps of vegetarians at SCA 
events, I have cooked dishes that include meat, replacing the flesh 
with things like seitan and/or tofu. Yeah, not period, but in period 
few people in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East were 
voluntarily vegetarian all the time. Heck, in some places that could 
get you persecuted and prosecuted as a heretic...


I found the 15th c. recipe as written too bland. So i combined 
aspects of both recipes, leaving out the meat but including the 
spices of the adasiyya, making a vegetarian recipe with more 
seasoning than the 15th c. recipe.


Urtatim's Quasi Medieval Middle Eastern Lentil Dish
(to serve 8)

     2 cups lentils
     1/2 lb. chard
     1 lb taro (colocasia)
     2 Tb. sumac
     1 tsp. salt
     1/4 tsp. ground pepper, black or white
     1 tsp. ground cumin seeds
     1 Tb. ground coriander seeds
     2 large yellow onions, fairly thinly sliced
     1/4 cup yellow sesame oil (NOT the dark, roasted, East Asian sesame oil)
     1/4 cup shredded flat leaf parsley, or more
     1/4 cup white wine vinegar, or more, to taste

1. Remove largest toughest part of chard stalks, then shred/chop 
greens and thinner veins.
2. Wash taro well, peel, and cut in large dice.
3. In a deep pot, cook lentils in 2 times as much water, with chard, 
taro, salt, pepper, cumin, and coriander, until the lentils are very 
tender, adding more water, if necessary. This can take 45 minutes or 
longer (varies with type of lentils)
4. While lentils cook, slice then very gently fry sliced onions in 
oil until almost caramelized.
5. When lentils are very soft, stir in sumac, fried onions, parsley, 
vinegar and oil, and serve.

Urtatim dithers:
This is NOT thoroughly authentic, although it is certainly possible, 
or, i think, even plausible, given that sumac, cumin, and coriander 
are all native to and widely grown in regions around the 
Mediterranean, and only the peppercorns are imported.

Urtatim [that's err-tah-TEEM]
the persona formerly known as Anahita

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