[Sca-cooks] More al-Warraq

David Friedman ddfr at daviddfriedman.com
Fri Aug 31 16:53:33 PDT 2012

Yesterday, for dinner, I made three different al-Warraq dishes. One 
(actually two versions of one) was an expected failure--a cold bean 
recipe which I suspect should be done with fresh favas. Not having any, 
I used it with dried fava beans soaked overnight--the result was edible 
but not tasty. I expect to try again when and if I see fresh favas for sale.

A second was a "crumbly cracker" which is supposed to crumble in the 
mouth. It was tasty, but not all that crumbly. I expect to try the 
recipe again, making it a good deal thinner and cooking it longer at a 
lower temperature, on the theory that that might get the desired effect.

The third was a recipe for mutajjana, a vinegary chicken dish

Disjoint plumb pullets. Using a knife, cut open---from the inside---the 
chest and the back all the way down to the tail to be able to flatten 
the pieces. Wash them and put them in a pot. Pour about 1/3 ratl olive 
oil, a similar amount of water, and 1 dirham (3 grams) salt. Let the pot 
cook until all water evaporates.

Add to the pot, 1/3 ratl (2/3 c) vinegar. Stir it continuously until 
meat is browned and vinegar is cooked. Pour in ¼ ratl (1/2 c) murri and 
sprinkle 1 mithqal (4 ½ g) black pepper. Put the pot away from heat 
until needed.

Cooking it until all the water evaporates took nearly an hour an a half, 
since the chicken itself gave up a good deal of liquid in the process. 
And the final stage of cooking never got it brown, although the dish did 
end up very tasty.

I thought perhaps I should have boiled more vigorously in the first 
stage, so as not to get the chicken so thoroughly cooked--it ended up 
pretty much falling off the bones, which may or may not be what was 
intended. And for the final stage, the presence of the vinegar limits 
how hot the oil--olive oil plus chicken fat--which it is cooking in can 
get. I wonder if "vinegar is cooked" means boiled away--I find it hard 
to believe that vinegar, even very concentrated after boiling, can have 
a boiling point all that much above that of water.

Suggestions? "Browned" could, of course, be an imprecision in translation.

While on that subject, one very minor problem with the translation. 
Nasrullah routinely translates "ratl" as pound and "uqiya" as ounce. But 
there are 12 uqiya to the ratl, not 16--and modern readers will assume a 
sixteen ounce pound.

I think I have about another fifty recipes to go, of the ones I have so 
far noted as worth trying. We'll do some of them at a cooking workshop a 
week from tomorrow.


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