Medieval cookbooks

in Andalusia

Text : Marie Josèphe Moncorgé. Translator: Carl Crosby, member of the Society For Creative Anachronism

Testifying to the refinement and splendor of Andalusian culture, Al-Andalus left us 2 cookbooks: Kitâb al-Tabîkh or Anonymous Andalousian and Fudalat al-Khiwan. We find this cuisine through many current recipes from the South, from Morocco to Turkey. But this heritage is particularly found in the cuisine of several Maghreb cities, because the inhabitants of Cordoba took refuge in Tlemcen (Algeria), the inhabitants of Seville in Ifriqiya (Tunisia), the inhabitants of Valence in Fès and those of Grenada in Tetouan and Chechaouen (Morocco).

The real story of nougat

Oldcook: books in Andalousia, medieval cooking - All kinds of nougat

All kinds of nougat, A journey through the Mediterranean history of a confectionery
printed version, TAMBAO (2014)

From the brilliant civilization of al-Andalus, we will remember:

Some key dates

Prestigious monuments

The Great Mosque of Cordoba, the Alhambra in Granada, the Alcazar in Seville.

Some famous names

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Mediterranean and multicultural cuisine

The cuisine of al-Andalus in the 13th century presents itself, through the cookbooks of the time, as Mediterranean and multicultural cuisine, incorporating recipes from different origins and eras: Baghdad and Persia, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Sicily, different regions of Spain, Jewish cuisine, Ziryab cuisine (Caliphate of Cordoba), Bedouin cuisine.

It is a cuisine at the crossroads of East and West, which has preserved the heritage of ancient Roman cuisine, without being influenced by the heritage of the Franks and Germans who shaped medieval Christian cuisine.

The "Andalusians" (word by which historians now designate the inhabitants of Muslim Andalusia) have developed a cuisine which Rudolf Grewe says is the most refined European cuisine of this period.

The cuisine of al-Andalus presents similarities to medieval Christian cuisine (the common heritage of Rome?): A taste for tart and sweet and sour flavors, a taste for spicy flavors, the same vision of dietetics.

Oldcook: books in Andalousia, medieval cooking - Avicenna

Poem of Medicine - Avicenna, Les Belles Lettres(1956)

813. prefers wet dishes, discards astringents, mixes acid with a pleasant sweet flavor / 814. improves dryness when wet, coldness when hot / 815. if the food is hot, mix it with another cold, if it is wet unite it to the contrary / 816. if you fear the unhealthiness of fat and its difficult digestion, / 817. add salt or acid, two will make it easy.
(Translation Henri Jahier and Abdelkader Noureddine).

There are, however, notable differences with medieval Christian gastronomy. These differences result from several factors:

1 - Religion

Islam prohibits the consumption of wine and pork. This is why there is little charcuterie, apart from lamb merguez. Lard is absent, replaced by olive oil (the fatty sheep tail is not used to replace lard, as in Arab-Persian cuisine) and incidentally by butter and clarified butter.

Wine is absent from meats in sauce, but vinegar is often used. In reality, the ban on wine is often circumvented in Andalusia, whose wine production was preserved throughout the Muslim period. Drunkenness is regularly fought, proof of the consumption of wine.

2 - The very present Roman heritage

Like the Romans, the Andalusians eat lying down. They therefore favor highly cooked meats frequently presented in the form of dumplings, as in ancient Roman cuisine or cut into small pieces.

As with the Romans, flour is often used to bind sauces and fruits and vegetables are very present in the kitchen. Garum is still present in Arab-Andalusian cuisine, in its form of vegetable garum: murî. Frequent mixture of spices and aromatic herbs.

While the medieval cuisine of later periods favors spices, there is an important use of aromatic plants, as in the Romans: coriander, anise, thyme, fennel, mint, caraway, sesame, sandalwood are frequently used.

Certain culinary techniques, already present in the Romans, are developed:

Small differences: frequent use of eggplant (unknown to the Romans), absence of parsley, replaced by coriander leaves (often called, for this reason, Arabian parsley). Milk and cheese are regularly used in meat and vegetable recipes.

3 - Eastern influence

The spice palette is at the same time more limited than in medieval Christian cuisine and certain spices are used more: the main spices are pepper, cinnamon, saffron, Indian nard, ginger and cumin. Putty, musk and camphor are also used. However, we do not find the seed of paradise or nutmeg. There are recipes without spices more frequently than in later medieval gastronomy.

Rose water is used extensively.

The taste for fat (it is often mentioned to choose fatty meat), unctuous (very cooked meats are often reduced to porridge and linked to eggs, vegetables are often mashed) and sweet (sugar or honey, rose water are widely used) are already present in the kitchen of Baghdad, in accordance with medical prescriptions: in a world where the risk of famine is very present, doctors, since antiquity, know that soft foods and sweet are very nutritious. Maimonides says: Man will try to eat sweet foods because they are the ones who are nourishing.

Tart and spicy recipes do not seem to dominate as in later medieval gastronomy, however sweet and sour recipes are common. Sugar is considered to be a drug that promotes the digestion of oleaginous fruits: almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, pine nuts, walnuts, as well as chestnuts and raisins. We understand better the presence in cookbooks, of many recipes for desserts, confectionery and jams: we know that the confectionery was "invented" by Arab doctors.

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The heritage of al-Andalus cuisine

We can say that the cuisine of al-Andalus is a medieval cuisine quite different from the medieval European cuisine of later centuries. We note, however, that it has influenced European gastronomy via Catalan and Italian cuisine. The Liber de Coquina, the Sent Sovi, Maestro Martino, Robert de Nola were the smugglers who integrated oriental flavors into European cuisine. Europeans have inherited techniques, flavors and products from ancient Roman cuisine, Arabian cuisine in Baghdad and Andalusian cuisine from Andalusians.

Liliane Plouvier has made a list of this heritage: the Andalusians have passed on to us the puff pastry, pasta, donuts, escabèche, sugar, syrups, sorbets, jams, candies, candied fruit, marmalades, marzipan and nougat, distilled water (rose water, orange blossom water), sweet and sour flavors, eggplant, spinach, musk and amber (which will be used mainly in Europe from from the 16th century).

The Andalusians also transmitted to Europeans of the Middle Ages the dietetic knowledge of their doctors, who knew how to save and enrich the knowledge of Hippocrates and Galen.

We can add that it is probably thanks to the heritage of al-Andalus that medieval cooks frequently used almonds, lemon or orange in cooking, and associated fruits with meat or fish. This heritage was then renounced from the 17th century. We are rediscovering it now.

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Kitâb al-Tabîkh fi'l-Maghrib wa'l-Andalus fi'asr al-Muwahhidin

Now called: Anwa 'a-saydala fi alwan al-at'ima (The kinds of pharmacopoeia in the preparation of all kinds of food)

Known under the title Anonymous Andalusian, this manuscript dates from the first third of the 13th century. It was translated into Spanish and published with 526 recipes, in 1965 in Madrid, by D. Ambrosio Huici-Miranda: La cocina hispano mogrebi en la epoca almohade segun un manuscrito anonimo (Book on cooking in North Africa and Andalusia at time of the Almohads). A reissue was made in 2005 by ediciones TREA SL: La cocina Hispano-Magrebi durante la epoca almohade.

An English translation, made by Charles Perry in 1987 and made from the text of Huici-Miranda is also available online: An anonymous Andalousian Cookbook of the 13th Century.

These translations were made from a manuscript kept at the BNF in Paris: the Colin manuscript (ms 7009, manuscript found in Morocco by the Arabist Georges Séraphin Colin in the first half of the 20th century).

Oldcook: books in Andalousia, medieval cooking - Anonymous Andalusian, Colin manuscript, BNF Paris

Colin manuscript (colorized extract), BNF Paris

Rudolph Grewe estimated in 1992 (in From the manuscript to the table, Montreal) that certain pages of the manuscript were not classified in good order, which would explain the apparent disorder of the recipes in the book of Huici-Miranda. Rudolph Grewe prepared a critical edition, shortly before his death, which was never published.

The Hispano-Magrebi cocina includes 526 recipes, it is true, sometimes mixed (fish recipes in the middle of meat recipes, vegetable recipes in the middle of meat recipes, confectionery alongside meats and vegetables). The Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook presents 519 recipes, of which Huici-Miranda does not fully respect the order: it seems to restore a certain logic, thus approaching the order of recipes proposed by Rudolph Grewe.

A doctoral thesis from the Jean Moulin-Lyon III University in Lyon, entitled Cooking in the medieval Arabian West, written by Catherine Guillaumond, published in L'Harmattan in 2017, offers a new version of the Arabic text and a translation into French. In the current state of research, it is probably a good critical edition of the Anonymous Andalusian. However, some historians accuse him of having dared to modify the order of the manuscript recipes by seeking to bring a little coherence in the disorder of the pages of the manuscript. Indeed, as Rudolph Grewe estimated in 1992, certain sheets seem to have been misclassified in the manuscript. Should we translate a manuscript scrupulously respecting the form, the order of the sheets, even if it is incoherent, or can we try to restore coherence, while respecting the substance more? We will leave this quarrel to historians.

Catherine Guillaumond classifies the collection into 5 parts, with 497 recipes:

1 - Introduction

General thoughts on cooking, food, culinary habits, a study on certain products, utensils and service.

This introduction is followed by 3 chapters with 93 recipes:

2 - Part 2

It includes 7 chapters with 220 recipes

3 - Part 3

It includes a single chapter with 129 recipes: recipes based on bread and sweets (sweet recipes, pies, meat and vegetable platters) and meat and fish dishes.

4 - Part 4

It does not include a chapter, but 24 vegetable and meat recipes.

5 - Part 5

Also without chapter, it brings together 27 sweet recipes.

6 - The last part

The thesis does not take into account the last part, which we find at Huici-Miranda and which includes 5 short chapters (4 at Perry) concerning 57 recipes of preparations considered as drugs, at the time:

Little is known about the author of this manuscript. The study of Kitâb al-Tabîkh / Anonymous Andalou reveals numerous clues allowing to say that it is about a man resulting from the easy social classes of Andalusia before the conquest of Cordoba (1236). It is cultivated: numerous literary and dietetic references. He lived in Marrakech before 1198, he stayed in Ceuta between 1202 and 1216. He is therefore an Andalusian resident in Ifrikiya (North Africa), more a gastronomic traveler than a cook. It presents recipes from Andalusia, from the Arab East, but also from all over the Maghreb: Hispano-Maghreb cuisine as the title of the book by Huici-Miranda says.

So we have a collection of recipes from the culinary heritage common to Western Arabs, enriched by non-Arab recipes: Jewish cuisine, Berber cuisine, a Sicilian recipe.

Some remarks specific to the cuisine of the Anonymous Andalusian, taken from Patrick Gillé's master's thesis, the cooking treatises of the Iberian Peninsula (Paris, 1984):

50% of the recipes include meat. 1/3 of the recipes use either bread, flour or cereals. 25% of the recipes use fruit. 14% of the recipes refer to a region. 16% of the recipes include a dietary or medical indication. 16% of the recipes are with poultry and 11% with sheep. 40% of the recipes are made by cooking in a pot. The most used spices are pepper (44%) and coriander (35%) then cinnamon (24%). The most used vegetables are eggplant, calabash gourd and chickpea. The most commonly used fruits are pine nuts, cedars and nuts, but almonds and almond milk are used as a binder in 29% of recipes. Vinegar is found in 23% of the recipes and rose water in 12.

The Anonymous Andalusian tells us the order of the 7 dishes of a distinguished and elegant banquet for quality people:

The author specifies that it is better to present each dish one after the other rather than to put a large number of dishes at the same time on the table, rule in force among the leaders, the elites and the people of quality . This fashion has been attributed to Ziryab, an Iraqi musician expelled from Baghdad who settled in Cordoba in 822 and who became master of elegance, taught Baghdad fashions in perfumery and clothing, which revolutionized Andalusian music and is said to have had a great influence on the gastronomy of Arab Andalusia. The Anonymous Andalusian does not speak of the influence of Ziryab, contenting himself with indicating that this rule was launched at the time of the Umayyad caliph Umar II, caliph at the beginning of the 8th century, in Damascus.

Europeans between the 13th and the 17th century, will respect what is called French-style service: many dishes presented at the same time, for each service. The gastronomy of al-Andalus therefore recommends, 6 centuries in advance, what is called Russian-style service: one dish at a time, as is done today!

Here are 3 recipes

Soldiers' Couscous
The usual moistened couscous is known by the whole world. The fityâni is the one where the meat is cooked with its vegetables, as is usual, and when it is done, take out the meat and the vegetables from the pot and put them to one side; strain the bones and the rest from the broth and return the pot to the fire; when it has boiled, put in the couscous cooked and rubbed with fat and leave it for a little on a reduced fire or the hearthstone until it takes in the proper amount of the sauce; then throw it on a a platter and level it, put on top of it the cooked meat and vegetables, sprinkle it with cinnamon and serve it. This is called Fityâni in Marrakesh.
(Charles Perry translation)

I Have Seen a Couscous Made with Crumbs of the Finest White Bread:
For this one you take crumbs and rub with the palm on the platter, as one rubs the soup, and let the bread be neither cold nor very hot; put it in a pierced pot and when it's steam has left, throw it on the platter and rub with fat or moisten with the broth of the meat prepared for it. I also have seen a couscous that one makes from a fat chicken or stuffed and fattened capons and it was as if it were moistened only with fat, and in it were turnips of Toledo and cow's eyes.
(Charles Perry translation)

Gallina frita y cocida
Part la gallina, haciendo dos pedazos de cada miembro; fríe con mucho aceite dulce; luego se toma una olla y se echan cuatro cucharadas de vinagre y dos de almorí macerado y otro tanto de aceite, pimienta, cilantro, comino, un poco de ajo y azafrán. Pone the olla al fuego y cuando ha subido, put in ella the gallina frita y dicha, y cuando está hecha por igual, entonces vierte there ar presented.
(Translation by Ambrosio Huici Miranda)

Fried and cooked chicken
The chicken is cut up, with two parts for each member; fry with lots of sweet oil; then we take a pot where we pour four spoonfuls of vinegar and two of macerated almori and as much oil, pepper, coriander, cumin, a little garlic and saffron. We place the pot on the fire and when it boils, we put in the fried chicken as we said, and when everything is cooked, we turn over and present.

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Fudalat al-Khiwan fi Tayibat at-Tàam wa al alwan

That is to say The delights of the table and the best kinds of food.

The Fudalat or Fadalat al-Khiwan of Abu Ali ibn al-Hassan ibn Razin Tujibi is a receptacle of 450 recipes which seem to have been written between 1238 and 1266, that is between the capture of Valence and the capture of Murcia by the Christians.

There are 3 incomplete manuscripts of the Tujibi cookbook, one preserved at the Royal Academy of Madrid, comprising 134 leaves, in "Moroccan" writing, the other preserved in the Library of Tübingen, comprising 78 leaves (the first four parts of the receiver), of an "oriental" writing and the third, also incomplete, of a private collection and consulted by Mohamed Nenchekroun. Fernando de la Granja Santamaria did a doctoral thesis (unpublished) in Madrid in 1960: La cucina arabigo-andaluza segun un manuscrito inedito. He made a translation of this receiver. Mohamed Benchekroun published in Beirut in 1984, an Arabic version, synthesis of these 3 manuscripts. This version was disputed by Rudolf Grewe (Du manuscrit à la table,Montreal, 1992). This text was translated into French by 2 Moroccan teachers: Mohamed Mezzine and Leila Benkirane in 1997 (Publications Association Fès Saïss). This book is still available in Fez.

Oldcook: books in Andalousia, medieval cooking - The delights of the table and the best kinds of food, Tujibi

Fudalat al-Khiwan by ibn Razin Tujibi. Published by Association Fès Saïss (1997)

The translation includes some imperfections: zucchini, Jerusalem artichokes, sweet potatoes, chilli, are vegetables originating in America and unknown in Europe in the Middle Ages. Murri is translated by vinegar sauces while it is a vegetable garum without vinegar. Despite these imperfections, the French translation of the Fudalat al-Khiwan is a precious document that gives a better idea of the culinary heritage of Al Andalus, whose heritage is preciously preserved in Fez.

Tujibi's book is presented in 12 parts:

Part 1

It is made up of 5 chapters: on breads, breadcrumbs, soups, bread couscous and the like.

Part 2

It is made up of 6 chapters: on the different quadruped meats.

Part 3

It is made up of 7 chapters: on the different kinds of poultry meat.

Part 4

It is made up of 3 chapters: on the preparation of the genre called Senhaji, stuffed guts and the tongue.

Part 5

It is made up of 2 chapters: on the different kinds of fish and eggs.

Part 6

It is made up of 3 chapters: on dairy products and derivatives.

Part 7

It is made up of 10 chapters (including 6 missing chapters): on vegetables and the like.

Part 8

It is made up of 3 chapters: on the different seeds such as broad beans, chickpeas and others.

Part 9

It is made up of 7 chapters: on honey preparations, the different types of pastries and corollaries.

Part 10

With 11 chapters (including 2 lost): on candied sauces and what follows from it as preparation of vinegars, candied sauces in vinegar, on the extraction of oils and the repair of deteriorated oil.

Part 11

On cooking crickets and shrimps with 3 recipes.

Part 12

On cleansing powders with 9 soap recipes.

Here are 2 recipes

Savory recipe: Eggplant
Medieval eggplant caviar recipe

You take as many eggplants as you want, peel them and boil them over the fire with water and salt. When they are cooked remove them and rinse them until they lose all their water, then you mash them carefully, you remove the remains, then you put them in a bowl, you put on vinegar, some oil, cooked and pounded garlic, whoever wants to add caraway, does so, and eat in peace if God very high wills it.

Sweet recipe: Preparation of Taàam with bread
Isn't this a recipe that announces the marzipan of Maestro Martino?

We pile sugar and almonds as described above, we knead everything with the usual spices, then we knead the flour as if to make the dough at Kaâk, we shape the dough in the form of nuts, almonds and pine nuts large or small, which we stuff with the stuffing mentioned above, we fry everything gently in a large pot with enough oil to cover them, we stir from time to time delicately with a ladle until all this is nicely browned, we place it in a varnished terrine, we pour on it skimmed honey flavored with aromatics, we let it set and we consume it at the will of God the transcendent.

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Livres de cuisine médiévale en Andalousie