Islamic-Pudng-art - 5/5/13
"Carrot and Date Khabīs" by Dom. Galefridus Peregrinus.
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Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
Carrot and Date Khabīs
by Dom. Galefridus Peregrinus
Khabīs (Condensed pudding) was fairly common in medieval Islamic cookery. The Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook contains several examples, and al-Warrāq’s 10th century Baghdadi cookbook includes an entire chapter on them. Generally a sweet pudding, khabīs can also be savory and is usually fairly simple to make. This carrot and date khabīs comes from al-Warrāq and is spiced with ginger and spikenard.
Original recipe: Take as much as you like of similar amounts of sweet and tender carrots, milk and dates. Put them in a clean soapstone pot, which you lower into a tannūr [a simple conical oven, heated with a bed of coals inside it at the base] heated with a medium fire. Close the bottom vent but leave a finger-wide opening.
Let the pot simmer until the ingredients fall apart. Take it out and add ground walnuts and 1/2 dirham (1 1/2 grams) ground spikenard and ginger. Beat the mixture very well.
If the pudding turns out to be too sweet and thin, add breadcrumbs. If it turns out perfect – sweet and thick enough – add fresh sesame oil and ladle it with oil into platters. If it turns out deficient in sugar and too thin in consistency, beat the mixture and return the pot to the tannūr until it thickens. When pudding is done, drench it in sesame oil [and serve it], God willing.
Redaction: Take 1/2 lb each of carrots and pitted dates. Add 3 c. milk and cook on the lowest rack in a 300F oven until carrots are very soft and dates are reduced to a paste. Before serving, grind and mix in 1 1/4 oz walnuts and 1/2 g each of fresh ground spikenard and dried ginger. Pour sesame oil over individual servings.
Comments and observations: As directed, I cooked this item in a soapstone pot. While the exact amounts are not specified, it is likely that larger quantities of carrots and dates were used than the 1/2 lb. each. Accordingly, I reduced the quantities of the spices added before serving. In the absence of a tannūr, I used an ordinary kitchen oven, setting the pot on the bottom rack as close to the heating element as possible in order to simulate being close to the coals of a tannūr. I set the temperature at 300F. I think that the low setting is appropriate, given then instruction to reduce the opening to "finger-wide," which would result in a very slow fire. Even after over two hours, carrots never got to a "falling apart" state, although they did get quite soft. The khabīs was always sufficiently thick and not overly sweet, so I saw no need to add bread crumbs. Most of the sweetness of this pudding comes from the dates, but some comes from the carrots, plus the reduction of the milk. The sesame oil that I use is the raw oil, not the variety pressed from toasted seeds that is commonly used in East Asian cookery.
For my initial effort, I used modern orange hybrid variety carrots and grocery store pasteurized and homogenized whole cow’s milk. I have subsequently prepared several variations of this dish using: 1) farm-fresh non-homogenized cow’s or goat’s milk; 2) red or white heirloom carrots, both of which were likely available in 10th century Baghdad; 3) parsnips (the Arabic word for carrots – jazar – can also be translated as parsnips). The red carrots (sweeter, but less carrot flavor) remained somewhat crunchy even after the dates had completely fallen apart. The white carrots (stronger flavor) took on the color of the dates, and became quite soft, but did not fall apart, and the parsnips behaved similarly. The interplay of flavors in the khabīs made with the white carrots seemed superior to that made with the red carrots, and I found that parsnips, with their richer and more complex flavor, made the best khabīs of all. When cooking with goat’s milk, I only used white carrots, although I tried two varieties, one more strongly flavored than the other. Again, the more flavorful carrots produced a more flavorful end product. The goat’s milk added another more intense flavor of its own. The two samples I have presented here are: 1) white heirloom carrots with goat’s milk; 2) parsnips with farm-fresh cow’s milk. In all cases I have used Middle Eastern dates.
Humoural analysis: al-Warrāq says nothing about the humoural character of khabīs, but the Taqwīm al-Sihha of Ibn Butlān states that it is hot and moist. These characteristics are consistent with analysis of the individual ingredients: al-Warrāq and Ibn Butlān agree that both carrots/parsnips and dates are hot and moist. Ibn Butlān further states that milk is hot. Foods with these two characteristics were often prescribed in order to invigorate sexual activity, since they were thought to increase the production and flow of semen.
Elkhadem, H. (1990). Le Taqwīm al-Sihha (Tacuinum Sanitatis) d’Ibn Butlān: un traité médical du XIe siècle. Lovanii: Peeters.
Nasrallah, N. (2007). Annals of the Caliphs’ kitchens: Ibn Sayyār al-Warrāq’s tenth century Baghdadi cookbook. Leiden: Brill.
1/2 lb chopped carrots (or parsnips)
1/2 lb pitted dates
3 c whole milk (cow or goat)
1 1/4 oz walnuts, ground
1/2 g ground spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi)
1/2 g fresh ground dried ginger
Copyright 2013 by Loren Mendelsohn, 3 Morris Pl, Towaco, NJ 07082. <galefridus at optimum.net>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, please place a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.