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Itakhiyya-Pud-art - 12/6/16


"Delicious Itakhiyya Pudding" by Magister Galefridus Perregrinus, OP.


NOTE: See also the files: puddings-msg, Plum-Pudding-art, White-Mash-art, rice-pudding-msg, bread-pudding-msg, custards-msg, blancmange-msg, almond-cream-msg.





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Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



Delicious Itakhiyya Pudding

by Magister Galefridus Perregrinus, OP


Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq's 10th century Baghdad cookbook includes many recipes for sweets and puddings. This particular recipe is in one of chapters on puddings, but the product behaves more like a confection and is somewhat similar in texture to a modern halvah.

The ingredients and recipe are fairly straight forward, but mise en place – advance organization of ingredients – is essential. Below is the recipe with the translator's notes:

A tried and tested recipe (mujarraba) for delicious Itākhiyya pudding (1)

Take shelled walnuts, peel the [thin] skins, and pound them finely. Take a similar amount of skinned almonds and pound them fine. Take a kuz of refined sugar and pound it (2). The sugar amount should be twice as much as walnuts and almonds combined (3). Mix all three ingredients [and set them aside] (4).

Put a tanjir (copper cauldron with a rounded bottom) on the fire. Pour into it fresh sesame oil, the amount of which is third of the mixed dry ingredients [above], that is, half the amount of sugar used. When the oil heats up, sprinkle on it fine samidh flour (high in starch and bran free), half the amount of the sesame oil used. Keep on stirring the pot (5).

Dissolve dirhams (15 g) starch in water and rose water, 1 uqiyya (2T) each. This amount is enough for 2 ratls (2 lb) of sugar and the honey [used in the recipe]. Keep stirring the pot. Next, add the walnut-almond-sugar mixture (al-mukhallat) and stir.

Thus you keep stirring the pot continuously, adding ingredients one after another until the pudding thickens.

Put the pot away from the fire, and keep on stirring until it cools down. Spread the pudding on a platter, sprinkle it with ¼ ratl (4 oz) pounded sugar, and serve it, God willing (6).


This version of the recipe has been corrected based my correspondence with the translator. The original translation stated that the rose water and starch suspension would be "enough for 2 ratls (2 lb) of sugar and 2 ratls of honey." I asked the translator for clarification, and she stated that she had missed an error when proofreading – the "2 ratls" applied only to the sugar and not to the honey. I have looked at the original Arabic and confirmed that a more accurate translation is what I have given above: "…enough for 2 ratls (2 lb) of sugar and the honey…"

I have prepared this recipe several times on small scale, in all cases using a copper pot as directed by the recipe:

2 oz. peeled walnuts, ground

2 oz. peeled almonds, ground

8 oz. cane sugar

4 oz. raw sesame oil

2 oz. wheat flour (bolted from stone ground flour)

4 oz. honey

1  1/2 t water

1  1/2 t rose water

3.75 g wheat starch


The most difficult preliminary step was peeling the walnuts. They needed to be soaked or boiled to loosen the skins, then peeled by rubbing gently. Each walnut half took about five minutes to peel.

I found that once I started adding ingredients to the heated oil, I had to continue until the process was complete. I could not stop stirring or stop adding ingredients; if I did, things would start going wrong. The mixture might burn or become clumpy, or the oil might separate. This is exactly what happened on my first attempt; hence the importance of organizing the ingredients in advance. The necessity of sufficient stirring was brought home to me on my second attempt: because I stopped stirring too soon, the oil separated from the mixture as it cooled.

In addition to the cooking problems I experienced in my first attempt, I found the confection produced to be quite bland. I therefore decided to try gently toasting the nuts for five minutes prior to grinding, which made for a much more flavorful confection. In my later efforts I transitioned to grinding the nuts with a mortar and pestle, as recommended by Mistress Alesone Gray as a means for getting a finer grind. Doing so for both the nuts and the sugar significantly improved the texture. I had also used all-purpose white flour initially, but then switched to the more historically appropriate stone-ground wheat flour, bolted twice to remove the bran as directed by the recipe.

My last two versions of the confection used two different forms of cane sugar. For one I used jaggery, a South Asian cane sugar preparation with relatively high water content (up to 20%). Jaggery also contains traces of other impurities including molasses, ash, and bagasse (cane pulp residue from the refining process). For the other – my final version – I used loaf sugar provided by Mistress Alesone Gray. Loaf sugar is refined using processes that were developed in South Asia, further perfected in the medieval Islamic world and used in medieval and Renaissance Europe over the next few centuries. For both the jaggery and the final loaf sugar versions I used Greek wildflower and thyme honey. Attached are photos of the process of making the final version.


1. Named after Itakh, chamberlain of the Abbasid Caliph, al-Wathiq (d. 847).

2. Kuz is a cup with handles. It was made in different sizes (see Glossary, Section 15). However, size is not an issue in the recipe because it uses proportions by weight.

3. All amounts in the recipe are by weight.

4. For the rest of the recipe, the sugar-nut mix will be referred to as al-mukhallat, 'the mix.'

5. Although the amounts given sound a bit confusing, they are quite accurate. Following the instructions, here is an example on how much to use of the given ingredients: ½ lb almonds, 1/2 lb walnuts, 2 lb sugar, 1 lb sesame oil, 1/2 lb flour, and 1 lb honey.

6. Measurements in this Oxford version of the recipe are more systematically consistent than Helsinki's, which gives slightly different measurements, with some of the ingredients missing.



Ibn Sayyār al-Warrāq; Nasrallah, N., tr. (2007). Annals of the Caliphs' Kitchens. Leiden: Brill. The original recipe is on pp. 399-400. As indicated in the text, I have changed it slightly based on a private communication with the translator and an examination of the original Arabic.

Setup of the ingredients.


Stirring the flour into the hot oil, then adding the honey.

Stirring in the rosewater/starch slurry, then adding the sugar and ground nut mixture.

Initial stirring in of sugar/nut mixture. After a few minutes, it looks like the oil is going to separate out.

Just before removing from heat. The confection has become quite thick and the oil has blended in evenly

Smoothing and shaping the confection after cooling.


Copyright 2016 by Loren D 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.


<the end>


Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
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Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org