Monday, September 28, 2009

Food for Journeys, Part 1.

For the next few days I will be on the move, travelling from Norfolk to London to Singapore to Brisbane (including a tedious seven hours in the limbo-land of Singapore airport), so my mind will once again be pre-occupied with the pre-eminent travel question of “what shall I get to eat?” (I no longer travel in terror of running out of reading material, thanks to my wonderful e-reader).

To ensure that you still get your daily stories, they will be pre-posted to pop up at the usual time. Naturally, in view of my pre-occupation this week, they will be about travel food - as seen through the eyes of travellers and cookbook writers across the centuries and around the globe.

To start with, I take you back to the thirteenth century, to Andalusia. The recipe is from an anonymous cookbook translated by Charles Perry, and made freely available to us all (grateful thanks!) here. It is for a pasty, which “is very good on journeys”. I can only hope to get something as delicious over the next few days.

Recipe for Barmakiyya
It is made with a hen, pigeons, doves, small birds or lamb. Take what you have of them, after cleaning, and cut up and put in a pot with salt, an onion, pepper, coriander and lavender or cinnamon, some murri naqî', and oil. Put it on a gentle fire until it is nearly done and the sauce is dried. Take it out and fry it in fresh oil without overdoing it, and leave it aside. Then take fine flour and semolina, make a well-made dough with leaven, and if it has some oil it will be more flavorful. Then roll out from it a flatbread and put inside it the fried and cooked meat of these birds, cover it with another flatbread and stick the ends together. Put it in the oven, and when the bread is done, take it out. It is very good on journeys. You might make it with fish and that can be used for journeying too.

Quotation for the Day.

Here I am, safely returned over those peaks from a journey far more beautiful and strange than anything I had hoped for or imagined - how is it that this safe return brings such regret?
Peter Matthiessen


Doddie said...


If you're going to have a long layover at Singapore, sign up with the free Singapore city tour. It will help pass the time and if you want, I can hook you up with a good friend of mine - Edwin Lee who will take good care of you during the tour.


The Old Foodie said...

Doddie, you are very kind, and I would have seriously considered your suggestioh and offer but - thankfully - I now only have 3 hours in the airport.

Anonymous said...

I love that cookbook! I used it to design a feast for the Shire of Pavlok Gorod (Kodiak, Alaska chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism) to be given next month. The chicken zirbaya has appeared on our menus before to rave reviews. "The green dish which Umm Hakima taught" turns out to be somewhat like chicken adobo, except with lots and lots of cilantro, while the one called simply "a dish of chicken" is a fricassee swathed in a delectable sauce reminiscent of egg foo yung. The latter dish, BTW, reheats very well.

Interesting historical note: For dessert, I chose the honeyed rice, but I couldn't get it to work with rice from the supermarket. I passed the recipe around among other shire members to get their input, at which point somebody said, "But we fix that all the time at our house!" It is almost identical to her family's recipe for arroz con leche, which was passed down from a Catalonian grandfather who was born in 1876. The first steps are different because what we call raw white rice is not what the Andalusians called raw white rice and the end product is slightly stiffer, but the ingredients are the same.

Jennifer Hansen

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Jennifer - thanks for your marvellous and informative comments. It is wonderful when these old recipes come alive, isnt it?

Anonymous said...

Indeed. I've been cooking in the SCA for years and, while I can't claim to be doing things absolutely authentically (for one thing, I don't own a spit or a fireplace suitable for cooking), I think that I've come very close to the original quite a few times. I strive for something that the original cook would have been willing to send to the table even if he might raise an eyebrow about how it was made. In the process, I've discovered a variety of exotic cuisines: 16th-century Russian, 14th-century English, 13th-century Andalusian as well as the other end of the Mediterranean, etc.

Granted, the cookbooks that have survived were nearly all for the well to do and the nobility, but still, I can safely say, "The past is another country--and the food is great!"