Recent years have seen several medieval cookbooks come out in translation, offering readers a chance to explore recipes from hundreds of years ago. If you are interested in making an omelet, for example, this 14th century Egyptian cookbook has something for you.
Treasure Trove of Benefits and Variety at the Table (Kanz al-fawāʾid fī tanwīʿ al-mawāʾid) offers more than 820 recipes. Translated by Nawal Nasrallah, she calls it “a practical culinary document,” which would have been used by household cooks and chefs. The individual recipes are often short, with the anonymous author assuming the reader already has some knowledge about cooking and ingredients. The author often notes at the end of these recipes how “delicious” they are.
Chapter 7 of this cookbook focuses on eggs and how they can be cooked. It begins with this ‘Recipe for omelet’:
Take meat, pound it and boil it, and then pound it again and fry it in fat. Finely chop Macedonian parsley and put it, along with the meat, in a bowl. Break the eggs on them: add hot spices, cilantro, coriander, pounded bread, and Ceylon cinnamon. Fry it in a frying pan in olive oil and sesame oil.
The frying pan used should be round, with high sides, and a long handle like that of a ladle. It should be set on a low charcoal fire, and a few ladlefuls of olive oil and sesame oil should be poured into it. Wait until it gets very hot, and then pour in the egg mixture.
For each omelet, use 5 eggs, a bit of herbs and spices, and fried meat. Fill the frying pan with this, and cook it until it no longer looks wet. Add a bit of sesame oil and olive oil, and continue flipping it every now and then, until it is cooked.
Nasrallah notes that the ‘hot spices’ in the recipe were likely black pepper and ginger. This particular chapter also includes another 18 variations on the omelet recipe, including some made with fava beans or truffles, and another without eggs – this one substitutes in chickpeas and onions. Two versions of the omelet recipe are said to be good for enhancing sex, while another recipe makes use of 60 eggs to help created a “beautiful dish”.
The cookbook also offers various recipes on making pickled, hard-boiled and scrambled eggs. It then goes on to deal with other topics, such as making table sauces, fish dishes, and baking bread. Treasure Trove of Benefits at the Table: A Fourteenth-Century Egyptian Cookbook, translated by Nawal Nasrallah, is published by Brill. Click here to visit the publisher’s website, or buy it through Amazon.com.
You can also visit Nawal Nasrallah’s blog In My Iraqi Kitchen, which offers recipes and food history, and more information on her other books.
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