So I had a weekend with out A/C. No A/C means, other then hot and sticky, the in ability to use a computer with out it overheating in the lower part of Ansteorra during the day. Means I had lots and lots of time to do some cooking. So I decided to do a project I had been meaning to try for awhile now. A little down time on the computer and lots of ideas for cooking. Not always a bad idea!
Bedouin Chicken Version #1
I have come across meat cooked in the Bedouin style mentioned in Rodinson. However I have yet to be able to find any other description other then “cooked in the Bedouin style”. This leaves me with out a compass and to my own devices. This makes a few people I know a little nervous. Never know whats going to show up for dinner on days like this!
I am attempting to reproduce from period ingredients and cooking styles a possibility of what meat (or in this case a chicken) could have looked like and in the methods available for cooking.
1 chicken (innards removed) 1 Med onion 1 head of garlic cloves (skinned and crushed)
¼ C olive oil (almond oil or sesame oil could also be used)
1 tsp cumin and coriander (each)
1 cinnamon stick (broken into pieces)
3 TBS Ras el Hanout spice (this can be bought or made)
This is an attempt to reproduce a roasted chicken with only a reference in Medieval Arab Cookery (Robinson) from the line “Meat cooked in the Bedouin style.” Now there are several paragraphs that comment on how those who wrote the history of their travels would try to one up on their meals in the style of “We ate scorpion meat grilled on hot rocks with spices so hot tongues melted and eyes boiled forth”. The stories were well received and provided great entertainment but do little for those trying to redact an actual dish.
The above ingredients could be used on any animal that is stuffable or just using the Ras el spicing as a rub. Three is a reference or 5 to mixed spices for period Middle Eastern cooking. I’m going with a store bought variety instead of making my own. This is mentioned in both Rodinson and Zaouali.
Ras el Hanout spice is made from nutmeg, sea salt, black pepper, ginger, cardamom, mace, cinnamon, ground allspice, turmeric and saffron. This is an incredible spice if you ever get a chance to use it. I want to rub just about everything I come across with this then lick it off, it’s just that good!
So back to the chicken. Now for a desert traveling tribe there are a few cooking methods available for meat. Stewed, dried, grilled or buried in coals. Stewing and drying can also be done in the city so not exactly unique. The grilling for a traveling tribe would have been done via metal rods/tripods, or metal sheets (Iddison). There is also the cooking method of wrapping meat (usually fish or chicken) in a dough and then burying the meat in hot coals.
Today’s meat cooking experiment, is the grilling via oak hardwood. The types of wood available in the Middle East would have been Alder, Ash, Beech, Cherry, Hornbeam, Maple, Walnut and Oak. (pakbs.org). I started the hardwood a couple of hours before putting the chicken on the coals.
Once the fire was started and burning well, back to the kitchen to wrestle with a featherless chicken!
The spices were set up and prepped.
The onion was sliced into wedges and put into a bowl.
The garlic was peeled and smashed (but not chopped) then the cinnamon stick was broken into bits.
These were mixed together then the dried spices of cumin and coriander added along with 1/8 of the olive oil.
The chicken is then stuffed to the max! No holds bar, fill ‘em up stuffing the chicken.
The next step is to make the rub. Pour the 3 tbs of Ras el into the olive oi.
Form a paste.
Spread this on the chicken.
Place chicken on a plate and take to the grill.
Due to not having a metal tripod I had to do this the old, but not ancient, way of cooking. A grill. The coals in the grill will be as hot in a pit just not as deep and much closer to the meat then if using a tripod for grilling. Move the coals to either side of the center, so that there is a coal free well. This will keep the heat directly off of the meat and minimize burning. I tried putting the chicken on the top rack, with out a center rack.
When I closed the top lid, the chicken jumped from the top rack into the fire. After rescuing the bird, I replaced the center grill and placed the chicken there.
The fire cooks both slower and faster then expected. The skin and top portion of the meat cooked quicker then expected but the inner breast meat was not cooked when the leg meat started to wiggle. As opposed to the oven method of cooking roughly an hour, the chicken took much longer over coals. Roughly 1.5-2 hours.
Once the meat was cooked through, I pulled out the stuffing and sliced up the meat to arrange on the plate.
There is a little bit of the Ras el sauce to the side for dipping.
The breast and thigh meat was very tender and juicy however the wings and legs were very well done and an almost complete loss for eating. I am looking forward to doing this again! Very very yummy!
Rodinson, M., Arberry, A., Perry, C., (2001). Medieval Arab Cookery. Prospect Books. Cromwell Press.
Corbin, J., (1999). Arabic Recipes & History for Medieval Feasts.
Perry, C., (2005). A Baghdad Cookery Book. Prospect Books: November 2005.
Bedouin Food, Iddison, Philip. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/encyclopedia/definition/bedouin-food/202/
Zaouali, L., (2004)., Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World. University of California Press.