14 January 2010

A&S 50: Food item five: Middle Ages hummus recipe

Period hummus recipe : Puree of Chickpeas with Cinnamon and Ginger
redaction Julia May, aka Samia al-Kaslaania
April 2009

Cook the chickpeas in water, then mash them in a mortar to make a puree. Push the puree through a sieve for wheat, unless it is already fine enough, in which case this step is not necessary. Mix it then with wine vinegar, the pulp of pickled lemons, and cinnamon, pepper, ginger, parsley of the best quality, mint, and rue that have all been chopped and placed on the surface of the serving dish [zubdiyya]. Finally, pour over a generous amount of oil of good quality.

Kanz al-Fawai’ad fi tanwi’ al-mawa’id (“The Treasures of Useful Advice for the Composition of a Varied Table”). 13th C Egypt. Translated by M.B. DeBevoise. As it appears in Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World by Lilia Zaouali.


1 can Chickpeas, heated and liquid reserved
4 Pickled lemons (about the size of a key lime) and 3 T. white wine vinegar
OR
½ of a pickled Meyer’s Lemon (they have more juice and don’t need the vinegar)
1 t. Cinnamon
1 t. Pepper or long pepper
1/2 t. Ginger
¼ c fresh parsley
6 leaves fresh mint
Scant ¼ c fresh rue
Sesame oil (pale, untoasted Middle Eastern oil, *not* toasted Asian oil)

Roll the cooked chickpeas around in your hands to loosen the skins. Submerge them in water again and swish to let the skins float off. A food processor will pulverize the remaining skins. Halve tiny lemons and mash the pulp with your thumbs over a fine mesh strainer to catch the seeds. Zest the lemons if desired and discard the rind. Add the liquids and dry spices to the chickpeas. Blend in a food processer until it is a fine consistency. If it is too dry, add the chickpea liquid or more vinegar (to taste). Stir in the chopped greens and allow to sit, covered and refrigerated, for several hours for the flavors to blend.
Layer chopped fresh rue on the bottom of the serving plate, put the puree on top and create a well in the middle. Pour sesame oil in the well and over the rest of the hummus.Bring to room temperature and drizzle with sesame oil to taste. Serve with flat bread or veggies for dipping.


This image shows the chickpeas in the bowl, the skins next to it, and the pickled lemons in front. I found a jar of the pickled lemons at a Mediterranean grocery in Minneapolis. I hate peeling chickpeas, but it makes for an awesome puree.

Clearly the biggest difference between this and modern hummus is the lack of tahini (sesame seeds crushed to the consistency of peanut butter). Pickled lemon, of course, has a different flavor than fresh lemon. The other differences is the change in spices. Instead of olive oil we have raw sesame oil (giving us the hint of tahini flavor) and four spices not seen in modern hummus. Rue has an extraordinary flavor that must be experiences to understand-- fresh rue is clearly preferred. The cinnamon and ginger are well suited to the chickpea flavor.  

I pureed it in a food processor, using the chickpea liquid to thin the paste to the desired consistency. I haven't decided if the parsley, mint and rue are place on the surface of the dish, or mixed in. I tried mixing this one in and it resulted in a good flavor, but I didn't have the fresh herbs I would have preferred.

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