Lamb or Lentil Stew with Couscous

Original: Another Good Dish

Cut the meat small and place in the pot and add two spoonfuls of oil and two more of murri, some coriander seed, thyme, pepper and onion chopped with cilantro; boil the pot with this and continue stirring until there is only oil in it; then pour in water to cover the meat and finish cooking, take ground meat and crumbs of grated bread, pepper
and egg; beat and cover the contents of the pot with it and set aside until its grease is properly cooked, and ladle it out, if God wills, may He be glorified and exalted.
Source: An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook of the 13th Century, trans. Charles Perry

Redaction

~ 3 lbs chopped lamb meat
lamb bones (optional)
6 carrots
5 onions
2 T olive oil plus extra for sautéing
1.5 T Byzantine murri
½ cup diced fresh cilantro
1 t ground coriander
1 t ground black pepper
2 t ground thyme
3 cups beef or lamb stock (or water)
~3 cups water
  1. Cut one onion into fine dice, and chop or julienne the other four coarsely. Chop carrots. Sauté onions and carrots in olive oil until slightly soft and remove from heat.
  2. Sauté olive oil and murri with diced onion and spices in a large pot, then add lamb and brown. Add stock, water, bones, onions and carrot to pot and bring to a simmer.
  3. Cover and simmer for several hours, until meat is very tender. Serve over couscous.

Notes and Choices

Lamb stews are ubiquitous in Medieval Spanish cuisine of all three cultures, we thought the spicing of this Arabic version seemed intriguing. Murri was originally a salty condiment something like soy sauce but made from fermented barley; we have used a period shortcut from Duke Cariadoc to achieve similar results. Though not called for explicitly in this source, carrots and onions appear commonly in other contemporaneous stew recipes and we added them to fill out the dish. The original crust of egg, ground meat and bread was undoubtedly delicious but not practical in service for 100; we’ve omitted it and present the dish with couscous instead.

Our best results with this dish used bone-in diced lamb from an Indian market, a full 2 T of murri and no stock at all; just 6 cups of water. The flavor imparted by the bone marrow was incomparable, but the bone fragments were frequently tiny and we decided to use boneless meat today as a concession to safety. Though we included whole lamb leg bones in subsequent trials, we found that the resulting flavor was much less intense and the sauce less robust. To correct that deficiency we replaced half the water with beef stock. We also reduced the quantity of murri to avoid oversalting the dish.

We are also offering a vegetarian version of this dish using lentils rather than lamb. To recreate the lentil recipe, simply replace the lamb with 2-3 c lentils; the lentils do not need to be browned, but can be added with the vegetables. Use vegetable broth to cover instead of water.

Couscous

Original: The usual moistened couscous is known by the whole world.

Source: An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook of the 13th Century, trans. Charles Perry

Recipe

1 cup wheat couscous
1.25 cups water
1 T olive oil
pinch of salt

Boil water with oil and salt. Add couscous, cover and remove from heat. Let stand five minutes. Fluff with fork and serve.

Notes and Choices

Complicated couscous recipes with lots of inclusions appear in various sources, but the
basic staple appears to have been so common that no recipe was needed!
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