10th Century Eggplant Dip with Sesame Cookies

Recently a friend was elevated to the Order of the Laurel. His persona is from the 11th century Sultanate of Rum, in modern-day Anatolia/Turkey. The closest published manuscript we could find for recipes for his elevation party was from al-Warraq, recently published as Annals of the Caliph’s Kitchens. I love this manuscript after having done a seven-course feast out of it just a few years ago, and I was excited to cook out of it some more. I chose an eggplant salad/dip and a variety of aqras, the ubiquitous baked pastries of the medieval Arab world.

Badhinjan Mahshi

1 large yellow onion
2 Italian eggplants
1/4 c olive oil plus some
2 tbl sugarcane vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tbl sugar
2 large pinches cinnamon
1 heaping tsp caraway, coarsely ground in a mortar
1 large pinch of saffron, ground in a mortar
Take olive oil through saffron, mix in a bowl. Roast whole eggplants in oven or boil until collapsed and soft all the way through. While the eggplant is cooking, slice the onion into half moons and cook gently in olive oil until deeply browned. When the eggplant is cooked through, peel the skin off and chop the tender flesh. Gently mix the vinaigrette with the cooked eggplant, then add saffron and mix until the golden color spreads evenly through the dip. Mix the onions in gently. Taste and adjust salt and vinegar until balanced. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving- I know the recipe says serve immediately but believe me, it’s extra-lovely after a little time-out. Taste again and adjust salt and vinegar. Drizzle with a healthy amount of olive oil and serve with aqras.

Aqras Fatit

I found a modern recipe that was so close to this description, I was amazed. I did not have time to buy mahlab, so I added 1/2 tsp almond extract. Instead of baker’s ammonia, I added baking powder. 350 ml of water made a very thick dough, and the resulting cookies were thicker than I think they ought to be. Next time I will add more water and use mahlab. I sprinkled them with salt before baking too. They were really delicious with the eggplant.

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