Preparing poultry according to Isaac Iudaeus

More from Ishaq b Sulaiman al-Israili, though these instructions are sadly quite fragmented. Almost everything the text says about poultry is theoretical, but some ingredient lists are in there:

…The first (e.g. capons, pigeons, partridges), if they are eaten cooked with vinegar and sugar, comfort the heat of the stomach. Thus says Rufus. If they are cooked with orache and chickpeas, and a little cinnamon, they loosen the belly. (…)

p. 218

Old and decrepit roosters are cooked with strong salt and cumin, dill, leeks and crocus seeds. (…)

p 219

of roosters

(…) If they are cooked with water and vinegar and seasoned with a little cumin they mitigate the coldness that the stomach has.(…)

(…) especially if they are seasoned with verjuice, the juice of sour pomegranates, or with sumach, they strengthen the stomach (…)

(…) If they are cooked in 15 pounds of water with much salt mixed into it and placed over the coals until the meat is consumed, then left there for the night and heated in the morning and given to eat, this optimally aids against colic. (…)

p. 534

You will probably agree with me that there is not much to go by here, but despite the paucity, these are interesting quotes. First, because they are not aggregated. Instead of a menu of possibilities, these contain the germ of a recipe each. Obviously, there remains much we have to conjecture about these dishes, but they are useful as starting points. I am particularly fascinated with the chicken broth that is described here. The application envisioned here is clearly medicinal, but the recipe likely is not.

Do not hesitate to try the vinegar and sugar combination, by the way. I was pleasantly surprised how well sweet works as a flavour with poultry.

Isaac Iudaeus de diaetis universalibus et particularibus, originally written in Arabic in the late ninth or early tenth century, was translated and adapted by Constantinus Africanus in the late 11th century and circulated widely in Italy and beyond soon afterwards. While the original applies to a different context, it is still reasonable to use it as a guide to the advice that Siculo-Normans would have found useful. It is an open question how much the original was altered in translation – I cannot say since I read no Arabic. However, the extensive reference to eating pork suggests that some alterations took place.

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