Strange Food

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(sca-gw) Almond Pudding
strangefood
It's been ages since I posted, but there has been plenty going on.  Mostly, it's time I start testing recipes for the Gulf Wars menus and recording my thoughts and results.

The first one I'm listing here is for my beloved almond pudding.  It's both decadent and fairly quick to make.

I made this for Kingdom A&S last year, and it was fabulous.  I was going to make it at Gulf Wars for the MIddle Eastern Dance Competition, even though I thought it wasn't documentable.  Then, in a delightful twist of fate, I discovered that it is -- at least somewhat -- a period recipe.

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From The Annals of the Caliph's Kitchens, a 10th century manuscript:

Mu'allaka (chewy pudding) by al-Amin

Take one part bruised skinned almonds, two parts pure tabarzad sugar (white cane sugar) and one part honey. 

[Bring the honey to a boil] and skim its froth.  Cook sugar [in another pot until it dissolves and comes to a boil] and remove its froth.

Mix honey with sugar and let them cook on a medium fire.  Add the almonds and stir the pot until the mixture is condensed.  When it is fully cooked, stir into it a small amount of rose water mixed with crushed musk or camphor.  Do this just once.  Take the pot away from the fire, God willing.

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From Medieval Arab Cookery:

Kabis al-Lauz (almond pudding)

Take one pound of finely pounded peeled sweet almonds and three pounds of sugar, which you put in a cauldron and dissolve with two ounces of rose-water.  When it dissolves and is visibly thickening, throw the almonds on it and stir until it is done.  Ladle it out and put pounded sugar over and under it.  It might be made with flour; you put two ounces of flour on the pound of sugar and you follow the mentioned method in making it.

Another recipe in the same book outlines instructions for a semolina pudding.

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My recipe:

2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 1/3 cups water
7 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely ground almonds (I don't blanch them, but you can if you're so inspired)
1/2 cup semolina

Combine the sugar and honey with the water in a small saucepan.  Place it over medium-high heat and let it simmer and boil while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.  You might think it will boil away, but don't turn down the heat; if it doesn't cook down, your pudding will be runny.

In a large skillet, melt the butter.  Scatter the ground almonds and the semolina over it, and cook them over medium heat until the mixture begins to brown and is fragrant, stirring frequently.

When the almonds are lightly toasted, pour in the sugar and honey syrup.  Mix constantly until the pudding is very thick.  Remove the pan from the heat, divide into serving dishes, and serve.

It's great warm or cold.

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This is a very rich and sweet dessert.  I've actually spooned it into Dixie cups and served about 20 people with just this amount.  If you aren't going for authenticity, it is sinfully delicious with a schlorb (yes, that is a technical term; it means "blob") of real whipped cream on top.

I usually opt to not use the rosewater because I don't find it adds much to the flavor; the toasted almonds overpower it.  Plus, rosewater is something of an acquired taste.

I also made this for the Medieval foods class I taught during the fall.  My students took some home, and they all later told me they could only eat a spoonful at a time.  But every one of them made sure none of it went to waste!

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