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Saturday, December 4, 2010


Photo by: Brian Altonen, MGH, 
OCast cánfora, L. Cinnamum Camphora, Ar. kufūr, Fr. camphrée, caumfre, Eng. camphor, a gum resin, a whitish translucent crystalline volatile substance, chemically belonging to vegetable oils. Recipes in the Anon Andalus call for small amounts dissolved in rose water at the end of cooking time and added to the dish for the aroma.

It is an extract from the Cinnamomum camphora tree of central Asia. The trees are reputed to be so large that they can shade 200 men. When they reach the height of 8-10 m., they are cut down. The wood is distilled and the white camphor crystals are separated from it, which are cold and dry in the third degree.

It is a native of China and Japan and spread from there to India and Madagascar. The Arabs brought it to Europe where it grows in Italy and now in other tropical and subtropical countries. Versicles recited from the Koran in Al-Andalus mosques indicate that camphor mixed with liquid was thought to be a beverage in paradise. Camphor has been worn as a talisman against disease and is attributed to the Virgin Mary. In medieval Europe, it signified health and divination. The bitter aromatic tasting oil has a strong characteristic smell.

Arabian pharmacists expanded the use of camphor in medicine. It has been made into a solution for skin problems. It has been believed to excite the brain, give energy to the heart and increase sweat, urine and bronchial secretions. It is a diaphoretic, antithermic and antispasmodic. It has been applied as a remedy for tuberculosis, angina, pneumonia, headaches, epilepsy and for eye irritation. It refreshes the liver and kidneys, stops bleeding and is mixed with oils for facials. It is used as an antidote against poisoning. Formerly it was thought to be an antaphrodisiac. Camphor is an insect repellant for moths, in particular, and used to preserve animal skins and wool. [Anón/Huici.1966:45:37-38: 50:40:323:180; Corominas. Cast. 1980:I:A:9; ES: Word. Dec 26, 06; Espasa. 1988:4:ALAL:240-243; and Laza. 2002:110]


Painted by: Amy HautmanIngredients

1/3 c almonds
1 ½ c rosewater
1 chickens or other fowl (pigeons or doves)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 sm onion chopped
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp coriander
juice from 2-3 lemons
1/4 tsp camphor


Blanch almonds and remove skins. Place then in a blender with ½ c rosewater and chop. Clean chicken or other fowl and cut into four pieces (if smaller fowl cut in half). Heat pan. Add oil. When warm add salt, onion, pepper, coriander and fowl. When done remove add the almonds in rosewater to thicken the liquid. Slowly add lemon juice tasting continually until satisfied with the degree of acidity. Dissolve the camphor in the remaining rosewater and add that to the sauce. Let this rest for 20 minutes and serve.

Note: take care not to use too much camphor or it will taste like moth balls!


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  2. My sincere thanks for your compliments. This blog is the result of decades of research and testing medieval recipes by preparing them i my kitchen - a bit like the Julia and Julie movie but every recipe did not turn out well, nor are the products readily available in a supermarket. Sometimes recipes have been made 3 or 4 times until the ingredients are right, if and when the iright ngredients are found.
    My general rule of thumb is to delete any comments advertising a product. Here, I made an exception because I am inflated with your compliments!

    NO - seriously, it is because your information on Camphor Oil is fascinating and with your permission would like to up date my blog to include some of your input.

    This is what this blog is about - sharing information to recreate medieval Spanish cuisine as it was between the 13th and 15th Century,

    Thank you

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  4. Many thanks for the compliment. I publish three times weekly after years of researching medieval Spanish cuisine. I hope you find other blogs as useful.

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