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Thursday, February 23, 2012


Ibn Battuta meets Indian Sultan
Photo by: TR Ramesh
1304-1368. He was born in Tangier. At the age of 20, Ibn Battuta decided to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca. For the next 29 years, more or less, he traveled some 75,000 miles through what today are some 44 countries, mostly dominated by Muslims between Tangiers and the Far East. This included Niger, Timbuktu, Turkey, central Asia, India, China and Mali. His motto was to never retrace his footsteps or cover the same route twice.

He returned home in 1346 where he lived until April 1350. Then Battuta sailed to Gilbalter to join Spanish Muslims against the “the holy wars” of Spanish Christians who were driving them out of the peninsula. When he arrived, however, there was no fighting as Alfonso XI had died of the Black Death. Battuta, therefore, visited dignitaries in Muslim Spain as a tourist.

In Malaga, he met the cadi and ate Valencian (sweet) oranges. From there he traveled on to Granada. It is doubted that he met Yusuf I (1333-1354), the sultan, due to his illness at the time but his mother sent him a purse of gold. There, Battuta met Iban Juzayy who created poetry and wrote about law and history.

Abu 'Inan Faris (d. 1358), the Sultan of Morocco, brought him to Fez where demanded that he dictate the story of his travels. Ibn Juzayy was appointed to inscribe the account. The Rihla, the work, has survived and is valued today for the light it sheds on medieval history. It relates dangers and adventures, bandit attacks, a near drowning as a boat sank, a close shave as a tyrant ordered him to be beheaded, some marriages, lovers and children as a result. Other descriptions include women’s roles, religious matters, current politics, economics and other social matters such as cookery and “strange plants”. He makes particular mention of foods connected with the medieval attitude toward hospitality including "luqumât al-qâdi," (“the Cadi’s Morsels.”) in Volume III, p. 757 of the translation of his work by H.A.R. Gibb and p. 139 of the translation by Mahdi Husain. The latter gives the Arabic, the former only the English.These are bits of pastry fried with or without pistachios, almonds or pinenuts. The recipes are included in the Anon Andalus and Fadalat. See bocados, published on March 22, 2012 for the Andalus recipe. [Anón/Huici. 1966:268:156:ftn 97; Ibn Razīn/Granja. 1960:48:21; ES: Anon/Perry. Sep 5, 02:ftn 97; ES: Alhabshi. Nov 30, 01; and ES: “Travels.” Dec 22, 99.]



Hedgehogs Tarts
(by the Chef who got carried 
away and had to bake them!)
Photoby EvaApple
3 c sugar
2/3 c orange blossom water
1 c peeled and ground almonds
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves

1 pkg dry yeast
½ c warm water
3/4 c scalded milk
1/3 c butter
1/4 c sugar
2 eggs
5 c. flour
1 pinch of salt

Extra virgin olive oil for frying

powdered sugar



Place sugar in orange blossom water in a large heavy saucepan. Heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Turn up heat and bring to a boil. Cover and let boil for 3 minutes. Uncover and let boil until it becomes a soft ball.

Place the bottom of the saucepan in the cold water in a sink, stirring the sugar mixture constantly until it becomes thick and creamy.

Add the ground almonds and spices. Return to the stove over low heat. Stir for 2 minutes until mixture is thick.

Spoon filling onto the workspace, turning it with a metal spatula until it cools enough to be touched.


Put the yeast in warm water. Blend milk, butter and sugar with the yeast. Add eggs and 1 c. flour, beat well. Add the rest of the flour slowly. Knead 8 - 10 min. Place in a sprayed or greased bowl. Cover, let rise until doubled. Roll and cut into circles. Place a spoonful of filling on each circle. Fold over and shape it like almonds.

Deep fry them. Sprinkle sugar over them and serve.

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