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Monday, May 6, 2013


Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott
Photo from: adaduitokla
Gr. kolocasia, L. Colocasia antiquorum or Colocasia esculenta Eng. taro or colocaia taro, elephant ear. It is believed to be a native of India, where it was cultivated some 7,000- 10,000 years ago. It was of the earliest cultivated plants. It spread through the South Pacific and the Mediterranean, especially Egypt and Africa. Arabs brought it to Spain in 714 with sugar cane. The plant needs abundant water and takes from 7 to 18 months to grow depending on soil conditions. It grows only in humid tropics, in wetlands or irrigated areas. The leaves and tubers, which look like potatoes, are eaten. Tubers are baked, roasted or boiled. They are rich in  vitamins and starch. Arabs added taro to lentils. They fried or boiled them to make a broth served with meat. One recipe calls for them being served with meat and yogurt. Taro can be made into a pudding. Ibn Razīn provides a variation of lentils with taro. It has been a common staple in numerous countries as the root contains easily digestible starch like the potatoIt should be eaten immediately once cut. It should not be eaten raw for the toxic content. After peeling, it is sliced and boiled or baked under ashes or an oven. As the potato, it can be served with a variety of foods.

Boiled Lentil Mixture
Photo by: Lord-Williams
Apicius mentions several methods for preparing taro, including boiling it, preparing it with sauces, and cooking it with meat or fowl. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the use of taro dwindled in Europe. This was largely due to the decline of trade and commerce with Egypt, previously controlled by Rome. Taro has remained popular in the Canary Islands. 

[Kiple. 2000:I:218-229; II:1866; Ibn Razīn/Granja. 1960:377:29; and Perry. “Kitāb.” 2001:474:475] 



13th Century Hollandaise Sauce with Saffron
Photo by: Lord-Williams
1 c lentils
1 tbsp virgin olive oil
1 tsp white pepper
1 tbsp cilantro
1 onion chopped or chopped taro boiled or with starch dissolved over low heat
salt to taste

For the Sauce[1]:
1 tsp mashed and dissolved saffron
1 tbsp vinegar
3 eggs
½  c virgin olive oil


Lentils in Hollandaise Sauce
Photo by: Lord-Williams
Wash lentils. Soak them in water overnight. Strain off water and rinse. Put them in a pressure cooker half full with boiling water, 1 tbsp olive oil, ½ tsp pepper, cilantro and onion or taro.[2] Lower heat a simmer about 5 minutes until done.

For the sauce:

Put all the ingredients except the olive oil in a food blender. Beat in all the ingredients on high for a minute. Continue beating and add olive oil one drop at a time as if making mayonnaise. When all is blended, heat water in the bottom of a double boiler. Add the sauce to the top part and heat for a minute or two, stirring constantly. Pour over the lentils, mix well and serve immediately.

[1] It is most curious to note that these are the same ingredients as those for Hollandaise sauce  using olive oil instead of butter and vinegar instead of lemon. Wikipedia states that the sauce first appears in a Dutch cookbook dating from 1593! Ibn Razin beat the Dutch to it!
[2] Taro could not be found. As the lentils are from a Hispano-Muslim recipe, neither pork nor new world products could be admitted. It seems like the scribe is leaving it up to the imagination of the cook to liven up the dish unless taro has the finishing touch which is missing if not found. 

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