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Wednesday, April 30, 2014


The Four Basic Spices: Cloves, Cinnamon, Ginger and Pepper
Photo by: Lord-Williams
OCat natura, Cat espècies, Eng spices. These are obtained from various parts of plants, including the bark, flowers, buds, fruits, seed, roots and secretions. Spices are found in tropical or semitropical climates. Covarrubias defines them as drugs coming from the Indies used to flavor stews and any other medicinal substance sold by pharmacists. It should be noted, however, that mustard, saffron and caraway were cultivated in Iberia.

The Introduction of Grewe’s translation of Sent Soví, states that the spices most commonly used where pepper, ginger, galingale, cinnamon, cloves, mace, nutmeg, cardamom and saffron. All were imported except saffron. Spices were used to enhance food dishes. For the last four thousand years they have been the symbol of prestige, wealth and culture. Formerly, meals were not an “eat and run affair.” Food was savoured.

All spices contained properties affecting the four humours. The importance in cookery was to obtain the proper balance of spices for good health. Throughout history, the demand for spices gave impetus to exploration in the Orient, which lead to geographical discoveries and conquests throughout history.

During the Middle Ages, spices were the result of cultural borrowing. By 1191 Arabs held the monopoly on the spice trade and charged outrageous prices. Grains of paradise and mace among others had to be imported, which made them expensive. Between the 11th and 13th C Jews took part in spice trading between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean and Africa during the 15th C. In Europe spices were not in vogue until prices dropped during the 13th C, which continued until the 17th C.

Spanish medieval cooking was adopted from the Arabs who spiced their drinks, fish, meats and jams. Further, they were used medicinally. Christians went against their norms by sharing with Arabs the idea of gratification of the senses through food.

Since misconceptions have sprung up such as the medieval application of spices to preserve meat. Some herbs can preserve blood but generally food was preserved with salt. Most spices were added to fresh meat. Dishes were not drowned in spices to mask rotten food. The use of them was. based on the art of combining them or edifying them not on the quantity. Like colors, certain spices cannot be mixed with others. Pepper, ginger, cinnamon and cloves were the four basic spices.

In the 17th C. Puritans in England even prohibited their use. Then saffron was out as well as parsley too, except for peasants. By the 19th C. sugar was discarded as well. In the 16th C, Europeans discovered America not for food as a necessity but for the desire to eat well. Flavorings, spices and herbs are what Europeans seek. They maintain that in spite of big stomachs, Americans have no palate. They never discovered Europe! If this is true, then what are international politics really about today? Food makes a man tick but the flavors influencing him are the pith of his character and the personality of his nation. 

[Anón/Grewe. 1982:13:V:66:VI:67:VII:67 etc; Anón/Huici. 1966:206:129-130:207:130:208:130 etc; Covarrubias: 1998:552-553:64b; ES: Collins. Apr 1, 96; ES: Figueroa. “Especias.” Jan 29, 03; ES “Gastronomía.” May 2, 03; ES: Strassmann. May, 00; Gitlitz. 1999:34-35; Ibn Razīn/Granja. 1960:44:21: 48:21:310:29; and Nola/Pérez. 1994:202]

For about 6 persons

Sealing the Meat
Photo by: Lord-Williams

apple juice from 1 ½ lb apples
2 ¾  lbs lamb[1]
¼- ½ C olive oil
1 onion skinned and quartered
salt to taste
1 tsp coriander
¼ tsp pepper
1 tbsp ginger scraping
1 tsp cinnamon[2]
2 eggplants[3]
1 lb whole apples
4 eggs slightly beaten


Make apple juice by washing apples and cutting them into eights. Do not skin them as the skin adds flavour. Put the apples in a saucepan with 1 ½-2” water. The less water the stronger and  better the juice. Simmer covered. From time to time remove the lid and mash the apples with a potato masher.  When very soft, remove from heat and strain. Save the pulp to make applesauce. Set the juice aside for cooking the lamb.

A Unique Ancestor of A Quiche
Wonderfully Delicious!
Photo by: Lord-Williams
Cube ¾ of the lamb. Set the other 1/4th aside. Put the cubed lamb in a pot with oil and seal it. Add onion, salt, pepper, ginger, cinnamon and oil.  Sautee the onion until translucent. Then cover with apple juice pressed from apples and cook without a lid to reduce the liquid for about 1/2 hour. [4]

Grind the meat set aside and make meatballs. Slice the eggplants in half. Rub them with salt and turn them flesh side down on paper towels and leave for ½ hr. When the meat is done, peel the eggplants and boil them separately with whole peeled apples and meatballs. When done, cut the eggplant into cubes and peel and very thinky slice the apples.

Pound the cubes of meat into small pieces.[5] Return them to the pot and add the eggplant, apples and meatballs. Pour the eggs over the dish, cover and let the dish settle on the hearthstone until eggs coagulate[6] and ready to serve in soup bowls.

[1] The original recipe calls for 3 kilos, but it should the number of guests should be considered.
[2] The only basic spice missing from this recipe is cloves.
[3] Unfortunately, eggplant was not in season, a gourd was used instead.
[4] The chef probably would have added garum at this point. As this is not indicated, a bouillon cube was added to enhance the flavour.
[5] This was not done because the meat was tender.
[6] As seen in the final photo, instead of leaving the eggs to coagulate on the hearth, individual oven-proof soup bowls were filled with the mixture and two beaten eggs were poured over each. Then it was grilled in the oven making it a delightfully hearty dish.

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