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Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Photo from: Bud Johnson
migas, OCast farradurasfourmentee o formentea (with a wheat base), puches, L. pŭltes (fr. puchada, puchero), Ar. sawiq (powdered barley, barley porridge), Eng polentas, porridges of parched grains. 1. unglazed earthenware pot used in some areas for boiling salt. 2. see hoz. 3. granulated semolina particles,  breadcrumbs. This was a typical dish of the 14th C. Gacha when made with millet flour. 4. bread soups boiled with lard. The basic ingredient is flour or breadcrumbs from various types of grains.

Huici instructs to pound the grain. Gachas can contain vegetables, meat, honey and be sprinkled with sugar. It was a common dish for the Bedouins and pre-Islamic society. It is said that when desert Bedouins and Jews camped out near Medina to take revenge on Muhammad in 624, they were discovered and the Prophet and his men went after them. The former fled leaving their provisions including sawiq to the delight of the aggressors. (Avenzoar stated that sawiq is made with toasted and ground barley.)

This porridge is consumed regularly in Africa. The Muslims introduced gachas to Spain. Traditionally, it was sold in suks along with harisa.

Frying Bread for Croutons
Photo by: Lord-Williams
It became generalized there after the 12th C. it is a typical dish in the Mancha where it is a wheat porridge consisting of wheat boiled in salt water to which milk, honey or another liquid could be added. It is well spiced and sometimes served with lentils or another legume. There in medieval times, the principle food of the lower classes consisted of bread but when wheat was scarce they consumed gachas as a substitute. During the winter in rural areas, it was common to make gachas as a dessert or the main dish for supper.

It was presented as a third course during important banquets of the monarchs of Navarra. In 1433, it was served with honey, spices and venison on one occasion and with breaded lamprey on another.   Recipes have remained in the traditional Andalusian religious cookery as they are appropriate during Lent, All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween) and All Saints’ Day.

Also, this dish was given to those with digestion problems as it is simple, it was easily assimilated. This porridge can be prepared with wheat or toasted wheat, mashed and mixed with dates and sugar. Avenzoar recommended it for those needing good nutrition but in small quantities, which is the most advisable as it did not alter the digestive system.

If cooled in moderation, it provided balanced nutrition, which balanced the humors . It was recommended for those suffering from high fevers and especially in summer for those having a fever and for  also  the healthy. See alcuzcuz, aprovechables, asida, gacha, harisa migas, polenta, sémola, talvina, zahína. [Anón/Huici.1966: 404:222-223: :530:287; Benavides-Barajas. Alhambra. 1999:94-97; Benavides-Barajas. Nueva-Clásica. 1995:83-85; ES: al-Mubarakpuri. May 11, 06; ES: As-Sawiq. Dec 26, 06; Gázquez. 2002:87;
Ibn Zuhr/García Sánchez. 1992:47:ftn 6:49; and Serrano. 2008:393-395]


Gachas with Croutons
Phto by: Lord-Williams

1 qt water[1]
1 ¼ c toasted wheat flour
1 c sugar or honey
2/3 c olive oil
1 tsp salt[2]

cinnamon and sugar[3]


Heat a pot. Add water. Add wheat flour, which has previously been toasted, and sugar or honey, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Add olive oil and a pinch of salt. Gently boil until thick. Remove from heat but continue to stir non-stop. Pour soup bowls and garnish with cinnamon and sugar if desired.

[1] As milk is richer, it was used.
[2] Traditionally 25 gr of anise seed and  zest from a lemon are added although they do not appear in this recipe.
[3] Croutons of toasted or fried bread are also customary garnish for this dish.

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