No Knead Sourdough (in terracotta molds)

The Egyptians were known to bake their breads into all kinds of shapes, from triangles to the more elaborate.     We’re gonna keep it simple today, and use a clean Terracotta flower pot to bake bread.

Did I mention today’s recipe is no knead?  No, you don’t need to knead if you have a lot of time to spare. 24 hours in fact. This bread “rises” for a whole day, developing gluten content and a great, sour flavor in a heavily fermented dough.

With a recipe like this, you can understand why the rise of fermented bread goes hand in hand with large scale breweries.  To make this loaf, you’re basically making a beer mash, and then baking it instead of brewing it.  Beer and bread go hand and hand, and nobody knew that better than the Ancient Egyptians.

Thanks to Kathy Caufman’s “Cooking in Ancient Civilizations” for the terracotta method and the idea of using wheat and semolina flour to make a coarse, kind of imitation ancient flour.

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NO KNEAD SOURDOUGH

(makes 2 small loaves)

350g whole wheat flour
150g semolina flour
350ml warm water
1 tbsp salt
1/4 cup sourdough starter or 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast
4 tbsp lard
2 6″ diameter Terracotta pots

Combine the water and sourdough starter (or yeast) in a large bowl. Let activate for 5 minutes, then add the salt and flours, stirring together with a wooden spoon.  You should form a very wet dough.  If it has a lot of structure, add a little more water. If you can handle it with your hand, add a little more water.

Give the dough a sort of spoon kneading for half a minute, then cover with plastic and wait for 15 minutes.  Knead with the spoon again, recover, and repeat the process after 15 more minutes.

Now cover, and leave at room temperature for 18-24 hours! Yes, that long. We want a lot of proofing and a lot of flavor.

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Look at all those sexy bubbles.

The next day, prepare the pots. Rub the insides with a thin coating of lard.  Place in the oven, preheat it to 300F, then turn the oven off once its up to temp and let the pots cool to room temperature. This will give us a sort of ancient non stick coating.

When you’re almost ready to bake, turn out the proofed dough onto a surface coated lightly in semolina and divide in two.  Lightly shape each into a ball and cover loosely with plastic.  Let proof for one more hour.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450F, with the terracotta pots on a baking sheet inside.  When the loaves have proofed for their hour and the oven and pots are blazing hot.  Using oven mits or dry kitchen towels, carefully drop the bread onto the baking sheet and invert the pots over them.  If the loaves are too large to fit, fold them underneath themselves a bit to compress the circumference.

Bake for 15 minutes, then turn off the oven but do not open the door. Let the bread cook in the cooling oven another 30 minutes, then take it out and let cool inside the mold.

When everything is cooled off, the mold should lift right up, and you should have a nicely rounded sourdough loaf full of proofing holes, the mark of flavor.  If any of your crust didn’t make it under the pot like in the picture below, simply break it off, nice and easy.

Egyptian Cassoulet (Broad Bean and Salted Meat Stew)

Here is yet another invented Egyptian recipe (because the Egyptians left no recipes that we have found).  Cassoulet is a much later french dish, variations on a peasant stew with salted meats and legumes.  It’s very possible the Ancient Egyptians, of course loving both of those ingredients, would have eaten something similar.

This dish may appear simple, but it’s packed with the deepest flavor you can imagine.  It’s hearty and filling too, and goes great with a loaf of Multi-grain Bread.

In early Egyptian history, the presence of meat makes this an elite dish.  But wild water fowl like ducks could have occasionally been caught by both rich or poor, and later on, especially during the New Kingdom, pork became more affordable to those not of the upper crust.

Finally, Egyptians grew old world broad beans, particularly a variety called a lupine, which required soaking for several days to make non-toxic.  We’re going to substitute Fava Beans, which are indigenous to North Africa.

That gives us the 3 main ingredients we need to make this all day stew.  Duck, Salt Potk, and Fava Beans.  Let’s make Egyptian Cassoulet. Continue reading “Egyptian Cassoulet (Broad Bean and Salted Meat Stew)”

Quick-Pickled Fish and Chopped Salad

Here we have a dish that is inspired by Egypt, but  is not an actual Egyptian recipe.  There are no Egyptian recipes. They either didn’t write any, or we haven’t found them.

But through paintings, textual references, and actual meals left behind for archeologists to discover, we can still infer a lot about Ancient Egyptian cuisine.

River fish, particularly mullet, was probably important for rich and poor alike, and Egyptian morticians/chefs worked together to discover the secrets of pickling both food and corpses.  Pickled fish not only allowed for preservation of a natural resource, it was considered quite a delicacy.

This fish is what I’m calling “Quick pickled.” It’s really more of a poached fish, but by doing it in vinegar you can achieve a mild, not too intense pickle flavor that make the fish a nice topper for salads or other cold sides. Continue reading “Quick-Pickled Fish and Chopped Salad”

Boiled Boar Dinner and Lentil Salad

Simple and hearty today. We’re going back for a taste of the  ancient Near East.

Thanks to the famous Greek historian Herodotus, most anthropologists believed that Egyptians avoided pork either for religion or out of disgust, but evidence has shown that first wild boar, and then domesticated pig as well as their fat as a cooking medium  were consumed regularly up until the New Kingdom. In this late period, when a rising sort of middle class could afford to eat pork, the elites may have shunned it to distinguish themselves. After that, pigs were considered a lower class food.

We’re tracing Egypt from the very beginning, so for this dish I’m gonna say pigs are not yet domesticated. Luckily, I’ve got the shoulder of a wild boar. Boar is interesting. It cooks like pig but will remind you more of beef than of pork.

Why boil it all? Well first off, it’ll really be more of a heavy simmer. But the long cook time needed to make pork shoulder tender will work well with a lot of liquid, keeping the meat nice and juicy and forming a flavorful broth in the process.  Secondly, pottery changed cooking in the Neolithic. Pottage, or soups and stews, were very popular all over the Near East.  Even though we’re using this recipe to kick off History of Food’s Egypt episode, this is a dish you could probably find all over the fertile crescent and beyond.  Anywhere there was wild boar to be domesticated, and pots invented to cook it in.

Continue reading “Boiled Boar Dinner and Lentil Salad”

Corn and Quinoa Salad with Salsa Aguacate

We’re leaving the Peruvian coasts and traveling upwards. Inland to the east, the land immediately rises into the Andes Mountains, where a more diverse array of crops could be grown, among them avocados and chili peppers.  Travel even higher, and you encounter the pseudo-grains, most prolifically quinoa, which was grown together with maize in the same field.

So I put all those ingredients in a salad. This quinoa and corn was actually purchased in Cusco, Peru.

 

Continue reading “Corn and Quinoa Salad with Salsa Aguacate”

Grilled”Anchovies” and Roots (Simple Andean Supper )

A very simple recipe to kick off our month of ancient Andean recipes.  This invented meal is composed of some of the kinds of ingredients the Norte Chico, first civilization of South America on the coasts of Peru, might have had available for a hearty supper.

20180222_144414.jpgPotato, Sweet Potato, Edo, and corn (not yet cooked)

The people living at Norte Chico in modern Peru got most of their direct food from the ocean, but they also traded that surplus of marine life for a very diverse rest of the diet. Up in the mid and highlands of the Andes, all kinds of foods were being cultivated and domesticated.

There are so many unique roots to South America that I just can’t get my hands on, but I’ve got some domestic versions of some of the main ones.  Potato, sweet potato, and any other starchy root like Cassava, Malanga, or Edo. Continue reading “Grilled”Anchovies” and Roots (Simple Andean Supper )”

Sumerian Sweets Table

In an effort to please their gods, the ancient Sumerians, first people to build urban civilization, invented professional cooking and high cuisine.  Cities’ patron deities were literally fed four lavish meals with multiple courses every day.

It’s not clear if they yet had a concept of “dessert” as its own special part of a meal, but fruit, nuts, pastries, confections, and other items sweetened with “honey” (what the Sumerians called date syrup) were definitely consumed at least as part of the overall meal.

As we’ve mentioned before, cane sugar was unheard of in the old world.  That means these desserts, while still rich and satisfying for a sweet tooth’s craiving, derive all that sweetness from fruit, particularly dates.  That means this entire  plate has ZERO ADDED SUGAR, and is as healthy a dessert as you can get, short of just eating plain fruit.

So that’s what we’re doing today.  This recipe post is actually several recipes in one, as we attempt to construct an authentic Sumerian sweets table, fit for a god or goddess. We’ll be making Mersu (date and pistachio bites), Sesame date buns, Palace Cake, Date and Barley porridge, and a Yogurt Lassi to wash it all down.

To get started, let’s make some homemade raisins.

Continue reading “Sumerian Sweets Table”