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Murri The 13th-century Islamic recipes frequently contain an ingredient translated as "murri" or "almori." It is one of a group of condiments that were popular in early Islamic cooking and vanished sometime after the fourteenth century. Al-Baghdadi gives the following recipes for murri; if you try one and it works out, let me know. According to Charles Perry, the translator of the Kitab al Tibakhah mentioned above, the penny-royal in these recipes is a mis-translation and should be budhaj (rotted barley). He gives the following instructions for making budhaj:

"All the recipes concur that budhaj was made from barley flour (or a mixture of barley and wheat) kneaded without leaven or salt. Loaves of this dough were rotted, generally in closed containers for 40 days, and then dried and ground into flour for further rotting into the condiments."

(First recipe)

Take 5 ratls each of penny royal and flour. Make the flour into a good dough without leaven or salt, bake, and leave until dry. Then grind up fine with the penny-royal, knead into a green trough with a third the quantity of salt, and put out into the sun for 40 days in the heat of the summer, kneading every day at dawn and evening, and sprinkling with water. When black, put into conserving jars, cover with an equal quantity of water, stirring morning and evening: then strain it into the first murri. Add cinnamon, saffron and some aromatic herbs.

(Second recipe)

Take penny-royal and wheaten or barley flour, make into a dry dough with hot water, using no leaven or salt, and bake into a loaf with a hole in the middle. Wrap in fig leaves, stuff into a preserving-jar, and leave in the shade until fetid. Then remove and dry. As you can see, making murri is an elaborate process, and tasting unsuccessful experiments might be a hazardous one; Charles Perry, who has done experiments along these lines, warns that the products may be seriously carcinogenic.

In addition to the surviving recipes for murri, there are also at least two surviving references to what was apparently a fake murri, a substitute made by a much simpler process. If one cannot have real murri, period fake murri seems like the next best thing. The recipe is as follows:

Byzantine Murri

Kitab Wasf, Sina'ah 52, p. 56, Sina'ah 51, p. 65: Charles Perry tr.

Description of byzantine murri [made] right away: There is taken, upon the name of God the Most High, of honey scorched in a nuqrah [perhaps this word means 'a silver vessel'], three ratls; pounded scorched oven bread, ten loaves; starch, half a ratl; roasted anise, fennel and nigella, two uqiyahs of each; byzantine saffron, an uqiya; celery seed, an uqiyah; syrian carob, half a ratl; fifty peeled walnuts, as much as half a ratl; split quinces, five; salt, half a makkuk dissolved in honey; thirty ratls water; and the rest of the ingredients are thrown on it, and it is boiled on a slow flame until a third of the water is absorbed. Then it is strained well in a clean nosebag of hair. It is taken up in a greased glass or pottery vessel with a narrow top. A little lemon from Takranjiya (? Sina'ah 51 has Bakr Fahr) is thrown on it, and if it suits that a little water is thrown on the dough and it is boiled upon it and strained, it would be a second (infusion). The weights and measurements that are given are Antiochan and Zahiri [as] in Mayyafariqin.

1 ratl = 12 uqiya = 1 pint
1 Makkuk = 7.5-18.8 liters dry measure

The following quantities are for 1/32 of the above recipe. The first time I used more bread and the mixture was too thick.

3 T honey
1 1/2 oz bread
1 T wheat starch
2/3 t anise
2/3 t fennel
(2/3 t nigela)
1/4 t saffron
1/3 t celery seed
1/4 oz carob
1/4 oz walnut
1 1/2 oz quince
1/2 c salt in 3 T honey
1 pint water
lemon (1/4 of one)

I cooked the honey in a small frying pan on medium heat, bringing it to a boil then turning off the heat and repeating several times; it tasted scorched. The bread was sliced white bread, toasted in a toaster to be somewhat blackened, then mashed in a mortar. The anise and fennel were toasted in a frying pan or roasted under a broiler, then ground in a mortar with celery seed and walnuts. The quince was quartered and cored. After it was all boiled together for about 2 hours, it was put in a potato ricer, the liquid squeezed out and lemon juice added. The recipe generates about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 c of liquid. I then add another 1/2 c or water to the residue, simmer 1/2 hr -1 hr, and squeeze out that liquid for the second infusion, which yields about 1/3 c. A third infusion using 1/3 c yields another 1/4 c or so.

From: Cariadoc's Miscellany ; (c) David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook, 1988, 1990, 1992.

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