Thursday, October 11, 2012

Andalucia and a Brilliant Medieval Chicken Sausage

I found a recipe a while ago that I love.  It is a great chicken sausage from a 13th century Andalucian Cookbook that doesn’t use fat to get flavor –– WOW.  

When I think of Andalucian cuisine I think of Gazpacho and Ajo blanco (the white gazpacho that I wrote about HERE), honey pastries, tortillas, fried fish, ham and Sherry. You may not know that many of the iconic foods of the region were inspired by the rich and ancient cuisine of Africa and the Middle East.  

Andalucia is located at the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula.  Cordoba, Granada, Malaga and Seville are its best-known cities.  The area has a history that has been touched by the Romans, Vandals, Visigoths and Byzantines –– but the Moors left my favorite cultural footprint.

Their music, games, literature and science left an enormous mark but so did their architecture –– they left Andalucia some of the most remarkable structures in the world –– think lace made of stone.

Carl Curman Cynotype 1878

The name Andalucia comes from the word Al-Andalus (an Arabized version of Vandalusia – meaning land o f the Vandals).  The Moors governed the territory from 711-1492 (the word ‘Moor’ has many possible roots, from meaning dark to meaning coming from Mauretania).  The Moorish occupation had actually had some perks.  Cordoba had irrigation and streetlights in the 10th century.

One of the great wonders of the world, the Alhambra (Al-amra in Arabic – meaning ‘the red fortress’) was built between 1333-54 by Yusef I and Mohammad V in Granada.  Poets described it as “a pearl set in emeralds” because of the contrast between it’s formerly whitewashed lace structures (now an ecru to soft red color) set in a dense green wood originally planted with roses, oranges and myrtles that also provided perfumed air.  Nightingales and running water provided the soothing soundtrack. 


The carved arabesques and tiles are what makes the magic.  Light plays on the structure in an astonishing way. 

The muquarnas (a stalactite-like decorative element first seen in Iran) became a central point of the ceilings in the Alhambra.

You can imagine such an elegant culture would have an equally elegant and complex cuisine and you’d be right.  It is a brilliant cuisine with subtle flavors.

An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook of the Thirteenth Century (translation by Charles Perry and available online HERE) is quite a remarkable book that was written shortly before the Alhambra was  built. The recipes are exquisite.

This particular sausage is richly flavored without any added fat, nuts supply the rich texture –– making it a perfect sausage for today.  It is simple to make with a food processor –– you can make patties if you would like to skip the step of stuffing sausage casings.  The flavor and texture will surprise you.

The recipe was redone on Godecookery's site with lavender instead of spikenard,  a delicious substitution if you are not one of a handful of people who keep spikenard in their spice cabinets.  I made them both ways to see the difference.  The spikenard is a dark flavor and is very different from lavender.  If you want to have a closer flavor, I'd say dried mushrooms and a bit of oregano would come close.  They are delicious dunked in mustard.  

The apples are amazing. In the original dish the apples were added to a meat dish.  I decided to do the apples separately as a side to my sausages. Who knew saffron would be great with apples?   I can see these apples being used as a great side dish to pork, a thanksgiving turkey dinner or even a light dessert.

Andalusian Chicken Sausage from the 14th Century for 3 or 4

1 1/4 oz almonds
1 1/4 oz walnuts
2 T pine nuts
1/2 t caraway seeds
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t black pepper
1 t salt
1/2 to 1 t lavender (crushed) or 1/2 t spikenard 
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped in big chunks
1 T honey
1 egg
sausage casings
oil for frying

Put the nuts and spices into the food processor and chop till well ground (or to taste--- less if you want them chunkier)

add the meat, honey and egg and process till well ground.

Put the sausage in the casings as your machine requires (I use a Kitchenaid attachment) or make into patties or rolls... the mixture will be very moist.

If you have made sausages, simmer them for 20 minutes then store till ready or fry in the oil.  If you made paddies or sausage shapes, chill then fry.

Apples based on those in Tuffâhiyya 

1 large apple, peeled, cored and sliced into 12 slices
3 T sugar
1 or 2 drops camphor or 1 or 2 sprigs of mint
pinch of saffron and coriander
1 drop Aftelier rose essence (available HERE)
 or 2 t rosewater

Put the apples and the sugar in a pan with the saffron in about a cup of water and cook till tender ( I did 10 minutes but it depends on the type of apple you use).  Then add the camphor or mint and rose.  Bathe the apples in the flavored syrup and serve warm or room temperature.

Original recipe:

Dish of Chicken or Whatever Meat You Please
If it is tender, take the flesh of the breast of the hen or partridge or the flesh of the thighs and pound very vigorously, and remove the tendons and pound with the meat almonds, walnuts and pine nuts until completely mixed. Throw in pepper, caraway, cinnamon, spikenard, in the required quantity, and a little honey and eggs; beat all together until it becomes one substance. Then make with this what looks like the 'usba' (intestines with meat) made of lamb innards, and put it in a lamb skin or sheep skin and put it on a heated skewer and cook slowly over a fire of hot coals until it is browned, then remove it and eat it, if you wish with murri and if you wish with mustard, God willing.

Tuffâhiyya , a dish made with apples

Take meat as mentioned in the recipe for safarjaliyya [Take the flesh of a young fat lamb or calf; cut in small pieces and put in the pot with salt, pepper, coriander seed, saffron, oil and a little water; put on a low fire until the meat is done] and prepare the same way; then add tart apples, peeled and cleaned, as many as needed... [Huici Miranda estimates 4 words missing] and when you take it to the hearthstone, put in a little sugar, and cut with musk (Adoxa moschatellina - Moschatel) and camphor dissolved in good rose water. The acidity is most efficacious in lightening and strengthening the heart and it can be made with the flesh of birds, such as fat hens or young squabs of the domestic dove or stock-dove and then it will be finer and better.

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ArchitectDesign™ said...

I love this area of Spain -the best food -the best wines -the best lifestyle! Perfect spot for a vacation :-)

La Table De Nana said...

I bet using the thighs imparts the flavor:-)
I always feel..inadequately savvy in anything when I read your posts..:-) I save savor..with time. always

Diane said...

Now I have not tried to find sausage casings in France, maybe it would be best to buy them as I did last time in the UK on line. This recipe sounds delicious. and as always of course a very interesting post. Enjoy your weekend Diane

Barbara said...

The food in that area of Spain is divine. Love the history. The muquarnas are truly fascinating and show up well in your photos.
What a delicious dish! I have never heard of spikenard..thanks for the intro.
Beautiful way to do the apples; unusual. While something as mundane as apple pie has never been on my radar, I do like the unusual recipes I've been seeing this fall. Very creative.

Sarah said...

These sausages look divine. I hope I remember to try this when I take one of my organic chickens out of the freezer. I also love the foods of Andalucia and loved visiting the area a few years back.

Claudia said...

Andalusian cooking - all new to me. I always think of chicken sausages as a turn-of-the-current-century answer to our growing obesity problem! Do love pairing sausages with many fruits - would combine them. Think they add grace and history to the Thanksgiving table.

Frank said...

I can always count on learning something interesting on this site. The culture of Moorish Spanish has fascinated me ever since my high school Spanish classes. But who would have thought that there existed an online collection of recipes from that time and place? Amazing find!

Anonymous said...

These look delicious!! Not to be nit-picky, but the sausages are still using fat to impart flavor :) Nuts are quite high in fat. I'm personally a bit fan of fat so it's no biggie to me - but the fat is still there!

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

I was lucky enough to have visited the Alhambra and several of the cities and villages along the Costa del Sol many years ago. That's where my love of paella began!

The chicken sausage and apples sound wonderful! I'm saving the recipes to try.

Faith said...

Oh wow, the Alhambra completely takes your breath way. You're right, the way the light plays off the structure is magic.

The recipe is lovely, made even more so by the fact that as you pointed out -- it's delicious without the addition of fat! I've been wanting to try my hand at homemade sausages!

Carole said...

Hi there. Food on Friday this time is all about sausages! So it would be great if you linked this in. This is the link . Have a good week.

Karina A. Fogliani-Ahmed said...

I recommend "Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree" for you as a read. The first in a series called "The Islam Quartet", it is the story of the Moors, their customs and food, at the time of the take of Granada. It is written by Pakistani author Tariq Ali, and I am sure you will love it and find more inspiration for your recipes.