Typing with 9 Fingers

I spent this afternoon at the SCA event Trial By Fire, a competition in which cooks attempt to produce, and document, historical dishes under “Pennsic War”  (camping conditions).

You have 4 hours to do the cooking, using things like camp stoves, etc.

I have doing this competition for about 10 years, back when it was just an informal thing done in someone’s back yard.

This time, I had found recipes (see below) in 3 (Main Dish, Grain, and Dessert) of the 4 categories (also veggie).

2 of the three dishes I did with charcoal on a sheet of expanded metal on cinder blocks that is on site, and in the process, I thoughtlessly moved a brick that I was using to put my camp oven above charcoal, and ended up with a blister on my right index finger tip, which is having me type 9-fingered now.

Things did not go exactly as planned, and I arrived about 40 minutes late to the event, which meant that I had to set up my workspace, and then start cooking with about 15% of the time already gone.

Luckily, two of the dishes were quick to make, and the last one had a lot of idle time, so I managed to get all of them to the judges in the nick of time.

I was shocked when my grain dish, Lombard Rice, won the grains category, a first for me.

Then, they announced that I had won the “Grand Master”, overall award, and I was completely dumbstruck.

It appears that my main dish, Sour Lamb Stew, kicked some serious culinary ass.

I had a lot of fun, but I’m wiped, and I’ll probably feel this tomorrow

Recipes after break:

Jurjaniyya (Sour Lamb Stew)1

1.5 kg Lamb, something like shoulder or neck, weight after butchering . 3 Onions
4 Carrots 25g (1.1 oz) Jujubes, dried
1½ tsp Salt, Kosher 2 tsp Coriander seed
1½ tsp Cinnamon 1½ tsp Ginger
1 tsp Black pepper 30 g (1¼ Oz) Pomegranate seeds
30 g (1¼ Oz) Raisins 200 ml (⁷⁄₈ cup) Almond milk
45 ml (3 TBSP) Wine vinegar 2 tsp Sugar
15 ml (1 tbsp) Rosewater


  1. If you are using dried jujubes, put them in a bowl with just enough water to cover them, and leave aside to rehydrate.
  2. Cut the lamb into roughly equal sized pieces, removing any sinew (the silvery membrane you find on the edges of the meat).
  3. Put the lamb into a pot with just enough water to cover it, and the salt. Bring to the boil.
  4. Meanwhile, peel the onions and dice finely.
  5. Peel the carrots and slice into julienne strips, leaving out the core of the carrot.
  6. Finely grind the spices in a mortar or electric grinder.
  7. When the pot with the lamb is boiling, add the onion, carrot and spices. Stir well and reduce to a simmer.
  8. Meanwhile, put the pomegranate seeds and raisins in a mortar with enough water to cover them, and pound well.  This can also be done with a blender.  When the mixture has reached a smooth consistency, strain it through a fine cloth to remove any pieces of pomegranate seed.
  9. When the meat has started to soften and the liquid has reduced a little, add the raisin and pomegranate mix, vinegar and almond milk to the pot and continue to simmer.
  10. When the liquid has reduced and the meat is falling apart,  remove from the heat and add the sugar and the rose water, and mix well.  Transfer to a serving platter
  11. Drain the jujubes if necessary, and pour on top of the meat.  Serve warm.

Changes from the above recipe:
I am browning the meat before stewing, because I think that it tastes better.
Instead of using water, I am using lamb stock, and use it to deglaze the pot browning, because I all that lamb neck has too many bones to ignore.
I am not adding any salt because of the use of the stock, which contains some salt naturally.

Jurjaniyya: The way to make it is to cut up meat medium and leave it in the pot, and put water to cover on it with a little salt. Cut onions into dainty pieces, and when the pot boils, put the onions on it, and dry coriander, pepper, ginger and cinnamon, all pounded fine. If you want, add peeled carrots from which the woody interior has been removed, chopped medium. Then stir it until the ingredients are done. When it is done, take seeds of pomegranates and black raisins in equal proportion and pound them fine, macerate well in water and strain through a fine sieve. Then throw them into a pot. Let there be a little bit of vinegar with it. Beat peeled sweet almonds to liquid consistency with water, then throw them into the pot. When it boils and is nearly done, sweeten it with a little sugar, enough to make it pleasant. Throw a handful of jujubes on top of the pot and sprinkle a little rosewater on it. Then cover it until it grows quiet on a fire, and take it up.

Kitab al Tabikh Chapter I (The Book of Dishes, trans. Charles Perry and published as A Baghdad Cookery Book).

Nuhud al-Adra (Virgin’s Breasts)2

200 g Finely ground Semolina flour 200 g Sugar, preferably powdered
200 g Clarified butter (Ghee) 200 g Finely ground almond meal


  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C. (355°F)
  2. Thoroughly mix the semolina and almond meal.
  3. Melt the ghee, and combine with sugar until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is frothy.
  4. Slowly add the semolina and almond meal to the butter and sugar – it is better to do this by hand.
  5. Make walnut sized balls of dough and press in to breast shapes. (Nipples optional)
  6. Bake for around 12-15 minutes, until pale gold.

Nuhud al-Adra: Knead sugar, almonds, samid and clarified butter, equal parts, and make them like breasts, and arrange them on a brass tray. Put it in the bread oven until done, and take it out. It comes out excellently.
Kitab Wasf al-Atima al-Mutada Chapter XI (The Description of Familiar Foods, trans. Charles Perry)
Features in Medieival Arab Cookery, ed. Maxime Rodinson.

Rice Lombard3


1 ½ Cup Rice 3 Cups Broth
¼ tsp Salt 1 Pinch Saffron
1 Pinch Cinnamon 1 Pinch Sugar

Put broth, salt, and saffron into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add rice, cover, and reduce heat. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until rice is tender. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

Rice Lombard: Ryse Lumbard Rynnyng. Recipe ryse & pyke þam wele, & wesh þam in .iii. or .iiij. waters, & than seth þam in clene water til þai begyn to boyle. And at þe fyrst bolyng put oute þe water & seth it in broth of flesh, & put þerto sugyre & colour it with saferon, & serof it forth.

Rise Lombard Standyng. Recipe & make þam in pe same manere, safe take perto brothe of flesh, salmon, or congyr; & cast berto powdre of canel, & make peron lyure of brede as it is aforesaide.

Middle English culinary recipes in MS Harley, an Addition and Commentary  5401, C. Hieatt (ed.)

1 Redaction and recipe by Mistress Leoba of Lecelade (https://leobalecelad.wordpress.com/2018/05/05/jurjaniyya/ also http://www.florilegium.org/files/FOOD-MEATS/Sour-Lamb-Stw-art.html)
2 Redaction and recipe by Mistress Leoba of Lecelade. (https://leobalecelad.wordpress.com/2018/07/27/nuhud-al-adra-virgins-breasts-revisited/ also http://www.florilegium.org/files/FOOD-SWEETS/Virgns-Brests-art.html.)
3 Redaction and recipe by Daniel Myers. (http://www.medievalcookery.com/recipes/riselombard.html)

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