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Escabeche, an arabian method of preserving food, recipes of marzipan amd makdous

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THE ARAB INFLUENCE IN THE SPANISH CUISINE It really isn't possible to speak about Spanish food or the Mediterranean diet without noting the importance of the rich legacy of Al-Andalus gastronomy. Much of the current cuisine of the Iberian country is heir of the Muslim tradition, an empire that occupied up to 70% of the country at some point. This occupation extended from 711 to 1492, the year that Spain was unified and America was discovered. Al-Andalus gastronomy is much reflected in the mediterranean diet, with some variations of course, such as the consumption of pork. This inheritance is specially marked in Andalusia, where gazpachos and other cold soups are originally from, but this influence is also reflected in other areas such as Alicante (Valencia) where a typical nougat is made, Murcia, Almeria and many more regions. Just like in any other gastronomy, different food was consumed according to social class, cities and rural areas. The preparation methods varied as well. The tradition of Al-Andalus gastromomy is very rich and varied. They had less prohibitions than Jews, in fact mainly pork and fermented drinks were forbidden, however this precept was not always respected or followed 100% in Muslim Spain. The Arab tradition in Spain also contributed to the Spanish vocabulary. Many of the Moorish dishes and ingredients that made it into the Spanish language begin with the letter 'a' such as the culinary words like albóndiga (meatballs), aceite (oil), aceituna (olives), arroz (rice), etc. The higher classes consumed little or no fish and shellfish. There was no religious prohibition related to products from the sea, but rather it was the doctors that discouraged them from the kitchens, arguing that it's pestilent odour and strong taste was not healthy. Nowadays fried fish is very common in the gastronomy of the southern Spanish region of Andalusia. However the Al-andalus gastronomy of the more humble classes, specially those who lived near the coasts ate plenty of fish; raw, fried or salted, the most common were sardines and tuna. In fact, one of the main cookery techniques that the Arabs brought to Spain was pickling, especially fish in vinegar solutions. Today, you will find that pickled anchovies and sardines are commonly eaten as a tapa when served on a piece of bread. There are many products that the Arabs introduced in the Iberian peninsula: eggplant, spinach, sugar cane, rice, apricots and citrics among others. It's true that olives have been cultivated in Spain from pre historic times, but the olive culture


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increased considerably under the Al-Andalus empire. The introduction of irrigation ditches, cisterns and draining systems contributed largely to it. But it wasn't only the olive production that increased with these improvements, but all kinds of crops. The meats that the arabs prefered were lamb and poultry; basically with little grease. They would be marinated overnight in milk or vinegar, seasoned with vegetables such as onion, garlic, fennel and olives and spiced with cinnamon and coriander. Overall, the Al-Andalus diet was very healthy, especially compared to those typical from other regions of Spain with little or no Arab influence. The Moors brought heaps of technology to the Iberian peninsular, but not all of them were for food. It is thanks to the Moors that the Spanish learnt how to use stills for distilling alcohol. The Moors didn't drink alcohol for religious purposes so they have developed these stills to create alcohols for medicinal purposes instead, as well as to produce perfumes. However, the Spanish used them to make alcohols that were able to be drunk such as licor de orujo, which is made from grape must. Other areas of the Spanish gastronomy that were affected by the Moors include desserts. The Moors brought sugarcane to Spain and taught the Spanish how to refine it. This helped to revolutionise Spanish cakes and other sweets which has generally been made in a similar fashion to bread and then sweetened with honey. Other desserts influenced by the Moorish culture include arrope, a syrup which is used in a similar way to marmalade.


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‘ESCABECHE’: AN ARABIAN METHOD OF PRESERVING FOOD Pickling (escabeche, in Spanish) is a method of preserving food in vinegar. This is also called the food thus obtained. The method for processing a pickled food is within the operations denominated in cooking as marinade, and the technique basically consists of the precooked by means of a vinegar broth, fried oil, wine, laurel and pepper in grain. It is the transformation of a preparation of Arabic cuisine. The spanish word ‘escabeche’ in Persia referred to a meat stew with vinegar and other ingredients that is already quoted in "The Thousand and One Nights". This culinary technique, almost exclusively with meat, developed in parallel in other Arab countries as well as in Persia. Although spread throughout the Mediterranean area, it is often noted in international recipes as a genuinely Spanish food process. The pickle has been made with the primary purpose of preserving the fish by immersing it in an acid medium such as wine vinegar. The usual pH in this type of preparation is below 4.5.5. The acidic medium stops the cells responsible for the putrefaction in addition to avoid the synthesis of the compound called trimethylamine, responsible for the fish smell. For this reason, pickles do not possess a strong odor of rotten fish. Acidic media stop the rotting of other organic tissues such as meats, that is why any culinary preparation including a light dip in wine vinegar as acid medium has been referred to as pickling. The addition of pepper powder, so common in Spanish marinades, is due to its fungicidal properties. Tuna is a clear example of pickled fish Pickled trouts Pickled mackerel Mussels in pickled sauce is an another example of preserved food


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MARZIPAN History Mazapán (marzipan) means March's bread. This delicious sweetmeat's origin is disputed by several nations, however there are two theories which are more backed up by historians than others. Spain claims it was invented in Toledo and Italy says it was in Sicily. However going back even further there is little certainty. On the one hand it is said that marzipan true origin is Arabic as described in One Thousand and One Nights and it is described as being used during the hardships of Ramadan or as an aphrodisiac; the European version is basically a variation. On the other hand we also know of a similar preparation in ancient Greece, where a paste of almonds and honey was made, however it was during Christian times that it was included in the Easter preparations. Whatever the origin, the best marzipan in the world is founded in Spain, specifically in the city of Toledo. Toledo was one of the multicultural and multi religious cities where Christians, Jews and Muslims lived together in perfect harmony, and would do so for a few centuries. It is not to wonder then that the invention of marzipan, as we know it today, is pretty much a variation of a Arabic sweetmeat. According to this version, marzipan was invented by nuns of the Convent of San Clemente in Toledo. After the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, in 1212, where several of the would be Christian kingdoms fought the Muslims, as an attempt to reconquer the occupied territory, there was a terrible famine in Castile. At the time there was no wheat stored in the city, but there was plenty of sugar and almonds. So the nuns invented a paste made with these two ingredients, and perhaps some others, that allowed them to preserve the food and feed the undernourished people of the city. Therefore, we can say that marzipan was born as a method of conservation. We also know that in the hospital Santiago de Toledo a preparation of shredded hen breast mixed with with almonds and sugar was prescribed, which was said to be a variety of marzipan. In 1613, an ordinance established that confectioners only would accept almonds and white sugar as the ingredients of true marzipan.


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Recipe: Ingredients: • 250 gm of finely ground almonds. • 250 gm of icing sugar. • 1 egg white • 1 egg yolk • 2 TBSP water Preparation: 1. Place the icing sugar, ground almonds and an egg white in a bowl. 2. Blend until obtaining an even mixture, then kneed. The dough must be adherent, but not to stick a lot to the hands. If it was too sticky, that means you have used a lot of white and you’d need to add more almonds and sugar in equal proportion. If, on the contrary, the dough was a bit dry, we could add a little bit of water.


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3. We cover the dough with a film to moisturize and allow it to stand in a cool place for about two hours. 4. Heat the oven to 400° F. 5. Once the dough is hardened, shape 3-inch figurines and place them on an oil- brushed cookie sheet. 6. Glaze the figures with egg yolk and place in a hot oven for a few minutes.


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7. Place the cookie sheet in the oven at 400 F for about two minutes or until the figurines are golden. 8. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Variation: marzipan stuffed with yolk 1. Move away a portion of the mixture of almonds and sugar, add egg yolk and kneed until the dough becomes consistent, just as the common marzipan dough. Allow it also to sit in a cool place for the same time as the other. 2. Make a roll with the yolk marzipan dough of the thickness you like most. Using a rollong pin, spread out a piece of common marzipan dough and envelope the yolk marzipan with it.


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3. Roll the cylindar to even it and disguise the union of both doughs. 4. Place the roll on a cookie sheet, make some obliques line son it with a knife, brush it with egg yolk and bake in a preheated oven until it is golden.


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MAKDOUS Food is preserved in olive oil in many countries around the world. Here’s an example of it. RECIPE Ingredients: • 5-6 small, long eggplants • salt • ½ - ¾ cup feta cheese, crumbled • ¼ cup walnut, chopped Instructions: 1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. 2. Place eggplants in boiling water and weigh them down (placing another pot on top will do) to prevent floating. 3. Boil until slightly soft (they should still hold their shape when you hole them by one end. About 3-5 minutes. 4. Transfer to an ice bath to cool. 5. Trim each end of the eggplants to the length of the jar (make sure they are shorter than the shoulder of the jar). 6. Slit the eggplant like a hot dog bun, making sure not to cut in half. Place on a cookie sheet or a plate and liberally scatter with salt (including inside the slit). You want to use more salt than you'd cook with - this will help release the liquid and help the eggplant keep it's shape when marinating in olive oil). 7. Place another cookie sheet or plate on top of the eggplant and cover with 5-10 cookbooks to help push the water out from the veg. Leave for 4-6 hours. 8. Rinse the eggplant (including the insides) thoroughly to remove salt. You may want to taste the eggplant - if it's too salty continue to rinse (resist the urge to soak them as this can make them absorb the water you just removed).


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9. Combine the feta and walnut and carefully fill each eggplant. They will take more stuffing than you expect. Push firmly to 'close' the eggplant which will help it hold the stuffing in. 10.Place any remaining filling at the bottom of a clean wide-mouth mason jar. Carefully add the eggplants and cover in olive oil. Transfer to fridge. 11.After 5 days they will be ready and should be eaten within the next 5-10 days or frozen for longer storage.



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