“Salladhor Saan got to his feet. ‘My pardons. These grapes have given me a hunger, and dinner awaits on my Valyrian. Minced lamb with pepper and roasted gull stuffed with mushrooms and fennel and onion.” (II: 115)
Medieval Lamb Meatballs and Modern Roasted “Gull”
This is a really nice, comparatively easy meal. The lamb meatballs are simply made, soft and spicy. Because they only have pepper in them, the delicious flavor unique to lamb really comes through. The eggplant puree only adds to the experience of the meatballs. In the “gull” corner, the stuffing is what really makes it special. The fennel stays a little crunchy, providing a nice textural counterpoint to the flavor combo of the other ingredients. Pop a few grapes for dessert, and you’ll be feasting like a pirate king.
Medieval Arabic Lamb Meatballs
Buran. The way to make it is to take eggplant and boil it lightly in water and salt, then take it out and let it dry awhile, then fry it in fresh sesame oil until it is done. Peel it and leave it in a plate or large bowl, and mix it well with a ladle until it becomes like a pudding. Throw in a little salt and dry coriander. Then take Persian yoghurt, mix garlic with it, throw it on that eggplant and mix well with it. Then take lean meat and beat it well [and make it into small meatballs], and take fresh tail fat, and throw the meatballs into it and stir them until they are browned. Then cover them with water and boil them until the water dries up and they return to their fat. Put them on the surface of the eggplant, sprinkle with cumin and finely pounded cinnamon and use it. -Baghdad Cookbook (English translation of Charles Perry), 13th Century
Our changes: We substituted oil for the sheep fat. While something might be lost in flavor, it is no doubt made up for in the ease of obtaining the ingredients. We also added Aleppo pepper to the meatballs. If you’ve not tried this terrific pepper, you are missing out. It can be found in some large grocery stores, and in Middle Eastern markets.
- 1 eggplant, cut into large chunks
- 3 Tbsp. sesame oil
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- 3 fl.oz Greek yoghurt
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 pound) ground meat of lamb
- 1-2 Tbs. Aleppo pepper
- 1/4 cup Sesame or Olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. in all of ground cumin and cinnamon
For the Eggplant
In a large covered saucepan, boil the eggplant for five minutes in water with salt. Let it drain, cool and dry. Heat oil in a skillet or saucepan and add the boiled eggplant. Cover, and stew the eggplant over a low heat with the lid on until it is very soft. If need be, turn the eggplant a couple of time, cooking for about 15 minutes. Remove from stove. Pull the skin off the eggplant, and mince the flesh with a fork or in a blender. Temper to taste with yoghurt, garlic, salt and ground coriander.
For the Meatballs
Mix the ground lamb with the Aleppo pepper, and roll into small disc-shaped meatballs. Choose a casserole in which the balls fit snugly. Heat sheep fat or oil, fry the meatballs until they are brown. Pour enough water in to cover the balls. Let it simmer for around 5-10 minutes, then check one of the meatballs to see if it’s done. Add the eggplant sauce to the meatballs, heat through. The modern cook would add some salt and pepper to the meatballs.
Cook’s Notes: Given the lack of readily available gulls in our local markets, we decided to swap in some Cornish game hens. A chicken could also be used, but the game hens provide a slightly quirkier presentation. They have a slightly different texture from chickens as well.
- 3 game hens
- 1 cup diced mushrooms
- 1/2 cup diced fennel bulb
- 1 smallish diced onion
- 2-3 cloves minced garlic
- olive oil
- 1+ cup of rice or couscous (enough to bulk up the stuffing)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut up and combine the mushrooms, fennel, onion, and garlic. Toss with some olive oil and salt, spread out in an oven safe dish, and roast for about 15 minutes.
While the stuffing is in the oven, make some rice or couscous according to the directions on their package. Rub the game hens with olive oil and salt them. You may also sprinkle with a little pepper, if you like. When the rice/couscous and the vegetables are both done, combine them and stuff the game hens with the mixture.
Cook the hens for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the juices run clear and they are a nice golden color.