Bringing 7,000 Years of History to Your Kitchen

A selection of our favourite tried and tested recipes from historical sources spanning millenia

Historical Recipes | Tigernut Cake (18th dynasty)RAWI Publishing

Tiger Nut Cake

From Dynasty 18 (14th to 11th c. BCE), New Kingdom

Wall from the tomb of Rekhmire, Thebes

The recipe is illustrated in a scene from the tomb shows men making a cake-like dish made of tiger nuts, giving us the closest thing to a recipe for food from ancient Egypt.
Developed by chef Moustafa Elrefaey 
(following Pierre Tallet)

1 cup tiger nuts ground into a powder
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup ground dates
2 tsp honey
oil (for frying)

Mix the tiger nut powder with water and form a soft dough. Divide the dough into small ball shapes. Mix the ground dates with the honey into a purée. 

To stuff each ball, create a small well with your thumb and fill the balls with the honey/date purée, close the gap, and shape them into cones. 

Fry the cones in oil, turning them frequently. Drain on a paper towel and serve cold.

Historical Recipes | Lentil Puree (3rd century CE)RAWI Publishing

Lentil Purée

From the 3rd c. CE 

Papyrus (Heidelberg Institute for Papyrology) Inv. G 1701

The papyrus on which this Greek recipe is written was found somewhere in Egypt, but its exact provenance is unknown. The papyrus breaks off leaving the recipe incomplete.

Developed by Harald Froschauer and Cornelia Römer

Original recipe
Beat the lentil purée in poultry broth very well, and cook in wine, water, annesos [anise], cumin, dried dill, but cook the lentils separately, grate onions [papyrus cuts off here].

1 1/4 cups red lentils
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp anise
1 medium onion (shallot)
1 tsp dried dill

Wash lentils and cook in chicken broth with crushed anise and cumin. Simmer for 15 minutes on low heat. Add grated or finely chopped onions. Add dried dill towards the end. Season to taste. Serve with a mixed salad.

Historical Recipes | Lebabeyya (14th century CE)RAWI Publishing


Sweet Chicken with Fresh Croutons |
From the 14th c. CE 

Kanz al-Fawa’id fi Tanwi‘ al-Mawa’id (Treasure Trove of Benefits and Variety at the Table)

This unusual dish, a speciality of medieval Egypt, tastes almost like a dessert. 

Developed by Nawal Nasrallah 
(original author anonymous)

2 cups of coarse crumbs of fresh bread
1/4 cup oil
1 1/2 cups sugar syrup (see below) 
1 whole chicken, boiled and fried, or use store-bought rotisserie chicken

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups water
1 tbsp honey 
juice of one lemon
1 tbsp rosewater

The recipe calls for crumbs of fresh white bread with crusts removed; dried breadcrumbs may not be substituted for this.

To make the syrup: In a medium pot, combine sugar, water, honey, lemon juice, and rosewater. Bring the sugar mixture to a boil on low heat until a drop placed in a saucer keeps its dome shape and does not go flat (120°C – about 10 minutes). Remove the pot from the heat immediately. 

Meanwhile, fry the crumbs in oil, until golden, and stir them into the hot syrup. Pour this mixture over the chicken, set in a deep platter. The syrup should be thick enough to coat the chicken, giving it a glazed appearance.

Historical Recipes | Tofaheyya (14th century CE)RAWI Publishing


Meat Stew with Apples | From the 14th c. CE

Kanz al-Fawa’id fi Tanwi‘ al-Mawa’id (Treasure Trove of Benefits and Variety at the Table)

Another sweet and savoury dish of the type medieval travellers found so curious in Cairene cuisine. 

Developed by Wesam E. Masoud 
(original author anonymous)

3 tbsp butter
1 tsp fresh white onion, grated
1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced 
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/2 fresh green apple, cut into chunks
3 cups beef stock
250 g beef tenderloin, cut into small cubes
3 tbsp ground almonds
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp apple vinegar 
1 tsp white sugar
1 tsp fresh coriander
1 tsp fresh mint
1 tsp turmeric powder 
salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the onion, coriander seeds, cumin powder, ginger, and garlic until fragrant. Add the apples and toss to evenly cook on all sides

Meanwhile, heat the beef stock in a separate pot over medium heat and simmer the beef cubes for 5 minutes, skimming off any impurities that rise to the top. Strain the beef from the stock and add to the apple mixture. Turn up the heat and brown the beef and apples together, careful not to let the garlic burn. Add a little beef stock and the ground almonds and stir to combine. Cook until tender.

In a cup, stir together the cornflour, vinegar, and sugar and add to the stew. Simmer for 5 minutes and add the fresh herbs and the turmeric powder. Mix well.

Season with salt and pepper and serve with fresh grated apples and a garnish of fresh mint.

Historical Recipes | Babaz Yakhni (19th century)RAWI Publishing

Babaz Yakhni

Fish Stew | From the 19th c. CE

Nasihat al-Anam fi Hosn al-Ta‘am (Advice for the People on Fine Eating)

When Khedive Ismail’s palace chef retired, he shared his rich repertoire of recipes in a book, first published in 1898 then reprinted at least five times. At the end, he signs off with ‘Ahmed bin Ibrahim, cook of the former Khedive, food philosopher’. 

Developed by Nermin Amin 
(original recipe by Ahmed bin Ibrahim)

1 kg filleted white fish 
1/2 cup olive oil
1 head of garlic (half fried with skin on, half minced)
1 chopped/minced onion
1 tbsp flour
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup tomato purée 
salt and pepper
sprig of rosemary 
yellow lemon, finely sliced

Babaz Yakhni Armani (alternative)
onion diced
whole garlic cloves
1 tbsp sugar

Prepare the fish by cutting into even pieces and frying in olive oil. Remove from oil and drain. In the same pan, fry the unpeeled cloves from half the head of garlic. When they begin to colour, remove and drain. Peel the cloves and arrange on the bottom of a casserole dish. Layer the fried fish evenly on top of the fried garlic. 

Strain the oil into another pot and fry the remaining minced garlic and the chopped onion.* As the onion begins to turn a translucent yellow, add the flour and continue to fry until it begins to colour, but not cook through. At this point, add the vinegar and the tomato purée, mix well, and pour over the fish in the casserole. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top the casserole with rosemary and finely sliced lemon. Place in the oven for 20 minutes, allowing the flavours to meld. Serve immediately.

*For Babaz Yakhni Armani: Add diced onions and fry with whole, peeled cloves of garlic. Add the flour, vinegar, and sugar, stir until the flour starts to change colour, then add the tomatoes as in the above recipe. Pour over the casserole and bake for 20 minutes.

Historical Recipes | Almazeyya (19th century)RAWI Publishing


Lemon Pudding | From the 19th c. CE 

Nasihat al-Anam fi Hosn al-Ta‘am (Advice for the People on Fine Eating)

Not to be confused with kishk almazeyya (a savoury dish), this recipe, developed by Khedive Ismail’s chef, is a variation of a delicious dessert named after diamonds. 

Developed by Nermin Amin 
(original recipe by Ahmed bin Ibrahim)

125 g/ 1/2 cup gelatin
1/2 cup water + 1 cup
5 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp lemon + 1 tbsp
2 tsp salt
1x1 m gauze for straining or a fine mesh strainer

optional for dondorma 
1/4 cup strained beet juice 
1/4 cup peeled & skinned pistachios 
1/4 cup qishta or clotted cream
a bunch of fresh parsley

Stir gelatin in 1/2 cup of water over low heat until thoroughly dissolved. In a bowl, pour 1 cup of water, break the 5 eggs into the water and whisk until foamy. Add sugar and vanilla; mix well and add to the gelatin solution, stirring thoroughly to combine. Add salt and 2 tbsp lemon juice. Mix together over medium heat and bring to a boil (approximately 15 minutes). At this point, pour the remaining lemon juice along the edge of the pot and let cook on low heat for 5 more minutes, covered. Remove from heat and uncover. The mix should appear to be the colour of diamonds (translucent).

Prepare a serving dish with deep sides. Strain the almazeyya through the gauze (or fine mesh strainer) onto the dish.

For dondorma: Divide the almazeyya mixture in four different bowls to create 4 distinct colours, which will be layered in the serving dish. To create a red layer, add the strained juice of a beet to one bowl and mix well. Grind pistachios into a paste using a mortar and pestle and mix into the second plate. Add qishta (clotted cream) to the third and mix evenly. For the fourth plate, pound a bunch of parsley and strain out the liquid through gauze; this will give the mixture a pleasant green colour. Pour the first of the mixes into the deep serving tray and place in the freezer. Once it sets (approximately 5–10 minutes), repeat with the remaining layers. Release from the tray onto a clean surface and slice into cubes. Serve.

Historical Recipes | Artichoke (Early 20th century (possibly earlier))RAWI Publishing

Artichoke Hearts & Broad Beans in Oil

From the Early 20th c. CE (possibly earlier) 

The New Book of Middle Eastern Food

[Eaten during Coptic Lent, this dish is] also popular with the Greeks of Egypt and a general favourite throughout the Middle East.

Documented by Claudia Roden

6 artichokes of good quality
1 tsp sugar
juice of 1 lemon or more
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed or more
500 g (1 lb) fresh shelled or frozen broad beans
salt and black pepper
1 tbsp flour or cornflour

Buy young artichokes. Remove the leaves, stems, and chokes and use only the hearts. Rub with lemon juice and drop in 150 ml (1/2 cup) water acidulated with lemon to prevent discoloration. 

Put the olive oil, garlic, sugar, and the acidulated water in a large pan with the artichoke hearts. Add the broad beans, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add more water to cover if necessary. Simmer gently over low heat for about 3/4 hour, until the artichoke hearts and beans are very tender, and the liquid is considerably reduced.

Mix the flour or cornflour to a smooth paste with a little cold water. Add a little of the hot liquid and stir well. Then add this to the pan gradually stirring constantly. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and has lost the taste of flour (about 15 minutes). Pour into a dish.

Serve hot to accompany main dishes, or cold as an hors d’oeuvre. The sauce will be gelatinous if cornflour is used.

Reproduced from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden (London: Penguin, 1986) with the kind permission of the author.

For more on Egyptian culinary culture, check out this story on popular Egyptian breakfast foods.

Credits: Story

Photography: Rami El Shakry
Styling: Shereen Nabil & Soha El Shakry

Art Direction & Graphic Design: Maijane Saba

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Taste of Egypt
From pharaoh foods to contemporary cuisine, get a taste of Egypt's food culture
View theme
Google apps