10th Century Islamic Fuqqa with Almonds
Lord Magnus hvalmagi (Magnus the Stout) Prepared for EK Brew U, April 2014
Background and Basis:
In the 10th century, Abu Muhammad al-Muthaffar ibn Nasr ibn Sayyār al-Warrāq (called al-Warraq for short in this text) published a compiled cookbook entitled al-Kitab al-Ṭabīḫ (lit. “Book of Dishes”); a translation of this work by Nawal Nasrallah was published in 2010 as Annals of the Caliphs’ Kitchens.
al-Warraq describes a number of dishes and beverages in this book, and dedicates an entire chapter to fuqqa (lit. “bubbly drink”), a non-alcoholic malt beverage flavored with herbs and sweetened with sugar.
Following is a redaction of a named variation of fuqqa – one that involves almonds.
Ingredients and Process (~1 liter batch size):
110 grams ground Briess pale lager malt
10 grams white sugar
50 mL almond meal
Salt to taste
A small amount of residue from the Trossingen mead
110 grams of pale malt was mixed with 1.1 L of very hot water and allowed to steep until it appeared “clear.” The wort was strained from the solids, salted to taste, and 20 mL almond meal was beaten into the warm liquor. Sugar was added to this liquid. Residue from an actively fermenting beverage was poured into a stoneware jar. The jar was coated with the residue, and the liquor was added. Tarragon and mint were added to the jar, which was then covered and secured. Product was fermented for ~12 hours prior to sampling.
Ingredient and Process Notes:
I used the palest commercial malt I could find, as al-Warraq describes a malting process that involves drying the grain in the heat of 10th century Iraq. This would likely produce a very pale malt.
The original recipe calls for 3 ratl of barley; the translator notes that a ratl was composed of 12 ounces, each approximately 30 grams. 3 ratl is thus roughly 1.1 kg of barley. al-Warraq says the recipe is intended to make 50 kuz saghir (lit. ”beer glasses”), and Nasrallah indicates that the “beer glass” may have been as large as one modern cup (~250 mL). I assumed that a “beer glass” would not be completely filled, and for the sake of easy math, I have defined my “beer glass” as representing 200 mL. This means that the recipe will make 10 L of fuqqa from 1.1 kg of barley, roughly a 1:10 ratio. 11 L of water would be required, because 1.1 kg of barley will absorb roughly 1.1 L of water. Ingredient amounts were reduced by 1/10th for the sake of production. The rate of almonds is 1 kuz saghir almond meal for every 20 of fuqqa – so 500 mL in the original recipe or 50 mL when reduced.
The recipe calls for two ingredients that I was unable to procure: rue and musk seeds. Both are rarely used today, and are extremely hard to find. Rather than make a poorly-researched substitution, I simply omitted them.
In order to attempt a reasonable presentation, the beverage was fermented in a stoneware jar obtained at a local discount store. While not a perfect imitation of 10th-century Islamic pottery, it’s close and doesn’t look egregiously modern.
Typically, the beverage would have poured into a decanter and the jar re-used for further fuqqa production; as I didn’t have a decanter, I elected to leave the fuqqa in its fermentation jar for serving.
-Nasrallah, Nawal. Annals of the Caliphs’ Kitchens. Leiden ; Boston : Brill, 2010.
-Wilkinson, Charles K. Nishapur: Pottery of the Early Islamic Period. [New York] Metropolitan Museum of Art; distributed by New York Graphic Society, Greenwich, Conn.