The Sultan’s Feast: A Fifteenth-Century Egyptian Cookbook
By Ibn Mubārak Shāh. Daniel L. Newman ed., tr.
2020, Saqi Books, 978-0-86356-156-6, £20 pb.
Reviewed by Jeff Koehler on July 6, 2021
The period between the 10th and 15th centuries CE was particularly splendid in the kitchens of the Arab-Muslim world, as the 10 known surviving cookbooks published during this time show. The last of these medieval works was Zahr al-ḥadiqa fi ’l-aṭcima al-aniiqa (Flowers in the garden of elegant foods), written in the final decades of Mamluk Egypt by Ibn Mubaarak Shah. It has been published in English for the first time as The Sultan’s Feast: A Fifteenth-Century Egyptian Cookbook. The bilingual Arabic-English volume contains 332 recipes: from breadmaking to omelets and fish dishes, to 18 different ways to pickle turnips. Although the Cairo-born author was a poet and not a chef, he precedes the recipes with wide-ranging helpful advice for any cook on methods, utensils and hygiene. Newman’s lengthy introduction acts as a superb primer on medieval Arab culinary traditions, and his extensive footnotes illuminate every element of the manuscript.