Apr 262018
 

Today is the birthday (1798) of Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix, a French Romantic artist regarded from the outset of his career as the leader of the French Romantic school. Delacroix was born in Charenton-Saint-Maurice, now a suburb of Paris, southeast of the center. His mother, Victoire, was the daughter of the cabinet-maker Jean-François Oeben. He had three much older siblings. Charles-Henri Delacroix (1779–1845) rose to the rank of General in the Napoleonic army. Henriette (1780–1827) married the diplomat Raymond de Verninac Saint-Maur (1762–1822). Henri was born six years later. He was killed at the Battle of Friedland in 1807. There is reason to believe that Eugène’s father, Charles-François Delacroix, was infertile at the time of Eugène’s conception and that his biological father was Talleyrand, who was a friend of the family and successor of Charles Delacroix as Minister of Foreign Affairs, and whom the adult Eugène resembled in appearance. Throughout his career as a painter, Delacroix was cared for (one way or another) by Talleyrand, who served successively the Restoration and king Louis-Philippe, and ultimately as ambassador of France in Great Britain, and later by Talleyrand’s grandson, Charles Auguste Louis Joseph, duc de Morny, half-brother of Napoleon III and speaker of the French House of Commons. His legal father, Charles Delacroix, died in 1805, and his mother died in 1814, leaving Delacroix an orphan at 16.

 

Delacroix’s early education was at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, and at the Lycée Pierre Corneille in Rouen where he received classical training and won awards for drawing. In 1815 he began his art training with Pierre-Narcisse Guérin in the neoclassical style of Jacques-Louis David. An early church commission, The Virgin of the Harvest (1819), displays the influence of Raphael, but a like commission, The Virgin of the Sacred Heart (1821), shows a freer interpretation. It precedes the influence of the more colorful and open style of Rubens, and Théodore Géricault.  The impact of Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa was profound, and stimulated Delacroix to produce his first major painting, The Barque of Dante, which was accepted by the Paris Salon in 1822.

The work caused a sensation, and was largely derided by the public and officialdom, yet was purchased by the State for the Luxembourg Galleries.Two years later he again achieved popular success for his The Massacre at Chios.

Delacroix’s painting of the massacre at Chios shows sick, dying Greek civilians about to be slaughtered by the Turks. One of several paintings he made of this contemporary event, it expresses sympathy for the Greek cause in their war of independence against the Turks, a popular sentiment at the time for the French people. Delacroix was quickly recognized as a leading painter in the new Romantic style, and the picture was bought by the state. His depiction of suffering was controversial, however, as there was no glorious event taking place, no patriots raising their swords in valor as in David’s Oath of the Horatii, only a disaster. Many critics deplored the painting’s despairing tone; the artist Antoine-Jean Gros called it “a massacre of art”. The pathos in the depiction of an infant clutching its dead mother’s breast had an especially powerful effect, although this detail was condemned as unfit for art by Delacroix’s critics.

Delacroix produced a second painting in support of the Greeks in their war for independence, this time referring to the capture of Missolonghi by Turkish forces in 1825. With a restraint of palette appropriate to the allegory, Greece Expiring on the Ruins of Missolonghi displays a woman in Greek costume with her breast bared, arms half-raised in an imploring gesture before the horrible scene: the suicide of the Greeks, who chose to kill themselves and destroy their city rather than surrender to the Turks.

A trip to England in 1825 included visits to Thomas Lawrence and Richard Parkes Bonington, and the color and handling of English painting provided impetus for his only full-length portrait, the elegant Portrait of Louis-Auguste Schwiter (1826–30). At roughly the same time, Delacroix was creating romantic works of numerous themes, many of which would continue to interest him for over 30 years.

By 1825, he was producing lithographs illustrating Shakespeare, and soon thereafter lithographs and paintings from Goethe’s Faust. Paintings such as The Combat of the Giaour and Hassan (1826), and Woman with Parrot (1827), introduced subjects of violence and sensuality which became recurrent in his oeuvre.

These various romantic strands came together in the Death of Sardanapalus (1827–28). Delacroix’s painting of the death of the Assyrian king  shows an emotionally stirring scene alive with beautiful colors, exotic costumes and tragic events. It depicts the besieged king watching impassively as guards carry out his orders to kill his servants, concubines and animals. The literary source is a play by Byron, although the play does not specifically mention any massacre of concubines.

Delacroix’s most influential work came in 1830 with the painting Liberty Leading the People, which for choice of subject and technique highlights the differences between the Romantic approach and the neoclassical style. Liberty Although Delacroix was inspired by contemporary events to invoke this romantic image of the spirit of liberty, he seems to be trying to convey the will and character of the people, rather than glorifying the actual event, the 1830 revolution against Charles X, which did little other than bring a different king, Louis-Philippe, to power. Although the French government bought the painting, officials deemed its glorification of liberty too inflammatory and removed it from public view. Nonetheless, Delacroix still received many government commissions for murals and ceiling paintings. Following the Revolution of 1848 that saw the end of the reign of Louis Philippe, Liberty Leading the People, was finally put on display by the newly elected President, Louis Napoleon (Napoleon III) and is now on exhibit in the Louvre. The boy holding a gun up on the right is sometimes thought to be an inspiration of the Gavroche character in Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, Les Misérables.

In 1832, Delacroix traveled to Spain and North Africa, as part of a diplomatic mission to Morocco shortly after the French conquered Algeria. He went not primarily to study art, but in hopes of seeing a more primitive culture than Paris offered. He eventually produced over 100 paintings and drawings of scenes from or based on the life of the people of North Africa, and added a new and personal chapter to the European interest in Orientalism. Delacroix was entranced by the people and the costumes, and the trip influenced the subject matter of a great many of his future paintings. He believed that the North Africans, in their attire and their attitudes, provided a visual equivalent to the people of Classical Rome and Greece:

The Greeks and Romans are here at my door, in the Arabs who wrap themselves in a white blanket and look like Cato or Brutus.

 

He managed to sketch some women secretly in Algiers, as in the painting Women of Algiers in their Apartment (1834), but generally he encountered difficulty in finding Muslim women to pose for him because of Muslim rules requiring that women be covered. Less problematic was the painting of Jewish women in North Africa, as subjects for the Jewish Wedding in Morocco (1837–41).

In 1838 Delacroix exhibited Medea about to Kill Her Children, which created a sensation at the Salon. The painting depicts Medea clutching her children, dagger drawn to slay them in vengeance for her abandonment by Jason.

From 1833 Delacroix received numerous commissions to decorate public buildings in Paris. In that year he began work for the Salon du Roi in the Chambre des Députés, Palais Bourbon, which was not completed until 1837, and began a lifelong friendship with the female artist Marie-Élisabeth Blavot-Boulanger. For the next ten years he painted in both the Library at the Palais Bourbon and the Library at the Palais du Luxembourg. In 1843 he decorated the Church of St. Denis du Saint Sacrement with a large Pietà, and from 1848 to 1850 he painted the ceiling in the Galerie d’Apollon of the Louvre. From 1857 to 1861 he worked on frescoes for the Chapelle des Anges at the Church of St. Sulpice in Paris. The work was fatiguing, and during these years he suffered from an increasingly fragile constitution. In addition to his home in Paris, from 1844 he also lived at a small cottage in Champrosay, where he found respite in the countryside. From 1834 until his death, he was faithfully cared for by his housekeeper, Jeanne-Marie le Guillou, who zealously guarded his privacy, and whose devotion prolonged his life and his ability to continue working in his later years.

The winter of 1862-63 was challenging for Delacroix. He was suffering from a bad throat infection which seemed to get worse during the winter. On June 16th 1863, he was getting better and returned to his house in the country. On July 15th he was so sick he went back to see his doctor who realized he could not do anything more for him, by then, the only food he could eat was fruit. Eugene realized his condition and wrote his Will, for all his friends he left a memento. For his trusted housekeeper, Jenny Le Guillou, he left enough for her to live on and ordered everything in his studio to be sold. He also inserted a clause forbidding any representation of his features “whether by a death-mask or by drawing or by photography. I forbid it expressly.” On August 13th Delacroix died, with Jenny by his side. He was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery.

This still life attributed to Delacroix appears to be an odd conflation of images: English huntsmen on horseback in the background, and lobsters plus assorted game in the foreground. But it reminds me of this quote of his:

In the midst of the activities that distract me, such as shooting partridges in the woods, when I remember a few lines of poetry, when I recall some sublime painting, my spirit is roused to indignation and spurns the vain sustenance of the common herd.

Not much to go on, to be sure, but it’s a start. Escoffier has this section on partridges, which is fairly typical for 19th century Parisian cuisine:

3949 Partridge

Wrap each partridge in a buttered vine leaf then in a thin slice of salt pork fat and roast in a hot oven for 20 minutes or on a spit for 25 minutes.

Place on a Crouton of bread fried in butter and coated with Gratin Forcemeat “C” (# 295), and garnish with half a lemon and a bouquet of watercress.

3950 Perdreau Truffé—Truffled Partridge

Stuff the bird in the same way as for Dindonneau Truffé (# 3914) allowing 100 g (31 oz) fresh pork fat and 80 g (2 oz) truffles; cover with thin slices of salt pork fat and roast in a moderate oven for 25 minutes.

Partridges are rather small, so you need to allow one per diner. They are not very fatty either, so wrapping the breasts in some kind of ham or bacon before roasting is generally recommended by chefs. The flesh of the partridge is not strong, so adding too much to a dish of partridge will mask the subtle flavor. Escoffier’s second recipe here seems close to ideal (although I am not generally well off enough to afford truffles). The pork fat does not flavor the partridge unduly, but allows the bird to remain moist when roasting – as does roasting at a very high temperature as briefly as possible. For all game birds I find simplicity is best. If you want to be extravagant with your flavorings and whatnot, stuff and roast a chicken. If you want a gravy for partridge, make a roux of the pan juices and flour, and then add some chicken stock with, maybe, a little fresh parsley. Simple.

Nov 062016
 

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On this date in 1975 the Moroccan government coordinated The Green March, a strategic mass demonstration to force Spain to hand over the disputed, autonomous semi-metropolitan province of Spanish Sahara to Morocco. The demonstration of about 350,000 Moroccans advanced several miles into the Western Sahara territory, escorted by nearly 20,000 Moroccan troops, and meeting very little response by the Sahrawi Polisario Front. Nevertheless, the events quickly escalated into a fully waged war between Morocco and the militias of the Polisario, the Western Sahara War, which would last for 16 years. Morocco later gained control over the former Spanish Sahara, which it continues to hold. Ideally the region would be a sovereign nation. An African nation taking over imperial rights from a European nation is not exactly ideal. The U.N. continues to negotiate for complete independence for Western Sahara.

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Morocco, to the north of the Spanish Sahara, had long claimed that the territory was historically an integral part of Morocco. Mauritania to the south argued similarly that the territory was in fact Mauritanian. Since 1973, a Sahrawi guerrilla war led by the Polisario Front had challenged Spanish control, and in October 1975 Spain had quietly begun negotiations for a handover of power with leaders of the rebel movement, both in El Aaiún, and with foreign minister Pedro Cortina y Mauri meeting El Ouali in Algiers.

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Morocco intended to vindicate its claims by demanding a verdict from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which was issued on 16 October 1975. The ICJ stated that there were historical legal ties of allegiance between “some, but only some” Sahrawi tribes and the Sultan of Morocco, as well as ties including some rights relating to the land between Mauritania and other Sahrawi tribes. However, the ICJ stated also that there were no ties of territorial sovereignty between the territory and Morocco, or Mauritania, at the time of Spanish colonization; and that these contacts were not extensive enough to support either country’s demand for annexation of the Spanish Sahara. Instead, the court argued, the indigenous population (the Sahrawis) were the owners of the land, and thus possessed the right of self-determination. This meant that regardless of which political solution was found to the question of sovereignty (integration with Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, partition, or independence), it had to be explicitly approved by the people of the territory. Complicating matters, a UN visiting mission had concluded on 15 October, the day before the ICJ verdict was released, that Sahrawi support for independence was “overwhelming”.

However, the reference to previous Moroccan-Sahrawi ties of allegiance was presented by Hassan II as a vindication of his position, with no public mention of the court’s further ruling on self-determination. (Seven years later, he formally agreed to a referendum before the Organisation of African Unity). Within hours of the ICJ verdict’s release, he announced the organizing of a “green march” to Spanish Sahara, to “reunite it with the Motherland.”

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In order to prepare the terrain and as a riposte to any potential counter-invasion from Algeria (according to Morocco) or in order to invade militarily the land and kill or deport the Sahrawi population (according to the Polisario Front), the Moroccan Army entered the northeast of the region on October 31, where it met with hard resistance from the Polisario, by then a two-year-old independence movement. The Green March was a well-publicized popular march of enormous proportions. On 6 November 1975 approximately 350,000 unarmed Moroccans converged on the city of Tarfaya in southern Morocco and waited for a signal from King Hassan II to cross into the region of Sakiya Lhmra. They brandished Moroccan flags and Qur’an; banners calling for the “return of the Moroccan Sahara,” photographs of the King and the Qur’an; the color green for the march’s name was intended as a symbol of Islam. As the marchers reached the border, the Spanish Armed Forces were ordered not to fire to avoid bloodshed. The Spanish troops also cleared some previously mined zones.

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According to Morocco, the exercise of sovereignty by the Moroccan state was characterized by official pledges of allegiance to the sultan. The Moroccan government was of the opinion that this allegiance existed during several centuries before the Spanish occupation and that it was a legal and political tie. The sultan Hassan I, for example, had carried out two expeditions in 1886 in order to put an end to foreign incursions in this territory and to officially invest several caids and cadis. In its presentation to the ICJ, the Moroccan side also mentioned the levy of taxes as a further instance of the exercise of sovereignty. The exercise of this sovereignty had also appeared, according to the Moroccan government, at other levels, such as the appointment of local officials (governors and military officers), and the definition of the missions which were assigned to them.

The Moroccan government further pointed to several treaties between it and other states, such as with Spain in 1861, the United States of America in 1786, and 1836 and with Great Britain in 1856 . The court, however, found that “neither the internal nor the international acts relied upon by Morocco indicate the existence at the relevant period of either the existence or the international recognition of legal ties of territorial sovereignty between Western Sahara and the Moroccan State. Even taking account of the specific structure of that State, they do not show that Morocco displayed any effective and exclusive State activity in Western Sahara.”

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The Green March caught Spain in a moment of political crisis. The dictator General Franco, who had been leading the country for almost 40 years, was dying. Despite the overwhelming military and logistic superiority of the Spanish Armed Forces based in Western Sahara in relation to the Moroccan Armed Forces, the Spanish government feared that the conflict with Morocco could lead to an open colonial war in Africa, which could put Franco’s regime into question and lead to an abrupt political change or a social instability and disaster. The Spanish government, directed by Prince Juan Carlos, who was acting Head of State in substitution of General Franco, and the incumbent Prime Minister Don Carlos Arias Navarro, was in no mood for troubles in the colony. Only the year before, the Portuguese government had been toppled by the Portuguese armed forces after becoming bogged down in colonial wars in Angola and Mozambique. Therefore, following the Green March, and with a view to avoid war and preserving as much as possible of its interest in the territory, Spain agreed to enter direct bilateral negotiations with Morocco, bringing in also Mauritania, who had made similar demands. Under pressure from Morocco, Spain also agreed that no representatives of the native population would be present in the negotiations that resulted in the 14 November Madrid Accords. This was a treaty which divided Spanish Sahara between Mauritania and Morocco. In the agreements Spain agreed to cede the possession of the colony to Morocco and Mauritania, under the condition, expressed in point 3 of the Trilateral Agreement, that the views of the Saharan population had to be respected.

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Spain received a 35% concession in the phosphate mines of Bou Craa and offshore fishing rights that were not respected by Morocco. Morocco and Mauritania then formally annexed the parts they had been allotted in the Accords. Morocco claimed the northern part, i.e. Saguia el-Hamra and approximately half of Río de Oro, while Mauritania proceeded to occupy the southern third of the country under the name Tiris al-Gharbiyya. Mauritania later abandoned all claims to its portion in August 1979 and ceded this area to Popular Army of Saharwi Liberation (Polisario), but it was instead promptly occupied by Morocco. Nevertheless, Mauritania preserved for itself a small area called Ras Nouadhibou to preserve the security of its capital Nouakchott.

The Polisario, now with heavy Algerian backing, refused the Madrid Accords, and demanded that the ICJ’s opinion on Sahrawi self-determination be respected; it turned its weapons on the new rulers of the country, sticking to its demand for independence outright, or a referendum on the matter. The conflict has still not been resolved. Currently, there is a cease-fire in effect, after a Moroccan-Polisario agreement was struck in 1991 to solve the dispute through the organization of a referendum on independence. A UN peace-keeping mission (MINURSO) has been charged with overseeing the cease-fire and organizating the referendum, which has still not taken place as of 2007. Morocco has rejected the idea of the referendum as not workable in 2000 and is suggesting an autonomy for Western Sahara within Morocco. That proposal been rejected by Spain, the Polisario, and also by its Algerian backers; according to the Moroccan government, it will be presented to the UN in April 2007.

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Spain is divided between its desire to preserve good relations with Morocco, its Southern neighbor with whom it shares territorial borders in Ceuta and Melilla, and its responsibility to the international legality as the former colonial power. The traditional position of all the Spanish democratic governments until the arrival of Prime Minister Zapatero in the Government, had been that the wishes of the Saharwi population have to be respected, and of support of the organization of the referendum requested by the United Nations. According to the US Department of State’s documents leaked by Wikileaks, Spain, under Zapatero, has changed its traditional position concerning the organization of the referendum for the Sahara, and now supports the Moroccan position. The documents also stated that Spain had been trying to broker an agreement between the two parties. However, in its speech to the Spanish Parliament of 15 December 2010, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Trinidad Jimenez denied that Spain supports the Moroccan position in Spanish Sahara. She also argued that Spain will support any agreement between the Polisario and Morocco. We will see.

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Western Saharan cuisine has several influences since the population of that area (the Sahrawi), are mostly of Arab and Berber origin. The Saharawi cuisine is also influenced by Spanish cuisine because of Spanish colonization. Couscous is one of the main staples which I have discussed in these posts:

http://www.bookofdaystales.com/jean-dubuffet/

http://www.bookofdaystales.com/santa-monica/

The chief protein sources along the coast are fish, and pastoral animals in the desert interior – camel, goat, and lamb. Meifrisa is a traditional stew that can be made from camel, goat, lamb, or rabbit. It is usually served on Saharawi flatbread that is cooked in the sand.

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Making meifrisa is not complicated, but getting camel meat might be. If you use goat or lamb there’s not much to it that is different from other basic meat stews. You sauté a mix of onions and garlic for about 5 minutes, add the meat and brown it, then cover with water and stew for hours and hours until the meat is in shreds. Then serve it on large pieces of flatbread with couscous.

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May 272013
 

Ibn Khaldoun

Today is the birthday (1332) of Abū Zayd ‘Abd ar-Raḥmān ibn Muḥammad ibn Khaldūn al-Ḥaḍramī (بو زيد عبد الرحمن بن محمد بن خلدون الحضرمي) commonly known as Ibn Khaldoun, one of the greatest thinkers in the fields of history, economics, sociology, and anthropology of all times, and is now rightly considered by many experts in those fields to be their great-great grandfather.  Yet most of his work remained unknown in the West for centuries until it was rediscovered in the nineteenth century when many of his fundamental ideas were reinvented by scholars.  Even now in the social sciences his name is hardly a byword.  I first learned about him in graduate school when I took a class on the pre-modern history of anthropology.  Many of his ground breaking theories are current to this day.

Ibn Khaldoun (or Ibn Khaldūn) was an Arab Muslim born in Tunis into an upper-class Andalusian family of Arab descent, the Banu Khaldūn. His family, which held many high offices in Andalusia, had emigrated to Tunisia after the fall of Seville to Reconquista forces around the middle of the 13th century. After the fall of Tunis to the sultan of Constantinople in 1352, he relocated to Fez (Morocco) where he took up the position of writer of royal proclamations for the sultan, Abu Inan Fares I.  However, he got himself in hot water fairly soon for scheming against the sultan and landed in prison for 22 months. He was released on the sultan’s death but had mixed fortunes subsequently.  He decided to move to Granada, capital of the province of Granada in Andalusia, where he expected to be well received because in his time at Fez he had assisted the sultan of Granada, Muhammad V, regain power following his exile. There he came into conflict with the sultan’s vizier and so relocated to North Africa once again where he bounced around, because of his seemingly insatiable desire to cause trouble, finally ending up in Egypt, where he died in 1406. During his time in North Africa and Egypt he mostly devoted himself to writing and some teaching.  These were the years that produced his greatest works.

His best known book is the Muqaddimah, commonly called the Prolegomena in English because it is the introductory volume in his proposed grand history of the world.  In it he lays out his basic methods and theories to be applied in the body of the work.  He starts out with a critique of previous methods in history pointing out that they are often unreliable because of 7 critical errors in method, such as writing with the purpose of currying favor with a ruler, failure to examine the reliability of sources, and bias towards a particular creed or cultural norm (what we now call ethnocentrism). My favorite of them all, the cornerstone of all cultural anthropology, is the error of  failing to place events in their proper historical and cultural contexts and, hence, failing to interpret their true meaning — a principle I live by in my own writing.

You would be amazed at the breadth of his theorizing in diverse fields, and at how well his work continues to accord with contemporary theory. In economics he expounded on markets, laws of supply and demand, labor and human capital, exchange, and the effects of taxation on productivity. In sociology and anthropology he theorized on the nature of social cohesion, the effects of nomadic versus city life on culture, and the ways in which social bonds weaken as cultures move from a subsistence base to one of surpluses, and, eventually, luxury. He proposed that this progression was the ultimate cause of the cyclic downfall of empires. His political theory might best be summarized by his definition of government: “an institution which prevents injustice other than such as it commits itself” which we must all ruefully admit is the case.   He made major contributions to the philosophy and method of history which includes such sentiments as, “History is a science,” “Myths have nothing to do with history and should be refuted,” and “To build strong historical records, the historian should rely on necessary rules for the evaluation of truth.”  Those in the know believe that Ibn Khaldoun was one of the greatest thinkers of all time.

Few people nowadays realize that what is often referred to as the “Mediterranean Diet” has strong Arab influences dating back to the Middle Ages. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in Ibn Khaldoun’s ancestral, and actual, home of Andalusia in southern Spain.  This recipe is my modern adaptation from the 13th century anonymous cookbook, Kitab al-tabikh fi al-Maghrib wal-Andalus  (Book of Dishes from Morocco and Andalusia). It is for a raised dough (rather like egg bread) that is shaped into braids, shallow fried, and drizzled with scented honey then dusted with sugar. The original medieval recipe (which is typically vague about quantities and methods) calls for durum flour in preference OR plain wheat flour otherwise. You can choose your own proportions based on preference, experience with durum flour, and availability.  I prefer a 50-50 split because in bread making this makes a lighter product. The original recipe calls for both cinnamon and Chinese cinnamon.  What you buy in the stores today is Chinese cinnamon, also known as cassia. Cinnamon here means “true cinnamon” which is a different species and much more aromatic than cassia. However, you can use one or the other, or mix the two.

Dafaîr (Fried Dough Braids)

Ingredients:

Dough

10 ½ oz (300 gm) durum wheat flour, all purpose flour, or a mix of the two
¼ cup (½ dl) water
1 package ( ¼ oz/7g) fast acting yeast
2 large eggs
pinch of salt
½ tsp powdered saffron
2 oz (56 g) coarsely chopped blanched almonds
Vegetable oil for frying and coating the dough

Honey sauce

2/3 cup (1 ½ dl) honey
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp (50g) true cinnamon, cassia, or a mix
½ tbsp (7.5 g) finely ground lavender flowers or 1- 2 drops of lavender essential oil
caster sugar for dusting.

Instructions:

Put the yeast into a cup with 2 tablespoons of lukewarm water. Stir and let it sit for 5 minutes.

Put the flour and salt in a bowl and incorporate the water little by little. Then add the yeast.  Knead until the dough is elastic.

Pour the saffron into a bowl with the two eggs and beat the mixture thoroughly. Then pour it over the dough, add the almonds and mix them well together. Knead the dough again for a few minutes to be sure all the ingredients are evenly distributed.  Oil the surface of the dough and place it in a clean bowl. Cover with a moist towel and leave it to rise in a warm place.

It should take about an hour for the dough to double in size but you should check it periodically starting after 45 minutes. If a finger pressed into the dough springs back immediately it has not proofed enough. If a finger causes an indentation that remains it has proofed too long.  You ought to be able to press in and have the dough spring back after about 5 seconds. Then it is ready.

While the dough is rising, gently heat the honey so that it is slightly more runny than when cold.  Add the cinnamon, as much ground black pepper as suits your tastes, and the lavender. If you are using lavender oil, add one drop and check for flavor.  Add one drop more if the flavor is too light. Keep warm.

Divide the dough into six portions. Sprinkle the worktop and your hands with flour. Take one portion of the dough and keep the rest covered with a towel. Roll and manipulate the dough until you have a thin sausage about 15 inches long. Cut this in three equal lengths and braid them together, pinching both ends when you are done.  Repeat for the other five portions. Let the braids rest for 15 minutes.

While the braids are resting, pour vegetable oil into a heavy skillet to a depth of about ½ inch and heat until it reaches 340 F (170 C).

Place the braids gently into the skillet without overcrowding. You may need to do this in batches. Fry them  to a golden brown on the bottom , then flip them and cook the other side in the same way.

Place the cooked braids on racks over trays to drain. Don’t use paper towels because then they just continue to sit in the oil. You may pat them with paper towels though.

When the braids have drained, drizzle with the spiced honey, and sprinkle lightly with caster sugar.

Yield: 6