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The diet of Middle Eastern people in Bible Times, like most traditional diets to this day, was grain based. Grain was eaten in various ways, from raw kernels plucked from the growing plant to flour products like bread and cakes. Other staples of Bible food, as we have seen in Part 1, were various legumes and vegetables. Abegail carried two hundred loaves of bread, one hundred clusters of raisins, an two hundred cakes of figs as well as other foodstuffs to David (1 Samuel 25: 18).

It was common to combine several grains along with legumes to make different flavoured and textured breads. Take for example, the bread recipe dictated by God to Ezekiel: "Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and fitches, and put them in one vessel, and make thee bread thereof...." (Ezekiel 4:9)

No representation is made for historical authenticity of the recipes that appear here, but they can be considered a reasonable modern analog of dishes that would have been eaten during the Biblical era.

Grain Dishes

Whole grains should be washed in a pan to remove dust. Rinse several times until the water no longer turns cloudy. Soaking some whole grains softens them, allowing faster cooking times. The cooked grains will also taste sweeter. Whole wheat, spelt rye, barley and bulgur (cracked wheat) should be soaked from 4 to 8 hours before cooking. millet does not require pre-soaking.

Cooking with approximately one pinch of salt per cup of grain will help soften and sweeten the kernels. Add salt after soaking but before cooking.

Boiled Wheat or Spelt

2 cups whole wheat or spelt kernels
6 cups water
Salt to taste

Wash and pre-soak grain
Place grain and water in a double boiler and cook until the kernels swell and burst.
An alternative method is to cook the grain in a crock in the oven. Sit the crock in a pan of water to prevent scorching the grain.
For breakfast, mix in chopped dried raisins, dates, figs, or other fried fruit.

Baked Grain

2 Cups Millet
6 Cups Water
2 Pinches of Salt
Wash and drain Millet
Roast millet in a dry skillet until fragrant, stirring constantly for 2 to
10 minutes.
Place roasted grain, salt, and boiling water in a casserole dish
Bake 1 hour at 350 Degrees

Boiled Barley, Whole Wheat, Whole Rye, and Whole Spelt

Soak grain 4 to 8 hours in the cooking water--two cups water per cup of grain.
Add one healthy pinch of salt per cup of grain.
Bring to a boil in a saucepan with a good fitting cover.
Simmer for 1 1/2 to two hours

Boiled Millet. Hot water

Wash and drain before cooking
Bring water to a boil - 3 cups of water per cup of grain
Add one pinch of salt per cup of grain.
Add Grain.
Simmer over low-heat for 30 minutes.

Boiled millet. Cold water (fluffier texture)

Place grain in saucepan
Add 3 3/4 to 4 cups of cold water per cup of grain
Add 1 pinch of salt per cup of grain
Cover and bring to a boil
simmer for 30 minutes

Boiled Bulgur Cold Water

Same as for millet, but use 4 to 5 cups of water.

Roasted Millet (Roasting gives grain a different flavour)

Place grain in a dry frying pan and dry roast for 7 to 10 minutes over
medium heat, stirring constantly. (Grains wet from washing take longer to
Roast until fragrant and lightly browned, and whole grains begin to
Add roasted grain to boiling water--2 cups water per cup of grain.
Add one pinch of salt per cup of grain.
Simmer 30 minutes.

Boiled Grain With Salted Onion

1 tsp olive oil
1 medium to large onion, minced
2 cups millet or bulgur
2 pinches salt
4 cups water (6 cups for millet)
Boil water in a kettle
Heat the olive oil in a pan and add onion
Saute onion briefly
Add washed grain
Saute until fragrant, stirring constantly
Add boiling water and salt
Cover and return to boil
Simmer 30 minutes over low heat.

Tabuli (a traditional dish of the middle east)

1-1 1/2 cups bulgur
Boiling water
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 medium to large onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped mint
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp salt
Season to taste

Pour boiling water over cracked wheat.
Let simmer about 1-2 hours and drain.
Add parsley, mint and onion.
Combine remaining ingredients except lettuce in a jar and shake vigorously to mix.
Pour over Bulgur and toss lightly.
Let stand 2 hours to blend flavours. (chilled is best).
Serve over lettuce.

Bulgur and Vegetables

1 3/4 cups water
1 sliced carrot
1 stalk celery
1/2 green pepper chopped
1/4 cup mushrooms chopped
2 medium onions chopped
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp. olive oil
1 cup bulgur
1 tsp. salt

Pour the olive oil in a pot with a tight fitting lid.
Add all the vegetables and the bay leaf
Stir over medium heat for several minutes
Pour in the water and bring to boil
Add bulgur and salt, and return to rolling boil
Cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes
If still too watery, uncover and cook a bit longer
Season to taste

Bulgur With Vegetables and Nuts

1 cup bulgur
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups vegetable broth
2 medium carrots, shredded
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup walnuts or almonds

Saute bulgur in the olive oil about 5 minutes to brown lightly, stirring constantly.
Stir in broth, carrots, and salt
Bring to a boil
Cover and bake in an oven at 350 F for 25 minutes or until broth is absorbed.
Stir in nuts

Breads and Cakes

Bread was the most important food in Bible times, beginning from God's command in Genesis 3:19. Bread can be classified in two basic categories: leavened and unleavened (or fermented and unfermented). Mostly unleavened bread was eaten. The bread that Sarah, Abraham's wife, baked for the visiting angels would have been unleavened, as evidenced by its short preparation time. No leavened bread was used for sacrificial offerings.

Ancient bakers used fireplaces, clay ovens, or even hot stones as a heat source. In early Bible times, real ovens were a rare commodity, and when available were often used communally (Leviticus 26: 26). You will no doubt use something more technologically advanced.

Unleavened Breads

Flat Bread

3 tbsp olive oil
5 cups whole wheat or spelt flour
1/2 tsp salt
1-1 1/2 cups cool water

Pour olive oil into water
Add olive oil and water to flour until the dough holds together without being sticky
Add salt
Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth
Let dough rest 15 minutes or longer
Roll into 1 1/2 inch diameter balls and then roll flat on a lightly floured surface, dusting with flour so the rolling pin does not stick, until about 5 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch thick
Place in dry skillet
Toast over medium heat until brown spots begin appearing-2 to 3 minutes each side

A Simple But Tasty Unleavened Bread (this one requires a lot of chewing)

2 cups whole wheat or spelt flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. olive oil
1 cup water

Combine dry ingredients
Add oil and water
Mix thoroughly by kneading
Shape into loaves
Place in oiled pan(s) and bake for 1 1/2 hours at 350 F
(a pan of water to create steam in the baking oven is strongly recommended when baking this bread)

Unleavened Bread

3 cups whole wheat or spelt flour
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. salt per cup of flour
1 1/2 cups water

Mix flour and salt thoroughly
Gradually add water, stirring from the center until all the water is absorbed
Knead well on a bread board
Cover and let stand overnight
Divide dough into pan sized portions
The dough should feel elastic
Place in oiled bread pans
Let rise in a warm environment for several hours
Slit the top of each loaf before baking
Preheat oven to 350 F
Bake bread for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours
This bread should be eaten within 4 days unless frozen

Leaven (Yeast)

The most convenient yeast to use for leavened bread is the commercial packaged variety. In Bible times, a small amount of the bread dough was kept in an earthen vessel to start the next batch. This method is called "sourdough" for obvious reasons.

Leavened bread is made by mixing flour, water, salt and yeast into a dough. A small amount of sweetener such as honey or malt can be added to feed the yeast and speed up fermentation. Cane sugar would not have been used for baking in Bible times. Yeasted bread needs to be very thoroughly baked in order to kill all the live yeast in the dough.

Leavened Bread

3 cups warm water
1 tsp dry yeast or one cake compressed yeast
2 tbsp. barley malt or honey
7 cups whole wheat or spelt flour
1 tbsp salt

Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water
Mix all ingredients in a bowl, adding liquids gradually until you have a medium soft dough
Bread dough is kneaded until it becomes elastic to touch and does not stick to the bread board. Kneading incorporates air in the mix and distributes the yeast uniformly.

When the desired dough consistency is achieved, the dough is covered and allowed to rise (ferment) until it has doubled in bulk--a process taking roughly two to three and a half hours, depending on the type of flour used, room temperature, the amount of yeast used, and other variables. The raised bread should still smell sweet.

When the expanded dough begins to sink when tapped sharply with a finger, it is ready for the second kneading.

An ideal temperature for bread-rising is 80 to 90 F.

Knead the bread dough again thoroughly, and leave in a bowl to rise until about three-quarters its original bulk.
Place back on the bread board
Knead lightly a third time to expel gases, and divide into

pan-size portions
Let sit for a few minutes to rise just a little
Place the bread in pans and bake.
Generally, for whole wheat bread, the oven should be preheated to 450 F, and gradually reduced to 350 and then 300 during the baking interval.
Ovens and oven thermometers are idiosyncratic, but should be hot enough so that the bread begins to brown in 15 minutes.
Baking time should be between 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.
It is helpful to place a small open pan of water in the oven with the baking bread. The resulting steam will help create a good crust on the bread without burning.

Another Leavened Bread Recipe

1 tsp dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
2 tbsp. whole wheat or spelt flour (for yeast mixture)
5 cups warm water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 3/4 to 2 tsp. salt
14 to 17 cups whole wheat or spelt flour

Dissolve the yeast in the 1/2 cup of lukewarm water.
Add a small amount of flour
Let stand 10 or 15 minutes until bubbly
Add the balance of the warm water, olive oil, and salt
Mix well
Add flour gradually until the dough can no longer be stirred
Keep adding flour by hand until the dough is no longer sticky
Knead until smooth--approximately 10 to 15 minutes, adding small mounts of flour as necessary
Place in bowl and cover with a damp cloth
Place bowl in a warm environment
Let rise until dough is expanded but still sweet-smelling--about 2 to 4 hours
Form into loaves and place in oiled pans
Let rise 1 hour in a warm oven
Remove from the oven and slit the tops of the loaves
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Bake for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours

Sourdough Bread

Sourdough Starter

1 tbsp. dry yeast
2 1/2 cups warm water
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. barley malt

Combine all ingredients and place in Mason jar or similar container
Cover container with several layers of cheesecloth and place in a warm, dry environment
Uncover and stir daily for five days
After five days, starter must be stored in refrigerator to prevent excessive fermentation, but still should be stirred daily.
Add new flour and water each time starter is removed to make bread.

Sourdough Bread

1 cup sourdough starter
2 cups water
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients
Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm room for 12 to 24 hours
Shape into loaves and place in bread pans
Raise again in a warm oven (100-150 F.) for 1 1/2 to 2 hours
Preheat oven to 325 F
Place loaves in oven and bake for 1 hour


Jacob's Lentil Soup

2 cups lentils
6 cups water
1 tsp olive oil
1 medium to large onion, minced
2 tbsp mixed parsley
2 medium turnips
2 medium carrots
4 or more cups additional water
1/2 tsp salt
season to taste

Soak lentils for 2 to 3 hours. Jacob would have used red lentils, but brown
of green lentils are OK too
Boil lentils for 30 to 40 minutes.

Split Pea Pottage

3 cups split peas
7 cups water
3 small to medium onions, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. salt
2 bay leaves

Wash split peas and soak for one hour
Saute onions until transparent
Add celery
Strain peas and save water for later
Place peas on top of vegetables. Do not stir
Add soaking water around the edge of the pan
Do not stir
Bring to a boil and add bay leaves
Cook for 30 minutes until soft
Add salt and cook another 20 minutes until creamy
Remove bay leaves and mix gently
Serve with bread

Baked Chick Peas

1 cup chick peas
2 medium onions, diced
1 tsp. salt
2 cups water

Wash, soak, and pre-cook chick peas
Add onions and salt, and cook 20 minutes
Place in casserole dish and season to taste
Bake in 350 F oven for 30 minutes

Barley and Split Pea Soup

1/2 cup barley
5 cups water
1 cup split peas
1 cup onions (if desired)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp. olive oil
Season to taste

Soak barley overnight
Boil 4 cups water and add split peas, cooked barley and onion
Cover and simmer until barley is cooked and split peas tender--about 1 1/2 hours
Add salt, olive oil and seasoning
Simmer 10 more minutes

Bean Cakes

2 cups fava or lima beans
1 small grated onion
1 cup chopped parsley
2 medium cloves garlic chopped
Salt and seasoning to taste
2 to 3 tbsp. olive oil

Wash, soak, and cook beans
Grind or mash cooked beans with the onion and parsley
Add garlic, salt, and seasoning
Form into small cakes and fry in olive oil

Bulgur and Chickpea cakes

1/2 cup bulgur
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup sauteed onions
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
2 medium garlic cloves chopped
3/4 cup chickpeas
Seasonings to taste

Wash, soak, and cook chickpeas
Stir bulgur into boiling water
Place on low heat
Add onions, garlic, oil, and seasonings
Stir with fork to mix
Blend cooked chickpeas with cooked bulgur
Form into flat cakes and place on oiled skillet
Cover and bake at 350 F for 10 minutes
Turn cakes over and bake 15 minutes more or fry in skillet over low heat

Hummus (chickpea spread)

Soak chickpeas for 6 to 8 hours
Boil 2 to 2 1/2 hours
Puree (you can do this manually, but a blender is suggested) until smooth
2 cups of chickpeas, boiled
6 cups water
1 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves of garlic, (or to taste) finely minced
1/2 cup additional water for blending
1/2-to 1 tsp salt
1 small lemon - juiced
2 tbsp. sesame butter (Tahini)

Lentil Spread

Soak lentils for 2-3 hours
Boil 30 minutes
Puree (in blender if desired)
2 cups lentils, cooked in 5 cups water
1/2 cup additional water for pureeing
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium celery stalks, minced
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp. sesame butter (Tahini)


Pan-fried Fish

Rinse and dry fish. Cut into serving size portions
Pour marinade over fish
Let stand 5 minutes, then turn over and let stand another 5 minutes
Remove from marinade
Cover with flour
Heat olive oil in skillet
Fry fish for 2-3 minutes, covered
Turn and fry the other side without cover for 2-3 minutes or until browned.