While it is still the case that the Mandaeans (and the plight facing them in their historic homeland) are not as well known today as they ought to be, the internet is contributing immensely to the spread of knowledge as well as to the Mandaean community’s preservation of a sense of identity in spite of their being increasingly scattered and dispersed.
Today I came across a YouTube video about the Mandaeans I hadn’t seen before. I had seen videos of baptisms and religious rituals. But this was a video about how to cook a Mandaean recipe: spiced duck.
The YouTube page with the video also includes the recipe:
Duck is a favourite of Iraq’s Mandaean community. They cook it in a way that is quite different to other nations. and it is eaten sometimes several times a week. This method of boiling the duck in spices and dried limes provides a rich tangy soup to start a meal.
A handful of sultanas
1 large onion
2 tsp Mandaean spice mix (cinnamon, clove, black pepper, ginger, sweet paprika, cardamom and nutmeg)
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp salt
1 whole duck
2 tsp salt
2 tsp citric acid
5 tsp Mandaean spice mix
3 tsp turmeric
3 dried limes
1 bunch of radish with leaves
Wash the duck twice in cold water and then again with boiling water so all fat and smell is washed away. Drain thoroughly. Remove the neck and the wings of the duck and keep for later use. Coat the cavity with a mixture of salt and citric acid. This helps tenderize the duck.
Dice the onion and mix with the sultanas and rinse in cold water. Drain and add 2 teaspoons Mandaean spice mix, 1 teaspoon turmeric, and salt. Mix together.
Place the duck in a large bowl and fill the cavity with the prepared stuffing.
Sew up cavity to secure the stuffing. Take the duck wings and tuck them
into the neck cavity to block any stuffing escaping from that end.
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and place duck and the neck into pot with 2 teaspoons of the Mandaean spice,1 tsp turmeric and 3 washed dried limes. The duck will need to simmer for a total of 2 hours. After the first 30 minutes, turn the duck over and check water level.
After another 30 minutes, remove the duck from the pot and pierce several times with a knife to allow the spiced flavours to penetrate the flesh and cook the duck from the inside.
Skim off the fat from the surface of the broth and keep to one side in a fry pan. Remove the dried limes which should have softened and in a bowl mash them and return to the broth.
Put the duck back in the pot up the other way, cook for a further 40 mins approx.
Heat the skimmed duck fat in the fry pan. Add 1 teaspoon each of turmeric and Mandaean spice mix to the fat. Remove the duck from the pot, place in the fat and fry each side until golden brown. Remove the duck wings and it is ready to be served.
This duck is traditionally served with radishes, washed radish leaves and pickled vegetables.
Strain the broth from the duck and serve as a delicious soup.
Thank you, YouTube, for things like this!
Also new to me is this attempt by Australian architects to design a permanent structure that could serve as a place of worship for Mandaeans in our time. I’m not sure they ensured that the structure has living (i.e. flowing) water, as Mandaean baptism requires, but it is a wonderful idea to help the Mandaeans think of creative ways to adapt their religious traditions to the reality of modern life far from their traditional homeland. Imagine – a Mandaean “church”!