We are beginning to wind down the Persian Empire; focusing on the cuisines which would have been impacted by the merging of Saudi Arabia in 525 B.C.E. After weeks of multiple stage meals; we wanted something simple this week. A quick rice pilaf, with stewed chicken legs. Comforting. Easy.
The specific meal is Stewed Turmeric Chicken Legs with a Sultana-Pea Rice Pilaf.
I was inspired by the historical input of how this meal would have been created.
The Ingredients – Don’t make me Pilaf
Chickens have a special place in the world’s history with food. Zoroastrians, the pre-Islamic religion of the Persian empire, see chickens as sacred, due to their role in crowing, then the light appearing.
Basmati rice, with its origins in India, would have been traded throughout the empire by this time period. I chose to go with a rice dish, with chicken, due to the accessibility it would have had, during that time. Rice, similar to flours and lentils, travels well, and has the luxury to be stored. This means, making a pilaf would have allowed a family to make a dinner, with less of a cost. A pilaf is made by lightly toasting the rice before boiling it. It provides a nutty texture.
This meal, even though in our modern view, appears lower cost, would still have been luxurious due to the good ol’ historical rule of: If it has meat, it’s a treat.
Continuation of the History of the Persian Empire
Darius the Great
When we last left off we where getting ready to look at Darius the Great. Darius is, by far, considered to have been one of the greatest leaders of the Persian empire. He ruled from 522-486 B.C.E. But what made him so great? In short; he led some of the greatest building projects during the Persian empire and he was also known for his administrative abilities.
However, like most leaders throughout history, he was able to write large swaths of his own history and tell of his greatness. One such instance of this is found in B?sit?n. There, he had an inscription carved into stone telling of his accession to the throne.
We also have accounts given by the Greek historians Herodotus and Ctesias. Unsurprisingly, these accounts are taken from what was written by Darius and they added some legends to it. With that being said, we have to take some of what is known about him with a grain of salt.
Murder in the time of imposters
Last time, we found out that Darius came to the throne after killing Bardiya. However, Darius claims in his inscription at Behistun, that this was not Bardiya, son of Cyrus II, but instead an imposter by the name of Gaumata. If this King was the true heir of Cyrus II or if they where a imposter as Darius claims, we may never truly know.
Nevertheless, what is for certain is that Darius became the next King. It is thought that the assassination of Bardiya was nothing more than a power grab by Darius, and that he had the inscription made to help convince and to justify why he did what he did.
After the assassination of Bardiya; there were revolts around the empire; especially in the eastern provinces. Darius had to act fast to assert his control and to keep the empire from falling. In the above mentioned inscription, Darius claims to have had 19 battles to defeat the rebel leaders. There is a relief of the captured rebel leaders along side the inscription.
Reinforcing the supports of an empire
When he secured his place and his empire; he set about fortifying the frontiers of the empire. This meant he not only bolstered his presence of the edges of the empire. He also did what any good emperor would do: Expansion. He set his sight on Scythians to the east of the Caspian Sea.
Once he conquered them, he turned his sights to the Indus Valley. However, when it came time for him to invade Europe, it didn’t go as planned. When he attacked Scythia, the Scythian’s took to destroying their own lands as they fled from his advancing army. This ultimately forced him to cut the campaign short due to a lack of supplies.
What’s happening, Europe?
He then turned his sights to Greece. According to Herodotus, Darius’ first flirtation with invading Greece occurred when he sent ships with no military action to explore the coast of Greece. This soon changed when in 499 B.C.E. he had to put down a rebellion by the Ionian’s that was supported by both the Athenians and Eretria.
Once he crushed the rebellion, he put his son-in-law, Mardonius, in charge of the fight against Athens and Eretria. But the fleet of ships that where sent, were destroyed in a storm off the coast of Mount Athos in 492 B.C.E.
There was a second attempt to conquer Athens and Eretria in 490 B.C.E. by Datis. This time, they managed to make some headway. They leveled Eretria, but where thwarted by the Athenians at the Battle of Marathon. There were plans for a third attempt but these plans had to put on hold when an insurrection occurred in Egypt.
The Legacy of Darius
Even though Darius may not have been known for his overwhelming military power, he did a lot for the Persian empire in other ways. Under his rule, he expanded both trade and commerce.
A portion of this this was the standardization of coinage. This isn’t something that we think too much about today. Most governments have a standard for the money we use. Up until recently, that was not always the case, but more so back then.
He had the coins of the empire set to a certain weight and size. This would allow for fairer trade, meaning that if all of our coins are the same, we can be sure that we are not being ripped off when trading (and yes that is a very over simplification of it).
Next time will be our last outing into the Persian empire. We will cover from the end of Darius’ reign to the end of the empire. I do hope you are enjoying this. And until next time, try to do something fun.
4 out of 5 stars
I really enjoyed this meal, but I feel like not using chicken broth was a major miss. I loved the flavor the sultanas provided the rice, but it would have been better if it had more salt to balance the flavors.
3 out of 5 stars
I felt as if the rice was a little bit too plain and the sultanas didn’t pair well with the rice. It was an unnecessary sweetness in a savory meal. The chicken was delicious.
What could have improved the meal would have been the rice being more flavorful but I would recommend trying it for yourself, as is.