The house of my childhood in Baghdad had two courtyards, haush, Middle Eastern style. The larger one was the centre of the main living area, with rooms and terraces arranged around it on two levels. The smaller haush was the kitchen area, beit al-matbakh, with a room on one side containing a range of kerosene-fuelled rings at ground level, and in one corner a wood-burning boiler for the attached Turkish-style hammam. Beside the boiler was a kanoun, a square frame of stone and plaster over which pots could be placed over wood and coal burning in the middle, mostly for slow cooking when the fuel was reduced to embers and ash. This is where the Saturday tebit of stuffed chicken and rice was cooked overnight.

In one corner of the kitchen courtyard was a tanour, better known globally as tandur, a clay pot built into a metal oil drum (more commonly built into the wall) with an opening at the bottom where a wood fire burned heating up the clay walls. Flat rounds of dough were stuck on the walls to make khubuz, flat bread, jeradiq, thin, crisp flat bread, and makhbouz or keleicha, sweetened and buttered dough pastries, stuffed with cheese, dates or almond and sugar. Sambousak was the name of the crescent-shaped pastries stuffed with cheese or almond/sugar (distinct from the sambousak bil-tawa, larger folds of dough stuffed with heavily spiced and onioned mashed chick-peas, then fried in hot oil, more akin to the Indian samosa). Bu`bu` (plural, bu`abe`) was the round bready pastry stuffed with date paste.

Elsewhere in that courtyard more kerosene rings, chopping boards and knives and pestle and mortars, hawan, of various sizes were to be found. There was no oven: domestic ovens are recent innovations in many parts of the world. Banquet dishes, of meat or fish, on large trays, were sent to neighbourhood bakers’ ovens, also a common practice elsewhere. On special occasions a lamb would be slaughtered over the drain in the courtyard and butchered there by a hired specialist. 

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