I came across this recipe while I was researching my second cookbook, The Pharaoh's Feast, also published in the United Kingdom as Feasting with the Ancestors (Sutton Publishing). In this tome I traced the history of cooking from prehistoric times to the present. This particular recipe comes from a fourteenth century anonymous manuscript containing two different recipe sections, known respectively as Book A and Book B. The actual book title was Anonymous Southerner (Anonimo Meridionale), because the author used southern Italian expressions, especially from Naples. Limonia is from Book A, which contains 164 recipes.

Limonia was a popular dish in medieval and Renaissance Italy. Different recipe collections term it lumonia, limonia, or limonea. It may have made its way to Europe via the Arab world. Arab texts as far back as the thirteenth century have recipes for laymuwiya, which are very similar to the one given here. According to the Anonymous Southerner, to make Limonia, all one has to do is brown chicken lard together with chopped onions and almonds. Stir in more pork lard and spices, and cook. Add lemon juice when it's done, and serve. This sounds very much like modern day chicken piccata, although I've never heard of almonds being added to it. In the original recipe, lard would give it the flavor. These days, olive oil is a healthier alternative. I like this dish served over steamed white or brown rice.


2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
Juice of one small lemon
1/4 cup blanched almonds*
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken cubes and cook until lightly browned. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for a minute or two.
2. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the lemon juice and almonds. Stir well to dissolve brown particles in the bottom of the pan. Add butter, blending it well into the sauce.
3. Season with salt and pepper, and serve.
    Yield: 4 servings.

    *To blanch almonds, simply drop the shelled almonds (with their brown skin) into boiling water to cover. Boil exactly one minute. Drain. Press the almonds between your fingers until the almonds slip out of their skins, and pat dry.

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