Thursday, June 26, 2014

Little Sugar Pies

(Maestre Robert "Libre del Coch" 1520, translation from "Original Mediterranean Cooking" B Santich) - redaction is my own.

Take a pound of almonds and blanch them. And grind them without adding either water or stock, so that they become very oily, and the oilier they are, the better. And take one and half pounds of white sugar, well pounded, and mix it with the almonds. And when these are mixed, if it is still a bit stiff, add a little rosewater. And season it with a little ginger, to your taste. Then take pastry made with flour and eggs and sweet oil, and fill the pastry with the sugar and the almonds. Then take oil and put it on the fire in a frying pan. And when it boils, put in the little pies, and cook them until they take on the colour of gold. And when you take them from the fire, pour over melted honey. And then sprinkle them with sugar and powdered cinnamon. 

You will see that I put less sugar in than the original recipe 

350g ground almonds
350g icing sugar
1 tsp rosewater
2 tsp ginger

½ cup wine
½ cup oil
1 egg
flour; about 2 and ½ cups
Caster sugar

Mix the almonds, icing sugar, rose water and ginger to make a firm paste like a marzipan.

While the original recipe for once does in fact give ingredients for the pastry, I played a little with it, and used a little wine in the pastry, as this gives it a wonderfully crisp texture. Mix the oil, wine and eggs, and gradually add the flour, to make a soft sticky dough. Sprinkle a board with flour, and lightly flour a rolling pin. Roll out the dough and cut out rounds. Place a little of the marzipan mixture on a round, fold in half and pinch closed (you may find that wetting the edges lightly with water will help them stick together) or run a fork around the edge.
Deep fry at 170 degrees until golden. Immediately after removing them from the oil, put them on a plate and drizzle honey over the top.
Move to drain on a draining rack (over a tray of some sort!) and then sprinkle with cinnamon and caster sugar.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Duke's powder, powder douce, powder forte - medieval spice mixtures

I thought I should type up some of the notes I have taken on this matter, rather than keeping them on a rather scrappy piece of paper.    This is simply a list of the spice blends from a number of medieval cookbooks, and will hopefully grow.  The first one from Le Menagier is one of my favourites.

Le Menagier de Paris 

14 oz cinnamon
1 oz ginger
1 oz grains of paradise
1/6 oz nutmeg
1/6 oz galingale
1 oz and 1 drachma (1/8th of an oz) white ginger
1/4 oz cinnamon
1/8 oz grains of paradise
1/8 oz cloves
1/4 oz sugar

Frati 15th century Italy

1/4 cloves
1 oz ginger
1 oz cinnamon
same quantity bay leaf

Libro de Guisados:

Spices for common sauce

3 parts cinnamon
2 parts cloves
1 part ginnger
1 part sugar?? (I can't read my own notes there... must check)
and a little ground coriander and a little saffron

Spices for Clarea
3 parts cinnamon
2 parts cloves
1 part ginger

Dukes Powder
1/2 oz cinnamon
1/8 cloves
1 pound sugar
a  little ginger


Powder Blanche (Haven of Health)
2 oz sugar
1/4 oz ginger
1/8 oz cinnamon

Monday, April 28, 2014

Doucettes - Honey and saffron tarts

Doucettes: MS Harlein 279 (which is 15thcentury), recipe XV in the "Vyaunde Furnez"/"Dyuerse Bake Metis" section. 

This recipe is one of the most classic and popular tarts ever served in the SCA, and for good reason - when made well they are glorious - lightly sweet honeyed tarts with a beautiful golden tint. In this recipe I am not going to get into the pie crust itself - that discussion is for another day, but am giving you a nice easy recipe for the contents.  Give it a try!  I use honey rather than sugar because I love that special flavour you get from honey, but you can make it with sugar instead. 

Doucetes -- Take Creme a gode cupfulle & put it on a straynoure; (th)anne take (y)olkys of Eyroun & put (th)er-to, & a lytel mylke; (th)en strayne it (th)orw a straynoure into a bolle; (th)en take Sugre y-now, & put (th)er-to, or ellys hony forde faute of Sugre, (th)an coloure it with Safroun; (th)an take (th)in cofyns, & put in (th)e ovens lere, & lat hem ben hardyd; (th)an take a dysshe y-fastenyd on (th) pelys ende; & pore (th)in comade in-to (th)e dyssche, & fro (th)e dyssche in-to (th)e cofyns; & when (th) don a-ryse wel, take hem out, & serue hem forth."

Doucettes  -- Take a good cupful of cream and put it through a strainer, then take yolks of eggs and add them to it, and a little milk, then strain it into a bowl. Then take enough sugar, and add it, or honey in stead of sugar, then color it with saffron; then take your coffins(crusts), and put them in the oven empty, and let them harden, then take a dish fastened to the end of your baking peel and pour your filling into the dish, and from the dish into the coffins, and when they rise well, take them out, and serve them forth.

Redaction by Kiriel (for one disposable pie tray)

2 egg yolks
125mls cream
75ml milk
2 tsp honey
3 strands of saffron

Pre-bake a pie shell. Mix the egg yolks,cream, milk and honey till well blended. Grind your saffron in a mortar and pestle and add the powder to the liquid. Pour into the hot pie shell and bake in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes to half an hour, until the mixture is set.

What to do with the 2 egg whites? Make Macaroons

Friday, March 7, 2014

Potluck feasts... what to bring?

Well, a first rule of thumb for potlucks is don't bring any dish containing: corn, tomatoes, potatoes, capsicum, peanuts or chocolate. That is because all of these ingredients are “new world” foods and, although they may have made it back to Europe within the SCA's period, in general they just were not eaten.

Easy and inexpensive dishes to make:

Leek Soup
Peas Pies
Rice pudding*
Mushrooms and leeks*
Fartes of Portingale*
Eggs in mustard sauce*
Apple pie
Pears in Red Wine* (Pears in Confyt)

Easy but fancier dishes to make:

Honey and saffron tart*
Brie tart*
Veal stew*
Salmon poached in beer*
Roast meat (in period meat was boiled then roasted)
Pork ravioli* 

Dishes you can buy to bring:

A cheese platter
Antipasto (see rule of thumb)
Meat pie
Pork pie
Cold meats

Strapped for cash?:

an apple pie
Fresh fruit
Salad ingredients (see rule of thumb)
Roast chicken


Monday, February 17, 2014

Of possible period crackers

I am half cross posting this from a discussion on the Medieval and Renaissance cooking and recipes group on Fbook, partly so I will remember to actually give it a try soon. Someone asked about medieval crackers, which turned into a discussion about bread, which turned into a discussion on toast and whether toasted bread would have been served to an English lord in the Saxon period. 

This discussion got me hunting and I found a recipe for "A grilled cake with chicken filling".  This provided me with a lovely opportunity for my favourite hobbyhorse... critical thinking and questioning assumptions.

So let me share the story with you as it happened, because well, I just found the whole discussion fascinating and exciting.

The recipe is from Manuscript W (1213 - from the Herzog August Biobliothek of Wolfenbuttel, Germany) of the collection of manuscripts dubbed by Grewe and Hiatt as the Libellus de arte coquinaria (from the 2001 publicationof the book).

The recipe is for making a thin dough of eggs and flour, frying it and topping it with chicken. Pretty straight forward eh?  

So here is my conversation on it:

Me:  The original text says "Item, nym eigere unde mel; werke daraff eynen dunnen dech. Sette dat uppe eyn iseren unde sla eigere myt mele unde gutdarin". The translation offered by Grewe and Hieatt is "Next, take eggs and flour. Make it into a thin dough: onto a gridiron pour [the] eggs beaten with flour". 
I don't have a word of medieval Low German vocabulary, but I would love to have clarification on the translation of the word 'pour' and whether it could be translated in a different slant, if you think of the dough as being less of a pancake dough and more like a bread dough.... anyone out there have Low German?

Response: sounds like a crepe.

Me: It does indeed, if you pour.. but if you think of the words 'thin dough' as being less a batter and more along the lines of thinly rolled dough (for example pasta dough is just flour and eggs), you can see why the word translated as 'pour' makes such a difference. Is the word 'pour' or is it 'set it' or 'place it' or 'put it', and the context of thinking of it as a batter made the translator translate it as pour? Looking at the original text, I think maybe the word 'Sette' is the relevant word, and the online low medieval German dictionary I found translates that as 'setzen', which is modern German for 'set'. Which gives the possibility of it being a much thicker dough. See what I mean?

Response (from someone is a native German speaker): Kiriel you are very likely right that "sette" is to set it upon the irons, Like waffles.

Me: Thanks. See now this is one of the things that excites me about medieval cookery! We may well be the first people in 800 years to look at this recipe and see the possibility that it could be cooked this particular and different way. How we experience our own lives affects our vision of these recipes. Someone from say America might see a recipe for something that uses a wafer iron and interpret the content as being a batter, where someone from Belgium might interpret it as a dough (as waffles in Belgium are made from a yeast dough). The key is to try and see all the possibilities and make choices knowingly. Sorry, I am waffling on (pun intended), but I really do get excited by this stuff!

Response: Belgian waffles are risen with yeast, but are still poured

Me: Not in Brussels they aren't - at the street stalls making them they have balls of dough, and you watch them grab a ball and put it on the iron. Definitely NOT poured.

Response:  Hmmm..  If lets say they don't pour the dough and are using a thin dough- and rolled it thin, or spread it thin, or griddled it- it would be a cracker! 

Me: Not necessarily but quite possibly - we should properly check the translation, and you will have to try and cook it and see what comes out - but certainly it looks like the possibility is there! See, isn't that exciting? 

 The next step will be, of course, to try making variations and see what we get.  Watch this space for more on that front soon!  I would love to hear from you if you have had a go at this recipe, or if you want to join me in some experimentation.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A sweet tisane

Le Menagier de Paris was published in 1393 and contains a wide range of advice and information on almost every aspect of life in the 14th century.
Book 2, article five includes recipes for the ill (Buvrages pour les malades), and one of these recipes is for a sweet tisane.

Tizanne doulce. Prenez de l’eaue et faites boulir, puis mettez pour chascun sextier d’eaue une escuelle d’orge largement, et ne chault s’elle est à toute l’escorce, et pour deux parisis de réglisse, item, des figues, et soit tant bouly que l’orge crève; puis soit coulée en deux ou trois toiles, et mis en chascun gobelet grant foison de succre en roche. Puis est bonne icelle orge à donner à mengier à la poulaille pour engressier.
Nota que la bonne réglisse est la plus nouvelle, et est en la taille de vive couleur vergaie, et la vieille est de plus fade et morte, et sèche.

My translation:
Sweet Tisane. Take fresh running water and bring it to boil, then for every one sextier1 of fresh water a generous porringer of barley, and it is not important if it has husks, and for two parisis2 of licorice, similarly, figs, and then boil it until the barley bursts and then strain it through two or three layers of cloth, and put in each goblet an abundant amount of rock sugar. This barley is then good to give to poultry to fatten it.

Note: that good licorice is the newest, and is in size a bright color and ridged3, and the old is more pale and dead and dry.

The challenging and interesting part of this recipe interpretation wise, for me is the figs. From first reading it appeared that the amount of figs would appear to be the same as the licorice, but as that comes out at less than half a fig, and the recipe clearly uses the plural, that cannot be the case.

One could simply instead say it means “some figs” and randomly put an amount in. But the use of the latin word “item” which does not mean “item” but “similarly” gives me the thought that in fact, we do have some direction as to quantity – that the “similarly” refers us back to the earlier part of the sentence, and the amount of barley. Whilst this may seem a bit of a leap in our modern punctuated sensibility, it does make a lot more sense in quantity. I have therefore used a porringer of figs as well – approximately 7 soft dried figs. I used dried figs, because although the recipe does not specify, limiting this recipe to fresh figs would make it essentially useless for the times of year when people are most likely to be ill – winter! Both fresh and dried figs were commonly available in Europe in the medieval and renaissance.

My recipe

3.7 litres water
160g barley
7 dried figs - chopped into quarters
4 grams licorice – this is the dried stalk of the licorice plant (you might find this in an Indian supplies shop)
Rock sugar

Bring the water to the boil in a large pot.  Add the barley, figs, and licorice stick. Boil gently till the barley bursts (about 45 minutes). Strain through cloth (you might find it easier to do a first draining through a colander) and pour the liquid hot into goblets, into which a small lump of rock sugar has been ground. 

This recipe makes a warming, somehow soft tasting tisane which is both soothing and pleasant.  Give it a try! 

1  In old French a sestier is a measure of wine – approximately one gallon/3.7 litres – I have concluded with research, that sextier is simply an alternative spelling of sestier.

2  A Parisii is a small coin (like a half penny). Searching, I have found that they generally seem to have weighed between 1.6 and 1.8 grams

3  My dictionary of Old French does not contain the word vergaie. I note that another translator of this recipe Jane Hinson (The Goodman of Paris, published 1992) translates vergaie as “greenish”.  The word vergier in old French has a few meanings including young trees, border, strip, cut groove in, ridged and embossed and as good quality reglisse (licorice) has deep grooves along the length of the surface, my decision was to lean towards this interpretation of the word.  I would love to hear from you if you have any thoughts on this!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Lassis de blanc de chapon - Le Viandier de Taillevent recipe number 189

Mettez cuire vostre chappon avec trumeauix de beuf, puis prendre tout le blanc de chappon et le charpire ainsi qu'on charpiroit lainne, et prendre des autres membres du chappon et mettre par pieces et les frire en sain de lart tant qu'ilz soient ung petit roux, et les dreciez en platz et mettez par dessus ladicte charpie; puis pelez amendes, broiez et deffaictes de vostre boullon et y mettez du vin blanc et du verjus; et prenez gingenbre de Mesche pare et le mettez en pouldre, et grainne de paradis le deux partz et du succre competemment et qu'il soit douix de succre; puis fault des amendes blanches pelees et les frire en sain de lart ou en sain de porc doulz, et que les amendes soient piquees dedans le potaige quant il sera drecie; et soit assez liant tant que les amendes se puissent tenir droictes; et semez par dessus de l'annis vermeil.

My translation

Cook your capon with a knuckle of beef, then take all the white capon and shred it as you would card wool, and with the other members of the capon pull it into parts in parts and fry in good lard in the manner till it is not at all pink, and arrange on a plate and spread the shreds, on top, then peel almonds and grind and mix in with your boullion and put into it white wine and verjuice, and take ginger of Mesche and pare it and then make a powder, and grains of paradise in two parts, then take fine sugar and make sweet with sugar; then take peeled white almonds and fry them in clear beef or pork fat, and take the almonds and prick them into the potage so they will stand upright, as the sauce is sufficiently thick so that the almonds can stand upright, and sprinkle over with the red anise.

1 chicken (cleaned)
1 ½ cups beef stock
lard for frying
2 cups blanched almonds (plus a handful extra for decoration)
2/3 cup white wine (I used a “fruity classic white”)
1/3 cup verjuice
1 gm pared then ground fresh ginger
2gm grains of paradise
1 tsp sugar
a pinch of ground star anise

Cut the chicken into large pieces. Simmer in beef stock for about 20 minutes, until it is cooked. Strip off the white meat of the chicken and shred it. Take the rest of the chicken pieces and brown them in lard. Place them on a platter and spread with the shredded white meat. T

Grind two cups of almonds and mix it into the stock with the white wine and verjuice. Spice this sauce with ground ginger, grains of paradise and sugar. Pour over the chicken and then stud with blanched almonds that you have lightly browned in lard. Sprinkle with ground star anise and serve.

A few notes on the recipe and some of the decisions made:

Anise: For this recipe, the interesting question for me lies with the anise. In French, generally “Anise” refers to the anise plant (Pimpinella anisum ), which produces aniseeds. This is a green plant,with some similarities in both appearance (and flavour) to fennel, and is common in period in eastern Europe. However, in no way shape or form is it red. Could the text potentially be referring to star anise? Star anise (Illicium verum) is red. In modern French they call star anise 'badiane', however I have found no references within period to it being referred to as 'badiane'. Star anise was growing in south east China but it is believed not to have travelled to Europe until the 16th century. However, I hypothesise that this reference to red anise may well be proof that that star anise was in fact found in Europe much earlier than is generally understood.

Capons: One of the sad limitations of living in Australia is that you cannot purchase capons (I gather that it is an animal cruelty issue - apparently it is less cruel to kill baby cocks and throw them away than to desex them and let them grow up and then eat them). So this recipe uses chicken.

Knuckle of Beef: I have also used beef stock rather than cooking the chicken with an actual knuckle of beef. I also broke up the chicken into pieces before cooking – this is not indicated in the recipe but is a sensible thing to do to fit the chicken in a pot!

Wine: The sweeter choice of wine blended perfectly with the verjuice and the finished sauce was seriously tasty.