Tuesday, October 25, 2016

You say kartoffel I say tartoufle...

I have been hard at work reading up on renaissance French food of late, in preparation for the upcoming Politarchopolin Fields of Gold event, for which I am head chef.
Apparently there is some argument about the three recipes in the Ouveture de Cuisine (1604) for tartoufle.  One translated version of the recipe book has this as potato.. but is it?
The word "truffle" comes from the Vulgar Latin "tufera", itself derived from the Latin tuber.Within period the truffle was known as "tartufi" and "tartufoli" and the potato as "tartuffo" and "tartuffolo". You can see why there might be some cause for confusion eh?
Apparently the word "taratoufli" was inscribed on the pot in which a potato was planted by Clusius in 1588.
The word "tartufflo" as the word for a potato was then converted by Olivier de Serres in 1600 into "Cartoufle", which leads nicely into the German "kartoffel" that we see today, and its many variations in other countries. *
Seems pretty straight forward.
Cotgrave's 1611 French English dictionary has a little to say on this too... it doesn't contain any reference to the potato that I have been able to find so far, but does have:
Truffe: a gibe, mocke, flowt, jeast, gullerie; also a saligo, or water nut; also, a most daintie kind of round and russet root, or rootie excresence, which grows in forests, or dry and sandie grounds, and within the ground, but without any stalk, leafe or fiber annexed unto it.
To complicate things, in France to this day, in a geographical area from Burgundy to Provence, truffles are called "tartoufle". An indeed, conversely, apparently in other regions of France, up to Belgium, potatoes may be called "trufle", "truffe", "trefe", "trife", "trufa" or "trufo" or even more!

I am still on the hunt for more information on this... I hope to have more information soon.  In the meantime, feel free to tell me what you think....

*History and social influence of the potato by Redcliffe N Salaman and William Glynn Burton

Monday, September 14, 2015

Rosee - Chicken and rose pate

My friend known online as Quatrefoil made this dish decades ago, and it was only recently when trying to find a dish that we could serve on starter platters for a feast for 200 people that I recalled it and asked her for details.

Let me start by giving my thanks to Constance B Hieatt and Sharon Butler for bringing so many 14th century recipes to the public eye!  So here are three versions:
  1. An Ordinance of Pottage:  "Florey.  Take flourys of rosys; wesch hem & grynd hen with almond mylke. Take brawn of capons grounden & do thereto. Loke hit be stondyng. Cast theryn sugure, & cast theron the leves of floure of the rose, & serve hit forth."
  2. Utilis Coquinario - book 3 of MS Cosin 14th C. Menus: " 32. To make a rosye. Tak braun of capounces or of hennes & hew it smal, & bray it in a morter & do perto grounde bred & tempre it vp with almounde melk, & and do into a pot & lye it with amodne & colour it with safroun. & do perto white gres & stere it weel, & tak roses & hewe hem smale & do into pe pot, & seth it all togedrere& ley it with eyre, & do perto sugre & salt, & dresch it, & strewe peron rede rose leaues & serue it forth."
  3. Diuersa Servicia - book 2 of MS Cosin 14th C. Menus: "For to make rosee, tak the flowrys of rosys and wasch hem wel in water, and after bray hem wel in a morter; & than tak almondys and temper hem, & seth hem, & after tak flesch of capons or of hennys and hac yt smale, & than bray hem wel in a morter, & than do yt in the rose so that the flesch acorde wyth the mylk, & so that the mete be charchaunt: & after do yt to the fyre to boyle, & do therto sugur & safroun that yt be wel ycolowrd & rosy of leuys of the for seyde flowrys,& serue yt forth."
There are various modern versions of this recipe online but me being me, I couldn't possibly use them could I?
So let's look at the recipe bit by bit.  "Take flowers of roses". I would love to do some grand experimentation and research into what roses would have been around at the time, and what roses taste best, but unfortunately Spring had not yet sprung so I was stuck with my packet of dried rosebuds (these can often be found in middle eastern stores).  I made the decision though that I needed to add a little rosewater to the dishes to make up for the lack of flavour in the dried roses.
"Wash them and grind them with almond milk".    This seems pretty clear.  However, looking at the other contemporary recipes for the same dish the almonds seem clearly to be included in the main dish.  Hmm.... I decide that the almond flesh would add to the texture and stability of the pate and decide to include it.

"Take brawn of  capons grounden and do thereto".  Brawn nowadays is often known as head cheese and is made by boiling meat along with the bones to get gelatin.  But as a medieval term, the word is middle English and comes from the old French word "Braon", which means the fleshy part of the leg.  So we know what bit of the capon we are to use, yay! 

Sadly as I have no probably mourned in previous posts, capons aren't available here, and I had to make do with chicken thighs.   On a side note, apparently the Australian ban on capons was based on them being chemically castrated in the 60s and so if you can find someone to manually castrate the roosters and grow them, you could theoretically get capons here.  Anyone? Anyone? Pretty please with sugar on top?  Anyway, I have wandered off...

So, here comes for me, one of the big questions of the recipe. Is the meat cooked before grinding?  In the second and third versions of the recipe, the ground meat is cooked (whether for a second time or not is unclear).  Does it make a difference either way?

Well, guess I better find out eh?  So I try a few ways.  Method 1. Grind the almonds with water and rose petals and half a teaspoon of rosewater. Add ground chicken thighs and cook the mixture until it is thoroughly cooked. Season with sugar.  Result - ok, but a bit on the bland side of things. Texturally, the almonds were a bit grainy - I should have ground them more finely.  I was also concerned with cooking the raw ground chicken in the almond milk, that it would either burn around the edges (trying to cook a thick soupy liquid) or that the chicken itself would not be properly cooked through, which was a worry from a food safety point of view.

Method 2.  Cook the chicken thighs in stock.  Use a bit of the stock to grind the almonds and rose petals and rosewater.  Grind up the cooked thighs and mix in with the almond milk.  Result? Tasty tasty.  The flavour and salt from the chicken stock was a big help to the blandness and the texture was more pleasing.

250g chicken thighs
8 dried rosebuds
1/2 teaspoon rosewater
1/3 cup blanched almonds
2 cups of chicken stock

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:

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.