My apprentice Armin has done an excellent writeup on early Scandinavian cuisine as part of the Barony of Madrone’s virtual Athenaeum arts and sciences showcase. Take a look!
I know I’m in the minority, but I genuinely love rose water and rose-infused food. My roses have been going wild for the past few weeks and I wanted to capture that early summer flavor. This isn’t based on a historical recipe, but I don’t think it would be out of place in an SCA context.
- 1 stick (4 ounces) butter
- 1/3 cup sugar
- Petals from 2 small to medium roses
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp rose water
- 1 cup flour (all-purpose, whole wheat pastry, or bolted heirloom wheat)
Preheat oven to 300F. In a mortar or food processor, grind together the petals and sugar. In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream the rose sugar with the butter until fluffy. Add the salt and rose water and beat well to incorporate. Add the flour and mix thoroughly; I find it helpful to use my hands at this stage. Press dough evenly into a greased 8-inch cake pan, and use a fork or skewer to poke holes all over for venting. Bake 35-45 minutes or until lightly browned on the edges. Slice immediately after removing from oven, then allow to cool in the pan at least 10 minutes before carefully turning out onto a wire rack. Store in an airtight container and eat within a few days.
Please help me spread the word 🙂
My Frangipane enthusiasm remains undiminished, and this weekend I decided to play with the flavors a bit. I added a bit of fruit preserves to the bottom of each tart — some quince, some tart cherry — and made the Frangipane with lemon juice and zest. I also went with a very rich modern pastry for the crust, and because I believe in gilding the lily I served them with a dollop of fresh whipped cream. Although it’s not rooted in history, here is the recipe if you’d like to make your own.
- 12 ounces flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 sticks butter
- 4 tablespoons water
Preheat oven to 350F. Mix together the dry ingredients, then cut and rub in the butter until mixture is crumbly (looks like breadcrumbs or coarse wet sand). Add the water and mix gently to bring together. Divide into 8 pieces and roll out. Line 8 small (4″) tart pans or ramekins (as pictured here) with the pastry and trim the edges. (Mine slumped — leave a bit of overhang to prevent that.) Prick the bottom of each crust gently all over with a fork, then line each with parchment paper and fill with weights or dry beans. Blind bake for 15-20 minutes, until pastry looks dry all over.
While the pastry blind bakes, prepare the filling:
- Optional: 8 teaspoons jam / preserves, set aside
- 4 ounces sugar
- 4 ounces softened butter
- 4 ounces finely ground almonds / almond flour
- Juice and zest of one medium lemon
- 2 eggs
- Pinch of salt
Cream together butter and sugar. Add ground almonds and salt and mix well — it should look pale and fluffy. Add the lemon juice and zest and eggs and beat enthusiastically until everything is well incorporated.
Once the crusts have come out of the oven and cooled enough to remove the weights and parchment, spread a teaspoon of jam or preserves in the bottom of each, then top with the almond mixture. Be careful not to overfill (hence splitting the recipe between 8 small tarts). Bake tarts for 30 minutes. Let cool prior to serving.
I am still proofreading and putting the final touches on the cookbook, and I’ve forced myself to stop putting new recipes in it. That doesn’t mean I’m not still testing recipes, though — for my own enjoyment, for future editions, because I sort of have an obsessive personality — and last night I was playing around with another version of Paest Royall, a 1545 pie crust recipe that I think every SCA cook has tried their hand at. I have started looking at post SCA period historical pastry recipes, which include quantities, and it’s been an interesting process. Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery (1796) happens to include a recipe for Royal Paste that I used as a starting point for this experiment. Of course, I needed something to fill the pastry with, so I made a batch of Frangipane with rose water for a more 16th / 17th century flavor profile. (Caveat: I have not thoroughly researched Frangipane, or come across a pre 1600 reference or recipe. Anyone have anything documenting its early history?)
It turned out lovely:
Preheat the oven to 350F.
For the pastry:
- 1/2 pound flour
- 1/4 pound butter
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 scant teaspoon Kosher salt
- Several spoonfuls of water
All ingredients should be at cool room temperature. Mix the salt into the flour, then cut and rub the butter in until the mix resembles wet sand. Incorporate the egg yolks, then add water a spoonful at a time and mix gently until the pastry comes together. Form into a disc and set aside while you prep the filling.
- 4 oz finely ground almonds
- 4 oz sugar
- 4 oz butter, softened/room temperature
- 2 eggs
- 2 T rosewater
Cream together first three ingredients, then gently beat in eggs and rosewater until filling is smooth and uniform.
Roll out the pastry thinly and line a tart pan, pressing into the sides of the pan and trimming the edges. Pour in the filling and spread evenly. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until puffed and golden brown on top. Let cool before serving.
This is not a post about how to recreate a complicated medieval meal, or a review of fancy heirloom stone-ground flours, or a story about doing something awesome and inspiring and historical. Rather, this is a post for anyone who is planning food for a vigil and who wants a great, crowd-pleasing spread that can be set up in a field or in a hotel room (so, when you don’t have access to a kitchen) with a minimum of misery while still maximizing the wow-factor. Basically, this is how to prepare vigil food that people will like and that is period-ish while relying almost exclusively on pre-made ingredients from Costco and Trader Joe’s. And now you know my shameful secret: I say I love cooking, but apparently if you ask me to do your vigil food I won’t actually cook a damn thing for you. (Okay, that’s not really true: I’ll probably bake some pies.) If that’s enough self-flagellation on my part, let’s begin.
Since posting about the cookbook project back in January, some stuff happened that was really hard and sad and I’m still processing all of it. It definitely put a damper on my dreams of testing a recipe a week for the cookbook, but I’m finally starting to feel a little human again (ugh grief is dumb). I don’t know how many recipes I’ll be able to test and add to the cookbook, but I have managed to get a small handful together since January (and it’s not like I didn’t have lots of recipes ready to go back in January, either!)
So, there will be a cookbook, it will probably mostly look like the table of contents already posted (see link), but there will also be at least a few more recipes too! I still don’t have anything like pre-order details or even how I’ll be releasing it nailed down; I’m going to just have to take that as it comes.
Cheese is awesome, isn’t it? As part of my ongoing home dairying adventures, I’ve settled on a simple method for making fresh cheese that I think is historical and that produces a very tasty final product. I made some today and remembered to snap a photo before we gobbled up every molecule.
You will need:
- 1/2 gallon whole milk
- 1/2 cup buttermilk (actually the amount isn’t really that important, you could use anything from 1/4-2 cups)
- A large container with a lid, like a giant Mason jar
- A nonreactive pot
- Some cheesecloth or a very clean kitchen towel
- A colander
- Salt plus optional herbs or whatever else you’d like to use for flavor
- In the jar, combine the milk and buttermilk. (Full disclosure: you can also do this in the pot itself.)
- Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight (up to 24 hours), until milk is fully soured (cultured).
- Transfer cultured milk (called “clabber”) to the pot.
- Heat, stirring occasionally, until the clabber curdles. This happens faster than you might expect.
- Line the colander with a kitchen towel or several layers of cheesecloth. If you want to reserve the whey, place the colander over something big enough to catch that much liquid.
- Drain the curds by pouring the curdled clabber slowly through the lined colander.
- Draw up the corners of the cheesecloth, tie loosely, and hang to drip drain. I use a wooden spoon to suspend the bundle over a pot or deep bowl. If you are impatient, you can squeeze the curds, but this makes the texture less creamy.
- When the curd reaches desired dryness, add salt to taste, or use in any recipe calling for fresh cheese.
In addition to being a perfect base ingredient for many recipes, this cheese is great spread on fresh bread. If you go that route, do experiment with adding other flavors to it.
When the Queen calls, you answer.
Her Majesty Sha’ya of An Tir laid a challenge on our Kingdom, and in particular upon the Laurels: produce a work to be auctioned off to benefit RAINN during the Knights Auction (all donations are sponsored by a Knight) at 12th Night.
I was moved — this is an incredible organization whose mission I believe in. I wanted to produce something worthy of auction. I found a sponsor, Sir Philip de Mantel, and proposed to put together a set of spice mixes for period cooking.
And I did make a set of spice mixes, a rather nice set if I do say so myself:
Most of these (4/6) were made using actual period recipes. The remaining two (powder douce and powder fort) are more “generic” spice blends that I have my own versions of. You can see I found cute bottles and a cute basket and even made little labels for them.
Here are the sources for each one, and their ingredients:
- Powder Fort: Black pepper, cubeb, cassia cinnamon, mace, clove
- Powder Douce: Sugar, ginger, Ceylon cinnamon, nutmeg
- Duke’s Powder (Menagier, 14th c. French): Sugar, ginger, grains of paradise, Ceylon cinnamon, nutmeg, galangal
- Clarée Spices (Two Anglo-Norman Culinary… 13th/14th c English): Spikenard, cinnamon, ginger, mace, clove, nutmeg, fennel, anise, caraway, cardamom
- Fine Spices 1 (Libro di Cucina, 14th/15th c. Italian): Black pepper, Ceylon cinnamon, ginger, clove, saffron
- Fine Spices 2 (Livre Fort, 16th c. French): Ginger, Ceylon cinnamon, black pepper, long pepper, nutmeg, clove, grains of paradise, galangal
But here’s the thing: I didn’t feel like it was enough. I got it into my head that spices are okay, but you need recipes to know how to use them.
So, long story short, I kind of wrote a cookbook.
That’s a screenshot of the cover. I wrote a cookbook, and I got a copy of it printed, and I put it and the spices together as one lot for the auction. The winning bidder currently owns the only copy of this cookbook in existence.
Yeah, soooo… I’ve given myself a year. I’m going to edit what I have and add more recipes to it if I can (my goal is 1 new tested recipe every 1-2 weeks), then I plan to release it for sale. I’m not planning a big run, and I’m planning to self-publish for a few reasons (although, um, if you work for a publishing house and want to talk me out of that and offer me $$$$ to change my mind and publish through you, let’s talk!)
To get you excited, here is the table of contents so far:
- Preface 4
- Brief Notes on Some Ingredients 5
- On Salt 5
- On Spices 5
- On Verjus 5
- On Vinegar 5
- On Saba 5
- On Almond Milk 6
- On Rose Water 6
- Spice Mixes for All Manner of Dishes 7
- Powder Fort 7
- Powder Douce 7
- Clarée Spices 8
- Fine Spices 1 8
- Fine Spices 2 8
- Beverages 9
- Quick Mead 9
- Hippocras / Ypocras / Clarée / Piment (Spiced Wine) 9
- Oxymel / Posca (Vinegar/Honey Drink) 10
- Clarée D’eau / Clarea de Agua (Water with Honey and Spices) 10
- Rose Drink Concentrate 10
- Finger Foods, Nibbles, and Snacks 11
- Pescods (Peas in the pod) 11
- To Churn Your Own Butter 11
- Whole Pickled Onions 11
- Pickled Onion Rings 12
- Pickled Champignons (Mushrooms) 12
- Fried Livers with Saba 13
- Hais (Date and Nut Balls) 13
- Meats, Fishes, and Their Sauces 14
- Sour Grape Juice with Fried Summer Fish 14
- To Dresse a Crabbe (Crab with Butter and Verjus) 14
- Peiouns Ystewed (Stewed Pigeons) 14
- Grilled Quail with Lemon Sauce 15
- Good and Perfect Hens with Sumac 16
- Roasted Chicken with Orange Sauce 16
- Limonia (Chicken in Lemon Sauce) 16
- To Make Stekys of Venson or Bef (Steaks of Venison or Beef) 17
- Alows de Boef (Herbed Rolled Beef) 17
- Fresh Lamb Sausage with Cilantro Sauce 18
- Pork Loin with Peach Sauce 19
- Cormarye (Spiced Pork Loin) 19
- Salt Pork 20
- Mustard Sauce 20
- Egg and Pasta Dishes 21
- Erbolat (Medieval English Frittata) 21
- Sphoungata (Byzantine Omelettes) 21
- Cressée of Noodles (Heraldic Chequy Noodles) 22
- Cheese Gnocchi 22
- Makerouns (Baked Noodles with Cheese) 23
- Vegetables, Grains, and Legumes 24
- A Dish of Leeks 24
- Onion salad 24
- Asparagus 24
- Parsnips in Pottage 25
- Basic Green Salad 25
- Sprouts of Life 25
- Carrot Puree 26
- Chyches (Seasoned Chickpeas) 26
- Green Chickpeas 26
- Fresh Fava Beans 27
- A Dish of Rice 27
- Almond Porridge 28
- Oatcakes 28
- Pies of All Sorts 29
- Basic Self-Supporting Hot Water Pastry 29
- To Raise Coffins 29
- Coffins Another Way 30
- To Build a Large Coffin 30
- General Baking Instructions for Coffins 31
- Richer Hot Water Pastry for Molded Pies 31
- Paest Royall 32
- Short Paste for Tarts 32
- A Formula for Meat Pies 33
- Crustardes of Flessh (Birds in a Pie) 33
- Cheshire Pork Pie 34
- Simple Pork Pies 35
- Une Tourte (Greens Tart) 35
- Leche Frys of Fische Daye (Cheese Tart) 36
- Tarte of Apples 37
- To Bake Pippins (Elizabethan Apple Pie) 37
- Daryols (Mini Cream Custard Tarts) 38
- A Formula for Fruit Tarts 38
- Sweets and Desserts 39
- Dulcia Domestica (Candied Stuffed Dates) 39
- Payn Ragoun (Pine Nut Candy) 39
- Marzipan 39
- Nucato (Honey-Nut Candy) 40
- Suckets 1 (Candied Citron Peel) 40
- Suckets 2 (Candied Orange Peels) 41
- Pears in Confit (Poached Pears) 41
- Quince Paste 42
- Sweet Dessert Yogurt 42
- Gingerbrede 43
- Stamped Shortbread Cookies 43
- A Jellied Ypocras, or, Elizabethan Jelly Shots 43
- Assorted Useful Non-Edible Things to Make 45
- Herb Water 45
- Basic Lard Soap 45
- Tooth Powder 46
Next addition will be a chapter on recreating medieval bread in a home kitchen (with a normal oven).
I look forward to posting updates as this project develops 🙂
I’ve been snowed in for days and today to alleviate my boredom I baked a loaf of sourdough bread:
My starter had been in the refrigerator so long that I ended up adding some regular bread yeast (a teaspoon). I did a sponge (starter, flour, water, extra yeast) and let it go overnight. This morning I took out some to save for new starter, added salt and more flour, kneaded, then let rise until doubled in size. I baked it in a cast iron Dutch oven at 400•F for 30 minutes, then 350•F for 30 more. It’s got a really good flavor and a surprisingly light crumb.