Saturday, September 16, 2017

To Make Quidinia of Quinces (Delights for Ladies, Sir Hugh Platt, 1600)

Dry Peaches and Red Quince Paste Served at Curia Regis 9/10/2017
My adventures in making fruit pastes began in late 2014 when I started experimenting with Quince. At the time I was just beginning to find a passion for Medieval confectionary and that has grown as I have branched out to make additional fruit pastes, comfits, and candied fruit and preserve flowers and other assorted "Elizabethan Banqueting" dishes. 

I have experimented with making golden quince paste and red quince paste.  I have a confession to make; I don't particularly care for the flavor of quince.  So this particular paste was made with mostly quince, but I did at two apples and two pears to it to up the flavor a little bit.  When I make my fruit pastes I do make them in very large batches and store them in my fridge to give away as gifts or use in feasts throughout the year.  When I was asked to cook for the Curia Regis brunch I knew that one of the items I was going to feature was quince paste.  I had several large sheets that I had previously made. One I cut into a dragon and gilded, letting the kids and their friends enjoy the cut outs from the sheet of paste and it was gone very quickly! The other I cut into squares and served either sugared or plain.  The picture above shows plain paste without additional sugar. 

I was astonished while shopping for this brunch to discover that in my area a quarter pound of any fruit paste is sold by a large grocery chain for $6.00!!  Folks, you don't need to pay that much for it - make your own! But this discovery has prompted me to examine a little bit more closely the probability of setting up a booth at a local farmers market next year for some extra income...shhhh!

Delights for Ladies (Sir Hugh Platt, 1600) 28. To Make Quidinia of Quinces - Take the kernells out of eight great Quinces, and boile them in a quart of spring water, till it come to a pinte, then put into it a quarter of a pinte of Rosewater, and one pound of fine Sugar, and so let it boile till you see it come to bee of a deepe colour: then take a drop, and drop it on the bottome of a sawcer, then let it run through a gelly bagge into a bason, then set it in your bason upon a chafing dish of coles to keep it warm, then take a spoone, and fill your boxes as full as you please, and when they be colde cover them: and if you please to printe it in moldes, you must have moldes made to the bigness of your boxe, and wet your moldes with Rosewater, and so let it run into your mold, and when it is colde turne it off into your boxes. If you wette your moldes with water, your gelly will fall out of them.


2 to 2 1/2 pounds of quinces (I also used apples and pears)
Water to cover the fruit
2-3 cups (or more) of sugar

Wash, peel and core your fruit, wrap the peels and the cores of the fruit into cheesecloth.  You will be adding this to the pan of your fruit because that is where some of the color and pectin will be coming from.  Coarsely chop the fruit and place it and the cheesecloth wrapped discards into the pan and bring to a boil.  Allow the fruit to cook until it is very soft.  Remove the discards and place the fruit into a food processor and puree.  Alternatively you could push it through a fine grained sieve or use a ricer or food mill.  

You do want to make sure that your pulp is strained through a sieve back into the pot to remove any large lumps that might not have been caught.  The finer the pulp the smoother the fruit paste. Add your sugar to your pulp and bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer constantly stirring until the paste becomes very thick. You should be able to make a furrow with your spoon and see the bottom of your pan.  The longer the fruit cooks the redder it gets. 

Pour your paste onto a lightly oiled bit of parchment paper that has been placed into a 9x13" baking dish or a cookie sheet.  You will want something with a bit of a raised side. The thicker your paste the longer it will take to dry.  I usually try to make my paste at 3/4 to an Inch in height.  Traditionally your paste was put in a cupboard to dry but we have ovens that we can use.  Heat your oven to its lowest setting (mine is 175 degree's) and put your paste into it.  Depending on humidity and thickness of your paste and the amount of moisture left in it, drying can take as little as a few hours up to four or five days.  The paste should be dry but sticky to the touch.  You will need to turn it at least once partway through the drying process. 

Store your fruit paste in an air tight container in a cool dry place.  I use my refrigerator and have a drawer dedicated to it.  The longer the paste sits the darker and richer the color becomes.  I have stored the paste for as long as a year and I suspect it could last longer if stored properly.  The Quince Paste pictured above was made in December 2016.  Isn't it beautiful? 

To Dry Peaches - The Queen-like Closet (1675)

Dry Peaches and Red Quince Paste Served at Curia Regis 9/10/2017

Several of the recipes that I have experimented with recently can be found in  The queen-like closet; or, Rich cabinet stored with all manner of rare receipts for preserving, candying & cookery. Very pleasant and beneficial to all ingenious persons of the female sex. By Hannah WolleyThis book was first published in 1670, which is late for the period I most normally cook in. However, I believe that while the publishing date is late for the SCA, the recipes are reflective of cooking of the latter half of our SCA time line and therefore are not outside of the boundaries of SCA cooking.

The author, Hannah Wolley was born in 1623 and was the "Martha Stewart" of her day. By the age of 17 (1640) she was working in a nobles household who recognized that the culinary skills she had learned from her mother (general cooking, confectionary and medicinal remedies) was extraordinary and helped her to develop those skills.  Hannah had many firsts in her long career; the first woman to attempt to make a living from writing, the first to have her name attributed to a cooking book and the first to direct her writings to servants in an attempt to bring to the lower social classes the ability to enjoy the grand style of food enjoyed by the upper classes.  It appears that her writing career began at the age of 38 with the publication of her first book "The Ladies Directory" in 1661 and then her next book "The Cook's Guide" in 1664.  All in all, the Queen-Like closet had five publication dates (1670, 1672, 1681 and 1684) and also enjoyed two editions published in German.

The inspiration for this dish began with the idea of wanting to present two different fruit pastes of contrasting color to those who were present at the Curia Regis brunch.  Before we go further, I have to admit that I used the cook's prerogative to make this dish--instead of leaving the fruit whole, I pureed it and created a fruit paste. I wanted to make a bright yellow candy that would be a counterpoint to the red quince paste that I had made.  I also wanted it to be a different shape. I knew I wanted to make use of summer fruit, either peaches or apricots and to create a bright gold candy. Having already interpreted the recipes for the orange marmalade and the rose conserve from "The Queen-Like Closet ", I took inspiration from the following recipes to create the clear peach jelly pictured above.

CCXV. To dry Apricocks. - Take your fairest Apricocks and stone them, then weigh them, and as you pare them, throw them into cold water, have in readiness their weight in fine sugar, wet it with some of the water they lie in, and boil it to a Candy height, then put in your A∣pricocks, and boil them till they are clear, when they have lain three or four days in the Syrup, lay them out upon Glasses to dry in a stove, and turn them twice a day.

CCI. To dry Apricocks or Pippins to look as clear as Amber. - Take Apricocks and take out the stones, and take Pippins and cut them in halves and core them, let your Apricocks be pared also; lay these Fruits in an earthen dish, and strew them over with fine Sugar, set them into a warm Oven, and as the Liquor comes from them put it away, when all the Liquor is come away turn them and strew them thick with Sugar on every side, set them into the Oven again, and when the Sugar is melted lay them on a dry dish, and set them in again, and every day turn them till they be quite dry. Thus you may dry any sort of Plumbs or Pears as well as the other, and they will look very clear.


1 pound fresh peaches (alternatively you could use 18 ounces dried apricots that you have reconstituted in apple juice or you can use 1 bag of frozen peach slices (this is what I used)) - peeled and sliced 
2 apples peeled, cored and sliced 
1/4 cup sugar

Place your fruit in a pan and add just enough water to cover it and boil it until it is very soft.  Drain the fruit and place it in a blender--give thanks to the Kitchen God's for modern technology and puree.  At this point your fruit should look like baby food.  If you have doubts about how well pureed your fruit is, strain it into a sieve into a pot and then return it to your stove.  Add your sugar, bring to a boil and cook until the puree starts to "stick" to the pan leaving a furrow behind it as you scrape your spoon through it.  

I put a spoonful of the mixture into well-oiled mini muffin tins, but you could just as easily pour the mixture onto a baking sheet and smooth it out.  Place your puree into an oven that has been heated to its lowest setting (mine is 175 degree's) for five or six hours (or more depending on humidity and the amount of moisture left in the fruit) and let it dry.  It should feel dry and slightly sticky to your touch. As an alternative, you could use a food dehydrator but be sure to keep an eye on the paste as it dries.

I plan on bringing fruit pastes and dry "jelly's" with me to camping events.  I am looking forward to creating something similar with plums and pears as well as with apples.  They are a sweet treat, easy to make and store well when made correctly. They are also fabulous edible decorations (I made a dragon out of the red quince paste and gilded it) and the extra "something" that will take your feasts over the top.  They are very inexpensive to make and store extremely well. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Interpreting the Manuscripts - My Process

It has been quite a while since I have posted anything or done any period cooking. It's summer and that means lots of time out of doors with the family before school starts. However, I have been asked to teach a class on my method of interpreting period recipes at a meeting or a future event. In lieu of a post on cooking, I thought I would create a post regarding the steps that I take when I do an interpretation. Any feedback is welcome.

The first step is to locate a recipe that you are interested in interpreting. For me, many of those are the recipes from Two fifteenth-century cookery-books : Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430), & Harl. MS. 4016 (ab. 1450), with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1439, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS. 55 Thomas Austin published by Oxford University Press, London 1888. I am blessed with having a copy of this book in hardback, one of the very last gifts my mother gave to me prior to getting ill with congestive heart disease and passing twelve years ago. This book is very special to me and each recipe that I interpret is a memory of cooking with my mom from the time I was old enough to stand at the stove and stir a spoon. At the time I received this edition I didn't know *how* to interpret these recipes. What took me many years to teach myself I am hoping to pass on to you in a few paragraphs.

When I first started interpreting recipes I gave myself some ground rules.

  • The first is not to interpret based on what others have written. This is easier said than done, as I have discovered several times that what I have read and interpreted is vastly different from what others have done. 
  •  The second rule is to find ingredients which can be purchased locally and would fall within a reasonable budget should the recipe be created for a large (100+) feast. Oftentimes, when an ingredient is difficult (or impossible) to locate or is prohibitively expensive to purchase for me, and/or ultimately for a large group of 100 diners, I will research a suitable substitute for that product. This has the benefit of creating a "mostly" period recipe but substitutions can change the final product. 
  • The third rule I adopted was to make "sample" sizes of recipes that could be easily adapted to feed a larger dining crowd. This meant that I had to spend some time in researching typical portion sizes for catered, large group events. 
  • My last rule is to use sources as close to the primary source as I could find. Most of the sources I use are secondary sources because obtaining primary documentation, that is, original works that have not been interpreted, analyzed or evaluated by another person is impossible for me.  However, secondary resources can be found relatively easily nowadays and when I use a secondary resource I tend to bolster that information from multiple secondary resources. 

What are primary, secondary and tertiary sources for research? Primary sources of information for research are most often the original documentation often times associated with the time period you are researching.  These documents or artifacts have not been analyzed, evaluated or interpreted.  An example of a primary document would be an original manuscript.

Courtesy of the British Library

Secondary sources used for research are primary documents or artifacts which have been analysed, evaluated amd/or translated. They have been created after the creation of the primary source they are based upon.

Example: The Forme of Cury, by Samuel Pegge Courtesy of Project Gutenberg

TARTLETTES. XX.II. X. Take pork ysode and grynde it small with safroun, medle it with ayrenn and raisons of coraunce and powdour fort and salt, and make a foile of dowhz  and close the fars þerinne. cast þe Tartletes in a Panne with faire water boillyng and salt, take of the clene Flessh withoute ayren & bolle it in gode broth. cast þerto powdour douce and salt, and messe the tartletes in disshes & helde the sewe þeronne.

Tertiary sources consist of information which has been collected from primary and secondary sources and is subject to further analysis, interpretation or evaluation.  Sometimes secondary sources can also be categorized as tertiary.  

Example: Cunnan - Tartletes Recipe Courtesy of Gwynfor Lwyd and the Cunnan Wiki

Modern Recipe

Take veal, boiled and grind it small. Take hard boiled eggs and grind it with whole prunes, dates cored, pinenuts, raisins, whole spices and powdered, sugar and salt. Make a little coffin, fill them and bake and serve it forth.


500g veal
6 whole pitted prunes
8-10 whole pitted dates
100g raisins
50g pine nuts
2 hard boiled eggs
1/2 tsp mace
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
6 whole cloves


Slice the veal into strips and boil it with a dash of vinegar and a pinch of salt. Hard boil and cool two eggs. While they boil, mince the prunes, dates, raisins and pine nuts and mix in a bowl. Mince the veal and mash the eggs when they are done, and add them to the bowl. Then add the spices and mix the lot thoroughly.

Using your favorite short crust pastry, after first greasing the muffin tray, line the molds with the pastry. Spoon in the filling, and cover with more pastry.

Cook in a medium oven for 25 minutes (fan forced convection) or a bit longer in a conventional oven. When the pastry is golden brown it is done. Serve it first (not fourth, that's too long to wait!).

Once I have located a recipe that I am interested in interpreting I read it several times before I begin the process of breaking it down. I want to make sure that I have a good understanding of what I have read.  I think this is where many cooks begin to start to assume that a set of instructions on a medieval document will have a specific end result. I have been surprised several times that my final interpretation was not what I assumed the end product would be like.  This is part of the reason I do not research other interpretations at this point.  Just like I did with locating a recipe I set up some ground rules and assumptions for myself in regards to how to interpret a recipe.

Cooks of the time period that I am researching may not have been be able to or did not have time to write down their own sets of instructions.  Instead what is written in any documentation from the period are a set of instructions as witnessed by or spoken to the author of the manuscript.   This theory is based on my assumption that before everyone was required to learn how to read or write, many specializations (cooking for example) were passed from a Master, to a Journeyman, to an Apprentice either orally or through example--the actual work.  In order to become specialized you devoted your educational experiences to that specialty. It is my assumption that medieval cooks most likely had only rudimentary experience with writing but were by no means "illiterate" in their vocation.

It is also an assumption that the amount of work required to run a larger household where such instructions might have been written and were necessary was time consuming and that there would not have been enough time for an individual to do their daily tasks and write a manuscript.

Lastly, there is the assumption that much like today, a medieval cook's recipes and techniques were considered "trade secrets" and that they would not have been readily written down for fear of sharing those secrets. Who does not have a grandmother who won't give you an entire recipe but always leaves a little something out??? Mine did and to this day I am unable to find that ingredient in my grandmother's lemon cake that made it so special to me.

I do my very best to make absolutely no assumptions on what the final product will be, but instead will cook the instructions that I have interpreted as they have been written in order to best replicate the dish that the original author may have intended.  Also, if I have run across another reconstruction of the recipe I will not allow that preconception to influence my understanding of what I am interpreting.

Part of the difficulty that I had interpreting recipes from the books was a lack of understanding what I read. In almost every recipe that you will run across from period you will find a word or two that you do not understand.   Fortunately, the internet which I use extensively in my research has opened up a world of understanding for me. Our example recipe today is Tartelettes from The Forme of Cury, which we are fortunate enough to have a copy provided by the British Library of the original manuscript (above).   In the event that I would have been unable to locate this copy of the manuscript, there are also multiple secondary sources available online or in printed form as well.

Here are some links to some of my favorite sites for period sources. Please note that there is a lot of crossover between sites and that some links may be broken or no longer viable.  This is certainly not the be all and end all of the list, nor is it in any particular order for me. These are the sites I find myself most frequently visiting when researching.

My Interpretation: 

 - Take pork y-sode and grynde it small with saffron, medle it with ayren and raisons of coraunce and powdre fort and salt and make a foile of dowgh and close the fars (the)einne. Cast (the) tartlette in a panne with fair (broth?) boillyng and salt take of the clene flesh with oute eyren and boile it in gode broth cast (the) powder douce and salt and messe the tartlet  in dishes and helde the the (broth?) thereone

This interpretation contains several terms I am unsure of; y-sode, ayren, raisons of coraunce, powdre fort, foile of dowgh, fars, a word I think might be broth but these old eyes can't make it out clearly enough to determine what it is. This is when it is time to turn to other resources for help.  In this case, I know of at least two other interpretations of the above recipe.  The first is located at project Gutenberg. 

 The Forme of Cury, by Samuel Pegge Courtesy of Project Gutenberg

TARTLETTES. XX.II. X. Take pork ysode and grynde it small with safroun, medle it with ayrenn and raisons of coraunce and powdour fort and salt, and make a foile of dowhz  and close the fars þerinne. cast þe Tartletes in a Panne with faire water boillyng and salt, take of the clene Flessh withoute ayren & bolle it in gode broth. cast þerto powdour douce and salt, and messe the tartletes in disshes & helde the sewe þeronne.

The second is located at Daniel Myers Medieval Cookery. 

This is an excerpt from Fourme of Curye [Rylands MS 7] (England, 1390) The original source can be found at

.xlix. Tartlettes. Tak pork y sode & grynde hit smal with safroun, medle hit with ayroun & raysouns of coraunce & poudour fort & salt, make a foyle of dowh & close the fars therinne, cast the tartlettes in a panne with fayre watur boillyng & salt, tak of the clene flesche withoute ayroun & boyle it in gode broth cast therinne poudour douce and salt & messe the tartlettes in in dysches & held the sew theron.

While I am left with some confusion about a few of the culinary terms, I have at least one question answered--the unknown word that I was unsure of and thought might be broth is water; "Cast (the) tartlette in a panne with fair (broth?) boillyng".  The next step is to define the words I don't understand. You will note that I have (the) in parenthesis several times in my interpretation.  This is because Middle English the.svg   is the middle English abbreviation for the word "the" something I learned in earlier research and it appears several times in the manuscript instructions for tartlettes.

I have my favorite locations for researching medieval culinary terms I may not understand.  These include in no particular order the following sites, which have proven to be immensely helpful. As part of my interpretive process I will research the culinary terms, etymology of a word, and cooking techniques if I am unsure of them.


y-sode - boiled
ayren - eggs
raisons of coraunce - currants
powdre fort - strong powder - ?? Recipe?
foile of dowgh - a thin leaf or sheath of dough -- ?? Recipe?
fars - to stuff
pouder douce - sweet spice powder
sew - a Middle English word referring to a broth or liquid ranging from juice through gravy to stew

Researching the definitions lead to two more areas to research before I can start on interpreting the recipe.  The first area is powder  fort, a strong spice powder which will play a large part in the final outcome of the dish in regards to the flavor of it.  The second is the "foile of dowgh", which will also play a part in the dishes final outcome. The best location to look for this information is in the Forme of Cury, so that is where I will start.

Neither Powder-forte nor the dough instructions are included in the Forme of Cury. They are referenced several times, however in the manuscript and the recipe reference below for Loseyns gives the clue to how to make the dough.  Loseyns are dough that is boiled in broth and served with cheese. Because it is similar to the dough used in the tartlettes I am assuming that the dough that is required in this recipe is similar to the dough used in the recipe I am researching.

Loseyns. XX.II. IX. Take gode broth and do in an erthen pot, take flour of payndemayn and make þerof past with water. and make þerof thynne foyles as paper with a roller, drye it harde and seeþ it in broth take Chese ruayn grated and lay it in disshes with powdour douce. and lay þeron loseyns isode as hoole as þou mizt. and above powdour and chese, and so twyse or thryse, & serue it forth. Forme of Cury (England, 1390)

Loseyns. XX.II.IX Take good broth and do in an earthen pot, take bread flour and make thereof paste with water, and make thin foils as paper with a roller, dry it hard and boil it in broth take  ruayn cheese (most likely a semi-soft cheese made in the autumn from cow's milk) grated and lay it in disshes with powder douce and lay theron loseyns boiled as whole as you may and above powder and cheese, and so two or three and serve it forth.

The next step is to find out what powder-forte is.  It is commonly believed to be a blend of spices which include strongly flavored spices such as pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cubebs, galingale, ginger, grains of paradise, long pepper, mace and nutmeg.  The recipe that I found which I liked best is LXXIII. Specie fine a tute cosse. from Libro di cucina/ Libro per cuoco (14th/15th c.)

LXXIII. Specie fine a tute cosse. Toi una onza de pevere e una de cinamo e una de zenzevro e mezo quarto de garofali e uno quarto de zaferanno.

Black and strong spices for many sauces. Translated recipe by Louise Smithson (known in the SCA as Mistess Helewyse de Birkestad, OL) Black and strong spices to make sauces. Take half a quarter (of an ounce) of cloves, two ounces of pepper and an (equal) quantity of long pepper and nutmeg and do as all spices (grind).

The next step is to create my interpretation of the recipe and to create the ingredient list.  If you have difficulty with the Roman numeral conversion (I know I did) the site I use is found here. When I do my interpretations I try to create a recipe that is easy to understand, so I write it in modern English keeping the original interpretation above it.  When I create the ingredient list I am only doing so for a serving for two as if it were a main dish served in any meal. I want the recipes to be easily scale-able so that they can be increased from 2 to 4 to 8 to however many servings are needed. In order to do this I needed to research quantity calculations for catering large groups.  From the research that I did I have come up with this plan that I use when creating large scale feasts: 1/4 to 1/2 cup starch, 1/2 to 1 cup of pottage, 1/2 cup simmered, boiled or stewed, vegetables and approximately 1/4 pound of meat per dish per person.  This is the plan I use for any succeeding courses.  Remember-we are eating medieval serving up several dishes per course, and several courses in a meal.  Your diners can pick and choose what they wish to eat, and how much they wish to eat of it, but for serving these are the portions that go out to the table.  Approximate serving sizes per table of 8 would be 2-4 cups of grain or grain based dish (eisands or guissell), approximately 2 pounds of meat, and 2-4 cups of vegetables and 1 1/2 loaves of bread.  Some excellent websites to get you started on researching for quantity cooking are listed below.

Knowing how much to serve for a table of eight diners is how I determine what the quantities of my ingredients are going to be.  

My interpretation: 

.xlix. Tartlettes. 
Tak pork y sode & grynde hit smal with safroun, medle hit with ayroun & raysouns of coraunce & poudour fort & salt, make a foyle of dowh & close the fars therinne, cast the tartlettes in a panne with fayre watur boillyng & salt, tak of the clene flesche withoute ayroun & boyle it in gode broth cast therinne poudour douce and salt & messe the tartlettes in dysches & held the sew theron.

49. Tartlettes - Take pork boiled and grind it small with saffron, mix it with eggs and currants and powder forte and salt, make a thin sheet of dough and close the stuffing there in, cast the tartlettes in a pan with fair water boiling and salt, take of the clean flesh without eggs and boil it in good broth, caste therein pouder douce and salt and mess the tartlettes in dishes and held the sauce there on.

Ingredients List

Boiled Pork - ground
strong spice powder
dough - flour, water
sweet spice powder

Fortunately this recipe doesn't contain any difficult to find or impossible to get items, however, if it did the resource that I would use to locate an acceptable alternative would be the Cook's Thesaurus. This resource has been invaluable to me especially when looking for alternatives to fish! Fresh fish is difficult to locate where I live and some ingredients which were commonly enjoyed, such as porpoise, are illegal where I live.  Alternatively, some items such as quail, squab or pheasant would be prohibitively expensive to purchase even for a smaller event.  Whenever I substitute a medieval ingredient for something easier to obtain or more cost effective I make sure to explain the reasoning behind it in my blog post.

Once I have created my interpretation and have a list of ingredients that I am going to use I start creating the modern recipe.  Remember-I'm only cooking for two people, despite the fact that I usually use my family and friends and their friends as guinea pigs to taste test and could be taste testing up to seven or eight people ;-) This is why we often have spoon wars and arguments over who gets the last bite.  I only need a small amount.


1/2 pound ground pork - remember the recipe calls for pork that has first been boiled and then minced (ground small).  Assuming a quarter pound of meat per person two people would be 1/2 pound of ground pork.  Half of which (1/4) will be made into the stuffing and the other half will be cooked in the broth ( take of the clean flesh without eggs and boil it in good broth). To make the broth that is needed, boil the pork in 1 cup water or stock.  I would use chicken or a mix of 50/50 beef and chicken because I do not normally have pork stock on hand.

Pinch of saffron - for two people you probably only need two or three strands, because you do not want the saffron flavor to overpower your stock.

3/8 egg beaten - the reality is that an entire egg is going to be too much egg for the small amount of stuffing we are making. So what I would do is beat the egg and add just enough of it to the mixture to make a good stuffing making note of it in the interpretation, or, I might separate the yolk from the white and use the yolk only.

1 tsp. currants - 1 tsp. of Currants for a quarter pound would mean a little over a tablespoon of currants for a full pound of meat.   This is where I use the phrase "or to taste" because some folks might like a little more currant with their pork and others (like me) would like less-wayyyy less--as in half that amount for me thank you very much!

1/8th tsp. Powder Forte - another "or to taste" area.  Usually for a quarter pound of meat, 1/4th of a tsp. of spice is too much, but you still need some flavor, so an 1/8th of a tsp. would work here, and if it is expanded out that would 1/2 tsp. of spice for 1 pound of meat.

1/4 tsp. salt - Salt is flavor, and this might seem like a lot of salt to add to 1/4 pound of meat, however, if you were to scale this up, that would be 1 tsp. to 1 pound and that is the amount of salt that most people are used to adding to their meat.

1 cup broth - if you have boiled the pork in water you have already created a flavorful broth. On average, 1 cup of soup is the amount served at a large catered event, hence 1 cup of broth. If you are using store purchased broth you may not need additional salt, however, if you have made your own stock or are using the broth made by boiling the pork you might need to add salt to taste.

1/8 tsp. sweet spice powder - again, this is "to taste".

For the dough - we are looking to make basic eggless pasta or noodle dough.  Use your favorite recipe or you can use the one below

1 cup flour
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp. salt

Boil the pork in the water until thoroughly cooked, drain the pork reserving the broth.  Take half of the pork and add eggs, currants, salt and powder forte.  Please note, I beat the whole egg and then added enough egg to the pork to make the stuffing stick together easily.  I do you get 3/8th s of an egg??? Set the stuffing aside and mix flour with water and salt to create your dough. As an alternative, you could substitute won ton wrappers for the dough. I did!

To create your dough mix together flour and salt and add water until it forms stiff dough.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured countertop and knead for approximately 10 minutes, cover and then allow it to rest for 20 minutes. After the dough has rested, roll it out to approximately 1/16th of an inch thick and then cut into large squares or circles as you desire.

Stuff the dough with the filling being careful not to overfill and then seal the dough tightly.  I used the tines of a fork to make a pretty crimp on the edges. Drop into the broth; add additional salt and the pouder douce and serve once they are completely cooked.

Converting recipe quantities seems like a mystery but once you know the number of servings you wish to serve, and you know how many servings the recipe you are using serves the conversion is quite simple.  To find your conversion factor (the number that you are going to multiply or divide to scale up or scale down) simply divide the desired number of servings by the original number of servings. 

For example, this recipe was created to make two servings as a main meal or up to four as a side dish.  The number of servings is 2, but I want to serve 8.  I would simply divide 8 by 2 and my conversion factor is 4.  The converted recipe would then be:

2 pounds ground pork
Pinch of saffron 
1-2 eggs beaten
1 tbsp. or more of currants
1/2 tsp. powder forte
1 tsp. salt
4 cups broth
4 cups flour
1 cup water
1/2 tsp. powder douce

If I have the recipe for 8 and I want to serve six, I would divide 6 by 8 and the conversion factor would be 0.75.  I would then multiply each of the ingredients by the conversion factor of 0.75 to get the correct scale for six servings. The new recipe would look like this.

1 1/2 pounds ground pork 
Pinch of saffron 
1-2 eggs beaten 
3/4 tbsp. or more of currants 
1/3 tsp. powder forte 
3/4 tsp. salt 
3 cups broth 
3 cups flour 
3/4 cup water 

1/3 tsp. powder douce 

For a quick conversion of any recipe you wish to try use the Recipe Converter Calculator.  

Once I have created a recipe that follows the instructions I cook up my sample batch and taste test it.  I have hijacked people working around the house, my kids, their friends, unsuspecting family members and the neighbors.  If the recipe can pass a modern taste test then I did well.  I request commentary and watch reactions. There have been a few times I have made something that I or one of the taste testers did not enjoy.  I make sure to include that in my blog posts.  

Sometimes I have to go back and tweak something based on commentary, which I will do, making note of the changes. Once the interpretation has been finalized, and *before* creating a blog post I compare with my peers.  This recipe is a great example of the reason to compare.  The instructions as interpreted create a broth with meat and meat filled dumplings. One of my peers created a meat filled tart, while another created a dish of dumplings with meat sauce. 

When I am checking my work against my peers and I find that I have done something vastly different from what they have created I ask myself several questions.  Where did I deviate from their interpretation? Why did I deviate? How does the deviation impact the final interpretation? What was the deviation? Do I need to research this further?  

A good example of this process is my interpretation of Arbolettys, which created a cheese "soup" instead of the more often found scrambled eggs with herbs. Since I found the recipe in the pottages section of 
 Two fifteenth-century cookery-books : Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430), & Harl. MS. 4016 (ab. 1450), with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1439, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS. 55 by Thomas Austin amidst a selection of recipes that create custard or pudding like dishes I believe that the deviation is cooking the eggs till they form a curd similar to scrambled eggs rather then forming a smooth dish.  Further research is needed to determine what the final outcome of this recipe should be.

Finally having come to the end of the process I create a blog post. In creating the post I attempt to include a little bit of history relating to one of the primary ingredients as well as including the interpreted instructions into a modern day recipe.

I hope that this post has given you some ideas on directions that you can go to start interpreting your own recipes. I would love to hear your thoughts, suggestions or ideas. Feel free to comment below.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Curia Regis 9/10/17

Curia Regis Brunch Menu

Today I had the opportunity to cook brunch for Curia Regis of the Midrealm, which incuded the Royal Family and the great officers of state and serves as the official advisory board. I am truly honored and humbled that I was asked to do this and it was my pleasure to provide a mostly period breakfast for them. As usual, I did NOT take pictures of the spread.

Egges yn Brewte (Gentyll Manly Cokere, MS Pepys 1047, C. 1490)
Savoury Tostyde (TheCloset of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digbie, Kt, Opened, C. 1669)
Gammon of Bacon (A Book of Cookrye,1591)
Eisands with Oatmeale Groats (A Book of Cookrye, 1591)
To Stew Shrimps being taken out of their shells (The Accomplisht Cook, c. 1660 - To stew Cockles being taken out of the shells.)
A Fryed Meate (Pancakes) in Haste for the Second Course (The Whole Body of Cookery Dissected, 1682)
Funges (The Forme of Cury, c. 1390)
Chawatteys (Harleian MS 279, c. 1430)
Compost (The Forme of Cury, c. 1390)

Assorted Banqueting Dishes

To Dry Peaches - The Queen-like Closet (1675) CCXV. To dry Apricocks – peaches, sugar
Orange Marmalade - The Queen-like Closet (1675) - LXXXVI. To make the best Orange Marmalade. - Orange Marmalade-orange, apple, sugar, water, lemon
Rose Conserve - The Queen-like Closet (1675) – LXXXVIII. To make Conserve of red Roses.- roses, sugar
Comfits of Anise, Caraway and Fennel Delightes for Ladies, 1609 – sugar, anise, fennel or caraway, water
Succades of Lemons and Oranges - - The Treasurie ofCommodius Conceites and Hidden Secrets by John Partridge, 1573 Lemon or oranges, water, sugar
To Make Quidinia of Quinces (Quince Paste) (Delights for Ladies, Sir Hugh Platt, 1600)
– quince, sugar, honey, apples, pears

Egges yn Brewte (Gentyll Manly Cokere, MS Pepys 1047, c. 1490) Take water and seethe it. In the same water break your eggs and cast therein ginger, pepper and saffron, then temper it up with sweet milk and boil it. And then carve cheese and caste thereto small cut. And when it is enough serve it forth.

Rather than attempt to poach 50 eggs, I baked these in the oven using the following method. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and butter ramekins, add approximately 1 tbsp. cream or milk to each ramekin, break in two eggs, and add a small amount of cream on top along with spices. Transfer ramekins to a baking dish and pour hot water into the dish to come up to 2/3 sides of ramekin. Bake approximately 9-15 minutes until the white is set and the yolk is jiggly.

Savoury Tostyde (The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digbie, Kt, Opened (1669)

– Recipe Courtesy of David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook

Cut pieces of quick, fat, rich, well tasted cheese, (as the best of Brye, Cheshire, &c. or sharp thick Cream-Cheese) into a dish of thick beaten melted Butter, that hath served for Sparages or the like, or pease, or other boiled Sallet, or ragout of meat, or gravy of Mutton: and, if you will, Chop some of the Asparages among it, or slices of Gambon of Bacon, or fresh-collops, or Onions, or Sibboulets, or Anchovis, and set all this to melt upon a Chafing-dish of Coals, and stir all well together, to Incorporate them; and when all is of an equal consistence, strew some gross White-Pepper on it, and eat it with tosts or crusts of White-bread. You may scorch it at the top with a hot Fire-Shovel.

1/2 lb butter
1/2 lb cream cheese
1/8 lb Brie or other strongly flavored cheese
1/4 t white pepper

Melt the butter. Cut up the cheese and stir it into the butter over low heat. You will probably want to use a whisk to blend the two together and keep the sauce from separating (which it is very much inclined to do). When you have a uniform, creamy sauce you are done. You may serve it over asparagus or other vegetables, or over toast; if you want to brown the top, put it under the broiling unit in your stove for a minute or so. Experiment with some of the variations suggested in the original.

Gammon of Bacon (A Book of Cookrye, 1591) – Ham and Bacon -To bake a gammon of Bacon. Take your Bacon and boyle it, and stuffe it with Parcely and Sage, and yolks of hard Egges, and when it is boyled, stuffe it and let it boyle againe, season it with Pepper, cloves and mace, whole cloves stick fast in, so then lay it in your paste with salt butter.

-Recipe Courtesy of Dan Meyers

2 lbs. bacon, unsliced <--I used Ham
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
6 egg yolks, hard boiled
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/8 tsp. mace

Remove skin from bacon and discard. Place the bacon in a large pot and add enough water to cover. Cover, bring to a boil, and cook for 30 minutes. Put parsley, sage, egg yolks, and spices into a bowl and mix well. Remove bacon from pot, cut open, and stuff with mixture. Wrap in pastry and bake at 350°F until done - about 1 hour.

Eisands withOatmeale Groats (A Book of Cookrye, 1591) Take a pinte of Creame and seethe it, and when it is hot, put therto a pinte of Otemeale grotes, and let them soke in it all night, and put therto viii. yolks of egs, and a little Pepper, Cloves, mace, and saffron, and a good deale of Suet of beefe, and small Raisins and Dates, and a little Sugar.

1 pint cream or milk
2 cups oat groats or steel cut oats
¼ cup suet or butter
1/3 cup dates
¼ cup currants or raisins
2 eggs beaten
1 tsp. fine spice powder (pepper, cinnamon, cloves, mace and ginger)
Pinch of saffron
¼ cup sugar

Heat cream or milk and pour over oatmeal and let soak overnight or until cool. Add remaining ingredients. Fill two pots of water ¾ full and bring to a boil. Put oatmeal mixture into a large cloth and shape, tie up the ends several times leaving one long and loose. Tie loose end in the middle of a wooden spoon to support the pudding. Once water is boiling lower the bag into the mixture till it is completely submerged. Turn heat down to medium and cook. **Do not let pudding touch side or bottom of pot or it will burn. Every hour or so check water levels and add more water as needed. Boil for four hours, remove from pot and place in a bowl to drain. When pudding is cool to touch it can be cut and served.

To Stew Shrimps being taken out of their shells (The Accomplisht Cook, c. 1660) To stew Cockles being taken out of the shells.

Wash them well with vinegar, broil or broth them before you take them out of the shells, then put them in a dish with a little claret, vinegar, a handful of capers, mace, pepper, a little grated bread, minced tyme, salt, and the yolks of two or three hard eggs minced, stew all together till you think them enough; then put in a good piece of butter, shake them well together, heat the dish, rub it with a clove of garlick, and put two or three toasts of white bread in the bottom, laying the meat on them. Craw-fish, prawns, or shrimps, are excellent good the same way being taken out of their shells, and make variety of garnish with the shells.

2 pounds of shrimp
¼ cup white wine
1 tbsp. wine vinegar
1-2 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 tbsp. bread crumbs
2-3 egg yolks
¼ cup butter
1 tbsp. capers
¼ tsp. mace
1-2 cloves garlic minced

Place all ingredients into a pot and stew until shrimps are cooked.

A Fryed Meate (Pancakes) in Haste for the Second Course (The Whole Body of Cookery Dissected, 16820 Take a pint of curds made tender of morning milk, pressed clean from the Whey, put to them one handful of flour, six eggs, casting away three whites, a little rosewater, sack, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, salt, and two pippins minced small, beat this all together into a thick batter, so that it may not run abroad; if you want wherewith to temper it add cream; when they are fried fryed, scrape on sugar and send them up; if this curd be made with sack, as it may as well as with rennet, you may make a pudding with the whey thereof.

1 cup creamed cottage cheese drained and slightly pressed
1 large, tart cooking apple
3 egg yolks
1 egg white
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. white wine
1 tsp. rosewater
1/8 tsp. each salt, nutmeg, cinnamon
¼ cup flour
Butter to fry in
Additional sugar to sprinkle on

Drain the liquid from the cheese and press it through a sieve, quarter, core, and peel the apple, then mince or grate it through the large holes of a grater. Beat together all the ingredients except the butter into a thick batter.

Heat a large skillet or griddle until a drop of water sizzles when dropped on it, and then melt the butter on it. Drop spoonful's of the batter onto the griddle, forming oval shaped pancakes about four inches long. Cook over medium heat until brown on the underside, then turn the pancakes carefully – they break easily—and brown the other side.

As they are baked, transfer the pancakes to a warmed serving dish to keep warm. Sprinkle brown sugar over them and then serve immediately.

Funges (The Forme of Cury, c. 1390) - Take Funges and pare hem clere and dyce hem. take leke and shred him smal and do him to seeþ in gode broth color yt wȝt safron and do þer inne pouder fort and serve hit forth.

1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 cup vegetable broth
1 leek, finely sliced
1 tsp. Powder Fort
1 pinch saffron

Combine vegetable broth and saffron in a pot and bring to a simmer. Add mushrooms and leeks to broth, cook until tender. Stir in powder fort before serving.

Chawatteys (Harlieian MS 279, c. 1430) Take buttys of Vele, and mynce hem smal, or Porke, and put on a potte; take Wyne, and caste + er-to pouder of Gyngere, Pepir, and Safroun, and Salt, and a lytel verjus, and do hem in a cofyn with yolks of Eyroun, and kutte Datys and Roysonys of Coraunce, Clowys, Maces, and + en ceuere + in cofyn, and lat it bake tyl it be y-now.

3 cups chopped pork or veal (about 18 oz)
3/4 c red wine
5 threads saffron
3/4 t ginger
3/4 t pepper
3/4 t salt
1 t wine vinegar
9 egg yolks
3/8 c dates
3/8 c currants
1/4 t cloves
1/2 t mace
double 9" pie crust

Cut the meat up fine (1/2" cubes or so). Simmer it in a cup and a half of water for about 20 minutes. Make pie crust, fill with meat, chopped dates and currents. Mix spices, wine, vinegar and egg yolks and pour over. Put on a top crust. Bake in a 350deg. oven for 50 minutes, then 400deg. for 20 minutes or until the crust looks done.

Compost (The Forme of Cury, c. 1390) Take rote of parsel. pasternak of rasenns. scrape hem waisthe hem clene. take rapes & caboches ypared and icorne. take an erthen panne with clene water & set it on the fire. cast all þise þerinne. whan þey buth boiled cast þerto peeres & parboile hem wel. take þise thynges up & lat it kele on a fair cloth, do þerto salt whan it is colde in a vessel take vineger & powdour & safroun & do þerto. & lat alle þise thinges lye þerin al nyzt oþer al day, take wyne greke and hony clarified togider lumbarde mustard & raisouns corance al hool. & grynde powdour of canel powdour douce. & aneys hole. & fenell seed. take alle þise thynges & cast togyder in a pot of erthe. and take þerof whan þou wilt & serue forth.

-Recipe Courtesy of Daniel Myers

3 parsley roots
3 parsnips
3 carrots
10 radishes
2 turnips
1 small cabbage
1 pear
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup vinegar
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 pinch saffron, ground
1 cup greek wine (sweet Marsala)
1/2 cup honey
1 Tbsp. mustard
1/2 cup currants (zante raisins)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. Powder Douce
1 tsp. anise seed
1 tsp. fennel seed

Peel vegetables and chop them into bite-sized pieces. Parboil them until just tender, adding pears about halfway through cooking time. Remove from water, place on towel, sprinkle with salt, and allow to cool. Then put vegetables in large bowl and add pepper, saffron, and vinegar. Refrigerate for several hours. Then put wine and honey into a saucepan, bring to a boil, and then simmer for several minutes, removing any scum that forms on the surface. Let cool and add currants and remaining spices. Mix well and pour over vegetables. Serve cold.

Assorted Banqueting Dishes

To Dry Peaches The Queen-like Closet (1675) CCXV. To dry Apricocks – peaches, sugar
Orange Marmalade - The Queen-like Closet (1675) - LXXXVI. To make the best Orange Marmalade. - Orange Marmalade-orange, apple, sugar, water, lemon
Rose Conserve - The Queen-like Closet (1675) – LXXXVIII. To make Conserve of red Roses.- roses, sugar
Comfits of Anise, Caraway and Fennel Delightes for Ladies, 1609 – sugar, anise, fennel or caraway, water
Succades of Lemons and Oranges - - The Treasurie ofCommodius Conceites and Hidden Secrets by John Partridge, 1573 Lemon or oranges, water, sugar
To Make Quidinia of Quinces (Quince Paste) (Delights for Ladies, Sir Hugh Platt, 1600)
– quince, sugar, honey, apples, pears

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Eisands with Otemeale grotes - A Book Of Cookrye (1591)

Eisands with Otemeale grotes - A  Book Of  Cookrye (1591) 

Eisands of otemeal grotes is one of those recipes that I knew I had to create when I first ran across it while doing research for a cook’s gathering in 2015. This interpretation was a very long time in coming. The Cook’s Gatherings were my first attempt at trying to bring about cook’s gild in the area where I live. It was a very short lived adventure and that saddens me. There does not seem to be as much interest in cooking in my area as I would like there to be. Interpreting this recipe required a lot of research. My first stumbling block evolved around *how* to cook it. My second was where to locate the main ingredient (oatmeal grotes).

I tackled my second roadblock first. I needed to determine what oatmeal grotes were and determine what the closest thing to them was I could purchase. Fortunately I had done some basic research into oatmeal when I interpreted the recipes from Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430)  for .xxiiij. Drawyn grwel and vij. Gruelle a-forsydde. Oatmeal has a long history and you can read about it in both of those articles. During my research into oatmeal I discovered there are a variety of ways that oatmeal can be prepared. Oat Groats are the hulled whole oat berry. They appear to be very similar to grains of rice, barley or wheat berries. The oats that I used were steel cut oats, which is essentially the whole oat berry that has been chopped into pieces but not rolled. Steel cut oats are sometimes referred to as Scottish or Irish oats, but these oats tend to be ground rather then cut.

The other variety of oats and the one that most people are familiar with are rolled oats, which are whole oats that have been steamed, rolled flat into flakes and then dehydrated. This method of making oats did not appear until long after our period and should not be used if other kinds of oats are available. Quick oats are the cousin of rolled oats, but they are much quicker in cooking due to a longer steaming period before dehydration and being chopped into smaller pieces. These are the least nutritious of the varieties of oats that are available on the market today.

The first roadblock took a little bit longer to overcome. I needed to determine what cooking method was used. Was the dish baked? Steamed? Cooked on the stove top or boiled? Each of these cooking methods would produce a very different result. My first attempt was to cook it on the stovetop similar to an oatmeal custard, but the directions are very specific on liquid to oat ratio and there was not enough liquid to sufficiently cook the oats. The same problem revolved around baking the dish like bread. There simply was not enough liquid. Returning to the source, I discovered that the recipes prior to and after involved boiling the puddings. The result? A delicious pudding that is similar to your classic boiled Christmas plum puddings.

When I think of a pudding, I think of a custard like dish made of chocolate or vanilla or coconut. However puddings can trace their origins to approximately 1300 and meant “a kind of sausage” where meat and suet were stuffed into the stomach or intestines of an animal and boiled to be kept and served as needed. This recipe bridges the gap between those earlier dishes and the more modern ones that emerged in the mid 1600’s. It involves food that has been boiled or steamed in a bag or a sack. At the time this particular recipe was popular puddings could be either savory or sweet, meat or grain based.

Eisands with Otemeale grotes. Take a pinte of Creame and seethe it, and when it is hot, put therto a pinte of Otemeale grotes, and let them soke in it all night, and put therto viii. yolks of egs, and a little Pepper, Cloves, mace, and saffron, and a good deale of Suet of beefe, and small Raisins and Dates, and a little Sugar.

Eisands with Otemeale grotes. Take a pinte of Creame and seethe it, and when it is hot, put therto a pinte of Otemeale grotes, and let them soke in it all night, and put therto viii. yolks of egs, and a little Pepper, Cloves, mace, and saffron, and a good deale of Suet of beefe, and small Raisins and Dates, and a little Sugar.

Eisands of Oatmeal Groats.  Take a pint of cream and heat it, and when it is hot, put thereto a pint of oatmeal groats, and let them soak in it al lnight, and put thereto eight yolks of eggs, and a little pepper, cloves, mace, and saffron, and a good deal of suet of beef, and small raisins and dates, and a little sugar. 

Interpreted Recipe                                                                            Serves 8 (six if you aren't into sharing!)

1 pint cream (whole milk)
2 cups steel cut oats, or oat groats
¼ cup of shredded suet or butter (I used butter)
1/3 cup dates halved and quartered (My dates were kind of dried out so I placed a handful in the blender and added a 1/4 cup hot water and then blended them into a puree which is probably why my pudding is so dark. Mea Culpa!)
1/3 cup currants or raisins
8 egg yolks (or four whole eggs) beaten
1 tsp. Le Menagier's "Fine Spice Powder" 
Pinch of saffron
¼ cup granulated sugar

I heated the cream and butter together in the microwave and then poured it over my oats, mixing it together, along with the dates, raisins, sugar and spices and two of my four eggs and here I diverge greatly from the recipe.  I cooked it on the stovetop to hasten the absorption process until it became very thick.  At which point I beat the remaining eggs tempered them and added them to the "dough".  Make sure it is thick and dough like. 

If you choose not to take the "shortcut" heat up the cream and the butter and pour them over the oats and let them sit preferably overnight.  Add remaining ingredients and then move forward.

While I was precooking the oatmeal I had placed my cloth into approximately two gallons of water I was bringing to boil.  I was using my canning pot which has a metal trivet in the bottom to keep the pudding from the bottom and possibly burning.  Once the dough was made (and I say dough because that is the consistency you should be aiming for with your oat and egg mixture) I removed the cloth, placed it into a bowl, added the dough and then tied it up. I used rubber bands to keep it secured and you will want to secure the cloth as close to the pudding as you can.  

Make sure that your water is at a full rolling boil before adding your pudding.  Turn heat down to medium and cook for approximately four hours.  My pudding floated so I trapped it beneath a wire sieve so that it was fully submerged during the cooking period.  You will want to check your water about every hour (or less) to make sure that the pudding is still fully submerged.

Once the pudding is cooked, remove it from the boiling water; give it a quick soak in cold water so you can handle it right away or allow draining and cooling before untying. It can be served warm or cold, but if you try to cut it when it is too hot it will crumble on you.  Although the recipe does not call for it, you could serve it with a sauce made from butter and sugar. 

With the exception of the very long boiling period, this was a very easy dish to put together and the fact that it can be served cold is a saving grace.  If you wanted to serve this at a feast, I would suggest making it a day or two before in small batches and then either warm it up, or serve it cold.  I got approximately 16 slices out of this recipe, so it would easily serve eight people, or as part of a much larger feast, up to 16. This is a perfect breakfast food.  The oatmeal becomes rice-like in texture, and to me it tasted very similar to a rice pudding (which I love).  It slices like a cake or quick bread and I could see it being served with some butter as a portable breakfast meal. Did I mention I could not stop eating it?  Neither could my taste testers who have made me promise to make this again.  This would also make a very nice camp "dessert", requiring nothing more than to make sure that it is covered with water while it cooks. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .xliiij. Mortrewys de Fleyssh and xliij. Mortrewes of Fysshe - Mortrews of Flesh and Motrews of Fish

.xliiij. Mortrewys de Fleyssh and xliij. Mortrewes of Fysshe

Today's blog post will feature both the Mortrews of Flesh and the Mortrews of Fish. Mortrews is best described as a meat paste which has been fortified with eggs, breadcrumbs and spices and then cooked to the consistency of thick custard. The word "Mortrews" comes from Latin "mortarium" referring to a mortar or bowl where things were pounded or ground.  This is one of the more unusual dishes that can be found in Two fifteenth-century cookery-books : Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430), & Harl. MS. 4016 (ab. 1450), with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1439, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS. 55 Thomas Austin, and it was one of the more popular dishes.  In an era where dentistry was primitive at best and bad teeth was common, this soft mixture of foods would have been a perfect dish.  Nowadays we may want to use it similar to a pate, spreading it on bread and serving it with a sharp accompaniment of something pickled.  However, our ancestors most likely ate this with their fingers or spoon, or even off of their knives.

Mortrews, also known as mortis, mortrose, mortress or mortruys is most likely the ancestor of modern day Pâté, Terrines, and or Potted Meats. One of the earliest recipes can be found in "The Forme of Cury" (~1390).  The Romans had similar dishes which they called "patina's".  One such recipe taken from De Re Coquinaria is below:

aliter patina de asparagis -frigida:accipies asparagos purgatos, in mortario fricabis; aqua suffundes, perfricabis; per colum colabis, et mittes fecitulas curatas; teres in mortario piperis scrupulos sex, adicies liquamen; fricabis; uini ciatum I, passi ciatum I; mittes in caccabum olei uncias tres; illic ferueant. perungues patinam; in ea oua VI cum enogaro misces; cum suco asparagi inpones cineri calido. [mittes inpensam super scriptam]* tunc ficetulas conpones, coques; piper asparges et inferes.
Another cold asparagus patina.-Take cleaned asparagus, pound in the mortar, add water, beat thoroughly and pass through a sieve. Next put in a saucepan fig-peckers which you have prepared for cooking. Pound in the portar 6 scruples of pepper, moisten with liquamen, grind well, add one cyathus of wine and one cyathus passum. Put in a saucepan 3 oz. oil. Bring the mixture to the boil. Grease a patina pan, and mix in it 6 eggs with oenogarum, put it with the sparagus purée in the hot ashes, pour on the mixture described above, and arrange the birds on top. Cook it, [let it cool], sprinkle with pepper, and serve.
.xliiij. Mortrewys de Fleyssh.—Take Porke, an seþe it wyl; þanne take it vppe and pulle a-way þe Swerde,*. [Rind, skin. ] an pyke owt þe bonys, an hakke it and grynd it smal; þenne take þe sylf brothe, & temper it with ale; þen take fayre gratyd brede, & do þer-to, an seþe it, an coloure it with Saffroun, & lye it with ȝolkys of eyroun, & make it euen Salt, & caste pouder Gyngere, a-bouyn on þe dysshe.

The "Medieval Cookery" website offers this excellent interpretation of the recipe. 

xliiij - Mortrewys de Fleyssh. Take Porke, an sethe it wyl; thanne take it vppe and pulle a-way the Swerde, (Note: Rind, skin) an pyke owt the bonys, an hakke it and grynd it smal; thenne take the sylf brothe, and temper it with ale; then take fayre gratyd brede, and do ther-to, an sethe it, an coloure it with Saffroun, and lye it with 3olkys of eyroun, and make it euen Salt, and caste pouder Gyngere, a-bouyn on the dysshe.

44. Mortrews of Flesh - Take pork, and cook it well; then take it up and pull away the skin, and pick out the bones and hack it and grind it small; then take the self broth (the same broth you cooked it in, and temper it with ale; then take fair grated bread, and do thereto, and cook it, and color it with saffron, and mix it with yolks of eggs, and make it even salt, and caste powder ginger, above on the dish.

Interpreted Recipe                                                                   Serves 1 as a Main, 2 as a side

1/4 pound pork (I used two fresh pork hocks and a bit of country spare ribs)
1 cup water
1/4 cup ale
pinch of saffron
2 egg yolks or one whole egg
1-2 tbsp. bread crumbs
1 tsp. salt
Pepper to taste
Ginger to garnish

If I make this in the future I might add some bacon to it, which is a pork product and everything is better with bacon! I digress--place the pork, saffron and salt in a pot and cover with the water, cook until the pork begins to fall apart.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool till you can easily handle it.  Remove all fat, gristle, bones from the meat and place it in a blender with the ale and the water. Pulse for a few seconds until the meat becomes a puree (but not to baby food!) and return it to the pot.  Add your eggs and your breadcrumbs and cook stirring constantly.  Remember, you want your mortrews to have the consistency of a very thick custard or flan capable of standing on its own, but not so thick that you cannot spread it onto a piece of toasty bread.  Taste for seasoning, garnish with ginger, and then serve.

I have a confession to make--I grabbed the wrong bottle and didn't pay any attention to the fact that I had added garlic salt to the dish.  This was a happy mistake though and one worth repeating in the future ;-P The taste testers have tried this dish piping hot, room temperature and cold, it was delicious all three ways, but my preference was room temperature.

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Forme of Cury (England, 1390)

Mortrews. XX.II. V. Take hennes and Pork and seeþ hem togyder. take the lyre of Hennes and of the Pork, and hewe it small and grinde it all to doust. take brede ygrated and do þerto, and temper it with the self broth and alye it with zolkes of ayrenn, and cast þeron powdour fort, boile it and do þerin powdour of gyngur sugur. safroun and salt. and loke þer it be stondyng, and flour it with powdour gynger.

Mortrews Blank. XX.II. VI. Take Pork and Hennes and seeþ hem as to fore. bray almandes blaunched, and temper hem up with the self broth. and alye the fleissh with the mylke and white flour of Rys. and boile it. & do þerin powdour of gyngur sugar and look þat it be stondyng.

Blaunche mortrewes. Take gode cowe mylke, and rawe egges the zolkes wel beten togedur, and sothen (boiled) porke, braye it, and do hit in a panne withouten herbes, and let hit boyle, and stere (stir) hit wel tyl hit crudde; then take hit up ande presse hit well, and then take almondemylke or gode creme of cowe mylke, and do hit in a panne, and do therto sugur or honey, and let hit boyle; and do the crudde therto, and colour hit depe with saffron, and then dresse hit forthe, iii. leches (stices) in a dysshe or v. and poure the sothen creme above, and cast theron sugur and saunders, and maces medelet togedur, and serve hit forthe.

Mortrewes of flesh. Take fylettes of porke, and seth hom wel, and qwhen they ben fothen brayc hom in a morter, and take bred steped in broth, and bray hit up with al in the morter, and then seth hit up with sasfrone : and if thow wol make hit more stondyng, qwhen hit is boylet take yolkes of eyren, and bete hom, and putte hom therto, and cast theron pouder of gynger.

Mortrews de chare. Take hennes and fresshe porke, y þe kenne, Sethe hom togedur alwayes þenne. Take hem up, pyke out þe bonys, Enbande þe porke, Syr, for þo nonys. Hew hit smalle and grynde hit wele, Cast it agayne, so have þou cele, In to þe brothe, and charge hit þenne With myed wastelle, as I þe kenne. Colour hit with safron, at þat tyde. Boyle hit and set hit doune be syde. Lye hit with 3olkes of eren ry3t, And florysshe þy dysshe with pouder þou my3t.

Maretrel de le Char. Tak hennes flesch & pork & sethz to gidre tak it up & pyk outh the bonys hewe it smale grynd wel kast it ageyn in to the brothz charge it with myed wastel bred colour it with saffron boylle it & gwan it is boylled set it of the fyr lye it with yelkys eyren florysch the dysch with poudre.

.xliij. Mortrewes of Fysshe.—Take Gornard or Congere, a-fore þe navel wyth þe grece (for be-hynde þe navel he is hery*. [Hairy. ] of bonys), or Codlyng, þe lyuer an þe Spaune, an sethe it y-now in fayre Water, and pyke owt þe bonys, and grynde þe fysshe in a Morter, an temper it vp wyth Almaunde Mylke, an caste þer-to gratyd brede; þan take yt vp, an put it on a fayre potte, an let boyle; þan caste þer-to Sugre and Salt, an serue it forth as other Mortrewys. And loke þat þow caste Gyngere y-now a-boue.

xliij - Mortrewes of Fysshe. Take Gornard or Congere, a-fore the navel wyth the grece (for be-hynde the navel he is hery (Note: Hairy) of bonys), or Codlyng, the lyuer an the Spaune, an sethe it y-now in fayre Water, and pyke owt the bonys, and grynde the fysshe in a Morter, an temper it vp wyth Almaunde Mylke, an caste ther-to gratyd brede; than take yt vp, an put it on a fayre potte, an let boyle; than caste ther-to Sugre and Salt, an serue it forth as other Mortrewys. And loke that thow caste Gyngere y-now a-boue.

43 - Mortrews of Fish - Take gurnard, or conger (eel), before the navel with the grease (for behind the navel he is hairy of bones), or codling (an inferior for of cod), the liver and the eggs, and cook it enough in fair water, and pick out the bones, and grind the fish in a mortar, and temper it up with almond milk, and cast there-to grated bread; then take it up and put it on a fair pot, and let boil; then cast thereto sugar and salt, and serve it fort as other motrews.  And look that you caste ginger enough above.

Interpreted Recipe                                                   Serves 1 as a main, 2 as a side

1/4 pound fish (I used cod loin but any lean flaky fish could be used, pollock, halibut, sole, flounder, orange roughy, haddock, whiting, hake, ocean perch and tilapia)
1 cup water
1/4 cup almond meal
1-2 tbsp. bread crumbs
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
Ginger to garnish

I used frozen cod for this dish so did not have to worry about cleaning out the bones after the fish was cooked.  I placed the fish into a pot with the water and salt and cooked till the fish was cooked through.  I then put the fish, water and almond meal into the food processor, gave thanks to the Kitchen Gods for the creation of such a marvelous machine, and pulsed the mixture for about 20 seconds. I then returned the mixture to the pot, added the breadcrumbs and the sugar and cooked until it had thickened to a thick paste.  Before serving I garnished with ginger. 

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Mortrews of fysshe. Take þo kelkes of fysshe anon, And þo lyver of þo fysshe, sethe hom alon. Þen take brede and peper and ale, And temper þo brothe fulle welle þou schalle, And welle hit togeder and serve hit þenne, And set in sale before good mene.

To mak mortins of fyshe tak codlinge haddok whiting or thornbak and sethe it and pik out the bones and pull of the skyne then bet the fishe in a mortair with the lever of the same fysche and temper it up with almond mylk or cow creme and put it in a clene pot and let it boile and put ther to sugur and hony and alay thy potage with fleur of rise draw with milk through a strein and stirr it well and mak it stondinge then drese v or vi lesks in a dyshe and cast on pouder guingyur mellid with sugur and serue it.

Gentyll manly Cokere (MS Pepys 1047) (England, ca. 1500)

To make mortrose of Fyshe. Take hownde fyshe haddock or codlyng seth hit and pyke hit clene fro the bonys take a way the skyn and grynde the lyver ther with blanched almounds And temper thy mylke with the broth of the fresh Fyshe and make a gode mylke of do ther to myad of white brede and sugure set hit to the fyre when hit boylys loke hit be stondyng mese serue hit furth strow on Blawnche powdyr.

Mortrows on Fysh Dayes. Recipe codlyng & hadoc with þe lyver, & seth þam wele in water, & pike oute þe bones & grind þe fysh small. Draw a lyre of almondes & brede with þe fysh broth, & do þerto þe gronden fysh, strewing powdyr, saferon & salt, & make it standyng & serof.

The taste testers and I enjoyed both of these dishes.  They are unusual but very tasty.  As you can see we served it with lemon wedges, capers, olives, pickles and crusty homemade bread. The fish is very mild in flavor, and creamy in texture, unlike the pork, which is a bit more hearty and flavorful. Either of these dishes would be a flavorful alternative to butter either on the table or served with bread in a first course.  Since we believe that this kind of a dish was the precursor to modern day "potted meats" the discussion turned to whether or not this would be appropriate to take to a camping event.  My suggestion would be seal it with clarified butter, grease, and eat it early on should you do so.  I would have no hesitation serving this at a royalty or tavern luncheon or a feast.