Saturday, December 30, 2017

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .Cxv. Quynade. - Almond Milk Cream Cheese with Quince Puree

 Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .Cxv. Quynade. - Almond milk cream cheese with quince puree

When I first came across this recipe in  Full text of "Two fifteenth-century cookery-books. Harleian ms. 279 (ab. 1430), & Harl. ms. 4016 (ab. 1450), with extracts from Ashmole ms. 1429, Laud ms. 553, & Douce ms. 55", I knew that I *had* to make it, the difficulty was in waiting until quinces were in season.  Last year I missed the season and I nearly missed it again this year--the ability to purchase quince is only a few weeks where I live. It is a shame, because I could see this becoming a regular spread in addition to butter, marmalade's or preserves at any event.  This is a delicious spread that would go well on bread or to be used as a substitute for butter.  The picture cannot do justice to how pretty the slight yellow of the almond "cream cheese" studded with bright golden quince is. I wish I had silver or gold leaf to jazz it up. 

The taste testers raved about it. It also keeps very well, and is an alternative for those who are lactose intolerant and vegan. Do not get stressed about the ambiguity of the directions "to taste".  I wanted to taste more of the fruit and the almond and so was light with the seasonings.  Just be sure that you use equal amounts of sugar to the other seasonings you use.  For example, 1 1/2 tsp. of mixed spices +1 1/2 tsp. of sugar.  Also, note that I used a spice powder that contained cinnamon that was not called for in the original instructions.

The almond cheese is very easy to make despite the complex directions.  It is very similar to making fresh cheese from milk on your stove top.  I caution you though to be careful of getting the milk too hot.  You only want it to come to a simmer, not boil, however, if you do get the almond milk too hot (boiling), just turn off the heat and let it cool, before adding your acid--you want the enzymes to work, not destroy them.

.Cxv. Quynade.—Take Quynces, & pare hem clene, caste hem on a potte, & caste þer-to water of Rosys; do it ouer þe fyre, & hele*. [Cover. ] it faste, & let it boyle a gode whyle tyl þey ben neysshe; & ȝif þey wol not ben neysshe, bray hem in a Morter smal, draw hem þorw a straynoure; take gode Mylke of Almandys, & caste in a potte & boyle it; take whyte Wyne & Vynegre, an caste þer-to þe Mylke, & let it stonde a whyle; take þan a clene canvas, & caste þe mylke vppe-on̛, & with a platere [leaf 21 bk.] stryke it of þe cloþe, & caste it on þe potte; gedyr vppe þe quynces, & caste to þe creme, & do it ouer þe fyre, & lat boyle; take a porcyon of pouder of Clowys, of Gyngere, of Graynys of Perys, of Euery a porcyon; take Sugre y-now, with Salt, & a party of Safroun, & alle menge to-gederys; & when þou dressyst forth, plante it with foyle of Syluer.

115. Quynade/Quinade- Take quinces and pare them clean, cast them on a pot and caste there-to water of roses; do it over the fire and cover it fast, and let it boil a good while till they be soft; and if they will not be soft, bray them in a mortar small, draw them through a strainer; take good milk of almonds and caste in a pot and boil it; take white wine and vinegar, and caste there-to the milk, and let it stand a while; take than a clean canvas, & caste the milk upon, and with a platter strike it of the cloth, & cast it on the pot; gather up the quinces & caste to the cream, and do it over the fire, and let boil; take a portion of powder of cloves, of ginger, of grains of paradise, of every portion, take sugar enough, with salt & a party of saffron, and all mingle together; and when you dress it forth, plant it with foil of silver.

Interpreted Recipe                                                                    Serves 4-8 

To make Almond Cream Cheese: 

1 cup almond flour
2 cups water (Hot)
Pinch of saffron
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. salt or to taste
1 tbsp. or more of sugar to taste
1 1/2 tsp. each (or equivalent of 1 tbsp) white wine and/or white wine vinegar --can substitute lemon juice

To make quince:

4 quinces pared and chopped small
Rosewater to taste (I used 1 tsp. rose water and 1 tsp. lemon juice)
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. mixed spice powder (I used Le Menagier's fine powder of spices and added 1/8 tsp. cloves to it--yes I know, this adds cinnamon that is not used in the recipe) or to taste

To make the almond milk: Put first five ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth and creamy.  Place almond milk in a pot and bring to a simmer.  Add the acid and turn off the heat.  It will start to curdle immediately--GENTLY stir with a spoon and allow to sit a minimum of ten minutes.  Until cool is better.

Gently turn the curds into a cloth lined colander (I use white cotton pillowcases cut in half) and allow the whey to drain.  For this I wanted a fairly loose texture so I only allowed it to drain for as long as it took me to make the quince.  For a thicker creamier cheese, allow several hours over night with a weight on top to press the whey out.  This is similar to the method I used to make Harleian MS. 279 xij. Fride Creme of Almaundys- Cream cheese made from Almond Milk.

Note: The cheese can get a bit "gritty" so several internet sites with similar instructions suggest immersion blender to make a creamier cheese. I find with a "wetter" cream, that the grit is not as notable.

To cook the quince: Put all ingredients in a pot and cook until quince is tender and water is nearly gone.  I took half of the quince and pureed it in a blender. Note that you can use as much or as little rose water as you wish.  I believe modern day preparations are much stronger then that found in the late medieval period, so I tend to be lighter in my usage of it.  I want the taste to enhance but not to overpower.

Place almond cheese and quince in a pot and cook until mixture has heated thoroughly, being sure to stir constantly so that it does not burn.  Mixture will thicken as it cools so it is better to be a bit looser at this stage for a creamier spread after it cools.  Place spread in a bowl and cool.

To serve, garnish with silver leaf.

Knowing that fruit  puree was added to the almond cream cheese in the late medieval period means that I will be experimenting with other kinds of preserves in the future and calling it "Cook's Prerogative"--can you imagine cherry preserves? Nummsss!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .lxxxxiij. Walkys*. [Whelks. ] in bruette.

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) -  .lxxxxiij. Walkys*. [Whelks. ] in bruette.

The last of the seafood shellfish recipes that I 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 was for whelks, which is a kind of snail that was plentiful in the late Medieval period and still enjoyed in Europe today.
Whelks are difficult to get where I live, so the Cook's Thesaurus suggested periwinkles or conch, again, difficult ingredients to obtain fresh where I live.  I finally settled upon clams, which are locatable but are a bit firmer and stronger in flavor then whelk, conch or periwinkles.  The taste testers and I really enjoyed this dish, made all the better through the use of a strong home brewed beer (a lager) courtesy of my son, and dried parsley from my garden.  This is a dish that I will make again. 

.lxxxxiij. Walkys*. [Whelks. ] in bruette.—Take Walkys [supplied by ed.] an sethe in Ale, þen pyke hem clene; þan wasshem in Water an Salt be hem-self, & fyrst wyth Ale & Salt, an do so whele þey ben slepyr*. [Slippery; slimy. ]; þen putte hem in [leaf 18 bk.] Vynegre, an ley Perceli a-boue, an serue ynne.

93 - Whelks in Bruette - take whelks and boil in ale, then pick them clean; than wash them in water and salt by themselves & first with ale & salt, and do so while they be slimy; then put them in vinegar and lay parsley above and serve in.

Interpreted Recipe                                                                          Serves 2 as main, 3 or more as side

1 cup beer of choice (lager)
1 can of clams (or 1/2 pound fresh clams cleaned well)
1 1/2 to 2 tsp. vinegar or to taste
1/2 tsp. salt or to taste
Parsley for garnish

Before using fresh seafood, which I would have preferred but the poor dears sitting in the ice looked half dead and there was a fishy smell in the air the day I went to purchase at the grocery so I used canned clams instead (trusting they would be safe!), make sure that you clean your seafood very well.  There are multiple sites available on the internet with instructions to clean the shellfish of your choice.  In my case, I simply opened a can and drained off the juice, which I used in the oyster recipes.

Bring your beer to a boil, and cook your shellfish, either until the shells open (which would be a lovely sight to see), or until they are heated through.  Here you have a choice.

A) I added the vinegar and salt to the broth and topped with dried parsley and it was divine!

B) Remove your shellfish from the broth, place on the serving dish, liberally add salt, dip your parsley in vinegar and then serve.  I would probably serve with more vinegar on the side.

I went with option A because this is supposed to be a pottage, a dish cooked in a pot, and to toss the broth seemed like a waste, it was very flavorful.  The instructions are quite clear, that the whelks are to be boiled in ale long enough to loosen the muscle and allow you to remove them from their shells. If my understanding of cooking whelks is correct, they would need another boiling in salted water to remove any slime that may exist.

Another method of cleaning whelks is to place them is to soak them in water for several hours and change the water a few times. The fear is that twice boiling them would make them rubbery and difficult to eat.

We really liked this dish and I look forward to making it again when I can use fresh clams, which I can readily get.  I would definitely serve this at a feast, luncheon or, if using tinned shellfish, as a quick and easy camp supper along with some crusty bread to soak up all the yummy broth.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .lxxxxij. Oystrys in bruette.

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .lxxxxij. Oystrys in bruette.

The last pottage recipe 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  for oysters is Oysters in Bruet.  It is very similar to  the previously published xl. Oystrys in grauy bastard.  The difference is in the spicing (adds cinnamon), and in the specific set of instructions "Take an schene Oystrys", indicating that for this dish the oysters should be removed from their shells.  

.lxxxxij. Oystrys in bruette.—Take an schene*. [for schele. ] Oystrys, an kepe þe water þat cometh of hem, an strayne it, an put it in a potte, & Ale þer-to, an a lytil brede þer-to; put Gyngere, Canel, Pouder of Pepir þer-to, Safroun an Salt; an whan it is y-now al-moste, putte on þin Oystrys: loke þat þey ben wyl y-wasshe for*. [on account of. ] þe schullys: & þan serue forth.

92. Oysters in Bruet - Take and shell oysters, and keep the water that come of them, and strain it, and put it in a pot, and ale there-to, and a little bread thereto; put ginger, cinnamon, powder pepper there-to, saffron and salt; and when it is enough almost, put on your oysters; look that they be well washed for the shells: and then serve forth

Interpreted Recips                                                             Serves 2 as main, 1 as side

1/2 cup Ale (dark to compliment the oysters)
1/2 to 1 can oysters 
1/2 cup oyster liquor, fish stock or clam juice
1-2 tbsp. bread crumbs
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. pepper
2-3 threads of saffron
salt to taste

For instructions on how to properly clean fresh oysters, please refer to xl. Oystres en grauey .

Bring ale and oyster liquor (fish stock or clam juice) to a boil in the pan, slowly add bread crumbs and spices.  When the mixture starts to thicken add your oysters. Cook until heated through and serve.

This was another example of using the wrong ale ruining the dish :-/ Having had such dim luck with the ginger flavored ale, I used a darker lager, which unfortunately made the dish taste muddy and slightly bitter.  The taste testers were not impressed.  BUT--they did agree that the addition of the cinnamon and not including sugar, this dish was a bit more elevated then  xl. Oystrys in grauy bastard.

My taste tester did agree that they would try this dish if it were served to them at an event, but strongly suggested that less ale, or a different ale be used (Might I suggest Guinness, porter or a stout?) If you should try any of these recipes--please leave feedback.

Oysters...strike 2!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .xl. Oystrys in grauy bastard

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .xl. Oystrys in grauy bastard

The  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 allows an interesting look at our culinary past. Oysters were a very cheap and plentiful source of protein in the Middle Ages.  Although the oysters that were most likely eaten (ostrea edulis) were much smaller then the oysters many of us enjoy today.  So it is surprising that the manuscript only contains three specific preparations for oysters in the pottage section.

Oysters, whelks, cockles, muscles and limpets are shellfish that were plentiful. The Romans brought with them their love of shellfish when they arrive in Britain in 43AD.  After they left, the oyster fell out of favor, however, by the 8th century that was no longer case.  Oysters were once more a very popular food.

Fish and shellfish were eaten on days that meat and animal products were prohibited--Lent, all Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays (in some cases), Ember Days (Wednesday, Friday and Saturday after Saint Lucia's (December 13th), Ash Wednesday after Whitsunday (8th Sunday after Easter) and Exaltation of the Cross (September 14th). In total, more then half the year meat and animal products were forbidden.

Additionally, Medieval physicians believed that serving fish and meat together in the same meal would make an individual sick.  This belief was prominent until the 17th century, where they were enjoyed as an hors d'oeuvre or main meal.

The title of this particular recipe is a bit baffling.  "Bastard" usually refers to a Spanish sweet wine (similar to a muscatel)  that became popular in the 14th Century.  However, there is no wine in the recipe below.  Perhaps if wine had been substituted for the ale this recipe would have been better enjoyed by the taste testers.  The problem wasn't the oysters but in the ale that was used.  I used a ginger flavored ale, believing that it would compliment the ginger already included in the recipe.  However, the flavor of the oysters and the ale did not marry well.  I believe this dish would have been much more successful had I used a darker beer, a stout, porter or black lager, all of which are rumored to pair well with the briny creatures.

.xl. Oystrys in grauy bastard.—Take grete Oystrys, an schale hem; an take þe water of þe Oystrys, & ale, an brede y-straynid, an þe water also, an put it on a potte, an Gyngere, Sugre, Saffron, powder pepir, and Salt, an let it boyle wyl; þen put yn þe Oystrys þer-to, and dresse it forth.

xl - Oystrys in grauy bastard. Take grete Oystrys, an schale hem; an take the water of the Oystrys, and ale, an bredey-straynid, an the water also, an put it on a potte, an Gyngere, Sugre, Saffron, powder pepir, and Salt, an let it boyle wyl; then put yn the Oystrys ther-to, and dresse it forth.

40 - Oysters in Gravy Bastard - Take great oysters, and shell them; and take the water of the oysters and ale, and bread strained, and the water also, and put it on a pot, and ginger, sugar, saffron, powder pepper and salt, and let it boil well; then put in the oysters there-to, and dress it forth.

Interpreted Recipe                                                                      Serves 2 as Main, 3 or more as side

1/2 cup ale (see note above)
1/2 cup oyster liquor or other fish/clam stock
2 tbsp. bread crumbs
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. sugar
2-3 threads of saffron
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 can of oysters (don't judge!)

If you have oysters you will want to clean them.  If you are like me and you purchased a can, drain the liquor from it and mix it with the ale, spices and bread crumbs.  Bring to a boil and wait till the broth begins to thicken.  Add the oysters, and cook till heated through and thickness of sauce is to your liking.  Serve them.

As stated previously, I used the wrong ale to make this dish and the taste testers were unhappy with me.  However, we all agreed that a more complimentary ale would have created a much better dish.  Would they eat this if served at an event? The answer was no.  I will leave it to you to decide.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - ixl. Oystres en grauey

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - ixl. Oystres en grauey 

It is rumored that King Henry IV enjoyed oysters so much that he consumed 400 in a single sitting! Bear in mind that he was probably eating the much smaller, and more delicate European (commonly known as belon) oyster (ostrea edulis).  The Romans prized oysters.  They were (and still are) considered an aphrodisiac, but they also believed that consuming oysters would improve your prowess on the battlefield.  So it should come as no surprise that guards were posted to protect oysters beds and that the cost of an oyster could be valued at a denarius--the value of a days labor.

Oysters in Gravy was the first of several recipe's I prepared featuring oysters 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 .  This is most likely one of the earliest versions of a well known classic--oyster stew, and it received the best reviews. I also prepared .xl. Oystrys in grauy bastard (oysters cooked in ale, thickened with bread and seasoned with ginger, sugar, saffron, pepper and salt) and .lxxxxij. Oystrys in bruette (oysters stewed with oyster liquor, ale, bread, ginger, cinnamon, pepper, saffron and salt). 

.ixl.*. [i.e. i from xl. ] Oystres en grauey.—Take gode Mylke of Almaundys, an drawe it wyth Wyne an gode Fysshe broþe, an sette it on þe fyre, & let boyle; & caste þer-to Clowes, Maces, Sugre an powder Gyngere, an a fewe parboylid Oynonys y-mynsyd; þan take fayre Oystrys, & parboyle hem in fayre Water, & caste hem þer-to, an lete hem boyle to-gederys; & þanne serue hem forth.

ixl - Oystres en grauey. Take gode Mylke of Almaundys, an drawe it wyth Wyne an gode Fysshe brothe, an sette it on the fyre, and let boyle; and caste ther-to Clowes, Maces, Sugre an powder Gyngere, an a fewe parboylid Oynonys y-mynsyd; than take fayre Oystrys, and parboyle hem in fayre Water, and caste hem ther-to, an lete hem boyle to-gederys; and thanne serue hem forth.

39. Oysters in gravey - Take good milk of almonds, and draw it with wine and good fish broth, and set it on the fire, and let boil; and cast there-to cloves, mace, sugar and powder ginger, and a few parboiled onions minced; then take fair oysters, and parboil them in fair water, and caste them there-to, and let them boil together; and then serve them forth.

Interpreted Recipe: 

1 c. almond milk (made by adding 1/4 c. almond flour to 1/2 cup white wine and 1/2 cup oyster/clam broth)
1 clove
1/8 tsp. mace
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 c. parboiled onions
1 can oysters
salt and pepper to taste

Purists may cringe that I used canned oysters, unfortunately getting good seafood where I live is tricky.  It has usually been frozen and then thawed and put out on display, or, it has arrived fresh off the boat still living but costs an arm and a leg. Part of the goal in creating these posts is to make sure that they are cost friendly if you are cooking in very large quantities.  Buying fresh *might* be preferred, but purchasing canned ones (for me) is cost effective and eliminated the need to "þan take fayre Oystrys, & parboyle hem in fayre Water, & caste hem þer-to".

Should you be lucky enough to be able to use fresh oysters you will first want to clean them. Oysters are a filter for the ocean (they can filter 30-50 gallons of water a day), and their shells collect a lot of debris.   You will want to make sure they are fresh, and that they are still living.  To test for life, try to open up the shell, if the shell is cracked, damaged or open, or if it does not snap back when trying to open it, discard it.  It could make you sick.

To clean,  you will need to place oysters in a colander and rinse them under cold running water.  Scrub the shells with a brush (toothbrushes work), making sure that you clean out all the dirt and the debris that has collected not only in the shell but in the creases. Once clean it is necessary to shuck the oyster to remove it from it's shell.  There is a ton of information available on how to do this on the internet.  Be sure not to spill the oyster liquor (the liquid inside of the oyster). Also, make sure to use them within two hours of opening to avoid them spoiling. 

Parboil your onions if you have not done so, otherwise, add all ingredients accept for the oysters to the almond milk and bring to a boil.  If you are using fresh oysters, you will want to parboil them while the broth is cooking. Once the almond milk has come to the boil, add your remaining oysters and cook until oysters have been thoroughly heated through, and then serve.

God bless the taste testers! Of the four recipes that were interpreted this was by far the favorite and the one that  they stated they would eat again if served at a feast. It was likened to a "high end oyster stew".  Oysters are -not- for everyone I would use caution if serving this at an event. Also, due to the likelihood of quick spoilage, you may want to consider serving them at a smaller event or luncheon. I would even caution against bringing them to a camping event, unless you are absolutely certain that they will be eaten immediately and that any leftovers will not be stored. 

Similar Recipes

Forme of Cury (England, 1390)

OYSTERS IN GRAVEY. XX.VI. I. Schyl Oysters and seeþ hem in wyne and in hare own broth. cole the broth thurgh a cloth. take almandes blaunched, grynde hem and drawe hem up with the self broth. & alye it wiþ flour of Rys. and do the oysters þerinne, cast in powdour of gyngur, sugur, macys. seeþ it not to stondyng and serue forth.

Enseignements qui enseingnent a apareillier toutes manieres de viande (France, ca. 1300 - D. Myers, trans.)

Oysters in gravy, first cooked in water and onions, with pepper and saffron and with an aillie of almonds. Oysters again with salt and bread well leavened.