Into the Rabbit Hole!
I have been asked to try to document my process on creating the recipes I use for a feast. This is difficult for me to put into words as I have been cooking since I was old enough to stand at a stool at the stove. Sometimes my mind just *knows* how to put something together to make it work. That being said...welcome to the Adventure.
I'm excited to be asked to cook for this event. Our SCA is opening up after the pandemic and I must confess that the loss of the ability to share food which I have researched and prepared with friends had effected me more then I had expected. I still cooked for family during this time, stretching my boundaries and making new and interesting dishes. I've discovered that a new family favorite is Navajo Fry-bread. I have fond memories of fry-bread from my youth and it was exciting to share what I consider a festival treat with my family on a regular basis. But--these things are for modern day cooks, and not things I could write about in a blog I had designed for quick reads and immediate access to workable recipes.
I must confess, that I have kept my toes in the pond by finishing up interpretations for the remainder of the pottage recipes in the HarlMS279. I also started combining similar recipes together, and I've decided to make changes on the blog to reflect my idea of how to create a "Modern Medieval Feast". You may have noticed a new section in the blog "Index of Recipes by Category". Here I am starting to index the work I have done, to fit into appropriate medieval appetizers, first course, second course and dessert dishes. I am also working to create categories for Medieval Breakfast foods which are mostly the cereal based pottages, breads and pastries and drinks. Indexing the large body of work is tedious and slow--but it is getting done. So I've not been entirely quiet during this time.
Which brings me to the next feast. Specific rules indicate that it can be served either potluck or tavern style. Hopefully by January, we will have moved beyond the restrictions that I must create the menu within. Either way, there will not be servers at this point. My last 12th Night feast was extremely elaborate in terms of menu and food prep, and I have to confess, it is my preferred style of cooking. It consisted mostly of dishes I had interepreted myself and the style of the feast was using my "Modern Medieval Feast template".
What is this template? The template is a method of serving food that closely follows the dietary regimen of the 15th Century based upon Greek Dietetics, the idea that food must be eaten in the appropriate manner to retain maximum health. When looked at this way, the layout of the feast is very easy--appetizers meant to awaken the appetite and open the stomach, brothy or saucy dishes, heavier roasted dishes, then foods meant to close the stomach and prepare it for digestion. Yes, it is remarkably modern in design. It also makes it easy for me to create a menu that not only is cost effective, but easy to arrange.
For this feast I am limited in what and how I can serve. So I already know that I will be serving "Pot-luck" in two courses, because that is what fits my cooking preference the best. Tavern style means limited dishes in a two course settting. I can't recall the last time I created a feast that had six dishes or less :-/ Part of the challenge for me is to expose my diners to as many dishes as I can to create the illusion of an elaborate feast for nobles.
I know from my template that appetizers and pottages will create the first "course" and that roasted/baked and dessert dishes will create the second course. I know that I am cooking for a very limited number of people so I have room to play with fussier dishes if I want to. I know that I have suggested to the Event Stewards that they should plan for 24-36 diners, and that they should consider limiting to tables of 6 versus tables of 8 to increase the space between diners and lower the possibility of infection rates. I have also suggested that feast be reservation only. I am still waiting the event stewards decisions. Should the stewards take my suggestions there will be six tables with six diners each, or, if we keep to eight per table as usual, then I will be cooking for five tables and 40 diners. No servers, so I will not need to worry about cooking for servers, but there will be staff to help cook day of (masked and gloved of course), so one additional table of food to plan so everyone can eat.
I reached out to a friend of mine, Volker Bach, who has been posting regularly in my "Historic Cooking" facebook group and asked permission to use their interpretations of manuscripts to create my own recipes. I got a YES! This is the first of many attributions to Volker Bach you will see. This gives me a direction to research in and a "style" of cooking to use, German/Dutch for 12th Night.
To reiterate at this point in time where the rabbit hole is taking me: Pot-Luck Style, Two Courses, Multiple dishes--some can be very fussy!, and limited people to cook for. Pandemic precautions in place in the kitchen.
Some thoughts on things I might like to do:
Cheese Soup served in a pastry (the original recipe does not call for yeast, and is a mix of flours, wheat and rye) that is flavored with fennel and bacon--this may not work as I might want. Thoughts include adding sour dough to ferment and raise the dough a bit, or just serve it to dip on the side.
A Neat's Tongue (it sounds better then a cow's tongue doesn't it?) that has been first salted, then smoked, and served very thinly sliced
Roasted Peas - looks fun, although flavor may be doubtful
A pickled component or two along with other cured meats to serve with the soup similar to a garnish then an actual dish..however, could be part of a salad if using "winter greens" like kale.
Gingerbread to be made for the sauce
Roasted Milk - this dish seems to be a staple in this style of cooking and therefore is a must in the feast--it should technically be served either in appetizer or second course.
Herbed Dumplings or Rice Fritters for the starch component of the roast--it's up in the air at this point--both are easy to make-- rice fritters are fussier then dumplings and dumplings might add a needed "green" component beside the pork and gingerbread sauce.
Mustard-found great recipe made with roasted apples and hot mustard...reflects fruit used in pork..might be a good accompaniment. --need to find recipe again... :-/ should have saved it--Found it!
Marchpane-- easy 12th Night Must Have Dish
Comfits and candied peels - chamber spices -- coriander and cinnamon? Maybe Anise..but may be too much "licorice" given fennel in the pastry and possibly sausages. Can Mint be saved from frost? Sugared mint leaves would make a nice background for the comfits.
Pears in wine to be served over a custard (cream pudding) for sweet dish--note..if using roasted milk do you want custard? That puts dairy in every course..cheese soup, roasted milk, custard. Yeowches...perhaps funnel cakes instead? Serve with "Snow" fruit sauce (cherries?)
Baked oranges?? Sounds delish and easy --should be a stunning presentation if served as described
Things to avoid -- "expected dishes" like pickled beets and saurkraut..because..they are expected--this does not mean that beets and kraut won't show up, they may be components of another dish or serve as garnishes. They won't be main or side dishes.
Sotelty - Here be the bean and the pea - Sugar Paste Walnuts filled with sugar candies (Holliplen?), red and green ribbon - will need the reservations to ensure there are enough red/green walnuts to denote male/female for bean/pea.
You are encouraged to visit Volker Bach's website here: Culina Vetus
Mustard Sauce Testing and Recipe Creation