Thursday, February 26, 2015

Life Changes all around

My website is running again at but my life has been BUSY
Just a year and a half ago, we moved, then moved again and now we just recently moved again. Stuff like work must come first though, since you need work to get money and do everything else!

This time around we bought a house again so it's been work work work of another sort as we been updating it with new windows, electric and heating... though presently it's just being heated with two wood stoves in the dead of a very cold Canadian winter (well, feels like -30sC and lower weather anyway). Needless to say, I been preoccupied.

Not too pre-occupied to plan a meal for an upcoming SCA event called Middleground... check out my post in (very soon to be written anyway *grin*). This makes up for my not being able to afford to do our Kingdom A&S this year, which is a bummer as it's in the principality for the first time ever and I just can't go :( But, I shall admit that my main draw to competitions is to support A&S and I feel it will be very well supported there.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Ruantallan Investiture/Tir Mara Championships Dayboard, recap

Well it seems my website is down so an update there is pretty much not going to happen until I get that sorted out.

For now, I'll toss in a bit of a recap here.

Getting to do dayboard for this event was a bit of a journey in itself, originally I had to turn down cooking feast which made me very sad... booo no cooking! But Garth, who was doing dayboard had to leave, booo no Garth but yay, cooking! Figured I can sorta juggle that and other responsibilities with the help of my husband... who I could not do this without. But what to cook? I talked to the cook for the event to get an idea of how to match the dayboard and found out that she was planning to work from Pleyn Delit... ah ha, this gave me something to work with! Well... sorta... that book is a compilation of stuff but figured okay, the cook is aiming for likely 14th-15th century, I can work with that. This made my focus narrow in on 15th century (mostly) with emphasis on English (for the new Baron and Baroness and the over theme the event seemed to have) and Dutch, because well... Dutch cook :)

Now came the tricky guesswork, I did not want to double on dishes (so tossed in as much Dutch as I saw fit).
The original menu was to have Hichones (hedgehogs), Leche Lumbard, Stuffed Apples, Stuffed Eggs, Gouda biscuits (crackers), Apple Cake, Wafers (on a decorated iron), Venison in Broth, Quince Jelly, Puree of Peas, Fennel tarts, Beef Pies, Gingerbread, Fried Flans, Peers in Confit, Sawge Yfarcet (stuffed sage)... butter (dairy and almond), bread, water with sryups, cheeses and fruit.

What happened was that I found out was that Leche Lumbard and a Pea Soup were being served at feast... Thankfully, I had did not have the leche assembled so used the pork to make sausage and I simply ate the cost of the peas, onions that would be in the soup and the dried fruit that would have gone in the leche (it isn't like I don't use that stuff typically anyway). It could have been served but I feel people shouldn't be eating too many duplicate dishes.

On top of this, we also found out that we were going to be moving soon so I was also juggling house shopping in a very limited time frame given and only having limited people able to help... this meant dropping dishes and/or changing them somewhat. ... We dropped the syrups, the apple cake, did not stuff the eggs (which is fun, I love deep frying the stuff eggs, and they look so neat) and kinda simplified it, but not too much!

The month of the event, the menu for dayboard was rearranged:

  • Hicherones (Hedgehog styled pork sausage)
  • lightly Smoked Sausage (A French recipe snuck in here from "Le Menagier")
  • Gouda Biscuits (self explanatory, much like cheese crackers)
  • Stuffed Apples (deep fried apples stuffed with pork)
  • Wafers served with Quynade (Quinade is a combination of quince paste and almond butter/cream/cheese)
  • Venison in broth (Venison stew/soup)
  • Beef Pies (beefy pies with raisins cooked up as chewits)
  • Fried Flans (fried cheese pies)
  • Pears in Confit (pears cooked with mulberries in a spiced wine syrup)
  • Fennel Tarts (apple pies with fennel seed)
  • Sawge Yfarcet (stuffed sage)
  • Rice Pottage (sweetened rice cooked in milk with saffron)
  • Gingerbread (breadcrumbs boiled in honey and then spiced and set in the shape of acorns and flowers)
  • Roffioelen (herb and cheese dumplings)
  • Roots in Pottage (garden roots being carrots and parsnips boiled and served with sweet spices)
  • Bread
  • Butter
  • Cheese (Brie, Fresh Goat and fresh soft cheese from yoghurt I made that week)
  • Hard Boiled Eggs (some I fashioned in the shape of acorns)
  • Grapes
  • Oranges (sliced)
  • Pomegranate Seeds (to eat and as a garnish)
  • Damson paste (damsons cooked to a paste that can be boxed up and sliced, I did mine up in bottles ahead of time)

The Dutch recipes came from here:
with the Roffioelen from a post 15th century cookbook (1510 actually):
The English recipes came from: "Two 15th century cookbooks", Rylands MS 7,/Forme of Cury, Arundel 334/Ancient Cookery, MS Harley 5401 and I did refer to "Le Menagier de Paris" for sausage ideas as I wanted to save on egg.

Also, with all of the recipes I used, many of the items were made in a rather small form, the object (or theme even) that I utilized was to make many of everything but to have it all rather sample-like in form. Well, mostly everything.

Recipes:(at least what I can dig up from my notes atm)

Urchins [Hedgehogs]. Take the stomach of a large hog, and five or six pig stomachs. Fill them full of pork forcemeat [minced, seasoned pork mixture] and sew them tightly closed. Parboil them and remove them from the boiling water. Make small spikes of good paste (flour paste or dough] and fry them. Take these fried spikes and stick them in the stomach casing of the forcemeat so they make a dense covering, made to resemble an urchin [hedgehog] without legs. Put them on a spit and roast them, and color them with saffron, and serve them forth. 

**For these, I used hog casings instead of bladders, first off I wanted them small and secondly not all stomachs are available for purchase at butcher shops, they are not even permitted to sell us bladders in this country. typically only one type of cow stomach is available. 

To stuff apples. (Dutch) Take unblemished apples and cut a thin slice off the top near the stalk, and the stalk also.Then take a little iron flesh hook, sharp enough and small, to scoop out the apple without breaking the skin. Then stuff [the apple] with the afore said stuffing, take the slice with the stalk and close the apple as it was before. Fix [the slice] with a small wooden pin. Fry the apple in hot fat, and sprinkle with sugar as is right.
--Who wants to make stuffing, takes pork, lean and fat, well cooked, and hard boiled eggs, chopped together. Put it in a mortar and crush well and add good spices (?), pepper, saffron, enough spices, salt to taste. And it is also good to make white sausages and pancakes, to stuff eggs, pastries, fritters, to stuff pig's trotters, to stuff hens and young chickens, to stuff eggs, crayfish and apples.

**I picked hundreds of little crabapples for these. First I did a test batch trying the different varieties of apples I had and chose the ones that worked best with the stuffing (pork, egg and spice based). Coring and stuffing tons a little crabapples is not for the weak lol

Dough to make pipes (Dutch)
Take cheese from Gouda and eggs. Grind together with white flour. Lay it on dry flour and make small biscuits of it.

**since I wasn't making pipes, I just made these up as little crackers... btw, even though I made them fresh, they do keep well and are better dusted with a little salt. 

Sawge yfarcet. Take pork and seeþ it wel, and grinde it smal, and medle it wiþ ayren & brede ygrated. Do þerto powdour fort and safroun wiþ pynes & salt. Take & close litull balles in foiles of sawge; wete it with a batour of ayren & fry it, & serue it forth.
--Stuffed Sage. Take pork and parboil it well [to remove some of the gamey taste], and grind it finely [with a mortar and pestle], and mix it with egg and grated fresh bread. Add powder fort and saffron with pine nuts and salt. Make little balls of the meat mixture and close them up in leaves of sage. Wet them with an egg batter and fry them and serve them forth.

**These are fab. and very much worth making. The ones I served did not have pine nuts (pine nut allergy and it was easy to exclude) but are still very good without them. Sadly I had a gluten free batch made up and packaged separately but with only one pot to fry them in and with the oil accidentally glutened, I did them all up with the flour based batter. If you want to make them gluten free, they do work just as well with rice starch but they will not hold together as nicely... if anyone ate one that just seemed to fall apart, it was likely meant to be gluten free. 
**note, I have come across many period recipes that used rice or rice starches instead of wheat, this made it a very plausible option that I explore now and then.

Fried flans (Dutch)

Made of dough [and] stuffed with soft cheese ground with yolks of eggs. Stuff them and boil them in fat. Then take enough sugar and roll the pastry through it. These are fried flans.

**super easy, I have made these often! 

To create a pie beef (dutch)
Take 3 pounds of beef, more than two pounds of fat, 2 pounds raisins and for every pound [meat] one lead herbs / spices, one lead mace, two lead ginger, cloves and tight a lead as much pepper

**I made these up like small chewets, which is not an implausible option and it really seems to work well in small form. 

To make a fennel tart (dutch)

Take flat, thin and wide bread. Cut the apples very thin and mix with cinnamon, sugar, a little mace and a little clove. Put them over the bread, whole spread with butter. Sprinkle with fennel seeds and then cover it with a thin cover. Bake it, and eat it very warm.

**These did not get out very warm but I tried them room temperature and they were still pretty good. As you can see, they really are apple pies but made with fennel seed, being that I made them up small, I opted to crush the fennel a bit first. 

Peerus in confyt. (English)
--Take perus & pare hem clene. take gode rede wyne & mulberyes. other saundres & seeth the peres ther inne. & whan they buth y sode take hem up. make a syryp of wyne greke other vernage with blaunche poudour. other whyte sugur & poudour of ginger. & do the peres ther inne. seeth hit a litul and messe hit forth.
--Take peeres and pare hem clene. take gode rede wyne & mulberes oþer saundres and seeþ þe peeres þerin & whan þei buth ysode, take hem up, make a syryp of wyne greke. oþer vernage with blaunche powdour oþer white sugur and powdour gyngur & do the peres þerin. seeþ it a lytel & messe it forth

These are two different, yet identical recipes (I would have to go back to track which is from which book which is why I list listed sources up top)
**One thing I did not use was the saunders, I have used them before and feel the only real good they would add would be for looks and they still ended up looking wonderful... what would have been better is if I still had preserved mulberries but it's something we presently can't get shipped in and I no longer have access to a mulberry tree.
One awesome note on these: I used all ripe, but very undergrown pears, they were all local but could not be sold for anything but seconds so also got a great price for them. This also made them very perfect for the dayboard I had planned. 

Cxv - Quynade. Take Quynces, and pare hem clene, caste hem on a potte, and caste ther-to water of Rosys; do it ouer the fyre, and hele (Note: Cover) it faste, and let it boyle a gode whyle tyl they ben neysshe; and 3if they wol not ben neysshe, bray hem in a Morter smal, draw hem thorw a straynoure; take gode Mylke of Almandys, and caste in a potte and boyle it; take whyte Wyne and Vynegre, an caste ther-to the Mylke, and let it stonde a whyle; take than a clene canvas, and caste the mylke vppe-on, and with a platere stryke it of the clothe, and caste it on the potte; gedyr vppe the quynces, and caste to the creme, and do it ouer the fyre, and 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, and a party of Safroun, and alle menge to-gederys; and when thou dressyst forth, plante it with foyle of Syluer.

 --Make almond cream:
Almond milk, ass white wine and vinegar (to turn it) and let it stand a while.
Spread this on a clean canvas to let it drain then scrape it up and put in a pot with the quince paste.
Cook until it boils
add: cloves, ginger, grains, [sugar, already added], salt and saffron.
Dress and plant with silver.

**Ah good intentions... I had little time to mess about with setting it so opted not to use the silver foil, which I did bring with me to the kitchen *sigh*
It actually surprised me how well it tasted, I was prepared to serve the quince and almond cream separately but the combination was a winner.... 
With this we served wafers

The Original Recipe for
Wafers (Dutch) basically translated to: Take grated white bread. That Temper with raw eggs and add some sugar and the fat of fresh cream.

**I could not get this to play nice on my iron, the problem being is that my iron is very fine and even very fine bread crumb will not pick up the decoration from my iron (it's a Krumkake iron) so I switched out the crumbs for flour (2 cups), 4 eggs, 2 cups sugar, cup of butter... lots of fat makes this work better and milk or cream (I used what I had) to make it thin enough... experiment! Then I took about a spoonfull of the batter and spread it a little on the iron and when the steam seemed to settle a bit, I flipped it and cooked more until the steam again settled (play with the timings or just get a feel for it is as best as I can suggest, the wafers should be a bit golden to work) and then while it is still hot, wrap it around a wooden dowel if you like... they should set really quickly. These keep well if kept in an airtight container after they cooled a bit. 

For the Venison soup:
-Roo in sene. Take flesh of a roo and pyke hit clene and parboyle hit, and then take hit up and drye hit wyth a clothe, and hewe hit on gobettes, and put it in a pot; and do thereto wyne and let it sethe, and take sage, parsel, ysope, and hewe hit smal, and put thereto pouder of pepur, and of clowes, and of canel, and colour it with blode, and let hit boyle, and serve hit forthe.
-Venyson in Broth. Take Rybbys of Venysoun, and wasshe hem clene in fayre water, an strayne the same water thorw a straynoure in-to a potte, an caste ther-to Venysoun, also Percely, Sawge, powder Pepyr, Clowys, Maces, Vynegre, and a lytyl Red wyne caste there-to; an thanne latte it boyle tyl it be y-now, and serue forth.
-Venyson in broth. Take rybbes of venyson, and wassh hem faire in Water, And streyn the Water thorgh a Streynour into a faire potte, and cast the Venyson thereto, parcely, Sauge, powder of peper, cloue3, Maces, Vinegre, salt, And late hem boile til thei be ynow, and serue it forth.
--Dutch version (said for roast game): Deer and hind, cut in pieces (?), well larded while still raw. Cook it in a lot of wine and a little water, [with] chopped bacon [and] sufficient saffron, ginger and cinnamon.

**I did not have a ton of Venison so I worked from the basic above recipes with the addition of the Dutch version with bacon and said spices. To note: I have come across later period venison pies with bacon and it's a good combination. 

Rice Pottage:
For some reason I don't seem to write these down anymore and can't remember which I chose to follow... but it was Rice cooked in milk with saffron and sweetened with a bit of sugar. 

Roffioelen of green leaf vegetables (Dutch)
One shall take green leaf vegetables and parsley, of each the same amount. One shall chop them together very fine; then one shall blanch them or simmer them a very little. When it is cooked so one shall grind them small [in a mortar]. Then one shall take wheat flour and mix them [all the ingredients] together just like thin dough. Then one shall take English cheese* ground or crumbled very small and mix it with the dough; from this one shall make long, narrow, thin lumps and boil them thoroughly in a pan with water. When they are thoroughly boiled so one shall take them out with a fish slice. Then one shall lay them to drain. When they are drained so one shall take clean dishes and lay them therein. To wit, in each dish two or three or four. After that one shall take butter and melt it in the dishes and one shall take some [more] of that cheese and scatter it over. Then take Lombard powder; strew that also on top. You shall know that in Lombardy one customarily serves this in the evening and at noon in the place of vegetables at the beginning [of the meal] before one serves anything else.

**This ended up reminding me of Malfatti which are basically little dumplings with greens and cheese. 

Pottage of Roots: This came from Rapes in Pottage recipes that explain they can also be used for paternakys and sterwytes (I still conclude that as parsnips and skirrets, but did it up as parsnips and carrots many of which were grown in my garden this past summer and consisted of a lot of white and pale yellow varieties). This is boiled and dressed with saffron and sweet spices.

**A reason I opted for cook veggies instead of raw was in some effort to bring things back to medieval thinking. Would I serve raw roots to people to dip in things (modern thinking) or would I cook them first? Typically, roots would not have been eaten raw from what contemporary literature I could find, presumably this would have a lot to do with the edibility of the roots without cooking where the cores would be so woody they were often mention as needing to be removed (excluding the turnips though those seem commonly cooked as well). There are health reasons as well, but I was not getting overly complicated with this menu. 

"Gyngerbrede.--Take a quart of hony, & sethe it, & skeme it clene; take Safroun, pouder Pepir, & throw ther-on; take grayted Bred, & make it so chargeaunt that it wol be y-lechyd; then take pouder Canelle, & straw ther-on y-now; then make yt square, lyke as thou wolt leche yt; take when thou lechyst hyt, an caste Box leves a-bouyn, y-stykyd ther-on, on clowys. And if thou wolt haue it Red, coloure it with Saunderys y-now."
To make gingerbrede.  Take goode honye & clarefie it on the fere, & take fayre paynemayn or wastrel brede & grate it, & caste it into the boylenge honey, & stere it well togyder faste with a sklyse that it tren not to the vessell.  & thanne take it down and put therein ginger, longe pepere & saundres, & tempere it up with thin handes; & than put hem to a flatt boyste & strawe theron suger, & pick therin clowes rounde aboute by the egge and in the mydes, yf it plece you, &c.

**easy to make bit of festiveness for the dayboard :) I made both variants and rolled them out and cut them as tiny acorns.
There are more recipes, this is just what I could find from my horrible note taking :P 

A friend of mine, Cindi (Lady Cat of Lennox) took pictures of the dayboard... **NOTE** Not all the food was actually out at that point! and I did have white table cloths but thinking they may have been used elsewhere... which is cool :P

Thank you everyone who helped, mainly my youngest daughter, my husband (Shannon/Wolfgang), Bob/Snarfi and Garth... also Maud./Laura for getting the dishes in order!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Moving but not deleting

I will likely make the majority of my food posts over at rather than here, at some point anyway, but I won't be getting rid of this blog anytime soon. It will also likely be updates just as infrequently as this one ;)

Just finished migrating a lot of stuff into the new site format, which I am hoping will be easier for readers to use and for me to update overall.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The follies of using documentary for research

 There are few things I would actually use for research, mostly, given that I enjoy the history of food and dining the most, I tend towards original documents. This isn't an argument about primary, secondary and tertiary sources that we could easily get caught up in and lose the original point being made here. This is about using something made for the reason of modern entertainment, though they feature some historic study, a documentary is still subject to entertainment first... they need to arouse us and get us watching, they need to sell themselves to broadcasters as something entertaining and what they do not need to do is cite all their sources or back up everything presented to us.

 This comes back to a little film called "A Tudor Feast at Christmas", released in 2006, where people are gathering items for a presumably 1590s dinner from a lush garden with a Peacock pie (obscuring the pie) and sillibub... where freelance historian Ruth Goodman says:
     "courses as such didn't really exist at this point, you have removes, so you fill the table with food, and when everyone is finished eating it, you remove it, and that's one remove. And you fill the tables again and usually it's no more than two removes, it's very unusual to go to three."

So here we are given all this information by what the documentary tells us are "experts" so who are we to disagree?

Of course, I might point out that she never says they called them "removes" but rather calls them this herself to differentiate her modern vision from the period vision which really is not different, a course being several dishes being served together. What this really sounds like, to me anyway, is the someone trying to differentiate between services, which is how the food is served. My 1960s Betty Crocker book (yes, I was looking for something modern), for example, lists two types: one called "Russian" where a servant delivers individual dishes to the table, and "English" where courses are served out to the table and administered from there. The 1590 equivalent is not much different than this, where a servant may bring food to the table, set it, and may even carve it at the table (growing less common by this time according to a book on servicemen of the period, for which sadly I can not remember the title on writing this). After this point, another "course" of food would be brought to the table, and so on. She is correct about the number of "courses" however, though by this time, the banquet had begun to start in popularity which could add a third.

On "remove" however, I tend to react because of it's frequent use in groups such as the SCA to describe a course of food for the table, I know not of it's use by the "Tudor Group" for which this person belongs. The problem I have with using the word to describe an early course of dishes is that the word already has a use to describe a replacement of a dish within a course. While I can not give you the earliest recording of this, I have not seen it prior to the 17th century but have seen it afterwards, but regardless, the very suitable word "course" is already present for our use.

Fun tidbits on a 1590's feast in England, not a whole lot was seasonal... The best meat would be pork, the best dishes including the Brawn which would have a secure standing of being the first to be brought in. Baked, and even roasted, Turkey was gaining popularity, it is even compared often to Peacock and if we were to look at post period paintings, we can see the outer form of a Turkeycock displayed on top of a large pie (there are examples of the same for peacock) though I don't have much by good evidence of this display appearing in 1590 so it's guesswork there. Another very seasonal food were oysters, said to be in season year long... many other foods, if they could not be had fresh, came preserved.
An item I also would like to touch is the Silibub, I do wish they shared their source and can only hope it came from a manuscript rather than published works, because between the two, the earliest I could find was from the 1620's. A posset curd would probably have been a better choice being well documented to that era.

But... don't take my word, read through some books written in the period, look at some art, view some artifacts, play with your food... have fun!

EDIT: I managed to get an awesome reply on the Silibub, as stated I hoped that it had come from a manuscript of some sort because I lacked any actual recipes from the period and only as early as the 1620's.
In the response were some of these sources: (yay for the OED! and P. Troy, hope you don't mind some sort of credit here)
-"c1537   Thersytes (1848) 79   You and I..Muste walke to him and eate a solybubbe."
-1570   in J. J. Cartwright Chapters Hist. Yks. (1872) 55   They brough this examynent a selybube to drynk.
-1584   T. Cogan Hauen of Health cc. 166   A posset or Selibub made of Verjuice, is good to coole a cholerick stomacke.
-1601   P. Holland tr. Pliny Hist. World I. 348   They vsed to thicken their milk into a kind of pleasant soure curd in manner of a Sellibub.
-1591–2   ‘A. Foulweather’ Wonderfull Prognost. in Wks. (Grosart) II. 165   Maides this quarter shall make sillyebubbes for their Louers.
-1602   in Lyly's Wks. (1902) I. 492   First you shall haue a dayntie sillibub; next a messe of clowted creame.
-1598   J. Marston Metamorph. Pigmalions Image 60   Ye Granta's white Nymphs, come & with you bring Some sillabub.

I especially enjoy the mentions eating a sillibub in the earliest mention, though it would also be drunk, a posset was also mentioned, quite often, as something you would eat... much like we would a junket which is curdled with rennet.
And this my friends... and random people I don't know, is why I encourage further reading!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Problem with Picky eaters and Feasts

 This is not about food contamination and making sure we don't kill, or physically harm people with our food (be it allergy or really bad kitchen practices), but rather about picky eating and expectations to be able to partake in food served at a re-enactment or history club functions where the food has become part of the over all experience.

 This initially came up through a medieval club forum where it was suggested that either the meals conducted be either changed to suit children's eating habits or a separate list of food offerings be made available for them, namely food they would typically enjoy.
Avoiding the whole, what is wrong with allowing even more modern wants to seep into historic venture, there is a bigger and more evident problem here. We are discussing how to meet the needs not of children but rather of picky and unadventurous diners. I say this because children are not all cut from the same cloth but are as every much individual as the adults attending these would-be period meals. Indeed, what we are really asking is how can we make a menu more acceptable to 10-30 more, all individual, and potentially very picky, diners on a limited budget with a limited staff in sometimes limited space while also feeding 2-60 more people for whom a good number are there for the more historic dining experience. Well, indeed... how?

Now, this is not to say that perfectly good period based food can not be found for the picky diner, it sure can, but it's foolish to say that there is a set list of foods that is going to be acceptable to a certain age group of picky diners. Look at ice-cream, what if I wanted an early 1900's ice-cream social? I knew a young girl who hated ice-cream, she hated frosting and icings as well and it is plausible that a few may show up who dislike those very things. Does this mean something special should be prepared for those children by the event staff or should the parents take something for the children to eat so they can still attend and enjoy the activities of the day? Change the period and the issues remain.

From my own experience, as both a parent, someone who dined, someone who served meals and someone who cooked feasts/dinners for crowds, the general answer was if you did not like something, you did not eat that item. If the menu was not suitable, you would choose not to partake in the meal (typically negating paying for it as well) and instead you would either eat out or take-in food that you like or your family member liked. Often people with specific nutritional needs or with family members under their care needing more, or different offerings, would bring food into the event to consume and were generally permitted to do so as they saw fit. This is a very welcoming and wonderful thing since it's not something often permitted at many paid venues outside of these clubs where food and drink it limited, or not permitted at all, inside the door/gate.

Now, if someone does have a picky eater in their care that must be present, and they can not, for whatever reason, prepare and take food for their charge, and wish to, then an alternative can/should be made but I do not see it as a necessity to create more work for the kitchen when it needn't be done (because there is no such thing as a catch-all child's menu, even a restaurant menu with several offerings is not always going to appeal to every child). If anything, work out something with someone who can help you... ask! be it another cook, or just a friend who can help. Be prepared to have limited, or none at all, refrigeration and heating options available, the kitchen may, or may not, be able to deal with such requests and do not blame for not, or expect them to, cater to everyone's individual needs. Yes, it may be done on some occasions, but just because this or that cook managed to make it available, does not mean most kitchens should be expected to provide such service. Keep in mind that some kitchens come with one oven, an already partially full fridge, limited counter space and cooks help, in fact we can expect most kitchens to be as individual as the people who attend to dine.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A wee board for a vigil..

 Just this weekend I had two honors, one was getting to go to Endeweard's first Baronial Investiture and the other was getting to make a small board for D'Unstable's Laurel vigil. Now to set the scene a bit more clearly, I am still not yet moved into a home of my own and we are presently staying with friends while my husband is away for a week at a time so this end of things have been interesting...BUT between that and having to work out the food between two countries, relying on dear old friends and one very new one, and a few minor glitches where food got scattered and didn't quite make it to site or had to be removed from the list, we made it happen.

In the end, this is what ended up on board:

This is the vigil board, well a larger portion of it. I might note though, that the item right down center front are butter tarts made by popular request by (looking this up so I can spell this correctly) Mistress Bess Darnley, and while they may be a period food, they are not an SCA period food so I shall consider them some possibly odd new English dish due to the huge masses of sugar in them (in reality, they are a Canadian thing).

What was missing from the board (yes, am telling you what was left from it) were Dainty Pottages for Oyster, Snail (because I like to toss in something really different) and Mushroom, these are supposed to be served on toasts. Some cheese (including some of Mistress Bess's feta and a round of Brie *sigh*) got left behind and also missing were Lombard tarts and due to not being able to retrieve my casings... period sausage which I made before and are really good and was very sad not to be able to provide.

  Next time maybe?
To make these, take 1 tsp salt, a few grinds of really chunky pepper and enough fennel to be really visible when mixed in. (fennel optional and for fresh sausage) This is a Good Bolognese sausage (15th century).

of course what makes them really good is hanging them in a nice smoke though because I stuck to the recipe and did not add any cure, just salt, I would not have tried to keep them for too long.

Now... should I ever get set back up with a smoker and all my stuff, this can happen again and I would love to make more!

So... what did show up?

Closest in the picture are Royal White Tarts
The pastry I chose to make for most of them was rather short, meaning I used more rather than less butter, and thus they were flakier than most period pastry but being a later period recipe and coming from Scappi (1570's), it wasn't wrong to do so... and also considering their size since I purposefully chose not to make full sized tarts.
For this, I considerably shrunk the size of the recipe but this is the original:
2lbs fresh provatura (I used provolone)
2lbs sugar
3 oz rosewater
3 cream tops (3 small cups)
15 fresh egg whites
About the only variation I made was in dropping the sugar a bit but without dropping the sweetness too much, this was in effort to allow D'Unstable to have at least a little.
What was particularly interesting to me with this particular tart is that it is noted as being a favourite of Pope Julius III... now apparently he lived a rather luxuriously so guessed his taste in food might be similar... and they were rather tasty.
Sadly... yes, there is a sad story, I did make up some without pastry but the sugars darkened too much to be presentable. I would try it again though, but with more time to dedicate to watching it while they bake.

These are Bread of Walnuts!  (not seen in above picture)
The test piece I initially made was bigger but I quickly discovered that these could be easily rolled, cut and/or shaped. In this case I just broke the dough into somewhat equal portions and shaped them into leaves.

The original says to make the ground walnuts into a paste with herbs (for which I used very little in this case), grated suet (I only had cold butter but feel marrow would have been a more correct substitute as it gets suggested in various recipes of the period) and sweet and strong spices. For the spices, for which I used a good amount, was cinnamon, nutmeg and mace, cloves, pepper, grains and ginger.
Then we get to the questionable part. It says to take flour and make a sheet of it in the way of lasagna. This could be just to lay out flour flat, which I did but then I was to somehow put the past over this and make in the way of bread. I seriously thought about it and ended up adding an egg yolk as I would to many of my noodles or breads and also added a very little water (this is all heavily kneaded together until uniform). I'm not sure it would have worked out otherwise where these held together quite nicely, shaped easily and baked well. I baked these on parchment at regular baking temperature and watched the edges of the bottoms for turning darker and then took them out.

The pies I did up as crescent shaped on the far right were a mushroom cheese pastry I did from memory, I *think* they are from a Spanish source rather than Italian such as the rest of the board but did feel they would fit in well without being implausible, and I did try to keep in line with herbs/seasoning from Italian cookery. So... the filling for these were cooked/cut mushrooms, Parmesan cheese and various herbs mostly being parsley, mint and basil.

The little round tarts at the far back, were Garlic Tarts from "di cucina" (wish I had a more proper name to give you). With these you peel and boil the garlic then you soak them in cold water, pound them (I used a processor this time but would have used the mortar just because if I had it present) then add saffron, fresh cheese (I used a pressed curd/cottage cheese but believe I tossed in a little extra provolone as well) and beaten lard (I substituted butter which is a good substitute in this case), sweet and strong spices which were basically the same as above but with added long pepper. Temper with eggs and currants for which I kept out the currants to keep them as less sweet as possible for the recipient. As I write this, I can not remember if they were to be covered or not but decided that the built up ones would be open due to their size and somewhat delicate fillings.

Another "libro di cucina" recipe that his the board was "preserved nuts", though these ones were still a few days shy of being "sunned" but I rushed it along as best I could.
These ones were the pistachio nuts which I gathered were the Persian nuts the recipe called for. To prepare, soak the nuts to soften and then boil them until they are tender and then let dry. Of course this will also cause any skins to loosen, so I pushed all the skins off as well. To this, we add cloves, cinnamon and saffron and then boil this in honey until the pot is almost dry (I added enough honey to make sure the nuts were all covered and had something to cook in). Then boil in another honey (I just scooped out the heavily spiced honey and added some more) so that much of the honey is cooked. Then, put the pot in the sun for 15 says, noting to cover the pot so am guessing it is mainly for heat and not necessarily direct so I put them in a bowl and let them stay in the oven while I heated other things.
I would like to do these again, but not on a board unless I could get them somewhat dryer

Other items that ended up on the board were red and black grapes with green and black olives and some Genoa Salami, feta cheese and Gouda, because hey, my persona is Dutch and wanted it as a little "hi, this is from me for you"

and that was our food adventure for the end of the week.

plate made for recipients dining pleasure

Thinking about authenticity and allergies...

I have been thinking a bit about authenticity and allergies and how they play together, namely in an SCA environment. Some who know me, know I dislike making any substitutions whenever it is possible to provide the proper ingredient, or when I do that there had better be a decent reason and that the substitution is the most appropriate one for the recipe.

The biggest obstacle that has come of late are the growing number of people requiring a gluten free diet where a medieval kitchen really isn't designed to be free of all these gluten containing cereals. Now, obviously, it is not difficult to find recipes that contain gluten free items without compromise, the dietary charts I made from a few example cookery books shows this (and I believe are still up on this blog from the top menu, if not, my website at least). The compromise comes when preparing a number of feasts that actually could have been served within their time period, such as a dinner that could have been prepared in 1531, somewhere in Spain (yes, I'm being a bit vague) as opposed to a feast that encompasses dishes that may have been served at various meals in various places somewhere within the limits of the SCA timeline. Obviously the latter would be much easier to do without compromises to the individual dishes and far more difficult to achieve without compromise to the entire feast, unless we were just looking to re-create a smaller/private meal.

Gluten is not the only issue we have though, but thankfully we can happily not worry about the more common peanut allergies or any new world food allergies (unless we were making some very strange substitutions). There are an innumerable amount of dietary issues that many SCA cooks meet and I'm not going to make any bones about it, it can be tough for anyone to deal with this because not only are some cooks trying hard to provide a more authentic eating experience for those in our medieval/renaissance club, but can also be untrained cooks or working with untrained staff, people walking in and out of kitchens (I don't have to explain the problems that can come from this to most), working in very unfamiliar kitchens and a myriad of other things that can occur in the process of creating a meal for 20 to 200 people. For someone used to cooking for their dietary needs, this might not sound as impossible (though under the circumstances, things can still get out of control), but for someone dealing with several different needs and not necessarily their own, the odds increase towards the negative.

For some examples of what any cook can expect, here is a list, and likely not a complete one, of some food issues I've come across. (note: I say "food issue" but it's not meant to offend or imply the importance is lesser, it's a catch all for allergies, food intolerance, religious needs and dietary choices, all of which is a very serious matter).

allergies covering period foods
-any dairy
-fish and/or shellfish

On top of this, I've found people with corn and other grain allergies which are used in alternative mixes for people with gluten allergies. Because of this, I find it's actually better to just not substitute and pick a recipe that just doesn't have it.

Besides allergies and food intolerance, I had to deal with other important dietary needs that excluded:
-meat, and meat products, in general
-...and various combinations

It brings to mind, "The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey", try and try as you might, you can't please everyone, there is no solution beyond what people can do for themselves.
We can not please one person and be fair without attempting to try and please everyone but on looking at the list above, and I have seen more than 3 of these needs at the same meal, the reality comes down quickly.

A well thought out meal of many cultures and areas is going to have at least two of these food items in it and some not in a small part. There is a degree of authenticity that we would have to give up in some cases, this beyond the amount of authenticity we give up normally with modern versions of food items and in some of it's preparation with our modern equipment and methods.

My preference for a meal is to provide enough variety using different ingredients so that most people can have enough of at least a few items each from a menu and to have enough at once not to be sitting all night with an empty plate. With enough information from diners ahead of time, this can be arranged without making too much compromise at all, and depending on time and staff, sometimes something extra can be arranged for a limited number of people (example: making a few extra pies in pots instead of pastry).

But in the end, the best advice I could give to the cook with an interest in authenticity, is compromise only in a way you can be comfortable with. Obviously, the first job would be to deliver food that people can both eat and enjoy but the SCA cook also has an added responsibility and that is in keeping with the theme set out by the SCA which is to re-create the middle ages. If we had no interest in the dining part of the middle ages, then we have little business bothering with feasts in the first place as it would be a lot easier to just bring a lunch or maybe go out for dinner after the event (note: most people pack up and leave after feast anyway, of course we tend to have dinner in the supper hours as well).