The Cook-A-Long is a virtual kitchen for Medieval and Renaissance Cooking enthusiasts in the SCA. Each month a period recipe will be posted in the original language (when available) and a translation. All cooks are encouraged to try their hand at redacting and preparing the monthly dish and post his/ her results to the blog. If you are interested in becoming a participant in this cook a long, or would like to submit a dish for the month please send an e-mail to valkyr8 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

March Recipe: A Pie of Parsnips

Haue millons at Mi[c]helmas, parseps in lent:
In June, buttred beanes, saueth fish to be spent.
With those and good pottage, inough hauing than:
thou winnest the heart, of thy laboring man.

Greetings from Merouda, guesting as the recipe-picker this month.

As some of you know, I am very interested in persona pursuits. Something I have been doing recently to help me understand the seasonality of one's life in period is perform some little task or another as mentioned in Thomas Tusser's Hundred Points of Husbandry, a poetic guide to good farming practice written near the end of period (first published about 1557). For the cook-a-long, I thought it might be fun to do a little something in line with this guide. I also wanted to choose a side dish, as we haven't really done that yet, and I wanted to choose a recipe that did not involve the usual poudre douce-type seasonings.

The above passage, from the "March" section of Tusser's work, suggests our recipe, with its instructions to serve parsnips in Lent.

My desire to do something a little different with the spices led me to this recipe:

To make a pie of fresh Parsnips. Take the parsnips well washed, & put them to boil until they are cooked, then take two or three chopped onions & fry in butter, a salted lemon in pieces, nutmeg, & pepper, a little chopped mint, & put all together in the pie, & butter enough.

Note it is necessary to cut the parsnips into pieces, when the pie is half cooked put therein a little Spanish wine.

This is from Ouverture de Cuisine, published in France, in 1604 (the translation is at Medieval Cookery). While the publication of the book is slightly post period, the recipes shared by this French master cook were developed in the course of his career--in the late 1500's.

I can think of several different ways I might like to try this, and I am very excited to see what you come up with!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

February: Lenten apples

I decided to try frying the apple dish in oil, without the fish shell. In theory it should work, with enough ground almonds to hold everything together.

I started with frozen Regent apples, thawed them and ground them in my blender to the cosistency of chunky applesauce, about 2 cups.

To this I added 1/4 c. of sugar, 1 tsp of cinnamon and 1/4 tsp of ginger. 2 3/4 c ground blanched almonds, or enough to make a thickish dough. (I had to add some wheat flour to make the dough thick enough, about a cup.) I think that I would have had a different consistency if I had started with fresh apples and I probably should have drained the crushed apples thouroughly by placing them in a clean cloth and squeezing out the excess. I fried the dough in small balls in veggie oil, couple of minutes per side. I think you could also use animal fat.

The orginal recipe is not very specific as to the shape of the dough during frying, but there are countless recipes for dumplings and fritters so I thought a small ball would work well. It's about the size of a donut hole. Rolling the fried dough in sugar really adds to the flavor. Num!

I didn't do as good grinding the almonds so there are largeish bits on ocassion, which isn't horrible, but I think it should be a bit more consistantly ground. Manthra had a suggestion of using Almond Flour from Bob's Red Mill, which I think is a great solution.

Catching Up: Plum tart

This is my redaction of the December recipe for Plum Tart.

For the first recipe: I started with dried plums. 1, 10 oz package and added about 1 1/2 c. wine (burgundy) and placed it in a heavy pan over medium heat until the plums were softened, about 30 minutes.

For the crust: I used 2 cups flour, 1 tsp salt, 2 eggs beaten, and approx 1/4 cup water to make a thick dough. This was enough for 2, 8" pie crusts. I rolled it out, as a normal pie crust. the dough was very springy, more like a bread dough. I lined my pie plate and crimped the edges as you do.

The prunes soaked up the majority of the wine so there was nothing to strain. I mashed them slightly with a wooden spoon into a thick paste. To this I added 2 beaten eggs, 1/4 c sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon and scraped the mixture into the crust. I folded the edges of the crust over the filling and baked it in the oven at 350 for 40-45 minutes.

For the second recipe I used dried plums as well, cause that's what I had. I will try it again with fresh. I used the same crust as for the first tart. I lined a baking pan with the dough and sprinkled cinnamon sugar over the bottom. I cut the dried plums in half and lined the bottom neatly. Over this I sprinkled more sugar and cinnamon and dotted the top with 2 T of butter. It too was placed in the over for 350 for 40-45 minutes.

Well I know why they would use fresh plums for this version of the tart because I now have a dry, crunchy prune tart.
Yummy.....or not. Oh well. Soaking the prunes to plump them could have solved the problem if I was stuck using dried fruit again. The crust turned out really nice for this dish, although a bit on the stiff side, and I think the crust would work well to make small turnovers since it is quite strong, almost like a pasty.
The eggs I used were from a local couple in WI and they are on the small end. Some have a greenish hue, but I'm not sure which chickens lay that color eggs. They are wicked cute.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

It's a fish, really it is...

I tried the "fish" recipe today. I was inspired by Ealasaid's fish from Coronation, and thought I would try to make one that looked like that. I'll admit based on the above picture, it doesn't.

Here's what I used:

6 small apples, various varieties, peeled, cored and chopped (it seemed to make 3-4 cups of apple bits)
1/3 cup almonds, chopped fine
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
pinch saffron

Pie crust (I used commercial pie crust)

Here's what I did:

Cut up apples and chopped almonds. I also don't have a mortar and pestle big enough to put apples in, so I tried several options. I put them in a big bowl and used a potato masher, but it didn't do much. I tried a meat tenderizer hammer, which also didn't do much. I added a little bit of water, and got wet unsmashed apples. I put all of the apples into a plastic bag, and tried with the tenderizer hammer again, which seemed to work, until a corner of the bag broke, and the one bit of apple that smashed flew everywhere. ::Sigh:: So, I decided they were smashed enough. I added the spices a little at a time until they tasted right. I thought I might need more sugar, but realized the apples were sweet, and 1 tablespoon was enough. I also like ginger, so I added more than the cinnamon.

When all the ingredients were mixed, I made half of the pie crust into an oval. I mounded the apple mixture in the middle. I added the other half of the crust on top, and shaped it into a crescent.

I decorated the "fish" by cutting sort of scale-like pattern into the body, washed it with a saffron tinted color, and sprinkled it with sanding sugar in an attempt to make the scales sparkle. I baked it in a 350 oven for about 35 minutes, until it was golden brown.
We tasted it at room temp, and two of us thought it was very good. One of us did not like the almond bits in it, but he doesn't like nuts that much anyway. It did not, however, look like a fish, or come off of the cooking pan easily, so it looked worse after I put it on the plate.
Things I would change:
-Make my own crust. I don't like the flavor of the commercial one any more.
-Spend a little more time on the shape, and make the extremities (in this case the tail) out of crust without filling.
-I would like to try fresh ginger, as opposed to dried, to see how it changes the flavor.
-More finely chop the almonds. The chunky bits gave a good flavor, but were a little disconcerting.
Things I liked:
-While more color would be nice, and you can't really see it in the picture, the textured crust was nice and tasty.
-Ratio of ginger and cinnamon. I liked ginger and apples.
-Chunky apples. I liked the texture.

Monday, February 11, 2008

In Space, No One Can Hear You Eat Pie.

My version of the flan.

Who's going to try the apple taco? :-)

(Helmet is Michael's, a reproduction of the Battlestar Gallactica helm ;-)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

My experiments this month...

Flowyns in Lent:
I pre-baked the crust a little longer than I should have and so that got a little too dark. I am glad I did though as I think it would have been a soggy mess otherwise. I also used a crust I like because it is very flaky but it's puffiness meant that it loses it shape when made as a shell or in shaped forms. I will go another direction next time I try this.

This recipe took some experimentation and I am not sure I achieved exactly what the recipe was aiming for. I continue to not like dates or figs very much but the almond paste and crust were lovely.
Fake Fish:
I really enjoyed this recipe. I don't have a mortar and pestle large enough so I had to be creative wish some of the tools in my kitchen. I also decided to use the ground nuts remaining from the strained almond milk so as not to be wasteful. About 10 minutes before this finished baking I brushed on an egg wash with crushed saffron to give it a nice golden color. I was going for a catfish shape for the fish as that is the heraldry of the local group.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Fish from Coronation

I believe this dish was made by Mistress Ealasaid for the A&S Competition at Hagan and Ellis's Coronation, but I may be remembering wrong. The filling was a flavorfull apple with dried fruits and spices, quite lovely.

I'd be interested in hearing more about the decorating techniques.

Happy Lent. Except, of course, Lent is not about happy.

First time I ever tried to decorate my food. I need practice, but it was the most fun I had today. :-)

This is a redaction of, of course, the Fish Pie.

I'll tell you what I did if you tell me what you did. ;-)

Fish Pie!