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.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

On ye dyshes served vpon Saint Nicholas' day.

I had myself a simple little period meal tonight, ostensibly for celebration of ST. Nicholas' Day, but really for testing out how well they'd work out cold--Boar's Head is coming and I'm beginning to think about the lunch and supper I'll pack. The 2 redacted dishes are:

"Turnips are hard" from Le Menagier:

TURNIPS are hard and difficult to cook until they have been in the cold and frost; you remove the head, the tail and other whiskers and roots, then they are peeled, then wash in two or three changes of hot water, very hot, then cook in hot meat stock, pork, beef or mutton.

Item, in Beausse, when they are cooked, they are sliced and fried in a pan, and powdered spices thrown on.

(from David Friedman)

and Shrimps:

Shrympes. Take Shrympes, and seth hem in water and a litull salt, and lete hem boile ones or a litull more. And serue hem forthe colde; And no maner sauce but vinegre.

(FROM Two 15th Century Cookery Books)

As you can see, 2 very simple recipes. The meal was rounded out with an apple, and orange, and a sour-dough roll I'd made earlier in the week.

As the shrimp were already pre-cooked, all I had to do there was let them defrost and then try them lightly salted and in several different vinegars. The two best vinegars were the cider vinegar I'd received from a friend and the fabulous, traditionally made, 18 year-old balsamic vinegar that I have. The salt and cider vinegar was probably closest to a period combination, but balsamic made right is also okay, it just isn't very likely on an English table unless it had been given as a gift. To the best of my knowledge, balsamic is mostly referred to in Italian records of the era. I confess I ate the shrimps with the balsamic vinegar, though, as it was brilliantly tasty.

The commercial vinegars I had were so strong that they really overpowered the shrimp. I'd probably water them down in future.

The turnips were also easy. As I am not fond of boiling things in multiple changes of water, and I did not want to deal with the bitter issue via salting the water (I inevitably oversalt), I cooked them in one wash of water and included one small potato. I don't know what magic that potato works, but it did draw out most of the bitter.

I then followed the instructions for frying them, and sprinkled them with a commercial blend of spices called "Chai." Cinnamon, sugar, ginger, cardemon--nice sub for powder douce. The turnips pretty much outshone the spice blend--I would have to use a much heavier hand with the spicing to have the spices really noticable. Salt helped, too. I enjoyed them and will likely make them again, working out the recipe a little more exactly. I liked it far better than I have ever liked armored turnips.

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