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.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Almond Cheese, very basic

Okay, just to show that it works:

Strictly almond cheese from a period recipe.

Creme Of Almaundes. XX.IIII. V. Take Almaundes blaunched, grynde hem and drawe hem up thykke, set hem ouer the fyre & boile hem. set hem adoun and spryng hem wicii Vyneger, cast hem abrode uppon a cloth and cast uppon hem sugur. whan it is colde gadre it togydre and leshe it in dysshes. (Form of Cury)

There are actually similar recipes as almond creme, almond butter, and almond cheese. However, when you start getting past things that call themselves "creme" you start seeing other ways in which this very basic receipt is modified to include and expand its use.

This was produced from commercially made almond milk, but the ingredient list is pretty simple--almonds, water, sugar. And it was very simple to make:

About 1 qt sweetened almond milk
About 2-2.5 teaspoons of white wine vinegar.

Heat the almond milk to a simmer. Add vinegar. Watch it curdle. Strain curds from leftover liquid and hang in a bag to drain. Once the curds are dry, add sugar or any other spices you might like, and press into a mold.

The primary problem with this? The yield from this is very small. That little disc up there is in a finger bowl, and the cheesefood is about the size of a ping pong ball. Even without any additional spices or additives, it's a smooth, creamy tasting thing, but it feels like putty when you touch it and the quantity of almond milk needed to produce enough to make, say, a cheesecake, is going to be pretty significant. Still, I'm happy to have done it and to find it was so simple. I can again have a little bit of sweet creaminess with my breakfast.

I do have two other solutions in mind in the quest for a creamy umami sauce that will stand in for aged dairy cheese--one is a cheeze that uses the nutmeats leftover from making almond milk, and the other is in my tummy now but is still a little too salty and fatty for me to call it solved. But I have to say, that was bestest, most creamiest non-egg, non-dairy sauce I have had. I can't even call it uncheeze, as it's not vegan. But it's all period ingredients, so I'll keep working on it. :-) And if I get it right, I may not share it unless you come to my house and eat it with me. ;-)

Friday, March 6, 2009

To make fysche pyes in lent

There it is: A fish pie in Lent. MMmmMMMMmmm.

I am working on faking dairy cheese and making fish pies, as I have maybe mentioned here. I'm sure I mentioned it somewhere. Anyway, while working on the mushroom pie redaction (which I have been working on for more than a year, I just can't get it right quite yet), I scouted the fridge for contents and then browsed cookbooks and websites for fish pies that might work with what I had around.

Eventually, I found this in Form of Cury:

XXV - For To Make Tartys Of Fysch Owt Of Lente. Mak the Cowche of fat chese and gyngener and Canel and pur' crym of mylk of a Kow and of Helys ysodyn and grynd hem wel wyth Safroun and mak the chowche of Canel and of Clowys and of Rys and of gode Spycys as other Tartys fallyth to be.

This was too tempting---to make workable for Lenten restictions a fish pie intended to be eaten outside of Lent. And, as it happens, it would do a beautiful job of using up the leftovers I had in the fridge. Sweet!

In modern English, the above roughly says:

25. To make fish tarts when not in Lent. Layer fat cheese, ginger, and cinamon. Next, add a layer of boiled, minced eels, cream, and saffron. Next, add a layer of of cinamon, cloves, and rice; add other seasonings according to what you know excellent pies are made with.

I don't have eels in the freezer, so I substituted whiting. I am accustomed to eel with skin on and with a strong flavor--the whiting fillets I have certainly fit that bill.

The pie was made with:

  1. Oil-based pastry, enough to enclose contents of pie.

  2. 4 whiting fillets, aproximately 4-5 ounces of fish all together.

  3. 3/4 cup of leftover rice

  4. 1/2 cup of leftover cheeze sauce from Makrows. Substitute any cheese sauce of your choice--you are not living with lenten restrictions! :-)

  5. 1/8 t of cloves

  6. 1/4 t cinamon

  7. 1 teaspoon of ginger

  8. two grinds of pepper--probably about 1/2 teaspoon

I boiled the whiting fillets with a bit of lemon juice to cut down on the scent, then minced them up, skin and all, and mixed all but the crust into one cheezy ricey fishy taste melding filling. Yes, I know the recipe says layer this stuff, but since I was making it as an empenada/pastie, that wasn't going to work with this set of ingredients. The other nice thing about this choice was that I could taste the filling to be sure that the spice mixture was sufficient.

Place the filling on to a section of pastry, adjusting according to the size of the pastry circle, dampen the edges of the pastry, fold over, and roll press the edges to close. Preheat oven to 400--if using a cast iron pan to bake, as I am here, have it in the oven heating as the oven heats up. This helps crisp up the bottom of the pie. In any event, lightly grease the baking pan with oil. If desired, brush a light coating of oil on top coat of pie. I used olive. Cook until crust is cooked through--it will be browned, and tapping the empanada/pastie will result in a hollow sound, about 30 minutes, depending on your oven.

I let it cool enough to eat comfortably. The interesting thing about this mixture is that it formed up into a sort of sticky rice kind of quality, which sounds weird when described but which was quite good and had the added advantage of keeping the filling from spilling out of the pastie as I was walking around eating it. Michael tried it, and, while it wasn't what he hoped for (he's a big brightie fan, essentially, the Scots version of a Cornish Pasty), he liked it enough to be willing to eat it again.