Thursday, September 20, 2007

Recipes of the Week 1

Initially posted about six weeks ago, this was the first installment of what's become an irregular but at least once a week thing for me. The modernized versions here are mine, all mine, and are heretofore unpublished. Feel free to share them without charge. If you'd like to print any of my recipes, email me and ask.

To make poor Knights
The Queen's Closet Opened
Incomparable Secrets in physick, chyrurgery,
preserving and candying &c...
Printed for Nathaniel Brook
at the Angell in Cornhill, 1655

Cut two penny loaves in round slices dip them in half a pint of Cream or fair water, then lay them abroad in a dish and beat three Egs and grated Nutmegs and sugar, beat them with the Cream, then melt some butter in a frying pan, and wet the side of the toasts and lay them in on the wet side, then pour the rest upon them, and so fry them, serve them in with Rosewater, sugar and butter.
This recipe requires almost no translation. I find that three eggs and half a pint of cream (light) plus about a tablespoon of sugar and half a teaspoon of grated nutmeg does five or six slices of bread trimmed into circles (or untrimmed), though the instructions make our little modern pans too small to cook as directed. My remedy was to dip one side of each slice, lay aside on a tray gooey side down, then melt a tablespoon of butter and tuck as much bread into the skillet as you can and then pour over the proper percentage of liquid (eyeball it or use the tablespoon you measured the sugar with). Flip once and they'll brown very quickly. Repeat as needed and keep a decent amount of butter in the pan.
Experimenting with rosewater as a sprinkle I discovered that a teaspoon of sugar dissolved in a quarter cup of rosewater sprinkled over the hot Knights was wonderful. But I like rosewater and that ratio imparts a lot of rose flavor, so play with it to taste, but the rosewater really adds something to the final product.

A Tart of Ryce
From: The Good Huswifes Jewell, 1596
Boyle your Rice, and put in the yolkes of two or three Egges into the Rice, and when it is boyled, put it into a dish, and season it with Suger, Sinamon and Ginger, and butter, and the juyce of two or three Orenges, and set it on the fire againe.
Everyone has a version of this one, and they're all different, so why not me, too? Earlier rice dishes almost invariably called for the rice to be cooked in almond milk but by this period rice cooked in fayre water was cropping up, and with the addition of orange juice I figured that one should boyle your Rice in plain water. Awhile back I gave up on long-grain rice and medieval cooking. The results just don't seem right. I use medium grain, usually something like arborio bought in bulk at WinCo. Rice is easy - one part dry rice to two parts water, mix, bring to a boil, lid, turn the heat down and stay out of the pot for 20 minutes. Turn the heat off, remove the pot from the burner and leave for another five before taking the lid off. Or use the modern miracle called a rice cooker.

My version of the above recipe:
2 cups water
1 cup medium grain rice rice
three egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar (I like it sweet, no less than two tablespoons but
sweeten to your taste
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (like above, no less than 1/4 tsp. to taste if
you like less spice
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1-2 tablespoons butter
juice of three oranges (that's about a cup for modern oranges but
we're thinking 16th century so no more than 3/4ths of a cup and more like 2/3rds

Mix rice and water in a pan, bring to a boil, lid, reduce heat to simmer, and leave for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in three egg yolks, slightly beaten, Here I flipped the cooked rice into a casserole dish and sprinkled the salt, cinnamon and ginger over it then poured the orange juice over that, dotted it with the butter like a pie, and stuck it into the oven (350 degrees) for about ten minutes until the orange juice had mostly disappeared from puddling at the bottom of the dish. Others have suggested mixing in the butter, sugar, spices and orange juice and simmering until the liquid was mostly absorbed.

Not having been able to get small, medievally bitter oranges I went with the sharpest unsweetened frozen concentrate I could get and mixed in a bit of lemon juice to tart it up some. Then I destroyed my efforts to make it tart with a lot of sugar. It was wonderful. I envision this served with pork roast and herbed carrots sometime. My batch didn't survive long enough to become part of a meal. This would probably also make a wonderful cold side dish - extremely refreshing.

From: Forme of Curye, 14th c.
Take parsel, myntes, sauerey, & sauge, tansey, veruayn, clarry, rewe, ditayn, fenel, southrenwode, hewe hem & grinde hem smale, medle hem up with Ayrenn. do butter in a trape. & do þe fars þerto. & bake it & messe it forth.
The odd characters in the above are where the letter thorn should be, which is the soft th in 'the' and 'thing'. Depending on your browser, you might even see the real thing.

The trap is, of course, a pie dish, which in period would have been made of a stiff pastry which existed as much to hold the ingredients together as to eat. Frequently I find instructions to make the trap (or coffin) nice and sturdy in period recipes, and pie lids were often beautifully decorated and apparently re-used, as the proper way to deal with a pie with a top crust was to lift the crust off and scoop out the interior and serve rather than slice in wedges as we modern folks do. Since I can't make a decent short pie crust to save my skin, I totally appreciate this method and treatment of the pastry.

I've found that taking two pie crusts and doubling them, that is pressing one in atop the other that's already in the dish, makes a fairly sturdy but still edible 'trap'. It also looks interesting if you lift your crusts into a square dish and bake in that instead of the slant-edged pie tins that are so annoyingly modern. One lady I've known used a springform pan and popped the rim off to leave a rather vertical side to her tarte which again, I appreciated very much. I love a well-crafted pie or tarte but the aluminum Plush Pippin pan beneath shakes me out of my medieval frame of mind enough that I find myself drawn toward inedible, but cool-looking crusts.

I've said it before: I can't make short crust, so I rely on frozen, and for this I doubled, tilting the second pan and then laying the crust in on top of the other before filling, having brushed the lower with a bit of water to stick them together. This results in something tough but you can peel the pie tin right off it and serve it on a plate and that looks pretty nifty.

You can also make this without any crust at all and it sets nicely. I prefer it that way. The eggs will hold their shape just fine out of the pie plate and if made in glass, slide right out. I highly suggest using the 'trap' as nothing more than something in which to cook the erbolates, meaning no crust.

My version of Erbolates:
crust for two 9" deep-dish pies, or thick crust lining a 8" square (seriously optional)
cake pan (you need depth here) is using crust, pie tin if not
six eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons butter
enough herbs to make about 1/2 cup chopped. The recipe calls for:
- parsley
- mint (always peppermint, never spearmint)
- savory
- sage
- tansy
- vervain
- clary (clary sage)
- rue
- dittany
- fennel leaves
- southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum - this stuff's pretty awful)
so pick what you can find or like - I found a few dried at the herbal remedies place, of all things, and found many of them terribly bitter so suggest you taste and balance out with parsley and savory and a bit of mint to taste. Dried herbs work fine here but are, naturally, concentrated so balance with fresh parsley (did I mention go with flat-leaved because it's better than garnish parsley?) and fennel leaves for bulk. You shouldn't need more than a teaspoon of any one sort of dried herb.
(I also made a half-size once in a small iron skillet using entirely dried herbs, just a mixture of what I had on hand with only a nod to the list above. At about a tablespoonful of dried bits I was hitting the limit of how much should be included and they rose in the baking process and turned the top a funny dark green, but the taste was fine.)

Wash, dry and chop the herbs then mix into the beaten eggs. Melt the butter in your baking dish in the oven, or into the bottom of the unbaked pie crust, also in the oven. Pull the pan out and fill with egg and herb mixture, return and bake at 325 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until nicely set (longer without a crust, up to 45 minutes). Salt lovers will need to sprinkle liberally on the finished product but I highly suggest you add none before baking to give the punch of the herbs a chance to shine without the addition.

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