Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Cooking Over Fire in the Rain

We're in the Pacific Northwet, so the idea of an SCA event on a day which began with driving rain daunted us not. Loading up fire pits, wood, pots, pans, ingredients and selves (and boots - were were going to a horse farm) we descended on the site and set up a couple of pop-up shelters out behind the barn for some respite from the rain. Naturally, though, the fire had to be in the open. I got both fire pits going, even though the rain drenched the newspaper I'd planned to use before I could light it. Paraffin fire starters were a blessing.

Over the shallow fire pit was seared lamb for one lady's lunch and then the rest of the lamb and a bunch of herbs and vegetables went into a pot for a thoroughly modern, but very tasty, stew. A couple of quinces also got speared and cooked over that fire. I took over the deeper, hanging fire pit with a Norwegian wafer iron and a 16th century recipe. Since one of the ladies had brought quince paste, I chose to make soft, crepe-style wafers rather than attempt anything crispy in the damp.

The precipitation thankfully let up while I was doing the actual wafer making. I was already soaked, though, so the main benefactor of the break was the consistency of my wafers. I love rose water, I love the taste, the smell, and I thoroughly love the scent of rose water enhanced wafers cooking over a fire pit. I chose one of Peter Brears' recipes because it was my very first time with the iron, making pastry over fire, and a late-period recipe so I wanted something I could trust. I trust Brears to have extensive hands-on experience with his recipes and to describe the outcome in detail. I wasn't disappointed.

I chose the recipe from Banquetting Stuffe:
2 egg yolks
1/8 pint cream
1/8 pint rosewater
1/8 pint water
8 oz. flour
Slowly beat the flour into the liquids, adding sufficient extra water to produce a creamy mixture.

I also added two or three tablespoons of sugar and about a teaspoon and a half of nutmeg.

Things to remember: Keep the iron hot and well-greased. I used spray stuff because I didn't want to risk my fingers buttering the iron between wafers. Keep the iron hot. I did this by resting it on the fire while stacking the cooked wafers. If you want them soft, keep them cool; if hard, put them near the fire and let them dry thoroughly. They're good warm when soft, not so good when cool. Next time I'll dry them, or get a tortilla warmer. I like rose water, so I used only about a tablespoon of plain water. We're also Americans, so 'cream' is a choice of whipping or half and half. I used the latter. They tasted lovely.

I highly recommend people try something like this new and different at events. Cook over fire, do it in the rain, field-test a recipe you've never tried before. It's a lot of fun and you attract people.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Not Period - Beer Bread

I'm putting this here because someone's bound to ask me for the recipe and it's not appropriate for my medieval cooking mailing list.
Two sets of measurements here. Depends on what size bottle you have.

Beer Bread
4.5"x8.5" pan                       5"x9" pan
3 cups all-purpose flour 4 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder 4 tsp. baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar 4 Tbsp. sugar
1 12 ounce bottle of beer or ale 1 pint beer or ale
3 tablespoons butter, melted 4 Tbsp. butter, melted
Sift or mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the beer and mix into a batter. Put into very well-greased loaf pan and pour the butter over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes in pan then turn out and finish cooling on rack. This is too dry to successfully cut while warm, but it's so good it's worth the crumbles.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Recipes of the Midweek

Another installment in the Recipes of the Week series, originally posted to the Dragon's Mist Cooks list on August 13, 2007.

Tourteletes in fryture (fig pastries)
Original text from: Hieatt, Constance B. and Sharon Butler. Curye on Inglish: English Culinary Manuscripts of the Fourteenth-Century (Including the Forme of Cury). New York: for The Early English Text Society by the Oxford University Press, 1985.
Take figus & grynde hem smal; do þerin saffron & powdur fort. Close hem in foyles of dowe, & frye hem in oyle. Claryfye hony & flamme hem þerwyt; ete hem hote or colde.
The following is my own version.

1/2 cup warm water
3-4 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
pinch saffron
1-1/2 cup flour
OR: pre-made won ton or potsticker wrappers

8 small dried figs
pinch saffron
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
scant 1/8 tsp ground cloves

1-1/2 cups honey
oil for frying

If making the pastry, mix together water, oil, salt and saffron then stir in flour a bit at a time. Turn onto a floured board and knead until smooth. Cover with a damp cloth and let rest 1/2 hour. Roll out dough to the thickness of a dime, cut into circles with a biscuit cutter.
Else use round won ton wrappers, which work extremely well.

Chop the figs thoroughly or use a food processor, you want them to be paste. Mix in the saffron and other spices well. Put a spoonful of paste on a dough circle and either fold over and seal, or place another circle atop and seal well.
Fry until brown in enough oil to float the tarts (deep-frying works fine). Bring the honey to a soft boil and skim off the scum. Brush hot honey over warm tarts. May be served hot or cold. Makes about 2 dozen.

Frytour blaunched
This recipe is a conundrum. My copy of Form of Cury (the online one) has a different wording than the one from Curye on Inglish. The original omits spices, the Cury on Inglish includes them. Here are both versions:

Facsimilie manuscript:
Take Almandes blaunched and grynde hem al to doust, do þise in a thynne foile. close it þerinnne fast. and fry it in Oile. clarifie hony with Wyne. & bake it þerwith.

Hieatt & Butler's version:
Frytour blaunched. Take almaundes blaunched, and grynde hem al to doust withouten eny lycour. Do þerto poudour of gyngeuer, sugur, and salt; do þise in a thynne foile. Close it þerinne fast, and frye it in oile; clarifie hony with wyne, & bake it þerwith.

My recreation:
1/2 cup warm water
3-4 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
pinch saffron
1-1/2 cup flour
OR: premade won ton or potsticker wrappers

1 cup almonds, blanched and ground
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt

1 cup honey
1/2 cup good, slightly sweet red wine

oil for frying

If making the pastry, mix together water, oil, salt and saffron then stir in flour a bit at a time. Turn onto a floured board and knead until smooth. Cover with a damp cloth and let rest 1/2 hour. Roll out dough to the thickness of a dime, cut into circles with a biscuit cutter.
Or else use round won ton wrappers, which work extremely well.

Mix almonds and spices together. Put a spoonful of mixture on a dough circle and either fold over and seal, or place another circle atop and seal well. Fry until brown in enough oil to float the tarts (deep-frying works fine).
Bring the honey to a soft boil and skim off the scum. Stir in enough wine to make a sauce (you might not use it all). Thoroughly coat tarts with sauce (I like to dip them), and arrange on a baking sheet on parchment. Bake at 325 degrees for 5-7 minutes, serve warm.

Can't you just imagine the fig tarts in your cooler for events, or picnics, or soccer games? Who needs Hostess pies?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Pears in Syrup

It's cooling down out there and I have the urge to make things which take awhile to cook and make the house smell good. My husband always looks at me a bit oddly when I suggest buying air fresheners. He explained why once, "The house should smell like cooking." Truly one of the most flattering things he's ever said to me.
The pears this year are truly awesome. If you can get to a farmer's market, I suggest you do so. The late-season pears are worth the trip. Even the ones in the grocery store are looking good, smelling good, tasting good...
And on that note, I present Pears in Syrup from three different recipes. Two are intended to se served from kitchen to table. The third is a preservative method which Peter Brears has reconfigured to make into a servable dessert. With the other pears in wine and colored pears recipes one finds throughout period, it's a logical progression.

Source: Curye on Inglish, Constance B. Hieatt & Sharon Butler (eds.)
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.
What I've discovered of Greek wines, in period and currently, is that they tend toward dry and spicy, particularly the reds. I have saunders, but the idea of coloring with berries appealed to me so I mixed in both saunders and blackberries. I cooked two whole pears (slightly overcooked, actually) and ballparked the proportions. Using a small glass saucepan I laid the peeled (I left the stems on) pears on their sides and covered them with red wine, a handful of berries I'd smooshed up well, and about a teaspoon of saunders. When I could sink a fork into them easily I removed them and drained off the wine/berries/saunders. I didn't bother to rinse the pan and put in something between half and two thirds of a cup of ... ummm ... sweet vermouth (I had it on hand and am no wine connoisseur), about two tablespoons of sugar, and about a scant teaspoon of ginger. That I boiled until it reduced by about a third then turned the heat off. When it stopped moving I rolled the cooked pears in it (lost bits, since I'd overcooked them in the first place), took them out, stood them up in dishes, and poured the syrup over the top. They disappeared forthwith.

Wardonys in syryp
From: Harleian MS. 279 & Harl. MS. 4016, with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1429, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS 55. London: for The Early English Text Society by N. Trübner & Co., 1888.
Source: Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books by Thomas Austin.
Take wardonys, an caste on a potte, and boyle hem till þey ben tender; þan take hem vp and pare hem, an kytte hem in to pecys; take y-now of powder of canel, a good quantyte, an caste it on red wyne, an draw it þorw a straynour; caste sugre þer-to, an put it [in] an erþen pot, an let it boyle: an þanne caste þe perys þer-to, an let boyle to-gederys, an whan þey haue boyle a whyle, take pouder of gyngere an caste þer-to, an a lytil venegre, an a lytil safron; an loke þat it be poynaunt an dowcet.
I have not cooked this recipe yet. I wish we could get wardons because I always feel whatever I'm using is way too soft for the described cooking methods.
While the recipe says to pare and cut the cooked pears, that might be more of an adventure in cooking than most of us really want to have. Perhaps it's just easier to so treat the raw pears.
A suggestion of proportions I've found looks to be workable:
3 pears
2 cups red wine
2 tsps. cinnamon
1 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. ginger
2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
pinch of saffron

What I have done is make a cinnamon/ginger/wine/sugar/vinegar sauce for canned pear halves. I use a quarter cup of wine per pear half and season to taste, drop the halves in so they lay flat in the liquid, put in the fridge, turn over every so often until they take up the color, then serve. I suggest this as a nice way to dress up pears, but really, you (and I!) should try the authentic thing while the pears are still in the stores.

Pears in Syrup
From: The good huswifes Jewell, part 2 by Thomas Dawson, 1596
Source: Tudor Cookery by Peter Brears
To conserve wardens all the yeere in sirrop: Take your wardens and put them into a great Earthen pot, and cover them close, set them in an Oven when you have set in your white bread, & when you have drawne your white bread, and your pot, & that they be so colde as you may handle them, then pill the thin skinne from them over a pewter dish, that you may save all the sirrope that falleth from them: put to them a quarte of the same sirrope, and a pinte of Rosewater, and boile them together with a fewe Cloves and Sinnamon, and when it is reasonable thick and cold, put your wardens and Sirrope into a Galley pot and see alwaies that the Syrrop bee above the Wardens, or any other thing that you conserve.
Brears' reconstruction:
3 pounds pears
1-1/2 pint water
8 oz. sugar
1/4 pint rosewater
1 tsp. whole cloves
2 sticks cinnamon

Place the pears in a casserole and bake at 350 degrees F for 1-1/2 hours until soft to the touch. Cool, then peel. Simmer any liquor which runs from them with a syrup made from the remaining ingredients, add the pears, and simmer for a few minutes before cooling.

Tec notes:
To make the syrup bring the pear syrup, water, sugar, rosewater and spices to just barely a boil then simmer and stir until the spices color it and it thickens a bit. When it's a real syrup, add the pears and cook until nicely colored. Your kitchen will smell fabulous for days.
Brears has a picture of his version of this recipe in Tudor Cookery where he's stood the pear up in a small dessert bowl and surrounded it with alternating red and black berries. It's really gorgeous.

I'd love to hear about how others have interpreted and served these recipes.