Saturday, January 12, 2008

ROTW 4 - Pastez, baked onions and Vyolette

Originally posted August 24, 2006.

Mushroom Pastez
From Le Menagier de Paris - late 14th century
In French from an unabridged transcription from one of the many online locations.

CHAMPIGNONS d'une nuit sont les meilleurs, et sont petits et vermeils dedans, clos essus: et les convient peler, puis laver en eaue chaude et pourboulir; qui en veult mettre en pasté, si y mette de l'uille, du frommage et de la pouldre.

Item, mettez-les entre deux plats sur charbons, et mettez un petit de sel, du frommage et de la pouldre. L'en les treuve en la fin de May et en Juin.
In English from Janet Hinson's translation.
MUSHROOMS of one night are the best, and are small and red inside, closed above: and they should be peeled, then wash in hot water and parboil; if you wish to put them in pastry, add oil, cheese and powdered spices.

Item, put them between two dishes over the coals, and add a little salt, cheese and powdered spices. You can find them at the end of May and in June.
We're lucky to have mushrooms year-round (though living downwind from the growing and packaging plants can be unpleasant). I use white button mushrooms, since I'm not a real big fungus eater.

I've played with this recipe a lot and done everything from a full-sized pie to small hand-held tarts. I highly suggest the latter, as they beg for self-contained shells. Remembering that I'm abysmal with pastry, please feel free to adapt your own skills to the making of same instead of the egg roll wrappers.

a pound of firm, white mushrooms (anything from 12-18 ounces works)
salt to taste
1/4 cup grated cheese (something melty and white or fresh Parmesan)
spices to taste - Rafaella's Salsa Fina is best,
Rafaella's Duke's Powder II is almost as good
OR (if you haven't access to a medieval spice mixer):
a mixture of ginger, cinnamon, long pepper, grains of Paradise,
nutmeg, mace, galangale (pick three or more)
1 package pre-made egg roll wrappers (the large squares)

I've tried measuring the spices but they don't seem to respond well to a fixed amount. You'll need 1-2 teaspoons total, use your nose to discern if it be enough.

Wash mushrooms and cut in half, or quarters is very large. Apportion onto the pastry squares in amounts that'll allow you to fold and seal the pastry over them. Sprinkle salt over the mushrooms, then spices, then a bit of grated cheese. Fold and seal pasties.

Bake at 350 degrees on an ungreased baking tin for 12-15 minutes. I like turning them after 10 minutes and then cooking until the top is brown.

Single pie variant:
Toss mushrooms with salt and spices, put into a 9" pie shell and sprinkle cheese over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. Will definitely fall apart when sliced.

Boiled Onions
From The Good huswifes Jewell - 1585 & 1596/7
Recipe from: 'All the King's Cooks' by Peter Brears

Unfortunately, the online copy of The Good huswifes Jewell is currently unavailable. Luckily, even without the original text, the person presenting the recipe is a food historian and in charge of the project which has brought the Hampton Court Palace kitchens back into working order and can be trusted to be as authentic as possible. Therefore it is his, not my, recipe I present here. It's excellent. The only alterations I've done is Americanizing the measurements.

1 lb. English onions (I used the smaller boiling onions)
3 oz. (6 Tbsp) raisins
1 tsp ground pepper
8 oz (6-8 slices) bread cut into 1" cubes
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup water
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp sugar

Peel and quarter the onions then simmer with the raisins, salt and pepper in the water for 15 minutes. Put the bread into a deep dish.

Beat the egg yolk and vinegar together and stir into the onion mixture just before pouring it over the bread. Sprinkle with sugar.

From A Fifteenth Century Cookery Boke compiled by John L. Anderson
(Yes, that's right, A... I own a single volume all kitted out like a kid's book)
Take Flourys of Vyolet, boyle hem, presse hem, bray hem smal, temper hem vppe with Almaunde mylke, or gode Cowe Mylke, a-lye it with Amyndoun or Flowre of Rys; take Sugre y-now, an putte þer-to, or hony in defaute; coloure it with þe same þat þe flowrys be on y-peyntid a-boue.
'the same' is apparently saffron, mentioned in the recipe above this one.

I get my amidon at Oriental Food Value on SE Insley just off SE 82nd in Portland. It's called 'wheat starch' and sold in the noodle aisle. Rice flour works better.

Pinch the stems off just behind the flower heads. Boil for about three minutes, drain and blot with paper towels to dry, and crush in a mortar. For every tablespoon of crushed flower you need a like amount of almond milk. Mix the flowers into the almond milk is a saucepan and heat over low temperature. Add rice flour by the spoonful, stirring and simmering like gravy, until you get a nice, thick consistency (cooked pudding). That's usually two tablespoons of flour to every cup of flower-almond milk mixture. Sweeten to taste (sugar is preferred) then remove from heat and pour into dishes.

I let it cool in a bowl in the fridge and it took on the consistency of instant pudding, so it'd be real nice in individual dishes. It was starchy with amydon and less so with rice flour and was quite like modern American puddings. And a terrific color and delightful flavor, tasting much like the violets smelled. It's labor-intensive, as all cooked puddings are, but the novelty was worth it. I made about a cupful each time, so it works well in small batches.

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