Friday, December 30, 2011

Turkey anyone?

pg 208-209 To roast a turkey cock and turkey hen.

As described in a previous post it is sometimes called "Indian Peacock".

If you want to spit-roast it, do not let it sit for more than six days in winter before being drawn, or in summer for more than two. Pluck it dry or in hot water- as the turkey hen is also to be plucked. Then, when it is drawn, prepare its breast because there is a bone there that is a bit higher than in other fowl: cut away the skin on one side of that bone and skillfully remove the flesh from the bone; cut the tip of the bone with a shaving knife and sew up the skin again.If you want to stuff it, use one of the stuffings of recipe 115. Cut the wings away, leaving the head and feet. Blanch it in water then let it cool. Stick it with fine lardoons of pork fat, although if it is fat, and stuffed there will not be any need for that larding; you will have to stud it though with a few whole cloves. Mount it on a spit and cook it slowly, that bird cooking much more quickly that a common peacock. From the breast you can make croquettes, and meatballs and all those prperations that are made from the lean meat of milk-fed veal. in recipes 43 and 47. The same too, for the flesh of a turkey hen and an ordinary peacock, but immediately after they have been killed because having hung they do not turn out as tasty. The turkey cock and hen have the same season as an ordinary peacock, yet in Rome they can be found throughout the year. Their viscera are done like those of the ordinary peacock.

My way:
Not having a spit available or fresh turkeys I have changed how they were prepared to suit what I will have available. First I did not blanch the turkey as modernly that is often done to kill off bacteria before sale because of the time that it takes to go from farm to consumer also modern turkey is probably fatter than one in period so i skipped larding the turkey as well. Though to keep it moist through my cooking process i did rub the skin down with butter. After which it was studded with cloves and sprinkled with salt and pepper (a given for most recipes). We used 3 cloves per leg and about 5-7 in the breast. After which i used my oven set to between 190 - 200 c. Using the approximation of 15 min per pound and it being an 11 pound turkey and not wanting to undercook it I cooked it for 2 hours wrappen in aluminum foil (causing it to "self baste") for the last hour i removed the foil in order for th eskin to crisp up as it would have on a spit.

Despite being uncovered for an entire hour it was suprisingly NOT dry. Taste, awesome! I never would have thought clove for turkey but just that little bit is marvelous and we complimented the meal with the chickpea recipe (made with yellow peas by accident, see previous post) and the Kohrabi with garlic sauce, when he says this goes with fowl he isn't kidding, the garlic sauce was the perfect thing for the turkey! If all this isn't enough, my husband's 80 year old, traditional German grandmother liked the food!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

chickpeas again part 2

So dear readers it is time to yet again explore chick peas. Eureka! there has been success! The taste was PERFECT!!!!!! unfortunately there was an error at the store that not I didn't catch, my partner in crime at the time did not catch it either. We bought.... yellow peas! lol. So, now that I have split the difference with the spices and used cracked pepper instead of the fine powder stuff you get now, the taste is exactly what we were looking for! Now to try it with chickpeas! lol.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Page 364 rec #242 Another way to cook a bulb of kohlrabi. (the promised reipe)

For those just joining me I am using a translated copy of "The Opera of Batolomeo Scappi(1570)" and in my previous post about Garlic sauce I promised a recipe that uses it, so here it is.

Get the bulb, peel it, cut it into slices and put it into a boiling broth composed of water, salt, oil, pepper and saffron. Cook it vigorously rather than slowly. When it is done throw in  a handful of fine herbs and a garlic sauce made with walnutsand breadcrumb, and the kohlrabi bulb all together and moistened with that same broth. When ithas all come to a boil serve it with pepper over top. You can prepare artichoke hearts, cardoon stems, cole and yellow rape teh same way.

What I did was to peel the kohlrabi and slice it, as an experiment i set it aside for most of the day in cool water, then I boiled it in the said broth and when it was done i drained it reserving some of the liquid. I tossed the kohlrabi with the garlic sauce and moistened it some with the broth that I had reserved. The results were marvelous! Those that were test eating all enjoyed it. The only thing my husband had to "complain" about was that the kohlrabi was still firm and not boiled to near mush as it had been served to him in the past, but he still liked it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

chickpeas again

ok, try number 2.

Good: More flavor and thicker.

Bad: Flavor too strong. Petronilla, too much pepper.
         I used canned chickpeas. NEVER AGAIN. I didn't care for the texture. I lost hope when I opened the cans and saw the skins were split. This has kept the chickpeas themselves from absorbing flavor.

Next time: Dry chickpeas, try a mild base using baking soda to soak them in. Less spices. Try cracked pepper.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Page266-267 Rec# 257 To prepare a garlic sauce with fresh walnuts and almonds

Get six ounces of fresh walnuts, four ounces of fresh Milanese almonds and six parboiled garlic cloves or one and a half raw ones. Grind that in a mortar with four ounces of crustless bread soaked in a meat or fish broth that is not too salty. when it is done, put a quarter-ounce of ground ginger into it. The sauce being well ground, there is no need to strain it but only to moisten it with one of those broths. If the nuts are dry set them to soak in cold water until they have softened and can be shelled. Into that sauce you can grind a little turnip or kohlrabi that has been well cooked- in a meat broth if it is a meat day.

What I did for my first experiment was to first substitute pine nuts for the almonds. Second I opted for fresh garlic as well as fresh ginger. Third I soaked the bread in beef bouillon.

Results: In my opinion not bad. It is meant to be eaten on fowl as well as with the kohlrabi. It can also be used on pasta. This in some ways is probably the forerunner for pesto.

Sauce is a success!!!!! Wonderful!!!!! Everyone here enjoyed it and it indeed will work well with fowl or pasta as well.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Footnote to previous post

"I agree - I think using basic water (i.e. water with a pH above 7) would affect the over-all result. especialyl when working with dried peas. Have you done any research on "brown" chickpeas versus yellow?"

This comment has inspired me to add a footnote found in the recipe.

From the recipe " Get brown chickpeas(250.1)."

footnote 250.1
 These ceci rossi are garbanzos that, when dried, turn brownish naturaly

I have not looked further into this footnote, as what I had on hand at the time happened to brown chickpeas as that is what the recipe had called for.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

page 367 rec # 251 To prepare a thick soup of brown chickpeas. Test 1!

Get brown chickpeas that have been cleaned of any dirt and put them to soak in a clear lye that is not too strong, or in warm water with a little wood as in a cloth; let them soak in a warm place for 6 hours. Then take them out and wash them in clear water, being careful that the lye is not too strong, as was said, because the skin of the chickpeas would burst and they would take on the taste of that lye. Take them out of that and wash them in warm water and put them into a pot with oil, salt and a little flour mixed up with a spoon, and enough water to cover them by four fingers or more. Cook them with sprigs of rosemary and sage, whole garlic cloves and pepper. Serve them in bowls. If you want them without flour or oil, put in finely chopped herbs with them just before serving. If you want to cook the chickpeas in order to have the broth, there is no need for them to soak; it is enough to clean them and wash them well and to put them into a glazed earthenware pot with plain warm water. You sit that pot for 6 hours on hot coals, keeping it covered. When you want to cook them, take off the thin scum that will have formed on top and cook them in that same water, adding in a little oil and salt. To give them a flavor add in a few twigs of rosemary as well.

I have used dry chickpeas that I soaked for 6 hours for this experiment.

3 cups of chickpeas
9 cups of water
3 Tbsp flour
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of Garlic peeled and whole
1 tsp rosemary (dry, is all i had on hand)
1/2 tsp sage (rubbed sage is all I had on hand)

At 1 hr the flavor was good but the broth was no where near "thick" (more flour?)
At 1 1/4 hrs the chickpeas were done, still not thick, added 1Tbsp of flour (less water next time.)
At 1 1/2 hrs I took it off the heat. I let it set and re heated it for my father in law to test.

Mine: flavor was tasty but subtle. Not as "thick" as I was expecting. the water to peas ratio is good. Next time I will reduce the water by 1 cup and increase the sage, garlic salt and pepper. The rosemary was fine.

FiL: Though that the flavor was too subtle but all in all ok and not "too weird".

I will also try next time using canned chickpeas.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


November is the month in which Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. Traditionally turkey is the meat of choice served with a multitude of side dishes and planty of deserts. If there was a day in the modern calendar that mirrored a feast day of the middle ages, Thanksgiving is it!

So, turkey, I had been told when I started in the SCA that "Turkey isn't period." Then I was told "It's not the same turkey, it's a different breed." and now I am telling you... tell them to "Stuff it!". It may not be a discovery to you all but it was to me when I received my book last year and flitted through its pages to discover that indeed turkey is period and not some strange breed that no one has seen since but North American wild turkeys.

The recipe is found on page 208 and it is recipe number 141 titled " To roast turkey cock and turkey hen, which in some places in Italy are called 'Indian Peacocks'" I will not detail right now the recipe as I have yet to get in and try it but will share with you the description of the bird that Scappi talks about.

"A turkey cock and hen are much bigger in the body than an ordinary peacock, and the cock can spread its tail like the peacock. It has a black and white plumage, wrinkled skin on its neck, and on top of its head a fleshy crest which, when the cock gets angry, swells up and covers its whole snout; on some of them that crest is russet color mixed with bluish purple. Its breast is broad; on the tip of that there is a herringbone of bristle, like a pig's, among the feathers. Its flesh is much whiter and softer than that of the common peacock and it is hung for a shorter time than any similar fowl."

I know very little about the hanging times of meats and what is best but i know what I have seen with my own eyes in the fields of New Hampshire that I called home for 28 years of my life and that is wild turkeys that fit this description to a "T". Reading this description I was very excited to all the new posibilities of this meat and hope to begin to explore some of them soon.

Drawing of a turkey found in Marx Rumpolt's cookbook "Ein Neu Kochbuch" printed in 1581 gives further proof

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Free range vs factory farm a 16th century discussion

Scappi, I have found has a wealth of knowledge on subjects I never imagined I would find in a cook book, let alone a cook book from the 16th century. I am investigating right now and re reading recipes in order to create the feat for Accedemia Della Danza this coming March and was in Book VI, dishes for the sick when I noticed that he makes reference to the fact that the poultry should not be cooped or force fed.

The recipe on page 551 number 32, To prepare a paste of chickens cooked in pastry. He states "Get the breast of a meaty chicken, not one that has been force-fed, but killed that day." There is a foot note and the foot note states " Ken Alba points out that physicians held the flesh of captive animals and of cooped, force-fed fowl to be less nourishing and less readily digested than that of their free-ranging counterparts." The foot not further states that his reference is to Thomas Moffett's "Health Improvement" written in 1595 and uses the quote: "Whether (the) penning up of birds, and want of excersise, and depriving them of light, and cramming them so often with strange meat, makes not their flesh as unwholsom to us as wel as fatr. "

The modern practice of factory farming is in fact not modern. I can not imagine what would possess someone to want to coop up their fowl and keep them in bad condition. Besides being animal cruelty, fowl kept this way we know are more susceptable to diseases, loss of eggs and other problems.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

page 360 recipe # 229 To braise eggplant - that is, pomi sdegnisi

Get eggplants that are not too ripe or too bitter, and clean off the purplish skin they have- although you do find white ones- and cut them lenghthwise into several pieces. Let them steep for half an hour; discard that water and set them to boil in a pot in fresh water that is lightly salted. When they are well cooked, take them out and let them drain on a table. Have an earthenware baking dish or a tourte pan ready with oil; carefully flour the pieces and make a layer of them in the pan. Get beaten mint, sweet marjoram, burnet and parsley, and beaten fresh fennel tips or ground dry fennell along with crushed garlic cloves, and scatter all that over the layer of eggplant, as well as enough pepper, cinnamon, cloves and salt; splach verjuice on that and sprinkle it with sugar. Repeat, making up two or three layers. Cook it the way a tourte is done. When it is done, serve it hot in dishes with the Broth over it. If it is not a fasting day you can put slices of provatura or ordinary cheese and grated bread between each layer; and instead of oil, use butter.

It is very important that you both soak the eggplant and that you salt the water for boiling. I have forgotten or skipped these steps and came up with an inferior product in the end.
When slicing the eggplant you are looking for eggplants with a thickness of about .5 cm or 1/4 of an inch thick.
When you boil them you want them to maintain some firmness so that they are easily handled in order to flour them.
I add salt and pepper to the flour.
I have crushed the garlic in a press as well as sliced it. It seems the crushed garlic gives a better dispersal of the flavor. Alot is not needed! 2-3 cloves per batch is sufficient. This of course depends on how much of a garlic flavor is desired.
Mint: by accident I had omitted the mint in my first test batch but when the mint was added it was a magnitude better. The heat of the garlic with the cool of mint makes a unique combination that even seems to please the "modern palate"
Lacking verjuice I had substituded instead rosewater, this seems to be acceptable to the palate and doesn't change or hinder the flavor at all. I have also left out the verjuice and the rosewater substitution and had very good luck.
The broth refered to in the recipe I have taken to mean the broth from which the eggplant is drained. I have reserved some and found that a tiny amount is all that is needed, maybe an 1/8th of a cup. You don't want the dish to be "swimming".
I baked the dish at about 350 - 375 f (170-180c) for roughly 1/2 hr to 45 min. This depends on if there is cheese in it or not. You want sufficient time for it to melt and meld with the flavors but not too much time as to make the eggplant "soggy" or "mushy".

The first time I made this dish it was a smashing success and has continued to be so every time it has been served. Highly recomended even for people who do not normally like eggplants.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Book 5 recipe 108 to prepare a pumpkin tourte without a shell.

     When the oumpkin is scraped, cooki it in a good meat broth or else in salted water and butter. Then put it into a strainer and squeeze the broth out of it. Grind it in a  mortar along with, for every two pounds of it, a pound of fresh ricotta and a pound of creamy cheese that is not too salted. When everything is ground up put it through a colander, adding in ten well beaten eggs, a pound of ground sugar, an ounce of ground cinnamon, a pound of milk, four ounces of fresh butter and half an ounce of ginger. Have a tourte pan ready with six ounces of very hot butter in it and put the filling into it. Bake it in an oven or braise it, giving it a glazing with sugar and cinnamon. Serve it hot.
     You can do midrib of lettuce in April the same way, after it has steeped thoroughly and been parboiled.

I have made this recipe exactly as is stated in its "minimum" ammounts. DELICIOUS, it was fabulous. I must say though that it was equally good cold (from the fridge) we didn't have a chance to eat it room temperature. I have a huge ceramic torte (10.5 inches) pan and it filled that one and then a smaller one i have(9.5 inches) so either their pans were larger still or deeper than mine are. My pans are roughly an inch deep.

This very much has the consistancy of a good custard.

I used a "standard" pumpkin for this and am going to try a few more variations this fall.

As a side note. i cooked it like a custard too so for about an hout at 170c or about 350f .

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Book 2 recipe # 156 To prepare a rice dish in the Lombard style. pg 219-220

     Get rice which is cleaned in as above and cook it in a broth that has cooked capons, geese and saveloy. When it is done such that it is firm, take a portion of it and put it on an earthenware, silver or pewter platter. Sprinkle it with cheese, sugar and cinnamon, and on the rice put a few dollops of fresh butter and capon breast and goose breast along with finely chopped saveloy. Then sprinkle on cheese, sugar, and cinnamon. repeat, building up three layers of it. On the topmost pour melted fresh butter, and sprinkle on the same mixture. Put it into an oven that is not too hot, leaving it there for half an hour until it browns a little. splash rosewater over it and serve it hot.
     You can do that rice another way. When it is cooked, grease the platter with butter and on that put slices of fresh unsalted provatura sprinkled with sugar, cinnamon and grated cheese, and on that put rice. On the rice put raw freash egg yolks, the number of them depending on the ammount of rice there is, having first made hollows in the rice in which you set the yolks. Over those yolks again put the same ammount of sliced provatura sprinkled as before with sugar, cheese and cinnamon. Then cover that with as much again of rice. In that way you can make up two or three layers. On the last put a little bit of butter. Set it on hot coals or in the oven as before. Serve it hot.

This is the translation from the book I am using. Not speaking Italian I have not translated the recipe myself. Though if I can find an Italian speaker I may try to do so.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Foods can kill

Greetings all,
I wish to get a little off track at this time and talk about a very mundane but very important issue to a kitchen, allergies. I myself have one very serious one and one very annoying one. I have a severe reaction to almonds and this is the one in particular that I would like to address. More than nausea , more than dizziness and shortness of breath, this one can kill me.
Recently I was accidentally exposed to my allergen. This was scary for me as you can imagine but also very scary for the head cook, autocrat and server who put the dish in front of me,  and all of this could have been avoided with some simple communication.  I have been a head cook, so I know the stress of the kitchen, this cannot be an excuse for potentially fatal mistakes and all allergies should be treated as potentially fatal. I can only share my way of doing things to avoid this happening.
1. I try to avoid if possible the allergen. If it is not possible I try to makes its use limited and keep it separated from all the other foods.
2. I try to identify and talk to the persons with the allergies as soon as possible. When I find them I talk over with them about what to expect, i.e. what dishes to avoid of if there is no possibility of  a substitute or let them know if they should be expecting a separate dish for themselves.
3. Something that I have not done consistently but have done is to make available to the populace a list of ingredients in each dish. IMPORTANT note: if you do this and then make a substitution or add an ingredient please have it announced!
4. Speak with the servers and try to identify to them or at least your head server the people with allergies and make them aware of what is in the dishes or if there will be extra dishes for those people.

As a person with allergies I usually try to find the cook and ask what is "safe" for me and what to expect. I also usually try to double check with the server when the food is served to me if it is the appropriate dish. If for some reason I have not done this,  I have  assumed that if the cook has not approached me or if the server does not identify to me that the dish contains my allergen I will assume it is safe to eat.
As you can see there is much room for error on all parts. The trick is not to let all the errors occur.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A medival kitchen in modern times (ponderings)

I was just thinking about redactions and experimentations. I love cooking both modernly and medivally but how do you combine the two? When doing a redaction or experimentation with a medieval recipe I use my modern kitchen of course. I don't usually have the time it would take to set up what very few basics i have for a medieval kitchen (though someday i would love to have one that stayed set up!)  So how accurate is one's redaction if it is done in a modern way? no real way of telling of course. Even if one were to set up a "period" kitchen would it truely be "period" enough? We have scientific data that there has been a climactic shift since that era and if you for example, bake bread, climate can be all the difference sometimes. Too cold, too hot, too moist and too dry can all be problems. Also with that is region you ar ecooking in. Italy is significantly warmer than Germany is, if I set up an Italian medieval kitchen in Germany am i really going to be able to reproduce Italian food accurately.

Obviously alot of these questions have no answers and never will. Truly we can only "do the best we can with what we have". This also does not mean we should not try. In fact I think it means we should endeavor to try harder , especailly with ingredients. To find what we can that is absolutely as close to period as we can get. At least I want to endeavor to do this. It has not been an easy process, not by any stretch. Names of plants have changed as well as growing procedures. Trying to trace a lineage of a plant can sometimes be like following a Russian royals family tree, abrupt ends and inbreeding.

How to address the consolidation of modern and medieval is a question I have been thinking about recently. For my part I am starting with trying not to use modern equipment such as mixers, chopper and grinders. Easier said than done when time can be a constraint. I will use pre cut, chopped or ground items though. The work is done by someone else as it would have been in period. Large estates had many people in a kitchen each with their own job title and duties. You would have a dozen cooks for a single feast and everyone working full capacity at that. So to never use a pre prepared product would be senseless. The best of course is if you can pre prepare the items yourself.

I will leave myself here for more ponderings later before I meander too far away.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A bit more on Lombardy Rice

Greetings and welcome to some notes on the recipe. I would love to post the recipe but can't lay my hands on my book. For some reason it has run away from me and now I must hunt it. So I shall jsut share a few notes.

The basics of the recipe are as follows: Goose, Capon, Sausage, Rice, Provolone cheese, Cinnamon, Sugar, Butter.

You boil the goose, Pull it out and set aside,then using that stock you boil the capon, again putting it aside with the goose,then using that you boil the sausage, again setting it aside,then using that (after carefully straining out any small bones or bits) you boil the rice and then drain off excess liquid.

While your rice is boiling Strip your goose and capons, then chop up your meats into just smaller than bite sized pieces. Also shred your cheese

Mix the cinnamon and sugar together in a proportion that is to your taste.

Lay a layer of rice down and top with chopped meat, sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar mixture over it and top with shredded provolone cheese. Top with another layer of rice. Here I recomend you pour a light drizzle of melted butter in. Then top with more meat and repeat the procedure til you have a final layer of rice on top. Top with cinnamon sugar and if you have leftover cheese you can add that too. Remember to pour the butter on before the cheese though.

Bake in an oven meant for a pie for approximately 30 min.

My own redaction has come from experimentation and is not perfect.
1 goose
2 chickens
2.25lbs sausage
3 lbs provolone cheese
2.25 lbs butter
4.5 lbs rice
about 1.5 cups sugar

This is enough for roughly 40 people! The pans I used were HUGE! At least 24" by 12" by 4".

As i fiddle with the recipe i will continue to make notes.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The journey begins

The journey begins here and now. I have always enjoyed cooking, even from a young age. I remember standing at my great grandmothers gas stove on a step stool carefully stirring apple sauce or patiently waiting to flip pancakes. These were may first forays into the world of food. As i got older i learned not only how to read recipes but how to adapt them and in some cases make up my own. I had many teachers along the way who have imparted to me many tips, secrets and much knowledge. I had already been using cookbooks from the 50's to find many recipes but t wasn't until I was grown and had heard of a group called the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) that I would discover a love for "old" recipes. I started my journey like so many others by using other people's work. Recipes that someone else had redacted from original sources. Now my knowledge base has grown and I am feeling ready to begin striking out on my own. I will start with a story. The story of the recipe that burned my brain!

It was 2003 and the local SCA group I was with was preparing to put together an event. Technically I was the autocrat, the person in charge of the event, but the person in charge of food was a basic beginer so I was helping her out as well. My library of "period" cookbooks was limited (still is) so we had turned to the internet to search out recipes. While hunting one day I stumbled upon a recipe titled "Lombardy Rice Dish". This intregued me so I took a look at what was available. The recipe was another person's redaction. Their source was a cookbook printed in the mid 90's that cited the recipe came from an Italian cookbook from the mid 16th century. This was good enough for me at the time, but as I read the redaction I was disappointed to learn that the man had left out 2 ingredients and only mentioned them to let us know he had left them out. The first ingredient was sausage, left out because he couldn't find the specific type called for in the recipe. The second was eggs. He left these out citing "I don't know how to use them". At this I stopped reading the recipe in frustration. Even if the recipe was non specific in their use there are several ways to have used them. This is a moulded dish and my hypothesis is that they would have been used mixed in with the rice to help it maintain its shape. Later when i got a hold of the recipe and began my own redactions I would discover that would be wrong but at least it would have been an attempt at something. Frustrated I put the recipe aside and thought no more on it. It would be a few more years before I thought about it. It was spring 2008 and again I was preparing to cook a feast for an SCA event. As I looked over recipes I came back to the Lombardy rice. I decided to dig deeper. I was finally able to find a definative answer as to where the recipe came from. I learned it was from an Italian cookbook printed in 1570, written by Bartolomeo Scappi and was called Opera. I searched high and low on the internet and found nothing except that it was the source of the 1996 recipe. I again put the recipe on hold and went to Gianno, who is very knowledgeable, to ask more about Scappi. As it turned out at that time he knew little to nothing but looked into it a little only to find that it had never been translated. Sigh. We now jump to 2010, I was chatting again with Gianno when he happens to mention that within the last year or so the book had been translated. I was so excited that the moment I got home from the event I ordered it and had it in my hands 2 weeks later! This has begun my road. I will post later about my first forays into the book.