This is a recipe that is inspired by the medieval love of combining fish and candied sweetmeats. Griggers says it is a ‘brave, but entirely successful blend’. We’ll see. Large medieval banquets had to contain dishes with lots of spice; after all how else could you display your vast wealth other than to use that new and exciting new spice, sugar? When first brought to Europe from India, sugar was considered a spice like any other and therefore medicinal. It lost its rank as a spice once it gained popularity as a more general addition to the dinner table; albeit a giant banqueting table.
Whilst the salmon cooks, you can get on with the sauce. Gently fry 2 chopped shallots, a heaped teaspoon of chopped parsley and a teaspoon of mixed chopped tarragon and chervil in 2 ounces of butter. When the shallots have softened, stir in a teaspoon of flour, then ½ pint of single cream (or half single-half double; American readers: heavy whipping cream is the thing to use here). Simmer for around 10 minutes, then season with salt and pepper and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Whisk 2 egg yolks with a couple more tablespoons of cream, turn down the heat in the pan and pour in. The sauce will thicken as the yolks start to cook – do not let the sauce boil, or your yolks will scramble. Finally, lift the whole thing by adding a good squeeze of lemon juice.
A salmi, also known as salmis, salomine and salomene is essentially a posh game stew and is an abbreviation of salmagundi which started life in France as a meat ragoût. A salmi, rather than being any meat, should be made using game birds that are partly-cooked, and then finished off in a rich sauce made from their bones, though domesticated birds like capon and Guinea fowl are commonly used. Jane Grigson complains that more often than not, salmi is made from leftover game meat and then offered at high prices in high-end restaurants. ‘Don’t be deceived’, she says, ‘[i]t is exactly what would have been eaten by Chaucer, or his son, at the court of Henry IV, or by that granddaughter of his, Alice, Duchess of Suffolk, at her manor at Ewelme.’ Grigson mentions the food eaten at the court of Henry IV a few times in English Food: giving recipes for quince comfits and ‘a coronation doucet’.
Cubebs are a type of pepper (latin name: Piper cubeba) that you can still buy from specialists, gilliflowers are a very fragrant species of carnation and ‘powder’ refers to a mixture of ground spices.
Roast your game birds rare, cut the meat from the carcass into neat ‘gobbets’.
Use the carcasses to make ¾ pint of game stock. Melt 2 ounces of butter in a pan and cook 3 chopped shallots until soft and golden. Now stir in a heaped tablespoon of flour and whisk in the hot stock a third at a time to prevent lumps forming.
Add a bouquet garni and a pared strip of orange peel (Seville oranges would be great if you can get them) and simmer for 20 minutes, to make a thick sauce. Pass the sauce through a sieve and add ¼ pint of red or white wine and 4 ounces of mushrooms that have been fried in butter. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Simmer for a further 5 minutes, then add the game and simmer very gently again for 10 more minutes. Add a little cayenne pepper. Serve with orange wedges and croûtons fried in butter.
As is the hyve ful of hony sweete:
Wel was the wenche with hym myghte meete.
The Cook’s Tale, The Canterbury Tales
I haven’t done a historical recipe for a while, so I thought that my first recipe in this new country should be an old English one. It comes from the French pain perdu, which means lost bread, in other words smothered bread. It’s a French recipe but it obviously goes very far back in English history as this recipe proves. It’s from 1420 and is transcribed straight from the source, although Griggers doesn’t say what the source is! To put this into historical context, Henry V is the King of England and so he will have indulged himself on these in banquets; indeed, the inclusion of sugar in the recipe made it very regal. In the fifteenth century, honey would have been used as a sweetener. Eventually this dessert morphed into Poor Knight’s of Windsor – of which there are two recipes in English Food and I will try and do them soon so we can compare and contrast. Anyways, here is the recipe:
‘Take fair yolks of eggs, and separate them from the white, and drawn them through a strainer, and take salt [a pinch] and cast thereto; then take fair bread, and cut in round slices; then take fair butter that is clarified, or else fresh grease, and put in a pot, and make hot; then take and wet well the slices in the yolks, and put them in a pan, and so fry them up; but be ware of them cleaving to the pan; and when it is fried, lay them on a dish, and lay plenty of sugar thereon, and then serve forth.’
I used clarified butter – not sure what is meant by grease, I suppose the author meant lard or dripping. It is important to clarify the butter, otherwise it and the bread will burn. The word fair in the recipe means fresh; so the quality of ingredients was important in medieval times just as nowadays. Griggers suggests using brioche should you have it. I didn’t.
FYI: Payn per-dew is also called French toast sometimes, but in the north of England I know it as ‘eggy bread’ and it is not just the yolks but the whole egg plus some milk is used. Slices are fried in a little oil and eaten with a scraping of tomato sauce or brown sauce and is certainly not a pudding!
#253 Payn Pur-Dew (1420). A simple and historical recipe that is a wee bit bland by our modern tastes. I think that in the 1420s it would have been an exciting dish, but I prefer it made with the whole egg and some milk to make it less rich and serve as a savoury rather than a sweet. It might have been better with syrup or honey on it instead; something with a bit of heady flavour. So, all-in-all it was okay, but not amazing. 4/10.
I wanted to hit the ground running with the Griggers project this September after being away in Turin (work, not play) for the latter part of August, but alas, I have been hindered. There are two main problems here: I am skint and I have become a right old fat knacker all of a sudden. These factors combined can be a hindrance with the recipes in English Food. However, Charmolian and I are being rather more mindful of budgets by planning stuff out properly and sharing cooking duties. To begin with, I tried this soup – cheap and easy, but an unusual one. It is apparently, a very old recipe going right back to the fifteenth century. It is very cheap to make and therefore I assume it was a peasant dish: (windfall) apples and beef broth, basically.
So thrifty folks, here’s how to make your own taste of Medieval England:
Start off by simmering some pearl barley and/or rice in some beef stock until cooked. Next bring 2 ½ pints of beef stock in a saucepan. Meanwhile, roughly chop roughly around 12 ounces of either cooking apples or Cox’s apples ; no need to peel or core. Add the apples to the beef stock and simmer until soft. Strain and push the apples through the sieve, and then add half a teaspoon of ground ginger and a quarter teaspoon of ground black pepper before stirring in the rice or barley. Serve very hot.
#182 Apple Soup. A strange one, this one. It’s not the most exciting – it is what it is, apples and beef, and I’m hardly about to do cartwheels over it, but I did grow to enjoy it after a few spoonfuls. The texture was quite appealing, the high pectin content of the apples makes it slightly viscous and gloopy, and combined with the thickening barley and rice made it seem more substantial than it was, which is good as it’s almost totally calorie-free. Would I make it again? Only when I’m very poor. It’s interesting to eat some food that has some history though. 5/10.
It was British Pie Week the other week – and I admit I was a bit tardy making a pie in time but better late than never, innit. The trouble was choosing a pie to make, after a quick flick through I went for this Dartmouth Pie (FYI: Dartmouth is in Devon, SW England). There’s two reasons for this; the meat in it is mutton and after the mutton broth and Lancashire hotpot I made I’ve really got into cooking with it. Secondly, the pie itself is interesting. It’s one of the very few survivors of medieval cuisine; they loved their meat mixed with fruit, sugar and spices. Traditionally, minced mutton is used, but you can use venison or chuck steak. The recipe in English Food is an updated version of this dish containing cubed mutton rather than minced – apart from that is not too far from the proper original one as far as I can see.
This pie serves four, but is quite rich so you could get away with five or six:
Trim some cubed shoulder of mutton well so that you end up with a pound of it in weight. Next, make a spice mix using a teaspoon each of black peppercorns and coriander seed, ½ a teaspoon each of ground mace and ground allspice and an inch length of cinnamon stick. Grind all the spices down – I use a coffee grinder for such things, if you don’t have one use a pestle and mortar. Salt the meat and brown it using 2 ounces of beef dripping in a pan that is ovenproof. Add the spices and fry them gently for a couple of minutes. Add 8 ounces of sliced onions and 1 ½ teaspoons of flour and give it good mix around. Add ½ pint of beef stock (Griggers says you can also use veal or venison stock; oh la-dee-dah!). Now the sweet element – stir in 2 ounces each of dried prunes, apricots and raisins; and to counteract the sweetness the juice and rind of a Seville orange (or, alternatively, a sweet orange plus lemon juice). She doesn’t say whether you chop up the rind or just add it to take out later. I chopped it up like you would for marmalade, but it did make the resulting sauce slightly too bitter; this was resolved by the addition of some sugar to taste later. Bring the mixture a simmer, cover and bake in a low oven – 140°C – for 2 hours (or more if you like). Taste and check for seasoning, transfer to a small pie dish and allow to cool; skimming any fat away that may appear.
Make a shortcrust pastry using 8 ounces of flour, 4 ounces of fat (I used half-lard, half-butter), salt and milk to bind. Cover the dish as normal and decorate the pie with the trimmings. Butters and I had fun making apricots, leaves and a wee sheep to go on it. Brush with beaten egg as a glaze and bake for 25-40 minutes at 220°C until the pastry is cooked and golden brown.
#129 Dartmouth Pie – 7.5/10. A very good pie indeed. Very sweet and rich but went brilliantly with some relatively bland mash and minty peas. The medieval flavours were not alien – I can see why this one survived (and others where fish is used instead of mutton didn’t). As I’ve mentioned before, the secret is the slow-cooking; the resulting meat was so tender, you hardly had to chew and the fruit had become a dark bitter-sweet mush. Lovely. If I owned a restaurant, I’d have it on the menu!
As we are being constantly reminded of Global Recessions and Credit Crunches in the news, I thought it’s best to get as thrifty as possible and make some meals out of leftovers. I’ve managed to get two extra things out of the feast I made – one of which is a recipe from English Food, the other one of my own devising.
I made the Kickshaws from the leftover puff pastry trimmings. They are very easy to make – good one to make with kids if you’ve got any and don’t mind getting their filthy little paws in you food.
Roll out your puff pastry trimmings thinly and cut out circles of around 3 inches in diameter. Next, place a scant teaspoon of jelly or jam in the centre and use milk or beaten egg to make little parcels or turnovers; I used bramble jelly, quince jelly and apricot jam. Deep fry at around 160°C for a few minutes until the pastry has puffed up and golden brown. Sprinkle some sugar over them and eat warm. I poured some double cream over them that was also left over from big feast.
#126 Kickshaws – 8/10. Kickshaws go right back to Medieval times, though survived until the Eighteenth Century, though we don’t really make them now. We should definitely bring them back though as they are delicious. They are definitely being made every time there are trimmings to be used up!
I went into Unicorn in Chorlton, Manchester to stock up on my favourite seasonal fruit and vegetables – this time of year they are quince, Jerusalem artichokes and Seville oranges. Once I’d bought them, it was a quick trawl through the book to see what I could do with them. The one recipe that didn’t require me to buy anything extra, other than was in my store cupboard, was quince comfits; all they need is water and sugar.
FYI: A comfit is a sugary sweet, rather like a pastille, that go way back In fact, quince comfits were made as part as Henry IV’s coronation banquet in 1399. This is a fact that I’m still in awe of. Get some made if you find some quinces and have a rare medieval treat!
Scrub the fluffy stuff that coats the quince’s skins, wash them thoroughly, and chop roughly. Put them in a pan with around an inch of water and simmer them, covered, until they are very soft. This takes a while as they are so hard, so keep a check on them and add extra water if need be to prevent them boiling dry. Once they are very soft, pass them through a sieve and weigh the pulp. Return it to the pan and add an equal weight of sugar. Bring it to the boil and allow to simmer, pop and bubble for up to half an hour. Make sure you stir it often to prevent it catching. It is ready when the mixture comes away from the sides as you stir. Pour the mixture into Swiss roll tins or sandwich tins that have been lined with greaseproof paper. Now you have to be patient – the mixture has to be dried slowly in a very low oven (less than 50ºC) or in the airing cupboard for a few days. Cut it into squares and shake the sweets in a tub of caster sugar to coat them. Hey Presto: Medieval sweets!
Griggers reckons they’re really good melted on grilled pork chops.
#109 Quince Comfits – 7/10. I love quince. I think they’re my second favourite fruit after the raspberry. Their wonderfully perfumed toffee flavour really does come across in these little sweets. I don’t really go for sweets like this usually, but these are good and have the added interest of being eaten by a medieval king!