Yagaan’s Banquet

Yagaan`s Banquet-23 photo by Cindi Hachey

So, I just spent the last week prepping and cooking for an event that took place last Saturday. This was a Mongolian themed event that pretty much equated with hours and hours of feasting.
Nearly all the food was based on “Soup for the Qan“. (more about this book can be found on following the link off site) Over all this is a pretty good book and it is hard to go wrong on choosing any of the recipes inside, however this book does not give a lot of clues to how a meal might be separated, if at all, or served…. in the end, it came down to what we had available for servants, how people were seated and what we had for suitable items to serve in (and the fact all my platters stayed at home and a few pottery vessels broke on site).

For inspiration, though, I read about several period chinese feasts from various places… (though attempting to use what I could from Northern China) to develop a plan that would work with many of the recipes at hand. For the recipes themselves, measures varied so I rounded them out and at least tried to be consistent with them.
**Some items here are listed with “no gluten” however none of this was prepared in a gluten free kitchen, basically it is understood there were no celiac people here, however we marked dishes that would not have any added gluten.
**Mandarin peel was made by drying out the peels with the white still on, then when needed, they would be soaked in boiling hot water and lay to soften. The white can then be easily scraped off with a spoon when ready. This is then finely chopped and added where needed.

Menu (notes added)

Fruit and Nut service (we opted for no nuts due to allergies and limited service-wear)
–watermelon (because they were quite popular apparently, and it was a nice lift), mandarines, jujubes and apricots (dried) and also “Dried beef” and a Chinese description inspired dried meat (made before I found a proper period Chinese recipes for the same so much conjecture)

Soup service
–Bal-po Soup (no gluten)
Wolfberry congee (no gluten, veg. safe)
Qima Congee (no gluten)
River Pig Broth

Noodle service
–Plate rabbit (with vermicelli, we used bean noodle, which was used, to make non gluten)
–Chinese Yam Noodles
–Tutum Ash

Dumpling Service
–Flower Manta
–Quartz Horns (made with bean noodle, non-gluten)
–Porak Horn
–Mushroom Baozi

Dry Dishes
–Se-aBru Soup (no gluten)
–Broiled heart (no gluten)
–Fish cakes (no gluten)
–Chicken morsels (no gluten)
–Meat cakes (no gluten)
–Steamed and baked seed buns (we actually omitted these at feast so we could work on getting the tea service out more quickly and people were asking for dessert)

Tea Service
–Hays
–Soybean Cake
–Thin Sugar Crisps
–Puffed Buckwheat
–(omitted was a steamed rice ball filled with bean pastes… due to time + very long night of eating!)

 

Now typically I rather encourage people to go off the original recipes however I really do not have the original language version of this book to share, nor have the ability to translate it myself… so, will give some amounts as based on my noted earlier. In the translated book, however, we are reminded about the virtue of balanced flavours…
Also you may wish to know that many of the dishes were likely not meant to be served piping hot but rather room temperature or warm and things would not have necessarily have been cooked over a rolling boil or very high heat.

Bal-po Soup
Boil your lamb (about 1-1 1/2 lbs) (preferably mutton) and take it aside and cut into coin sized pieces (try not to over cook it, ours was fully boiled for storage until we got to the site, but it is preferable to just under-cook it at this stage).
Take the broth and add 5 brown cardamoms (or almost twice the amount of good, strong, green ones), 1/2 liter peeled and mashed chickpeas and 1 chopped Chinese radish (to follow the recipe better, the radish should be boiled, cut up and put aside with the meat while boiling down the broth).
When the broth has been boiled down sufficiently to make rich… add 4g saffron, 8g turmeric (I used freshly grounded), 8g pepper, 2g asafoetida and adjust flavour with a little salt and vinegar and add fresh coriander leaves before serving over a bed of non-glutinous rice. (ground rock salt was sent to tables to further adjust dishes)
–unfortunately, I believe it got served out minus the coriander leaves, which was a shame, because while it went over well, it is even better with coriander leaves.

Wolfberry Congee
This is an item I found both in the “Soup” book as well as a later period Chinese recipe book, except in the Chinese recipe book, it could just be cooked with water where the Mongolian made use of broth. This one was made using the most basic of ingredients of wolfberry, previously pulverized and non-gluten rice and water. This is meant usually to be taken alone as medicine but is also flavourful enough on it’s own.

Qima Congee
This is made with Sheep broth and millet and can have added rice, which I decided not to add. Due to lack of sufficient Sheep broth for all the dishes, Chicken broth was opted for… this partially based on yes, they made use of chickens but also because both items were used for the same medicine and were compatible. (I also happen to know that millet cooks nicely in chicken broth)

River Pig Broth
Boil 1 1/2lb-ish Mutton (or lamb), cut up with 5 brown cardamoms (or almost twice that of really good green ones) and remove the meat and chop it up finely to make a stuffing with 20g a prepared mandarin peel, 2oz finely chopped white onions, 8g spices, salt and sheeps liver sauce (I was concerned about a few people’s potential problems with liver and dropped it, but it would be far more authentic with it).
According to the recipe, 3lbs of flour will make the right amount of skins, however I made large batches of dough for skins for many dishes and did not test this out.
These are then fried in oil and added to the soup, adjusting the flavours with salt.

Plate Rabbit
2 rabbits cut up and fried in sesame oil with Chinese radish and 8g fine spices. Fry and add onion and vinegar and vermicelli. (It only called for a small amount of vermicelli but we managed to add a little bit more so that our non-gluten friends could have more starch, though it should look like a rabbit dish with some vermicelli in it rather than a vermicelli dish with rabbit in it. Ours was about an even mix)

Tutum Ash
This used lamb, however we were low on lamb and made use of the roasted rabbit we had. The roasted rabbit is used to stuff noodles (dumpling skins, I had extra yam dumpling skin I made earlier, plus some basic flour + water skins). These are supposed to be boiled in broth and cooked dry, adjusting flavours with onions and adding yogurt with finely chopped mint.
However I believe the broth used to cook them in dried out too soon, or the yogurt ate the dumplings too quickly so the texture was interesting… but the flavour was nice. On testing, the dumplings came out well when cooked dry and kept very well, however the yogurt added too far in advance can be a problem so I suggest just adding to the warm pan/wok full of freshly boiled dry dumplings **just** before serving it out.

Chinese Yam Noodle
**note: this is made with Chinese yam… a long white tubular root that is crisp when sliced, chewed raw or grated but will produce an excessive amount of starchy mucilage. It also makes a lovely addition to noodles.
for 1 1/2lbs of yam, add: 3lbs flour, 5 egg whites, 100ml fresh ginger juice and 2oz of bean starch. This should mix into a nice, even, somewhat tacky but solid dough. Just as when making any dumpling skin, wrap it up and let it sit 10-20 minutes before cutting and rolling into dumpling skins.
–These are filled with finely chopped meat (about 1 1/2lbs for this recipe), this is them cooked in meat broth… I cover it a bit to get them well cooked, then I remove the lid and cooked till any remaining liquid in the pot is gone and then remove. **note, fatty broth is best for this, and just about all Mongolian cooking.

The dumpling fillings:
**note, all of these should have sheep tail fat, this is something we were mostly lacking so the dumplings were not as authentic as they should have been… so aside from this ingredient:
Parak Horns: (baked) Mutton (lamb), sheep fat (or omit if sheep is fatty enough) young leeks, cut finely, spices, salt, sauce (these can be served with honey and liquid butter. liquid butter is not butter but the liquid by-product, I believe– going from memory here, and due to us not having a sufficient amount, we left it out)
Mushroom Baozi: (steamed) Mutton (lamb), sheep fat (or omit if sheep is fatty enough), onions, prepared mandarin peel, finely chopped fresh ginger and scalded, cleaned, mushrooms. Add spices, salt and sauce.
Flower Manta: (steamed) (steamed) Mutton (lamb), sheep fat (or omit if sheep is fatty enough), onions, prepared mandarin peel, spices, salt and sauce. **These should be cut to shape into flowers… we did not do this to our team of dumpling volunteers.
Quartz Horns: (steamed) Mutton (lamb), sheep fat (or omit if sheep is fatty enough), onions, prepared mandarin peel, fresh ginger, spices, salt and sauce. (Since these were wrapped on bean starch dumpling skins, we decided to keep them gluten free and omit the soy sauce instead of risking it having wheat.

Broiled Heart
Pretty much just this, though we ended up using cow heart rather than shee’s hear which we did not have.
we did not baste with saffron soaked in distilled rosewater as that got left home, so it was simply salted to taste, which is also suggested to do.

Deboned Chicken Morsels
We made a reduced size of this recipe: For 10 fat chickens, (cleaned, boiled and cut-up) add: 100ml fresh ginger juice, 2oz onions, 1/2lb ground ginger , 4oz flower pepper  (omitted was the 2oz wheat vermicelli… we were grinding to a halt at this point with very full people and this kept it gf free, though one could add bean starch vermicelli) This is cooked down in broth till “dry” and is flavoured with onions and vinegar and juice of sprouting vinegar. Unfortunately we were running out of onions at this point (entirely my bad for forgetting to pick some up on the trip) so it was not as oniony as it should have been.

Meat Cakes
(sadly I ran out of minced sheep so we made a few from chopped meat instead, however mincing them does make rather fantastic patties, at this point we only did a few anyway just for show, but I would like an opportunity to make a large batch the way they should be made because they can be quite fantastic)
If you wish to make a large portion, clean and mince into a paste 10lb Mutton, 12g asafoetida, 2oz pepper, 1oz long pepper, and 1oz finely ground coriander.
These are then fried in oil.

Fish Cakes
These are supposed to be made with carp, which can not be purchased or ordered out to our local supermarkets, so after much searching for good substitutes, I have decided that the best one is that of another fresh water fish, trout being the one we can more easily obtain here.
For every prepared 10 fish, add 2 minced sheepstail (minced)-(omitted), 1oz fresh ginger (cut finely), 2oz onions (cut finely), 12g peel cut finely, 1oz ground pepper and 8g asafoetida. Which is formed into small cakes and fried in oil.

Se-aBru Soup
2-3lbs mutton, head and hooves would be typically used, however I had an entire sheep spine full of cartilage that appears to have worked just fine (and I lacked the head and hooves, but would like to try it with them as they would be easier to work with and provide more gelatin). This is boiled down in sufficient water, if it boils down too much before broken down, add more water.
Clean out the debris (I like to remove the meat and then strain the rest of the contents) and then add 4 brown cardamoms (or twice as much smaller green ones), 3 oz of cinnamon (yes, it is a lot!), 1/2lb fresh ginger, 2 chickpea sized lumps of asafoetida… To this the juice of a pomegranate that has been cooked with salt and black pepper is added, however we could not get any, so juice was cooked with salt and pepper and added… this, happily evened out the heavy cinnamon.
This is meant for keeping under a fumigated layer of ghee. It ends up being quite thick.

Seed buns
These were to be baked, however we found them best steamed, We decided not to offer them however at the end of the meal….. just more starch on already full stomachs… however, they are nice and would happily serve them with a smaller, simpler meal. I am still looking to work out a flat bread that would compliment the Se-aBru Soup better…
a recipe to try (yes, it does work, the liquid butter is enough, I guess to acidify it for the soda to do it’s thing):
1.25lbs flour, 8oz milk, 4 oz liquid butter, 1oz poppy seed and add salt, a little soda and combine to make buns.
With this we formed rather small buns and tested it both in the oven and the steamer, both were good.

Hays
Beat together: 1lb pounded bread (crumbs), 3/4lb dates (the really soft juice type, if not, try adding date molasses with them, I found this works), 90g of mixed powdered almonds and pistachios and 60g of sesame oil. These are formed into small balls and made into kebabs. (clarified butter can be used in place of sesame oil) (I took this from Al-Baghdadi as many dishes in the Mongolian recipe book were influenced by the middle east… though mainly Turkey, we stuck with the sesame oil since it is an item used previously from the “soup” book.)

Round Dumplings
(omitted, but from a later period Chinese source with bean paste made from red (adzuki) or green (mung) by cooking with sugar (I did strain them as well). This is wrapped in sweet rice paste then steamed or boiled.
It is not said how it is made, and could be made from glutinous rice or it could be similar to a rice past that is made from adding equal amounts of rice flour to fresh boiled water which is then kneaded into a soft dough.

Thin Sugar Crisps
(late period Chinese) To every 16oz of flour, add 16oz of oil and 80oz of flour… to this add “2 bowls”, what I would suggest is mixing the ingredients and then adding water a bit at a time until it starts to clump together and can be rolled out with a pin. It will basically take on the form of shortbread and is cut in small circles (small teacup sized). Add a little pepper and salt and ghee and evenly spread sesame on them. (sesame was omitted, I believe, in fear of there being allergies, however there were not, though I do not feel it was a deep loss).
These are baked until crisp… about a 300F oven at about 20-25 minutes, depending on the oven.

Soybean paste cake
(late period Chinese) I messed these up at first by not having my skinned soybeans dry enough and when I went to grind them, the flour was quite damp… in fact I had paste! But I went on anyway because it still taste good and what resulted way somewhat sweet cookies/cakes as I had to dry them in the oven.
On my second attempt they ended up as almost a marzipan, which is probably more like what they should have been. These are made with soybean flour, from soaking the beans first to remove the skins and then drying them again in order to grind. The ground soybeans are then combined with sugar, sesame and ground spices… first time I did a simple ginger/cinnamon and the second time I did a mostly 5-spice type blend which was much nicer in my opinion. This is spread out and made into cakes and should have patterns printed on them. I found them rich so cut them in the “eye pattern” (lozenges) and made them small.

Puffed Buckwheat
(late period Chinese) The recipe did not offer much direction other than to cook syrup until it threads and pour in puffed buckwheat, not letting it thin, and to pour some buckwheat over the table first and the sugar and buckwheat over this, then form by rolling out and cutting into eye-like pieces (lozenges).
As straight forward as this is, it does not show you how to puff buckwheat or what to expect. This is something you want to do in a dry pan and because it doesn’t puff much, you want to listen, and shake the pan and listen more… when you stop hearing it crack, then it is done. Beware of burning, it doesn’t take much, if you start to smell a change or they start getting to dark, get them out of the pan asap.

 

Sources: (probably the least amount of sources I ever used for a feast, yes, this was way outside of my comfort zone)
Soup for the Qan
Al-Baghdadi
Essays on Drinks and Delicacies for Medicinal Eating

 

 

Old Notes in Old Books, Festive edition

A lot of old books I pick up are loaded with bits of notes from advice to piratically re-writing recipes to telling me to avoid them all together, and sometimes I really luck out and get hand written recipes shares by someone’s aunt or mother or copied from who knows where.

Figured today I would go through some of my older books and share some of my more festive ones!

First are a couple of recipes glued to a blank page that was held on to an old, and very tattered, copy of “Household Management” I picked up many years ago. It was actually in such horrible shape, the dealer priced it around $4-$5 just because of the stuff that was held to it with elastics.

Gingerbread recipe scanned

The first part of the recipe reads:

“Mrs. Henry’s Gingerbread
1 cup molasses 2 tabsp butter
1teasp cinnamon & 1 of ginger
1teasp of soda 2 cups flour
3/4 cup barley water pinch of salt”

I found the rest very difficult to read word for word, but it appears to be the basic instructions for a hot water gingerbread.
“Put boiling water [into] the molasses
ginger and cinnamon into flour
melt butter & put into last [?]
? dissolve soda into a little 
[milk?] and mix well & bake
slowly.
If you want it richer add
a [??te] more butter.

 While I don’t have a date for this recipe, it is glue to a piece of paper, along with another recipe I’ll be sharing next, that is dated “’93” and given the appearance of the paper and that I purchased the book in the early 90’s, it’s very likely to be 1893.

scotch fruit cake recipe scan

“Scotch Fruit Cake
1 1/2 lb flour
1lb fine Sugar White
12 eggs
12 oz butter
6 oz each citron, lemon
& orange peel
60z Almonds
1 Nutmeg, Wine glass
brandy. Strew Caraway Comfits on top”

This is a name of fruit cake I don’t recall seeing in modern context, however, a couple of 19th century cook books instruct the readers to layer cake batter in the pan and then strew it over with the fruit mixture (which is finely chopped or sliced and then floured) and then alternate finishing with a cake layer. In this case, I could guess a cake layer with an extra topping of the comfits.

In my 1877, “Home Cook Book”, came a somewhat more modern recipe for “Mrs Watts Xmass Cake” that the writer said to have made in 1936.

Watts Xmass Cake recipe scan

Xmass cake part 2

Not my best work at transcribing and I have to admit a bit of defeat here…

“Mrs. Watts. Xmas Cake
10 eggs
1 lb butter
1 [lb] [?] . sugar
2 cups flour (1 lb) good [?]
2 teas – baking powder
1 lb. cherries (candied)
1/2 lb almonds
leave whole these two
2 rings green pineapple (1/2 [?]-)
1 piece citron peel (about 4oz)
2 [piece] orange [peel]
1 1.2 teaspoons [?] water
3 drops oil of lemon
2 wine glasses milk, or brandy
or
1 winglass vanilla &
1 wineglass milk
_______________________
flour Fruit night before
with 2 more cups flour –
add 1 lb – dessicated cocoanut
2 lbs light raisins (whole sultana)
(put [these?] in wet towel and rub)

line pan with brown paper
well buttered
[small diagram] . Put layers one
end wise and one across –

Have oven 250° & cook 5 hours.

This is the cake I made at
[5. ???] in 1936″

I’m really not quite sure what some of the items were that I put down as [?] though I did have some guesses but I really can’t be sure. Even the location at the end… pretty sure it wasn’t the “SS Glencairn”, but what it actually is, I can not say.

Well, that is all for tonight…
enjoy!

 

General Advice on Roasting Meat

In Gervase Marham’s “The English Huswife” published in 1615, are fairly well described steps, or general advice, on Roasting Meat. Now, many of us might not have access to indoor roasting facilities, however summer is quickly gaining ground so thought this may make for some food for thought for the upcoming months!

Here is a simplified breakdown of the advice given, and though it is post period for those of you who play in the SCA, the advice is good for far earlier periods and many specifics in the book itself is still quite useful for late 16th century English cookery.

spitmeat

Spitting Meats

  • The meat should be thrust onto the spit snug/tight enough to help prevent shrinkage from becoming an issue as the meat roasts. The meat should also not be able to turn about the spit.
  • **note: spits shown in many paintings tend to be flat rather than round and also often tapered, this would certainly aid in keeping the meat put. 
  • The spit should not go through any “principal part of the meat”, basically we want to preserve much of the meat that will be eaten.
  • When spitting fowl, as above, it’s advised to put the spit through the hollowed part of the bird and to fasten it on with skewers under the wings, about the thighs and at the feat or rump (according to your manner of trussing and dressing the bird).
  • **note: I have also come across various roasts where the bird is stuffed and sewn up at each end before spitting, sometimes parboiling it after stuffing but before roasting. A fully stuffed bird, depending on it’s stuffing, is going to stay in place somewhat better on the spit but may still need trussing. 

OnaSpit

Roasting Temperatures

  • A slow and long heat, where the spits are placed low and along side of the fire where they can soak in the heat over a longer period of time without much fear of scorching: All Large flowl and large joints of meat.
  • Placed near a “quick and sharp fire”, that being a faster fire: Compound roasted meats (dishes with meat and other components which typically are not too large), smaller roast meats and fowl and simple roast puddings. These would be made while the first course of meat has been already served out.

spitsausage

Complexions of Meat OR What your meat will look like when it’s done!

  • Pale and White Roasted: Middle and small sized poultry, mutton, veal and lamb
  • Brown Roasted: Large fowl, beef, venison, pork or other things with “black meat” (likely what we would call dark and/or red meat today)

spitguy

Best Bastings for Meat

  • Sweet Butter (not melted)
  • Sweet Oil
  • Barreled Butter (preserved)
  • Fine rendered animal fat with cinnamon, cloves and mace
  • some use only water and salt

Best Dredging  (Think shake and bake, only better because it’s on a spit and cooked with butter)

  • Fine white bread crumb (well grated)
  • a little very fine white meal and crumbs well mixed together

How do I know when my meat is cooked?
The meat should be roasted enough and not too rare which is unwholesome or too moist or too dry which is not nourishing.

For Large Joints:

  • The meat starts to steam
  • The meat begins to shrink from the spit
  • or Juices from the meat comes out clear with no blood

For Fowl:

  • The thighs are tender
  • The hinder parts of the pinions ,at the setting of the wings, are without blood
  • or You can stick your knife into the thickest part of the meat and if the gravy comes out clear with no blood, it is done.

Before Drawing the meat from the Spit:

  • Have it well basted with butter (or other aforementioned bastings), then dredge it (again with aforesaid dredging, and take 2 or 3 turns doing this to crisp the dredging. When this is done, remove it from the spit into a fair dish with salt sprinkled over it and serve it forth.

Enjoy, and I do hope this aids you with your future period inspired roasts.

Uploading Recipes Time

I’ve been playing around with new recipes a bit this year but haven’t been doing a whole lot of uploading as of late, so I’m doing a bit of back tracking to get myself caught up! While I tested these recipes a while back (and would like to re-do a few), these are the ones I added today (all located under tested recipes, under “Medieval to 1500):

• Rapes in Pottage – (Also Parsnips in Pottage) Two 15th century cookbooks, 15th century
• Venison in Broth – Two 15th century cookbooks, 15th century
• To Make Cream Boil – A Noble boke off cookry…, 15th century
• Cawdelle Ferry – Two 15th century cookbooks, 15th century
• Cyuele – 15th century cookbook, LAUD MS. 553
• Sauce for Roasted Mallard – MS Pepys 1047, 15th century

A More Period Kitchen?

As it is, a typical hall kitchen just isn’t going to anywhere near the period counterpart but for so many cooks who play in the SCA, this is what we have to work with. The other option tending towards the camp kitchen where we really can go full tilt period with the right resources, time and desire!

Now, to add a bit of my own background, on getting involved in the SCA, the simple idea of cooking outside or using wood fuel did not excite me, at least not on it’s own as it was a part of my everyday life in the first place. I could have taken advantage of my experience with this but did not because the novelty wasn’t there, I suppose. Because we had a wood fired kitchen range, I often chose to cook outside in the summer to keep the house from heating up too much, of course, if there was a chilly night, I would whip up a weeks worth of food and we did have a fancy electric burner thingy for quickly frying stuff without having to make a fire…. but back to period cook places…

A little imagery to inspire you

0690146faa647cf786af91c72684e2fa 51739179884aab59ec2bc7955b3323b5

 

 

These are but two of many examples of cook spaces, and even though one is inside, the setup is generally the same. You would need storage, a place to prepare your food (table) and a place to cook it.

scappikitchen

This field kitchen scene from Scappi, shows some storage and food cooking and preparation stuff. We have a pot on a trivet over the fire and two pots hanging over the fire at the back. Low to the ground and in front of the fire, we have items roasting on spits. The scale is not overly easy to guess, but such are things in older woodcuts, but the set up is the same we see in other art depicting cooking areas.

From what I have come to know from personal experience, in order to get a very good boil in even a modest sized pot before what feels like the days end, you need to place it above and very near a good hot fire. And by a good fire, I am talking about stuff like maple that will not only burn hot but burn good and long and not something fast growing like spruce which is pretty short lived and only really good for kindling. I particularly like fruit woods for a good heat… note, seasoned wood in particular, if available.

When roasting meat, you want to get a fair bit of heat on it, you want to get it evenly heated and cooked but not charred by the flame or smoked out and sooted. This means your going to have it spitted next to, but close to, the fire and rotating. If you have ever roasted a wiener on a stick before, you are probably well aware of the heat being the hottest near the burning log but obviously you want to keep it away from the fire itself, or else it would get burned, you also want to keep it out of the smoke because of all the debris that can collect on it…. mmmm charcoal floaties. Cooking a larger chunk of meat, or other things, on a spit is the same thing, except it’s heavier so you not going to be balancing it on one end, but rather skewering it on a large spit supported at either end and rotating it. You can also place a bowl or deep plate under it to catch the drippings to either baste it with or to use other dishes such as sauces and condiments.

outdoor range?
outdoor range?

Frypans and small pots can also be used over the hot embers around the firepit, generally, a trivets are a good tool to own for this. And for the late 16th century and on, hot embers can even be kept in an ember pot and used in your foot warmer 🙂 (or for lighting pipes, but I do not partake in that stuff).

Taking a little step into the 15th century…

Well, a little step anyway… it will be for an event and I get to choose whichever era, country and so on that I want. Given the event name has “Tudor” in it and I just recently created a 16th century English style dinner for an event last month, this time I stepped a but further back… and… well, the Tudor era started in the 15th century.

Of course, I am going to have my challenges, modern kitchen equipment for one. While most dishes cooked in a pot or baked in an oven can be mimicked easily enough on a modern stove (and yes, I cooked over fire and coals before as well as in a wood fired oven), it’s a major challenge to even try to come close to anything roasted when you only have a range. A BBQ comes close, we use wood charcoal and even wood but you are getting far more superior heat and control at an indoor fireplace. Of course, it would be even better to have a fireplace with a damper but I have discovered flow can be altered without one… loose a window, open or close a door… But, again we are in a modern kitchen this weekend and we are dealing with roasting birds up on racks with frequent basting or battering and doing meatballs on spits over pans with more constant battering… not nearly as ideal as doing it before a fire. I have experimented with this before though and have managed to make roasts of peas in the past, even pears battered with the peas as a batter and a full chicken covered in layers and layers of batter forming a pastry. In short, it’s not ideal but it can be done!

On thing I kind of wished I had a modern aid for is for seed grinding. I used to have one but it worked horribly so back I went to my little mortar and pestle (I use my big one for grinding meat and big stuff) and made up a batch of Powder Fort. This I kind of wing, doing up reasonably sized batches of cubeb, grains, long pepper, pepper and adding some already powdered galangal and a little powdered cinnamon and some cloves ground into the mixture. This will be for the meat balls, got to make it somewhat strong to get through the boiling part. I remember once, way back when, I developed the rather uneducated idea that the spices should just season, and yes, they are supposed to fill that purpose but they have important roles in not just balance but display. Do I think my guests should gag on them, no, though I can’t have a 15th century feast (note: not street fare here) without giving them some notice. We also have to consider tastes and trends, while out taste buds likely have not evolved to taste differently, trends still exist be how slow or quickly they might move. Look at one of the latest modern trends, sweet and salty. It’s been around for a little while but when I was a kid I would have questioned the idea of visible salty notes in my cocoa or ice-cream but rather it’s what we would do to play a practical joke. Then I look in books like Apicius, and see a lean towards pepper and even a few dishes of sweet and peppery, it’s a good flavour btw, and we see leanings towards certain flavourings…. and I ramble *grin* But this is my thinking when it comes to spices and flavourings. A mixture should develop into a flavour of it’s own, if a recipe asked for powder fort and cinnamon, I’m thinking there is a lean towards more cinnamon but I still do not completely mask everything with it but I am using more spicery than I once did.

making powder fort
making powder fort

Hopefully, come the weekend, I will actually remember to bring my camera and have a few opportunities to snap a few pictures of the food. It maybe considered more of an SCA-style feast, the tables won’t be loaded as for a period feast but I’m attempting to bring things up a notch a little through decent ordering of dishes and well… choosing recipes from period resources but that’s a given.

Here is a sneak peek… again, it is an SCA-style feast with an extra/optional dish (by request) that isn’t regional to the feast but at least it’s from the same time period.

 

Sometimes I make compromises but there is a trick

Been thinking about a new feast I designed and what sort of compromises I made and looking at it, I feel they are good compromises. A few, but not all, items had a Gluten Free option but what I did not do is re-make the item using non-period items and that is, I did not compromise them as 15th century English items, there is either a known recipe that worked or a known item that worked for that recipe. Where I could not do this, I did not compromise. However, I did make another option, also 15th century but not English (at least not to my knowledge at this early of a date) and this was due to some requests so I’m offering it as that strange Italian dish 😉 It was not my original intention, but there we have it.

Another compromise is the small number of options and possibly the ordering of the meat-balls but I think they have a place… and of course, for all the people coming, I’m certainly not turning it into the grand occasion that would just cost too much… but at $7 a plate, nobody should go home hungry, better than what I can see for fast food, at least here in Canada.

I will admit, however, that I can no longer keep up with the growing movement towards offering an alternative for every, or most, non-vegetarian or non-gluten free dish but rather will aim to avoid cross contamination (still a struggle in mixed kitchens) and offer some alternative dishes or simply enough variety to fill that need. I also hope that people can get more used to providing, and yes reading, ingredient lists rather than having to label everything as either “GF”, “Vegetarian”, “Lactose-free”, “fish-free”, “contains nuts” and “contains sugar” and so on… it just gets messy and eventually requires a map key.