Bacon & Cheese snack

August 25, 2011

Lacking time to replenish the stores I looked into dishes that could be made with what I had in the larder. This forced me to yet again look into some of the simpler dishes. In the 15th century cookbook “Ein buch von guter spiese” a dish called a good pastry seem to indicate a dish that very well could have been served even at a common tavern. However, the line that stats that it should be served immediately suggests that it was rather something that was done at feasts with kitchen personell.


Ein buch von guter spiese, 1354”


Ein gut gebackenz ( A good pastry)
Rib kese. menge den mit eyern und scharbe gesoten spec dar zu. mache ein schoenen derben teyc . und fülle den kese und die eyer dor in. und mache krepfelin. und backe sie in butern oder in smaltze. noch der zit. und gib sie warm hin.
Grate cheese. Mix it with eggs and boiled small pieces of fatty bacon thereto. Make a fine dough and fill therein with the cheese and the eggs. And make small cakes and bake them in butter or in fat, near to the time (they are to be served), and give them out warm.



Though seemingly simple there are some points that require some extra thought in this dish. First is the mixture of eggs, bacon and cheese mixed into the dough or is it folded in. Secondly, what exactly is meant with a fine dough?


While the suggestion to bake the dough into a cake would suggest that it should be all mixed up and shaped like a cake, another possible suggestion would be to bake it more or less like a dumpling. Several Dutch recipes from the early 16th century suggests that one should fold the dough over a filling, very much like a modern small filled pastry. As I today had the fortune to have some assistance from two of the visitors I was able to experiment with three different ways of cooking this dish.


In order to try out how the dish appeared in the different guises we made three batches, one in which the bacon & cheese mixture was mixed out with a dough of wheat flour and water in order to make a small rounded cake.


In the second batch we just made some small dumplings in a water and wheat dough. Here I let the interpretation of a fine dough just refer to the use wheat flour.


A third way to interpret the dish was to make the dough fine and elastic with the use of some fat.


For the filling I used the cheese I had available, a traditional Swedish cheese, and a cold-smoked bacon that I gotten from my local deli. Though the bacon presumably could reflect what I could expect to find in the period, I am not entirely sure about the cheese. It is possible that I should have used a drier somewhat sharper cheese. Anyway, the mixture was made the same for all three varieties. The bacon was boiled and then chopped up in small pieces, and mixed up with an egg and a handful of cheese. [The repeated instructions to pre-boil the bacon, could indicate that it was a fair bit saltier than the ones we use today, that said a traditional bacon that is left to hang for a while will get dry and hard to cut up, why the pre-boiling could just be a way of making it easier to work with]


The three batches where then fried in butter, starting with the cakelike batch. This allowed for most of the milkproteins to be absorbed in the cakes, making the next few batches easier to deepfry.


While all three produced nice little pastries they turned out somewhat differently.


The cakebatch, appeared saltier and a bit heavier than the rest, giving it a feel of being more or less a beersnack. The first dumpling batch was far more balanced to the palate, if a bit undercooked and heavy in the dough. In the final batch we were able to make the dough somewhat thinner, which made the filling more cooked and the overall balance between dough and filling the most pleasant.



My assistants mentioned this cooking experience in the blog belonging to one of them


The pictures taken during that day by Caroline Ekberg will be put up on this entry once I reach my home computer.


Heathen peas

August 15, 2011

Due to lack of time and resources I decided that the dish of day should be a simple dish, why I settled for the sweet called heathen peas in “Ein Buch von guter spise”.



Heidenische erweiz Heathen peas
Wilt du machen behemmische erweiz. so nim mandel kern und stoz die gar cleine. und mengez mit dritteil als vil honiges. und mit guten würtzen wol gemenget. so ers aller beste hat. die koste git man kalt oder warm.
How you want to make heathen peas. So take almond kernels and pound them very small. And mix it with a third as much honey. And with good spices well mixed. So it has the very best. One hands this out greedily, cold or warm.
Though fairly simple, and only using a few ingredients there are still some questions to the actual preparation of them. Should only cold ingredients be mixed, should it be heated in some way or even caramelized? What spices ought to be used.
In the recipe we can find a few hints as to the preparation. The first is in the name Heathen Peas would probably suggest a middle east inspiration, though I must admit that while I enjoy middle east food, I have not familiar enough with cooking it. So here I am up for some suggestions as to possible sweets to be inspired from.
The second hint in the recipe is that it is handed out hot or cold. This would probably mean that even if the recipe do not say so the dish should be heated in some way. A possible interpretation of this could be the simple fact that in almost all medieval recipes you are assumed to have clearified your honey, that is boiling it and skimming of the proteins. This would give you a warm liquid honey to work with and would be enough to for some kind of sweets with the crushed almonds. However, the heating may also have referred to a caramelized dish.
I started by dividing my almonds into two batches, one that I would roast beforehand and one that I let be as it was. (This is merely based on my personal taste, as I prefer roasted nuts to raw ones) Since there was no mentioning of and I could not really se a reason to- I did not blanch and peel the almonds for this dish. Usually this is mentioned specifically in most dishes using almonds. All the almonds were then pounded thoroughly in a mortar, this is one of the parts in this recipe that is explicitly mentioned even though the rest of the recipe may be a bit brief.
In this dish the sprices are only mentioned as god spices, why the selection may be a bit difficult to make. To this one I chose to use the classical duo of ginger and cinnamon with and addition of long pepper. The longpepper has a nice aromatic taste that I find goes very well with honey, why I thought that it might have been a good addition to the sweet.
The spices were mixed with the pounded nuts and to this mixture I added about a third honey. The batch of unroasted nuts where then divided in two parts. In order to be able to mix the honey properly with the nuts, and to reflect a possibly clearified honey I heated the mixture in a pan. The second half of the unroasted nuts were instead heated for a bit longer until the honey was caramelizing.
The resulting mixture were then all rolled into small balls, even though the recipe do not state so, the name of the dish suggest that they should be made into small spheres. Though all were possible to shape it was the caramelized mixture that were most easily rolled – once it had cooled of a bit.
Also when it came to the taste I would say that the caramelized balls were the most delicious. In all cases the combination of sweet and hot blended together rather nice. After the initial experience of something sweet and nutty the rather aromatic heat of long pepper and ginger sneaked up on my tastebuds. I was quite generous with both long pepper and ginger though hinting of the heat of medieval gingerbread in this sweet.
While I found no actual difference between the roasted and the unroasted almonds, the caramelized mixture were the most pleasing from both a visual and culinary point of view, making it easier to both eat and serve. The nice sweet taste must have stood out during the 14th century, even though this cookbook uses a bit of sugar, so it is understandable that it was eaten greedily.


July 29, 2011

Though we know of quite a few full meals of the medieval and renaissance era, our understanding on how to compose an entire meal properly are limited at best. While the dishes can be reproduced fairly well, we only have tidsbits of information suggesting when in a meal they should be served.

However, in quite a few places we do find suggestions on what to end a meal with, both with the purpose to aid digestion and general wellbeing. A common suggestion would be to eat pears and cheese, which in other words is a tradition with a rather old origin. Another tradtion that we have more or less lost by now was to end a meal with wafers and spiced wine.

As the manor did have an ancient (or probably 18th century) wafer iron, I decided that I should have a go at making wafers. Making wafers at least dates back to the 14th century, as is evident in this image from 1340. (Note the bowl of batter next to the wafermaking king)

The recipes I used for this trial was a French recipe from the late 14th century and a dutch recipe from the mid 16th century. It seems that the proper definition of wafers and waffles is a bit vague why the recipes chosen use the term waffles instead of wafers.

Le ménagier de Paris (1393)

Waffles are made in four ways. In the first, beat eggs in a bowl, then salt and wine, and add flour, and moisten the one with the other, and then put in two irons little by little, each time using as much batter as a slice of cheese is wide, and clap between two irons, and cook one side and then the other; and if the iron does not easily release the batter, anoint with a little cloth soaked in oil or fat. – The second way is like the first, but add cheese, that is, spread the batter as though making a tart or pie, then put slices of cheese in the middle, and cover the edges (with batter: JH); thus the cheese stays within the batter and thus you put it between two irons. – The third method, is for dropped waffles, called dropped only because the batter is thinner like clear soup, made as above; and throw in with it fine cheese grated; and mix it all together. – The fourth method is with flour mixed with water, salt and wine, without eggs or cheese.

Nyuewen Coock Boek (1560)

To bake good wafers.
Take grated white bread. Take with that the yolk of an egg and a spoonful of pot sugar or powdered sugar. Take with that half water and half wine, and ginger and cinnamon.

For the first recipe I chose to use the simpler of the two recipes, that of a 16th century dutch origin. The first part of making the dish was fairly straight forward, mixed the ingredients until I got a a nice thick batter. However using a “cooking wine” instead of a proper wine was not really a wise choice as it did not add anything to the flavour – but there was no chance to get myself some wine from the winestore.

The waferiron was then heated over embers and greased with butter. At first parts of the the wafers got stuck onto the iron. But with a somewhat higher temperature the wafers both got a nicer colour and loosened easier from the iron. I felt that the addition of spices were a bit to sparingly for my taste – but that could be changed once I redo the dish. Actually the fact that it was usually served at the end of a meal in order to help digestion would make it likely that it was both more spicy and sweet.

The next dish was based on the third variety of wafers/waffles found in the French cookbook, a dish called dropped wafers bases on the texture of the dough. As this dish included grated cheese I predicted that it would stick to the iron even worse than the first recipe. I made a mixture that was not so sticky and thick as the first recipe. Apart from the cheese and the texture of the batter it was made more or less like the above version, with the same problem of a wine that was almost tasteless. Much as I predicted the batter would stick even at a higher temperature. To solve this I added a bit flour with a much better result, even though I am not sure if the batter coud be said to be dropping (still it was more liquid than the batter for the first dish)

This time the wafers turned out fine with a quite nice taste of the cheese. Though the taste was nice in both cases (though a bit underspiced), the main result was to see how well they both turned out visually.

The main practical problem in making the wafers alone, apart from risking that the wafers got stuck, was the problem in handling the hot wafer iron when removing the wafers, which required something of an advanced balancing act.

Images will be forthcoming as soon as I  am on my other  computer.

A food of beans

July 10, 2011

When looking into early cuisines one easily ends up with dishes that reflect a prominent cuisine, most cookboks come from a context of the nobility or wealthy burgher. Dishes that comes from a more ordinary setting are mainly found by reading between the lines in other sources, or can be deduced from some of the simpler dishes found in the cookbooks. As the cookbooks seem to include more of the upper class households there we also receive a larger sample of non-festive dishes.

The recipe used was based on a dish found in “Ein Buch von guter spise” from the late 14th century

31. Ein spise von bonen
Siude grüene bonen, biz daz sie weich werden. so nim denne schoen brot und ein wenic pfeffers. dristunt als vil kümels mit ezzige und mit biere. mal daz zu sammene und tu dar zu saffran. und seige abe daz sode. und giuz dar uf daz gemalne. und saltz ez zu mazzen. und laz ez erwallen in dem condiment und gibz hin.
Boil green beans until they become soft. So take then fine bread and a little pepper. (Take) three times as much caraway with vinegar and with beer. Grind that together and add saffron thereto. And strain the broth and pour the color thereon and salt it to mass and let it boil in the condiment and give out.

While this dish would not have been a common meal it could have been a part of a less exclusive diet if one excluded the saffron. As I had not brought any saffron with me to the manor that day I decided to interpret this as simpler dish.

Though fairly simple at the surface the recipe did raise a few questions which I will try to answer as I go through the recipe. For this dish I used fresh fava beans, though dried would have worked only that it would have taken forever to boil them. The choice of fava beans, or broad beans (vicia faba), as they would have been the only beans available.

Boil green beans until the become soft. Are they to be boiled in meat broth or in water, in some dishes beans and peas are boiled together with meat or in a meatstock, here nothing seem to indicate that so I chose to use just water. Though the translation said to boil the beans I was more or less seething them rather than boiling them – and I might be wrong here but I believed that the German word siude, is similar to sjuda in swedish meaning to seethe rather than boil. Considering that I was using a three-footed pottery pan, seething the beans made more sense.

The texture of the boiled beans was also somewhat of a point of consideration for my part. In many of the recipes containing beans, the beans are boiled and then ground to a mush. This recipe did not call for that so I decided to try it as dish with whole beans.

While the beans were cooking I prepared the condiment with which the beans were to be served. So take then fine bread and a little pepper. (Take) three times as much caraway with vinegar and with beer. Though pepper could have been considered somewhat expensive, some may have been used in the middle class home. For simplicity I chose to use black pepper. For vinegar I chose maltvinegar. Though the recipe probably had wine vinegar in mind, as it originated in southern Germany, I went with a more Scandinavian choice – maltvinegar. Being based on malt or beer it would have been the most available vinegar here up until the 18th century. A bit more difficult was the choice of beer. Today most beers are rather heavy in hops, and though I am fond of hoppy beers, the bitterness of a heated hoppy beer is overpowering and lacking in flavour. For this reason I chose the beer I could get hold of with the least hop – content, a Swedish porter. While I am quite aware that it is stouts and porters were products of the 18th century, flavourwise I thought it was more fitting than some other beers that were available.

[ Though Germany proud itself of their ancient beerlaws, I am uncertain of the amount of hops used at the time. Would there have been a different names given to beers with or without hops?]

Anyway after mixing the condiment together I added them to the drained beans, and let them boil together. I might still have used a bread that was not white enough, or it may have been a bit to large pieces, as it did not really thicken the beanstew. At other times I would have let the breadcrumbs rest a while in the vinegar/beer mixture to be almost dissolved, but I was lacking in time.

The final result was a nice if somewhat to dark dish. The whole beans actually made it a rather good looking dish, with a very interesting and complex taste with the acidity of the vinegar and the sweetness from the beer and the beans themselves.