Every once in a while, you come across a recipe that blows away any preconceptions about medieval food in recipe books being complicated or exotic. That was the case this week with Pedrada, a chicken recipe I found on The Medieval Spanish Chef (http://www.medievalspanishchef.com).

Pedrada likely means spotted chicken; in this case, it was roasted with spices and served with a sauce made from the leftover liquid. The only problem I found with this recipe was that the quantities called for cinnamon but the instructions mentioned cilantro. Since I didn’t have cilantro, I used a smaller amount of coriander (the seed of cilantro, with a similar flavour).

The original recipe comes from La Cocina Hispano-Magrebi Durante La Epoca Almohade, from a 13th C manuscript published in 1604 and translated to Spanish in 1966 by Ambrosio Huici Miranda. It is #95 in the collection: Gallina asada al horno.

Se limpia una gallina gorda, joven y tierna; se sala con sal y tomillo, se descortezan quatro o cinco granos de ajo y se meten entre los muslos y dentro de su interior; se maja pimiento y cilantro seco, con lo que se espolvorea; se rehoga con almori y aceite y un poco de agua y se envia al horno, si Dios quiere.

Clean a young, tender, fat chicken; sprinkle with salt and thyme, peel four or five cloves of garlic and put them between the muscles and into the cavity; grind pepper and dry cilantro and sprinkle it over; fire it with murri and oil and a bit of water and put it in the oven, if God wills.

The Medieval Spanish Chef generally follows this recipe but heats oil and murri in a pan, then adds water and pours the mixture over the chicken in a roasting pan. I followed that version, using my earthenware baking pan and it was delicious. It was very tender and left me with enough liquid to thicken with flour for a tasty sauce. For greater accuracy, I would suggest browning the chicken in the oil and murri mixture, with a bit of water added as needed so things don’t dry out. Either way, there is a risk of losing some of the herbs and spices that had been sprinkled on the chicken.

I used a small chicken, a sprinkling of salt, 2 tsp thyme, about 1 tsp freshly ground pepper, 1/2 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp murri, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 c water, and 1 Tbsp flour to thicken the sauce.

It made a lovely hot chicken sandwich.



While I haven’t given up on the sausage research, I got rather busy with other projects that I can’t talk about yet. Thankfully, Emelot of Calais and our mutual enabler, Avelyn, got me out for a lovely day of sausage making. Emelot had been wanting to try it for a while, so it gave me an excuse to try a couple of new things while spreading the sausage love.

We made 2-3 lb each of Alsatian Sausage, French Country Sausage, Parisian Garlic Sausage, Finochiona salami and Thuringian Rostbratwurst. The Parisian Garlic and Finochiona were both new to me. Most of the recipes came from Len Poli’s site, which is a great resource for sausage recipes.

Counterclockwise from top left: the Parisian garlic sausages after they had been in the oven for three hours, but before poaching. The recipe said to do them in a smoker without smoke, so the bread-proofing setting in the oven was a reasonable substitute since my smoker was at home and we were using Avelyn’s kitchen; Finocchiona divided in two so it can be shared once it has hung in my basement for 28 days; the fruits of our labours; Emelot and I gloating. For some reason, our photographer was fascinated by my sausage stuffer.

I love candied nuts, and I love the German traditional papiertuute. I want them to be documentable but so far I haven’t been able to find much. I did find one Italian website that had information about candied almonds (http://www.confettisulmona.it/en/whous/giorgi/history.php) that were supposedly documented back to the 1400s in the city of Sulmona, made by the Poor Clares nuns (and references to candied nuts in the Roman period, but no footnotes anywhere). By poking around on related websites on the history of candied almonds in Sulmona, I have also found that the words for candied almonds and confetti are related, and supposedly because candied almonds were tossed to the poor during Ferragosto processions. One of these sites also states that the Poor Clares wrapped their candied almonds in silk before giving it away (http://italiannotes.com/confetti-from-sulmona/).

The best references I can find on papiertuute are related to schultuute, the huge cones that kindergarten children get on their first day of school. They seem to date back only to the early 1800s though (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schultüte). Another interesting source, including info on how they are folded, comes from a researcher who was documenting the dying art of using the koolyok, which is Russian for “cone” (http://rolandanderson.se/conefold.php). He provides very little info on the history though.

Given how commonly such cones are used for spices, I wonder if they might have been used for this purpose beginning in the Renaissance. As much as I want to believe it though, I’m not convinced. Paper was still relatively expensive and spices were still luxuries.Surely there would have been more secure ways to carry such precious loads than a cone that relied only on a twist at the top of the paper to retain its goods.

Undeterred by the lack of evidence, I have made my own candied almonds. The recipe is similar to the one used for beer nuts – water, sugar, cinnamon, and I added a little allspice. Once the candy hardened, I made myself a cone using these instructions: http://www.instructables.com/id/Paper-Cone/. Here is the result:

The paper top, once in place, is actually quite strong and held the nuts in place very nicely.

If anyone can point me to images or other documentation for candied nuts and paper cones, please contact me.

This book, a translation of a 16th C cookbook by Timothy J. Tomaski & Ken Alabama (Prospect Books, 2014).  The book is representative of cookbooks published by Pierre Sergent beginning in the 1540s, and this particular one was chosen because it has the largest collection of recipes. It was originally sold in Lyon, France.

While there are many excellent recipes, this post is about sausages, again. The book contains references to Andouille and Milanese sausages, as well as Bologna, cervelat, Lombard (chicken breast), veal, white, and counterfeit (cucumber, apple, and pear shaped) as well as various puddings. I decided to try the Bologna because I wanted something smoked. However, I didn’t have any beef handy, so I ended up making something between bologna and cervelat.

Cervelat Sausages: To make cervelat take two pounds of lean flesh of young pig, a pound of fat and chop all very finely, then take pepper, nutmeg and salt just right, fill your casings and tie at the ends, and let them boil in a good broth and they keep a long time.

Bologna Sausages: Take the fleet of beef and young piglet, the same amount of one as the other, a pound of each, remove the skin, chop very fine with a pound of fat fresh lard, and to assemble take five ounces of ground spices, as much of pepper as ginger and about two ounces of whole pepper, fine salt about one ounce or thereabouts and mix everything well together. Then stuff the mixture into the beef casing that has been cleaned well and dried, and press, and tie separately a good half-foot long each one, and place them for two days in salt, then place them to dry in the chimney.

The editors note that these would have been made with beef middles, which has  diameter of about 2 1/4 inches, rather than the beef bung that would give the 4 1/2 inch bologna we recognize today. Also, modern bologna is poached before smoking.

I used about 3 1/2 lb of pork and 1/2 lb of lard, with 2 oz of white pepper, 1-1/2 oz dried ginger and 1 oz salt. The editors warned that this is a very spicy sausage, and that is certainly true! I am not resting it in salt, but I will allow it to rest in the refrigerator for a day or two before cold smoking it.




Slyng (Whipcording)

Yesterday at Feast of the Hare, we had a special visitor – Rick Mercer, from The Rick Mercer Report, a popular Canadian television show. He spent hours joining in the dancing, music, fighting and outdoor cooking. But this post isn’t about him. You can watch all of that (and many awesome friends) when the segment is shown on TV.

This post is about a little bit of fun I had with Jane Caldwell. I had been asked to bring my slyng sticks in case there was time to teach Rick how it works. There wasn’t, of course, because there was so much else to see, but that didn’t stop us from experimenting with patterns. We switched up the pattern of colours, crosses and twists every few inches, then played with something else. Occasionally, we went back to something we particularly liked and tried to recreate it.

Simple slyng can be done by one person, but it is definitely more fun with at least two people. The rhythmic nature of the passes lead automatically to adding rhymes or song as we work. I had noticed this before when making slyng with a musician, so was pleasantly surprised when Jane spontaneously started doing it.


Note the huge grins. We really were having fun


Action shot


If you look closely, you can see how the pattern changes from spirals, to almost a herringbone, or a checky, and then different spirals

Inspired by Others

Today I was inspired by my apprentices Eluned ferch Ango and Lucia d’Enzinas. For Alais’ recent elevation, Eluned made little cheese tarts from “A Feast of the Low Countries” (lookaside.fbsbx.com). They were delicious and dead simple. When I realized I had some ricotta and honey that needed to be used up, I made my own. The original recipe is from ms KANTL Gent 15, second part (W.L. Braekman, Een niew zuidnederlands kookboek uit de viftiende eeuw. Scripta 17, Brussels, 1986, recipe no. 75).

English translation: To make cheese pastry. Take fresh cheese. Strain it with cream and lots of sugar. Fill the bowl completely. If you want to make it green, pound p0rsley and hyssop and a little thyme with the cheese and strain it together, then it will be green. If you want, you can add some coleseed-oil in white bread without custard (?) or melted butter.

Because I was feeling lazy, I used purchased pastry shells. I took one pound of ricotta cheese and mixed it with a half cup of honey (which is a reasonable substitute for sugar, especially since I had only very refined sugar in the house). Then I spooned the mix into the pastry shells and popped them into the oven to bake until the crusts were browned. That’s it.



The other recipe I tried was a cold sage sauce from Menagier de Paris (translated by Gina L. Greco & Christine M. Rose, Cornell University Press, 2009, p. 314). This recipe is the September page of the Ealdormere Cook’s Guild 2016 Calendar, a project organized by Lucia. Sadly, I left the calendar at my office, so I redacted my own recipe tonight.

Grind well some ginger, cassia buds, grains of paradise, and cloves, and do not strain. Then grind bread moistened with the broth from the chicken, plenty of parsley, some sage, and a little saffron among the greens to make them bright green, and sieve (and some sieve hard-boiled egg yolks with this). Add some good vinegar and ladle over the cooked poultry. Place quartered hard-boiled eggs atop the poultry, and pour the sauce over it.

I chopped a generous handful of sage and about half a bunch of parsley, then ground them in my mortar with a bit of chicken broth. Then I added the ground greens to a bowl with more chicken broth. In total, I used about a cup, but would reduce that in future. I added in 1/4 tsp each of cinnamon, ginger, grains of paradise and cloves, a pinch of saffron, about 4 tablespoons of bread crumbs, one egg yolk, and a teaspoon of verjuice (a gift from Lucia).

I expected the sauce to be very strong tasting with all those spices, but it was actually quite pleasant. I should have tried for a more artistic picture, but I was hungry; it made a lovely supper poured over a piece of leftover chicken with some rice on the side. As a bonus, I have enough left for several lunches.




A friend complimented me yesterday for having maintained this blog since 2009. Apparently that’s a long time in blog world. Who knew? Today, he sent me this link: How to keep a Zibaldone.