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.

Many years ago, I made myself a Venetian camicia based on this example (from Dorothy Burnham’s book ‘Cut My Cote’) to wear under a dress that looks a lot like this (Portrait of a Family, by Bernadino Licino, 1520s, Venice, Galleria dell’Accademia).

The camicia always caused me problems, though, because I could not stitch the gathers sufficiently securely, even with a bit of smocking (there was never a total wardrobe malfunction, but I couldn’t enjoy the outfit because sections would pop unstitched quite regularly). Finally, I decided to make some lace to stitch the gathers in place. I used pattern 15 from Nuw Modelbuch, a bobbin lace pattern book first published in Zurich in 1561. Yesterday, I finished enough lace for the last cuff and it is all stitched in place.

It may not look like much, but the camisia took 78 inches of lace, which was probably close to a week’s worth of labour. I would show you a a picture of it being worn, but it is underwear, so a photo will have to wait until the next time I wear the dress.

A traditional part of the elevation ceremony is a gift or token with the symbol of the order – in this case, a laurel wreath. I have never been big on the whole heraldry thing, so I was really pleased when Alais said she would like something modest. She has, of course, have the gold ring made by Brenda Roy that is passed from Laurel to Laurel in our kingdom. Many of us have purchased copies in silver once we have passed on the original to the next to be elevated. Here is a picture of mine:



Alais doesn’t wear rings so I decided to make her a rosary. There are many extant pictures and examples of rosaries; Larsdatter has some excellent links and information about them. Because Alais is lower-class woman, I used bone beads with glass beads decorated with laurel wreaths for the gauds (the larger beads dividing groups of 10 simple beads), and a silk tassel. I used 60 beads rather than the more common 50, partly because the beads are quite tiny, and partly because I know that Alais is not actually a practicing Catholic so I wanted the rosary to be less obviously religious.



Alais wanted a day that fit with her 16th C Flemish persona so I decided to make some clothes that would be suitable for the day. If you are interested in more detail, great resources can be found here: Lower Class Flemish Dress, here: Flemish Dress and here: Dutch Renaissance Clothing

This style of clothing was all new to me, but Alais was wonderful at helping me fit a bodice. She also sewed up my sleeves and stomacher (salvaged from a failed silk pants experiment), gave me loops and instructions on spiral lacings for the bodice, and loaned me the pattern for a partlet and  very silly little cap underneath the swallowtail hat (which was a gift from her). I may go back and narrow the partlet, and I’m pretty sure I want to narrow the chemise sleeves a bit, but overall, I’m really pleased with how it all turned out. The first picture is of me, and the second is with Alais.


My apprentice Alais de Poitiers was elevated to the Order of the Laurel today in a lovely ceremony – more about that later. This post is about my contribution to the food preparations.

Alais has a 16th C Flemish persona, and wanted a Kermis or peasant wedding feast to celebrate. Naturally, that meant lots of food. While others did waffles, cheesecakes, a bride cake, and breads, I made sausages and mustard.

I didn’t have much luck finding 16th C Flemish sausage recipes, but I did find some interesting options instead. Some had very appropriate ingredients but were not quite Flemish, while others were from the right place but with more modern ingredients. My source for almost all the recipes was Len Poli’s Sausage Recipes Formulations (http://www.lpoli.50webs.com/Sausage%20recipes.htm). +



Clockwise from top left, there is Tripp (a cabbage and pork sausage that has a bit of cayenne (http://www.food.com/recipe/cabbage-and-pork-sausage-tripp-sausage-316245). Tripp is a typical modern Belgian recipe. Next is Frikandellen, a skinless Dutch sausage that is traditionally cooked and then deep fried; not 16th C cooking style, but it was very popular. Next is Rookworst, a Dutch smoked sausage. Finally, you see Saucisse d’Alsace-Lorraine. I completely forgot the Breton sausage at home, so here is a picture. They look a little sad because they are straight out of the refrigerator (also because they missed a great party):



All the sausages were cooked in advance to minimize the risk of bacterial issues, and that was a very good thing as the day was incredibly hot. A fire ban had been a real risk, and no-one wanted to stand over a fire.

The mustards were simple favourites. The honey and thyme mustard (small bowl at the top) is based on a recipe found at http://www.wonkywonderful.com. I found the recipe too watery, so I cooked up a bit of flour and water to give it body. The other is a basic yellow mustard from http://www.leitesculinaria.com. I have been trying to find a perfect yellow mustard recipe for ages, and this was it. The recipe promised it would be rather sharp for a few days or a week, so I thought it would be a decent substitute for a Dijon-style mustard (which I hadn’t yet chosen). However, it turned out to be lovely and mild by the time I put it on the table less than a day after making it. I will definitely use this recipe again.

Okay, I dyed a bit of wool in the leftovers from one of my woad preservation experiments, but it’s a start.

My first experiment was actually the third time with using the instructions at this site: http://www.woad.org.uk/html/extraction.html. The first time, it worked quite well but my son threw out the resulting woad in a fit of kitchen tidying. The second time, didn’t follow the instructions and ended up with a bit of chlorophyll at the bottom of a jar. This time, I managed to do almost everything according to the instructions. I should have waited a bit longer before cutting the leaves, and forgot to cover them in plastic overnight, and I didn’t consolidate the liquid after the first draining, but none of those errors appear to have been fatal. You can’t really tell in the picture below, but the jar has some solids settling to the bottom.

I used the leftover liquid to dye some wool. I didn’t have any Spectralite or sodium dithionite. Looking elsewhere, that didn’t appear to be a critical lack. As I had added soda ash to process the woad I assumed it was still in the liquid and didn’t add more. That may have been a mistake. I’ll try again with soda ash to see if I can get a bit more colour out of the exhaust bath. Woad.org says that there isn’t much woad in the leftover liquid, so I’m pleased with the little bit of colour I did achieve.

Finally, I made a woad ball. using these instructions: http://www.woad.org.uk/html/woad_balls.html. I followed all the instructions except for the one about wearing gloves (I could only find one, and a finger ripped off as I was putting it on the first time, so this instruction was only partly followed). Also, though it wasn’t written down, there should have been an instruction about wearing a big apron or old clothes that you don’t mind getting permanently splotched with woad juice.  I will get to use the woad ball later this summer, when my friend Eluned lets me play with her urine fermentation vat.