Medieval Feast 2014

Sixth Course: Course of Cheeses

Seventh Course: Desserts: Mon-amy & honeycomb, Quince Pie, Taillés

The ending of the feast is both savory and sweet! We were all very full by the cheese course, so we served just a couple of hard cheeses with brown mustard and an assortment of crackers. One of the cheeses was a green herbed cheese (a Dutch brand), that had a very thick wax and was green all of the way through.

All three of the desserts (excepting the honeycomb, which we just thought would be a fun addition) came from a Dutch medieval cookbook. My favorite was the unhealthy but delicious Mon-amy. Apparently, there is a 15th century painting depicting Charlemagne eating this dessert (painted about 500 years after he died, but interesting nonetheless). Though it was not thick enough to slice when we made it, it was the consistency of a very thick custard, and still looked pretty decorated with delphinium flowers in the shape of a fleur-de-lis. The Taillés (a fig pudding) was very tasty; we cooked it on the stove until it was about the consistency of oatmeal, then pressed it into a Charlotte mold and chilled it in the fridge. It popped out of the tin nicely, and we served it at room temperature. For the quince pie, we used pears instead of quinces. The pie was delicious, though the dough was difficult to work with because we had to spread it very thin to cover a 9” pie plate. Here are the translated recipes:

Mon-amy

  • 1 cup of double cream or unsweetened whipping cream
  • 1.1 pounds of quark (we substituted with ricotta)
  • 6 tbs. cane sugar, some saffron, 0.11 pounds of butter
  • 20 egg yolks
  • (We also added vanilla extract)

Boil the double cream gently with the quark (which has been pressed to remove excess liquid). Add the sugar, saffron and butter. Then take off the heat and mix in 20 egg yolks that have been passed through a sieve and then mixed together. Make sure the mixture doesn’t cool too much, so the egg yolks won’t bind, but also don’t heat it too much, to prevent the egg yolks from cooking. Wait until this is as thick as a pudding, then cool and serve by cutting slices of it (about 3-4 per person) and decorate with violets (or other small flowers).

Quince Pie (makes one 9” pie)

  • 3.3 pounds of quinces (could also be any other type of cooking pear)
  • Red wine (to boil the quinces in, so depending on our preference, it could be sweeter or more sour)
  • 0.11 pounds currants, 0.11 pounds raisins
  • 0.22 pounds crushed, peeled almonds
  • 0.11 pounds pine seeds (not pine nuts, so may be hard to obtain)
  • 2 eggs
  • Cane sugar, cloves, cinnamon, bonemarrow (note: we left this ingredient out, and the pie was just fine without it!), nutmeg, butter

Crust

  • 0.44 pounds of all purpose flour
  • 0.22 pounds butter
  • 0.17 pounds of powdered sugar
  • one egg, a pinch of salt

Make the dough for the crust which should be enough to both line the tin and make a lid; so we may need to adjust the recipe. Then boil the quinces in the wine for an hour (or until done). Then peel the quinces and grind them into a paste, expulsing excess liquid. Add currants, raisins, almonds and pine seeds. If we want, we can then add two eggs we’ve mixed together. Line the cake tin with the dough and sprinkle some cane sugar, cinnamon, cloves on the bottom. Then spread bonemarrow over it. Add the quince mixture, making sure it doesn’t pile up too high. On the top, add more cane sugar, cinnamon, some nutmeg and some clumps of butter, then add the lid. Put in the oven at a mild temperature and bake for 45 minutes or until done with bottom heat (we baked it at 350 F for probably 1/5 hours). Serve cold.

Taillés (serves 8)

  • 0.55 pounds of dried figs
  • 0.33 pounds of raisins
  • 1 liter almond milk
  • Crumbled crust of one small baguette
  • Two crumbled eschaudés (choux pastry buns)
  • Two crumbled galettes (similar to a thick pancake!)
  • Saffron for color, cane sugar for taste

Boil all of the above together until it forms a thick pudding. Once it cools, it should be easy to cut.

Medieval Feast 2014

Fifth Course: Roast Leg of Lamb & Roast Fennel & Mint Sauce & Farro with Herbs

To my mind, roasting a large hunk of meat (or two) is a very medieval activity. If only we had a roasting spit, and some place to operate it. We roasted two legs of lamb, bone-in, rubbed with rosemary and garlic (we used this recipe, sans potatoes!).

We made an interesting mint sauce, the only ingredients of which were white wine vinegar, sugar, and mint leaves. The sugar and vinegar is reduced to a syrup, then chopped mint leaves are added off the heat, and the sauce steeps like a tea. It was tangy, sweet, and only mildly minty, but still a good accompaniment to the meat.

One of the tastiest vegetarian dishes of the feast was the farro with herbs, which we served at room temperature. Farro tastes and has a texture similar to barley and seems to work well in salads. This was actually a Giada recipe that I had been wanting to try, and we added some sauteed onion and mushrooms to it. We also substituted vegetable stock for chicken stock to keep it vegetarian-friendly. It was a great side-dish for the non-vegetarians eating it with the lamb, too.

The fennel was simply roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper. I love the anise flavor of fennel, and it was a good medieval choice of vegetable to round out this course of the feast.

Medieval Feast 2014

Fourth Course: Cassoulet de porc et de mouton

Since the first Medieval Feast, we have wanted to make cassoulet, which is a bean and meat dish that has many, many variations and takes a bit of forethought to prepare.

The best looking recipes used duck confit, which would have been too expensive for us to buy or prepare. So, we ditched the duck and opted instead for pork and lamb. We used another Julia Child recipe (she sure does know her stuff) and ended up with a great tasting fourth course.

One cheater confession is that we used tomato paste. Alas, tomatoes are a new world crop. Medieval purists the world over are disappointed, I’m sure.

There were many steps involved: soaking the beans, cooking the beans, browning and roasting a pork loin, browning and cooking the lamb in broth and other tasty things, browning the sausage, and always, always, reserving the cooking liquids and fats rendered to be used in the next step. All in all, it took probably 8 hours for us to cook the ingredients and fully assemble the cassoulet. We prepared it the day before, and just topped it with panko breadcrumbs and butter before baking the day of the feast. It was worth it! 

Medieval Feast 2014

Third Course: Dish of Squid and Peas

Squid and peas. Peas and squid. Who knew we had been missing out on such a rare delicacy?

The point of this dish was to bring something exotic to this year’s medieval feast. We searched for squid with their ink sacs still intact, which we did not find (should have ordered from the fishmonger ahead of time). Cooking the squid with their ink sacks, as the recipe calls for, would have allowed the ink to seep out into the dish and dye everything a dark ink color, which is something I had never seen before Wikipedia (see the food in the “Use by Humans” section).

What we found instead were very expensive, very good looking cleaned and separated squid (without ink sacs) from Wholefoods; and then some much cheaper, much more striking baby Octopi from a local Asian market. Needless to say, the Octopi it was.

This dish was aptly described by my co-chef as “surprisingly edible.” Because I am crazy, I bought enough peas and squid to make two large pots full of the stuff, but to our delight, people actually ate it. This recipe is definitely worth a try if you are feeling adventurous.

Here’s the recipe, translated and Americanized from a Dutch medieval cookbook:

Peas and squid (serves 4)
  • About a pound of split peas, which have soaked overnight
  • Eight whole (small) squid (probably a pound to two pounds for 4 people) with inc sacs intact!!!
  • A bit over a pound of leeks
  • Liquamen (Roman fish sauce, which could be made yourself, or substitute with Asian fish sauce)
  • Coriander seeds
  • Sweet white wine (Muscat wine, which is very expensive, could be substituted with honey according to the recipe — when we made it, we made a mixture of honey with white vinegar)
  • Pepper, oregano, caraway seeds, lovage.
Take the soaked split peas, squid and leeks and add them to a pot of water with a splash of olive oil. Add 0.4 cups of Liqaumen, 0.8 cups of sweet white wine and some coriander seed. After about an hour, pour off the liquid (or reserve as stock). Take a little bit of the cooking liquid and make a sauce of ground pepper, oregano, carraway seeds, lovage and some of the wine or honey. Add this sauce to the peas/leeks/squid. Remove the squid, slice and remove the hard cartilage that’s in the squid, then return to the mixture and stir.

Medieval Feast 2014

Second Course: Endive with Honey & Vinegar & Radishes & Quail’s Egg

I’m told that there are many medieval manuscripts that abuse the ampersand, and so the title of this course shall be no different.

I have never cooked with endive before, though assembling this salad doesn’t really count as cooking. We wiped out the supply of endives at Wholefoods, casually placing 20 of them in a produce bag (one for each guest). We quartered each endive and topped them with sliced radishes and a vinaigrette made with equal parts of honey, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil, with a small spoonful of Dijon mustard and salt and pepper.

We made poached quail’s eggs at the first annual medieval feast, so we decided to cook them differently this year. I found a helpful site with advice on boiling quail’s eggs, and decided to hard boil mine for 3.5 minutes, which worked out well. They are a little bit difficult to peel, but they are really pretty on the plate and I think people actually enjoyed peeling the eggs themselves.

Here are some other pictures of the scene! We pushed two tables together to make one Viking long table and put the alms jar our early for donations to the cause.

Medieval Feast 2014

This year, we held our 3rd annual Medieval Feast for 20 of our closest Medievalist friends! We were spoiled for choice of Medieval recipes as always, what with a Medievalist in the house and a seeming abundance of medieval cookbook owning friends, and had to narrow down our offering of dishes to (just) seven courses. I’ll be posting about each course over the next several days.

First Course: Watercress Soup & Oatmeal Bread

Watercress Soup

Watercress, according to Wikipedia, is “one of the oldest known leaf vegetables consumed by humans.” It has a light peppery taste and is delicious to eat raw, but even better when added to a soup with lots of cream and butter. There are several recipes available that use potatoes, but since potatoes are a new world crop, we opted for a recipe without them. We used this Julia Child recipe for pottage creme de cresson, substituting chicken stock for vegetable stock to cater to our vegetarian friends. We made a quadruple batch and had just enough for 20 people. There is a note in the recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking stating that this soup is great for an important dinner. In our house, there is no dinner more important than the annual Medieval Feast!

Oatmeal Bread

Grains and breads were staples of the medieval diet. There are many medieval bread recipes involving spelt and rye, barley and other grains. We chose to bake oatmeal bread because it is my favorite bread in the world, though bread was indeed also made with oats in the middle ages. This recipe for oatmeal bread can be found in the More-With-Less cookbook. I substituted honey for brown sugar to add a bit more medieval flair, and used a mix of half whole wheat and half white flour. I baked one batch in loaf tins, and one batch as rounds, the tops marked with “W,” our surname initial. I do not have a photograph of the bread after it was baked — it was all eaten up quickly!

Homemade Buttermilk Chicken Strips

I consider chicken strips (tenders, fingers, dare I say nuggets?) to be a classic American comfort food. They are so simple and loved by pretty much everyone (vegetarians not included), and yet I had never before made them at home. Finding myself with not much in the fridge but chicken and some leftover buttermilk from when I made a cake last week, I remembered watching the Pioneer Woman make some delicious looking chicken recently, and the idea for dinner clicked.

I wanted my chicken strips to be a little bit spicy, so I used a mix of cayenne and black pepper, in addition to kosher salt, a bit of poultry seasoning, ground mustard, and garlic powder mixed into the flour. I don’t usually have seasoned salt in my pantry, so this mix was a decent substitute.

The beauty of this recipe lies in the buttermilk poured into the flour mixture, which makes for some delicious crunchy bits on the chicken strips once they are fried. It was difficult to get an even coating on the chicken to avoid bare spots, but that was the only challenging part of the process. The frying takes just minutes on each side, and is always a fun thing to do.

I tried mine with BBQ sauce, ketchup, and my favorite, honey mustard (I mix of one part honey to one part Dijon). I was pretty excited about how well they turned out…so excited that I lost count of how many I actually ate. I just kept nibbling on them as I fried more batches. No regrets!

Quilted Potholders

I have moved on from the maxi-quilt to the mini-quilt! We had a little accident with our prior potholders that may or may not have involved me leaving them on top of a hot burner…needless to say, they were unsalvageable after the incident. Annoyingly, this occurred just a day after my husband complained that he is always the one to hang up the potholders on their designated hook, since I usually leave them on the counter/table/wherever is convenient. I told him I would be more diligent about hanging them up, and then, the singeing. In my defense, reckless abandonment of dish towels and potholders does run in my family. 

I will, however, be more careful with and willing to take the time to hang up these puppies. I made these from leftover fabric that I used a few years ago to make a laptop case for my mom. The potholders are each about 8 x 8 inches. I had lots of leftover batting from the large quilt I just finished, so I layered up 3 layers of it for each of these potholders to provide good insulation. This was about the maximum thickness that my sewing machine wanted to handle.

I decided to go with the classic grid design for the quilting because I like the way it looks, I can quilt in (reasonably) straight lines, and I just haven’t felt up to trying free motion quilting yet. Someday. I attached a small red loop to the back of each potholder near a corner for easy hanging (note to self: always hang up potholders after use). I was going to bind them each with red fabric to really make them pop, but I didn’t have enough, so I just used more of the same fabric. Still good!

Lemon Pinwheel Danishes

So pretty, so tasty, so easy! Made with lemon curd and frozen puff pastry. I made lemon curd last week as a cake filling, and as you can see, I used a generous amount on each Danish, all for the sake using up as much as possible before it goes bad.

To make 4 Danishes: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roll out one sheet of thawed puff pastry dough on a lightly floured surface and cut into quarters. Cut 1 1/2 inch slits from each of the corners at a 45 degree angle towards the center of the square. Place a heaping tablespoon of lemon curd in the middle. Lift two opposite flaps of dough (say, the top left and the bottom right) and pinch in the middle to join. Join the remaining two flaps. Repeat for the other Danishes. Brush dough with an egg wash (1 egg, beaten with 1 TB water) and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.

Optional: ice with powdered sugar icing (powdered sugar + water).

Also, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Hexagon Quilt: Part 10 — It’s finished!!!

After about nine months, behold, my firstborn quilt! Incidentally, today is National Quilt Day, and what better way to celebrate than sharing some photos of my finished product. I am so pleased with the hexagon quilt, and I hope that my newlywed best friend and her husband enjoy it for many, many years to come (machine wash on the gentle cycle, folks! Tumble dry low…) 

I used their wedding colors, aqua and coral, as the theme of the quilt, and I hope that it will always remind them of their beautiful wedding day in Aruba. I’d like to thank them for their patience in waiting for me to complete it (though Emily Post tells me that since it’s been less than a year since the wedding, I’m still within the acceptable gift-giving range, so there). Love to you both!