A while ago I mentioned that I had signed up for a short course on Historic Food and that began a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, I’ve been off trading at Kenilworth Castle and then the Chalke Valley History Festival, respectively, for the last two weekends and frantically trying to finish my Victorian outfit for the latter in between the two. I promised you an update once I’d started and here it is.
The course began a fortnight ago with Henrician Tudor feasting, then at the end of the week I went off to Kenilworth, which Henry VIII decided should be maintained as a Royal Castle and in which he had the banqueting house transplanted from its original site to within the castle itself. If you think that is a stunning piece of synchronicity, just wait. In 1553 the castle was given the John Dudley, who promptly lost it and his head by backing Lady Jane Grey rather than Mary, but was restored to his son Robert by his good friend and rumoured lover, Elizabeth I. Guess what last week’s top was? Yup, Elizabethan food 😀
The correlation doesn’t end there. I’ve been playing catch up this week, having spent four days at the Chalke Valley History Festival, admittedly as a Victorian, mostly rubbing shoulders (well, they had the best campfire) with Georgians, and this week’s topic is…yup, you guessed it, Georgian food. It’s not really my period tbh, but the topics do include the introduction of chocolate, so you can look forward to another post on that once I’ve competed this week 🙂
As I said, I’m still a bit behind on the practical elements of Elizabethan food, but I did manage to have a go at the Tarte Owt Lente from the first week. This is a tart to be eaten outside Lent, since it contains cheese, cream and eggs, all forbidden during Lent, hence the origins of Pancake Day on Shrove Tuesday to use them all up.
The recipe for the tart is thus:
Gentyll manly Cokere (MS Pepys 1047, c.1500)
Take neshe chese and pare hit and grynd hit yn A morter and breke egges and do ther to and then put yn buttur and creme and mell all well to gethur put not to moche butter ther yn if the chese be fatte make A coffyn of dowe and close hit a bove with dowe and collor hit a bove with the yolkes of eggs and bake hit well and serue hit furth.
Don’t worry, a translation to a modern style recipe was provided, but I slightly regret following that too closely for reasons which will become clear.
My own fairly literal translation:
Take soft cheese, pare it and grind it in a mortar. Break in eggs and then put in butter and cream and meld all well together. Put not too much butter therein if the cheese be fat. Make a coffin (case) of dough and close it above with dough and colour it above with yolks of eggs and bake it well. Serve it forth.
In other words, mash up some soft cheese, add eggs, butter and cream (the fattier the cheese, the less butter). Make a pastry case and lid (obviously putting the filling in between) and glaze it with egg yolks. Bake and serve.
The cheese they suggested was Cheshire, but they also mentioned curd cheese and since I’d just made some of that (it only takes half an hour), that is what I used. In the modernised version, they gave the quantities as 100g of cheese and 150ml of cream.
The trouble was, that being a very soft cheese, the resulting filling was extremely runny, like the filling for a quiche, so I thought it best to add another egg.
No recipe for the pastry was given, so I just used my standard fifty-fifty butter/lard shortcrust and chilled that for half an hour to make it easier to handle.
Making the pastry case was fun as, for authenticity, it should be freestanding and hand-crimped like so:
I added some seasoning and chives as flavouring and poured the runny cheese mixture into the case.
So far so good.
Then I tried to put on the pastry lid and…argh!…bits started leaking out as the case sagged from the additional pressure. Cue some frantic shoring up with surplus bits of pastry and quickly into the oven before the pastry could get soggy. In my haste, I neglected the egg wash, but I quite like my pastry unglazed anyway, so that wasn’t a problem. I baked it for quite a long time just to ensure a good set and this was the result:
You can see that the sides have bowed out due to the wetness of the filling. For this particle filling, it might have been better to use a flan case.
The tart did taste quite nice and quiche-like, albeit a bit heavy on the rich pastry, which I believe prevented the filling rising. I did wonder if the “dough” should have been a bit more like the hot water pastry used for pork pies.
I will try this again, both with curd cheese and less cream (perhaps as a sweet pastry with cinnamon and sweet spices), and also the suggested Cheshire cheese version as a savoury.
Additional recipes suggested for the first week were FYLETTYS EN GALANTINE, roast pork cooked in a caramelised onion gravy (the result sounds similar to pulled pork), which I will definitely be trying out at some point when it’s cool enough for roasts, and RYSCHEWYS CLOSE AND FRYEZ*, which resemble the Peascods I made for DD’s Tudor day a few years ago.
*Original recipes both from Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books (Harleian MS. 27, c.1430 – Early English Text Society print, 1888)
So there you have it, the results of my first week. I hope you enjoyed reading about it 🙂
As previously mentioned, I have some catching up to do, but will be sharing the results of week two once I’ve had a chance to make some of the recipes, which include a medicinal cordial and some Elizabethan “jumbals”.