An anti-miserabilist approach to historical cooking

Tag: Italian (page 1 of 1)

Neapolitan Stuffed Figs


four stuffed but uncooked figs on a wooden board

Working through the backlog of things I have cooked but not posted, I came across the photos of this recipe for medieval, Italian stuffed figs. At the time I was staying with a friend in one of the Sydney lockdowns and there wasn’t much to get excited about except for the figs ripening on our neighbour’s tree. Inspired by the bounty across the fence, I went a bit fig mad with a recipe for medieval fig potage and then, when I got my hands on some fresh figs, these stuffed figs.

The recipe comes from a manuscript (MS Buhler 19) held in the Morgan Library in New York and published by Terence Scully under the name The Neapolitan Recipe Collection. The cookbook was written by an unknown author, about the second half of the 15th century near Naples but with a strong Catalan influence.

a page from the manuscript showing a larger heading above the text of the recipe. It is illustrated with a line drawing of what might be leafy stems in a vase.

The first page of MS Buhler 19 with a recipe “Per fare bona Piperata”, from the Morgan Library and Museum.

f. 63v Fritelle de Fiche Piene
Piglia amandole he pignoli, he pista molto bene – dico, che ogni cosa sia biancha – he pista insieme due bone fiche he un poco de uva passa; poi taglia un poco de petrosillo ben trito, he habi bone specie he miscola insieme; he se questa materia fusse troppo dura, pone insieme un poco de aqua rosada; poi piglia fiche belle he grosse he falli un buco dove sta el fiore suo he impele de questa materia; poi falle frigere in bono olio, adasio dico. – The Neapolitan Recipe Collection, pg 80

Stuffed Fig Fritters. Get almonds and pinenuts and grind them up thoroughly -I say everything must be white – and grind in two good figs and a few raisins; cut up a little well chopped parsley and mix in good spices; if this mixture is too thick, add in a little rosewater; then get fine big figs, make a hole in them where their flower is, fill them with the mixture and fry them in good oil -slowly, I say. – The Neapolitan Recipe Collection, pg 202

My taste tester and I agreed that the fried figs were good, and the filling was good, but that we weren’t particularly impressed by the combination of the two. Maybe with a bit more finessing, this could be a lovely addition to a medieval meal.


four cooked stuffed figs lined up on a wooden board

Neapolitan Stuffed Figs

1/4 cup pinenuts
1/4 cup ground almonds
2 dried figs, chopped
a small handful of raisins
a small handful of parsley, finely chopped
1/4 tsp each of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
Rosewater (optional)
4 or 5 fresh figs
Vegetable oil, for frying

1. In a mortar and pestle grind the pinenuts then add the ground almonds (or grind your own fresh), dried figs, and raisins. When it is turning into a paste, add the parsley and spices and a little rosewater, if necessary, to moisten it.
2. Take the fresh figs and cut holes in the base of the figs. Finely chop the bases and add them to the paste. Stuff the paste into the holes in the figs with your fingers.
3. Heat some vegetable oil in a frying pan and, when it is hot, fry the figs. Turn them so that they cook on each side and until golden and softened. Serve warm.

Got the Blues

Sky-Blue Sauce

This fortnight’s challenge “Something Borrowed, Something Blue” was one of the hardest challenges to find something to make. I really wanted to do something blue, but blue foods are always a bit thin on the ground. The exception seems to be the Middle Ages when a range of colourants were used to dye foods: saffron or egg yolk for yellow, alkanet, blood or berries for reds, ground toast or liver for browns and blacks, spinach or parsley juice for green and almond milk and chicken for white.[1] To make blue medieval cooks had a range of options: ground lapis lazuli (don’t try this at home!), cooked carrot peel, blackberries, cherry or grape juice, or the rather enigmatic turnsole[2].


Many of these ingredients were used in jellies or leaches (milk jellies) to produce fanciful, multi-coloured dishes. Another popular use was coloured sauces, The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy lists white, green, yellow, pink, black, blue and camel-coloured sauces.[3]


The Recipe


The pleasant-sounding ‘Sky-blue sauce for summer’ (I’ve also seen it translated as ‘heavenly’ which I think is even nicer) seemed promising. I don’t speak Italian so I used an English translation (from The Medieval Kitchen) but an Italian version is available here called ‘Sapor celeste de estate’.


“Sky-blue sauce for summer. Take some of the wild blackberries that grow in hedgerows and some thoroughly pounded almonds, with a little ginger. And moisten these things with verjuice and strain through a sieve.”[4]


Unfortunately, as you may have guessed from the pictures there was a major problem with my version, it’s not blue. To add insult to injury, it also tastes pretty awful (it somehow managed to be both too watery and too sour at the same time). Because of these rather major faults I won’t be giving a redaction (if you want to try it you can find the redaction from the book here). I used similar proportions, although I halved the recipe and used slightly less verjuice. I do wonder if that was the problem, although having had a look at some other blogs it seems that no-one has really succeeded at turning the recipe blue, let alone “a lovely midnight-blue”[5].

Sky-Blue Sauce

The Round-up

The Recipe: Sky-blue sauce for summer from Libro de Arte Coquinaria by Martino de Rossi (available here in Italian)

The Date: c. 1465

How did you make it?: I mashed 2 cups of blackberries then added the 2 tbsp of ground almonds, 1/2 tsp of ground ginger and 1/4 cup of verjuice before straining the mixture.

Time to complete?: About 20 mins.

How successful was it?: Well it didn’t turn blue and didn’t taste good so it failed on pretty much all counts. Whether the taste was correct but just not my thing I’m not sure. As to not turning blue, I wonder if either I didn’t add enough verjuice or it wasn’t acidic enough. Epulario by Giovanne Roselli has a nearly identical recipe but he uses mulberries instead, would this work better?

How accurate?: I wonder what medieval verjuice was like, something to investigate further.


[1] Terence Scully, The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages, 5th ed. (Suffolk and Rochester: Boydell Press, 2006), 114–116.

[2] Turnsole is a dyestuff that yields a colour that varies from red to purple to blue depending on the PH level of the liquid it is mixed with. It has been identified as several different plants, although the most likely is chrozophora tinctoria.

[3] Odine Redon, Francoise Sabban, and Silvano Serventi, The Medieval Kitchen: Recipe from France and Italy, trans. Edward Schneider (Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press, 1998), 165–178.

[4] Ibid., 168.

[5] Ibid.



Redon, Odine, Francoise Sabban, and Silvano Serventi. The Medieval Kitchen: Recipe from France and Italy. Translated by Edward Schneider. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press, 1998.


Scully, Terence. The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages. 5th ed. Suffolk and Rochester: Boydell Press, 2006.