An anti-miserabilist approach to historical cooking

Tag: Pear (page 1 of 1)

Recipes from Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery

Like many others, baking is providing a lot of comfort for me and my family as the world has been upended around us. But, now that I’ve run the usual gamut of quarantine baking from banana bread to sourdough, I’ve been taking a deep-dive into some historical cookbooks.

This week, that means taking a closer look at recipes from one of my favourite historical cookbooks: Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery. Even though the book is now named after Martha Washington (1731-1802), Karen Hess’ masterful research shows that like many Early Modern recipe books, the manuscript was passed down through several generations with new recipes being added over time. The majority of the recipes were probably copied in the first half of the seventeenth century, and the source they were copied from must have been even older.

The recipes in the book reflect this span of time, during which English cooking was going through considerable changes. Some recipes, like the one for green pease porrage (green pea porridge or purée) hark back to the medieval period in their ingredients and techniques, while others such as a series of gingerbread recipes show an evolution over time (to find out more about gingerbread’s development from candy to biscuit see these posts).

The Recipes

To Make Green Pease, Porrage

Take of ye youngest pease you can get, what quantety you please, & put ym in a little more faire water than will cover them. Boyle ym till they be tender. yn take new milke & make them of what thickness you please. let ym boyle wel together, yn take a little flower and wet it with milke enough to thicken it, & put it in with some spearmint & marrigoulds shread small. when it is boyled enough, put in a good piece of fresh butter, a little salt, & some pepper, If you please, & soe dish [it] up.

Green Peas Porridge

Cook 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas with 1/2 cup water until very soft. Mash the peas, add 1/2 cup milk and bring back to a simmer. Whisk 1/4 cup milk with 3/4 tbsp flour and add to the peas. Stir in finely chopped mint leaves and marigold petals. Add a knob of butter, season with salt and pepper and serve hot.

To Dress a Dish of [Mushrumps]

Take yr firm mushrumps & pill ye scin from them & scrape away all ye red yt grows on ye insyde of them, & pill yr stalks likewise. If you finde them firm, throw them as you doe them into faire water & let them ly 3 or 4 hours, then take them out of ye water & set them on ye fire in a pan. theyr own liquor will stew them. put in an ounion cut in halves and often shake them. As ye water rises, cast it still away till you finde them allmoste dry. Then take out the ounion & put in a little sweet cream yt is thick & shread in some time & parsley, & put in some grated nutmeg, & a little grose pepper, & a little salt, & soe let them boyle, shakeing them well together. & put in A piece of fresh butter, giveing them another shake, & soe dish them up. This is approved, but ye yolks of too Eggs with a [?] cold Creem and thick ym wth it.

To Dress a Dish of Mushrooms

Peel the outer skin off 8 portobello mushrooms, cook in a tiny bit of water in a pan with 1/2 an onion until soft and the pan is nearly dry. Remove the onion, add 1/2 cup of thick cream, some fresh parsley and thyme (or dried), freshly grated nutmeg, salt and pepper.

To Stew Wardens

Boyle them first in faire water, then pare & stew them between 2 dishes with cinnamon, suger, and rosewater; or wth ye same seasoning you may put them in a pie & bake them

Stewed Pears

Simmer 4 firm pears (wardens if you can get them) in water until soft. Remove from liquid keeping 1 1/2 cups liquid.  Combine the reserved liquid with 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cinnamon stick and 2 tbsp rosewater, bring to the boil. When the pears have cooled, use a sharp knife to peel them, then add them back to the liquid and boil for 5-10 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

Notes – this was still too sweet for my taste, I would reduce the amount of sugar next time

To Make Cheesecakes

Take 6 quarts of stroakings or new milke & whey it with runnet as for an ordinary cheese, yn put it in a streyner & hang it on a pin or else press it with 2 pound weight. yn break it very small with yr hands or run it thorough a sive, then put to it 7 or 8 eggs well beaten, 3 quarters of a pound of currans, halfe a pound of sugar, a nutmegg grated or some cloves & mace beaten, 2 or 3 spoonfuls of rosewater, a little salt. yn take a quart of cream, & when it boyl thicken it with grated bread & boyle it very well as thick as for a hasty pudding. then take if from ye fire & stir therein halfe a pound of fresh butter, then let it stand till it be allmoste cold, & yn mingle it with your curd very well; yn fill yr coffins of paste & when they are ready to set into ye oven scrape on them some sugar & sprinkle on some rosewater with a feather. If you love good store of currans in them, you may put in a whole pound, & a little sack If you please. & soe bake ym.

To Make Cheesecakes

Mix together 250g fresh cheese (ricotta would do, or you can make your own) with 2 eggs, 170g currants, 110g sugar, some grated cloves, nutmeg and mace, a pinch of salt and 1 tbsp rosewater. Bring 500ml cream to the boil, then stir in 3 handfuls of fresh breadcrumbs and cook until it thickens. Stir 115g butter into the cream and bread mixture and allow to cool before adding to the rest of the filling. Place in a pie case, or make individual small pies, and sprinkle with sugar and rosewater. Bake in a medium oven until the filling is just set.

To Make a Tart of Parsneps & Scyrrets

Seeth yr roots in water & wine, then pill them & beat them in a morter, with raw eggs & grated bread. bedew them often with rose water & wine, then streyne them & put suger to them & some juice of leamons, & put it into ye crust; & when yr tart is baked, cut it up & butter it hot, or you may put some putter into it, when you set it into ye oven, & eat it cold. ye Juice of leamon you may eyether put in or leave out at yr pleasure.

Parnsip Tart

Boil 3 parsnips in 1 cup water and 1/2 cup white wine until they are soft. Peel them and mash or blend them. Add 3 handfuls of breadcrumbs, 1 egg, 1 tbsp rosewater and 1 tbsp white wine, 3 tbsp sugar and the juice of half a lemon. Pour into a par-baked tart case, top with some small pieces of butter and bake in a medium oven.

Notes – skirrets are a white root vegetable, and hard to find now, but you could add them in if you had them. It’s possible to get seed to try growing your own if you have a garden. If you want, you can make a decorative top as well by cutting shapes out of a piece of puff pastry the size of your tart. This is baked separately and then laid on top of the tart.

17th Century Polish Cuisine with Compendium Ferculorum

Pear.JPG

It has been such a long time since I have posted on here! But, my thesis is now complete and I actually have some time to cook and write. As a side note, I’ve been writing about some of the results of my research over at the Cook and the Curator blog. The first installment, about recreating the 19th century bread is up now, and the soup/meat recipes will be coming soon.

 

The recipe I made this week is also tangentially related to my studies. One of my lecturers heard about the blog and lent me a book that she had picked up in Poland. It’s a copy of Compendium Ferculorum by the chef Stanislav Czerniecki and originally published in 1682.[1]

 

In some ways the recipes are reminiscent of European medieval cuisines, with an emphasis on spices and sweet/savoury combinations. Pottages, sippets, blancmange and meat jellies feature heavily. There is also evidence for a complex network of international recipe exchange; the book includes dishes from Spain, France, England, Italy, Austria and Russia.

Pear Cake for Lent, Recipe from 1862

The Recipe

With more than 300 meat, fish and dairy recipes it was difficult to choose just one to start with. I’m suffering from an overabundance of pears at the moment though, so this seemed like a good excuse to make use of them. That led me to the recipe for Pear Cake for Lent. It’s an adaptation of the previous recipe, Apple Cake for Lent:

 

“Apple Cake for Lent: Prepare your dough as described above, cut peeled apples in three, coat them in your dough and fry in hot olive oil or oil. Being fried, serve forth sprinkled with sugar.

You will fry Lenten pear cake in a likewise fashion.”[2]

 

It’s not entirely clear which recipe for dough is being referred to here, but the previous recipe for Fig Cake says “Having kneaded the flour with water and yeast in a likewise fashion”,[3] and the Raisin Cakes for Lent before that says “Mix wheat flour with water and yeast and when it looks well risen, add saffron …”.[4]

 

Now, when recreating this there are two ways that I think you could interpret it. Some people online have claimed that modern Polish racuchy or racuszki are related to this recipe. Racuchy are a kind of apple fritter, with slices or chopped apple coated in a wet batter and fried.

 

However, the recipe seems to me to be a bit different (assuming of course that the translation is good). Firstly, the recipe clearly says to knead the dough, which is not something that you would do with a batter. Secondly, the instruction is to cut the apples or pears in three which would make very large fritters.

 

Instead, the recipe to me seems closer to Russian piroshki or pirojki which are a kind of doughnuts made with yeasted dough around a sweet or savoury filling. To that end I adapted a dough recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen, but used only flour, water and yeast as in the recipe. Salt is not mentioned in the recipe, but it really is required to stop your doughnuts tasting very bland. You could also add a pinch of saffron, dissolved in a little of the warm water, which would add a nice flavour and colour.

[1] Czerniecki, Compendium Ferculorum or Collection of Dishes.

[2] Ibid., 157.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 156.

hand.JPG

The Redaction

 

Pear Cake for Lent

 

4 1/2 cups flour

1 3/4 cups warm water

1 tbsp dried yeast

1 tsp Salt

4 pears

Oil, to fry

Sugar, to serve

 

  1. Make the dough by mixing half a cup of warm water with the yeast and leave for 15 minutes until frothy. In a large bowl, place the flour and salt.
  2. Make a well in the middle and add the yeast mixture. Add the remaining water and mix together. You may need to add a little extra water to make the dough come together.
  3. Once the dough has come together, knead for 5-10 minutes until smooth and pliable. Place in a greased bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and allow to rise for 25 minutes. Knock down the dough, form it into a nice ball and return to the bowl. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise for another 30 minutes.
  4. Place about 1/2 an inch of oil in a frying pan and heat over a medium temperature. Peel the pears then cut each vertically into thirds and remove the cores.
  5. Take a small handful of dough and make it into a ball. Stretch and flatten the ball evenly until it is a bit larger than the palm of your hand. Place a third of a pear in the middle and ease the dough around it. Pinch the dough together to seal the pear inside, then flatten the seam. Repeat until all the dough is used.
  6. Carefully drop a little piece of dough into the oil. If the oil sizzles and bubbles around it then it is hot enough. Use a slotted spoon to carefully place the cakes in the hot oil in batches. The oil should come about halfway up the sides of the cakes.
  7. After about a minute, turn the cakes over (this prevents them from rising unevenly on one side) and allow to cook until golden. Then turn them over again and cook until the other side is golden.
  8. Remove the cakes using a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towel. Serve hot, sprinkled with sugar.

With pear.JPG

The Round-Up

The Recipe: Pear Cake For Lent

The Date: 1682

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 1.5 hrs.

How successful was it?:  Tasty, and I was really glad that the dough was cooked all the way through. The pear was lovely and sweet without any added sugar, but the dough needed some salt. They would be particularly nice with a little spice in the dough, and if I was doing it again I would add the saffron.

How accurate?: I still think that this thicker, bread-like dough is the way to go, rather than a batter. The original recipe doesn’t include any salt and I did make it that way but it really needs it. Presumably it’s just assumed that you will add it. The other big question that I had was what type of oil to use. Normally I wouldn’t use olive oil for frying, but I gave it a go since that’s what the recipe said (again, assuming that the translation is accurate). The flavour of the oil wasn’t a problem on the day that they were made, but two days later there was a definite gasoline flavour coming through. Since they really should be eaten straight away it’s less of an issue, but it might be worth using a flavourless oil, particularly if you are planning on keeping them for a bit.

 

References

Czerniecki, Stanislaw. Compendium Ferculorum or Collection of Dishes. Edited by Jaroslaw Dumanowski. Translated by Angieszka Czuchra and Maciej Czuchra. Monumenta Poloniae Culinaria. Warszawa: Wilanow Palace Museum, 2010.

 

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