PERIOD COOKING--FAVORITES

I posted the following question on the SCA newsgroup:

" I am just starting to really experiment with period cooking, and am : slightly overwhelmed by the quantity and range of recipes available. Since I am not a good judge of how a dish will taste, I would welcome : your assistance, by telling me some of your favorite period recipes so I: can try them."

Here's the responses:

One of my favorites -- although it's a trifle early for the true "medieval" period -- is a spiced, sweet-and-sour braised beef from the 6th century cookbook of Anthimus (a Byzantine, exiled to the court of the Ostrogoths). It's unusual for early recipies in that it specifies quantities and describes cooking methods in considerable detail. In translation (from the original Latin) it reads:

"Boil [beef] in as much fresh water as suits the size of the portion of meat; you should not have to add any more water during the boiling. When the meat is cooked, put in a casserole about half a cup of sharp vinegar, some leeks and a little pennyroyal, some celery and fennel, and let those simmer for one hour. Then add half the quantity of honey to vinegar, or as much honey as you wish for sweetness. Cook over a low heat, shaking the pot frequently with one's hands so that the sauce coats the meat sufficiently. Then grind the following: [here is my only major departure from the original text -- it calls for 50 peppercorns and I have adjusted this to 1, since 50 would drown out every other flavor in the dish!] 1 peppercorn, 2 grams [this is converted from the recipe's "quantum medietatem solidi" -- needless to say, they hadn't invented grams in the 6th century!] each of costmary and spikenard, and 1.5 grams [similarly] of cloves. Carefully grind all these spices together in an earthenware mortar with the addition of a little wine. When well ground, add them to the casserole and stir well, so that before they are taken from the heat, they may warm up and release their flavor into the sauce. ... [some irrelevant commentary] ... Do not use a bronze pan, because the sauce tastes better cooked in an earthenware casserole."

The only specifics I've worked out that aren't mentioned in the recipes are the amounts of leeks, pennyroyal, celery root and fennel -- I use about a quarter cup chopped each of leek, celery root and fennel, and about a tablespoon of fresh pennyroyal.

(I must confess, though, that I have yet to lay my hands on spikenard, so I haven't managed a complete reconstruction of the dish.) Contributed by Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvryn

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