Tomas de Courcy

A Baker's Peel Vert

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St. Hildegard Cookies


This month the theme of Montengarde Culinary Night is “Vegetables or German Food”. I’ve had this one sitting in my drafts for a bit, and since it’s a German cookie recipe it seems like a good time.

I came across references to St. Hildegard’s “Cookies of Joy” or “Happy Cookies” in a few places but no one had the original recipe. Instead it was a modern cookie with butter, sugar, egg, baking powder, and a lot of spices (nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon). I knew that was a far remove from what she must have been talking about in 12th century Rhineland so I looked into it a bit more.

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There was a great post today on The Recipes Project about Potatoes written by Amanda Herbert. There’s some great information in Dr. Herbert’s work, take a look at it here:

Some key bits:

By 1500, the sweet potato had become an established crop in western Europe.  “Common,” or white potatoes, took a bit longer to catch on; they arrived in Europe as a cultivable vegetable between 1550-1570.

Britain was one of the last European countries to take to the potato; the first mention of potatoes (sweet or otherwise) in a printed British book was in 1596, when famed herbalist and botanist John Gerard included it in his Catalogue. This was apparently so well-received that a year later, Gerard devoted an entire chapter of his famous 1597 Herbal to this new and unfamiliar plant.

Which reminded me that the Herball often has brief explanations of how to eat the items listed. So off I went to the original.

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Minced Meat Pie


This month the Montengarde Culinary Group is hosting a winter feast themed night. Since I’ve been wanting to do a hand raised pie for a while I figured this was a good occasion.

With that in mind I thought I’d do a minced meat pie. Yep, with actual meat. Though in the 16th century they’d just call it a Pye of Beefe. So I’m looking at six recipes from England in the 1590s.

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Levels of Skill

A discussion on the Avacal A&S facebook group lead me to think about levels of skill. These are only my thoughts, and I’m not a Laurel, so feel free to take this with a grain (or barrel full) of salt.

Updated: Master Thorvald gave some advice on this that I’ve added as an addendum. I agree that I’m putting too much emphasis on research while someone can definitely be at master level based on their artistic merits alone.

When considering levels of skill I like to think in the context Novice/Intermediate/Proficient/Mastery. These have nothing to do with SCA granted awards, but I think A&S awards frequently line up with them.

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Medieval Fruitcake


A number of years ago I put together what I thought might be a good period fruitcake recipe. I never got around to making it, so, since we’re having a Sugar & Spice & Everything Nice theme for culinary night this week here’s an updated recipe and my finished version of it.

I originally got the idea for this from Jennifer Strobel, so again, many thanks go to her.

Medieval Fruitcake

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It's easiest to roll it in your hands to make the balls
Her Ladyship Kayleigh rolling the cookies

Qurabiya (sometimes spelled Ghorabiye) is a type of almond cookie, likely originating in Persia, which had spread to the Ottoman court by at least the 15th century. I haven’t been able to find any remaining period Qurabiya recipes, so instead this is being built on a lot of conjecture and various “traditional” and modern recipes. From what I can tell from a few different sources it was a cookie made from egg white, almond, sugar, and rosewater. Modernly different fats and oils as well as other nuts are added to the recipe. Every recipe is different and all have various flavourings. A modern version that seems quite similar to the references I’ve found is this one for Iranian Almond Cookies. The cookie spread west early and several types of cookie (such as in Greece) have names that are very similar. But what is interesting is to compare early French macarons:

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Early Tudor Rapier

I wrote this article for Tournaments Illuminated and it was recently published in Issue 200, Fourth Quarter 2016 p.15-19.dsc_2441

Early Tudor Rapier: The teaching of the rapier in London before 1580 by the Masters of Defence examines the history of the rapier in Tudor England and how early it was accepted by the nobility, gentry, and yeoman classes. The rapier was being used by the nobility and gentry at least by the 1540s and was being formally taught to and by the yeoman class through the Masters of Defence of London by 1568, a year before Bonetti arrived in England.

Here’s an excerpt:

Discussions about the origin of the use of the rapier in England frequently begin by focusing on the very late 16th C. This makes sense, as two Italian-authored rapier manuals were published in England in the 1590s: His True Arte of Defence by Giacomo Di Grassi was translated from his 1570 Italian version and published in 1594, and Vincentio Saviolo, His Practise was published in 1595. George Silver’s 1599 Paradoxes of Defence, with its brief discussions of the rapier, round out the decade. Silver’s work also allows us to track back the teaching of rapier in England to Italian fencing master Rocco Bonetti and his successors: Jeronimo, who was also likely the translator of Di Grassi, and the aforementioned Saviolo. Dating the history of the rapier in England to Bonetti’s school is fairly common (Lennox 38).

But Silver ignores that the teaching of rapier was already established in England before Bonetti arrived there in 1569 (McCollum), and well before there is confirmation of his school being in operation in 1576 (Cook 72). Accounts from the 1630s set the time when the rapier replaced the sword and buckler as the weapon of choice for civilian combat as being “20. yeare of Queene Elizabeth” (Norman 24), or about 1578. But in order for a weapon to become popular there has to have been training beforehand, and that is where the Masters of Defence of London are key.

It’s my hope that this article will bring more context for those with an English persona and who have an interest in the rapier, as well as those wanting more information on the Masters of Defence.