Sponge Cake

If you’ve read about the history of Sponge Cake I’m sure you’ve heard the story that the first English Sponge Cake recipe shows up in Gervase Markham’s 1615 book The English Housewife. But of course none of the websites that mention it give you the recipe, and I’ve seen a number say that it was probably less airy, or that it was flat like a cookie. Which got me wondering, what exactly was the recipe? Well, it’s cake time. For this I’ll be using the 1986 edition, edited by Michael R. Best, of Gervase Markham’s The English Housewife : Containing the Inward and Outward Virtues Which Ought to Be in a Complete Woman. For reference our modern sponge cake is 1:1:1:1 flour, sugar, butter, eggs. Here’s Markham’s:
To make biscuit bread. To make biscuit bread, take a pound of fine flour, and a pound of sugar finely beaten and searced, and mix them together; then take eight eggs and put four yolks and beat them very well together; then strew in your flour and sugar as you are beating of it, by a little at once; it will take very near an hour’s beating: then take half an ounce of aniseeds, coriander seeds, and let them be dried and rubbed very clean, and put them in; then rub your biscuit pans with cold sweet butter as thin as you can, and so put it in and bake it in an oven: but if you would have thin cakes, then take fruit dishes and rub them in like sort with butter, and so bake your cakes on them, and when they are almost baked, turn them and thrust them down close with your hand. Some to this biscuit bread will add a little cream, and it is not amiss, but excellent good also. Markham 1986, p 112-113
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Generic Meat Pie

I made this last weekend and it was a huge hit. Of course I forgot to take any photos of it… Woops.

So, based on my previous work with the minced meat pie I figured out that the general concept of a meat pie in 16th Century England followed a set process, similar to how the stews did:

  • Meat (beef, pork, mutton, chicken)
  • Fat (suet, butter, egg yolk, cheese, bacon)
  • Spices (cloves, mace, cinnamon, ginger, pepper, caraway, sugar)
  • Dried Fruit (raisins, prunes, currants, berries)

With that in mind, here’s today’s meat pie, designed for ease of making and cheapness of ingredients.

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Ravioli

This month at Montengarde Cookery Group the theme is Eat Your Vegetables, so it’s time for some spinach ravioli.

I’ll let you in on a secret, although I love redacting recipes and cooking them my wife, HL Kayleigh de Leis, is the better cook, especially when it comes to pastas. So she’s the one making it this time.

This month’s is coming from Sabina Welserin’s 1553 German cookery book. Rabiolin zú machen or “to make ravioli”.

31 To make ravioli

Take spinach and blanch it as if you were making cooked spinach, and chop it small. Take approximately one handful, when it is chopped, cheese or meat from a chicken or capon that was boiled or roasted. Then take twice as much cheese as herb, or of chicken an equal amount, and beat two or three eggs into it and make a good dough, put salt and pepper into it and make a dough with good flour, as if you would make a tart, and when you have made little flat cakes of dough then put a small ball of filling on the edge of the flat cake and form it into a dumpling. And press it together well along the edges and place it in broth and let it cook about as long as for a soft-boiled egg. The meat should be finely chopped and the cheese finely grated.

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Proper Roasted Turkey

Many years ago my wife and I started making turkey for SCA events, starting when someone told us that turkey wasn’t period. So of course we couldn’t let that stand and did the research. Now of course we were normally doing this for large events or for things where oven space was at a premium, or time at a minimum, so we’ve never been able to do it properly in a coffin. So I was very glad that the vote on my poll was for turkey, because this time I get to make it in a coffin.

Culinary Night spread

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Stewed Camel

My wife, Her Ladyship Kayleigh de Leis, likes to suggest strange dishes for me to try making . At her recommendation we’re trying camel. Nope, that’s not a typo. Today’s recipe comes to us from Anissa’s Blog, and was originally translated by Charles Perry. Unfortunately I don’t have a copy of A Baghdad Cookery Book (aka Kitāb Al-ṭabīkh by Al Baghdadi), from which this comes, so I don’t have a page number for you.

The dishes from Culinary Night, they’re a bit brown as everyone did a protein dish this time

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Medieval Candy

This was my first time doing a poll to determine what I was going to make for Culinary Night. Candy won out over Andalusian bread. I’m thinking I may continue to have polls to determine what I’m making.

First off, this one  isn’t my research or recipe, instead I’m basing it on the work of Jana of the Time Travel Kitchen. More specifically I’m taking this from the entry To make Penydes (I believe it’s pronounced pen-ids based on the Middle Eastern “panids” see here )

With that being said, this comes originally from Curye on Inglysch, specifically from Harley manuscript 2378. Here’s the original:

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Tudor Beer

I was reading this article about Tudor Beer from Brew Your Own, a home brewing website, and I thought it would be fun to try. A friend of mine, Machabi Caiaphas, is a great brewer so I asked if he’d help me brew up a batch, this is the first time I’ve brewed so it was a new adventure for me.

The early English brewing industry focused primarily on ale, made with gruit (Unger 2004, 64), and expanded and commercialized significantly during the 14th century (Unger 2004, 98). At the same time hopped beer was being imported from Holland and Flanders (ibid.) primarily for the immigrant population which was more used to beer than ale. England also made something called beer, though unhopped, as early as the late 12th century (Unger 2004, 97) however it had a reputation as not being as good as ale or hopped beer. English brewers began producing hopped beer in the 15th century (Unger 99), though the operations were primarily run by immigrants, which caused other tensions (ibid.). By the 16th century the primary difference between beer and ale was the additives used to flavour it. While beer used hops, ale used herbs, spices, fruit, and sometimes even toasted bread (Unger 100). By the middle of the 16th century in most, though not all (Unger 103), areas the ale brewers and beer brewers had merged (Unger 102) though there remained a firm distinction between the definitions of ale and beer based on the additives. Many Englishmen felt that ale was the proper drink of the English while beer was for foreigners (Unger 100), however the tide was shifting in England and by the last quarter of the century beer had mostly replaced ale as the preferred beverage in England (ibid.).

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French Pastry

This one was inspired by a question on Reddit. Someone was wondering how much truth there was to pâte à choux being from the 1540s. So I looked it up, and lo and behold there it is in 1604’s Ouverture de Cuisine. Being only

Second batch

four years past the 16th century I think it’s safe to say that it’s a 16th century recipe. I looked a little further and found a Scappi recipe as well, from 1570, though it’s a bit different. But close enough to say that the rumors of it being invented in the 1540s are quite likely.

 

Now neither of the recipes are modern choux pastry but they do seem to use the same high moisture content raising method.

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