Friday, 31 August 2007

Following The Man

For this weekend's cooking I'm returning to data collection, and having done it twice now I'm beginning to work out what is useful. I was talking to Richard about a particular recipe, we were trying to work something out, and it occurred to me that this is one of the most interesting things that we do. The recipes are like puzzles, with lots of different solutions, none of which can be proved right. All we can do as historic cooks is to follow the clues, and apply experience, and, yes, guesswork. And it's an inclusive process, visitors to the kitchen look at our books, read the recipes, and now have about as much information about that dish as we do. The language is a bit unusual, but usually the meaning is there, and it means that anyone can have a legitimate opinion, and engage with quite complicated historic concepts through something as simple as a pie.

Last weekend I was with Marc H as he was interpreting the recipe for a pie; it was typically vague and contradictory and fascinating to work out. So this week I'm going to follow the man, shadow Marc as he goes through the creative decisions of making it again. From picking up the book, to the dish on the table; or until he tells me to go away...

It's in the Noble Boke of Cokereye, and it's called 'Crustade'

Take a cofyn, & bake hym drye; then take Marwbonys & do ther-in; thenne nym hard olkys of Eyroun, & grynde hem smal, lye hem uppe with Milke; than nym raw olkys of Eyroun, & melle hem a-mong chikonys y-smite, do ther-inne; & yf thou luste, Smal birdys; & a-force wyl thin comade with Sugre or hony; than take clowys, Mace, Pepir, & Safron, & put Ther-to, & salt yt; & than bake, & serue forth.

I'm going to have a go at interpreting this recipe! Not something I've had to do in this detail before. We leave that sort of stuff to Robin, Richard and Marc who have been doing it for years. But it may be interesting to follow the thoughts of beginner.

'Take a cofyn', or a pie case, usually defined as an open pastry case, which sounded a bit odd to me. But in the book we are using, thirty-three recipes mention coffyns, only eight of which specify lids. And quite often there are clues in the text that confirm this, eg spices added after baking. The usual descriptions are 'fayre', 'round' and 'little'. One tart recipe seems to say that the walls should be more than an inch, and a daryole recipe from the Forme of Cury says to 'do it in a cofyn of ii ynche depe'. And both coffin and coffer are from a latin root that means basket.

'Bake hym drye', Marc had the idea of taking this literally, blind baking the pastry cases until they were no longer soft, but not cooked. This involved looking closely at them...

Of course dry could mean 'empty'. Descriptions vary from 'til they be a little hard', to 'let them hard in the oven'; from an alternative crustarde recipe.

'Take Marwbonys & do ther-in', what does 'do' mean? Marc knows, because he has done enough tudor cooking to know that it's typical for what we would call flans; the doucettes, darioles and crustards etc to have pieces of bone marrow put on the base of an empty pastry case. For example a daryole recipe says 'hard thin[e] cofynne & ley thin[e] marow ther-in'. Another says to put marrow and minced dates in the cofyn before baking it a little while before adding the other ingredients.

But why? These eggy tarts are like quiches, and the filling for a quiche doesn't have fat in it. When we made our crustarde last weekend, it was a bit fatty, especially on the surface because the marrowfat had risen during cooking.

How about the pastry? Well whenever we speculate about pastry things get a bit vague, as it isn't common for the books to go into much detail about its composition. In this group of recipes the pastry is usually, but not always, described as 'fair', which I'm assuming means designed to be eaten. The pastry for the quiche contains egg yolk, flour and butter. The recipe for pety pernantes is worth quoting from as it contains an unusal amount of detail. ' Take faire floure, Sugar, Saffron, and salt, and make paast ther-of; then make small Coffyns, then cast in eche a coffyn iii or iiii raw yolkes of egges hole, and ii gobettes or iii of Mary couch therin; then take powder of ginger, Sugur, Reysons of Corans, and cast above, then cover the coffyn with a lid of the same paste; then bake hem in a oven..'

In this case the paste has no fat, but as it contains sugar it presumably is intended for consumption, and it is described as fair. Is the marrowfat supposed to soak into the pastry during cooking? Just look at the amounts, 2 or 3 pieces of marrow to 3 or 4 egg yolks, and some raisins, seems an awful lot of fat. But the quiche recipe contains 2oz of butter to 2 eggs (and one yolk), it’s just that all the fat is in the pastry, and 2oz of butter could be quite a few gobettes.

'thenne nym hard olkys of Eyroun, & grynde hem smal and lye hem up with Milke'
'than nym raw olkys of Eyroun, & melle hem a-mong chikonys y-smete, and do ther-inne'

It does seem rather keen that the ground hard-boiled eggs should be mixed with the milk separately from mixing the raw egg yolks with the chopped chicken.

A question here is what sort of milk; there are two other variations of crustarde in the book and they both use almond milk, this one probably does too. One of them, crustarde ryal, makes almond milk from a fatty marrow broth, mixes it with raw egg yolks and pours it on half-cooked preserved fruit, and extra marrow of course, in a pastry case. 'Then pour thin[e] comade ther-on halful, & lat bake; & whan ut Arysith, it is y-now; then serve forth.'

The other crustarde, 'gentyle', grinds pork or veal with hard-boiled egg yolks, then adds almond milk, '& make hem stonding', so the mixture is quite thick. Then, 'take Marow of bonys, & ley on the cofynne, & fylle hem fulle with thin[e] comade, and serve forth' (I'm assuming there is a baking stage missing).

So in these cases the ingredients are put together in different orders, does it make a difference? Marc added all the ingredients together and the result was very sucessful. But this is made a bit complicated by the next bit.

'& yf thou luste, Smal birdys; & a-force wyl thin[e] comade with Sugre or hony', the meaning of this bit seems to depend on how the word 'comade' is being used. If as in crustarde gentyle, it means the whole pie filling, and it is already in the coffyn, 'ther-inne', and difficult to 'force'. Just possibly it's being used in the crustarde ryal sense, meaning the the chicken and eggs are already in the coffyn, and the milk and hard-boiled yolks are separate and are the comade. This may make a difference...
I'm not sure what 'force' means in this context either, usually it's when something is stuffed, I suppose it could be those poor smal birdys, but the grammar seems wrong.
The author of crustarde ryal seems to expect their mixture to rise quite a lot, and it is rather eggy, whereas crustarde gentyl hasn't any raw eggs at all, and fills the coffyn right to the top.

'than take clowys, Mace. Pipir, & Safron, & put ther-to, & salt it; & than bake, & serve forth.'

This does seem to say that the spices are added to the mixture in the case. The problem of how much spice to add is a well known one, and I don't know enough to comment further here.

So, what do you think? Marc is going to have another go this weekend, and I will be recording it.
Do let us know your comments and ideas about this interpretation, and how you would make the crustarde.

1 comment:

no 1 fan said...

Found Roberts interpretation really interesting,suddenly recipes that were totally incomprehencible became much clearer.For example there is no way I would have guessed that marwbonys were marrow bones but once this has been explained it really helps with understanding the language.Perhaps I should re-read my copy of The Noble Book of Cookery as I know all the clues are there.(I sound like Through the Keyhole}Heres hoping you all have another great weekend, from Mo