Monday, 30 July 2007

I Wonder What Robin Was Thinking?

I think Marc and Ross had their hands full with a particularly floppy flank of beef here........and admittedly Ross rarely is the one putting the meat on the spit.........but I think Robins face at the end of the clip speaks volumes !!

sorry boys (hee hee)

Didn't They Do Well?

yes, yes I's been ages! No real reason, a touch of the malaise I suppose and the hoped for posting from Robert that never just can't get the staff can you?! Hopefully that will be sorted soon - technical troubles I believe, or possibly the malaise is catching? Who knows!

So, the cookery did it go? Pretty well I think, not quite as smooth from our point of view as the first one, but not bad none the less.

the first four pictures are making and cooking spinach fritters and the last three are making Jombils - as it happens, probably the nicest end result I've seen for quite some while!

Apart from the edible end results, nothing else of note to mention from the day I don't think.

This Weekend:

What's planned asked and I did say that as soon as i know, you'll know, so here it is.

I thought that the stuff we did for July worked really well......and allowed us to start adding some more 'hard data' to the piles of research; it also seemed to go down well with the visitors, so, not withstanding my rambling thoughts after the last event (are we slackers??) we're going to do it all again and this time hopefully we'll get round to cooking a few more recipes, especially some of the comparisons we want to try.
For those of you who have already bought the book (shameless plug!) we aim to be trying to cook:

hagas de Almayne
egredouncye, trying with beef and pork
long fretoure
and sardeyne

as well as a few more 'number gathering' experiments, some chopping and mincing tests and some basic bread making.

this last thing has come rather to the fore as our baker has unfortunately gone into liquidation leaving us with no bread supply! Making our own can really only be seen as a very limited stopgap measure as it really is a job than needs quite a degree of skill and will take up quite a large amount of a working day! The upside is that I think it should now force us to take a fresh look at the bread that we use, recipes and references etc.
As of now..........the search for a new baker begins.

For those without the book, a bit more info' on the recipes as and when I can post pictures after the event.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

What's In Store For The Course Tomorrow?

Well, this is what I've planned for the two sessions to cook:

Morning session

¶For tarts owte of lente.

Take neshe chese and pare hit and grynd hit yn A morter and breke egges and do ther to and then put yn buttur and creme and mell all well to gethur put not to moche butter ther yn if the chese be fatte make A coffyn of dowe and close hit a bove with dowe and collor hit a bove with the yolkes of eggs and bake hit well and serue hit furth.
Harleian MS 4016

To make Rice Puddings.

Boyle halfe a pound of Rice with three pintes of Milke, a little beaten Mace, boyle it untill your Rice be drie, but never stirre it, then you must stirre it continually or else it will burne: powre your Rice into a Collinder, or else into a strainer, that the moisture may runne cleane from it: then put to it sixe Egges, and put away the whites of three, half a pound of Sugar, a quarter of a pinte of Rose-water, a pound of Currans, a pound of Beefe suet shred small, season it with Nutmeg, Sinamon, and a little Salt, stirre all this together with a spoone thinne, drie the smallest guts of a Hog in a faire cloth being watered and scoured fit for the Puddings, and fill them three quarteres full, and tie both ends together, let them boyle softly a quarter of an houre or scarce so much, and let the water boyle before you put them in, and doe as the other pudding last spoken of.
John Murrell ‘Two Books of Cookery and Carving’ 1638

A Trout Baked Or Minced

Take a Trout and seethe him. then take out all the bones. then mince it very fine with three or four Dates minced with it; seasoning it with Ginger, and Synamon, and a quantity of Sugar and Butter. Put all these together, working them fast. then take your fine paste and cut it in three corner ways in a small bigness, of four or five coffins in a dish. then lay your stuff in them, close them, and so bake them. And in the serving of them baste the covers with a little Butter, and then cast a little blanch powder on them, and so serve it forth.
Thomas Dawson ‘The Good Housewifes Jewel’ 1596

Afternoon session

To Make Jombils A Hundred

Take twenty Eggs and put them into a pot, both the yolks and the white; beat them well. then take a pound of beaten Sugar and put to them, and stir them well together. then put to it a quarter of a peck of Flour and make a hard paste thereof; and then with Aniseed mould it well and make it in little rolls, being long. Tie them in knots, and wet the ends in Rose Water. then put them into a pan of seething Water, but even in one waum. then take them out with a skimmer and lay them in a cloth to dry. this being done, lay them in a tart pan, the bottom beingOiled. then put them into a temperate oven for one hour, turning them often in the oven.
Thomas Dawson ‘The Good Housewifes Jewel’ 1596

To make a tarte of Bread.

Take grated bread, and put to it molten Butter, and a litle Rosewater and Sugar, and the yolkes of Egs.and put it into your paste, and bake, and when you serue it, cut it in foure quaters and cast sugar on it.
The Good Houswifes Handmaid for the Kitchen 1598

To Make Fritters Of Spinach

Take a good deal of Spinach and wash it clean. then boil it in fair Water. When it is boiled take it forth and let the Water run from it. then chop it with the back of a knife, and put in some Eggs & grated Bread. Season it with Sugar, Synamon, Ginger and Pepper, Dates minced fine, & Currants. Roll them like a ball and dip them in batter made of ale and Flour.
Thomas Dawson ‘The Good Housewifes Jewel’ 1596

Hopefully that should keep both them and us busy for the two sessions. This has been really quite tricky to sort out - especially after we (it's Robin and myself running the courses) were told that the sessions had been sold as all being different?!?!?!
It's remarkably difficult to pick recipes that are simple enough for the novice cook to try, last week we had one lady who didn't really cook, yet interesting and varied in technique. I felt it was pointless to do some of the wonderful stews or soups from history because in the main they are really only a series of ingredients put into a pan then left to their own devices to cook......what's there to pick up from that?
This also has to then balance with the space that is available within the modern kitchen that we use, there isn't room for instance for everyone to be at the stove at once, so at the moment it's easier to 'do' recipes that are all preparation and that one person can then cook. Hopefully in the future we'll be able to advance and improve on this......but who knows.

My last batch of images from the last weekend are now available for you to view over at Flikr, just follow the links in the right hand column or click on the little photo montage below them to take you there.

That's it for the moment, I'll let you know how we get on with the course and I'm sure that there will be more to say later in the week.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Oh What The Hell!!

I've just sent a batch of pictures to flikr for you to see (from the sublime to the ridiculous eh? last week you couldn't get me to post, now you can't stop me!!)

Just to clear things up a little, this is the Brawn in Comfyte recipe that Robin was playing with.

¶Brawn in comfyte.

¶Take Freyssc Brawn & sethe yt y-now, & pare it & grynde it in a mortere, & temper it with Almand mylke, & draw it þorw a straynoure in-to a potte, & caste þer-to Sugre y-now, & powder of Clowys, & let boyle; þen take floure of Canelle, & pouder of Gyngere; & þen take it out of þe potte, an putte it in a lynen cloþe & presse it, but lat it boyle so longe in þe potte tylle it be alle þikke; þan take it vppe & presse it on a cloþe, & þen leche it fayre with a knyff, but not to þinne; & þan if þou wolt, þou myht take þe Rybbys of þe bore al bare, & chete hem enlongys þorw þe lechys, an so serue forth a leche or to in euery dysshe.

His main 'thrust' was in trying two batches of the recipe, one with a very lean batch of meat and one with a deal of the fat and connective tissue left in it. In the past when this recipe has failed, it seems that too much of the gelatin producing parts of the meat were removed leaving us with a product that wouldn't hold together to be sliced and tasted very dry. Leaving the fat and so on in produced a 'winning' product, as we'd suspected when we tried this last we have had the time to show that this is the case and more importantly to compare the two variations side by side........exactly the point of the whole weekends, YAY, we're not slackers!!

By the I the only one to be reminded of images of Walrus colonies when I see this photo?


...I'd reply to comments with another comment, trying to keep it all neat and tidy, but Helen's question about comparisons of ingredients kid of got me thinking.

Unfortunately we didn't get around to doing any of the meat recipes that I'd planned to do for comparison purposes as the rest of the things took up all the time......well that and all the talking. This has got me thinking 'are we a bunch of slackers when left to our own devices?'

With this weekend and the June retrospective cookery, I had planned loads more recipes than we actually got round to doing and to be honest, that's always been the case when we do an event that doesn't have a tightly planned menu format. Now over the last couple of years, Robin, Marc H and myself have got it pretty sorted with the number of dishes that we can sensibly prepare in a working's usually about 7 dishes with one of them being a roast dish, so 6 made dishes plus all the interpreting/talking that goes with it in the gap from dinner to supper being served, along with the occasional work on a dish for the next day as well as preparing the dinner for first thing in the day.
With this in mind, I always plan for us to be able to do a similar number of dishes over each day when there is no formal menu structure to the cookery just like this last weekend. come we never manage to do that many dishes during these looser structured events? Do we talk more to the public? Are the recipes that we do cook more complex? (I'd hardly count boiling water as complicated......even Delia Smith takes that as a given!!) Or are we just a bunch of lack wit slackers?? Hmmm..........still not sure about that one.

Fortunately most of the recipes use ingredients that store easily....either in packets or in our freezer, probably the best tool that we have purchased for the project.

As for posting the dishes for the next weekend on 4th and 5th'll know what we're doing just as soon as I know what we're doing!
Gimme a chance, there are other things to do in the mean time, like sort out Mondays 2 adult education cookery sessions. For your interest I'll post the course structure over the weekend for you all to peruse along with a few more pictures from last weekend.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

To Tide You Over....

for the next day or so and for those of you that can't visit Hampton Court in person.........yet another panorama, hastily compiled I might add, this time of Clock Court.

Hopefully I'll be able to carry on taking these panoramas from all around the Palace to give all of you that can't get to see us in person an idea of the wonderful building in which we get to work.

If I can, I'll also try to take some from 'behind the scenes' so to speak, to let you see some of the areas not normally open to the public.......but no promises though!
As mentioned before, these panoramas are hosted on a site with a limited bandwidth........put simply, if they disappear in the future from their posts it's because they were too popular and the number of views proved too great for the host site. If that should happen then I'll have to look into getting some paid for web space, but hopefully (says the skinflint!) that will be a way into the future.

Monday, 9 July 2007

There's Change Brewing!!!

Very soon we shall be joined by a new contributor to the blog!!!

I've asked Robert if he'd like to contribute a few words now and then so that we can expand the blog to eventual world domination mwa ha ha!

But seriously, I've asked Robert to join me in this venture so that more sides of the project can be brought to you.....the viewers. Having another point of view will give you a new perspective on the project I'm sure and as moderator of the blog I can always edit stuff I don't like can't I?

Just kidding!

It should also mean more posting and more information coming your way, so remember to keep watching this space for more details.

This Weekend It Was All Jaw Jaw Jaw!

and no I'm not referring to all the talking that we did......and boy did we talk. The 'new boy' awoke on Sunday morning looking like he was doing the worlds best Popeye impression...

He'd turned up on Friday with a bit of mild toothache, which by Sunday had developed into a bit of a swelling. We tried to cure it..

but he still kept talking!!! Seriously though, the bandage did help apparently and a course of antibiotics looks like it should get to the root of the problem (that's not just us guessing, he did see a doctor about it in case you were wondering)

So what did the weekend bring? see for yourselves as I've popped a few pictures up over at the Flikr site; I've a few left to post later in the week and when Robert gets back from a few days away I'm sure that we'll get some more for you all to see.
I can't say if we were busy or not as the mornings were like the proverbial grave with the afternoons extremely busy, no doubt all to do with the flower show which plays havoc with the traffic for miles around (as any large popular event would)
People stayed and chatted for quite a while and seemed genuinely interested in the work that we were/are doing; the fact that Robert was in modern whites taking photographs and temperatures didn't worry people and they could see the value in taking the measurements that we did.

What did we learn? Quite a bit I think, but we won't know for certain what exactly we've got until Robert and I can compile the numbers that we've got into meaningful data. I can though tell you that 1 imperial gallon of water in a 1 gallon capacity pot will boil in just a shade over 20 minutes with the fire at an average of 650 degrees centigrade. 1 gallon in a 2 gallon pot boils in half that time....not a great surprise given the greater surface area though. More interesting is the fact that placed away from the heat to cool, the 1 gallon pot was still at 97 degrees centigrade 5 minutes later, although the water 'looked' just like warm bath water.
This might not seem too interesting, but I think it could have implications as to how certain dishes could be cooked in future experiments.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Back In Action!

Has the get up and go returned? Well no! There's still an air of 'not bothered' about to be honest, BUT.....I think we're over the worst so prepare for more posting......Hooray.

Quite a bit of good work done today, can't say much now as technology limits me to posting via mobile phone but will be more forthcoming when I return to technological normality.

More of the same for us tomorrow, still amazed at how many people 'get it', lots of people asking really good questions and hopefully going home having had a good day.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

What The Hell Is Going On???

...Is a question many of you have been asking I'm sure.....thank you anonymous for the question and Helen. Yes it's been days since I posted last and even then I neglected to answer the questions about the coloured sugar.....what gives???

I can only say that I am right in the middle of a bout of not really caring about work at the moment!! To be honest, my 'get up and go' has got up and gone! Do i know why? it happens I think I do.
Am I going to tell you what the reason is? 'fraid not! But fear not, I'm hoping that this weekends cookery will kick me back in to touch, if not, still fear not as plans are afoot to solve my dire posting record of the last few this space for more (I hope!)

What have we done in the time since we last spoke?

Quite a bit as it happens (all of which will give an indication of how much my get up and go has gone, as in the past I'd have bee posting like a nutter about it.)

A brief day trip to La Belle France for a top up of ingredients for the cookery

No we didn't buy this chap - even though I wanted to, but we did manage to get some of these:

Fresh almonds! Which I've never seen for sale in a supermarket over here. As it happens the trips to France for shopping are always a little distressing for us.....the cost of petrol, the channel crossing and all of the shopping we buy - cooking wine planned to last until the October weekend, salt, vinegar, some bacon, butter and assorted 'odd' ingredients ....all comes to less than it would cost to buy the same amount of wine from a supermarket in the UK!?!?! That's the main reason that we do it......and for lunch........and in this case we drove through some of the area that held the Field of the cloth of Gold meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I, so even the travelling wasn't wasted time.

What else?.....Well last Thursday saw the official opening of the new Henry VIII exhibition at Hampton Court......champagne and canapes were to be had (shame I don't like champagne really) and a good look at the new exhibition.........worth a visit if you come to Hampton Court to see the Field of the Cloth of Gold and Embarkation paintings extremely well lit for the first time in a while.

Oh, and Robin and I ran an adult education day on Monday....practical cookery in the modern kitchen, teaching the techniques needed to cook 3 dishes:

(These images have been altered to protect the innocent!)
Was it a success? I think was two courses, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, both did similar dishes and all the ladies involved seemed to enjoy themselves, only the evaluation forms know the true answer though. 16th July sees another day of the same so fingers crossed it goes just as well.....will there be any more? Not at the moment, circumstances beyond our control make running these courses very difficult and until these issues can be ironed out then we won't be holding any more practical cookery courses. That's not to say that there won't be any more adult education.....far from it, check out the Historic Royal Palaces website for details (shameless plug eh!) We are in the middle of setting the courses for September 2007 to May 2008 at the moment, which will include evening talks by members of the kitchen team on Christmas food (the fact and the fiction), the fascinating history of chocolate and an evening guided tour of the kitchens (out of the public hours) with a little look behind the scenes as well we hope.
On top of that there will be a number of whole day courses on topics including...Interpreting the kitchens; the hows and whys and sports, games and pastimes which will include hands on sessions playing some of the games discussed as well as a trip around the Palace to see where such games would have been played.

Well that's the advertising done what about this weekend?
The plan is to do a bit more experimenting than usual, along with a lot more recording both photographically (recording all the stages of a recipe for instance) as well as temperature readings, weights and the like. There isn't a menu as such to share with you as it very much depends on what the weather is like over the weekend......why? Too wet and there isn't much light in the kitchens to photograph by and so we intend to play it very much by ear.

Examples of what we'll try to long does a 2 gallon pot take to boil? If a recipe says it can be done with pork OR beef, which tastes better or are they both equally as good? Can we finally get some of the recipes that have failed in the past to work or not.....these and many more questions will, I hope, be answered over the weekend.

If you are thinking of visiting this weekend then i look forward to seeing you.....just remember that the RHS flower show is on though and the roads WILL be very busy.
Same rules as always for posts over the event....text only with pictures to follow I hope.

(phew......that's blown the cobwebs out!?!)