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.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

For What It's Worth....

I've just sent the images from this past weekend to Flickr for you to see......all 4 of them! Woo Hoo! Although they do include this chap

Who appeared in the bath on Monday morning.......he/she is about 6 inches from toe to toe so would have been a bit of a bath hog if we'd had to share a bath!

Video of the latest test for the wax fountain is now ready for you to see

I've removed the audio track to protect the innocent.....and save you from Dave's ramblings....he didn't realise that I was recording video and thought it was just still images so was rattling on about all and sundry.

As for the holiday Monday, all went pretty smoothly. The recipes were cooked and served as planned, we sweated in the unseasonal heat and we all talked for Britain to absolutely everyone....especially at the dinner table.
When we serve the Meal, Marc M does a little talk about manners and etiquette as we are serving, then I chat about what the dishes are and both of us finish by pointing out that it's not rude to interrupt us whilst we are all eating, that's what we're there explain things, only this time the crowd took us at our word and asked us dozens of questions which was a great change from normal when usually it becomes as quiet as the grave when we sit down to eat!

The coming weekend sees us back to more experimentation with recipes......primarily ones that we've not done before at all which should be fun. I was about to tell you what we plan to do, but as I look around I see that I've left the folder at work that contains all those little details, so you'll have to wait and see. All I can remember is that i wish to try to cook Vyaund Leche, a recipe that occurs 4 times in our book each time slightly different. I would like to see if we can see any culinary reason for the variations or whether it's more likely to be an error in the original writers transcription when writing the recipes down.

Either way, Robert is primed to take weights, measures and more and video over the weekend, so hopefully you'll have plenty to see when the weekend is done.

What's Next?
After this weekend, more planning for the October cookery, more recipe transcription for next year and next weekend is the Oxford Food Symposium which we shall be attending, well 2 of us plenty to be going on with.

Don't forget to vote in my survey if you to you all over the weekend!

Wednesday, 29 August 2007


OK, so I should have planned that a bit better.......turns out you can't edit a poll once people have participated.

So, if you wish to answer and found out about the blog from a web forum, either a posting or one of my signatures then please tick other thanks.

Our Survey Says.....

Just a brief post to fill in before I regale you with tales of Mondays cooking and some more images of the weekend.

To the right you'll now find a little survey that I'd be very appreciative if you could participate in......pretty please. Just fill in the closest answer and submit away. It's basically to see how you found out about the blog so I can see how best to target any future effort at spreading the word about this place.

Friends and family who I personally know read this such as Helen and No.1 Fan don't need to bother thanks as I know your answers already ;-)

Thanks in anticipation

EDIT: Can't alter the questions at the moment due to problems at Blogger. If you found out about it on a forum posting somewhere then please hold fire on your answer until i can edit the questions. Thanks

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Used And Abused!!

Is how we all feel at the moment. I've no idea how many people we had through today....but I'm sure that we spoke to absolutely every one of them......well at least it certainly feels that way, we're absolutely shattered.
I'm sure that since Easter we've had many more people who come with 'good' questions that demand long winded and intricate answers. That's not to say that some people ask poor questions, far from it, just that all the questions recently have taxed us with the answers that are needed (hopefully that makes sense?) All that thinking then really tires you out and combined with another gloriously warm summer day means that I'm typing this whilst desperately trying not to fall asleep at the keyboard.

The other problem with all the questions is that it keeps us really busy, so busy that once again neither Robert or myself took any pictures.....this is getting a bit silly really, so I'll do my best to rectify this tomorrow.......honest!!

Being so busy also almost took its toll on the menu today as well. Soupes of Salomere nearly didn't make it.

¶Soupes of Salomere.

¶Take boylid Porke, & hew yt an grynd it; þen take cowe Mylke, & Eyroun y-swonge, & Safroun, & mynce Percely bladys, & caste þer-to, & let boyle alle y-fere; & dresse vppe-on a cloþe, & kerue þer-of smal lechys, & do hem in a dysshe; þen take almaunde mylke & flowre of Rys, and Sugre an Safroun, & boyle it alle y-fere; þen caste þin lechys, & serue forth alle hote.

Robin was doing this recipe today and was so busy talking and answering questions that when the clock got to 3.15 he'd only just got to finishing the mincing part. Fortunately, some concerted effort lead to the dish making it to the table with all the rest and as it happens it turned out to be pretty good, a nice delicate pork flavour with a sweet sauce to go on top.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the fylettys en galentyne were the star dish on the table.

¶Fylettys en Galentyne.

¶Take fayre porke, þe fore quarter, an take of þe skyne; an put þe porke on a fayre spete, an rost it half y-now; þan take it of, an smyte it in fayre pecys, & caste it on a fayre potte; þan take oynonys, and schrede hem, an pele hem (an pyle hem nowt to smale), an frye in a panne of fayre grece; þan caste hem in þe potte to þe porke; þan take gode broth of moton or of beef, an caste þer-to, an þan caste þer-to pouder pepyr, canel, clowys, an macys, an let hem boyle wyl to-gederys; þan tak fayre brede, an vynegre, an stepe þe brede with þe same brothe, an strayne it on blode, with ale, or ellys sawnderys, and salt, an lat hym boyle y-now, an serue it forth.

So far, each time we've cooked it this recipe has turned out to be a winner......I can only recommend that you all try it yourselves.

Off now for some well deserved liquid refreshment!

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Feeling Hot Hot Hot!

Summer finally came to Hampton Court today....and with a vengeance!
The good weather combined with some really interested people who asked some great questions meant that we're all absolutely cream crackered this evening.

This posting is coming via a new technology test which should mean that we can upload pictures at the end of each day....providing that we actually took some pictures! Unfortunately neither Robert or myself actually took many/any pictures today we were just too busy. I did however manage to get some images of the astronomical clock dials which have been removed for study whilst the clock tower and archway are being consolidated/repaired.They are over at the Flickr account for you to see, but here's a little taster:

But back to the cookery. What's to report....nothing as it happens. As I suspected, everything went swimmingly and all the dishes went to the table that were supposed to. The food was hoovered up, much to my surprise all apart from the sturmeye which to be honest wasn't quite right and certainly wasn't 'right' for that menu, probably better suited to a menu with lighter flavours in it, but we live and learn eh!

Thursday, 23 August 2007


Another holiday weekend's here followed by the first weekend of the month, so a few days of hard work are on the horizon for!!

Everything is planned and all the shopping has been ordered, whether it arrives or not is another thing but I live in hope.
The menu isn't too complex, but should give us enough to do all day and hopefully allow us plenty of photo this space for further details.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Food What We Will Be Eatin'!!!

As promised, there is the planned menu for the coming weekend of cookery.

As usual, just because it appears in the plan doesn't mean that it will end up on the table now does it, although with the meals we do tend to be pretty good at doing what we intended to do.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Not Enough Days In The Week

Phew, finally got the reply back from Chris this morning and managed to cobble together a plan and shopping list to send in before he goes away on holiday.

OK, so 'cobble together' is perhaps too rash a statement.....I planned the food that we will be cooking and constructed the shopping list accordingly! Why 'cobble together'? Quite simply because Chris would like us to do a weekend of recipes that we've not tried before, 'Tudor cooks experimenting with something new' was how he put it!!

Now that's all well and good, but new recipes.......ones that we've not cooked before.......hmmm. As it happens, the plan for next year is to bring out the new research and only use new recipes that we've never done before, well as far as is practical; but that research just isn't ready yet, so.....what to do?? It turned out to be very easy to compile a list of recipes to occupy us over a 2 day event, it's just that they don't really make a very appealing menu and some of them will take very little time to produce, so won't be on 'display' for many people.

The solution.......simple in the end. Just cook the recipes for experimentation purposes and cook a simple stew to sustain the guys during the working day.

What will we be cooking?? Well, for the moment I'm afraid that you'll have to be patient with me as I've not had enough time to type up the menu for the holiday weekend or the list for the September event, preferring to scribble illegibly in pencil instead! I'll hopefully get the time in the next couple of days, but can't promise anything definite until early next week. This will also give me time to run through it all with Robin and Marc H over the weekend.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

No Rest For The Wicked!!

With Chris off on annual leave next week I'm having to get the planning and shopping lists for both the holiday weekend and the September weekend in by tomorrow.

The holiday weekend is done, menu planned and shopping ordered....I'll post the menu later on today when I've got it all typed up, 3 days of cooking and serving 2 meals a day again so plenty of scope for pictures I hope (if we can get our act together).

September is another matter and I'm waiting for Chris (he's the boss!) to get back with what he'd like to see us do over the weekend. I've given him a few suggestions, but will wait to see if he has a preference or not. As soon as he lets me know I can plan the food and let you all know what to expect.

Until then, I've been digging around trying to clean up the hard drive to get some more space and I came across these two videos which I hadn't posted before. They were taken for the AV display on the 'retrospective' weekend and show peeling and mincing, but I thought you might like to see them anyway.


Sunday, 12 August 2007

Oops!! Where Did That Week Go?

Well, so much for posting in the week eh! School holiday stuff at this end of the week and recovering from the weekend at the beginning of the week put paid to that idea....sorry.

So what did we do then? Well for a start it was a scorcher of a weekend weather wise, and boy did we suffer in the wool in the kitchen.....apparently we were the coolest place in the palace but it certainly didn't feel that way to us. Hot weather or not, we did pretty well when it came to 'end results' again, especially Robert who was a demon with the measuring - funny, I'd have expected him to have posted something about it by now!

Slight problems with the bread making, trouble with the ovens it appeared, so Pick and Carters Bread emporium was not to be! The loaves the did manage to produce would be long lasting though, as you'd have a better chance of cutting granite than their early attempts at manchet loaves!! Still their 50% pea flour 50% wheat flour loaf came out brilliantly, and quite surprisingly tasted ok; only tasting of peas for the first mouthful, then just tasting of an 'odd' flavour, but in no way unpalatable. I've posted some pictures of the loaf, along with most of the images I took over the weekend over at Flikr. Strangely enough I didn't take many picture over the weekend and I'm pretty sure that Robert didn't either.....let's hope we do better on the holiday weekend.

Dave and Jorge spent the weekend working on marchpane. The idea was to keep plugging away at it rather like Jorge and I did with the boiled sugar until they were happy with being able to get consistent need to worry about making thinks. Dave though just can't help himself and as you can see, he had to do something with the marchpane that they made.

As it happens, subtle differences in how the two of them made their marchpanes led to 2 different 'types'- a hard/firm marchpane ideal for moulding as you can see in the pictures and a softer variant better suited to draping, more like you might use for cake decorating today. This means that the guys have extra 'tools' in their arsenal now for creating decorative subtelties - an idea for which Jorge and I have knocked together (he came up with an idea and I've provided a little historical info' to push it a bit further) I'm going to resist telling you more about it at the moment until we've got a few more bits sorted should be used to that now shouldn't you!

The sardeyne turned out quite well but did provoke some interesting comments

¶Take Almaundys, & make a gode Mylke of Flowre of Rys, Safroun, Gyngere; Canelle, Maces, Quybibe; grynd hem smal on a morter, & temper hem vppe with þe Mylke; þan take a fayre vesselle, & a fayre parte of Sugre, & boyle hem wyl, & rynsche þin dysshe alle a-bowte with-ynne with Sugre or oyle, an þan serue forth.

The overwhelming taste was of fruit....strange as it contains none!! Some of the guys said it tasted like mince pies or Christmas pudding, the rest of us said it tasted of apples......very much like a McDonalds apple pie as it happens! The best guess we had was that the texture and the cinnamon and ginger were what triggered the 'fruit pie' thoughts in our heads.....strange stuff this food malarkey.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

I've Created A Monster!

So summer arrived with a vengance and sweaty in the kitchen or what!

There hasn't been a thing that Robert hasn't weighed, timed or probed for its temperature today.....don't fret, I'm sure he'll let you know all the nitty gritty in due course you lucky people.

All in all a positve day with lots of good work done which I'll tell you all about in the week.

Friday, 3 August 2007

What!! You Posted It?!?

Was the first comment from Robert when I saw him this afternoon. It turns out he wanted me to cast a more 'editorial' eye over it, see if it made sense, wasn't meaningless dribble.......I did ask if he'd read the other posts and the 'house style'.

Anyway, posted it was and the first of many I hope.

Off for a quiet pint or two now and a bit of a chat, it's been a month since we all saw each other and we're due a catch up.

Robert Reports.......Hooray

Well, it's here.....Roberts first post. After this weekend I hope to get him sorted so that he posts directly to the blog without having to send it to me as text to post but at least it's a start.

So!! I asked for it and you've got it:

Ah, bringing science into the Tudor kitchen!

We thought we would measure stuff and see what happens.
How hot are the charcoal stoves? Well, pretty hot, we typically run them at 600C. So we thought, as we cook in something as conductive as bronze, we must have some powerful cooking equipment...
So what we did is see how long it took to boil a gallon of water. It took twenty-one minutes.
OK then; now what?
Well, the energy needed to raise the temperature of 4.45kg of water from 19.5 to 100 degrees C is 1,527 kJ. Calculated by multiplying the mass and the temperature rise by 4.18, the heat capacity of water.
Kilo Joules may not be the most familiar of units, not as famous as kilo watts, a unit of power. For example, on the bottom of an electric kettle is marked the power in kW, mine says 2.2.
As kW are defined as kJ per second, and the gallon took l260 seconds to boil, the power transmitted to the water was 1.2 kW, disappointingly rather less than the kettle.
Anyway to check, my kettle took 192 seconds to boil two pints of water, or 1.9 kW. And it took 0.12 kWh of electricity to do that, in power terms that's 2.25 kW, so I suppose my kettle is operating at 84% efficiency.
It's not really comparing like with like, is it?
So I put three pints of water, in an uncovered saucepan, on the large ring on my gas stove, it took seven minutes to boil, which comes to about 1.38 kW, again a bit more than the charcoal stove. Incidentally, the calorific value of the gas used was the equivalent of 4 kW, about 34% efficiency. The small ring was only 0.6 kW, but 40% efficient.
But, I hear you say, the water on the charcoal stove was boiled in a heavy old bronze cauldron, that must have taken a lot of heating. Well, I weighed the cauldron, it was 7.7 kg, a lot heavier than the 4.45 kg of water inside. But as bronze has a heat capacity of only 0.435, it would only take 267 kJ to raise the temperature of the cauldron to 100 degrees, or 17% of the energy the gallon of water took.
Of course we tried to increase the efficiency by using a bigger cauldron, with more surface area exposed to the heat, this time the water took twelve and a half minutes to boil, about 2kW of power.
So what? After all this, we have found that the charcoal stove can boil water faster than my gas stove, but not quite as fast as a kettle.
One thing we do know is that the heat from our stove is comparable to ones we have at home, which is useful to know when experimenting with Tudor cookery.
Basic stuff, but it's a start.

Ready For The Weekend?

Well as ready as we can ever be I think!

All the shopping has been ordered and I'm expecting delivery lunchtime tomorrow, the butcher should have delivered the meat before I get in to work although it's not going to be as much meat as usual. Ross won't be working this weekend so we're giving the spits a bit of a rest for a change, should allow us to concentrate on some of the other stuff I hope....I just have to break it to Jorge that he won't be getting his beef 'fix' until the end of the month (unless I can find some squirrelled away in the freezer)

Went shopping with Chris on Wednesday (the man with the budget!) and got all the stuff that it wasn't possible to order for delivery so we should be able to do everything that I've planned........not sure if we will though, but I'm sure that photographs of what we do make will wing their way onto the flikr site for you all to see.

Hopefully after tonight I can sort Robert out for some posting to give you a bit of this space eh!