Thursday, 27 September 2007


Is the spice of life so they say or in the case of the up coming cookery, it's the basis of some of the work that I've planned for us to do.
Based on the question from Helen in her comment on the 'What A Nice Man' post, I thought that it might be an idea for us to have a go with some different apple and pear recipes and try some of the different varieties of these fruits that are commonly available in the shops here in the UK. This way, when someone wants to have a go at home and asks 'what variety should I use?' then we can give you a better idea.

This also plays into what Chris would like us to do, which is to try and work on 'harvest time' recipes.......although that's easier said than done using the recipes that we have available at the moment and the notice that I was given about it! Still we'll do our best as always.

I've also planned the rest of the weekend, as with recent events there's no real coherent menu to speak of, just a selection of recipes for us to try out to look at different aspects that we may not have paid as much attention to in the past or that might prove interesting for our visitors to watch.

October will see the last cookery weekend before the clocks change and Hampton Court moves to it's winter opening hours..........and we start to get used to cooking in darkness!! Hopefully the weather will be good over the weekend and we'll get some more photographs for you to see. I expect that as we move into the winter weekends that the opportunities for good photographs will diminish like the natural light that we use to illuminate our pictures.......fingers crossed that I'll be proved wrong though.

Over this next cookery weekend, I intend to plan what we'll be doing for the November and December weekends so that I've got more time to get on with both the research for next year and the other stuff that I'm supposed to be doing for work. November......I'm not too sure about, but December will see us gearing up for the Christmas cookery. The intention is to spend those two days preparing stuff such as blanching and grinding almonds, preparing sausages for the dinners and so on which should mean more time over the Christmas week to concentrate on the days food. If other plans come to fruition we should also have a couple of deer carcasses to process that weekend which we'll then cook over the Christmas event.........when I say 'we' I actually mean Pick should have a couple of carcasses to prepare! much for not doing small talk eh!!

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Fingers Crossed......

.....we may have had a success on Friday!
One of the proverbial 'holy grails' of the work that we do is for those of you who visit the cookery to be able to try the food that we cook. Now, to be perfectly honest, that's a long long long way off, but an acceptable alternative has always been to try to get the restaurant to serve their own versions for you to try.

We've tried this in the past and I really have to say that it was doomed to failure very early on....even though the chef was interested, it was always seen as an addition to their menu rather than an integrated part of it and they were far too ambitious and tried to run before they could walk so to speak with the recipes that they chose from the selection they were given........that and a whole host of other stuff meant that it all got flushed down the toilet of failure pretty rapidly. That wasn't the first time it was tried either and all of the previous efforts by that company ended up being pretty poor despite the best of intentions and several good starts.

All of that meant that I didn't hold out much hope when the current company that provides the catering at Hampton Court said that they wanted to provide some 'history food' on their menus. The catering manager and head chef came to see us cook a few weekends ago, had a chat and went away with some keep it simple, they were given the new kitchen guide book 'The Taste of The Fire' (available at retail outlets in a palace near you!) which contains a number of suitable recipes that they could do......and then we waited.

Yesterday we sampled their efforts and I must say I was impressed! They'd gone out and found their own recipes for a mutton stew and a custard tart.....they happened to have modern redaction's that they followed, but what the hell, they've had a go and the results were pretty damn good. The custard was smooth and creamy, just sweet enough and served in a short crust paste......the stew was rich and full of flavour, a little thinner than we'd have made in our kitchen but just right for modern tastes I think. We gave them a few pointers of how best, in our opinion, to give a more 'authentic' taste and we now await the final version.

When will that be available you ask? These 2 recipes will be on their menu from the next cookery weekend (6th and 7th October) and on all the following cookery weekends. Rather sensibly, they will only be serving this when we are cooking, mainly to tie into the event but also to see how they sell which is a good thing I think. If they do well, then they may well increase the frequency that they appear on the menu. They also intend to increase and vary the rang on offer as time goes on, again another good thing. The final bit of good news is the fact that you can choose what to have with it. If you want the Tudor style stew just with bread and a spoon then you should be able to have that, but if you want rice or potatoes then that's up to you..........Hooray, common sense prevails.

Final thing though is I'm afraid that I have no idea how much they are going to charge, they've told us it will be in line with their normal prices, but exactly how much I really can't say.
Based on the taste though, I'd have no hesitation in reccomending that people try it.....who knows, perhaps it'll inspire you to have a go and cook some recipes at home yourselves!?!

Thursday, 20 September 2007

What A Nice Man!

Bit of a long old day today at the Palace, I finally left at 10.00 this evening having spent from 6.00 onwards doing some stuff for TV. For those in the UK it was for ITV's This Morning and it was with Phil Vickery.........what a genuinely nice guy he is (and I don't say that sort of thing very often!), both interested and interesting to talk to.

It's apparently for a short series of features on 'history food' and I/we did a quince pie. Quinces are a wonderful aromatic fruit if you've never tried them before; very hard and quite inedible raw, but baked in a pie like this recipe and the results are a joy to eat........quince are just starting to come into season and I can heartily recommend you trying to cook with them if you can find some. If you can't get the quinces, try pears instead (wardones are a variety of pear) or how about some fantastic English apples which like the quince are now coming into season.

Quynces or Wardones in paast.

¶Take and make rounde coffyns of paast; and take rawe quynces, and pare hem wit a knyfe, and take oute clene the core; And take Sugur ynog, and a litull pouder ginger and stoppe the hole full. And þen couche ij. or iij. quynces or wardons in a Coffyn, and keuer hem, And lete hem bake; or elles take clarefied hony in-stede of sugur, if thou maist none sugur; And if þou takest hony, put thereto a litull pouder peper, and ginger, and put hit in þe same maner in the quynces or wardons, and late hem bake ynog.

The crew were good and knew exactly the shots that they wanted which made it all go nice and smoothly......even better than that the pie that I'd pre-made this afternoon for the finished article wasn't too bad, just a touch too much ginger I felt, but not a disaster.

Before you ask, no I can't recall when it is going to be on the telly and no I didn't take any pictures......sorry.
Off to bed now and tomorrow is full of meetings about all sorts of grand plans for the future, so it'll be another early start for me then.....roll on Saturday and a nice lie in.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Appraylere Redux!

Finally got the video from Robin today and after a little swift editing to remove the's now available for you to see. There are actually two of them to see, one a collection that shows most of the 'unveiling' process and the second showing the batter being applied.

Why remove the sound? Mainly to protect the crowd as it happens....pure filth they were, pure filth.......

....well not really, just some innocent 'end of the pier' type humor, but you nice folks don't need to hear that now do you?

I'm pretty sure that there's less shock value in these videos than the previous pictures of the appraylere.......after know what's coming don't you, still the figures will tell I'm sure.

I don't think they need much explanation, well certainly not the second one. The first one does have a few odd moments in it, early on both Jorge and I were concerned that sherd's of pot or sharp bits of glaze might ping off and hit someone, hence the covering and shielding with the cloths at the start. The wiping on the board is to try to gather up all of the very fine fragments of glaze......mainly so we didn't eat them! There are also a few moments of respite during the 'action', that's where the crowd were getting a bit carried away with themselves, or at least those two nice ladies at the end were!!

Did we learn anything from it? To be honest, I'm not too sure really. Obviously the recipe (see back a few posts) is talking about making a much larger version and not quite in such a suggestive shape. It does support other peoples research that a pitcher, as well as being a term for a large jug/liquid container that pours is by implication of the name a vessel that is sealed and made waterproof by pitch rather than glaze. We had a devil of a job getting all of the glaze fragments off of the meat and in the end only tasted from the core of the meat, leaving the edges well alone.....this probably wouldn't be as much of a problem with an unglazed or organically glazed pot. As for any more, I think I'd want to try it again..........but bigger!! (although we are limited in size by the scale of our bronze cauldrons, after all it does have to fit inside one to be poached)...........Not sure when, but rest assured that you'll all know when I do.

Monday, 17 September 2007

What A Moron!!!!!

Nothing to do with the kitchens really, but indirectly related I suppose. Turns out that I've deleted all the images that I took in the US this spring......what a moron!!!!

That'll teach me to tidy up the disc drive more carefully won't it....Oh well, live and learn I suppose, so make the most of the pictures on Flickr, they're the only copies about!

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Edited To Protect The Guilty!!

Having had a chat with Jorge this evening he asked me to edit the video in the post 'Busy Busy Busy' to remove the sound!?!
Well it did rather make him sound a bit of a plank, so the 50 people that saw it before it was deleted are privy to all of his wittering.....the rest of you get the sweet merciful silence that is there now (but still with the same footage as before though)

Not much else to report at the moment, I'm waiting for a reply from Chris the boss before I can plan the work load for the October weekend then as soon as that's sorted I can let you know. The coming week is quite full with meetings, some education sessions for schools along with some other stuff that I'll tell you about nearer the time.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

So We've Found The Level Then Eh?

After just over 100 posts here at Blogger it appears that I've finally found the level at which most of you reside.....and it's almost as low as the boys in the kitchen

I show you pretty pictures, give you loads of information but what causes the most stir?..................some pictures of a meatball that happens to be shaped like a ..........urm......well you know.....a.....yes it was shaped like that!!! (got to keep it clean for the family crowd!)

Yep, it's true, visitor statistics don't lie and the bulge in the otherwise flaccid numbers surged up to 142 smutty visitors on Tuesday.........and don't tell me you were only reading the blog for the articles.......the statistics don't lie Looking at some of the other blogs and postings that brought you here, it was purely to see our throbbing 6 inches of hot meatball.....and who can blame you, it was pretty spectacular wasn't it, just a shame that they don't always turn out so well eh?

Talking to Robin the other day it turns out that he has some video footage of the moment the meat made its appearance out of the pottery prophylactic.....apparently it's worth a watch. Unfortunately it's too big (the video!) to email to me so I'll have to wait until next week to get my hands on it when I can the show it proudly to you all.

Until then, normal service will be resumed......along with a much lower innuendo quotient!!

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

I Can See You.....

......and you can see too!!

I've splashed the cash as Robin would say and upgraded the ClustrMap service. If you don't know what this is have a look in the right hand column....towards the bottom and you should see a map of the world covered in little red blobs....yes? These red blobs are all of you!

Well, if you haven't already tried this, clicking on this map will bring up a larger version that shows where you're all located.....well at least the ISP that you use anyway. Upgrading this service means that you can now click on various parts of the map to zoom in and get a better idea of where everyone is looking from........enjoy.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

I'd Forgotten...... the symposium works. With so many papers to fit in over the weekend, each speaker only gets around 15 minutes to introduce their paper which is then up to you to read at your leisure.

Pretty good you may think, but there are still numerous people out there who fall into the camp of 'just because they know about a subject, doesn't mean they can speak about it!' This means that you do have to overcome the urge to ignore some papers just because the speaker wasn't as easy on the ear as you'd hoped.
That may sound harsh, but unfortunately it's the way of these things...fortunately, all of the papers I heard presented today were pretty good, I'll just have to wait and see the actual texts when we get back from the weekend.

Lunch turned out to be a bit of a let down.....nothing essentially wrong with the vegetarian offering, but nothing to write home about either! It always amazes me that given the nature of the symposium and the backgrounds of those attending that the food quality isn't always taken into consideration. Not that I want to appear a food 'snob'.....far from it in fact, it's just that you might expect the meals at a food symposium to be great, or fantastic even as opposed to ones that leave large numbers of the diners wondering what it was exactly that they have just eaten?!?

This evenings meal was much better, good food with good company; a chance to catch up with some friends from Arizona and re acquaint ourselves with some contacts made a few years ago. Afterwards I had my head filled with information on early renaissance bread by a friend of ours, William although thankfully he's going to e-mail me all the details so I don't have to rely on remembering it all.

Tomorrow brings more of the same or similar before heading home to think about planning the October weekend as well as fitting in all the other stuff that we have coming up.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

The Oxford Symposium

So, it's bedtime on the Friday of the Oxford Symposium on Food weekend.....what to write?

In essence not much really, especially having told you that I don't do small talk, however the smattering of alcohol coursing through my veins, combined with the events of the evening mean that I feel honour bound to write something...but what to say?

Intense is probably the best word, to be honest, I'd forgotten what the symposium is like....a chance to catch up with friends and to meet new ones, but also to meet up with people for whom food is everything......which can seem a little odd for although I tend to class myself as a food historian it always seems odd to talk to people who are more 'dedicated' than I am.

So what did this evening hold? A kebab in Oxford along with a pint (or two in the Turf Tavern, Oxfords oldest pub), followed by a long session helping out the American Friends of the Symposium making Papal indulgences ready for sale?!?!

I'm not sure if tomorrow can top that

Thursday, 6 September 2007


Carrying on from Roberts breakdown of crustade and as promised, this is what I ended up doing on text and pictures.


¶Take þe fleysshe of þe lene Porke, & seþe it wel: & whan it is soþe, hew it smal; nym þan Safroun, Gyngere, Canel, Salt, Galyngale, old chese, myid Brede, & bray it smal on a morter; caste þin fleysshe in to þe spicery, & loke þat it be wil y-ground, temper it vppe with raw Eyroun; þan take a longe Pecher, al a-bowte ouer alle þat it be ransched; þan held out þin grece, & fulle þi Pechir of þin farsure, & take a pese of fayre Canneuas, & doble it as moche as þou may ceuyr þe mouþe with-al, & bynd it fast a-bowte þe berde, & caste hym to seþe with þin grete Fleysshe, in lede oþer in Cauderoun, for it be wyl soþin; take þen vppe þin Pecher, & breke it, an saf þin farsure; & haue a fayre broche, broche it þorw, & lay it to þe fyre; & þan haue a gode Bature of Spicerye, Safroun, Galyngale, Canel, þer-of y-now, & flowre, & grynd smal in a morter, & temper it vp with raw Eyroun, & do þer-to Sugre of Alisaunder y-now; & euer as it dryit, baste it with bature, & sette forth in seruyce.

To be honest, we weren't intending on doing this recipe yet mainly as I didn’t think we had the meat in store, however a bit of searching turned up enough pork to do a small scale time we can try to scale it up a little.

¶Take þe fleysshe of þe lene Porke, & seþe it wel: & whan it is soþe, hew it small
Take lean pork meat, boil it well and when it’s cooked, cut it small

nym þan Safroun, Gyngere, Canel, Salt, Galyngale, old chese, myid Brede, & bray it smal on a morter
then take saffron, ginger, cassia, salt, galingale, old cheese and minced bread then grind it all together in a mortar.

caste þin fleysshe in to þe spicery, & loke þat it be wil y-ground, & temper it vppe with raw Eyroun
Add the meat to the spice mix and make sure that it’s well ground then mix it with raw egg.

þan take a longe Pecher, al a-bowte ouer alle þat it be ransched; þan held out þin grece, & fulle þi Pechir of þin farsure
this bit was one that Robert and I debated long and hard over....what does it mean? Well, your guess is as good as ours! We take the text to say roughly then take a long pitcher, rinsed all over, then tip out the grease and fill the pitcher with the meat mix. What we weren’t sure about was the rinsing and grease part, but in the end settled on rinsing the inside with grease to stop the mix from sticking to it.

As it turns out, the last image above shows how full I'd filled the pot.....which turned out to be too full and was the root cause of our 'trouble' later on

take a pese of fayre Canneuas, & doble it as moche as þou may ceuyr þe mouþe with-al, & bynd it fast a-bowte þe berde, & caste hym to seþe with þin grete Fleysshe, in lede oþer in Cauderoun
take a piece of canvas and cover the mouth of the pitcher tying it firmly in place, then put it in to boil with your meat in a lead or cauldron...... here again the lede gives us some confusion, but scope for further work.

for it be wyl soþin; take þen vppe þin Pecher, & breke it, an saf þin farsure
When it is well boiled, take it out and break the pitcher to get to the contents

Who’d have believed that something so simple could have ended up promoting so much smut and ladies of an age that should know better too bless them! There was no getting away from the fact that if you had a smutty mind.....and we did, the shape of the cooked meat was rather like........well, you decide, our crowd certainly did!?!

The ominous bulge should have given us a clue as to the trouble ahead......that and those two ladies...

haue a fayre broche, broche it þorw, & lay it to þe fyre; & þan haue a gode Bature of Spicerye, Safroun, Galyngale, Canel, þer-of y-now, & flowre, & grynd smal in a morter, & temper it vp with raw Eyroun, & do þer-to Sugre of Alisaunder y-now; & euer as it dryit, baste it with bature, & sette forth in seruyce.
Put the meat onto a clean spit and put it in front of the fire......As it was a little late in the day when we got round to this part, we had to make do with pumping up one of the charcoal stoves for our roasting fire as there wasn’t enough heat left in the main fire to do the job (we can’t run the fire at full pelt all day as it then takes several hours to cool down to a level that it won’t need supervision – something we learnt to our cost a few years ago!)..then baste it with a batter made from egg, flour, sugar, saffron, galingale and cassia; when done, serve it.

And the taste...........remarkably like the raw mix tasted before the egg went in!?! A sort of spiced meat loaf I suppose.....unfortunately nowhere near as spectacular as all the work that goes into it would lead you to think it should have.

Oh well, maybe it'll be different next time?

Off to the Oxford Symposium tomorrow, not sure what that'll bring but I'm sure that there'll be something to tell over the weekend.

Postmans Knock....

As well as the usual junk mail, bills and stuff the postman brought me a couple of disks from Robert full of pictures from the August and September weekends.

So I've uploaded a bunch to the Flickr site for you to see, it's not difficult to tell who took which pictures....Roberts look good, mine look adequate!
My favourite of the batch is

They say a picture paints a thousand words.......nuff said eh!?!

Followed swiftly by

The disk also has images of appraylere on it that fills in the gaps that I was missing, so I should be able to fill you in about it later on tonight.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Busy Busy Busy

I've been looking at the statistics that all of you generate when you look at the blog and it's been quite busy for the last couple of days......which is nice. If you're new here then Hello, I hope you like what you see and that you choose to stick around.

10 more pictures are now over at Flickr for your edification, there are links in the column to the right, which also contains a few other nick nacks that you are welcome to peruse, my personal 'fave' is the clustr map at the bottom which shows where you're all from (well roughly at least!). There are also some links to other interesting places on the web if you hadn't already looked, including some of our suppliers like the spice dealers Steenbergs and the Historic Royal Palaces home page as well. There's also....of course...a link to more information on my recipe book as well as a link to the Lulu store where you can buy it.

Well enough of the shameless plugging, what's new today? Not much really as I'm still recovering from the weekend. I spoke to Robin today and he's still suffering as well, the very short gap between the holiday weekend and the September event meant that it really didn't feel like we'd left when we arrived last Friday and the weekend really took it out of us. I'm planning to spill all regarding the appraylere either tomorrow or Thursday, it'll have to be than as Friday sees Marc M and myself off to the Oxford Food Symposium to listen to papers on the topic of 'Food and Morality'.....hopefully I'll be able to keep you up to speed on how the weekend goes via the wonders of mobile blogging! (subject to telephone signal though).

I've also put together another video for you all :

This one is Marc H and Jorge's last effort of the day at pulling sugar. I've left the sound on so that you can hear Jorge suffer from the heat on his girly hands whilst Marc just sucks it in and gets on with it.....although if you listen carefully I believe that he points out that he's crying inside!! {EDIT- due to a request from Jorge I've now removed the sound as it made him sound a bit stupid}

With the pictures on Flickr, most are self explanatory, but the pea flour loaf needs a little comment I think. Following on from previous experiments with the pea flour bread I asked Carter to try a 100% pea flour loaf. This entailed him grinding dry peas into flour, an exercise that proved to be quite enlightening as it happened. Using a large mortar and pestle it appears that the optimum number of peas that could be ground without any wastage was a ridiculously small 5 or 6!?!? Any more and you started to get wastage as they shot out of the mortar like bullets, so the total amount he managed to get processed in about a day and a half made a loaf about 4 inches long by 1 inch across

......not exactly going to feed the masses I don't think, but big enough to see what it would taste like.......PEAS unsurprisingly!

I'll leave you with the latest image of progress on the wax wine fountain:

Which gives a good idea of how it's going to look, even though it's a little too tall at the moment (just got a few more crenelations and the like to add I believe).....still, much easier to remove the height than try to add it on afterwards.


Ok......So I Was Wrong....

....when I guessed at what we were going to do on Sunday, but not massively so as I had originally planned to work on Vyaund Leche....I just changed my mind when I got into the kitchen, that's all!

I ended up working on Appraylere, of which I shall post more later on this week (oh the suspense eh!) and Robin had a go at one of the vyaund leche recipes although not with much success I have to say

Vyaund leche.

¶Take cowe Mylke, & set it ouer þe fyre, & þrow þer-on Saunderys, & make a styf poshotte of Ale; þan hang þe croddys þer-of in a pynne, in a fayre cloþe, and lat it ouer-renne; þan take it & put hony þer-to, melle it y-fere; þen feche þe croddys of þe deye, & melle hem to-gederys, & lay it on a chesefatte or it be torne, .iij. fold or iiij. fold, in lynen cloþe, leche it; & þanne serue it forth.

.......not because of anything he did, more the fact that milk today is separated from cream in a different manner to the Tudors. Today, our milk and cream are separated centrifugally, in the past good old gravity did the what you say...well, our milk today has less fat in it than in the past and our cream more fat. This meant that when Robin came to curdle the milk to make a possett..make a styf poshotte of Ale; þan hang þe croddys þer-of in a pynne all he got was a few measly lumps floating in a lot of milk/ fault really as I should have ordered cream to mix with the milk to up the fat levels........still, there's always next time.

I've popped some images of the weekend up on the Flickr account, there's still more to come over the next few days and I know that Robert took a load as well so expect to see those some time soon. I believe that he and Marc had a deal of success with their crustade experiments, but I'll leave that for Robert to tell you about....and to be honest i can't say i was paying all that much attention to what they were doing, just the end products.

Sunday also saw Jorge and Marc H playing with sugar in a bit of a continuation of the work that Jorge and i were doing a few weekends ago....playing with colour and temperature to build up a skill level in working with sugar in order to be able to make some fancy sugar sculpture in the future. I've got some food pictures of them at work for later in the week, but for now here is Jorge trying not to burn himself with the first of the days efforts

I've removed the sound again, not just to protect the innocent but to spare you the discussion of who had a hit with the song 'Reet Petite'!?!

All in all it was a fairly steady weekend visitor wise, not too busy which enabled us to get some good work done, but busy enough, with people who wanted to ask some really good and taxing questions again.

I'll leave you with my favourite pictures from the weekend so far

Which sees Jorge desperate for food as apparently we don't feed him!! Whilst Dave shows off by doing his best Harry Potter impression.

Nighty night!

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Wakey Wakey

So another day of experimentation dawns here at Hampton Court, what delights does it hold?

To be honest, i can't remember! I do know that i'd planned 'vyaund lech' 4 times for today, but the rest is, as i write, somewhat of a mystery. Yesterday Robert had some success with Marc and the crustade, so hopefully today we'll get a load of pictures taken.

What....No Post?


I'm not one for small talk and as there is really nothing of any importance from my perspective to say about today, l'll keep schtum!!