Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Ho Ho Ho......It's Christmas!

Finally managed to shake the fever and all the symptoms except the hacking cough....thank god for man sized drugs is all I can say!

So Christmas is here in ooh about 4 minutes time and then away to the Palace for the festive activities. I know I promised I tell you what we were going to cook, but I'm a half-wit and I left the list at work when I went in to receive the food deliveries the other day!?!?
Still, I'm sure that you can guess the sorts of things it'll be....the same old same old really....2 meals each day, sit down to eat at 3.30 p.m....yada yada yada.

Now don't get me wrong, I still enjoy doing this, but I do find these 'meal' events less challenging than the experimental ones.....still, better get used to it because that's probably what we'll be doing more of next year than anything least we can fiddle with and experiment with the interpretation of the meals I suppose, even if we can't get away with much more.

When I've finally written up last weekends work I'll let you all in on what we did then.......we'll also be aiming to finish off what we started in December for the February weekend as well, so there's plenty of time to cover all of that as well as plans for the coming year.

I'm not to hopeful for much posting over the Christmas week.....I'll probably be limited to using the mobile phone for that, so don't expect tons and tons of typing from me. I'm not too sure how we'll do for pictures either as it's so dark in the kitchens at this time of year it makes taking pictures really hard without using a flash.....and we try to shy away from that as it can wipe out the detail too easily, still fingers crossed eh!

That's it for now then, just time now to say

I hope Santa brings you what you asked for!!


Thursday, 18 December 2008


Just an update....won't be anything meaningful posted for a while as I'm stricken with a viral infection resulting in stupidly high temperatures, aches and sweating fits!?!

The doctor has prescribed a course of anti-biotics to keep any secondary infection at bay....I swear to God they'e the size of chocolate Yule logs!! well as some man sized pain killers to abate the stupifying headaches.

As soon as I can shift this things will be back to normal.....or as normal as can be expected.


Sunday, 14 December 2008

Remember, Remember......

...the 1st and 2nd of November? No me neither to be honest!
I've just sent Roberts pictures from the November weekend over to Flickr for all to see (not much re-touching.....just straightening them out and hiding the faces of the innocent).

So apart from the fantastic fireworks...

fireworks at Hampton Court

...just what did we do that weekend? Well it happened to coincide with the end of the school half term holidays over which Hampton Court ran its once yearly promotion 'Kids go Free'. During this time children aren't charged admission (up to 4 per accompanying adult) and the visitor numbers go through the roof! Loads of stuff for kids and families to do and we were told NOT to be the what did we do?
Well the usual spit turning with Ross was a 'given'....although it turned out to be more of a chore than we thought...but what else could we do? After much thought we decided on having Barry and Barry grinding bread-crumbs and making butter, Dave would do his usual thing, Robert would be assisted by Jorge in enthralling people with tales of the office whilst the main area of the kitchen would do all the normal sort of thing PLUS one massive new test run.....we'd let people have a go at cooking themselves!!

First let-down of the weekend was somewhat of a potato potahto moment when once again the wrong flanks of meat turned up..

the wrong flanks....again!

so, loads of picking at it later and we had enough meat to 'create' roasting joints for people to turn and absolutely tons of fat to render out for cooking at other weekends.

The butter wasn't quite as successful.....the guys made plenty of it, but it was really hard going, still that's one reason why people didn't make butter in the winter (apart from the lack of milk, the cold really works against the cream turning to butter). Not that it mattered too much as all the public seemed to like it. The breadcrumbs on the other hand were an out and out winner.....I don't think I actually saw Carter do any physical labour all weekend as there was a near constant queue of kids wanting a turn at making breadcrumbs....again, all to put into store for use at Christmas and other weekends. I would never have believed that such a simple task would have proved so popular!

As I said, Dave did his usual 'thing'...I'm not quite sure what it was, but kids loved it..

Dave does his thing

So that just leaves the 'hands on cookery' to tell you about. We were going to try to be fair about it and take turns so that we didn't go ga-ga, but in the end Robin stepped up and did it all as he was trying out some ideas for future education sessions at the same time.
We'd plumped for ryschews close & fryez as the recipe to try, not least because we had a bag load of the filling already made and in the freezer, but also because the various processes involved lend themselves to this sort of 'have a go' event.

¶Ryschewys close & Fryez.
¶Take Fygys, & grynd hem smal in a mortere with a lytil Oyle, & grynd with hym clowys & Maces; & þan take it vppe in-to a vesselle, & cast þer-to Pynez, Saundrys, & Roysonys of Coraunce, & mencyd Datys, Pouder Pepir, Canel, Salt, Safroun; þan take fyne past of flowre an water, Sugre, Safroun, & Salt, & make fayre cakys þer-of; þan rolle þin stuf in þin hond, & couche it in þe cakys, & kyt it, & folde hym as Ruschewys, & frye hem vppe in Oyle; and serue forth hote.

The biggest question was how to cope with the cookery part??.....should we cook them there and then or what? Fortunately the solution came from the boss, Chris when he suggested that we let people make them at the Palace then take them home to cook them...bag them up and include instructions then hopefully everyone would be happy.

So we made up the paste and filling then all people had to do was roll out a small amount, cut out a circle, wet the edge with water, pop in some fruity filling, then fold and seal before Robin popped the finished item in a bag with ingredients list and went down a storm, especially with the family who were first to try. They'd waited and waited and come back several times for this all to be set up and when they'd finally finished and the kids had their bags in their hands, Robin pointed out that they were the first people who weren't us or 'off the telly' to have cooked in the kitchen for many many years they were really quite chuffed...loads of pictures for the school projects ensued and they went away with beaming smiles....and that seemed to be the results for the rest of the weekend, from both young...

having a go

..and old alike...

anyone could have a try

Now all I have to do is cover last weekend and we should be square.....perhaps not tonight remeber to have a look at all the other picture I've put up at me they're a lot more interesting than this past weekend bunch will be...but that's for another time!


Saturday, 13 December 2008

Clearing The Backlog!

Not that there's much of a backlog to clear though. I've just put some pictures up at Flickr that I took on the November weekend.....don't get too excited though, they're nothing to do with the cookery.
There was a rather large function on on the Saturday evening and thankfully for them and us, the heavens cleared up long enough to allow for the MASSIVE fireworks display to take place. It lasted a good half an hour, all well set to music with a cracking finale.....shame that the pictures don't really do it justice, but we can't have everything can we?

fireworks at the East front

fireworks at the East front

fireworks at the East front

should give you an idea of what you can see over at Flickr...there are 11 images in total so far, but I have to confess I haven't gone through Roberts images yet so there will be more to come....and he even managed to take pictures of the cookery too, nothing too spectacular, but I expect you'll find them of interest......better go and find the disc with them on and get sorting eh?

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Just To Show..... things are progressing with the Base Court paving. It came as quite a shock to look out of the windows of the Buttery and see how they're getting on.

Base Court Paving

I've not been paying too much attention to the work and the last I saw, it was a muddy wet hole ridden space that was home to diggers and archaeologists. I think it's looking pretty good and should really look the business when it's well as completely altering the dynamic of how people walk through the courtyard.

another view of the paving

I've just submitted the shopping lists for the Christmas cookery, now it's off to bed time and I'll post up the menus next time along with a few pictures from the weekends that disappeared into the ether from a blogging perspective!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Ask Me No Questions....

....and I'll tell you no lies!

Yes, I've got my finger out and am back in business!!!

First off a MASSIVE APOLOGY to all the 'regulars', especially those of you who have expressed concern for my well being.....I was VERY rude not to get back to you, but you'll just have to believe me when I say that I had my reasons for the rather long period of silence. Suffice to say that this blog has always aimed to be positive in its outlook and there hasn't been much of a positive nature for me of late.

However, that all changes now especially after the really successful weekend of cookery that's just passed.....lots of top stuff undertaken and probably quite a few pictures as well. It'll take a couple of days for me to process the information that we gathered, all of which I'll need to write up....then pass over to Marc H to cast his eye over and add to.....hell it's almost like doing real work!?

Before all of that though I'm pushed for time to plan the Christmas menu and shopping lists, so after recovering from the very chilly weekend in the kitchen I'll do that then let you all know the plans.


Thursday, 2 October 2008

Write Out A Hundred Times.....

I must not volunteer.......even in jest!!!

So there I was submitting some text on dining for next years interpretation when I foolishly and sarcastically said that in retrospect I would have been better off volunteering to write about day to day meals at Court rather than special occasions. Well faster than you can say 'you've got mail!' up pops a message in my inbox along the lines of 'oh great, thanks for volunteering to do that, can we have it as soon as possible.'

.......and that my friends is what I've been doing instead of posting this week......that and sorting out this weekends cookery plans.
As i mentioned before we shall be recorded for posterity this Saturday so the plans don't really involve anything too taxing, a nice straightforward menu to cook followed by a meal to demonstrate manners for the camera. At least doing it this weekend rather than waiting until Christmas should mean that we have some natural light to work and film by, it also means that we can take time to work with the camera guys to get the shots that are needed as opposed to them just getting one bite of the cherry so to speak as they would at Christmas.

Not sure if there'll be much to report or many pictures but we'll just have to wait and see. If not then there are still plenty left from last month to show you yet......just got to fit those extra days into the week so that I can have the spare time to do it!!


Friday, 26 September 2008

Delayed Reaction.....

......or a new opportunity has arisen hence the delay in posting and now this explanation!

So plans for the next weekend of cookery (October 4th and 5th) were progressing nicely, in fact I'd planned a cracking weekend of fun, interest, learning and experimentation......BUT then came the message to effectively shelve all plans and postpone them for a little while!

Why? Well Historic Royal Palaces press and media department is gearing up ready for next years celebratory Henry 500 events by producing new and better resources for journalists and media companies. One specific item being worked on is a DVD of some of the interpretation at Hampton Court so that we can issue our own controlled 'stock footage' for T.V. and so that journalists can see and get a feel for the work 'we' all do without necessarily travelling to Hampton Court itself....I actually think it's a great idea as it will undoubtedly help in cutting down confusion and will be ideal for all of the interviews that are done over the phone as now both parties will have a common resource to talk about.

This next cookery weekend, well the Saturday at least has been set aside for recording the kitchens at work so that there is footage of a full working kitchen as there would be for a special event like Christmas, rather than one of our more 'way out' experimental events. So this next cookery Saturday if you visit you'll be able to see the team construct a 7 dish (probably, but not for certain at the moment) menu which will then be served as a meal and eaten to display table setting and dining manners....just like we would do at Christmas or one of the holiday weekend events. Sunday.....hmmmm I'm not too sure at the moment, but it will probably be talking about using up leftovers, recycling ingredients or something along those lines......I'll have a better idea when I actually think about it rather than just type ideas willy nilly on the keyboard!

Anyhow, that's what has caused the delay in posting stuff as to be honest it rather confused me as to what we were going to do and that's my feeble excuse. A good long chat with Robin and Marc H today has sorted out a lot of plans now all that's left to do is fill in the details and put together the shopping list.

More info' when I know what it is and fingers crossed more pictures and blaah about last month soon.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Making Free With Lesche Frees

Yes, it's hard to believe but we actually did more 'new stuff' than just the chekyns in sauce!?! This recipe...

¶For to make lesche frees.

¶To make lesche frees. take wardons & costardes boyled & bete them in a morter & drawe theym vp with malmsy & take harde yolkes & nesshe chese & bray them togeder & alay them with nesshe[?] yolk in the betynge & drawe it vp with malmsy & put it to the fruyte and put therto suger and pouder of canell & colour it with sanders & medle it wel togedr thanne couche thy comande in smale coffyns / and sette theym in an ouen to bake and when they be ressyn serue theym.

also saw the light of day.....and damned tasty it was too. Once again, there are larger versions of the pictures below over at Flickr for you to see, should you want a better look.

Reading through the recipe before the weekend, it looked like it was going to be a sort of cheesecake I suppose. The biggest problem was going to be the cheese though. With only a 2 day event we wouldn't have enough time to make the cheese from scratch so we'd have to make do with getting it from the supermarket along with some of the other ingredients we use.
In future, I'd like to try this recipe again but with a 'home made' (insert Palace for home here!) cheese rather than a commercial one.....but on this occasion beggars couldn't be choosers so we plumped for a soft cheese to try first...probably not an ideal choice, but I think the best we could hope to make under the circumstances.

The cheese sorted out and the rest of the ingredients not proving as problematic, we cracked on (by we, once again I mean Robin and Jorge whilst I lounged around taking pictures)

. take wardons & costardes boyled & bete them in a morter

So, taking pears, conference in this case and apples (from Robins tree)....varieties were not top priority for this attempt as this was more a 'proof of concept' recipe I suppose (also, Robin doesn't know the variety of apple tree he has as it came with the house when he bought it)...

paring the pears apples

They were peeled and cut up to speed up the cooking, then plopped into the pot and cooked until soft before placing them into the mortar and giving them a beating they'll not soon forget.

cooking the fruit stewing fruit

beaten to a pulp!

Once beaten to a pulp, some malmsey was added....a nice slug of Madeira had to suffice here (well ok, a little more than a slug) and the fruit mix was then set aside whilst the mortar was cleaned out ready for the next stage.

take harde yolkes & nesshe chese & bray them togeder & alay them with nesshe[?] yolk in the betynge & drawe it vp with malmsy & put it to the fruyte

While the mortar was being cleaned some eggs were put on to hard boil

eggs for boiling

The eagle eyed amongst you will spot the modern stamps all over the eggs (a legal requirement for egg sellers today and one that proves to be a constant source of amusement to visitors.....'Didn't know old 'Enry had an ink jet to print on his eggs back then' and so on, you get the idea!)
Fist, the cheese was 'ground' up, then the hard yolks added and ground smooth...

grinding cheese hard eggs

Then more malmsey and some raw egg yolks were added...

add the raw egg and the booze next

This is where it went a little wrong....nothing too drastic, just not enough raw egg was used so the end result was a little looser than it could have been...still, plenty of opportunities to try again and as I said earlier...more a 'proof of concept' than a finished dish, it was after all the first time we'd ever tried it and the first time that Robin and Jorge had ever seen the recipe!!
The next step was to add the cheese mix to the fruit.....

mix the fruit and cheese together

and then....

and put therto suger and pouder of canell & colour it with sanders & medle it wel togedr

add sugar and cassia to sweeten and spice the mix, which we did although it didn't need a whole lot of sugar to be honest..

add the spices

When it came to adding the colour, that I'm afraid was a bit of a failure....we just couldn't get any colour out of the saunders that we have, so we left that bit out (and have started to work on extracting a decent colour from saunders as a side project).

thanne couche thy comande in smale coffyns / and sette theym in an ouen to bake and when they be ressyn serue theym.

The fruity cheesy mix was poured into some blind baked cases and slammed in the oven until they had risen and taken on some colour....sorry, can't recall how long they were cooking for, but probably not too long (I know, I'm no help am I?)

fill up the cases the finished lesche frees

As I said they could probably have done with more raw egg in as the finished filling wasn't that much firmer than the raw mix before it went into the oven, but that can easily be remedied next time.
The taste? Great.....strangely enough it had a really familiar taste that reminded me of French pastries, but that was probably the Madeira combined with the fruit. Is it worth trying again....hell yes, we had problems keeping the guys from eating the raw mix as it was that it worth you all trying.....definitely!

That's all for now, more later on in the week I hope.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Whilst We're On The Subject.....

Right guys and gals, many thanks for the recent comments.....keep 'em fact you've all got me thinking so here's a question for you.

'Why do we assume that the sauce for the Chekyns in Sauce needs cooking?'

I know that when Robin, Jorge & I were chatting about it we all instantly thought 'but what about the cooking? Where's the heating instruction?' Then we thought do the vinegar and wine in the mix chemically cook the egg and finally..... does it matter? Why do we instantly think about cooking the egg? Are we applying modern recipe thinking here?

All comments gratefully received.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Well I'll Be Damned......We Did Some Interpretation!

Yep, we actually did some real interpretation work over the last weekend......not to demean what we normally do, but this was genuinely new ground.

We worked on several recipes we've never done before, all from the Pynsons 'The boke of cokery'. I've put a load of pictures up on Flickr that illustrate this recipe...

¶For to make Chekyns in sauce.

¶To make Chekyns in sauce / take chekyns and choppe theym for commons / but for a lorde take hole chekyns and boyle theym in swete brothe of beef with a quantyte of wyne / and whan they be nygh ynough take oute the chekyns and bete egges in a morter with sage and percely and alay it with wyne & drawe it through a streyner & put therto pouder of clowes an unce of suger an unce of canelle / & a lytell vynegre & colour it with saffron and salte it than couche the chekyns in dishes and put the syrupe aboue and serue it. can pop there to see them a little larger than they are here in the blog.

Having 'forced' Robert to write out the recipe

handwritten recipe

Jorge and Robin could then crack on with working out how to cook it leaving me to take the recording pictures (as always when I post Roberts pictures you'll spot that they are worlds apart from my 'snappy camera' images)

¶To make Chekyns in sauce / take chekyns and choppe theym for commons / but for a lorde take hole chekyns and boyle theym in swete brothe of beef with a quantyte of wyne / and whan they be nygh ynough take oute the chekyns

Given that this really was the first time that we'd cooked the recipe a halfway house was agreed on the quantity of chicken to use, so half a chicken left in one piece was duly plopped into a 9 inch skillet containing a mixture of beef broth and white wine.....why white and not red? It was all we had to hand!

cutting up the chicken heating the stock

in goes the chicken

and bete egges in a morter with sage and percely and alay it with wyne & drawe it through a streyner & put therto pouder of clowes an unce of suger an unce of canelle / & a lytell vynegre & colour it with saffron and salte it

At first we rushed off to weigh out the sugar and cassia as it says in the ounce of each were then duly ground into a nice fine powder..

ready for grinding grinding away

the ground up spices

but after Jorge went through all the effort of grinding the cassia bark into a nice fine powder it sort of struck us.....what's the point in having quantities for the spices when there aren't any for any other ingredients!!
How many chickens is the recipe for? If it's for one chicken then that's a hell of a lot of cassia.....what if it's 5 chickens? So at that point we were sort of stumped and opted to add equal quantities of each in an amount that would seem suitable to flavour but not destroy the dish.

So all the other ingredients went into the mortar for grinding

eggs and herbs straining into a bowl

adding the spices in goes wine vinegar

and add the saffron the final sauce

then the sauce was completed and another 'problem' arose....was it cooked or not?
The taste was pretty good, very 'complex' but the texture was a bit thin and be honest it felt in the mouth like it either needed cooking or an awful lot more egg yolk in it. Robin's idea was to pour it directly onto the chicken as soon as it came out of the stock and wine mix, to see if there was enough heat in it to cook off the we gave that a go..

pouring on the sauce the final dish

As you can probably see in this close up

close up of the dish

it didn't make a lot of difference....although it must be said that the sauce that stayed on the actual chicken itself did thicken up.....slightly.....well very slightly actually. Had we made more of the sauce, we could have tried cooking it separately first....but as Robin said that's not what the recipe calls for.....The question is though was that assumed by the writer or not?

What did it taste like I hear you ask.....difficult to describe really. The chicken tasted of chicken and beef, sort of and the sauce......hmmmm very complicated...sweet, spiced, sour from the vinegar...all in all probably not to my taste, but I reckon there's plenty more work to be done with this recipe.

Any how, that's enough for the moment....more along similar lines in the near future.....

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Doctor Doctor, I Feel Like..........

.....showing you some pictures, so there a 9 of this weekends photographs now up at Flickr for you all to see.
There are 3 more that show the progress of the dig in Base Court....the holes are getting bigger and deeper..

base court dig

They've even found some 'features' in the courtyard..

base court feature

....don't ask what it is in the picture as I'm afraid I haven't got a clue!! Perhaps I'll be able to let you all know in the future.
You can also see how the latest 'thing' that Dave has been working on is progressing...

golden tent

It's a wax model of the golden tent from the 'Field of the Cloth of Gold' painting's getting pretty good, but Dave's not got the eyesight that he used to have as a younger man, so the detail work is taking a fair amount of time to put on, still he's in it for the long haul so I'm sure it will all look fantastic when he's finished with it.

As I mentioned before, Pick and Carter had planned to talk about food and medicine and that was indeed what they did all weekend.....once again, who'd have believed that it would have been so popular with the visitors.....

the doctor will see you now!

and who would have believed that so many people would have thought that Pick was a real doctor!?!? At least 3 visitors were convinced that he was a real doctor and kept asking for advice on subjects ranging from a gammy hip to suspected diabetes! Fortunately he was able to correct their assumption and after telling them all about food and medicine in the Tudor period, he happily convinced them all to seek genuine medical well as indicating what they may have been prescribed in the Tudor period.

What else did we do? Well quite a bit untried recipes, cross cultural comparisons and some work with real cooks!! Sounds interesting doesn't it....but for all the details you'll just have to wait until later in the week!

Monday, 8 September 2008

(N)Ill Communication!

Not long back in the real world after a cracking weekend, but one with no access to communications technology I'm afraid........probably lots to say and hundreds (literally) of pictures to sort through......but I'm sorry to say you'll have to wait until later as I'm absolutely shattered and all you'd get now is gibberish.

So tune in later for the next exiting episode......

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Clarification, Correction And Connection

Thanks for the note Elise, that's what I get for not posting for so long........the brain runs much faster than the fingers and I miss stuff out I meant to put in!

What meant to say was although there are many examples of cross cultural influence, quite often we can mistake convergent evolution of dishes in differing cultures as evidence that there must have been dissemination of information between the stands to reason doesn't it?

As human beings we love to see connections and patterns, quite often where they don't exist! There certainly are recipes that share a common heritage, but there are also those that look like they must do, but probably don't. Two excellent papers that illustrate this can be found in 'Medieval Arab Cookery' by Maxine Rodinson, A.J. Arberry & Charles Perry, Prospect books 2006....'Romania and other Arabic Words in Italian' by Maxine Rodinson concisely puts the case for linguistic connections between Eastern and Western recipes, where Western recipes can be seen to have originated in the Arab world. Charles Perry's essay 'Isfidhabaj, Blancmanger and no Almonds' shows the other side of the coin though. Here the similarities between Arab and European recipes is so striking as to lead one to the obvious conclusion that one must be descended from the other....virtually the same ingredients, virtually the same outcome.....even sharing names that mean roughly 'white food'.
However closer study shows that this particular Arab recipe is only one of many variations for the same dish.....and the only one of them to vaguely resemble the western dish blancmanger; it just so happens that it is the only recipe of the group of Arabic ones to have been translated into English by A.J. Arberry in the 'Baghdad Cookery Book' in 1939 and thus the only version available for to most Western food historians to compare to (let's face it, most of us don't have as good a grasp of Arabic as Charles does, so we use the sources available to us).

I suppose all of this rambling is just to say that we really do have to be careful with making connections that may not be there and as someone who tries to put across information to the public in the way that we do at Hampton Court it's worth reminding myself of this from time to time. After all it can be hard enough explaining the basics of what we're doing to people as it is, without all of this sort of discussion ; I've lost count of the times that we've tried to explain to people 'just because there's beef and apples next to the cream and eggs that I'm using to make custard with doesn't mean that the beef and apples will be going in the custard.....they are for different dishes!'.......connections, people make 'em all the time.

As My Friend Bob Said To Me.......


Yep, nearly a month has passed since I last posted anything and that time included a cookery weekend......What's going on I hear you ask.......and yes, I do hear, regularly eh No.1 Fan!!
Well August sees the school holidays descend upon us and some time spent with the family, you know, doing real life stuff....not work related! That combined with another healthy (or should that be un-healthy?) dollop of 'can't be bothered', some mild health issues and a score of other insignificant things has lead to the dearth of postings here at the blog......sorry, no no I really am.

The other thing that has lead to this lack of writing is the new direction that my research has taken. Now that I'm spending much less time on the recipes there really isn't much to report to you all. The work I'm doing at the moment involves reading through lots of lists and letters and compiling more lists of documents to see in the Public Record Office or at the British Library. I've also got lots of lists of names and wages, goods and prices to work through, but only when the initial reading and compiling is done.....all in all it's really quite fascinating stuff, but there's not a lot to tell at the moment.....sorry, but that's the way of these things.

I suppose as a panacea I can offer the only 2 decent pictures that I took over the last weekend.....of the work progressing in Base Court.....

base court dig base court dig 2

Neither Robert or I took any other pictures over the weekend as it really wasn't that sort of weekend...much more a 'by the numbers' affair, 2 meals made each day, served at 10.00 a.m. and 4.00 problems, no surprises.....apart from the number of visitors.....well over 2500 each day and I'm pretty sure that on Saturday I spoke to all of them, as by 1 o'clock my brain was empty and I had to leave for a sit down in a darkened room for 10 minutes !

This weekend should be a bit more experimental, in fact much more so than usual as Saturday should see us try 4 or 5 recipes from the Pynson book of cookery for the first time and Sunday should provide a wealth of interest for us.....some of which was prompted by Doc's last comment (which I apologise for only just having uploaded).
Robin and Jorge will be making poumes again (the veal meatballs that look like apples) so that some of the team from Heston Blumenthals Fat Duck can see how we make this recipe. Carter and Pick will be talking to the public about the humourol properties of food and Marc H and myself will be working on the 'chicken toffee' recipe Pynade again. This time as well as the pynade we will also be cooking Fustaqiya from al-Baghdadis Kitab al-Tabikh, a recipe that is remarkably similar but which uses pistachio nuts instead of pine nuts. There are also a handful of other similar chicken and sugar/honey recipes that use almonds that we may try as well if time allows.
Whilst it is by no means certain that the Western medieval cookery tradition copied recipes from the Arab world what is obvious is that many recipes bear remarkable similarities from one culture to another......copies or coincidence? Well I can't say that we'll be able to answer that question but it should prove interesting for the public to watch.....and fingers crossed us to eat!
I'm inclined to agree with Marc on this one......he's certain that the chicken isn't a 'typo' but is there to add to the 'umami' flavour....hopefully we'll be trying the dish several times with differing amounts of chicken in it to see what difference it makes.

Fingers crossed it should be a profitable weekend for us with plenty of pictures to show you all.......and hopefully this time I'll get the chance to post over the weekend unlike last time when technology wasn't playing ball for me!!?!


Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Was It A Good Weekend?

Is what everyone keeps asking me.....and on reflection.....yes I think it was.

Saturday went really well and Sunday was really busy too, if a little hot and humid.....although we did have a slight problem with somebody altering the space time continuum!! Robin, Jorge, Marc H and I had been talking for Britain for what seemed like hours....the cookery was going O.K. but I was sure that we were getting to the stage when it wouldn't be worthwhile starting a new dish as we'd have to stop using the burners soon to give them a chance to cool down so that we could put them away......just had to check the time to confirm it then work out what to do for the hour or so that was left in the day............or so I thought! A check of the time found out that it was in fact only just coming up to 1.00 and there was still 5 working hours left....I can tell you that came as quite a shock to us all, but did mean plenty of time to carry on talking and cooking for the crowds of people to see.

What did we cook? Well Marc tried the second variant of the pynade that he'd done the day before.....without the chicken in it. I'd like to say it was a terrific success but I think he'd agree with me that it didn't turn out too well....a touch overcooked and somewhat sticky (it took 2 of them to pull it off of the pewter bowl it had cooled in) but you could certainly see the potential in it (it's certainly not a dish for those of us with dodgy dental work....crowns and fillings watch out!)
Strawberye, applade ryalle and cawdelle ferry also made it into bowls for the public to see, but not I'm afraid all you lovely people as I failed to take any pictures on Sunday at all.....and you've seen the only good ones from Saturday. Even though it was hot and humid the light for most of Sunday was appalling in the kitchens and I couldn't get any decent pictures....maybe next time eh? The strawberye and applade ryalle were really pretty good and as we hardly touched them they went into the freezer ready to make an appearance on the Saturday dinner of the Bank Holiday weekend towards the end of the month....the cawdelle wasn't bad either (but won't stand freezing) taking Harold McGee's advice in his book 'On Cooking' we tried to get an end result like a zabaglione.....not easy with no whisk and direct heat, but it was still much better than the curdled egg gloop we've had with past attempts at caudles.

That's all for the moment as there's a huge storm brewing and it's time to disconnect the PC from the mains....can't have it getting popped by a power surge. I'll be posting more pictures from July as the week goes on, so stay tuned for the next moderately interesting episode.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Two For The Price Of One.

Yes you lucky people....nothing for ages the 2 in one day!
Cooking today was nice and relaxed, lots of great people to talk to (as well as the camera crew) who were interested and kept popping back through the day to see how we got on.
Did we make a lot? No not really...Robin and Jorge made the chicken dish they tried last time, Marc H made the chicken and honey dish Pynade and I made...

¶Longe Fretoure.
¶Take Milke, an make fayre croddes þer-of, in þe maner of a chese al tendyr; þan take owt þe whey as clene as þou may, & putte it on a bolle; þan take olkys of Eyroun & Ale, & menge floure, & cast þer-to, a gode quantyte, & draw it þorw a straynoure in-to a fayre vesselle; þan take a panne with fayre grece, & hete it on þe fyre, but lat it nowt boyle, & þan ley þin creme a-brode; þan take a knyff, & kytte a quantyte þer-of fro þe borde in-to þe panne, & efte a-noþer, & let it frye; & whan it is brownne, take it vppe in-to a fayre dyssche, and caste Sugre y-now þer-on, & serue forth.

Just for a try I made 2 batches one with the curds and one with the whey, mostly because it looke slightly ambiguous as to wether you added the flour and egg to the curd or whey.....passing the recipe around for people to read it was almost 50:50 as to which people thought we should use so it seemed worth and experiment.
This is the final results with the whey variety on the left and the curd on the right

longe fretours

As it turned out the whey ones tasted much nicer....not that there was anything wrong with the curd ones, but the slighly acid/cheesy edge to them just seemed to jar with our tastebuds.
Marcs dish that he made..

¶Take Hony & gode pouder Gyngere, & Galyngale, & Canelle, Pouder pepir, & graynys of parys, & boyle y-fere; þan take kyrnelys of Pynotys & caste þer-to; & take chyconys y-soþe, & hew hem in grece, & caste þer-to, & lat seþe y-fere; & þen lat droppe þer-of on a knyf; & if it cleuyth & wexyth hard, it ys y-now; & þen putte it on a chargere tyl it be cold, & mace lechys, & serue with oþer metys; & if þou wolt make it in spycery, þen putte non chykonys þer-to.

turned out well and I'm off to go and try some now.......if they've left any in the bowl.

Episode 6: The Germans...

I wasn't looking forward to today....another film crew in with us....from Germany again (they seem to be like busses, nothing for ages then an article in Die Ziet and they're swarming like mix my metaphores!)
The signs weren't good.....messages on the phone that if they were written would probably look like....'hellothisisUlitheGermantelevisioniamlookingforwardtoseeingyouthisweekendandneedtotalk'
well you get the idea, so amidst much Fawlty Towers style humor we awaited the onslaught and tried to work out how we would get through the day. The last film crew were a little 'full on' and we were braced for the worst.

Imagine though the best crew in the world....ever! Keen to listen, learn and not get in the way.

filming in the kitchen

It was a refreshing change to watch an interviewer talk to one of the guys, genuinely listen to the answer then use that information to pose questions to the public watching us in the apologies for ever doubting them and come back soon guys, you were a pleasure to work with.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

....And Where Have You Been????

What started as a delay due to major technical upheaval and software updates, turned into a delay due to family things, then work stuff, then a huge case of malaise to be capped off yesterday with the crappy news that our friend John has finally lost his battle with cancer.......I'm sure that we'll be toasting his memory this weekend and he will be sorely missed....a great bloke and a great craftsman to boot.....I'm sure I speak for the whole team when I say that our thoughts are with those he has left behind.

Thanks to those who have stayed with the blog over the recent lack of postings, it's much appreciated....and Helen, it was good to hear you had some joy with the of our efforts are now over at Flickr for you to peruse and we shall be doing it again this weekend, only this time we'll actually finish the dish!

¶Capons stewed.
¶Take percelly Isope sage Rosemary And tyme breke hit betwene thy hands and stoppe thy capons ther with and color them with saferon And put them yn A erthyn pot or els in brasse for erth is better. And lay splentys underneth and all a boute the sydes so that the capons tuche not the sydes nother the bottom and cast of the same herbys in to þe pot A mong the capons And put a quart or A pynte of the best wyne that thow cansye gette and no other licour And set A lydde ther A pon that wyll ly with yn the brym. And make batur of white of eggys & floure And put betwene the brym A paper lefe or els lyncloth that the batur may stop hit sowrely þat no eyre com owte loke þat hit be thyke of bature And set thy pot on A charecole fyre to the myd syde & se þat the lydde ryse not with the hette and let hit stew esely and long and whan þow supposyth hit is enowgh take hit fro the fyre yf hit be A pot of erth set hit upon a wyspe of ftraw that hit toche not the cold grownde And when the hete is well drawn and over past take of the lydde And take owte thy capons with a stycke And ley them in A noþer vessell and make A syrryp of Wyne And mynct datys and Cannell drawn with the same wyne do ther to rasyns of corance sugur safferon And salt boyle hit A litill And cast yn powder of gynger with a litell of the same wyne do the sew to the syrryppe a bove upon the capons And serue hem furth with A rybbe of beffe ever more a capon on a dysche

We stopped short and didn't make the sauce to pour over the bird, but to be honest we were more interested in how much the herbs had flavoured the chicken.
This weekends variation will be to cook the recipe twice....once ommitting the herbs inside the carcass just to see how much they add to the flavour.
If you're tempted to try it yourselves I can thouroughly recccomend it as it adds a very subtle herb flavour to the flesh....just like you'd expect from sage and onion stuffing but rarely get....It would be ideal for summer sandwiches or a salad.

I'm not sure how much the saffron affected the final results

colouring with saffron

but it certainly looked impressive....erzatz corn fed poutry! As did the pot when the head of steam built up enough to blow off some of the luting....

the luted pot

Shame I was round the corner when she popped, but Robin had repaired it all by the time I got back.
As for the rest of the pictures.....pop over to the Flickr site to have a look....the link is in the right hand column.

This weekend sees more of the same, so I should be able to fill in the gaps image wise from last time........I'll be posting the rest of the last weekends pictures next week, followed by anything we get from the next few days.

The biggest news from the Palace of late is that the Base Court re-surfacing project has now begun and by Easter 2009 the grass that we are all used to seeing in the first courtyard will have been replaced with a cobbled surface more like the original would have been in Henrys day......fingers crossed I'll be able to get some pictures of the progress for you to see.

More posting as the weekend unfolds.......scouts honour ;-)