Tuesday, 16 September 2008

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

Right guys and gals, many thanks for the recent comments.....keep 'em coming...in 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.


Doc said...

Good question(s).

Instructions are often left out of recipes, by accident or otherwise (I found a recipe in a modern cookbook that instructed "cook half the time", and never told you to cook it the rest of the time). This is also very true for medieval cookbooks.

I've seen a few medieval sauce recipes that were explicitly not meant to be cooked, but most do call for cooking. When ingredients like bread crumbs or eggs are added, cooking thickens a sauce and helps it stick to the meat.

That's all my opinion, now for some analysis. I did a quick search on "Two Fifteenth Century Cookery Books" for eggs and looked at the recipes I could easily identify as being for sauces.

lxiiij - Capoun in consewe
lxxxiiij - Vyaund de ciprys Ryalle
Cv - Lorey de Boolas
xxj - An Entrayle
xxxij - A Siryppe pur vn pestelle
Mortreus de Chare

Don't Cook
Buknade (directions have eggs being put into hot broth)

xxxvj - Vele, kede, or henne in Bokenade
xliiij - Mortrewys de Fleyssh
lxix - Whyte Mortrewes
lxxxiij - Vyaund de cyprys bastarde
lxxxx - Hennys in Gauncelye
Cvj - Rapeye of Fleysshe

So there are few (1) recipes that instruct not to cook the eggs (maybe 3 if you count the other bukkenad recipes) and about an equal number of cook and uncertain recipes. To me that suggests that sauces containing eggs were usually cooked and the step was simply omitted because it was something the cooks knew.

This is further supported by the fact that there are a number of recipes in the same cookbook which are colored and thickened after cooking using the yolks of *hard-boiled* eggs.

Now perhaps they were adding raw eggs to the dish at the end, knowing that the heat of the food would cook the eggs - something that's done modernly in some rice dishes. I could believe this was done.

Did that make any sense?

Kiriel du Papillon said...

I don't think we are necessarily applying modern cookery thinking here at all... there are plenty of period recipes that add egg yolks to a dish to thicken and enrich them.

Tudor Cook said...

Thanks for that...I knew you'd be the one to do the analysis on the recipes....interesting stuff and yes it does make sense.

When I said 'modern thinking' I was really thinking about our modern obsession (especially here in the UK) of having to cook eggs. Of all the public who we chatted to about the recipe on the majority wouldn't think about eating a sauce with un-cooked egg in...all down to the salmonella scare we had linked to eggs some years back I assume (interestingly mayonaisse would be ok for them though!)

I personally think the sauce should be cooked as well and like Doc, assume that the cooking stage could have been taken for granted. But that doesn't mean that we're right and it's something that we have to be very careful with in explaining it to the public....we just don't know what the recipe means, we can have an educated guess but for the moment that's all it can be and as long as that information is passed on then I'll be a happy cook!

Kiriel du Papillon said...

I know what you mean... people get so flaming obsessed about things like raw egg yolks, it drives me nuts! Back in Australia where I am originally from, they have gone food safety mad, and schools can't hold sausage sizzles any more without licenced food handlers and hazard analysis plans.

I was so stunned when I came here, and went to a french market where there were whole unplucked birds lying about on tables, and food safety isn't really thought about at all. I hadn't realised how much of the national squeamishness I had taken on board myself until I saw those scary looking sausages and hairy cheeses.

There has got to be a balance somewhere between the two. I am all for food safety; as someone who regularly catered medieval feasts for up to 400 people at a time, I am pretty paranoid about my food handling, but I do think too that we do get far too carried away sometimes, and sometimes lose out.

Pity those poor Aussies who have never experienced the delight of unpasteurised cheeses!

Temperance said...

I would beat the heck out of the eggs and wine to thicken it before adding the sugar and spice. I am thinking not cooked or the instructions for adding the spices would be diffrent. Just my uneducated opinion.

Hawise Gadarn said...

I agree that a processing technique is missing in the recipe but I would think that it may be beating the egg yolks with a slightly acid wine. This would thicken the yolks prior to adding the rest of the ingredients. How it is ladled on the hot chicken would also make a difference. A slightly thicker sauce would stick better for presentation purposes as well.