Wednesday, 30 December 2009

It’s C C C C Cold…..

Cripes it's been cold over the last few days standing in the kitchen! Not cold enough for ice or snow, but the bitter piercing cold that we get that creeps in through your feet and saps you're spirit….still, a nice excuse for a warm cuppa and a nip at the end of the day eh?

Not a massive amount to report to you all out there, as has been the case for most of the year…..we've broken some pots (sort of intentionally, hopefully more to tell you when the official report is written on that), we've tried the odd new recipe (which I would expect Robert to write about in the New Year), we've eaten some good food and we've talked to some very nice visitors who have asked some very taxing questions…..which has helped to take our minds off the temperature.

A subtle problem has arisen with our charcoal though which has meant we have had to slightly re arrange the kitchen layout to try to keep the excessive ash that it is producing away from our visitors so they don't leave the building as filthy as we now seem to be…..if I get the chance I'll take some pictures of the changes to the layout so that you can see… has defeated me though, so I won't be able to post the pictures until I get back to the real world next week.

I'm not expecting to post tomorrow as I think we will be fairly busy in the evening, so I'll take this opportunity to wish you all a happy new year and to say thanks for sticking with us over 2009, here's to more posting throughout 2010.

TTFN and please remember to drink responsibly tomorrow night!!

Sunday, 27 December 2009

As Noddy Holder Is Known To Say....

..It's Christmas!

So here we are, at the start of an 'old school' 8 day long Christmas cookery event....leaving aside the why and wherefore of my lack of posting (and to be frank my lack of interest), what's the s.p.?

Well, today was nice and busy...just the right number of people to keep us talking all day but still let us cook the planned meal, all of which was pretty good, especially the perre which was outstanding....and the roast beef was to die for.
No great adventure or surprises for the first day....keeping it simple to ween us into the work....but we will be cooking some new (to us) recipes a bit later in the week....fingers crossed I'll let you know more about them when we get to them.

I'm keeping this short and sweet as it's cold and posting involves:
1) Eating into valuable drinking time.
2) Standing in the cold garden in order to get a mobile phone signal!!!

So, as the younger generation used to say......Laters.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Vyande de Cipres

A veritable essay from Robert ;-) ........there are accompanying images to this now over at Flickr.....enjoy!

For four days, spread over three cookery events, we devoted rather a long time making rather ordinary looking, rather gooey sticky sweet things. Next to the great roasts, vyande de cipres may look a bit underwhelming; but making it became one of the most interesting, and perhaps important experiments we have undertaken.

It's one of those recipes that occurs early on; it is mentioned in the first english menu, thirteenth century, and can be followed up through the years, changing a bit each time. It seems to be an anglo-norman innovation; Hieatt and Butler couldn't find a french source version, despite its name. 'Vyande'; meat, food, and 'cipres', meaning sweet, as Cyprus was known as a supplier of sugar. Sweetmeat. Although the oldest recipe has almond milk, rice flour, ginger and, bizarrely, pistachio nuts; but no sugar. The sweetness is provided by gingerbread, made from breadcrumbs and honey, although as it is strewn over the unspecified combination of the other ingredients, it wouldn't strike us as being overly sweet. Or would it?

Ever since food history has been taken seriously, the big question has been how these dishes tasted to the diners of the past? For example, the recipe above says to add ginger so 'that hit smacche wel of the gynger'. When spice was rare and expensive, what does that mean? It also states that it is the colour yellow, without saying how.

The other versions of this become more complicated, introducing meat and more spices. In the Forme of Cury it's dates, mead or sweetened wine, unspecified spice powder, then thickened so that it is 'stondyng'. If you are in the mood, and it is out of lent, add boiled chicken and pork... Not bad, but the thing to remember about the Forme of Cury, is that it's not just one book, but a group of manuscripts. The chosen version in 'Cury on Inglysch' is the one above, with dates. However in other manuscripts, which are all 'Forme of Cury', the dates are missing, instead we have; 'ootmele', 'mele', melis', 'me dates', 'damasines'. We are still asked to pike out the stones though; works for the damsons or plums, not so useful for the oatmeal. Pegge's in 1780 had 'oot mele', and the excellent online version posted by John Rylands University Library has 'mele'.

Our usual one, from 'Two Fifteenth Century Cookbooks', in it's turn, a bit more detail, Wine, suger, ginger, galengale, canel, parsely juice, rice flour, ground chicken and egg yolkes. And coloured with saffron and sandlewood. Even this one is a bit unformed, there is an instruction to make it 'chargeant', but is is unclear whether the rice or the eggs are responsible.

Recipes like this are are so frustrating, they are obviously meant to be special and expensive, but the absence of quantities and method makes it difficult to do them justice.

So when we realised that we had a measured recipe for the 'Vyande', would this mean that we had a clue at last to how sweet and spicy these dishes really were?

The collection that it is part of was published in London by Richard Pynson in 1500, and is obscure enough to have earned itself a rather legendary status. It is not, however, quite the missing link between the mid 15th Century manuscripts, and the popular Elizabethan cooking books, that we thought it may have been.

It's a printed version of an existing manuscript, and is almost identical to the manuscript edited by Robina Napier in 1882. First pointed, out I think, in the introduction to the Austin 'Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery Books, 1888, and by Hazlitt, but unremembered since, perhaps. The 'Napier' as we have named it among ourselves, is now available to study on the excellent 'Medieval Cookery' website.

The 'Napier', and the 'Pynson' both start by describing themselves as a 'noble' book, for a princes household, and then list the dishes at a feast by Henry the Forth. The 'Pynson' then does the same for a few more impressive feasts, including an enthronement of a Bishop of London in 1407. Very much like the late medieval cookbooks. Then the books come together with the enthronement of the Archbishop of York, named as Neville by 'Napier', dated to 1465 by 'Pynson'. This is the feast explored at some length in Warner's 'Antiquitates Culinariea', 1791, or it should be; the dishes don't seem to match...

Robina Napier is of the opinion that the handwriting of her manuscript would, 'but for the mention of this feast, point to an earlier date.'

Anyway, back to the Vyande de Cipres, there are two recipes in the 'Pynson', and one is common to both books, and is of the 'meaty' variety, in this case capon or chicken. Boiled and ground, cooked with almond milk and starch or rice flour, coloured with saffron, seasoned with sugar and 'florysshed' with almonds.

So, we still don't know exactly how this is supposed to be, sweet and chickeny presumably. At least the yellow colour is explained this time.

Right at the end of her book Mrs. Napier informs us that according to a contents list there are 'twenty-seven recipes unfortunately wanting in the manuscript'. Luckily, these twenty-seven are not missing from Pynson's version.

Which is brilliant; there are some very interesting recipes in these twenty-seven, I got rather excited about 'Potage of Ynde', surely not a fifteenth-century curry! Not I'm afraid, it's indigo... mmm...

But the one that all this is leading up to is... 'For to make vyande de cypres for xl messe'.

So it's the Vyande again, but this one has quantities, not for all the ingredients, but useful enough; so will we at last have an indication to how sweet and spicy something is? Here it is in full...

'To make viande de cipres for fourty messe / take viii. pounde of pruynes & ii. galons of vernage and make therof a thicke mylke / than take iii. pounde of dates & bete them in a morter but perboule them fyrst with vernage & drawe it up with a wide streyner & put the mylke in a potte & sette it on the fyre to boyle & caste therto iiii. pounde of suger cipres & a quart of pouder ginger half a quarter of canell drawen through a cloth wt wyne than take floure of rise drawen with wyne & put al in the pot & stire it togeder and colour it lightly wyth saffron & salt it & dresse v. or vi. leskes in a disshe for a lorde and take suger plat Rosenyg / and pouder og gynger medled with sugar & serue it'

Wow, measures! For the first time our tudor cooks have a chance to make something with a clue to how sweet and spicy a dish is supposed to be. Robin and Marc were getting rather excited about this and couldn't wait to have a go.

First the calculations had to be done... We used the american gallon of eight sixteen ounce pints, 3.78 litres, although 3.67 may be closer to the fifteenth century gallon; when we do it again we'll find out a bit more about this. And how many people is forty messes, a mess could be four or six people; we took it to be four, this of course will only affect the amount of sugar and spice per person, not the overall sweetness, etc.

So, per mess;

Prunes 3.2oz 90g

Vernage 6.4floz 181ml

Dates 1.2oz 34g

Sugar 1.6oz 45g

Ginger 0.1oz 2.8g

Canel 0.05oz 1.4g

That is 11.3g of sugar per diner; which is a heaped dessert spoon, already we can tell this is going to be rather sweet! Especially as vernage is sweet wine anyway. Very roughly, using the prices of goods from the time of Henry the Eighth quoted by Pegge, the price per mess is about 2 ½ d.

Incidently, this is the only version that calls for 'suger cipres', was this really a commodity of the time, since the the thirteenth century when these 'Vyande de Cipres' recipes first appeared? Was it added as part of the revision process as these recipes were 'updated'? This raises the question of what these recipes actually are, even whether they were meant to be made at all... A question for another time, perhaps...

Saturday 24th October, Robin had a go. We weighed out the ingredients, enough for two messes. The first part looks quite straightforward, at first make a milk of the prunes and wine. Then beat the dates in a mortar, but by the way, boil them first, does this mean the prunes too? Why the wide strainer; as in coarse, for texture, or very wide as a quick way to remove the stones, could save time when making a dish for 120 people. Added ginger and cinnamon, and the rice flour with some extra wine, and heated to cook the rice flour. As usual, just when things are looking well, something crops up, in this case the saffron to 'colour it lightly'. But this is a mush of prunes and dates, how can this be coloured in any meaningful way with saffron?

Turned out very interesting, it was too sticky to make convincing slices, but it was very sweet, and very gingery. Not very impressive looking, but it was our first taste of how sweet a sweet dish was supposed to be. We thought that if people in the past hadn't had a diet heavy in sugar since they were born, like us, their sweets would seem to us rather insipid; not so!

Next day, having seen the first version, both Robin and Marc rolled their sleeves up, and made separate dishes, trying different techniques from their years as historic cooks. As the details are rather important, and my notes don't really do them justice, I'll get in touch with them first, and get their methods properly recorded, as things got a bit complicated!

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Fylettys en Galentyne.

Another post by Robert to keep things moving along! Enjoy and why not have a try at home?

November, and the winter nights are getting longer, it may be time to think about one of our favourite dishes, part of our menu on Sunday 27th of September. Yes it's fylettys en galentyne, a good dish for the chillier weather, and one of the history recipes that our cooks regularly make at home.

Well, it starts promisingly. 'Take fayre porke, the fore quarter, an take of the skyne; an put the porke on a fayre spete, an rost it half y-now'. This is how we usually do it, put pork on the spit in front of the fire, until roasted a bit more than half done; but on the 27th we put our pork fillets on a griddle over the charcoal stoves. To see what would happen, really...

Fyletes are defined in a note in the Forme of Cury as 'that buth [be] take oute of the pestels [legs]', leg of pork. And another note says 'The loyne of the pork is fro the hippe boon to the hede.', which is similar to the modern term; the modern cutting diagram shows the loin ending about half way to the head. Although the fillet of pork is now a tender cut of the loin; tender because these muscles are 'not used for locomotion'.

Our recipe calls for the front quarter, so we tend not to be too fussy, we usually choose a joint we can get on the spit. Then half roast it, a Forme of Cury version says 'till the blode be tryed out'. And this time we didn't go to the trouble of using the spit. As this dish is so popular with us, we wanted to see how it would turn out making slightly less of a performance of it, hopefully to show our visitors that it could be made at home.

Our recipe continues fairly straightforwardly, cut up the pork, put in a pot (to be fair, it's 'fayre pecys' and a 'fayre potte'). Fry medium cut onions in a pan, and put them with the pork with beef or mutton broth. Add ground pepper, canel, cloves and mace, and boil well. We then thicken with bread, add vinegar and simmer for a bit longer. The recipe says 'tak farye brede, an vynegre, an stepe the brede with the same brothe, an strayne it on blode, with ale, or ellys sawnderys, and salt, an lat hym boyle y-now, an serue it forth'.

I've bothered with this bit because even when a historic recipe is going well, something a bit strange crops up... Blood, ale or sandlewood?

There is a simpler version from the Forme of Cury; 'Drawe a lyour (thickening) of brede and blode and broth and vyneger, and do therinne'. Then boil and add pepper and salt.

Unsurprisingly, the Forme of Cury has also a more complicated version; it goes on a bit, highlights include using bread crusts ground in a mortar, boiling the pork to make it more tender, and adding pepper, sandlewood, parsley, hyssop, red or white wine, grease and raisins.

So there is some scope for making it at home; both Robin and Marc have done this, and I have persuaded them to share their tips...

Marc likes to fry the pork steaks (about half an inch thick) until they start to brown, then fry the onions (three good sized ones for six people) in the pork fat, and put the whole lot in a casserole dish. If you don't have a stock, make one up from stock cubes, beef or lamb, and vegetable, made a bit stronger than usual, de-glaze the pan with it, and add to the dish. Add the spices, ground pepper, mace, two or three cloves and, Marc being a purist, ground cassia. He buys his cassia from an asian supermarket, where it is called 'dalchini'. He uses, as we all do, Robin's method of assessing the spice mix by smelling the mixture, and if one scent predominates, then adjust to make it more harmonious.

Ten or fifteen minutes before ready, take a ladle full of stock and soak bread in it, add vinegar and return to the pot to thicken.

Robin's version is similar, except he likes to grill (broil) the pork, only uses salt and pepper to season, and reduces the mixture by simmering in a saucepan. It really is very easy!

And I find it a useful way to make something nice from left over roast pork.

How about a version we haven't tried yet? This one is from 1500, and with the white wine and ginger should be interesting. I'll quote it in full, in case anybody would like a go...

To make fyletts in galentyne take the beste of rybbes of porke & flee of the skynne & rost the fleshe tyll it be almost ynough than take it of & chop it in peces & put it in a potte with onyons butter or fayre grece and hole clowes maces quibybes and do it togyder with a cruste and trye it through a streynor & white wyne and do therto pouder of peper and put it in the potte and when it boyeth lette it not be chargeaunt & season it up with pouder of gynger & salt & serue it.

So; good luck!

griddling pork

the finished dish

Thanks Robert for that, I have to say that the recipe is genuinely idiot proof.....we really have never had a failure with this dish, yes some are better than others, but I think it would be fair to say that this is one recipe that we rarely have any left-overs at the end of a meal!

The keen eyed amongst you, well those that look at the stuff on the right hand side of the page at least, will have noticed that we'll be in action again this weekend; the last event before the big Christmas blow out!

Lots of roasting things planned for this last weekend along with a few other treats to keep Robert in writing for some time to come....perhaps we'll even persuade Marc H to write something too!


Wednesday, 4 November 2009


So folks, here's another post from Robert.......enjoy!

Still on the 26th of September, I had better speed up a bit: there has been another weekend since my last post, so now I'm heading in both directions at once! Even the recipes that look simple, aren't...

Strawberye is basically strawberry juice thickened with flour. But let's take the first line, 'Take Strawberys, & waysshe hem in tyme of ere in gode red wyne'. Could mean wash before doing the other steps, or, as Marc H suggested, time of year; when they are ripe. And 'wash', sometimes a recipe says something like 'wash it clean', obviously the modern usage. Sometimes in the sense of 'clean' or pitted. Neither works in this case; perhaps some way to 'freshen up' the fruit? The wine being 'good' sounds rather like it's an ingredient.

Then 'strayne thorwe a clothe', Marc now does this by putting the damp strawberries whole in a cloth, really squeezing then twisting to get all the juice out.

Squeezing Strawberries

'& do hem in a potte with with gode Almaunde mylke'. Right, now we have another recipe to look at! Marc made this from scratch, as there was a burner available, and he felt like it.

'To make gode almondys mylke', sugared water boiled and cooled for a bit, then add ground almonds. Of course it's a bit more complicated than this... Marc said it went milky very quickly this time. Pre-ground almonds were used.

Now the thickening part, 'a-lay it with Amyndoun other with flowre of Rys, & make it chargeaunt and lat it boyle'. A handful of rice flour was used. Sometimes there is a clue to the thickness; not so 'chargeaunt' so it can be poured from the bowl, for instance, but not in this case!

Cooking Strawberrye

Then add currants, saffron, pepper, sugar ('grete plentie'), ginger, canel and galengale. Here we have another complication; 'canel'. This is usually taken to mean cinnamon. But there are recipes that call for cinnamon and canel...

We have wandered into an area that is being disputed by historic cooks. There are two candidates; proper cinnamon, delicate and sweet, and cassia, not so delicate and sweet. Both spices are mentioned in the bible, appearing together in an oil to anoint the ark, (no, not that ark, although some fragrance would have helped, I imagine...).

There is a fifteenth century hippocras recipe that has two versions; the 'lord's' has cinnamon, and the 'commoners'' has canel. Marc has adopted a zero-tolerance policy: always using cassia for 'canel'. One history of spice textbook, while examining in detail the cinnamon/cassia debate, sidesteps the issue by not even having 'canel' in the index. I expect the blog will go into a lot more detail about this as we go through the year: any comments?

Now, typically, punctuation complicates things. After the list of spices it continues 'poynte it with Vynegre, & a lytil whyte grece put ther-to; coloure it with Alkenade, & droppe it a-bowte, plante it with the graynys of Pome-garnad, & than serue it forth'. Reading the semi-colon in the modern way, the fat goes in with the spices and vinegar, and the whole thing coloured with alkanet. You need a lot of alkanet to change to strawberry colour... It does make more sense to colour the fat with the alkanet, which is fat soluble. Marc says the coloured drops of white fat should be strewn about the surface like glistening orangey/red jewels...

Finished Dish

A good berry to choose, as Andrew Boorde says: 'Strawburyes, be praysed aboue al buryes for they do qualyfye the heate of the lyuer, & dothe ingender goode blode eaten with sugar'.


Along with all the above that Robert sent for posting, he also included the picture below.....I'm guessing from Halloween but it could just as well have been from the Palace Ghost Tour on the Sunday night......perhaps I should have asked him eh?


West Front Pumpkins

Friday, 9 October 2009

New Pictures!

To go with the post below, Robert also sent 9 pictures which are now there for all to see at Flickr......just follow the link on the right to get there!

They include these gems.....

Robin and a Chicken


Ryse of Genoa

Blimey, The Blog!

was the subject line of the email from Robert as he sent me his copy for this posting. He knows that he has the login and posting details, but he's an old fashioned chap and likes to run it all through me first....bless him ;-)

So, here are his words.......

Hello again!

For most of the summer I have been meaning to update the blog, but the further away you get, the more difficult it becomes to catch up. So, like the usual desperate twist in generic science fiction, how about taking the year backwards? The advantage; at least we can remember what happened last weekend. And the other advantage is that as the blog goes deeper into the past it will get even more out of joint, and possibly slightly surreal...
Although, the year has been rather strange anyway, with a wedding every day and tournaments, coronation celebrations and all sorts of revels. Usually the music plays in the distance and the boys peer forlornly up at the small patch of blue that we call the sky... but for a couple of times we were released from the vaults and frolicked like pit-ponies in the sun...
Well, that wasn't such a good image after all, just as well last weekend was a 'normal' one.

Saturday 26th September.

For a change, we repeated something! As we are trying to be serious about our research remit, we have been doing a lot of measuring. We have tried a few approaches, but it's not easy to know where to start. So, we chose something that is reliable to do, gives proper figures and doesn't second guess 'interesting' results. Every main meal, the 'supper' in the afternoon, has the food weighed before and after. The idea started when we were trying to work out the 'bouch of court' meat ration, not as easy as you might think as the quantities recorded are monetary, not by weight.

When Richard had worked it out, it seemed an awful lot, and that got us thinking about how much we ate anyway. Although it is something we have vaguely wondered about since we started, as the style of Tudor dining; just taking what you want, in small portions, over the course of the meal, does mean you lose count, and only stop when you are satisfied. Or think you are. A bit like surfing a buffet and only later realising one is too full for beer. Not that this happened to me at Ross's wedding...

So to have a set of meaningful figures we decided that the September cooking weekend would feature the same dishes as we had in July. Time's arrow will explain why we chose these dishes in the first place, as the blog moves deeper into the past... It turned out to be an interesting experiment; we usually try to vary what we cook, and having to repeat a whole day gave us a chance to make the dishes even better.

Roast Beef
Salmon Fress Boiled
Capon Stewed
Ryse of Genoa

Of course we have to have roast beef, and it was as good as always, we ate an average of 130 grams each; a modern restaurant portion is around 100grams.
The salmon was roasted on a gridiron, then boiled with parsley and salt, then served with a garnish of parsley leaves wetted with vinegar, we managed 50 grams of that.
We had to use chicken for the capon stewed, as it isn't easy to get capon nowadays; capons are made, not born, unfortunately [now you remind me Robert, we might be able to get some sorted for Christmas]... But this is a great recipe: stuff the chicken with roughly broken herbs and put it into a pot, which has 'broken splints' (we used wooden spoons) placed inside so that the bird 'touche no thinge of the potte'. Then put in herbs (including hyssop) and some of 'the best wyn that thou may gete and none other licour', the lid is sealed on with sticky dough 'that no eier come oute' and put on the stove 'easly and longe till hit be ynowe'. Then make a sweet, fruity syrup with the wine and 'powre hit on the capon'. Chicken steamed in wine; well of course it was nice!
Ryse of genoa is one of our standards, it turns up in about one in four of our cooking days over the last few years, being a useful non-meat dish. This time it was particularly good, one of the bowls was completely finished. Thought it may be interesting to go into a bit of detail into the making of this sometimes overlooked staple.
'take Ryse ans seth them in fayre water ans stepe them well And take hem of and caste them in A fayre vessell and pyke them clene and set then on fyre A yene'. Does this mean the rice is boiled before any stones and husks are removed? A similar recipe from a 1500 book is more explicit; 'To make ryse, pyke youre ryse and wasshe it in [two] or thre waters and late the water be warme', an older Forme of Cury version is typically direct, 'Take ryse and waisshe hem clene'. Our recipe goes on, 'And do ther to broth of freshe beef or of mary bones and let hem seth well And do there to grownd safferon & salt and if hit be fastyng day temper hit with Almound mylke & serue hit forth.'
Boiled twice? The Forme of Cury version just has the rice boiled in stock. The 1500 book recipe is less vague, 'And boyle hem in clene water and at the first boyle put out the water clene and boyle them with the brothe of flesshe or with brothe of fresshe fisshe and put therto sugar saffrom and salt and serue it'. We know that this dish is more like risotto than rice pudding, because it would say so; compare with another Forme of Cury recipe for a pottage of rice which has, 'and seth hem tyl they breste [burst]'
So how did Robin make it so good? This week I secured an exclusive interview with the Maister himself...

He said that as we have been making it so long he has tried all sorts of rice, long and short grain and in the early days used stock made up from stock cubes (one beef, one vegetable, made up to double strength). This weekend he used stock he had made earlier this year, at one of the events when we didn't do much cooking. Beef bones and trimmings simmering in a cauldron all day until it had reduced from a gallon to under two pints. When cold, the fat skimmed off, and then frozen to use later.
This time he used arborio risotto rice, the label said, 'bold, white grains characteristic of Milanese rice, typical of northern Italy', (presumably Genoa being the port where the rice was exported from; none of the other rice recipes gives even a clue like this what type of rice is intended to be used). Wash the rice, and boil in plenty of water until half cooked, then refresh in cold water. Bring the stock up to the boil, add the rice and boil together, and try to absorb as much of the stock as you can. Robin adds the saffron as a solution; dry it over the stove on a spoon, then grind it fine in a mortar, which is washed with a little water which you then add to the rice. Try it for saltiness before serving, this time the stock was so concentrated, it didn't need any added salt. It was rich and tasty, and, as I may have mentioned, one of our messes finished the whole bowl, unusual for a dish we know so well.
The last dish was strawberye, which also involves rice, this time as rice flour to thicken. It too was much appreciated. As I have gone on a bit and Richard has described the process before in the blog, I'll leave strawberye until I can interview Marc H and get the low-down on what made it so good this time.

Next time, Sunday; and the return of the poumes!

Monday, 28 September 2009

Panoramic Archive

Well I think I've sorted out the hosting issue for all the old quicktime panoramic images.....let's see if this works then:

With all three you just need to click and drag the image around...I'm sure you'll all work it out.

The first is the Kitchens...

This one is Clock Court, this is when there was renovation work being done on the whole clock tower...

and finally a piece of history, Base Court as it no longer looks! I took this before the work started on re-paving the courtyard....I must get round to doing a newer version, but given that the nights are now drawing in this may have to wait until next year now....still, enjoy this view of the past...

It turned out that the rest of the stuff on the soon to vanish hosting site was the video of a boiling pot, which to be honest, out of the context of the post is really dull....along with the various menus that I've posted in the past. Although these may be interesting they really do need to be linked with the post about them and I just can't face sorting that out at the moment....perhaps in the future but for now they'll just have to vanish into the ether.


Loosing Links

A brief missive to say, firstly that I AM still alive!!! Thanks for the concern from some viewers, my apologies for not replying individually or indeed sooner, but I will just have to leave you with the unhelpful answer of 'I had my reasons, sorry'.

Secondly, one of the hosting providers that I have used to store some of the menus and panoramic images on will be closing within the month. I will NOT be going back to change all of the links in earlier posts to enable these images to remain visible as it will take far too long to do so....this will mean that some of the archive postings will have images missing, sorry. I will though endeavour to re post the panoramic videos/pictures but I can't promise when as I need to sort out storage online for them...just a few things to sort out on this side before I can be sure that I have a place for them all.

More news from me soon I hope and Robert assures me that he will be writing a post very soon too.....but he told me that in June and July as well ;-)


Thursday, 12 March 2009

Off To Market Jigedy Jig!

Off to the 'original reenactors market' tomorrow....have a look if there's anything new being made out there and pick up a few more contacts be honest it's a bit of a chore, but I am also going to look for stuff for the newly presented routes in the Palace as well, so that bit could be quite fun....the rest is usually a bit of a drag though, looking at quite a lot of cack with the odd nice thing sprinkled around, it is a good chance to catch up with people that you don't get to see very often though and it'll make a nice change to get out and about.

After that it'll be back on with the report and then start putting together plans for the Easter cookery....all of which I'll let you know as and when I sort the menus out (it'll be a full weekend of sit down meals though, that is for certain)

I've looked through all the pictures that I took over the weekend and this is the sum total that you haven't yet seen....

cooked pies

It's some of the pies after they were cooked. It's not much I know, but the rest of the pictures I took were specifically for the report and don't make interesting know the sort of thing I'm sure, recording data collection etc. etc.
Perhaps when the report is in I'll pop some up, but who knows.

Off to bed now, you never know tomorrow may be an exciting day.....but I don't hold out too much hope.

Hmmmmm Pie!

A new video for you all to see!

Robin spent the past cookery weekend working on pie making with the 2 Barry's. They were trying out various ways of making the pies we produce more uniform, with the aim of removing the 'random' nature of the wall thickness that we've always ended up with.

If you check out the YouTube video that I posted some time ago where Robin raises a pie (the widget and link at the bottom of the right hand column will take you to the site), you'll see that he uses a method not dissimilar to making a thumb pot in works really well, but does require some practice to get consistent results and it takes longer than this new method. The beauty of the new method is that it's virtually idiot proof.....all the pies that the 3 of them made looked virtually identical.

pastry thickness

The older technique results on the pie on the left, see the difference in the thickness of the case!

The video isn't of the best pies that the guys made, it seems that Robin is having to put a lot of effort into rolling the paste out (he swears he wasn't!!) but the paste had already been used a couple of times before so the gluten had really developed and resulted in some quite springy paste as you may have noticed towards the end of the video. He also shouldn't have cut the excess away, for every other one he just twisted the top off, but for this try he thought he'd try cutting the excess off which as you could see didn't work so well.

What else is new then?

Well I'm currently up to my neck in paperwork, writing my end of year report for the the moment I'm sorting through all the roasting work we did and graphing all of the data that Robert has collected. With all this to do I've still not sorted through the results of last weekends cookery.....give me time eh!

What I can show you are some pictures of the newly paved Base Court...

paved Base Courtpaved Base Court

paved Base Courtpaved Base Court

This should now be open to the public and it'll be interesting to see how people react to the space which in the past was treated very much like a corridor. I know that already some people have commented on how sterile and sparse the area now looks, but I personally am a fan of the change....let's see how it develops as the year progresses.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

I've Gone all Floppy!!

Well I've finally knuckled! cookery book, 'A Noble Boke of Cokery' is now available as a paperback from Lulu.

For the price of £10.78 you get the same contents as with the hardback edition, which is still available, but with a flexible cover and, for Britain at least, a much more sensible postage rate!

I hadn't realised how astronomically stupid the shipping rate had been changed to of late (that'll teach me to subscribe to newsletters in future!), for GB addresses it was half the cost of the book.....madness!!
The hardbacks are only printed in the US (I've been told that shipping to US addresses is not as criminally expensive, but I can't vouch for that I'm afraid) whereas paperbacks can be printed in the UK which substantially reduces the shipping costs, it's still more than I'd like (around £4.50), but I believe that this is where Lulu makes some of it's profit, so I can't begrudge them too much I suppose.

There's more information about the books on the information site along with a link to the Lulu shop.
Hope you enjoy.


Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Table Talk.

First things first....7 more images from the last cookery weekend are now up at Flickr. They include Jorge doing his best (let's face it, as yet only) Mussolini impression

the shovels will work on time

Barry engrossing a family with something as simple as broken pots

It's a bowl!

....and some more arty faff

whoooo Robin

I've still got a few more to put up I think (no promises) as the majority are reserved for an end of year report, but I'll see what I can turn up for the next posting.

Now on to answer Doc's questions about tables. All the furniture that the team uses is made by Robert out of air dried English oak, some other woods are used for other items but by and large oak predominates. In the case of the tables that prompted the question (see the comments on this post) the tops are separate from the trestle can be a pain sometimes when the public lean on the tops moving them about, but it does allow then the conversation about the use of furniture in the Palace and it's sometimes 'temporary' nature. Today we are used to furniture being left set in a room but for the Tudors, especially at Hampton Court that wasn't always the case.... the Great Hall for example was used for other functions than dining at different times and as such the tables that are assumed to have been in there (and that's another story not for now) would need to have been dismantled and removed....something that would seem odd in our houses today, but just think of a large catering event like a wedding with the room being dressed then cleared away.....but I digress!

We do have some tables where the top is fixed to the legs in various different ways, most of which are used as part of the static display to be both safe and historically correct....if I remember I'll take some pictures next time I'm in the kitchen for you to see.

The thickness of the tops is down to the timber available at the time of construction, but it's usually around 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch I believe (the younger readers will have to convert that to metric themselves I'm afraid) the past we had some thicker tops that we used but to be honest none of us are getting any younger and having to lug them out of the store then back again was quite literally a pain in the neck.....and back! The thickness differences in the tops that you noted make no real difference to the tables.....they both stay put in use and (touch proverbial wood) haven't proved to be any sort of problem yet.

The height off the floor I can't exactly remember, but an easier way to think is how far are they away from your hands. If you stand upright next to the tables your knuckles of a clenched fist for kneading are about 1 to 2 inches above the surface. This means that when you lean into the work, the surface is at a comfortable working height (and purely by coincidence the perfect height for all our codpieces to rest on the table tops if we aren't careful?!?!) unlike a modern kitchen counter which is no longer at a height suitable for 'real' cookery like pastry making and so on.....when you talk to people about it you can suddenly see that 'light bulb above the head' moment when they realise why they find cookery a chore or hard work.......I personally would recommend working on a kitchen table rather than the fitted counters, they are usually at a better height for most people, try it out next time you're in the kitchen and you'll see what I'm on about.

Hope that answers the questions Doc and is of some interest to the rest of you.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Some Pictures For You.....

....from the last weekend. Not a vast number, just 7 at the moment (as always I'm spreading the wealth so to speak and will post some more in a day or so!)

They include photographic evidence that the other guys can cook too!!

Jorge and Dave cook

That was Sunday morning and the guys are cooking dinner/breakfast. As it happens Robin was quite unwell that morning so we let him have a lie in for an hour or so (slacker!) but it so happened that Dave was going to make breakfast that day anyway.....I'm not too sure if it was a success or not, the egg was great, some of the rest.......hmm well I couldn't possibly comment.

As always, the picture include the guys doing what it is they do, chatting to the public and so on

Robin concentrates Jorge makes a clean sweep

But then there are pictures that when you look at them you have to just ask......what the hell was going on there???

Dear God!!

Please don't write in asking why Jorge is wearing a fourteenth century helmet along with his sixteenth century clothes whilst brandishing a modern kitchen knife...........because to be honest I haven't got a clue!?!

Monday, 9 February 2009

Snow Joke

As I sit here listening to the rain lashing against the window it's hard to imagine how much snow we had this time last week......schools closed, businesses shut & cars abandoned as Britain woke to the biggest snowfall for over a decade.

Some people made it in to work though and Robin, Robert and Marc H bravely struggled through the snow and slush in case the education sessions they were running weren't it happened Hampton Court like so many other businesses remained closed for the day, so as well as drinking much tea all they had to do was take some pictures before going home. I've just posted 13 of Roberts up on the Flickr site, if Robin furnishes me with his I may well do the same with those.

blizzard conditions

The snow seems to have added a certain something to these familiar settings....I just can't put my finger on what it is though!

Master Carpenters court

East Front gardens

There's 10 more images like these over at Flickr......don't forget you can always click on the 'all sizes' icon above the images to see them a little larger.

Off to finish sorting out pictures from this weekend now....more later.



Just back from the weekends shenanigans, blimey was it cold.......frequent trips in to the office to hug mugs of tea were needed all round, mainly to get some feeling back into hands.

Loads of pictures to sort through and post as well as some videos that I think you might like.....all that and more in the next exciting episode, but now......bed time.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Dates For Your Diary

So when will we be cooking this year and what will we be doing?

Well this weekend sees the last of the 'odd' experimental work that we've been doing, the last opportunity to get out the scales and thermometers in front of the public for the rest of the year. The aim is to finish off stuff that we started on the December weekend (I said I'd tell you about it later, so I will.....later!) and to record as much data as we can whilst roasting meat in front of the fire as well as in a modern oven to compare the two methods. There'll also be a lot of 'behind the scenes' work involving freezing experiments to see how well certain dishes freeze and what stage is best to cook them to for this we're not going into the ready meal business although it's a thought, it's all to do with a future project that requires more food than we can probably cook in one day.

After that it's all Henry, Henry, Henry....where the whole Palace will bask in the revamped look that it is currently receiving all ready for the celebrations to mark the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII's accession to the throne......including the newly re-paved Base Court; progress is coming on, this is what it looked like at Christmas.....

Base Court Paving Base Court Paving

Base Court Paving

All of this will involve the kitchens cooking pretty much along the lines of a Christmas event day for quite a lot of the year and with the whole aim being immersion in a Tudor Palace for the members of the no modern kit then.

Dates that you'll be able to see us in action are:

March 7th-8th
April 10th-13th Easter Holiday
April 18th & 19th
May 2nd-4th Bank Holiday
May 23rd-25th Bank Holiday
June 20th-21st
July 25th-26th
August 22nd-24th Bank Holiday
September 26th-27th
October 24th-25th
November 28th-29th
December 26th-January 3rd Christmas Cookery (a bumper 8 days you lucky people!)

The observant will notice that this changes from our regular first weekend of the month slot for the non holiday events to a last weekend of the month slot.....this is to ensure a more even balance of events throughout the calendar and to give you all a better opportunity to come and see us in action.

June the 20th & 21st is one of the big events as it's the weekend that the Royal Palaces will be celebrating the anniversary of the coronation of Henry VIII. There will be a flotilla of boats travelling from the Tower of London to Hampton Court on the Saturday, bringing the 'Royal Party' to the Palace, where they will dine in the Privy Gardens.....which is where we come in (and the freezer too if all the plans and testing work out!)
There will be games on the river on the Sunday as well and many, many other things to see over that weekend....I'd pop that one in the diary if I was you.

There will be plenty of other things happening throughout the year too, just check the Historic Royal Palaces website for details as the year progresses.

Writers Block!!

Yes ti's I the Prince of Procrastination.....finally getting my finger out and posting something in this new year!

So why no report about the Christmas cookery? Quite simply, there was absolutely nothing to say....people came, we cooked, they watched and asked questions, we answered and ate repeat 6 times and Bob's your uncle, that was the Christmas cookery!
Oh, it was cold.....really cold, in fact I don't think that the temperature in the Kitchens made it past 1 degree Centigrade all week, so the guys did sterling work considering the circumstances....just not very noteworthy work is all.

After Christmas some personal health issues got in the way, but that seems to be improving now (don't ask, it's really not worth it...although photographs could prove amusing!) then a degree of ambiguity about the forthcoming year raised it's ugly head, but we are all sorted now...dates and budgets are fixed so 2009 is now all systems go.