Tuesday, 23 March 2010

We Created A Monster!!!.....

Well two actually, but that's what happens when you create the culinary equivalent of a cut 'n shut, you get 4 halves so you're gonna end up with two 'animals'.

As all of this took place in the dim and distant past (Christmas 2002) there isn't a great deal of pictorial evidence to hand....the height of technology that we had access to was a Sony Mavica, woo hoo, although you will also notice Robert taking pictures in some of the shots, whether he can find those slides and scan them I'm not sure, but I digress.

All of the pictures I have are now up on Flickr for you to see, they include this selection:

the 'ingredients'

can you see the join?

shh..it's sleeping!

the cockyntryce en repose

along with a few others....ahh that evening just flew by....or perhaps it was the beer?
The only other notable fact about that night of creation was that the custody warders learnt not to rifle through our fridges for snacks when we aren't about as those two staring back at them by torchlight were apparently NOT what they were expecting to find.

As to the finished results, well I have no pictures to show (Robert?) but it went really well. The beast was placed on the spit and a wire 'frame' added to keep the head, wings and feet in their correct positions, it was then roasted in front of the fire, with a batter applied half way through which hid all of the stitches, in fact it did such a good job that we had a devil of a time convincing people that it wasn't a real animal....I kid you not, they wanted to know what it was, why they'd not heard of one before and how it flew with those small wings as it couldn't possibly walk having no front legs!!! Even telling the truth they didn't believe us...amazing really.

We tried to shield the feathers by placing wet parchment sleeves over the wings, but that just shrank like heat shrink tubing so we took it off...with hindsight it was obvious that it would, but hey, we were young, I believe that they survived in some shape or form to the table in spite of this! If I remember correctly it stank to high heaven on the table but that was because of the turkey having its head still on and that was never intended by the supplier (we chose a turkey as it was the only bird that we could match girth with to the sucking pig) and boy was it bad....not enough to put us off, but bad none the less! Why I'm not sure as it was washed and cleaned, possibly just the smell of the brain over cooking, I really couldn't say and it didn't matter that much as it was the overall impression that we were aiming for.

Would we do it again? Possibly, but with a lot more planning that we did that time.....and having learnt so much about the roasting of meat I think it would be a great success....who knows, probably not this year, but never say never......even with all the fuss that meat and certain animals seems to generate, still at least it wasn't fluffy bunnies eh?

As for the peacock, grief that was even further back in time, possibly 1996, but that's just a very wild guess. I only have one picture of this:

preparing the peacock

There are possibly more, but not currently in digital form.

This was done in the 'good old days' when we weren't running the show and there were different team members involved, as you may notice....his name's Andy and he was a demon when it came to working with the dead animals.....a bit like Pick, but somehow more 'natural', although I think it was mostly down to practice with road kill!
The choice to cook the peacock wasn't ours, it was Peter Brears who ran things, we sort of just did as we were shown back then (my how things have evolved). Peter, bless him, knows a phenomenal amount about food and its history, he was just never too hot on telling us, or in fact anybody the references used, so Lois, to answer your question, it was sort of a generic peacock recipe that was used.....gut it, peel it, roast it, put the skin back on.
You will notice the candles in the shot, they aren't just for show, they were the light we were working too!! All of the prep' work was done after hours on the Christmas event we did this, as it was felt that it may generate complaints, so working by candle light Andy deftly removed the skin and gutted the animal. The next day it was placed on the spit with wire to hold the wings and legs in place as well as a long wire down the neck to hold it upright, it was then roasted until done and left to cool before the head was plopped onto the protruding wire and the skin dressed back onto the body. Again all of this dressing was done after hours for fear of offending the public....in hindsight it was a stupid PR panic lead decision that should never have been allowed to dictate the state of play because so many interested people never got to see the finished dish...still live and learn eh?!

It looked absolutely amazing, just like you see in the manuscript illustrations, especially as this was by candle light and the feathers simply shone with colour as it was processed to the table for our assembled guests to try (which would have made it New Years Eve)....tasted just like chicken though!
We needn't have worried about the public comments, they ranged from "it's some kind of raptor" (meaning bird of prey, because of the claws) to "it's a velociraptor?? coool", but all were positive and all could see the reasons for trying the recipe out, they just couldn't see why they weren't allowed to have seen the whole process....in fact the comments for this were almost repeated when we came to the cockentryce, but again the same squeamishness descended from above and the preparation work was to be done away from the public gaze.....shame really as I thing on the whole apart from those who are out specifically to be offended (and they are certainly out there) the vast majority would appreciate seeing the whole process behind such a bonkers recipe.

I would love to try the peacock again and the sooner the better, the only problem at the moment is sourcing the birds. When we did it last time it was easy, odd meat was in vogue and the world and his wife was selling peacock along with kudu steaks and alligator....today, peacock seems to have vanished and I'm not too sure why. Still, always on the look out and when we can find a supplier then we'll be sure to have another go, but this time with more pictures for you all to see and with a more mature bird with bigger tail feathers that would allow us to display the tail all fanned out just like the manuscript pictures show...we can but dream.

So the weekend is nearly upon us, just a couple of days to go and fingers crossed with the new phone I'll be able to post or tweet almost as it happens (although you'd be right to believe it when you see it!!)



Lois said...

Fascinating as always... Your descriptions made an excellent alternative to pics, evoking the sights, tastes & especially the smells of the experience most convincingly! I can't wait for your posts from the weekend, go on Marc, be a devil, loads of pics etc! Always exciting to find out what you are cooking, eg what were some of the seasonal specialities of the period. Lois xxx

Tudor Cook said...

if only it was Marc! I've yet to get him to write anything but comments I'm afraid.

That aside, I'll see what I can do over the weekend though.

Doc said...

Apparently peacocks were a fairly popular thing. Here are the recipes for peacock I found with a quick search:

A pecoke. Cut hym yn necke and skald hym cut of ├że fete & hede cast hym on a spete bake hym well the sauce ys gynger. [MS Pepys 1047]

PEACOCK, Pheasants, Swans, Heron, Bustards, Cranes, Grouse, Bittern, Cormorant, should be plucked dry or bled like the swan, and leave to those to whom they belong the heads and tails, and to others the heads and feet : and do with the remainder as with the swan. Item, with the pheasant from which you remove the tail, save back two or three feathers for when it is roasted, but serve (it with them). [Le Menagier de Paris]

Peacock, swan. Kill it like goose, leave the head and tail, lard or bard it, roast it golden, and eat it with fine salt. It lasts at least a month after it is cooked. If it becomes mouldy on top, remove the mould and you will find it white, good and solid underneath. [Le Viandier de Taillevent]

Peacocks. Blow and inflate them like the swans, and roast and glaze them similarly. Serve them in the last course. When they are reclothed, have thin slender wooden spits to pass among the tail feathers, or a bit of brass wire for setting out the feathers as if the peacock were spreading its tail. [Le Viandier de Taillevent]

Pecok rosted. Take a Pecok, breke his necke, and kutte his throte, And fle him, the skyn and the ffethurs togidre, and the hede still to the skyn of the nekke, And kepe the skyn and the ffethurs hole togiders; drawe him as an hen, And kepe the bone to the necke hole, and roste him, And set the bone of the necke aboue the broche, as he was wonte to sitte a-lyve, And abowe the legges to the body, as he was wonte to sitte a-lyve; And whan he is rosted ynowe, take him of, And lete him kele; And then wynde the skyn with the fethurs and the taile abought the body, And serue him forthe as he were a-live; or elle3 pull him dry, And roste him, and serue him as thou doest a henne. [Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books]

To roast a peacock. Pluck the peacock in such a way that the head keeps its feathers and the neck also to the shoulders, and the tail remains intact. Boil the body in such a way that head nor tail are spoiled. Then lard it and put it on a spit. Then take a cloth to cover the tail and another cloth to cover the head and neck. Make fire proper to roast the body and nothing else. When it is roasted fix it on a bread with a broach, remove the cloths and then carry [the peacock] thus to the table. [Wel ende edelike spijse]

Anonymous said...

Nag nag nag, I's doing it alright 's just I haven't had the 'puter time, plus I need to get hold of Doc before I can proceed, oh and I did tell you that t'weren't me Lois.

Marc H

terrylove said...

I assume places like Farthingwood Poultry have been tried as sources for peacocks?


The do have peacocks it seems, not listed as "meat birds" but maybe they could supply the odd one for a future special occasion demo.

A Google search threw up a couple of breaders, suspect they expect their birds to be for show rather than eating.


Tudor Cook said...

have certainly spoken to a couple of breeders, let's just say they are less than keen on supplying the birds as meat...they also supply them young, so not best for plumage and that's as, if not more important than the meat is.

Still, we'll keep looking, but to be honest it's not that much of a priority for me at this time, just another one of the hundreds of things floating around in the back of the mind.

terrylove said...

Must be fairly crowded back in there, is there enough ventilation to keep them all alive? I find ideas often escape these days... probably a sign I'm getting old.