Blawmanger

Tak þe two del of rys, þe thridde pert of almoundes; | wash clene þe rys in leuk water & turne & seth hem til þey breke & lat it kele, & tak þe melk & do it to þe rys & boyle hem togedere. & do þerto whit gres & braun of hennes grounde smale, & stere it wel, & salte it & dresch it in disches.  & frye almaundes in fresch gres til þey be browne, & set hem in þe dissches, & strawe þeron sugre & serue it forth. Utilis Coquinario 28, (MS Sloane 468, in Curye on Inglysch, ed. Constance Hieatt and Sharon Butler).

Take two portions of rice, and a third part of almonds. Wash the rice in lukewarm water and cook it until (the grains) break, then let it cool. Take the milk (of the almonds) and add it to the rice, then boil them together. Add white grease and minced chicken meat, then salt it and put in dishes. Fry almonds in fresh grease until they are brown, and set them in the dishes (on the rice and chicken), then sprinkle on sugar, and serve it forth.

Blawmanger, or “white food,” was extremely popular throughout medieval Europe; the Concordance of English Recipes lists over 20 recipes from the 14th to the 15th century in England alone. It consisted of rice and ground chicken, sometimes with added pork, and there were Lenten versions with fish in place of the chicken. The dish continued to be served beyond the medieval period. Gradually, however, the meat disappeared and extra sugar was added, until the modern “blancmange” emerged. It would have been an expensive dish – rice was an imported luxury, as were almonds and sugar. The existence of Lenten versions also indicates its popularity and importance as a medieval dish.

Ingredients

200g white rice (see notes) 100g almond meal
500g cooked chicken meat (see notes) 100g flaked or whole blanched almonds
Lard or chicken fat 20g sugar

Method

  1. Rinse the rice in cool running water until it runs clear. If you catch the rinsing water in a bucket, it goes well on the garden.
  2. Cook the rice in boiling water until it is very soft and mushy. Remove from the heat, drain off any excess water, and allow to cool.
  3. While the rice is cooking, make the almond milk. Steep the almond meal in boiling water for approximately 15 minutes, stirring regularly, then pour it through a cloth lined strainer. You need about 300mL for the finished blawmanger.
  4. Mince the cooked chicken, and set aside.
  5. Add the almond milk and some of the lard or chicken fat to the rice until the rice is just moistened. Return to the heat and stir well, until the rice is completely warmed through.
  6. Add the minced chicken to the rice, and stir well. Remove from the heat – the residual heat in the rice will warm the chicken.
  7. Melt the rest of the lard or chicken fat in a pan, then add the whole or flaked almonds. Fry until they are golden.
  8. Pour the blawmanger onto a serving dish, then sprinkle the fried almonds and sugar on top before serving. It can be eaten hot or cold.

Notes

  • When making this dish, I use 500g of chicken thigh, which I poach. I then cook the rice in the poaching water to boost the chicken flavour. I prefer chicken thigh to chicken breast, as chicken breast can dry out too much, and does not mince as well.
  • Don’t try making this dish with raw chicken mince which you then cook – the mince clumps together while it is cooking and is difficult to distribute through the rice.
  • I use an electric mincer to mince the chicken. You could also use a food processor, but be careful not to process the chicken to mush. However, meat can also be finely minced with a cleaver, as demonstrated in this YouTube video.
  • I have assumed white rice is preferred in the dish, as the dish name translates to “white food.”
  • Rinsing the rice before you cook it washes excess starch from the rice, and the final result won’t be gluggy. It also tends not to stick to the pan while it is cooking.
  • I have seen other modern versions of this dish where the rice is cooked to a modern preference, that is, still slightly firm, or “al dente.” However, the recipe specifies that the rice should be cooked until the grains break, which I have interpreted as cooking the rice until it is completely soft and mushy.

Blawmanger

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Hieatt, Constance, Nutter, Terry and Holloway, Johnna. (2006). Concordance of English Recipes
Hieatt, Constance and Butler, Sharon (1985). Curye on Inglysch

A Roast Pig’s Head (named Bernàrd)

At a recent feast I ran, I decided to serve a pig’s head breathing fire as a spectacle at a feast. I had never cooked a pig’s head before; and I wasn’t sure how it would be received. However when I mentioned it to people they got very excited so I decided I had to go ahead with it.

The first issue I had was obtaining a pig’s head. They aren’t commonly asked for, after all. However the butcher I go to for events was able to source one, and didn’t give me too weird a look; it’s not the strangest thing I’ve asked him to get for me.

The word got around the event that there would be a pig’s head and a few people came to meet it, which is how the head acquired the name Bernàrd.

I’ve never cooked a pig’s head before, and in the end I decided roasting was my best option. I knew how to roast pork, and I figured a head would roast pretty much the same. But I honestly didn’t think anyone would want to eat it – I just thought people would simply look at it, enjoy it, and that would be it. So I didn’t pay too much attention to the preparation. I simply gave Bernàrd a wash and patted him dry, then rubbed him with a commercial barbeque sauce to give him some colour.

Bernard from the oven

Unfortunately the spill I had prepared to stick in his mouth and light, so he appeared to be breathing fire, became too damp and simply smouldered. So he was sent out nibbling on some parsley.

And he came back with no meat left on his bones – virtually everyone at the feast wanted to try a piece of Bernàrd, and the queue went out of the hall. There were even fights about who got the last of the cheek.

I will certainly be serving a roast pig’s head once again. However next time I will be using a more period appropriate glaze, such as a Lumbard Mustard.

If you want to cook a pig’s head, you will probably need to order one specially from the butcher (be prepared for some strange looks). Make sure you specify you want it whole, with the ears, cheeks and snout attached. They roast just like normal pork, but take longer than a boned, rolled joint, as the bone acts as a heat barrier. I would also wrap the ears and nose with foil during the cooking, because as you can see Bernàrd’s wound up getting a little too crispy.

And probably get someone else to carve, because a pig’s head ain’t the easiest thing to carve.

Bernard

Chyches (Spiced Roasted Chickpeas)

73. Chyches.
Take chiches and wrye hem in askes al nyght oþer al a day, oþer lay hem in hoot aymers. At morowe waische hem in clene water, and do hem ouere the fire with clene water. Seeþ hem vp and do þerto oyle, garlek hole, safroun, powdour fort and salt; seeþ it and messe it forth.
The Forme of Curye

Chyches. Take chickpeas and cover them in ashes all day or all night, or lay them in hot embers. The next day wash them in clean water, and do them over the fire with clean water. Boil them and and add thereto oil, whole garlic, saffron, powder forte and salt; cook it and serve it forth.

I first ate this dish at Canterbury Faire in New Zealand, where it was a dish from the redoubtable Peerless Kitchen. From memory they made several large serving trays, all of which were scraped clean by all the diners. When a dish is that delicious, you have to try and make it yourself! And it’s also fairly easy.

Ingredients

approx. 500g canned chickpeas (roughly 2 cans); OR
250g dried chickpeas 1/2 tsp black pepper
4 small garlic cloves, peeled 1/4 tsp cloves
1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil Pinch saffron threads
Pinch salt

Method

  1. If using dried chickpeas, soak for at least 12 hours in cold water, if possible changing the water after 6 hours. Then drain and simmer for at least an hour, until the chickpeas are tender.
  2. If using canned chickpeas, drain them and rinse them well.
  3. Line a baking tray with baking paper, then spread the chickpeas over the baking paper in a single layer. Bake in a 150 ° oven for approximately an hour. The chickpeas will turn golden and smell very nutty.
  4. Grind the saffron to a powder, then soak in boiling water.
  5. Grind the pepper and spices to a powder.
  6. Put the chickpeas in a pan with the oil, spices and saffron water, and cook until the garlic has softened.
  7. Add the salt, and enough water to cover the chickpeas. Bring to the water to the boil and cook until it is mostly absorbed by the chickpeas.
  8. Serve hot or cold.

Notes

  • “Powder forte” refers to a spice mix composed of powerfully flavoured spices. I have used pepper and cloves, but you could use any strong spice (except chilli, which was unknown in 14th century England.
  • I have seen other redactions where the oil and water are added together. This is suggested by the words of the original recipe, but I have found the oil doesn’t incorporate well and stays in a film on the top of the cooking water. Frying the chickpeas, garlic and spices first intensifies the flavour.

 

Chyches

Further Reading

Anonymous. Curye on Inglysch. ed. Constance B. Hieatt and Sharon Butler. London: Oxford University Press, 1985.
This is a collection of manuscripts from 14th century England, with a full glossary to aid in translation. These are the earliest manuscripts in English devoted entirely to cooking.

Blaunche porre (Leeks in Saffron)

To make blaunche porre. Tak whyte lekys & perboyle hem & hewe hem smale with oynouns. Cast it in good broth & sethe it up with smale bryddys. Coloure it with saffferoun; powdur yt with pouder douce. The Forme of Cury.2

To make golden leeks. Take the white part of leeks and par-boil them and cut them small with onions. Cast it in good broth and cook it up with small birds. Colour it with saffron, and add powder douce.

This is another good standard SCA recipe. The recipe below does not contain any “small birds;” this makes it vegetarian/vegan friendly. If you wish to add “small birds,” I would suggest adding a few chicken wings when the leeks and onions are added to the stock.

Ingredients

4 medium leeks 1 tsp saffron strands
2 brown onions ½ tsp sugar
500 ml vegetable stock ¼ tsp cinnamon

Method

  1. Soak the saffron strands in a small amount of boiling water until the water is deep gold.
  2. Slice the leeks and onions finely.
  3. Put all the ingredients in a large pot and cook gently until the onions and leeks are soft (around 8 minutes).
  4. If serving as a side dish, drain off most of the stock.

Notes

  • Powder douce is a spice mix, most likely cinnamon and sugar (Hieatt, 1985, 208).

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Further Reading

Hieatt, Constance and Butler, Sharon. Curye on Inglysch. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985.

Lumbard Mustard (Honey Mustard Sauce)

Take mustard seed and waisshe it, & drye it in an ovene. Grynde it drye; sarse it thurgh a sarse. Clarifie hony with wyne & vyneger& stere it wel togedre and make it thikke ynowgh; & whan thou wilt spende therof make it thynne with wyne. The Forme of Curye 150

Take mustard seed and wash it and dry it in an oven. Grind it dry and sieve it. Clarify honey with wine and vinegar and stir it well together and make it thick enough; and when you would use it make it thin with wine.

Ingredients

150 mL honey 2 tbs mustard powder
2 tbs wine vinegar 50 mL red wine

Method

Mix all ingredients, and heat just before serving.

Notes

  • This sauce could be served with any roast meat. It is particularly good with chicken and beef.
  • I would not recommend preparing this sauce ahead of time. The longer it’s left, the stronger the mustard gets, and that can be unpleasant (though it will clear the sinuses!)

Roast_Beef_with_Aliper_and_Mustard

Lumbard Mustard Sauce, foreground, with roast beef and Sauce Alepeure – recipe here

Perrey in Pesoun (Pea Puree)

Take pesoun and seeth hem fast, and couere hem, til thei berst; thenne take hem vp and cole hem thurgh a cloth. Take oynouns and mynce hem, and seeth hem in the same sewe, and oile therwith; cast therto sugar, salt and safroun, and seeth hem wel therafter, and serue hem forth. (The Forme of Curye.71)

Take peas and boil them covered until they burst, then push them through a strainer. Take onions and mince them, and boil them with the peas, with oil; add sugar, salt and saffron, and boil gently together, and serve them forth.

This is an excellent recipe for any SCA cook’s repertoire. It’s extremely easy, quick, cheap… and tasty. The first time I served this at a feast, I served about 4 kg to around 60 people, and a very small bowl came back to the kitchen (where it got devoured when someone came in asking if there was any of the green stuff left). It’s difficult to believe something so tasty contains so few ingredients. There are other variations of this recipe which contain other spices, eggs or rosewater.

Ingredients

2 L vegetable stock ¼ tsp saffron, steeped in boiling water
1 kg peas (frozen is fine) 1 ½ tbs sugar
2 finely chopped white onions 1 tsp salt
1 ½ tbs oil

Method

  1. Bring the stock to the boil, then add the peas, onion, and sugar, saffron and oil.
  2. Boil gently until the the stock has mostly been absorbed or reduced.
  3. Pour the mix through a food mill (a mouli) and process to a puree; or pulverise in a food processor.
  4. Return to a pot and simmer until warmed through. Season with salt before serving.