Coffyns and Faire Pastes – Early Pastry Recipes

You can download a handout for a class I have run on the evolution of pastry here. This includes shortcrust pastry and puff pastry.

If you know anything about medieval food, you’ll know that pastry was important as a food preserver. Food would be cooked in a pastry case called a coffin, for transportation, then cut out of the coffin, which would be thrown away. Experimentation by SCA cooks has actually shown that food can be cooked in a pastry case and stored for around a week in a cool place, so long as there are no gaps in the pastry.

But that’s not the whole story. You do find pie recipes, particularly for meat dishes, where the text specifies a coffin, and this is probably what was thrown away. However, you come across recipes with more delicate, luxurious fillings, and these refer to the casing as a “fair paste.” These fair pastes may be sweetened or use luxury ingredients like sugar or saffron, which would not have gone into a dish that wouldn’t be eaten. I think these were two different formulations, one intended to be eaten, the other not (or at least distributed as alms for charity).

A Recipe for a Coffyn

You tend to find “coffyns” associated with meat recipes, and I suspect these were the ones where the pastry wasn’t meant to be eaten (by nobility). The flour was probably much coarser.

The following recipe comes from Peter Brears (2008, 129). He has experimented with both hot and cold water, and discovered making pastry with cold water is much harder if there is no fat, such as butter.

225g wholemeal flour Approx. 150mL boiling water 1 tsp salt
  1. Put the flour and salt in a bowl in a mound, and make a well in the centre.
  2. Pour the boiling water into the well, then use a spatula or spoon to mix.
  3. When the pastry is cooler, get your hands in to finish incorporating the pastry. The pastry will feel quite lumpy in your hands; knead it fairly hard until it is reasonably smooth-feeling and elastic. You won’t be able to get the pastry completely smooth feeling, as it’s wholemeal flour, and it’s unlikely as much care was taken with coffyns. Add more flour or water as necessary. You will need to work fairly fast, as the pastry will stiffen as it cools.
  4. Divide the pastry into two pieces, one 2/3 of the pastry and one 1/3.
  5. Roll the larger piece of pastry out, and put it into a pie tin, or make a ball of the dough and mould it into a hollow pie shape. The pastry should be quite thick – around 4-5mm.
  6. Roll out the second, smaller piece of pastry into a lid large enough to completely cover the pie. Brush the edges of the pie and the lid with water to help the pie seal. Crimp the edges together hard to ensure the edges of the pie are completely sealed, with no gaps.

This will make enough pastry to make a 20cm pie, with a lid.
 

A Fair Paste

In recipes such as custard or fruit tarts, or for small pies called chewets, you will see “fair paste,” though they are also often called coffins. But because they’re referred to as “fair,” I believe these mixes were meant to be consumed.

Take and make faire paste of floure, water, saffron and salt; And make rownde cofyns þere-of; and þen make stuff as þou doest for rissheshewes, and put þe stuff in þe Coffyns, and couer the coffyns with þe same paste, and fry hem in goode oyle as þou doest for risshshewes and serue hem forthe hote in the same maner.Harleian MS 4016. 140

Take and make fair paste of flour, water, saffron and salt. And make round coffins thereof, and then make stuff as thou do for rissoles, and then cover the coffins with the same paste, and fry them in good oil as thou do for rissoles and serve them forth hot in the same manner.

There is a similar recipe in Harleian MS 279.lv, which adds sugar to the recipe. Adding sugar will make for a crisper pastry.

Chawettys Fryidde. Take & make fayre past of flowre & water, Sugre & Safroun & Salt, & þan make fayre round cofyns þer-of; & þen fylle þin cofyns with þin stuf, & keuere þin cofyns with þe same past, & frye hem in gode Oyle, & serue f[orth].

Fried Chewets. Take and make fair paste of flour and water, sugar and saffron and Salt, and then make fair round coffins thereof; and then fill thine coffins with thine stuff, and cover thine coffins with the same paste, & fry them in good oil,and serve forth.

225g fine white flour Approx. 150mL boiling water 1 tbs salt
Optional: 75g sugar Optional: Large pinch powdered saffron
  1. If using, add the sugar and the saffron to the boiling water, and stir to combine and dissolve the sugar.
  2. Put the flour and salt in a bowl in a mound, and make a well in the centre.
  3. Pour the boiling water into the well, then use a spatula or spoon to mix.
  4. When the pastry is cooler, get your hands in to finish incorporating the pastry. The pastry will feel quite lumpy in your hands; knead it fairly hard until it is smooth and elastic. Add more flour or water as necessary. You will need to work fairly fast, as the pastry will stiffen as it cools.
  5. Divide the pastry into two pieces, one 2/3 of the pastry and one 1/3. You don’t need to divide the pastry if you are making a tart rather than a pie.
  6. Roll the larger piece of pastry out, and put it into a pie tin, or make a ball of the dough and mould it into a hollow pie shape. If using a pie tin and the pastry has sugar in it, make sure you grease the tin well or it will stick.
  7. Roll out the second, smaller piece of pastry into a lid large enough to completely cover the pie. Brush the edges of the pie and the lid with water to help the pie seal, and ensure the edges of the pie are completely sealed, with no gaps.

 

Notes

  • When initially incorporating the flour and water, it’s important to make the well in the flour, rather than just pouring the water over the flour. If you don’t make the well in the centre, the top layers of the flour will absorb all the water but the flour at the bottom of the bowl won’t be incorporated as well. Making a well in the flour distributes the water through the flour much better.
  • The gluten in wheat is a protein. When wet, it can stick to itself and form long chains. It can also change its shape, especially when heated and moulded. When it’s heated, gluten stretches, and when it cools, it relaxes, but it retains its shape. However, the more you work it, the more gluten sticks together, and becomes tougher.
  • Pie tins were rare in period, so it is likely most pies, even those made from fair pastes, were free standing.
  • The coffyn has a higher salt content to assist with preservation of the pie contents. If you make it free standing, the higher salt content will also help it retain its shape without collapsing.
  • A pastry with sugar in the mix will be crisper than one without. Sugar, as it heats, turns from a solid, to a liquid. As this liquid cools, it re-forms into a solid, but the sugar crystals are now more cohesive. These sugar crystals will stick to each other, and any other materials in the mix. However, it may tend to spread while it’s cooking. It is also why the pastry will stick to a pie tin.

 

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Austin, Thomas. Two Fifteenth Century Cookery Books.
Brears, Peter (2008). Cooking and Dining in Medieval England.

Santich, Barbara. “The Evolution of Food in the Middle Ages.” In Food in the Middle Ages, ed. Melitta Weiss Adamson.
This essay traces how four foods evolved in the Middle Ages, including pastry.

Advertisements

A Storm in a Saucepan: Setting Up a Cooking Group

You can download a PDF of this article here.

Introduction

For some reason, you’ve decided to set up a local SCA cooking group.  Maybe you want to start running authentic feasts.  Perhaps Heston, Ruth Goodman or the Supersizers inspired you.  Or possibly, you’ve been reading about other peoples’ cooking adventures on Facebook and you’d like to give it a try!  This collegium is designed to give you some tips in how to go about setting up a cooking group, whether you’re a beginner or more advanced.
 

Getting Started

Firstly, you need a group of people, and somewhere to meet.  It’s best to have a group of people so you can get opinions on what you produce; it also helps in the prep.  If you get at least one person in the group that knows a bit about cooking, it will also help.

If you are lucky, your SCA group will meet in a location that has a kitchen attached, or you might know of a community kitchen that’s available for a small fee (or even free, you never know).  However, you’ll probably find you need to meet at someone’s house.  Regardless of what kitchen you use, it needs to be of a reasonable size (say, large enough to have 3-4 people working in it at once), AND be decently equipped.  Trust me, it’s no fun hauling boxes of equipment around because the host of the cooking group only has 2 saucepans and a frypan.
 

Choosing What to Cook

When the SCA first started, there was almost no printed material about medieval cooking.  There were a few obscure texts or journals around, but what material there was, was hard to get hold of.  These days, food history is a growing field of interest, and there are many reputable works about medieval food available, there are reproductions of period cookbooks, there are even a number of books containing redactions (a modern style recipe produced from a period source).  And if you can’t afford to buy books, there’s the Internet.  More and more SCA-related cooking sites are springing up, as are general food history sites.

When you are starting out exploring medieval food, it’s best to stick to other people’s redactions at first.  Medieval cooking is quite different to modern cooking.  For one thing, they used a lot more spices than modern western cooking does, and some of the combinations of ingredients can take some getting used to.  Medieval cookbooks can also be confusing – unlike modern cookbooks, they were intended to be more aids to memory, or suggestions, to experienced cooks.  They may not have been used by cooks, but rather by estate managers, who were in charge of provisioning feasts.  You rarely find quantities or cooking times, and even some of the methods can be obscure.  However, if using someone else’s redaction, try and get hold of the original recipe.  This way, you can become accustomed to working out redactions – and you can think about whether you’d change it.

It’s best to start out simply – one or two dishes, that don’t take too long to cook.  This brings up another point – pay attention to timing when picking recipes.  For instance, if you meet of an evening, bread is probably not a good option as you will need a few hours to devote to the whole process.  A jelly also needs a minimum of 4 hours to set, and most stews need at least 2 hours’ cooking.  You really don’t want to still be cooking late at night if people have to go to work or school the next day.

I would also suggest keeping to a theme – by this I mean sticking to a specific time and place for choosing recipes.  This will mean you build up a familiarity with that cuisine, and it will make it easier to design cohesive feasts.
 

Getting the Ingredients Together

Once you’ve decided what to cook, you need to get the ingredients together.  You can either divide the ingredients up between the attendees, so everyone has to bring something, or have one person, usually the host, buy all the ingredients and everyone chips in.

Over its history, the Mordenvale Company of Cooks has used both methods, and I think the second method works better.  With the first method, if someone can’t come, someone else has to get their ingredients as well as their own, or the cooking is delayed while they are fetched.  Invariably, one person winds up getting all the expensive ingredients, while others pay virtually nothing, and things can get forgotten.  With the second method, the host can look at what’s in his/her pantry and buy accordingly.  You aren’t relying on one person to bring a crucial ingredient, and if you get unexpected attendees, they don’t get out of paying for food.

 

While You’re Cooking

If you’re trying out medieval cooking, you probably want to look at running feasts in the future.  Or if you’re running a feast in the future, you definitely want to try the recipes first to make sure they are edible and achievable.  So while you’re cooking, consider the following:

  1. Is this easy? Most cooking groups contain a small number of people; probably less than 10.  For most feasts, you’re looking at a lot more people than that.  Just about every SCA cook has dishes they’ve tried at feasts without thinking about scaling preparation.  For instance, preparing broad beans for under 10 people is tedious, but doesn’t take too long.  Preparing enough broad beans for 50 people is going to take at least an hour, with 3 people.  And incredibly, turning 20kg of pork mince into meatballs takes rather longer than 500g.
  2. How can I make this easier to prepare at a feast? There may be shortcuts you can use that would save time during feast preparation.  For instance, most medieval chicken recipes use an entire bird that you break up.  SCA cooks often buy chicken wings or drumsticks, which are a lot easier to serve and can be treated the same way as a whole bird.  There may also be steps you can do well ahead of time.
  3. Are people going to eat this? There are many period recipes that are very similar to modern dishes. There are others that will make you feel nauseous just looking at them.  Medieval thoughts about food and nutrition were very different to ours, and by necessity (perceived or actual) they prepared and ate foods we don’t today.  You may also have an absolute passion for a particular type of food that very few other people enjoy.  If you serve it at a feast, you’re going to have a lot left over (and that’s wasteful). But that doesn’t mean you should completely avoid the weird – just serve less.
  4. What sort of equipment would I need for this? Make a note of what sort of equipment you need for recipes. You will need to take equipment into most offsite kitchens when preparing feasts, so keeping note of required equipment will allow you to get it together easily when preparing for a feast.  Also, if your initial plan for a feast includes four dishes for the same course that need ovens, you can check in advance whether your venue can cope, and change accordingly.
  5. If cooking from another person’s redaction, do I agree with their interpretation? This is why you should always try and get hold of the original recipe. You may find they have omitted some steps, or used a shortcut/replacement ingredient you wouldn’t have used.  They may have added ingredients, or used them in a quantity you don’t think is right.
  6. Is this going to suit the requirements of my group? Does your group contain a few vegetarians? Coeliacs?  Allergy sufferers?  It’s a good idea to think about their needs as well, so you can start to cook dishes that are going to satisfy everyone.  I’m not suggesting eliminating ingredients entirely, but you should think about who can/can’t eat everything you’re preparing, and if you can change things so they can.  It does help if you know about these people ahead of time.

 

Doing Your Own Redactions

Eventually, you’ll get to the stage where you want to make your own redactions.  For some cuisines, you’ll have no choice, as we have the original recipes available, but no easily accessible redactions.

This is where having a working cooking knowledge will come in handy.  If you know what to look for, you can get some idea of the main techniques involved in a dish, and this will give you specific ingredients and cooking times (sometimes temperature).  For example, you will often come across an instruction to “seethe” or “boil” your meat.  From this you can extrapolate a casserole or braise, which means you need specific cuts of meat, which is going to be cooked in a liquid, over a slow fire, for a long time.

You can also get an idea of what the final dish is meant to be like from the ingredients, even if there are no instructions.  An example of this is Apicius 9.6, a Roman dish that’s a sauce for shellfish.  The “recipe” just lists ingredients – pepper, lovage, egg yolk, vinegar, garum, oil and wine.  The key here is the egg yolk and the oil; the primary ingredients for mayonnaise.  The French might have given the name to the sauce, but the Romans beat them to the recipe by a couple of thousand years.

You will inevitably find you need to change things.  Ancient and medieval cooks used ingredients such as herbs and spices we now know to be toxic, or that can’t be obtained easily.  In cases like these, make a note of what the substitution is, and why you made it.
 

Conclusion

A lot of people think medieval food is yuck and won’t try it.  Others would like to give it a go, but aren’t sure where to start.  Hopefully in this class I’ve given you a few tips to get you started in the wonderful world of medieval cooking.
 

Further Reading

The following is a list of books you might find useful in starting your culinary journey.  If I have to pick 2 to recommend for starting your library, it would be Pleyn Delit and The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages.

Clicking on the picture of the book will take you to Amazon, where you can purchase the book, and I will get a small commission.

 

Books with Recipes/Discussions of medieval food

Brears, Peter.  Cooking and Dining in Medieval England
An exhaustive look at how food was produced and prepared in medieval England, with many recipes.  However, Brears, while he cites his source recipe, doesn’t the source recipe, and some of these manuscripts aren’t easy to get hold of (and sometimes he CHEATS).
Brears, Peter.  Cooking and Dining in Tudor and Early Stuart England
An exhaustive look at how food was produced and prepared in Tudor England, again with many recipes.  Again the source recipe isn’t included which is a gripe.
Brears, Peter.  All the King’s Cooks
Concentrates on the running of Henry VIII’s cooking, based on Brears’ experience in reviving the Hampton Court kitchens.  Again the source recipes aren’t included which is a gripe.
Butler, Sharon, Hieatt, Constance and Hosington, Brenda.  Pleyn Delit
A collection of mostly English and French recipes, using very few shortcuts or substitutions, with some good information about how medieval kitchens worked.  Constance Hiett was one of the pioneers of medieval food research, and if you see her name associated with a publication, you know it will be good.
Giacosa, Ilaria Gozzini. A Taste of Ancient Rome
An English translation of an Italian classic, and a good introduction to Roman food in general, with a wealth of redacted recipes. However, some of them take shortcuts that aren’t in the text, and leave out/substitute ingredients.
Grainger, Sally. Cooking Apicius: Roman Recipes for Today
A companion to the Apicius translation. Great for examining the pitfalls in reconstructing Roman recipes.
Monroe-Cassel, Chelsea and Lehrer, Sariann.  A Feast of Ice and Fire
OK, so this isn’t precisely medieval food, but an interpretation of the food in George R.R. Martin’s A Feast of Ice and Fire.  But they use medieval recipes as their basis, and explain their redaction process.
Renfrow, Cindy.  Take a Thousand Eggs or More (vols I and II)
These books show the standard you should be aiming for in redactions.  Renfrow is a SCAdian, and these recipes are taken from two C15 English manuscripts.  Volume 1 has the original recipe, a translation, and a redaction, with notes explaining the redaction process.  It also has menus and a glossary.  Volume 2 is the recipes and translations from the C15 manuscripts that haven’t been redacted.
Scully, Terrence. The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages
An absolutely essential book in any SCA cook’s library. Contains information about the production and preparation of food, and the scientific ideas behind food of the time.  Terrence Scully is one of the pioneers of medieval food research, and while he is primarily interested in dealing with the text, he likes to cook as well.
Scully, Terrence.  Early French Cookery
Discusses how French cooking influenced most of medieval Europe, and has recipes from the non-nobility as well as the nobility.

 

Websites

http://godecookery.com/

A jumping off point for all SCAdian cookery, with articles about food, menus and recipes for all levels.
 
http://www.medievalcookery.com

An excellent collection of recipes, links to online period cookbooks, and articles about period food.
 
http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/Medieval.html

Not just recipes, but translations of cookbooks, and general SCA articles, collected by Duke Cariadoc of the Bow, one of the fathers of the SCA.
 
https://sites.google.com/site/medievalcuisine/

A series of blogs and articles by a number of SCA cooks.
 
http://www.foodtimeline.org/

Details when various foods started being used, along with articles about food history.

Shortcrust Pastry

To make short paste for a Tart.
Take fine Flower, a litle faire water, & a dish of sweete butter, & a litle saffron, and the yolkes of two egges, & make it thin and as tender as ye may.
A Proper Newe Booke of Cokerye

Take fine flour, a little fair water, and a dish of sweet butter, and a little saffron, and the yolks of two eggs, and make it thin and tender as you can.

A Proper New Booke of Cookery first appeared in print in 1545, and was included in an anthology of texts collected by Matthew Parker, Master of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. It was a recipe collection probably used by his wife.

This recipe for short paste is significant for two reasons; first, it is probably the first recorded recipe in English specifically for pastry. Prior to this, pastry ingredients were included in the rest of the recipe, and then only if the pastry contained special ingredients like spices and sugar. In most cases, the cook was simply instructed to make a paste, or a coffin. The second significant thing about this recipe is the inclusion of butter. Earlier pastries were probably simple mixes of flour and water. The simple fact that recipes for pastry were now appearing indicates this was a significant change.

If you are interested, here is a handout for a class I have run on the evolution of pastry.

Ingredients

250g white flour 125g unsalted butter
2 egg yolks Pinch saffron
15mL boiling water approx. 40mL cold water

Method

  1. Dissolve the saffron in the boiling water and leave to cool.
  2. Beat the egg yolks and set aside.
  3. Using just the tips of the fingers, rub the butter into the flour so the flour becomes coated in butter and starts to resemble breadcrumbs. It does not matter if there are flecks of butter throughout the flour.
  4. Add the eggs and the water and beat lightly to bring the mix together into a pastry.
  5. Handle everything as little as possible – if you start to heat the flour and butter too much, it will start to become much tougher as the gluten strands start to bind.
  6. Allow the pastry to rest in a cold place for at least half an hour before using.

This makes enough pastry to make a generous 24cm pie with a lid.

Notes

  • A lot of the butter produced in this period was salted, so it could be transported and stored with less risk of spoilage. Sweet butter is butter that hasn’t been salted.
  • The egg yolks in the pastry are purely there to enrich the dough; they don’t bind the pastry. You can make this pastry without egg yolks if you wish, which makes it vegetarian/egg allergy friendly.
  • If you have any vegans or lactose intolerant people, you can make the pastry with a good dairy free spread. Make sure to check the ingredients carefully – many margarines contain milk solids, and can be worse for lactose intolerant people than real butter!

Further Reading

A Proper Newe Booke of Cookerye ed. Anne Ahmed. Cambridge: Corpus Christi College, 2002.
Contains a facsimile of the original manuscript with an excellent translation, plus good redactions of some of the recipes, plus a discussion of the manuscript. I do wish all period cookbooks had editions this good!
Brears, Peter. Cooking and Dining in Medieval England. Totnes: Prospect Books, 2008.
A massive tome that deals with all aspects of producing and preparing food in the medieval period, and contains a very good discussion of pastry before shortcrust was developed. There are also many recipes, but try to find the original and compare to Brears’ recipe, as sometimes he changes things for no good reason.
Santich, Barbara. “The Evolution of Food in the Middle Ages.” In Food in the Middle Ages, ed. Melitta Weiss Adamson, pp 61-82. New York: Garland Publishing, 1995.
This essay traces how four foods evolved in the Middle Ages, including pastry.

Redacting Historical Recipes

Note: This article is available as a downloadable PDF, complete with 3 sample recipes, here.

Introduction

Redacting recipes is an important skill you need to develop if you are going to advance in SCA cookery. Eventually you are going to want to try a cuisine where you just have a manuscript, but no one else’s redactions…. Or you find yourself disagreeing intensely with someone else’s redaction. Redacting is a skill that like any other improves with practice, but hopefully these notes will give you a starting point.

The Golden Rules of Redactions

When redacting recipes, there are two rules I always keep in mind, that guide every redaction I do.

Golden Rule 1: If the food produced isn’t liked, the redaction is a failure

One of the major goals of a historical cook (whether in the SCA, another group, or just for interests sake), if not THE major goal, is to produce food that’s fun and/or tasty to eat. It doesn’t matter how accurate, how expensive, how darned spiffy a dish is – if people don’t eat it because it’s awful, the dish is a failure.

Please note, this does not mean you always shy away from the weird and shocking – it just means you provide other food as well as the weird, and only small amounts of weird. One of these days I WILL serve chicken’s testicles at a feast. But they won’t be a major component of the feast, and there will be non-testicle chicken for people to eat as well.

Golden Rule 2: The only substitutions that should be made are for toxic/extinct ingredients, or when a modern method will produce the same result for less hassle

Frequently, when reading recipes in books about medieval food, you will find people have substituted a modern method of cooking that’s not mentioned in the text of the recipe (for example frying meat instead of braising or stewing it), or they will add ingredients or leave ingredients out. NO. In the age of Internet shopping, “I couldn’t find an ingredient” is (mostly) no longer the reason it was twenty years ago – it’s an excuse for being lazy. Similarly, changing the method of cooking because people won’t be used to the recipe is lazy. Yes, it might seem weird. You won’t know how people will like it until you try it. (That said, using muslin and a strainer to produce a puree rather than a blender is a lot of hard work for no good reason.)

However, ancient and medieval cooks used ingredients we now know to be toxic, and these should be substituted or left out. We are also more aware of dietary concerns these days, so failing to provide gluten-free options for celiac sufferers for example, is rude. Similarly, there may be substitutions/exclusions you can make to make it easier for people with severe allergies if there are ingredients that form a major component of a feast.

The Business of Redacting

If you’ve ever looked at ancient or medieval recipes, you will know they aren’t like modern ones. Ingredients aren’t always listed in the order they’re used, or might be missing entirely, there are often no measurements or timings, and even cooking methods can be inexact. However, medieval recipes were more likely memory aids than precise instructions; a medieval cook might also be cooking for anywhere between 10 to 1,000 guests, so quantities aren’t necessarily useful. And even in a modern recipe, timings are often more like guidelines than actual rules.

Before You Begin: Gain a Working Cooking Knowledge

You need to have a reasonable grasp of general cooking before you try and start redacting recipes. This way, you will be more likely to work out what an author meant, you will know how to combine ingredients, and you may even recognise what the final dish will be from its description.

Step 1: Find Your Recipe

If at all possible, work from the original manuscript or a direct copy. Translators are sometimes “helpful” in putting things in a modern way of speaking, which can cause more harm than good.

Translate your recipe directly into modern English. If you are working with an unknown language, you have to work with someone else’s translation, but even period “English” can be weird.

Step 2: Know Your Source

Understand your source material. Find out about the manuscript and the author, and its intended purpose. Usually this simply means reading the Introduction for a book.

If you are working with someone’s translation, find out if it’s reputable – and the easiest thing to do is ask; whether other SCA cooks, or by checking the reviews on sites like Amazon or GoodReads. There aren’t that many undiscovered manuscripts (or translations) out there. Odds are, someone’s going to know whether this funky new book you’ve found is actually worth using.

Step 3: Parse your Recipe

(Yes, I work in IT). Break down your recipe into ingredients, cooking methods and service instructions. Try and group your ingredients together – major ingredients, seasonings, garnishes etc.

If there are weights and measurements mentioned, translate them into metric equivalents. If there are proportions mentioned (for example “of sugar, half as much as flour”) take note of them and think about what the final weights will be.

Step 4: Know your Ingredients

Make notes on your ingredients, and try and find out what they were. Especially for herbs and spices, use modern sources of information, because these will tell you about toxicity. Consider what would have been used in period, rather than modern times. For meat, consider what cut is the best cut to use. Find reliable sources for your ingredients.

Step 5: Consider Cooking Methods

What cooking methods are mentioned in your recipe – boiling, frying, roasting? Are there any indication of temperatures? Any indication of cooking times? Note the cooking methods if any, and try and get them into the correct order. DO NOT substitute modern, or different, methods here.

Step 6: Look for Other Versions

In other manuscripts, are there recipes with the same name, or similar methods? You often find there will be similar recipes in other manuscripts, which can help you fill in gaps or put your own spin on the recipe (while still being “true to period”).

Step 7: Fill in Any Gaps

Does your recipe look complete? Are there any steps you think are missing, and will you need to draw on your cooking knowledge to fill in the gaps? A classic example of this is pies and tarts – they feature heavily in medieval cooking, but you will search long and hard before you find a pastry recipe in a period cookbook. Pastry was one of those things “everyone knew how to make;” furthermore, in a royal household, there was often a separate kitchen just for making pastry, with one or more people whose sole job was to make pastry. Probably they guarded their recipes and techniques.

Step 8: Prepare a Proper Recipe

WRITE DOWN the ingredients, using proper portions, cooking methods and timings (tip: when working with meat, use 500g or 1KG as your base portion – it will make scaling for feasts easier). Make notes of any substitutions you have made and why.

It is a good idea to keep a recipe log, such as an exercise book. Trying to remember what you did even the next day rarely works. And writing down your redaction on any piece of paper that comes to hand guarantees that paper will go missing when you need it for a feast.

Step 9: Try, and Evaluate, the Recipe

How did it go? Are there any improvements you could make? Was it easy to make, and would you be able to do it easily in bulk at a feast? What equipment did you need?

WAS IT TASTY?