Jurjaniyya (Sour Lamb Stew)

Jurjaniyya: The way to make it is to cut up meat medium and leave it in the pot, and put water to cover on it with a little salt. Cut onions into dainty pieces, and when the pot boils, put the onions on it, and dry coriander, pepper, ginger and cinnamon, all pounded fine. If you want, add peeled carrots from which the woody interior has been removed, chopped medium. Then stir it until the ingredients are done. When it is done, take seeds of pomegranates and black raisins in equal proportion and pound them fine, macerate well in water and strain through a fine sieve. Then throw them into a pot. Let there be a little bit of vinegar with it. Beat peeled sweet almonds to liquid consistency with water, then throw them into the pot. When it boils and is nearly done, sweeten it with a little sugar, enough to make it pleasant. Throw a handful of jujubes on top of the pot and sprinkle a little rosewater on it. Then cover it until it grows quiet on a fire, and take it up. Kitab al Tabikh Chapter I (The Book of Dishes, trans. Charles Perry and published as A Baghdad Cookery Book).

 

Ingredients

For explanations of the ingredients, see the Notes below.

1.5kg lamb 2 tsp coriander seed 30g pomegranate seed 2 tsp sugar
3 onions 1½ tsp cinnamon 30g raisins 15mL rosewater
4 carrots 1½ tsp ginger 200mL almond milk 25g jujubes
1½ tsp salt 1 tsp pepper 45mL wine vinegar

Method

  1. If you are using dried jujubes, put them in a bowl with just enough water to cover them, and leave aside to rehydrate.
  2. Cut the lamb into roughly equal sized pieces, removing any sinew (the silvery membrane you find on the edges of the meat).
  3. Put the lamb into a pot with just enough water to cover it, and the salt. Bring to the boil.
  4. Meanwhile, peel the onions and dice finely.
  5. Peel the carrots and slice into julienne strips, leaving out the core of the carrot.
  6. Finely grind the spices in a mortar or electric grinder.
  7. When the pot with the lamb is boiling, add the onion, carrot and spices. Stir well and reduce to a simmer.
  8. Meanwhile, put the pomegranate seeds and raisins in a mortar with enough water to cover them, and pound well.  This can also be done with a blender.  When the mixture has reached a smooth consistency, strain it through a fine cloth to remove any pieces of pomegranate seed.
  9. When the meat has started to soften and the liquid has reduced a little, add the raisin and pomegranate mix, vinegar and almond milk to the pot and continue to simmer.
  10. When the liquid has reduced and the meat is falling apart,  remove from the heat and add the sugar and the rose water, and mix well.  Transfer to a serving platter
  11. Drain the jujubes if necessary, and pour on top of the meat.  Serve warm.

Notes

  • The name of this dish derives from Gorgan, a city on the Caspian Sea (Perry, 2005, 31).
  • Jujubes (Ziziphus jujuba) are also known as red dates or Chinese dates (the Chinese names are da zao or hong zao – many thanks to Facebook user Andi Houston for the Chinese names), and you may be able to find them dried in Asian grocers. The can also be found in Middle Eastern grocers. They have quite a tart taste, which in this case complements the rich flavour of the lamb and the slight sweetness of the cooking liquid. If you can’t find true jujubes/red dates (and they aren’t the easiest thing to find) do not substitute regular dates, as they are too sweet. I would suggest sliced, red-skinned plums to imitate the taste and colour.
  • Stewed dishes such as this often specify “fat meat,” which becomes extremely tasty and succulent when cooked for a long time and slowly, such as in this dish. Look for cuts such as forequarter or neck to get the best results.

Mutton stew

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Perry, Charles (2005). A Baghdad Cookery Book.

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Hais (Date and Nut Treats)

Hais: Take excellent dried bread or biscuit (ka’k) and pound it well. Let there be a pound (ratl) or it and three quarters of a pound (ratl) of fresh or preserved dates – let their seeds have been removed – and three ounces (uqiya) of pounded almond and pistachio meats. Macerate everything well and strongly by hand. Then refine two ounces (uqiya) of sesame oil (by frying spices in them) and pour it on it. Knead it continuously until it is mixed. Make it into balls and dust them in finely pounded sugar. If you want, replace the sesame oil with clarified butter. This is good for travelers. Kitab al Tabikh Chapter X (The Book of Dishes, trans. Charles Perry and published as A Baghdad Cookery Book).

In Middle Eastern cultures, sweet dishes are not served at the end of the meal – instead fresh fruit is eaten. Dishes such as these tend to be reserved for celebrations or social occasions, and are an important part of guest hospitality. However sweet dishes are not exclusively served only at special times – they can be eaten whenever desired (Salloum et all, 2013, 1).

Hais developed from a Bedouin dish (Salloum et all, 2013, 211), as suggested by the direction that it is good for travelers. No doubt the Bedouin version was much simpler than the Baghdad version.

Equivalents of weights and measures
Ratl 400g
Uqiya 33g
(Perry, 2005, 22).

Ingredients

For explanations of the ingredients, see the Notes below.

400g bread crumbs 65mL virgin sesame oil
300g pitted dates ½ tsp ground cinnamon
50g almonds ½ tsp ground ginger
50g pistachios 20g caster sugar

Method

  1. Put the pistachios in a bowl of boiling water for about 10 minutes, then rub off the skins. Allow to dry.
  2. In a mortar and pestle or food processor, roughly grind the nuts. They don’t have to be finely or consistently ground.
  3. Add the dates and bread crumbs to the mortar and pestle or food processor, and process until the mix has come together. If using the mortar and pestle, use the pestle until the dates are mashed, then use your hands.
  4. Put the sesame oil and spices in a frypan, and fry over a medium heat until you can smell the spices.
  5. Pour the spiced oil over the date, bread crumb and nut mix, and continue to process until the mixture binds well.
  6. Roll the mix into balls, then roll these balls into the caster sugar until they are well coated.
  7. The Hais will keep very well in an airtight container in a cool place. However they are unlikely to remain uneaten for long.

Notes

  • It is far better to make your own breadcrumbs rather than use bought ones – the texture of freshly made crumbs is superior. You can either use a fine grater or a food processor to produce breadcrumbs.
  • If you are used to Asian cooking you’ll assume sesame oil should only be used sparingly, as the type of sesame oil used in Asian cooking can be overpowering if used heavily. However, this type of sesame oil is produced from toasted sesame seeds, which heavily concentrates the sesame flavour and aroma. If you are familiar with modern Indian or Middle Eastern cooking, you might have come across virgin or cold-pressed sesame oil, which is much paler and more subtly flavoured. This is the sort you need to use for baking.If are going to be cooking for anyone with a sesame allergy, almond oil, rice bran oil or canola oil make good substitutes (the last two don’t have any flavour).
  • Refining oil means to gently fry spices in it. As with medieval European recipes, specific spices are often not specified. The spices I have chosen are popular additions to Middle Eastern sweets.
  • Clarified butter is also known as ghee – butter with the milk solids removed. You can buy it in supermarkets or Indian or Middle Eastern grocers, or make your own. Heat butter over a gentle heat until it is completely melted and bubbling. You will see a white scum on the surface. These are the milk solids. Strain the melted butter through a strainer lined with a double layer of muslin and you will be left with lovely clear clarified butter. Because the solids are the bit that makes butter go rancid, clarified butter does not need to be stored in the fridge. Some lactose intolerant people are fine with clarified butter, as most of the lactose is
    removed with the solids. This is also great for people with sesame allergies.

Hais

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Perry, Charles (2005). A Baghdad Cookery Book.
Salloum, Habeeb; Salloum, Muna and Salloum Elias, Leila (2013). Sweet Delights from a Thousand and One Nights.

Almond Pudding (with cream)

49 Ain gút mandelmúsß machen
So stosß den mandel fast woll, thú jn jn ain schissel vnnd geúß ain gúten ram daran, nit zúvill, ertreib den mandel fast woll/ das er glat werdt, thú zúcker daran vnnd lasß nit lang sieden, so dú es anrichtst, see zúcker daraúff, so jsts ain herrenmúsß/ 3 vierdúng aúff ain disch.
Das Kuchbuch der Sabina Welserin’

49 To make a good almond pudding
Then pound the almonds well, put them in a bowl and pour good cream therein, not too much. Whip the almond paste very well, so that it becomes smooth, put sugar therein and allow it to cook for a short while. When you serve it sprinkle sugar on top, then it is a lordly pudding. Take three fourths of a pound for a dish.

The text of the original recipe can be found here.

The translation is by Valoise Armstrong, and can be found here.

This is an incredibly simple dish – just three ingredients. However, two of those ingredients are expensive imported ingredients, and must be heavily processed before being used in this dish. This would indeed make it a “lordly” dish.

This is one of several similar almond dishes in Sabina Welser’s book, where almond meal is combined with a liquid binding agent, sometimes gently cooked, other times not. All these dishes use delicate flavours.

Ingredients

300g almond meal
100g icing sugar
80mL cream
Extra icing sugar, for dusting

Method

  1. Combine the almond meal and icing sugar and mix well.
  2. Add the cream and mix well, so the mixture adheres. You may find the mix is a little stiff – it’s supposed to be.
  3. Spoon the mix into mini muffin trays, and bake in a 120℃ oven for around 20 minutes.
  4. When the puddings are cool, turn onto serving platters and dust with extra icing sugar.
  5. Makes around 12 individual puddings.

Notes

  • I confess I’m not too keen on “pudding” as a translated name for this dish. It fits with the modern interpretation of pudding being a sweet dish; however, in the sixteenth century “pudding” was a term exclusively associated with English cooking. A pudding at this time was a combination of starch and fat, sometimes accompanied with sugar and spices, other times by offal, that was cooked by steaming in a casing (usually intestines). However in the absence of anything else, “almond pudding” is a reasonable name to describe this dish to a modern audience.
  • “Icing Sugar” is the Australian name for “powdered” or “confectioner’s” sugar.  However, these sugars often come with a starch, such as cornstarch, added, to ensure the sugar doesn’t clump in the bag.  In the interests of authenticity, you should try to find pure sugar for medieval cooking where it is specified.  In Australia, we are fortunate in that the sugar with added starch is labelled “Icing Mixture.”

Almond Pudding (Sabina 49)

Apple Tart (with raisins)

79 Ain dorten von epfflen
Schelt die epffel saúber vnnd thiet die bútzen heraús, hackts klain vnd rests jm schmaltz, thiet weinberlach, zúcker vnnd rerlach daran vnnd lasts bachen.
Das Kuchbuch der Sabina Welserin’

79 An apple tart
Peel the apples cleanly and take out the cores, chop them small and fry them in fat, put raisins, sugar and cinnamon therein and let it bake.

The text of the original recipe can be found here.

The translation is by Valoise Armstrong, and can be found here.

This is one of a number of recipes in Sabina Welserin’s cookbook for an apple tart; presumably they were a staple fruit of the area. This particular recipe is remarkably similar to some modern apple pie or tart recipes. Do a Google search for “Apple Pie raisin” and you’ll find recipes that differ from Sabina’s only in the detail. And there is a reason why this recipe has been around for at least 500 years, because it is delicious. This would be a good recipe to serve to people who are unfamiliar with medieval food, due to its comforting familiarity.

Although Sabina doesn’t specify including a lid to the tart (making it a pie) there are other tart recipes, such as 186 (a herb tart) and 188 (a prune tart) where the maker is instructed to make a cover for the tart. We did make the tart into a pie, as this are more familiar to our eaters (and I happened to have some thawed puff pastry available).

Ingredients

1 quantity shortcrust pastry 100g sugar
250g cooking apples 50g raisins
50g butter 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Method

  1. Roll out the pastry to approx. 4mm thickness and line a greased pie plate with it.
  2. Peel, core and grate the apples.
  3. Melt the butter in a pan, then add the grated apple. Fry the apple until it is warmed through.
  4. Add the sugar, raisins and cinnamon to the apple, and stir through.
  5. Pour the apple mixture into the tart shell, and smooth off.
  6. If you want to make a pie, roll out a pastry lid and place on top of the pie. Trim the edges and press the lid into the tart rim. Cut a small incision into the lid of the pie.
  7. Bake the tart or pie in a 180°C oven for around 30 minutes for a tart, or 45 minutes for a pie, until the pastry is golden.
  8. Serve hot or cold.
  9. Apple and raisin pie

Tarte of Strawberries (Strawberry Tart)

To make a tarte of Strawberries.
Wash your strawberries, and put them into your Tarte, and season them with suger, cynamon and Ginger, and put in a little red wine into them.
Thomas Dawson, The Good Huswife’s Jewell, 1596.

To make a Tart of Strawberries.
Wash your strawberries, and put them into your tart, and season them with sugar, cinnamon and ginger, and put in a little red wine into them.

THE GERMAN RECIPE
89 Ain erbertorten zú machen
Mach das bedellin vnnd laß erstarcken jn der tortenpfanen/darnach nim die erber vnnd legs daraúf vmber aúfs allernechst zúsamen, darnach zúckeres woll aúfs allerbast, laß darnach ain klain weil bachen, geúß ain malúasier daraúf vmber vnnd laß ain weil bachen, so jst er gemacht.
Das Kuchbuch der Sabrina Welserin, c1553.

89 To make a strawberry tart
Make a pastry shell and let it become firm in the tart pan. Afterwards take strawberries and lay them around on top as close together as possible, after that sweeten them especially well. Next let it bake a short while, pour Malavosia over it and let it bake a while, then it is ready.

The text of the original German recipe can be found here.

The translation of the German recipe is by Valoise Armstrong, and can be found here.

I tried cooking the Dawson recipe several times. The first time, I pureed the strawberries, sugar, wine and spices (despite there being no instructions to do so). And I used far too much wine, so the puree was extremely wet. This caused the pastry shell to completely collapse because it was far too wet. The next two times I used less wine each time, but the tart still collapsed when the pastry got soggy.

And then I found Sabrina Welserin’s recipe. I found it interesting that she specified to bake the strawberries and sugar for a time, then add the wine and continue baking. And trying this, it worked. Even though the pastry still absorbed some liquid from the strawberries and sugar, adding the wine after they had baked a while ensured the strawberries absorbed the wine, not the pastry.

I would recommend eating the strawberries from the pastry shell with a spoon, then eating the pastry separately. It’s still very tasty.

Ingredients

1 quantity shortcrust pastry 50g sugar Optional: 1/2 tsp cinnamon
300g strawberries 30mL madeira wine (see notes) Optional: 1 tsp ginger

Method

  1. Roll out the pastry to approx. 4mm thickness and line a greased pie plate with it.
  2. Prick the bottom of the tart shell. Line the tart shell with baking paper and fill with weights. Blind bake the tart shell for approx. 12 minutes in a 200°C oven. Remove the paper and weights when finished.
  3. Return the tart shell to the oven and bake for a further 8 minutes, to firm the base. If necessary, line the rim of the pie with foil to stop it browning too much.
  4. Wash the strawberries and remove the stalks. Cut any large strawberries into smaller pieces.
  5. Arrange the strawberries in the pastry shell, and sprinkle with sugar and spices, if using.
  6. Bake the tart in a 160°C oven for around 10 minutes, until the strawberries have softened.
  7. Drizzle the wine over the strawberries, and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes.
  8. Leave the tart to cool, and serve cold. You will probably want to spoon the strawberries out of the tart, and eat the pastry separately.

Notes

  • Modern strawberries are typically hybrids of the indigenous European variety, Fragaria vesca. These would have been used in the medieval and early modern period. They are extremely sweet, but tiny. If you want to use them, you will probably have to grow them yourself. You will need more than one plant to provide the fruit to make a single tart. The plants and seeds are frequently sold was “wild strawberries” or “alpine strawberries.” You may also be able to forage them in Britain and Europe.
  • Malavosia is a sweet, fortified wine, originally from the Greek island of the same name. A similar wine is produced on the island of Madeira, which is why I have substituted it.

Strawberry Tart
The tart is garnished with dianthus flowers, also known in Elizabethan England as gillyflowers. They are edible (rather tasteless, but they are pretty!).

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Black, Maggie (1996). The Good Housewife’s Jewel
Brears, Peter (2011) All the King’s Cooks

Hulwa a’Jamiyya (Honey and Poppyseed treats)

Hulwa a’Jamiyya: Take half a pound [ratl] of flour and fry it in four ounces of sesame oil. Take a pound [ratl] of honey and put it on the fire, and if the honey is strong, add water. When it boils, throw it hot on the toasted [flour] and stir it and beat it white. [Take] poppy seeds and pistachios for it and throw them on it. Let the honey be covered with a dirham of saffron. Stir it and put it up covered. Kitab Wasf al-Atima al-Mutada Chapter X (The Description of Familiar Foods, trans. Charles Perry). Features in Medieval Arab Cookery, ed. Maxime Rodinson.

When people think of halwa (also halva, halvas or hulva) today, they think of the yummy, slightly gritty sesame-based sweet with nuts. But this is only one type of halwa – halwa literally translates as “sweet,” and refers to a dense sweet based either on flour and honey or sugar syrup, or nut butters/pastes and syrup.

One of the great problems I’ve found with redacting historical recipes is the translation of measurements. For instance, a common measurement in these recipes is the ratl, which often gets translated to “pound.” However, a ratl is NOT the same as an imperial pound, which caused bad results until I found metric equivalents. Furthermore, the same term had different meanings at different times and places, and ratl is certainly indicative of this! If you are interested in checking weights and measures, this site is a great place to start. For reference’s sake, in this recipe I have used the C12 Egyptian measurements. This is why I stick to metric measurements when I write recipes. It’s less painful.

Ingredients

225 g flour 4 tbs poppy seeds
120 mL virgin sesame oil (see Notes) ½ cup pistachios
450g honey Generous pinch of saffron

Method

  1. Put the pistachios in a bowl of boiling water for about 20 minutes, then rub off the skins. Allow to dry.
  2. In a big, heavy based pan, heat the sesame oil over a low heat and then add the flour. Stir well so the flour is completely coated with the oil.  Keep stirring for around 10 minutes, until the flour has gone golden and smells toasted.  Be careful the flour doesn’t catch and burn.
  3. In another saucepan, heat the honey to the soft ball stage (112° – 116° C). Then remove it from the heat and skim off any scum.
  4. Steep the saffron threads in boiling water, then stir into the honey.
  5. Pour the honey into the toasted semolina, and fold in gently until well mixed and the mixture is pale.
  6. Add the poppy seeds and pistachios.
  7. Pour the mix into an oiled cake tin, and cover with cling film.
  8. Leave in the fridge for at least a day to allow the mix to set properly.
  9. When set, slice the mix with a knife dipped in warm water.

Notes

  • When you are dealing with sugar syrup in candy making, you’re transforming sugar from a solid to a liquid, and then back into a solid again, but in a more cohesive form.  You combine the sugar with water to dissolve it; but when sugar heats up, it keeps right on getting hotter (unlike water which reaches 100°C and doesn’t get hotter).  As the sugar transforms from solid to liquid, you are evaporating water out of the sugar syrup, and the amount of water evaporated will affect the final texture.  More liquid evaporated will result in a harder candy.
    As the sugar syrup reaches various temperature stages, it will start to behave in different ways, as described below:

    Temperature Description (Cold water method of testing) Stage name
    110° – 112° C The syrup drips from a spoon, forms thin threads in cold water Thread
    112° – 116° C The syrup easily forms a ball in cold water, but flattens once removed Soft Ball
    118° – 121° C The syrup is formed into a stable ball in cold water, but loses its round shape once pressed Medium Ball
    121° – 130° C The syrup holds its ball shape in cold water, but remains sticky Hard Ball
    132° – 143° C The syrup will form firm but pliable threads Soft Crack
    149° – 154° C The syrup will crack if you try to mold it Hard Crack
    160° – 176° C The sugar syrup will turn golden at this stage Caramel

    Prior to the invention of candy thermometers, candy making relied on spooning some of the syrup into cold water and watching how it behaved.  It’s known as the “cold water method” of checking the temperature, but the candy thermometer is much more precise.

    You can also treat honey as sugar syrup, but the results will have the distinctive honey flavour, and it needs to be watched more closely to ensure it doesn’t burn.  However, honey is less likely to crystallise badly when working with it. (LeBau, 2012, 21).

  • When working with sugar syrup, as I said, it can get a lot hotter than boiling water. And it’s sticky. SYRUP BURNS HURT. So be very careful when working with sugar syrup that you don’t splash yourself with it. The same goes for hot honey.
  • Because making candy from sugar syrup relies on evaporating the water from the sugar, it’s best to make candy on a cool, low-humidity day. Trying to make candy on a day of near 100% humidity, unless you are in an air-conditioned kitchen, is pretty darned impossible.
  • You don’t want to heat sugar syrup too rapidly; otherwise it can burn easily, or start to re-crystallise too quickly, and become grainy. Dissolve your sugar over a low heat, and once the sugar has completely dissolved, stop stirring. While the sugar syrup is cooking, regularly brush the sides of the pan with a soft, natural bristled brush. This will brush any syrup that has splashed onto the side of the pan back into the pan, and this will also stop crystallisation.
  • If you are used to Asian cooking you’ll assume sesame oil should only be used sparingly, as the type of sesame oil used in Asian cooking can be overpowering if used heavily. However, this type of sesame oil is produced from toasted sesame seeds, which heavily concentrates the sesame flavour and aroma. If you are familiar with modern Indian or Middle Eastern cooking, you might have come across virgin or cold-pressed sesame oil, which is much paler and more subtly flavoured. This is the sort you need to use for baking.

    If are going to be cooking for anyone with a sesame allergy, almond oil, rice bran oil or canola oil make good substitutes (the last two don’t have any flavour).

Hulwa a'Jamiyya

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
LeBau, Elizabeth (2012). The Sweet Book of Candy Making
Rodinson, Maxime (2006). Medieval Arab Cookery

Prince Bisket (Revisited)

20. To make prince bisket.
TAke one pounde of verie fine flowers, and one pounde of fine ſugar, and eight egges, and two ſpoonfuls of Roſewater, and one ounce of carroway ſeeds, and beat it all to batter one whole hour, for the ore you beat it, the better your bread is, then bake it in coffins of white plate, being baſted with a little butter before you put in your batter, and ſo keepe it.
Hugh Plat, Delightes for Ladies (1602)

20. To make prince biscuit.
Take one pound of very fine flour, and one pound of fine sugar, and eight eggs, and two spoonfuls of Rosewater, and one ounce of caraway seeds, and beat it all to batter one whole hour, for the more you beat it, the better your bread is; then bake it in coffins of white plate, being basted with a little butter before you put in your batter, and so keep it.

Bisket was originally a long lasting, but tasteless and hard to eat food, consisting of flour and water, used as food for soldiers, and there were many complaints about how inedible they were (Brears 2016, 568). They were twice cooked to make them hard enough for weevils to avoid (Spurling, 2011, 117). But then in the sixteenth century, in a form of cultural appropriation, sugar, eggs and spices were added to create a high end version that was often enjoyed at banquets. Some biskets were twice baked, similar to a modern Italian biscotti, while others were baked once, like this.

Some of you may remember my original post about Prince Bisket. This interpretation was highly influenced by the recipe for Bisket Bread; while the ingredients for Bisket Bread are similar to Prince Bisket, Bisket Bread is quite different. For one thing, it is twice baked, and more significantly, the ingredients are combined differently. Hugh Plat simply says to mix the all the ingredients together and beat for an hour. However in Bisket Bread, the eggs must be beaten first, then the sugar added, then the flour. This results in a light, crisp bisket. When I started making Prince Bisket, I was combining the ingredients in the same way, so I ended up with a light, crisp Prince Bisket.

When I put this first recipe for Prince Bisket up on Facebook, it was quite rightly pointed out that I wasn’t using the method described by Hugh Plat, which results in a very different texture – it is still light, but is soft rather than crisp. So I decided to re-do the Prince Bisket, by mixing everything at once rather than adding the ingredients in sequence.

The resulting bisket still tasted the same, but was indeed much softer. When I trialled the two varieties with testers, some preferred my original crisp bisket, while others preferred this softer version. I will continue to make this recipe both ways, but the crisp biskets will be called “Pretender Biskets.”

Ingredients

225 g flour 1.5 tbs rosewater
225g caster sugar 2 tsp caraway seeds, ground
4 eggs

Method

  1. Mix together all the ingredients. If doing this by hand, you will indeed need to beat the mixture constantly by hand for at least an hour in order to combine the batter to the right consistency. It needs to be quite stiff. If you are using a stand mixer (as I do), start slowly until the ingredients are roughly combined, then increase the speed until the mixture is stiff. This should take 20-30 minutes.
  2. Line the moulds of a mini muffin tray with mini patty cases, or grease well with butter, and carefully spoon the mix into patty cases. The mix is quite stiff, so it will help to use two spoons. Fill each mould about ¾ full.
  3. Bake in a 150ᵒC oven for 15-20 minutes, until a skewer inserted into one of the biskets comes out clean.

Notes

  • Normally, I will do things such as mixing, pureeing or grinding at least once manually, to get an appreciation for the process the medieval cooks had to go through (and then I break out the power tools because I don’t have an army of minions; I do have minions but not an army of them). But this is one where I will never do the mixing by hand, because it does indeed much constant beating to get the right consistency for the batter! When eggs are beaten, you are breaking down and re-combining the proteins in the yolk and white of the egg, and combining the water in the egg white, to create a foam that will give the biskets their rise. And the eggs need to be beaten a lot, in order to bring about the protein structures. However, the sugar and the flour both interfere with this re-combining of the proteins, resulting in a less stable egg foam and the softer bisket texture (McGee, 2004, 100-106). If you were to beat the eggs first, then add the sugar, then the flour, the egg foam would have a much stronger structure and the end result will be crisper.
  • Bisket recipes continued to feature in cookbooks well into the seventeenth century. The following recipe comes from The Accomplisht Cook by Robert May, and was published in 1660.

    To make Bisquite du Roy. Take a pound of fine searsed sugar, a pound of fine flour, and six eggs, beat them very well, then put them all into a stone mortar, and pound them for the space of an hour and a half, let it not stand still, for then it will be heavy, and when you have beaten it so long a time, put in halfe an ounce of anniseed; then butter over some pie plates, and drop the stuff on the plate as fast as two or three can with spoons, shape them round as near as you can, and set them into an oven as hot as for manchet, but the less they are coloured the better.(p273)
    To make Bisquite du Roy. Take a pound of fine sieved sugar, a pound of fine flour, and six eggs, beat them very well, then put them all into a stone mortar, and beat them for the space of an hour and a half. Beat it continuously or it will be heavy, and when you have beaten it for the length of time, put in half an ounce of aniseed. Then butter over some pie plates, and drop the stuff on the plate as fast as two or three can with spoons, shape them round as near as you can, and set them into an oven as hot as for manchet, but the less they are coloured the better.

    This will be stiffer than Prince Bisket as it doesn’t contain as many eggs, and closer to a modern biscuit or cookie. As Robert May notes, you will be able to shape them.

 

Prince bisket revisited
These were made in a mini muffin pan lined with paper cases, so they could be served easily at a food competition. You could also make them in a tea saucer or shallow bowl, as Hugh Plat suggests in his recipe. But I suggest using more than a “little butter,” because the final result will stick because of the high sugar content.

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Black, Maggie (2002). The Good Housewife’s Jewel.
May, Robert (1660) The Accomplisht Cook
McGee, Harold (2004). On Food and Cooking.
Spurling, Hilary (2011). Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book.
A.W. (1591). <a href=”https://www.bookdepository.com/Book-of-Cookrye-Very-Necessary-for-All-Such-as-Delight-Therin-Gathered-by-W-1591-W-W-W/9781171316305?a_aid=leobalecelade&#8221; target=”_blank”A Book of Cookrye Very Necessary for All Such as Delight Therin.