Friday, September 22, 2006

Chike Endored

Gilded Chicken, that is. This caused some amusing comment on the Stormvale mailing list when the menu got posted without descriptions of the recipes. Was I really going to gold leaf a chicken? What will that crazy Balian do next?

No gold leaf is involved. This is actually a simple roast chicken dish, and the gilding is a mixture of egg yolk and saffron brushed on during the latter part of roasting to give it a golden color. This recipe is from Pleyn Delit, perhaps my favorite medieval cookbook. It is very likely that if price issues cause me to punt and prefer chicken legs and breasts and thighs instead, this will work just as well, but the roast chickens will look better, of course.

Update: Tonight I cooked this dish for the first time, with a nice 5-lb. roaster that is probably a little bigger than ideal. It seems to work well, although I had a misstep - I couldn't find a brush at the last minute, so coverage of the "gilding" wasn't very even. But it looked pretty good. I may try it on individual pieces to see how that looks, too. That would be less impressive but likely more cost effective, as I noted above.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


This is a dish from Martino, a 15th century writer who was the first to provide more detailed recipes with quantities. My version is from Great Cooks and Their Recipes by Anne Willan. This is a fun book with a lot of early recipes and redactions. I've used several to good effect.

It's pretty much like modern risotto except that egg yolk is used as the thickening agent rather than cheese. There is a problem to work out with the dish. It calls for the use of egg yolks to be added after the rice is cooked. Presumably the heat from the finished dish cooks the egg... but I'm not sure I have the nerve to do this for a feast. I'm not a worrier about undercooked eggs, but I'm cooking for a lot of people here, and one must not screw around. (I'll try it for myself - perhaps I'll have more confidence in the procedure after I see it in action.)

So, there are a couple of options. First, a pasteurized substitute might work, I'll have to try it. Second, I could cheat and use cheese. And third, I could punt and substitute another rice dish. I had an urge to use one of my favorites, Lemonwhyt, from Fabulous Feasts, but I use it all the time, and it seemed like a good idea to try something different.

I recommend both books. For critics of Fabulous Feasts, see my earlier post on Madeleine Pelner Cosman.

Pippin Puddings

Many readers may not recognize some of the dishes going into the Harvest of Souls VI feast, so I thought I would discuss some of them.

Pippin puddings are baked apples, cored and filled with a custard. The top of the apple is kept and put back on as a cover, with a cinnamon stick through the center. It is a delicious, if somewhat labor-intensive dish. We used them once for a feast of a similar size, so we know it can be done.

The recipe used is from In Service to Our Middles, the Middle Kingdom cookbook, published so many years ago that even I (ancient relic that I am) was never able to obtain a copy, and had to borrow one to photocopy. No source is given, but I'm fairly sure it is perhaps an early modern recipe, if not quite medieval, and it might be older.

We alter one point in the recipe - it calls for the entire apple to be peeled. This has never seemed necessary to me, and I have almost always prepared the dish with the skins on the apples. Saves a lot of work and seems to make no real difference. The custard calls for cream, white wine, egg yolks, sugar and ginger. It is very tasty, and quite striking in appearance.

For this feast, Her Ladyship Clarissa Wykeham has volunteered to prepare and cook the dish. If I didn't have an experienced cook to do it, I would probably have chosen something else, as this is likely to take one person a fair portion of the day, and more to the point, will have to be finished with a careful sense of timing, as cored apples can't just sit around forever waiting to be filled with custard.

In Service to Our Middles; The MidRealm Book of Foods and Feasts was edited by Duchess Caellyn Fitzhugh and published in East Lansing (Northwoods). It looks to me like a late publication from the period when Northwoods was very much the kingdom's social and arts center, in the late 70s. My photocopy has no date, but I was given the impression it had gone out of print shortly before I joined in 1982.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Updated Feast Menu for HoS VI

Well, after posting the final menu last night, I had a brainstorm, and then another. First I decided that the menu wasn't quite married up with the theme well enough and reworked it into 7 courses, 2 dishes a course, one sin per course. Then I decided it would be even better to make it seven courses, with one virtue and one sin per course. I floated it on the Stormvale discussion list last night, it got a favorable reception, and here it is:

Feast of the Seven Virtues and Sins

First Course

Diligent Bread, preferably with water
Slothful Cold Spiced Beef, which took a long time to make

Second Course

Abstinent Compound Salad, full of leafy virtue
Gluttonous Tart on Ember Day, rich and cheesy

Third Course

Lustful Apecian Carrots, for fertile diners
Chaste Fish with Sauce, food for thought

Fourth Course

Wrathful Bourbelier de Sanglier, charged with spice
Patient Broccoli with Fennel, calm and placid

Fifth Course

Prideful Pies of Paris, dinner for nobility
Humble Herb Soup, a peasant’s meal

Sixth Course - Greed

Greedy Gilded Chicken, gleaming with gold
Liberal Risotto, share it with friends!

Seventh Course - Envy

Envious Pippin Puddings, Eve’s tempting fruit
Kind Soul Cakes, to see our diners off

Medieval Link for the Day

De Re Militari and the Journal of Medieval Military History here.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Harvest of Souls VI Feast

Feast of the Seven Sins
A Culinary Collection of Dishes to Tease All Your Appetites

First Course

Bread with herbed and honeyed butter
Platina’s Herb Salad
Tart on Ember Day (Gluttony)
Pies of Paris (Pride)

Second Course

Cold Spiced Beef (Sloth)
Apecian Carrots (Lust)
Herb Soup

Third Course

Loin of Pork in Boar’s Tail Sauce (Wrath)
Gilded Chicken (Greed)
Broccoli with Fennel

Fourth Course

Pippin Puddings (Envy)
Soul Cakes

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Founders Day 18

This Sunday will be Founders Day, the annual local event in Stormvale at which we hold competitions to select champions for arts and sciences, rapier combat, archery and armored combat. I'm planning to cook some sort of fairly elaborate dish, haven't decided what yet. Also haven't decided whether to try to defend my title as Stormvale Champion for armored combat. Time to spiff up my armor and practice has been extremely scant.

Also, the feast menu for Harvest of Souls VI should be ready to present at the meeting that night.

Manuscript Images

Malkyn sent me this interesting link to an archive of medieval medical manuscript images.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Stormvale at Middlewiki

Any Stormvalers who haven't checked out the Middlewiki project at should have a look around it.

Stormvale is one of the few branches with a complete entry, and is one of the most visited pages. Give it a try here.

Greed and Gluttony

These seem difficult. Gluttony could be crudely represented by serving too much of something rich, but that's wasteful. (I know, it's appropriate, but I dislike waste.) I'd rather do something more subtle. A dish that would offend the politically correct would perhaps be ideal, but there are limits to what can be done practically. Perhaps something wasteful in the sense that most of it has to be discarded to get at what's good. Artichokes might be good, but it would be difficult to get people to eat them - actually, that might be clever.

Greed is even more difficult, it seems to me. I mentioned in an earlier post shorting each table one serving, that's subtle, but it also needs to be a representative item, I think. This requires some thought. I was also considering something that appeared to be expensive, or actually is expensive or perhaps gilded with something that appears to be gold or silver. Caviar would be perfect, but I'm not sure how medieval, and the cost would be prohibitive. Perhaps a faux caviar of some kind. Hmm.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Lust and Envy

Lust could be covered by the dish I used for the last couple of aphrodisiac feasts, Meatballs in Oyster Sauce. But I am reluctant to recycle too many dishes, and if we use Cold Spiced Beef, we have the beef dish. I'm thinking of going with a seafood dish for lust. I'm not going to do a serious oyster dish, that's just asking for most of it to come back, so we're talking fish of some sort, I would think. Perhaps fish with a suitably spicy preparation.

For envy, I'm thinking of the use of an apple, on the theory that Satan gave Eve the forbidden fruit, usually represented by an apple, because of envy about the tree of knowledge. But both of the apple dishes I've used before are very time consuming to prepare in quantity: Golden Apples of Meat from "Fabulous Feasts" or Pippin Puddings from "In Service to Our Middles". The first is another meat dish, perfected by Lady Eschiva of Jebala back in the 1990s using pie crust and enormously time-consuming (she got an AoA the night of the feast she prepared 90 of them for). The second is a dessert that is shockingly time-consuming and labor-intensive. The apples have to be cored and filled with custard before cooking. I've done it before for relatively large feasts, but it will suck up a lot of labor during the day of the event.

Sloth and Wrath

For sloth, I'm considering a dish from "The Canton of Three Hills St. Valentine's Day Cookbook", Cold Spiced Beef. Beef is a meat considered to have some aphrodisiacal properties, and this dish takes weeks to prepare and uses juniper berries, nutmeg and cinnamon.

For wrath, a Stormvale favorite from "Pleyn Delit", Loin of Pork in Boar's Tail sauce. It has wine, cloves and we'll pretend it's wild boar, very aphrodisiacal stuff.

That gives us two meat dishes, and both are proven crowd pleasers.

Evil Thought on Greed

For the greed dish, how about a delicious item, a proven winner, which deliberately shorts each table by one serving?


Feast Thoughts

Lady A'isha and I are cooking the feast for the Harvest of Souls on October 14, and I am being importuned to announce the menu. Well, well. Announce the menu. I suppose I should do that.

The theme of the event, it appears, is the Seven Deadly Sins. Further, I was asked to reprise something I've done for two previous HoS feasts, an aphrodisiac theme. So let's see here. The Seven Deadly Sins are:

Greed or Avarice

Typical foodstuffs that the medievals would have thought arousing:

Fruits: pomegranates, figs, quince, peaches, perhaps apples.
Vegetables: onions, peas, carrots, asparagus, truffles.
Herbs: myrtle, marjoram, vervain, rosemary, mint.
Spices: nutmeg, saffron, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, juniper.
Seafood: (almost all seafood is good!) oysters, lobster, scallops, anchovies.
Meat: steak, rabbit, lamb, boar.
Fowl: birds of all kinds.
Nuts: hazelnuts, chestnuts, walnuts, almonds.

And, of course, honey.

What kind of dishes will we have to have for a feast? Some delicacies for the table to begin and a subtlety to end. A salad, a soup, a chicken dish, a meat dish, some sort of seafood dish, some veggy dishes (I like to be in the 30% - 50% range for dishes vegetarians will eat).

How many dishes? Seven sins suggests seven dishes, but this is a little low for a feast. Double it? Whew. 14 dishes is a bit much. Maybe if we count some low prep dishes.

These are my initial thoughts, more shortly.

Friday, September 08, 2006

What to call Someone from Stormvale

I am slated to teach a college class on Michigan history this fall. As I prepare for the class, I'm reading, among many interesting things, about whether Michigan residents are properly called Michiganians or Michiganders. It's Michiganians, of course - Michigander doesn't make any sense and was originally an insult directed at Michigan politician Lewis Cass by Abraham Lincoln.

Which reminded me of the occasionally vexed question of whether to call a Stormvale member a Stormvalian or a Stormvaler. People often assume it must be Stormvalian, but it has always been Stormvaler since the early days of the branch. Why? Well, there is a degree of arbitrariness about the matter, all the more so, perhaps, because I'm probably the originator of the rule, but Stormvaler just sounded better when we first discussed this many years ago.

One might logically assume that if Michiganian, then Stormvalian, but then how does one explain New Yorker? New Yorkian just sounds goofy. Stormvalian always did, to me. So there you are.