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Spinach Toast

In preparation for a feast I am doing this fall with my dear friend, Magdalena, I tried this historical bite and wanted to share it with you. The theme of this feast is “A Tudor Christmas” so I will probably be posting alot of 15th & 16th century English recipes in the coming weeks.

This particular recipe comes from Thomas Dawson’s The Good Huswife’s Jewel (1). Dawson first published his cookery book in 1596 and a second printing was made a year later. This work seems to be a liason between the rennaissance and a more modern cooking style of the 17th century. The dishes are simpler but delicious and seemed to be geared towards the growing middle class of the time.

Note: At this time England was still using the 12 ounce pound and a pint was 16 ounces rather than the imperial 20 ounces.

Original Recipe

This is a from Southover Press published in 1996

To Make Fried Toast of Spinach

Take spinach and seethe it in water and salt. When it is tender, wring out the water between two trenchers. Then chop it small and set it on a chafing dish of coals. Put thereto butter, small raisins, cinnamon, ginger, sugar, a little of the juice of an orange, and two yolks of raw eggs. Let it boil till it be somewhat thick. Then toast your toast, soak them in a little butter and sugar and spread thin your spinach upon them. Set them on a dish before the fire a little while. So serve them with a little sugar upon them.”

 

My Redaction

Printable Recipe

  • 1 10oz. pkg of frozen spinach
  • 4-5 tbsp. of Butter
  • 1/4 c. raisins
  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. Ginger, fresh
  • 1/2 tsp. Ginger
  • 2 tbsp. Sugar
  • 1/4 tsp (or to taste) Orange Zest
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 2 Egg Yolks
  • 1 Loaf of good Homemade Bread

Thaw the spinach in a strainer over the sink or a bowl. When it is completely thawed, squeeze by hand as much water out of it as you can. Using several papertowels, remove even more moisture from the spinach by pressing it between two layers. When you have removed all the water set it aside until it is needed.

In a small frying pan melt the butter and raisins together. The butter will help to plump up the raisins so put it on a lower setting and allow the raisins about 5-10 minutes in the butter being careful not to let the butter burn.IMG_0634

When the raisins are plumped, add the fresh ginger, ground ginger, and sugar and stir. Cook for a few minutes until well incorporated.

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Add the spinach and orange zest and saute for five minutes or so. Add the orange juice to the egg yolks and beat them together. I did this so that the eggs wouldn’t scramble when I added them to the spinach.

DSC_1392

Lower the heat and add the egg mixture. Make sure you mix it in well so you do not get patches of cooked egg. Leave this to thicken, stirring every once in a while until it thickens. Let this saute while you prepare the toast.

Take a good homemade bread and slice it in half inch slices. Cut them into squares or triangles as you prefer. Toast or broil them, just until golden. I buttered them with a butter knife and sprinkled a small amount of sugar on them. If you wish, you can “soak” them in melted butter and sugar as Dawson directs. I chose not too because I was worried it would be too saturated and I wanted them as a finger food.

I then put a good helping of the spinach mixture on the toast or “sippets” sprinkled a little more sugar as a garnish on top and served them.

spinach toast close up

 

Bibliography

  1. Dawson, Thomas. The Good Huswife’s Jewell. Published by Southover Press 1996. Originally published 1596, London for Edward White.

 

Potato Soup

It’s been chilly here the past few days and when it’s cold I always want a comfort food. This next historical bite is from my childhood. It is a recipe that my great grandmother made for her children and that, in turn, my grandmother made for us.

A little background: my grandmother used to babysit my brother, my two cousins and me before/after school and during the summer. I do remember those days fondly and I love my grammie to pieces. One of my memories is when she used to make this dish on a cold day for lunch. After, she would make a fire and we would all (4 of us) pile into her lap in her chair in front of the fire and snuggle.

My grandmother was born in 1919 and her mother was born in 1898. My great grandmother is of Irish decent and she made this recipe for her large family. My grammie said that she doesn’t know if her mother created this or if her grandmother taught her mother . Anyway, on to the recipe.

Disclaimer: My husband disagrees that this is a potato soup. He was a little hesitant when I first made it but now he loves it as much as I do. So give it a try.

Printable Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of ground hamburger
  • 4-5 cups beef broth
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in bite size pieces
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 bay leave
  • seasonings to taste: salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder
  • 1 stick butter, softened, optional
  • 1/2 c. flour, optional

Start by browning the meat in a pot or if you are using a higher fat hamburger in a frying pan so it is easier to drain off the fat. NOTE: I use onion powder because they bother my husband but if you prefer, use a small onion instead of the powder.

After you have drained the fat, add the diced onion and cook until translucent. If you want to use garlic instead of garlic powder add the minced garlic when the onion is almost done. If you are using the powders, do not add yet.

When the onions and garlic (if using) are done, add in the beef broth. I have used water and bullion in a pinch. Let this simmer for about 30 minutes. Add in the potatoes and carrots. Stir in the salt, pepper, oregano,bay leaf and if using onoin powder and garlic powder.

Bring to a boil, and then lower the heat to maitain a simmer for about an hour. If you prefer your soup a little thicker, like I do, mix equal amounts of butter and flour (this is called buerre manie) and add it to your soup off of the heat. Stir it in and it will thicken.

My grammie always served this on a plate with butter and we mashed everything all together. She had homemade bread, slathered with butter and  my grandfather would put a mouthful of the mashed soup on the bread and eat them together. Don’t knock it till you try it! Pure Bliss on a cold snowy day!

 

Stuffed Ciambelle

     I am including this recipe even though it is part of an ongoing research project of mine. This is another of Scappi’s inventions and I think it is a fantastic historical bite! It is fairly straightforward but the secret is in the dough.

     Scappi has several recipes that he calls “ciambelle”. John Florio’s 1611 Italian English Dictionary (2) tells us that a ciambelle is “simnels, buns or cake” (p. 100). The Oxford English DIctionary (3) lists simnel as “A kind of bread or bun made of fine flour and prepared by boiling, sometimes with subsequent baking” (p. 492). Gillian Riley states in The Oxford Companion to Italian Food (4) that ciambelle was not the only name for these ring shaped breads and biscuits and not all of them were dunked in boiling water. She goes on to quote Costanzo Felici, who wrote in 1560’s Italy, saying 

“ There is also a twice-cooked bread, circular or ring or other shaped, made with a fairly hard dough, with salt, anise or fennel seeds, first cooked in boiling water and then in the oven”

     He goes on to say

           “….with many varieties that we might call “reinforced” breads, with a wide range of         additions to the flour or dough according to the changing tastes of mankind, among these breads made in various shapes commonly known as bricuocoli,  ciaramilie or bracciatelli or braciatelletti, made with flour mixed with eggs….and sometimes twice cooked, or in copper pans; some of these are light and very spongy, some covered in powdered sugar, called berlingozzi in Rome, others without sugar, some smoother, some harder, some low and flattened, large or small in shape, and among these last one often sees little biscotelli mixed with milk and sugar, or just sugar, or without. Of  the same form, but made with   much thinner strips of dough, are other ones—bacciatellini or zuccarini, as they call them, made with eggs and sugar.” (p. 71-72)

Original Recipe (2)

Book V Recipe 150

        “Per Fare Ciambelle Ripiene

         Piglisi una libra di cascio bazzotto grasso, cioe di vacca, senza sale & una libra di cascio parmigiano grattato, oncie sei d’uva passa ben netta, un oncie di cannella, quattro oncie di zuccaro, tre oncie di butiro fresco, dodici ova freshe, & un poco di zafferano & d’ogni cosa faccisi una compositione. Poi impastinsi libre tre di fior di farina, con dicci oncie di latte di capra tiepido, & quattro oncie di mollica di pane imbeverata in esso latto, sei rofsi d’ova, quattro oncie di butiro, & sale a bastanza, &ben menata che sara la pasta, giungendoli nel menarla altre quattro oncie di butiro in piu volte. Compartiscasi in bocconcini di due oncie l’uno, & con il bastone spianisino di modo che venghino tondi, lasciandoli la grossezza del sfoglio della torte; pongasi da un canto d’esse pasto due oncie di compositione sopra detta per ciasebeduno tondo, dandogli una volta, e mezza in su, vagendoli di butiro squagliato, & poi facciansi ciambellette, spianandole con la palma della mano, mettissino sopra la carta onta di butiro in una tortiera, & diasegli il colore come all’offelle, & faccisino cuocere al forno, & cotte che saranno, servisino calde, a un altro modo si puo fare tirare un sfoglia.”

 

My Translation

“To Make Stuffed Ciambelle

Take a pound of imperfect (moderate) fat cheese, That is from a cow, without salt & a pound of grated parmesan cheese, six ounces of raisins well cleaned, an ounce of cinnamon, four ounces of sugar, three ounces of fresh butter, twelve fresh eggs, & a pinch of saffron & mix everything together forming a composition (filling). Then make a dough of three pounds of meal of flour with ten ounces of warm goat’s milk, & four ounces of breadcrumbs soaked in this milk, six egg yolks, four ounces of butter & enough salt & mix well by hand (knead) and when it shall be dough add in by hand another four ounces of butter further beyond. Divide in morsels of two ounces for one, & with the stick flatten of the method that you arrive at a round, leave it the bigness (thickness) of thin puff paste of a torte, lay two ounces of filling on a side of them over every/each one said, & whereby a turn and a half upward, spread melted butter, & then form the ciambelle, flatten with the palm of the hand, lay above greased paper with butter in a torte pan & give it color like offelle, & make them cook in the oven, & bake that it is strong, serve hot, or an other method it may be made to draw out a puff paste.” 

My Redaction

Note: Once again, we are using the 12oz pound of Scappi’s renaissance Italy.

  • dough
  • 6 oz. Mascarpone Cheese
  • 6 oz. Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 3 oz. Raisins
  • 1 tbsp Cinnamon
  • 4-5 Eggs, beaten
  • 6 oz. Butter
  • 3 Strands of Saffron

Melt the butter with the saffron. While you are waiting mix the cheeses together with the raisins, cinnamon and eggs. It should be a soupy mess. After the butter is melted cool it off to about 80º. I do this so that I don’t get scrabbled eggs. 

Once the butter is cooled sufficiently, add it to the cheese and egg mixture. This is where the magic happens. The fat molecules in the butter adhere to the fat in the cheese and eggs and it thickens beautifully creating a lovely fluffy spreadable mixture!

cheese filling finished

     Take your dough and divide it into two ounce lumps. Roll the dough very thin. I roll it out until I can see through it. Take two ounces of your filling and place it to one side of your dough round. Brush all the exposed dough with melted butter and roll it up one andimage a half times. This is important, if you roll it tightly, the inside layers of dough will be raw while those on the outside are over brown.

     Once you have a little log of cheese filled dough, press the ends down with the palm of your hand to seal them. Now butter the ends and bring them together to form a ring and press again with your hands. Brush with melted butter and place on parchment paper on a sheet pan. Finish forming your ciambelle. You should have about 8.

     Bake at 350º for about 20 minutes or until the outside is a golden brown.

cheese filled ciambelle

 

Bibliography

1) Scappi, Bartolomeo. The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi: L’Arte et Prudeza D’un Maestro Cuoco (The Art and Craft of a Master Cook) (1570). Translated with commentary by Terrence Scully. Toronto Canada. University of Toronto Press Inc. 2008. Print.

2) Florio, John. Queen Anna’s New World of Words (1611). Scolar Press. 1973. Print.

3) The Oxford English Dictionary. 1888. archives.org, accessed 1/1/2020

4) Riley, Gillian. The Oxford Companion to Italian Food. 2007. Oxford University Press.
New York, NY. Print.

5)  The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi. archives.org, accessed 1/1/2020.

Life

I debated whether to make this post or not but decided that I should. I have not forgotten about my blog HistoricalBites but life has been ravaging us in the last few months, emotionally and financially.

In a nutshell, and hopefully without over sharing, since my last post we have had a series of unfortunate events. My daughter started the ball rolling when she was in two car accidents in two days. She totalled her car but mine was repairable. Then my husband, the RN, came down with the flu on Friday the 13th (no omens there) and the next day was taken to the ER with celulitis. He was emitted to the hospital within a few hours with severe sepsis and acute renal failure. He spent 10 days in PCU and was out of work for 6 weeks.

Of course, as soon as he came home then it was my turn. I had a trip to the emergency room, food poisoning that had me running for a week, then emergent surgery (not life threatening but needed to be done NOW) and a night in the hospital.

Then, exactly five weeks after the first round, my husband got the flu again and in order to outdo the last time, he also had bronchitis. Did you know that according to BCBS you can only get the flu once every three months because they do not cover tamiflu more often than that. Which. Is. Crazy.

All during this six week time period, we had to replace the stove, washer, dryer and the microwave plus a down payment on a new car for my daughter.

Please forgive me for my absence. I will be back to posting recipes soon.

Cornmarye

 

This is one of my favority dishes. It is from the 1390 manuscript A Forme of Cury (1) Most of the recipes online from the 14th century that have been redacted are from this manuscript. You can see a transcription at Medieval Cookery.

Original Recipe

Cornmarye

Take colyaundre, caraway smale grounden, powdour of peper and garlec ygrounde, in rede wyne; medle alle þise togyder and salt it. Take loynes of pork rawe and fle of the skyn, and pryk it wel with a knyf, and lay it in the sawse. Roost it whan þou wilt, & kepe þat þat fallith þerfro in the rostyng and seeþ it in a possynet with faire broth, & serue it forth wiþ þe roost anoon.

Translation

Cornmarie

Take coriander, ground caraway, pepper and ground garlic, in red wine; mix all these together and salt it. Take pork loin and cut off the skin, and prick it well with a knife, and lay it in the sauce. Roast it when thou wilt, & keep that that falls thereto in the roasting and seeth it in a possinet with faire broth, & serve it forth with the roast rigth away.

My Redaction

  • 1 – 2-3lb. Pork Loin
  • 2 tsp. Coriander
  • 1 tsp Caraway (I don’t like caraway so I leave this out)
  • 1 tsp Pepper
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 4 Cloves minced Garlic
  • 1 1/2 cups Red Wine
  • 1 1/2 cups Broth

Gently toast the coriander and caraway (if using) in a dry frying pan. Keep moving them about until they become lightly toasted and are slightly fragrant. Takeoff of the heat and cool. When thoroughly cooled grind in a mortar or spice grinder until powdered.

Mix the wine and broth. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until mixed. Note: You can add, omit or change the quantities of the spices or garlic to suit your personal tastes.

Rinse the pork loin and dry completely. Take a small paring knife and prick small holes all over the meat. Optionally: you can silver the garlic and put a small slice into each of the knife cuts you make in the loin.

Place pork in your roasting pan and pour the wine mixture over it. Place a lid or aluminum foil over the roast. Roast in a 350º oven for about an hour to an hour and a half, occasionally basting the meat with the pan juices. A meat thermometer should read at least 160º for pork.

When cooked, take the pork out of the pan and place on a serving dish with the aluminum foil over it, to rest. Take the pan juices and degrease, if needed. Make a pan sauce by boiling the pan juices until reduced by at least half to two thirds, until there is one to one and a half cups of liquid left. Take off the heat and serve with the pork. OPTIONAL: You can also make a pan sauce at this stage by wisking in room temperature butter until the sauce is as thick as you like.

Bibliography

  1. A Forme of Cury. For more info about this historic manuscript click here
  2. Another redaction of this recipe is available at Cariadoc’s Miscellany

 

Mostacciolo

Mostacciolo

The mostacciolo that Scappi uses here is a kind of biscotti that uses eggs as a leaven. Although it is very good eaten by itself, Scappi uses it mostly to flavor his other dishes. He lists this recipe as a food for the sick (1)

When redacting historical recipes it is important to note that the pound is not a uniform measurement. In Scappi’s Italy the pound, or libre, was 12 oz and not the imperial or modern pound of 16 oz. In latin, the word “libre” means pound and it is the source of our modern abbreviation of lb. The ounce in Scappi’s world is the same as the ounce today and is the approximate weight of twenty mustard seeds. This measurement has not changed in hundreds of years. Further reading is at A Brief History of Measuring (2) and “How Many? A Dictionary of Units of Measurement” (3)

NOTE: Scappi was feeding ALOT of people! His recipes make huge amounts. I would reccommend halving the original amounts. All of my redactions are at least half unless otherwise noted.

Original Recipe

Book VI Recipe 142 (4)

“Perfare morseletti, cioè mostaccioli alla Milanese

Piglisi quindici uoue fresche, e battanosi in una cazzuola, e passino per lo setaccio con due libre e mezza di zuccaro fino fatto in polvere, e mezza oncia di anici crudi, ovvero pitartamo pesto, et un grano o due di muschio fine, e mettanosi con esse libre due e mezza di farina e fattasi ogni cosa per tre quarti d’hora, di modoche venga la pasta come quella delle frittelle, e lascisi riposare per un quarto d’hora, e ribattisi un ‘altra volta, poi si abbiamo apparescchiati fogli di carta fatti a lucerne onti, ouero tortiere alte di sponde con cialde satto senza essere bagnate di cosa alche la grossezza d’un dito, e subito si spolverizzino di zuccaro, e pongano si nel forno che sia caldo, ouero quelle delle tortiere cuocanosi come le torte, e come tal pasta sarà sgonfiata, e hauera in tutto perso l’humidita, e sarà al quanto sodetta, cio sia come una focaccia tenero, cauisi della tortiera o lucerna, e subito si taglino con un coltello largo e sottile, a fette larghe due dita, e lunghe a beneplacito, e rimetta nosi nel forno con fogli di carta sotto a biscottarsi, rivoltandoli spesso, pero il forme non sia tutto caldo come di sopra, e come saranno bene asciutte, cavinosi, e con ferui nosi perché sono sempre migliore il secondo giorno che il primo, e durano un mese nella lar perfettione.”

Translation (5)

To Prepare Dainty Morsels – that is Milanese Style Mosticcioli

Get 15 fresh eggs, beat them in a casserole pot and strain them with two and a half pounds of powdered sugar, half an ounce of raw aniseed or else ground coriander, and a grain or two of fine musk; with that put two and a half pounds of flour. Beat everything for three quarters of an hour so that the dough becomes like fritter batter. Let it sit for a quarter of an hour, then beat it again. Then have greased sheets of paper ready, made like lamps, or else high sided torte pans with, on the bottom, wafers that have not been moistened with anything; then put the batter into the lamps or tourte pans, filling them to no more than the thickness of a finger. Sprinkle them immediately with sugar and put them into a hot oven or, in the case of the ones in the tourte pans, bake them like tourtes. When that batter has risen and thoroughly dried out and is rather firm, that is, it should be soft like focaccia – take it out of the tourte pan or lamp. Right away with a broad, sharp knife cut them up into slices two fingers wide and as long as you like, and put them back into the oven on sheets of paper to bake again like biscuits, turning them often. The oven should not be as hot as before, though. When they have thoroughly dried out, take them out and set them aside because they are always better the second day than the first. They will last a month in their best state.”

Our Redaction

  • Mostaccioli.jpg7 Eggs, beaten
  • 15 oz. Powdered Sugar
  • 1/4 oz. of ground Coriander
  • 15 oz. Flour

First, let me say that we did not include the musk. It undoubtedly changes the flavor profile but it is difficult to get and it just makes me cringe. (For those that do not know, musk is the dried anal glands of a red deer. So, um, yeah, no musk.)

Mix everything together for 45 minutes, a stand mixer works ideally since you can go do something else while it mixes. Allow it to rest for 15 minutes and then mix for another 45 minutes.

The egg is the only leaven so it is extremely important to incorporate as much air as possible to ensure as much rise as possible. The trapped air from whipping the eggs expands from the heat as you bake the mosticcioli. As the eggs cook the air bubbles become set giving the mosticcioli the light and airy texture that a modern biscotti has.

Line a 1/4 sheet pan with parchment paper and pour the batter into the pan. Cook it at 350 for 25 minutes until bread-like and just starting to color.

When done, remove from the oven and as soon as you are able to handle it, cut it into one inch slices. Arrange the strips on a parchment lined 1/2 sheet pan, cut side up, and put them back into a 225. Turn them over every 15-20 minutes until completely dried, an hour – an hour and a half.

 

Bibliography

1)Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi, The. (1570). Trans. by Terrence Scully. Toronto, Canada. Univrsity of Toronto Press. 2008. Print

2) Lambert, Timothy. “A Brief History of Measuring”. Retrieved December 3, 2018. http://www.localhistories.org/measurement.html

3)Rowlett, Russ. “How Many? A Dictionary of Units of Measurement” Copyright Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved November 27, 2018. http://www.ibiblio.org/units. Internet

4)

Medieval Pasta

The following research on the wheats and dough is credited to my husband, Ben.

Any pasta recipe starts with the dough and any discussion of period pasta dough starts with a discussion of wheat. The nutshell version: the ancestor of modern wheat is einkorn wheat which is not a good bread wheat being that it is bitter and needs to be leached. Einkorn mated with a wild grass to produce emmer wheat. Emmer has developed into what we know as bread wheats and durum. Emmer is better for bread but is very hard to mill. The modern bread wheats Vulgare, Compactum and spelt are much easier to mill.

Durum, in latin, means hard. Durum wheat is a very high protein, high gluten wheat but it has a very low moisture content. This means that it is not very good for bread (but you can make bread with it) but it is perfectly suited for making pasta. Pasta made from durum wheat, once dried, can be stored for years. (6) (Storck 31-33) Semolina is a grind of durum wheat whose coarseness is equivalent to fine cornmeal. Scappi notes that plain, non stuffed pasta could be dried and stored for an extended period of time which was the purpose that dried pasta was originally designed (Scappi 48)

We have tried to make several period pasta using bread flour, spelt and cake flour (because Scappi uses the term “fine” flour) but the soft flours mildewed quickly. Pasta made with all purpose flour (a combination of soft and hard wheat flour) and semolina did not mildew. Our conclusion is that Scappi would have used semolina for all pasta including pasta asciutta, or dried pasta and all-purpose only for pasta to be used immediately or stuffed pasta.