Arts & Sciences



Vole Vitaillers (cooks in search of a name)
Nov. 25, 2001

The first cooking meeting of the newly formed Coeur du Val cooking group resulted in a flavorful meal, comprised of Blancmange, Buttered Worts, Panforte, Gingerbread, Stewed Chicken, chinese style. Many thanks to Brandy Friel for typing up most of the recipes!

Modernly known as a white sweet pudding, blancmange in the European Middle Ages was a white savory dish. HL Thomas Bowyer provided us with a number of different recipes -- 14th Century Venetian (Bramagere/blancmange), 1350 German (blamensier/blancmange), 1390 English and 1395 French (blanc mangier or brouet blanc/white brewet); and two modern redactions.

One version was for sick people, another was lavish and garnished with pomegranate and comfit. Ingredients we did not use included verjuice, wine, rosewater, violets, goat milk, veal and bacon, and chicken fat. We interpreted "grains of paradise" as white pepper.

This dish would take well to simple molds for subtleties; one recipe calls for it to be "pressed."

Here is our redaction:

Blancmange du Coeur du Val
1300-1400 CE Europe
4 c almonds
2 c uncooked rice
2 chicken breasts
1/2 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
One to 1/2 tsp ground cloves
One to 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/3 c. almond slivers for garnish
Make almond milk: Grind almonds with an equal amount of water in a blender until the consistency of thick cream. (A whiter dish should result if you first blanch the almonds and pop them from their skins. It is a time-consuming task.)

Cook the rice and chicken breasts: We simmered the chicken breasts in water until done and then used the resulting stock to cook the rice. Cool the meat and shred it.

Toast the almond slivers (or brown them in chicken fat or light oil).

Mix together all ingredients except almond slivers; taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Garnish with almond slivers and serve.

May be served reheated or cooled and formed into a mold. May be top dressed with additional toasted almonds, rosewater, borage flowers, sugar dusting, dried saffron strands or the like.

Thomas also made a modern egg- and cornstarch- thickened pudding so we could taste the dish that blancmange has evolved into.

Graffin Liesel brought a recipe for Gingerbread, which tasted very much like baklava when done, and contained absolutely no ginger.

? CE Europe
1.5 lbs (2 cups) honey
1/4 tsp each saffron & ground black pepper
2 1/2 oz. bread crumbs (5 cups)* (go with the cups measurement if the weight is off)
18 small Bay leaves
6 cloves
Bring the honey to the boil in a pan with the saffron and pepper. Remove from heat and stir in the breadcrumbs so as to make a very thick paste. Simmer on an asbestos mat* over low heat for 15-20 minutes until the paste has dried out. Place in a 9" by 5" loaf tin. Smooth over the top and sprinkle with cinnammon. Make 6 trefoils on the top by sticking groups of three bay leaves together at the stalk end with a clove pierced through each group into the surface of the gingerbread. Chill for several days in the refrigerator. Serve in small slices.
*Lacking an asbestos mat, we used a solid skillet and stirred carefully. A tile or a cast iron skillet might be helpful.

Graffin Liesel also brought this recipe, which was much like a predecessor of fruitcake.

On Feb. 7, 1205 a tithe was paid by the tenants of the Monastery of Montecellesi in Siena. The tithe called for a number of panpepati e meilati or pepper and honey breads to be paid to the Monastery. This recipe is similar to period gingerbreads and results in a very rich and textured product suitable for serving in small pieces.

Bear panforte
modern version (Source?)
Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F
2 cups blanched, toasted almonds, corsely chopped or slivered
1 cup raisins, currants or golden raisins
1 cup chopped dates
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons butter
Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, set aside.

Grease a 9 -11" springform or tart pan with a removable bottom, line it with baker's parchment and grease the parchment.

Combine the sugar, honey and butter in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat until it reaches about 245 degrees F, when the syrup is between the soft and firm ball stages. Thoroughly mix the syrup into the dry ingredients to make a stiff batter. Scrape the batter into the the prepared pan and spread and smooth it.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 300 degrees F for about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool about 15 minutes, and then separate the pan's walls from the base. Allow the panforte to cool on the base. When cool remove from base and peel off parchment, cut and serve.

Raven/Mary/Erin made some delicious farmers cheese and then bewildered several of us by putting it in a Coolwhip container! We could still use that recipe...

Buttered worts
Sophia made this for us. Wortes were vegetables greens and members of the onion family, such as cabbage, spinach, beet greens, leeks, etc. as well as the plants used for seasonings: borage, parsley, sage and so forth.

Original recipe:
Buttered Greens: Take all manner of good herbs you can get and do them as is foresaid; put them on the fire with water; add a great quantity of clarified butter. When they have been boiled enough, salt them; let no oatmeal come in. Dice bread small and place in dishes, and pour on the wortes and serve. (SOURCE?)

Sofia's Buttered Worts
15th Century
8 cups of any combination of
spinach, cabbage, beet greens, onions, leeks, parsley, etc.
1 stick of butter (1/4 lb.)
salt to taste
1 cup dice bread or unseasoned croutons.
Cover greens with water; add butter and bring to a boil; add salt. Reduce heat and cook until vegetables are tender; drain. Place bread in serving bowl (can be individual bowls) and cover with cooked greens.
In trial we served used mustard greens and served it all over slices of dried or toasted bread.

Stewed chicken
A simple recipe that is likely to grace the Coeur du Villain feast table, graciously provided by Her Excellency Mistress Kerij-e.

Put a stewing chicken in a deep ovenproof dish. Add 2 c soy sauce, 2 c water, 5 star anise, and the dried grated rind of 3-4 tangerines. Bake (we cooked this for two hours at 350 and an additional half-hour at 300, as we were sharing the oven, and it came out falling-off-the-bone tender).

Redaction Translating and redacting are both necessary when working with medieval recipes. A translation may change a recipe from literal Greek (or French) to English, but that might not help much. Ingredients, measurements and techniques have changed names over the centuries, and since so many people were illiterate and cooking skills taken somewhat for granted, recipes were written down merely as a memory aid, leaving much to the imagination. ("Take the two del of rice, the third part of almonds...and add white grease and breast of hens ground small...") A redaction takes a translation and tries to make a recipe out of it.

Contact host Thomas Bowyer at whittier.thomATepa.gov for more information.

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