Sunday, December 15, 2013

THE Mustard

I reserve the last posting of the year for one of my favorite recipes, and this year I'm pleased to share with you "Sweet 'n' Hot Mustard", which my mustard-loving friend declared to be THE MUSTARD.

I have to be honest with you -- I grew up hating mustard.  I am still not fond of the basic yellow mustard but someone got me to try a honey mustard (that made my sweet tooth happy) and then I discovered this recipe in a booklet called Gifts from Your Kitchen, published by the Current company.
The recipe is on page 7
It was published in 1982, so I guess that at 31 years old, I can call it "historical".  But no matter, this posting doesn't have to be historical as much as general foodie fun.  I've been making it for about 12 years.

It is absolutely fabulous with smoked salmon, or you can try dipping chunks of cheese into it, or put it on sandwiches, or use your imagination because I don't think you can go wrong with it.

Sweet 'n' Hot Mustard

1 cup sugar
2/3 cup dry mustard
3 eggs, well beaten
2/3 cup white vinegar

 In a medium (non-aluminum) saucepan, whisk together sugar and mustard until well blended.  Add eggs and vinegar, blending well.  Using a wooden spoon, cook over low heat, stirring until thickened, about 10 minutes.  Pour into a separate container to stop cooking.  Cool slightly, spoon into gift containers, cover and refrigerate up to one month.   Makes 1 7/8 cups.

Could this be any easier?  The hardest part is standing there stirring constantly until the mixture gets thick, and believe me, you don't want to walk away from it.  I don't think it has ever taken 10 minutes to get thick, though.

My advice:  Have your gift containers (or whatever you plan on storing it in) ready before you start cooking.  I usually put out more than I think will hold the recipe, just in case I need it.  I prefer glass to plastic since the mix goes in pretty warm.

I see the process as three steps to making a good, smooth mustard:  Whisking the mustard and sugar together helps to break up any clumps.  Stirring in the vinegar and eggs (still using the whisk) is another opportunity to break up clumps.  And finally, stirring with the wooden spoon gives you a final chance to smash any remaining bits with the back of the spoon against the side of the pan.

The dry mustard used here can be Coleman's Superfine Mustard or just mustard flour, which I get at a local store as a bulk item.  It is not as fine textured as Coleman's but still makes a good mustard.
Mixed and ready for cooking
When you first start stirring it, the mixture is very liquid.  The thickening starts at the bottom (this is why you must stir it constantly) and then suddenly you'll see the mix coating the sides of the pan and the spoon.  It feels thicker when stirring, too.
After cooking -- smooth and thick
The thing to know about this recipe is the longer you cook it, the less heat it has.  If you just want the mustard flavor without much bite, cook it a minute or two longer after it thickens.  But if you want to have your sinuses cleared out, get it off the stove as soon as it is thick all through.  I go a little longer than just thick and sometimes it is hot and sometimes it is not so hot. I like it both ways, which is saying a lot since I don't usually enjoy spicy food.

The Verdict
Success!  As the name tells you, it tastes both sweet and hot.  Mustard hot, not like a chili pepper, and the sweet is inspiring, not cloying.  Mustard with a kick and a sweet kiss.

If I didn't love this recipe, it wouldn't be on my favorites list.  I'm not a big mustard fan but I am a big fan of this mustard.  My mustard-loving friends think it is the best.  I once shared this with a professional chef who was curious about the recipe -- he made it for the company he worked for and it went over quite well.  He said people were excited to put it on their food.

Just remember that a little goes a long way.  I wouldn't slather it on because it can overwhelm whatever you are putting it with. 

I've used it as a spread but I've also put some in sauces (it is really good in a turkey gravy).  I've also mixed it with crushed fresh rosemary and spread it on the outside of a chicken before roasting it.  It smells heavenly while cooking and then the meat is flavored and slightly perfumed from the rosemary.  The fire of the mustard is gone but I think the sugar in it carmelizes just a little, which is a lovely touch.

It makes a great gift any time of the year but especially at the holidays when people are eating ham, roast beef, and turkey.  Just make sure the recipient knows to keep it in the refrigerator.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 6, 2013

And Yet More on the Ymbre Tart

I had the opportunity to bring something to a holiday gathering, so I decided to make the onion tarts as individual servings, in mini-phyllo cups.  For the original recipe, see

I bought the pre-made cups, 15 to a package and I used three packages.

The only difference in the recipe was that I used the food processor to chop the onions finely.   This is to make sure the batter spooned easily into the tiny phyllo cups.

I used finely-chopped prunes instead of currants since I liked them so much last time.

Fill the cups very full.  Even though the filling puffs during cooking, it settles once it cools.

I used all 45 cups and probably could have gone to about 50.  The left-over batter went into a glass custard dish and it baked along with the second batch of cups.

I baked each batch at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 - 25 minutes -- until the edges were brown and a little stick poked in the middle of the deepest one came out clean.

The Verdict
This worked great!  I tasted one and it was marvelous (as usual).

I am happy to take these to share with others.

Update:  The batch sat in the refrigerator overnight, which caused the tart shells to soften.  They didn't fall apart so it wasn't a problem, just a small worry.  People who ate them said the tarts were sweeter than they expected -- I think the word "onion" made them think "strongly flavored".  The overall opinion was that they were like a quiche.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Different Type of Pumpkin Pie

Also known as

Baked Whole Pumpkin

I got this from a cookbook that doesn't necessarily claim its recipes are historical, The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American, (by Jeff Smith; published 1987) but it does say "This dish was a favorite of George Washington."  I also found a web page that lists a similar recipe from Eastern Europe.

ISBN 0-688-06347-0
Instead of your usual pumpkin puree mixed with eggs, sugar, and spices and baked in a crust, this starts with a highly-spiced egg and cream custard and bakes it inside the pumpkin.

It's great for the gluten-intolerant among us and is an unusual way to serve a holiday dessert.

(Page 177)

1 pumpkin, 5 - 7 pounds
6 whole eggs
2 cups whipping cream
1/2 brown sugar (packed)
1 tablespoon molasses
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
2 tablespoons butter

Cut the lid off the pumpkin just as you would for a jack-o'-lantern.  Remove the seeds and save for toasting later.

Mix the remaining ingredients together with the exception of the butter.  Fill the pumpkin with this mixture and top with the butter.  Cover with the pumpkin lid and place in a baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the mixture has set like a custard.

The butter floats!
Serve from the pumpkin at the table, scraping some of the meat from the pumpkin with each serving.  

Fresh out of the oven.

Serves 8.

My Notes
Be sure to wash the outside of the pumpkin first.

When cutting the top off the pumpkin, I recommend aiming for a wide opening to make it easier to scoop out the custard later.

Before preheating the oven, check to see where the shelf needs to be set in order to fit the pumpkin in its pan.  You don't want it hitting the top of the oven.

I put all the custard ingredients into a bowl and beat it with a whisk.  I think next time I would beat the eggs first then add the other ingredients.

The butter should be cut into small pieces and dropped onto the top of the liquid custard, where they will float.

This is truly an easy recipe to put together.  The benefit is that you don't have to mess with a pie crust!

Baked custards are typically put into cups and baked in a pan with water around them -- this moderates the heat so the eggs don't scramble.  The pumpkin does this well since the walls are so thick.

It took my 7 pound pumpkin 2 1/4 hours to get the custard set.  When the custard looks set, push a table knife into the middle of the custard and lift it out.  If it comes out clean, the custard is done.

Plan ahead!  If you don't think the whole dessert will be eaten after baking, make sure you have enough room to store the leftovers in the refrigerator.  

The Verdict
It is not pretty to look at.  In fact, my dinner guest thought perhaps it wasn't going to taste good at all, because the custard is brownish and the spices tend to float to the top, looking somewhat muddy.  Scooping it out with the pumpkin looked a little strange, too.  But we gave it an honest try.  
This does look pretty weird.
The custard is actually very tasty and delicate in texture.  It was reminiscent of flan.  I know this to be accurate for a baked custard, which many in my culture haven't had (unless they like flan) and our taste buds are accustomed to those thicker, heavier instant puddings.  This almost feels like something is "missing" in the mouth-feel because it is so delicate.

This is not visually appealing, either.
Eating the custard alone was good; eating it with the pumpkin definitely added more to the flavor.  The pumpkin alone was bland. 

We both decided the flavor was better with a light sprinkling of cinnamon sugar over the top.  Based on that, I would put in more brown sugar in the original recipe.  The Eastern European recipes recommended 3/4 cup (versus this recipe's 1/2 cup) and only use less if you had a very sweet sugar pumpkin.  I think that would be much better. 

Finally, I would not put in two tablespoons of butter on top.  I think I would use one tablespoon at most because the top of the custard was just swimming in butter, which was not appealing.

After all of these comments, how would I judge it?  Success!  It was good, just different from what I am normally used to.  The delicate texture is definitely a plus.

If I did this again, I might alter the flavor a little by either putting in brandy flavoring, rum flavoring, or vanilla extract into the custard.  Or maybe sweetening it with maple syrup.  I would also try to get a sweet sugar pumpkin rather than the run-of-the-mill Halloween pumpkin. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Mishmishiya -- An Exquisite Lamb Stew with Apricots

Yes, I have returned again to my favorite book, Pleyn Delit

I made this recipe last month while doing a public historical cooking demonstration.  It was perfect for such a demo -- I had one pot over coals simmering the lamb and another pot softening the apricots.  I could easily lift the lid to show visitors what was going on, and the resulting scent wafted to their noses and made them wish it was ready to eat.

The original recipe points strongly at Arabic origins:  the lamb, the seasonings, the apricots, and the almonds, plus the optional rosewater all say "I'm from the exotic East!"

It is quite easy to make and not as sweet as the apricots might suggest.

Mishmishiya -- "Lamb Stewed in Apricot Sauce" (Recipe #80)

Cut fat meat small, put into the saucepan with a little salt, and cover with water.  Boil, and remove the scum.  Cut up onions, wash, and throw in on top of the meat.  Add seasonings: coriander, cumin, mastic, cinnamon, pepper, and ginger, well ground.  Take dry apricots, soak in hot water, then wash and put into a separate saucepan, and boil lightly; take out, wipe in the hands, and strain through a sieve.  Take the juice, and add it to the saucepan to form a broth.  Take sweet almonds, grind fine, moisten with a little apricot juice, and throw in.  Some colour with a trifle saffron.  Spray the saucepan with a little rosewater; wipe its sides with a clean rag, and leave to settle over the fire; then remove.

The redacted version:

2 lbs boneless lamb, in chunks
1 tsp salt
1 - 2 onions, finely chopped
1 tsp each ground coriander, cumin
1/2 tsp each ground pepper, cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 lb dried apricots, soaked in boiling water for 15 minutes, boiled 5 minutes, and pureed in a blender
2 oz ground almonds
1 tsp rosewater
optional:  1/4 tsp pulverized mastic, pinch of saffron

As directed in the original translated recipe above, cook the lamb with onion and seasonings over a low heat, covered, until tender, at least 1 hour.  Meanwhile, prepare apricot puree.  Moisten ground almonds with a little of the puree, and add, with the rest of the apricot mixture, for the last few minutes of cooking.  Sprinkle on rosewater.  Remove from heat, cover, and let stand in a warm place at least 5 minutes before serving.

No spices were in this picture.
The only lamb available to me at the store today was lamb chops, and I managed to get one pound of meat cut from the bones.  So I did a half recipe.  I think it is important to cut the lamb into bite-sized chunks and remove most of the fat.

The lamb, thinly sliced onions, and spices (sorry, no mastic) all went into one pan, were covered with water, and placed on the stove.  I had the heat up high until it started to bubble, then I turned it down to a barely simmering state.  At the demonstration, I put a lot of charcoal around the pot until it steamed, then I pulled away the coals until I barely saw bubbling.

I need to point out that the mixture of spices already made my mouth water, before anything started cooking!

Meanwhile, the apricots were soaked in hot water (nearly simmering) for most of the lamb's cooking time.  Yes, I know I didn't follow directions but I was replicating what I had to do at the demonstration -- blenders just aren't an Elizabethan cooking implement and sieves are pesky to use in the outdoors, so I simmered the apricots until they were falling apart, then I put them into my big mortar and mashed them with my pestle until they were pretty smooth.

My modern blender made the apricot puree an easy task, although not as fun as using a mortar and pestle.

At the demo, I tend to lose track of time so I think the lamb simmered for at least two hours.  It was certainly tender and the water had converted to a luscious broth.  Today I simmered it for an hour and the meat was ready.

It was hard to wait the five or so minutes after mixing but I know it is important to allow the flavors to blend.  At the demo, it allowed the stew to cool enough so people could taste it without burning their mouths.

Lamb broth, just before the puree was added
The Verdict

Mixing the lamb and onion broth with the pureed apricots and ground almonds created a stew with a thick sauce at the demo and a somewhat thinner one at home.  The spices compliment the fruit and creamy nut flavors.  The lamb is delicate yet meaty and the onions are an excellent background flavor and texture.  The broth brings them all together but still supplies a richness.

Oh yes, most definitely a success.

At the demonstration, when the stew was ready I was surrounded by visitors who wanted a taste.  I gave them each a spoon and suggested they get a piece of meat along with enough sauce to get the flavor of it all.  I suspect my sauce was thicker there because I had to guess at the right amount of apricots and I probably used more than the recipe called for.  The other possibility is that at home I used more water to simmer the lamb than I did before.

The reaction was unanimous:  "This is delicious!", "Oh WOW!", "Really good!", and "What was that recipe again?" were the comments I heard.  Even the self-proclaimed "picky" eaters liked it. 

Just so you know, I didn't use rosewater in the demonstration dish.  I know that rosewater is an acquired taste and if you are not expecting it or accustomed to it, the floral scent can shock your taste buds or nose.  But I used it on today's recipe and I liked it, although I would probably use a lot less even just for myself until I am more used to it.

One last comment:  If all the meat is eaten and there is still sauce left, don't despair!  Just sop it up with chunks of bread because that is an excellent combination, too. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Emeles -- Medieval Almond Cakes

As promised in the previous post, I returned to one of my favorite books, Pleyn Delit by Hieatt, Hosington, and Butler.  I have the second edition.

Emeles are a great way to turn the ground almonds used in making almond milk into something tasty and different.  These are called "cakes" but they look for all the world like little pork sausage patties -- hopefully that gives you a better mental picture of what to expect from this recipe. 

Here's the original recipe (#129 in the book):


Take sugar, salt, almonds, and white bread, and grind them together; then add eggs; then grease or oil or butter, and take a spoon and brush them [i.e., the frying almond cakes] and then remove them and sprinkle them with dry sugar.

The redacted version is this:

Almond Cakes

1 cup breadcrumbs (or more depending on freshness of bread)
4 ounces ground almonds
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar (separated)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
oil and/or fat for frying

Yes, that is just four ounces of almonds there!

Blend dry ingredients with eggs (reserving the extra 2 tablespoons of sugar).  

Blended dry ingredients just before the eggs are mixed in

Not what I think of as a batter
Heat the oil or fat in a frying pan and drop in the batter in small spoonfuls, flattening with the spoon if necessary.  Turn over once if not using deep fat.  Drain on paper and sprinkle with the reserved sugar before serving -- preferably warm.

First side cooking; just about ready to be turned
Alternatively, chill batter for about 1 hour, then divide it into 20 balls and flatten into cakes.  This way, most of the work can be done ahead of time and the cakes will be more uniform in size and shape.

Honestly not sausage patties!

If I am starting with whole almonds, I find I get the best results from grinding them in the blender if they go in frozen.  The problem is that if they get warm from the whirling blades, the oil can separate out.  When they are frozen, they are hard (and so seem to grind better) and cold.  I haven't had any problems using frozen almonds and processing them in small batches.

I mix all the dry ingredients with a fork until they are uniformly blended.  Then I add the eggs and stir until the mixture is moist with no dry spots. 

I did not chill the batter, which is more like a sticky, crumbly dough.  After the oil is hot, I scoop a little into a soup spoon, press it down firmly with my hand, then slip the patty into the oil.  I usually do about 5 at a time so as not to drop the temperature of the oil too much with overcrowding.

It is important to compress the mixture so it stays as a patty instead of breaking up in the oil.

The patties need to be pretty thin because they cook so quickly.  I keep them to between 1/4 to 1/2 inch, mostly closer to 1/4 inch thick.  It is easy to scorch them, so keep an eye on them while they are in the oil.   Have the paper towel covered plate ready in advance so you can stop the cooking process when the patty is a dark golden brown.

I've experimented with sprinkling them with a cinnamon-sugar blend, too. 

The Verdict
Kids love these and so do I.  The taste is subtle, not strong.  The toasted nutty flavor is dominant with just enough sweet to convince your taste buds you are having a treat but not so much to be overwhelming.  They are a bit crunchy and that is a nice texture to have.  They are tasty warm or cool!

Success!  (But I've made them many times, so that is no surprise.)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Romania -- Chicken with Pomegranate Juice

 This is another book I borrowed for a short time and was not able to get a picture of the cover before returning it.  It is The Medieval Kitchen by Redon, Sabban, and Serventi.  The ISBN is 978-0226706856.  The image below is from

The book brings us recipes from medieval France and Italy, which had some different ingredients available than the same time period in England.  Romania is listed on page 88, in the chapter "Meats Cooked in Sauce".  They mention that both sweet and sour pomegranates were available and this recipe called for the sour variety.  Since those aren't available in my area, they recommend adding some lemon juice to brighten the flavor.

Romania -- Chicken with Pomegranate Juice

1 free-range chicken, about 3 1/4 pounds
2 fresh pomegranates
1 cup unblanched almonds
1 medium large onion
2 ounce fresh pork fatback
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon strong spice mixture (*see notes below)

Wash the almonds and dry them thoroughly.  When they are completely dry, grind them to a powder in a blender.  Remove from blender jar and set aside (you need not wash the blender before the next step).

Cut the pomegranates in half an scoop out all their seeds into the blender jar.  Puree the seeds and strain; this should yield 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups of juice.  Mix the juice and the ground almonds, and add the lemon juice.  Press the mixture through a fine strainer; the result will be an almond milk made with pomegranate juice instead of water.

Cut the chicken into serving pieces and pat dry.  Sprinkle with salt.  Cut the fat into 1/8-inch dice  and render it over low heat in a heavy-bottomed casserole.

Peel the onion and slice into thin rings.  When the fat has rendered, brown the chicken and onion until evenly golden.  If excess fat remains in the casserole, spoon most of it out before proceeding.

Add the almond-pomegranate juice and the spices.  Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down as low as possible and simmer, covered, until the chicken is tender, 30 to 45 minutes.

Check for seasoning and serve.

It looks like the olive oil bottle needs refilling
I'll admit it -- I'm a modern cook using medieval recipes.  Yes, I took some modern shortcuts.  Pomegranates are not yet in season (close!) so I bought pomegranate juice.  I also used the healthier choice of olive oil rather than pork fatback.  Maybe I lost some extra flavor with that decision, but I think my arteries are thanking me for it.

I bought a whole chicken as per the recipe but next time I think I'll just use a cut up one or, even better by my tastes, a package of boneless, skinless thighs.

The "strong spice mixture" is listed as "recipe 150, variation C" further on in the book.  It is basically 1 part ground black pepper, 1 part long pepper, 3 parts ground cloves, and 3 parts ground nutmeg.  At least that is what I used.  I put them all in my coffee-grinder-dedicated-to-grinding-spices-only and whirred them into a powder.

I have long pepper (see the Wikipedia article at because I cook in the medieval and Renaissance time period.  It is much like black pepper but with a more fiery bite.  The mixture I put together had quantities that were just eye-balled and it did smell strong and peppery.

Anyway, it was easy to grind the almonds and mix them with the juices.  I let them steep (always a good idea for almond milk) while I cut up the chicken and then browned it with the onions.

Nearly all browned
When I strain almond milk, I always lose a lot of the moisture into the almond meal, so I didn't get much more than 1 cup of the milk from it.  ** TAKE NOTE:  save the used almond meal for a dessert called "Emeles".  See the next posting.

The almond milk was mostly brown so I'm not sure how the authors got the "rosy color" they refer to in the text.  I tasted it and was wowed by the burst of flavor in my mouth.  I couldn't wait to try this dish!

Not rosy but wowsie!
After I poured on the sauce, I sprinkled the spices evenly over the chicken pieces.

I even made sure some of the onion was on top of the chicken.  Then I covered it, set the heat to very low, and walked away for 45 minutes.

'Tis done.

The Verdict
I tried a thigh with some onion and a few spoonfuls of sauce over the top.  Success!  The authors said it would have a "gentle flavor" and it certainly did.  The juice flavors I tasted before cooking had mellowed considerably and blended with the chicken, spices, and onion.  I liked it a lot!

I noticed that some of the sauce around the edges had thickened more than what I had scooped out, so I tried that, too.  Oh, I liked this even more!  The flavor was richer and the sauce stayed longer on my tongue.  The thick pieces of chicken hadn't cooked all the way through (my heat is very low) so I turned it back on and simmered them, uncovered, for another 20 minutes on very low. Now all the meat was cooked and all the sauce was thick. Much, much better!

I truly liked the mellow fruit and spice flavor.  But I was also intrigued with the idea of getting more of that rosy color and a stronger burst of pomegranate, so I took some of the sauce and mixed in just a splash of pomegranate juice.  This was good over the chicken, too!

So make your choice:  Want your sauce to have a gentle, subtle flavor?  Follow the recipe.  Want it to be thicker?  Reduce it and the flavor will intensify a bit, too.  Want that rosy color and a stronger pomegranate flavor?  I would reserve out about 1/4 cup of the pomegranate-lemon juice mix and add it at the very end.

Who knew this recipe could be so versatile?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Pwdin Caws -- Cheese Pudding from Wales

I borrowed this book from the library:  The Welsh Dresser -- More Recipes from Wales by Sian Llewellyn.  It was first published in 1974 but I think the one I borrowed was published in 1978.  I forgot to take a picture of the cover, so I found this one on Amazon (sorry it is blurry!):

ISBN 9780860050377
If you could read the front cover, you would see that he labels "cheese" as "caws" in Welsh.  So I think "pwdin caws" translates to "pudding cheese" or "cheese pudding".  Here is the recipe that caught my eye (from page 31).

Pwdin Caws

4 ounces Cheddar cheese
3 ounces bread crumbs
1 ounce butter
2 eggs 
salt and pepper
1/2 pint milk

Heat the butter with the milk and pour over the bread crumbs.  Grate the cheese.  Separate the egg yolks from the white.  Beat the yolks lightly and add to the bread crumb mixture with most of the cheese.  Season to taste.  Whip the egg whites stiffly and fold into the mixture.  Pour into a buttered pie dish and cover with the remaining cheese.  Cook for 30 - 40 minutes in a moderate oven (350 degrees Fahrenheit, 177 degrees Celsius, gas mark 4).

I used dried bread crumbs because I figured their job was to soak up the milk/butter mix and thicken the pudding.  It was the right thing to do.

Since those measures were in ounces, I got out my trusty digital kitchen scale and weighed them appropriately.  By the way, two tablespoons of salted butter really does weigh one ounce!  (I was told so but always wondered.)  The microwave took one minute to heat the milk and the butter until the butter was melted. 

After I poured the milk/butter mix into the bread crumbs, I stirred it.  This seemed to help the crumbs soak up the liquid quickly.

I used more pepper to season because I am finally making friends with that spice.  Mostly it is too strong for me.  Because the butter was salted, I used less salt in the mix than I might normally do.

Crumbs, milk, butter, egg yolks, salt, pepper
The stiffly-beaten egg whites folded in neatly to the rest of the mixture.  At this point I realized what I was making was a simple cheese souffle'.  I love souffle's!!

With folded in egg whites
Since it says to use "most of the cheese", I guessed that 3/4 should go in the pudding and the rest on top.  That was enough to spread across the pan in a very decorative way.

The oven preheated while I was doing the rest of the work.  While cooking, the cheese pudding smelled absolutely heavenly.  After 30 minutes the middle looked set and the dish was ready.

The Verdict
It wasn't as fluffy as I thought it would be but still, it was not dense at all.  It was a little too oily-looking for my senses but it certainly didn't taste greasy.  The bread crumbs made it a little chewy, which was a welcome body of texture to the dish.  The flavor was good -- I could taste the extra-sharp cheddar cheese and the spices seemed right for it.  I probably could have put in a little more pepper but certainly not more salt.

I declare a success!

I think this dish could play the role of appetizer (cut in thin wedges), side dish (with some roast beef to compliment the cheddar), or main course for a light meal. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

More on the Ymbre Tart

I made this tart to take to a potluck party.

From my experience in the previous post, I microwaved the onions for 8 minutes on high, which made them cooked to tender.

I also used the food processor to chop them so they were bits instead of long, thin slices.

Finally, I had no dried currants so I used three dried prunes.  I cut them into slices with a knife and added them to the onions in the food processor before they were chopped.

The result was OUTSTANDING.  The prunes added that extra depth-of-flavor and a light sweetness that I have never gotten from using the currants.  The fully-cooked onions were a joy to taste -- mild and subtle.

Overall, my reaction was "I can't stop eating this!"   I received several compliments at the party, including one from a professional caterer who wanted the details of the recipe.

It was even better the next day after it had chilled.

From now on, I will use prunes instead of dried currants for this recipe!


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Tart in Ymbre Day (An Onion Tart)

At my daughter's behest, I returned to one of my favorite books, Pleyn Delit:  Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks by Hieatt, Hosington, and Butler and published by the University of Toronto Press.

ISBN 0-8020-7632-7
Her desire?

Tart for an Ember Day

Take and perboile oynouns & erbis & presse out the water & hewe hem smale.  Take grene chese & bray it in a morter, and temper it up with ayren.  Do thereto butter, safroun & salt, & raisouns corauns, & a litel sugur with powdour douce, & bake it in a trap, & serve it forth.

This translates to

2 large onions, peeled and sliced or chopped
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp chopped sage (less if dried)
3 oz cream cheese  OR 1/2 cup cottage cheese
4 eggs
2 tbsp butter
pinch ground saffron
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp currants
1/8 tsp sugar
pinch each ground cardamom, mace
unbaked pie shell

Parboil the onions and herbs; add butter to thoroughly drained onions.  Blend the cheese with the eggs.  Add butter, and remaining ingredients and stir in the onions and herbs.  Bake in a 350 degree oven 30 - 40 minutes, until the filling is set and the pastry lightly browned.

Sans currants
The Free Dictionary gives this definition:

Em·ber Day  (mbr)
A day reserved for prayer and fasting by some Christian churches, observed on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the first Sunday of Lent, after Whitsunday, after September 14, and after December 13.

In the medieval era, it wasn't for fasting as much as it was for avoiding meat but dairy products were permitted.   This is a medieval vegetarian dish!

Credit Where It Is Due
My daughter shopped for, prepared, and cooked this entire recipe!

She makes her own pie crusts (see recipe below) which she then rolled out and patted into her pan.

"Parboiling" means boiling until barely tender, so she modernized the cooking of the onions by microwaving them for about 7 minutes after peeling them and cutting them in half.  Once they were cool enough to handle, she sliced them thinly.  The parsley was also microwaved for about a minute.

She blended the eggs and cheese by hand and noted that they would have blended better if the cheese had been warmed to room temperature.  Or perhaps they could have been mixed by a machine.  Once everything was mixed, into the crust it went.

It baked for 40 minutes and came out as per the recipe description.

Fresh out of the oven
However the middle was still pretty gooey (although set), so she put it under the broiler until the surface was bubbly and there was more browning.
Fresh out of the broiler
This looked much better and was cooked through.

The Verdict

This is tasty; much like a quiche.  The filling was a lot like creamy scrambled eggs with a herby, savory undertone.  I liked how the onions were just slightly crisp but not so much as to have a strong onion-y bite.  Some who tried it thought the onions could be cooked a little more.

Overall, a success!  It was good for dinner and the leftovers were good the next day for breakfast.  Paired with a salad (green at dinner or fruit at breakfast), it would be an excellent main course.  It could also be cut into little slices and served as an appetizer, although then I would chop the onions instead of slicing them.


The Pie Crust

She uses this recipe:

Please look at this website for the ingredients and instructions.  She loves it because it is so very simple to put together and works every time.  She just might have me converted!

Looks simple enough!
Those aren't hard-boiled eggs but spoonfuls of shortening

After the prescribed pulsing
Lovingly squeezed by hand

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Bone Marrow -- No, really!

My daughter is an anthropologist and tried bone marrow as part of a Paleolithic archaeology seminar.  Of course she wanted me to try it, too!  I was dubious.  My imagination said this was going to be weird, maybe slimy or with some other unwelcome texture.  And I thought the flavor would be... off....

But I am a foodie and I felt I would lose credibility if she offered it and I refused.

Her recipe is not historical.  But the idea of eating bone marrow certainly is and I have seen many recipes in the old books.  So here is her take on it with my reactions.

Roasted Bone Marrow with Lemon Parsley Sauce

From New York Times via High/Low Food Drink 

  • 8 to 12 center-cut beef or veal marrow bones, 3 inches long, 3 to 4 pounds total
  • 1 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Coarse sea salt to taste
  • 4 1-inch thick slices of country bread
The olive oil avoided having its picture taken

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put bones, cut side up, on foil-lined baking sheet or in ovenproof skillet. Cook until marrow is soft and has begun to separate from the bone, about 15 minutes. (Stop before marrow begins to drizzle out.)
  2. Meanwhile, combine parsley, shallots and capers in small bowl. Just before bones are ready, whisk together olive oil and lemon juice and drizzle dressing over parsley mixture until leaves are just coated. Put roasted bones, parsley salad, salt and toast on a large plate. To serve, scoop out marrow, spread on toast, sprinkle with salt and top with parsley salad.
Serves 4.

Credit Where It Is Due

My daughter did all the shopping, preparations, and cooking here.  : )


I guess there was a run on bone marrow that day because she went to two different sources and could only find the two bones -- and that was after asking the butcher to cut some for her.  We made do with what was available.

She made a little tray out of foil to hold the marrow and placed it all on a cookie sheet.

While the marrow was roasting, she put together the parsley salad.

During the 15 minutes of roasting, the kitchen began to smell like the best meaty roast you have ever smelled.  My tastebuds began to water!

The bones were sitting in a puddle of yellow oil that people have described as "meat butter".  We scraped out the little bit of brown marrow we could get, spread some of it on the bread as well as dipping the bread into the oil.  

There was more marrow in the bones than just this!
The Verdict:  I tasted it without any of the parsley salad.  Oh.  My.  The flavor was rich, meaty, buttery.  I had no problems with the texture:  it was just like eating garlic bread, but much, much better.  Marrow is perfect to put on bread.  The only thing it needed, really, was a bit of salt.  I could have eaten it all just as it was.  Success!

Here it is with the salad.
This tasted excellent, too.  The parsley, capers, and shallots blended well together with the olive oil and lemon dressing.  They complimented the meaty marrow flavor and had just enough acid bite to make it sparkle.  I sprinkled a little salt over the top of it all.
I think the only thing I would do differently would be to chop the parsley and shallots finer, so they sat easily on the bread. 

I feel I have successfully retained my Foodie title while getting to know an historical food source that was much tastier than my imagination allowed for.  This is definitely a repeater and a fun way to challenge my dinner guests' sense of adventure!