Monday, February 8, 2010

More Medieval Recipes

I made another dinner from medieval recipes
(using the Pleyn Delit book again)
when my parents came over for Sunday dinner.
I had fun playing "guess that ingredient" with them.

For starters, Green Savory Soup.
It is spinach and onions and chicken broth and eggs,
and it did live up to its name,
though I found that the broth tended to separate from the pureed spinach:

For sides,
brussels sprouts tossed with olive oil & vinegar
(quite tasty, if you like brussels sprouts,
which I do):

These look like potatoes, but they are not.
Potatoes are a New World food.
They are turnips, cooked with sage
(recipe called for chestnuts, too,
but I couldn't find any locally).

Then the pork roast.
I went to Costco to get a really good roast,
and I cooked it in my earthenware terrine from Strasbourg,
with just a very little liquid
and a blend of spices: garlic, salt & pepper,
ground caraway seed and coriander seed.
I never liked caraway baked in goods,
but I liked it in this recipe.
The pork was very flavorful.

Some of the recipes call for "unusual" spices,
or unusual uses of spices
(e.g., cinnamon in a dish that is savory not sweet)
but the idea that medieval people used spices to mask the taste of meat that had gone off is not correct. In fact most of the time their meat was probably fresher than ours-- they ate or preserved it (by salting or smoking) pretty immediately after slaughtering.
No, the use of spices is a taste-oriented thing.
The poor folks in the middle ages didn't have vanilla, chocolate, potatoes, tomatoes, maize, cranberries, pineapple, chile peppers or any other of dozens of lovely New World foods that we enjoy today. Imagine a world without vanilla! It doesn't surprise me that they reached instead for the cinnamon jar (or the cardamom, pepper or ginger) at any excuse.

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