Sunday, July 5, 2020


Recipes for making and using Marzipan

In the following, I am attempting to provide a collection of recipes for marzipan or marchpane, gathered by country.  I have not, for the moment, included the recipe in the original language of publication, nor have I provided a modern recipe. Please note too that this is not an exhaustive list and I will continue to add to it over time.   My thanks to the kind and generous people who have transcribed and translated these recipes and shared them freely with the rest of us.


To make Manus Christi.

Good Huswives jewell, 1585

Take sixe spoonefull of Rosewater, and graines of Ambergreece, and 4. grains of Pearle beaten very fine, put these three together in a Saucer and couer it close, and let it stande couered one houre, then take foure ounces of very fine Suger, and beat it small, and search it through a fine search, then take a little earthen pot glased,and put into it a spoonefull of Suger, and a quarter of spoonefull of Rosewater, and let the Suger and the Rosewater boyle together softelye, till it doe rise and fall a-
gaine three times. Then take fine Rie flo-wer, and sifte on a smooth borde, and with a spoone take of the Suger, and the Rosewater, and first make it all into a rounde cake, and then after into little Cakes, and when they be halfe colde, wet them ouer with the same Rosewater, and then laye on your golde, and so shall you make very good Manus Christi.


Delights for Ladies, England, 1609

12 - To make an excellent Marchpane paste, to print off in moulds for banquetting dishes. Take to every Jordan Almond blanched, three spoonefuls of the whitest refined sugar you can get: searce your sugar, and now and then, as you see cause, put in two or three drops of damask Rose-water: beare the same in a smooth stone mortar, with great labour, until you have brought it into a dry stiffe paste: one quarterne of sugar is sufficient to worke at once.

Make your paste in little bals, every ball containing so much by estimation, as will cover your mould or print; then roune the same with a rowling pin upon a sheet of cleane paper, without strewing any powdered sugar either upon your paste or paper. There is a countrey Gentlewoman whom I could name, which venteth great store of sugar-cakes made of this composition. But the only fault which I find in this paste is, that it tasteth too much of the sugar, and too little of the almonds: and therefore you may prove the making thereof by such almonds which have had some of their oil taken from them by expression, before you incorporate them with the sugar; and so happely you may mix a greater quantity of them with the sugar, because they are not oylie as the other.

You may mix cinamon or ginger in your paste, & that will both grace the taste, and alter the colour, but the spice must passe thorow a faire searce; you may steep your almonds in cold water all night, & so blanch them cold, and being blanched, dry them in a sieve over the fire. Heere the ???? of almonds will make a cheap paste.

18 - To make a Marchpane. Take two pounds of Almonds being blanched and dryed in a sieve over a fire: beat them in a stone mortar; and when they bee small, mix with them two pounds of sugar being finely beaten, adding 2 or 3 spoonfuls of Rose-water, and that will keeps your almonds from oyling. When your paste is beaten fine, drive it thin with a rowling ping, and so lay it on a bottom of wafers: then raise up a little edge on the side, and so bake it: then yce it with Rose-water and sugar: then put it into the oven once again, and when you see your yce is rise up, & dry, then take it out of the oven, & garnish it with pretty conceits, as birds and beasts, being cast out of standing moulds. Stick long comfits upright in it: cast biskets and carrowaies on it, and so serve it: gild it before you serve it: you may also print off this Marchpane paste in your molds for banquetting dishes: and of this paste our comfitmakers at this day make their letters, knots, Arms, Escocheons, beasts, birds,
and other fancies.


The English Housewife (1615)

To make the best marchpane, take the best Jordan almonds and blanch them in warm water, then put them into a stone mortar, and with a wooden pestle beat them to pap, then take of the finest refined sugar well searced, and with it, and damask rose-water, beat it to a good stiff paste, allowing almost to every Jordan almond three spoonful of sugar. Then when it is brought thus to a paste, lay it upon a fair table, and, strewing searced sugar under it, mould it like leaven; then with a rolling pin roll it forth, and lay it upon wafers washed with rose water, then pinch it about the sides, and put it into whatever form you please; then strew searced sugar all overit, which done wash it over with rose-water and sugar mixed together, for that will make the ice, then adorn it with comfits, gilding, or whatsoever devices you please, and so set it into a hot stove and there bake it crispy and so serve it forth. Some use to mix with the paste cinnamon and ginger finely searced, but I refer that to your particular taste.



Ouverture de Cuisine, 1604 - Daniel Myers, translation

To make Marzipan. Take almonds appointed as above, & flatten the paste as for making a tart, then form the marzipan as fancy as you want, then take sifted sugar & mix with rose water, & beat it together that it is like a thick batter, cast there a little on the marzipan, & flatten with a well held knife until the marzipan is all covered, then put it into the oven on paper: when you see that it boils thereon & that it does like ice, tear apart from the oven, when it doesn't boil, & sprinkle on nutmeg: if you want it golden, make it so. 


Fruit Made of Sugar [Marzipan]

An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook, Andalusia, 13th c. - Charles Perry, translator

Add one part of sieved sugar to one part of cleaned and pound almonds. Knead it all with rose water and roll your hand in almond oil and make with it whatever you want of all fruits and shapes, if God wishes.

Marzipans for invalids who have lost the desire to eat, very good and of great sustenance (91)

Libre del Coch, 1520 - Robin Carroll-Mann, translator

Take a very fat capon or a hen which is very fat, and cook it with just your salt until it is very well-cooked; then take the breasts from it, and all the white meat without skin, and weigh that meat, and take as much peeled almonds, and combine the meat and the almonds; and take as much fine white sugar as all of this, and grind the almonds a great deal, and then the meat with them, and then the sugar; and then grind everything together, and stretch that dough upon a wafer, and make little marzipans of the size that you wish; and make the edges a little high, and let it be a little deep in the middle; and moisten it with orange-flower water with some feathers. 

And then sprinkle fine ground and sifted sugar over that water, and then moisten it again, and sprinkle it as before; and then cook them in the oven in some flat casseroles, and paper underneath; and let the fire of the oven be moderate; and upon removing it from the casserole, the paper must be cast off of each one, in such a manner that the marzipan does not break. And this is a very singular dish and of great support for the invalids who have lost the [desire] to eat; because the little of this that they eat is of more sustenance than any other thing; principally drinking in addition to it the sulsido of hens made in the jug; and this cannot have a value placed upon it.

Marzipans (Mazapanes)

Libro de Guisados, Ruperto de Nola (Spain 1529) (translation by Robin Caroll-Mann)

Take almonds which are select, and wholesome, and well-peeled in boiling water.  And grind them very well, moistening the pestle of the mortar in rosewater so that they don't become oily.  And when they are well-ground, cast in as much syrupy sugar as there will be almonds; and let it be well-ground, and strained through a silk sieve; and make good paste incorporating the sugar little by little, and not with large amounts, so that you don't make the paste viscous, and spread them out very well.

The way to cook and glaze them:

Take fine sugar which is very well-ground, and strain it through a sieve of silk; and for a syrup put it in this way, and blend it with rosewater which is reasonably thick.

It is necessary that the oven is not very intense, but temperate; and take the sheet on which you will cook the marzipans, and heat it in the oven; and when it is hot, cast flour on it, under the marzipans, so that they don't stick; and put them in the oven until you see that you cannot bear to touch them with the back of your hand; and if the outside is not cooked, be sure to return it to the edge of the sheet with the outside on the inside.  And then take them out and with a little spoon cast glaze upon them, and with some feathers spread it out all over.  And then return them gently to the oven until the glaze hardens, as you think [right] according to the practice you have seen.

Fritter Of Marzipan (Fruta De Mazapa)

Take blanched almonds [which are] very well-ground; and when they have been ground, cast in sugar; and for a pound of almonds another pound of sugar; and grind it all together, and as you are grinding it, feed it with rosewater, and let all be as well ground as you can; and then take well-sifted flour, and knead it with eggs and lard, and a little white wine, and make little cakes; and cast that paste in them, and set a frying pan with lard; and after heating it well, cast the fritter within, and fry it slowly; and then on the plate cast honey, and sugar, and cinnamon on it.



Das Kuchbuch der Sabina Welserin, 16th century - V. Armstrong, translator

22. If you would make good marzipan. First take a half pound of almonds and soak them overnight in cold well water, take them out in the morning. Next pound them well until they become oily, pour a little rose water on them and pound them further. When they become oily again, then pour a little more rose water thereon. Do this until they no longer become oily. And pound the almonds as small as possible. After that take a half pound of sugar, pound not quite all of it in, leaving a little left over. Next, when the almonds and sugar are pounded well together, put them in a bowl, take the lid from a small box, loosen the rim completely, so that it can be detached and put back on again, however leave the lid and the rim together. 

Take wafers and make them about as wide as a pastry shell, very round. Spread the almond paste described above with the fingers onto the wafers, moistening the fingers with rose water and dipping the almond paste into the sugar, which you have kept in reserve. After that, when you have spread it out evenly with your hands, take the sugar that you have reserved and sprinkle it through a sieve evenly over the marzipan. And take a small brush and dip it in rose water and sprinkle the marzipan overall, so that the sugar is dissolved. Then let it bake. 

Check it often, so that it is not burnt. It should be entirely white. The amount of a half pound is necessary, so that the oil remains.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Pease Pies

A friend recently put a call out for a vegan recipe and I thought immediately of these. You would have to omit the butter, but perhaps a bit of vegan margarine would be a reasonable substitute, as it does add a wee something to the mouthfeel of these tiny pockets of goodness.

This is one of my favourite quick and easy picnic and potluck dishes. I often make them as little half moon shaped pastries, rather than as a pie, which is perfect for a potluck. I have given instructions for this method rather than whole large pies. If you make larger pies, just be warned that when you cut them, your peas will be escape artists and roll around the place!

I haven’t provided quantities here, because it has been a while since I last made them, and I tend to play it a bit by ear. I will try to update this after I next make a batch.

To make a close Tarte of green Pease

Take half a peck of green Pease, sheale them and seeth them, and cast them into a cullender, and let the water go from them then put them into the Tart whole, & season them with Pepper, saffron and salte, and a dishe of sweet butter, close and bake him almost one houre, then drawe him, and put to him a little Vergice, and take them and set them into the Oven againe, and so serve it. The Good Housewife’s Jewell, 1596


Peas (you can use frozen at a pinch but of course freshly shelled peas are better!)


Cook your peas in fresh water and drain. While still warm add a generous amount of pepper salt, butter and lightly ground saffron (I find that having flecks of saffron rather than just a powder is aesthetically pleasing to both the eye and tastebuds).

Roll out your pastry and use a cup or similar sized round cutter to cut circles. Put a pastry disk in the palm of your hand and fill with a generous teaspoon of peas (doing this in the hand rather than on a board is actually much easier as you don’t lose your peas.

Fold the sides together and pinch around the edges making half moon shaped pasties.

Bake in a moderate oven till the pastry is lightly browned.

Pull out of the oven, and with a hyperdermic inject about a quarter of a teaspoon of verjuice into the pasty. Pop in the oven again to brown just a little more.

Ideally served hot, but at the small size, still very tasty cold.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

You say kartoffel I say tartoufle...

I have been hard at work reading up on renaissance French food of late, in preparation for the upcoming Politarchopolin Fields of Gold event, for which I am head chef.

Apparently there is some argument about the three recipes in the Ouveture de Cuisine (1604) for tartoufle.  One translated version of the recipe book has this as potato.. but is it?
The word "truffle" comes from the Vulgar Latin "tufera", itself derived from the Latin tuber.Within period the truffle was known as "tartufi" and "tartufoli" and the potato as "tartuffo" and "tartuffolo". You can see why there might be some cause for confusion eh?

Apparently the word "taratoufli" was inscribed on the pot in which a potato was planted by Clusius in 1588.  The word "tartufflo" as the word for a potato was then converted by Olivier de Serres in 1600 into "Cartoufle", which leads nicely into the German "kartoffel" that we see today, and its many variations in other countries. *

Seems pretty straight forward. But...

Cotgrave's 1611 French English dictionary has a little to say on this too... it doesn't contain any reference to the potato that I have been able to find so far, but does have:
Truffe: a gibe, mocke, flowt, jeast, gullerie; also a saligo, or water nut; also, a most daintie kind of round and russet root, or rootie excresence, which grows in forests, or dry and sandie grounds, and within the ground, but without any stalk, leafe or fiber annexed unto it.

To complicate things, in France to this day, in a geographical area from Burgundy to Provence, truffles are called "tartoufle". An indeed, conversely, apparently in other regions of France, up to Belgium, potatoes may be called "trufle", "truffe", "trefe", "trife", "trufa" or "trufo" or even more!

I am still on the hunt for more information on this... I hope to have more information soon.  In the meantime, feel free to tell me what you think....

*History and social influence of the potato by Redcliffe N Salaman and William Glynn Burton

Monday, September 14, 2015

Rosee - Chicken and rose pate

My friend known online as Quatrefoil made this dish decades ago, and it was only recently when trying to find a dish that we could serve on starter platters for a feast for 200 people that I recalled it and asked her for details.

Let me start by giving my thanks to Constance B Hieatt and Sharon Butler for bringing so many 14th century recipes to the public eye!  So here are three versions:
  1. An Ordinance of Pottage:  "Florey.  Take flourys of rosys; wesch hem & grynd hen with almond mylke. Take brawn of capons grounden & do thereto. Loke hit be stondyng. Cast theryn sugure, & cast theron the leves of floure of the rose, & serve hit forth."
  2. Utilis Coquinario - book 3 of MS Cosin 14th C. Menus: " 32. To make a rosye. Tak braun of capounces or of hennes & hew it smal, & bray it in a morter & do perto grounde bred & tempre it vp with almounde melk, & and do into a pot & lye it with amodne & colour it with safroun. & do perto white gres & stere it weel, & tak roses & hewe hem smale & do into pe pot, & seth it all togedrere& ley it with eyre, & do perto sugre & salt, & dresch it, & strewe peron rede rose leaues & serue it forth."
  3. Diuersa Servicia - book 2 of MS Cosin 14th C. Menus: "For to make rosee, tak the flowrys of rosys and wasch hem wel in water, and after bray hem wel in a morter; & than tak almondys and temper hem, & seth hem, & after tak flesch of capons or of hennys and hac yt smale, & than bray hem wel in a morter, & than do yt in the rose so that the flesch acorde wyth the mylk, & so that the mete be charchaunt: & after do yt to the fyre to boyle, & do therto sugur & safroun that yt be wel ycolowrd & rosy of leuys of the for seyde flowrys,& serue yt forth."
There are various modern versions of this recipe online but me being me, I couldn't possibly use them could I?
So let's look at the recipe bit by bit.  "Take flowers of roses". I would love to do some grand experimentation and research into what roses would have been around at the time, and what roses taste best, but unfortunately Spring had not yet sprung so I was stuck with my packet of dried rosebuds (these can often be found in middle eastern stores).  I made the decision though that I needed to add a little rosewater to the dishes to make up for the lack of flavour in the dried roses.
"Wash them and grind them with almond milk".    This seems pretty clear.  However, looking at the other contemporary recipes for the same dish the almonds seem clearly to be included in the main dish.  Hmm.... I decide that the almond flesh would add to the texture and stability of the pate and decide to include it.

"Take brawn of  capons grounden and do thereto".  Brawn nowadays is often known as head cheese and is made by boiling meat along with the bones to get gelatin.  But as a medieval term, the word is middle English and comes from the old French word "Braon", which means the fleshy part of the leg.  So we know what bit of the capon we are to use, yay! 

Sadly as I have no probably mourned in previous posts, capons aren't available here, and I had to make do with chicken thighs.   On a side note, apparently the Australian ban on capons was based on them being chemically castrated in the 60s and so if you can find someone to manually castrate the roosters and grow them, you could theoretically get capons here.  Anyone? Anyone? Pretty please with sugar on top?  Anyway, I have wandered off...

So, here comes for me, one of the big questions of the recipe. Is the meat cooked before grinding?  In the second and third versions of the recipe, the ground meat is cooked (whether for a second time or not is unclear).  Does it make a difference either way?

Well, guess I better find out eh?  So I try a few ways.  Method 1. Grind the almonds with water and rose petals and half a teaspoon of rosewater. Add ground chicken thighs and cook the mixture until it is thoroughly cooked. Season with sugar.  Result - ok, but a bit on the bland side of things. Texturally, the almonds were a bit grainy - I should have ground them more finely.  I was also concerned with cooking the raw ground chicken in the almond milk, that it would either burn around the edges (trying to cook a thick soupy liquid) or that the chicken itself would not be properly cooked through, which was a worry from a food safety point of view.

Method 2.  Cook the chicken thighs in stock.  Use a bit of the stock to grind the almonds and rose petals and rosewater.  Grind up the cooked thighs and mix in with the almond milk.  Result? Tasty tasty.  The flavour and salt from the chicken stock was a big help to the blandness and the texture was more pleasing.

250g chicken thighs
8 dried rosebuds
1/2 teaspoon rosewater
1/3 cup blanched almonds
2 cups of chicken stock

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Little Sugar Pies

(Maestre Robert "Libre del Coch" 1520, translation from "Original Mediterranean Cooking" B Santich) - redaction is my own.

Take a pound of almonds and blanch them. And grind them without adding either water or stock, so that they become very oily, and the oilier they are, the better. And take one and half pounds of white sugar, well pounded, and mix it with the almonds. And when these are mixed, if it is still a bit stiff, add a little rosewater. And season it with a little ginger, to your taste. Then take pastry made with flour and eggs and sweet oil, and fill the pastry with the sugar and the almonds. Then take oil and put it on the fire in a frying pan. And when it boils, put in the little pies, and cook them until they take on the colour of gold. And when you take them from the fire, pour over melted honey. And then sprinkle them with sugar and powdered cinnamon. 

You will see that I put less sugar in than the original recipe 

350g ground almonds
350g icing sugar
1 tsp rosewater
2 tsp ginger

½ cup wine
½ cup oil
1 egg
flour; about 2 and ½ cups
Caster sugar

Mix the almonds, icing sugar, rose water and ginger to make a firm paste like a marzipan.

While the original recipe for once does in fact give ingredients for the pastry, I played a little with it, and used a little wine in the pastry, as this gives it a wonderfully crisp texture. Mix the oil, wine and eggs, and gradually add the flour, to make a soft sticky dough. Sprinkle a board with flour, and lightly flour a rolling pin. Roll out the dough and cut out rounds. Place a little of the marzipan mixture on a round, fold in half and pinch closed (you may find that wetting the edges lightly with water will help them stick together) or run a fork around the edge.
Deep fry at 170 degrees until golden. Immediately after removing them from the oil, put them on a plate and drizzle honey over the top.
Move to drain on a draining rack (over a tray of some sort!) and then sprinkle with cinnamon and caster sugar.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Duke's powder, powder douce, powder forte - medieval spice mixtures

I thought I should type up some of the notes I have taken on this matter, rather than keeping them on a rather scrappy piece of paper.    This is simply a list of the spice blends from a number of medieval cookbooks, and will hopefully grow.  The first one from Le Menagier is one of my favourites.

Le Menagier de Paris 

14 oz cinnamon
1 oz ginger
1 oz grains of paradise
1/6 oz nutmeg
1/6 oz galingale
1 oz and 1 drachma (1/8th of an oz) white ginger
1/4 oz cinnamon
1/8 oz grains of paradise
1/8 oz cloves
1/4 oz sugar


Duke's powder

To make powdered hippocras, take a quarter of very fine cinnamon selected by tasting it, and half a quarter of fine flour of cinnamon, an ounce of selected string ginger, fine and white, and an ounce of grain of Paradise, a sixth of nutmegs and galingale together, and bray them all together. And when you would make your hippocras, take a good half ounce of this powder and two quarters of sugar and mix them with a quart of wine, by Paris measure. And note that the powder and the sugar mixed together is the Duke's powder.

Frati 15th century Italy

1/4 cloves
1 oz ginger
1 oz cinnamon
same quantity bay leaf

Libro de Guisados:

Spices for common sauce

3 parts cinnamon
2 parts cloves
1 part ginnger
1 part sugar?? (I can't read my own notes there... must check)
and a little ground coriander and a little saffron

Spices for Clarea
3 parts cinnamon
2 parts cloves
1 part ginger

Dukes Powder
1/2 oz cinnamon
1/8 cloves
1 pound sugar
a  little ginger


Powder Blanche (Haven of Health)
2 oz sugar
1/4 oz ginger
1/8 oz cinnamon

Monday, April 28, 2014

Doucettes - Honey and saffron tarts

Doucettes: MS Harlein 279 (which is 15thcentury), recipe XV in the "Vyaunde Furnez"/"Dyuerse Bake Metis" section. 

This recipe is one of the most classic and popular tarts ever served in the SCA, and for good reason - when made well they are glorious - lightly sweet honeyed tarts with a beautiful golden tint. In this recipe I am not going to get into the pie crust itself - that discussion is for another day, but am giving you a nice easy recipe for the contents.  Give it a try!  I use honey rather than sugar because I love that special flavour you get from honey, but you can make it with sugar instead. 

Doucetes -- Take Creme a gode cupfulle & put it on a straynoure; (th)anne take (y)olkys of Eyroun & put (th)er-to, & a lytel mylke; (th)en strayne it (th)orw a straynoure into a bolle; (th)en take Sugre y-now, & put (th)er-to, or ellys hony forde faute of Sugre, (th)an coloure it with Safroun; (th)an take (th)in cofyns, & put in (th)e ovens lere, & lat hem ben hardyd; (th)an take a dysshe y-fastenyd on (th) pelys ende; & pore (th)in comade in-to (th)e dyssche, & fro (th)e dyssche in-to (th)e cofyns; & when (th) don a-ryse wel, take hem out, & serue hem forth."

Doucettes  -- Take a good cupful of cream and put it through a strainer, then take yolks of eggs and add them to it, and a little milk, then strain it into a bowl. Then take enough sugar, and add it, or honey in stead of sugar, then color it with saffron; then take your coffins(crusts), and put them in the oven empty, and let them harden, then take a dish fastened to the end of your baking peel and pour your filling into the dish, and from the dish into the coffins, and when they rise well, take them out, and serve them forth.

Redaction by Kiriel (for one disposable pie tray)

2 egg yolks
125mls cream
75ml milk
2 tsp honey
3 strands of saffron

Pre-bake a pie shell. Mix the egg yolks,cream, milk and honey till well blended. Grind your saffron in a mortar and pestle and add the powder to the liquid. Pour into the hot pie shell and bake in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes to half an hour, until the mixture is set.

What to do with the 2 egg whites? Make Macaroons