Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Renaissance Cheese Fritters

This simply gorgeous recipe is redacted from a translation of "The art of cooking, composed by the Eminent Maestro Martino of Como".  This 15th century manuscript showcases some of the finest Italian renaissance cuisine, and has been published as "The art of cooking: the first modern cookery book" by the University of California press.

The recipe is called "Fritters made with egg whites, sifted flour, and fresh cheese"  The main recipe and technique is from the previous recipe for Elderflower fritters, so I will give you the relevant bits of that recipe as well.

Recipe 1:  Take some good fresh cheese, and a little aged cheese, and crush well, adding a bit of sifted flour to them and the necessary amount of egg whites; likewise, a little milk and some sugar; and grind all these things well together.. [bits about elderflowers removed]. so you can form the round fritters using your hands, or in whatever shape you like, and then fry them in good rendered lard or butter, or in good oil, and serve very hot. 

Recipe 2: Follow the directions and method  described in the previous recipe, but add neither milk nor elderflowers to these fritters. 

Here is my version.

Fresh Cheese Fritters

250g ricotta cheese
60g parmesan, grated
2 egg whites
60g white flour

Take the ricotta and grated parmesan, and put them in a bowl. Gradually add the sifted flour, the egg whites and just a pinch of sugar.  Form round fritters using your hands, and fry them in a little oil. Serve them hot.  (hint: I found that having wet hands made it easier to stop the dough from sticking to the hands)

Incredibly easy, and quite incredibly delicious.  Makes approximately 12 fritters.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fine Cakes 2 - from the Good Huswife's Jewell

Here is an old recipe from "The Good Husewife's Jewell" published in 1596:
Take fine flowre and good Damaske water you must have no other liqueur but that, then take sweet butter, two or three yolkes of egges and a good quantity of Suger, and a few cloves, and mace, as your Cookes mouth shall serve him, and a lyttle saffron, and a little Gods good about a sponfull if you put in too much they shall arise, cutte them in squares lyke unto trenchers, and pricke them well, and let your oven be well swept and lay them uppon papers and so set them into the oven. Do not burne them if they be three or foure days old they bee the better.

My redaction:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 175g butter
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1tsp saffron, ground
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • 2 tsp mace, ground
  • 3 tablespoons rosewater
  • 1 tsp baking powder
Mix dry ingredients, and rub in the butter to make something resembling fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks and rosewater, and mix to make a dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for an hour or so to settle. Roll out to 5mm and cut out shapes. Bake for about 20 minutes at 175 degrees until lightly golden.

Compound Sallet

A while back I helped cater a renaissance feast for 138 people. I have realised that I have neglected to share with you my recipes! How terrible am I?

People often ask me, when I tell them that I cook medieval and renaissance food "what did people eat apart from big joints of roasted meat?". Well, here is a wickedly lavish salad that proves that there was SO much more to the renaissance palate than lumps of flesh!

Compound Sallet [The English Hous-wife, 1615]:

To compound an excellet Sallet, and which indeed is usuall at great Feasts, and upon Princes Tables, take a good quantity of blancht Almonds, and with your shredding knife cut them grossly. Then take as many Raisins of the Sun clean washt, and the stones pickt out, as many Figs shred like the Almonds, as many Capers, twice so many Olives,and as many Currants as of all the rest, clean washt, a good handfull of the small tender leaves of red Sage and Spinage: mixe all these well together with good store of Sugar, and lay them in the bottom of a great dish. Then put unto them Vineger and Oyl, and scrape more Suger over all: then take Oranges and Lemmons, and paring away the outward pilles cut them into thinne slices.Then with those slices cover the Sallet all over. Then over those Red leaves lay other course of old Olives, and the slices of well pickled Cucumbers, together with the very inward heart of Cabbage lettice cut into slices. Then adorn the sides of the dish, and the top of the Sallet with more slices of Lemons and Oranges, and so serve it up.

An actual recipe with quantities isn't really necessary with this dish; as you can see, it is basically a great mixture of different ingredients.

  • Almonds
  • Sultanas (raisins)
  • Figs
  • Capers
  • Olives
  • Red Sage
  • Currants
  • Baby Spinach leaves
  • Pickled cucumbers
  • Sugar
  • Vinegar
  • Oil
  • Cabbage
  • Lemon and Orange slices (for my salad I actually used pickled lemon slices)