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

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