The Hitchhiker's Guide to Ancient Cookery

with your host
Alexandre Lerot d'Avigné
(Number 12 in the Series, early March 1998)

At the time of this writing, the small feast has just about been filled, so I will be cooking for 20 with a budget of $100. As the reservations came in, it became apparent that a non-trivial number of those attending are vegetarians. Upon further questioning, it was discovered that they are Ovo-Lacto vegetarians. Based on this information, the feast menu was revised.

I decided to toss out the chicken and replace it with some kind of quiche. I thought of simply using the Brie Tart which is so admirably redacted in "To The King's Taste" by Lorna J. Sass, but then decided against it purely because I wanted to do something new. Sadly, I could not find a suitable recipe in Digbie, and so the theme of the feast, such as it was, fell by the wayside.

What I did find was this, from "Ancient Cookery", which seems to be credited to the Arundel Collection, No. 344, p.275-445. (This is also available from His Grace Cariadoc.)

Tart On Ember-Day
"Parboyle onions, and sauge, and parsel, and hew hom small, then take gode fatte chese, and bray hit, and do therto egges, and tempur hit up therwith, and do therto butter and sugur, and raisynges of corance, and pouder of ginger, and of canell, medel all this well togedur, and do hit in a coffyn, and bake hit uncoveret, and serve hit forthe."

For one tart, I took a couple of onions, a half-handful of sage and about the same of parsley, chopped them all fairly finely and threw them in to parboil - I boiled them maybe five minutes. For cheese, I used a nice Swiss and grated it up. I think nearly half a pound was used. Consulting with a modern cookbook, I decided that four eggs seemed about right, and I beat them lightly with half a stick of soft butter. To that I added small amounts, in the neighborhood of a few dashes of ginger and cinnamon. A tablespoon of sugar went in as well, and a good handful of currants. The whole thing was baked in a pie shell at 375 for 40 minutes or so until it tested clean.

A week or so after making this, I remembered that I had seen a redaction for something called Tart On Ember-Day somewhere. It turns out that it was in "A Miscellany" by and available from Cariadoc. A quick comparison of the two redactions shows remarkable consistency. The main difference is that I used quite a bit more sage and currants than Cariadoc et al did.

I served this to unsuspecting dinner guests along with this, from Digbie.

"Take strong broth, and boil a neck of Mutton, and a Marrow-bone in it, and skim it very well; then put in half a pound of French barley, and a bundle of sweet herbs, and two or three blades of Large-mace. Let these boil very well. Then mince half a peck of Spinage, and two great Onions very small, and let it boil one hour or more; season it with salt as you please, and send the Mutton and the Marrow-bone in a dish with French bread or Manchet to the Table."

Since I wanted something I could serve to the vegetarians, I discarded the mutton and the marrow-bone and started with a strong vegetable stock from commercial bouillon. I had somewhere in the 3 to 4 quart range of stock. I added a cup or so of barley. (Probably or so - I like barley.) For sweet herbs, I used the same mix as I did in the roast: basil, rosemary, savory, thyme, mint, marjoram, and bay leaf. A teaspoon or so of mace rounded out the spicing. While that was boiling, I diced a couple-three onions and a quantity of spinach. I used, hmm, a goodish pile, perhaps six or eight cups. The measurement is fuzzy since the space it takes up varies with how finely one chops and squishes it. That got simmered for an hour or more and was salted to taste.

Overall it was not too bad. I think it needed even more spinach, but with the amount of barley I had, it didn't need sops or anything.

That means that the menu is done! All the recipes have been redacted and tested at least once. Next time, into the home stretch of budget checks and figuring out the timing in the kitchen.

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Comments are welcome.
Alexandre Lerot d'Avigné, Jeff Berry,

Copyright Jeff Berry
Originally webbed 4/9/98
Last modified 4/9/98