The Hitchhiker's Guide to Ancient Cookery

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Alexandre Lerot d'Avigné
(Number 14 in the Series, March 1999)

The following article was written for the local newsletter's A&S Issue; it appeared in "The Curds of Whyt Whey" in April, 1999. I am planning on making up a bunch of pasties and freezing them to take to Pennsic War this year. Alexandre

Mushroom Pastry/Pastys
After Le Menagier de Paris
Don Alexandre Lerot d'Avigne
Jeff Berry

FightEatDance was on the horizon and it was a potluck, and therefore an excuse to test new recipes. As I was not planning on driving, I wanted something which could be eaten cold and which could be packed with relative ease into, say, an armor bag. I had been toying with the idea of these mushroom-filled pastries as a possible menu item for the next Hotel d'Avigne (if and when it ever happens) and the seemed to fit the bill.

The source is Le Menagier De Paris, and dates to roughly 1395. It is worth noting that the recipe I am working from is not technically a primary source. Le Menagier is a primary source, but I have a translation -- Janet Hinson's, from Cariadoc's collection. In translation, the recipe reads:

"MUSHROOMS of one night are the best, and are small and red inside, closed above: and they should be peeled, then wash in hot water and parboil; if you wish to put them in pastry, add oil, cheese and powdered spices."

That's pretty straightforward, actually. I looked around in my store and couldn't find any small red mushrooms. So I settled. I used your basic everyday white button mushrooms. I decided not to peel them since it is a) difficult and b) time- consuming. Since the purpose of peeling would be to either clean the food or to remove a tough rind, and neither is an issue with these little 'shrooms, I don't think it will be a problem.

Instead, I sliced them thin, then dropped them into boiling water for just a moment before removing. I grated a bunch of gruyere and a bunch of cheddar cheese (Sigh. Measurements, ok. 1/2 pound of each, and not quite two pounds of mushrooms.) Powdered spices. I went pretty basic: salt, pepper and, since I had them and have been wanting to try them, cubebs. Say, 1 to 2 tablespoons salt, half that in pepper and in cubebs. Give or take. I added enough canola oil to the mixture to give it a little consistency and the filling was done.

Pastry is not one of my strongest suits. That means I usually fall back on some variant of this recipe, which is taken from Ex Porcinate, the cookbook of the Barony of Caerthe, and which is credited to Mistress Keridwen Gwennmarch. Paraphrased: cut 2/3 cups lard and 1/2 cup diced suet into 3 cups flour and 1/2 t salt. Stir in about 1/2 cup cold water, shape into a ball and let rest, covered, about an hour. Roll out and cut into circles. I actually used crisco rather than lard 'cause I couldn't find lard at the warehouse-style store where I was shopping. Suet, rather surprisingly, was not too difficult to find.

Moving on. I actually made a double batch of pastry and it worked out about right for the amount of filling I had. Cut out circles, say 5" in diameter. Put some filling in the middle and fold over the top. Crimp shut with a fork or by some other method you favor. Place them onto a greased cookie sheet and cook for half an hour or so. I actually did the first ten minutes at 425, then reduced the heat to 375, but that was probably unnecessary.

And there you go! A period, portable, pasty.

Recipe: Filling
1/2 lb cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 lb swiss-style cheese, grated
2 pounds mushrooms, sliced or chopped or something
2 T salt
1 T pepper (or a bit less)
1 T crushed cubebs (or a bit less)
vegetable oil
Parboil mushrooms by dropping into boiling water, then removing pretty quickly. Mix everything together.

Recipe: Pastry
1 1/3 cups lard or shortening
1 cup diced suet
6 cups flour
1 t salt
1 cup or so cold water
Cut lard and suet into flour and salt. Add water and form into a ball. Let rest, covered, about an hour. Roll out and cut into 5" circles.

Fill pastries and bake at 375 for 1/2 an hour or so on a greased cookie sheet. If the pastry is done, the filling probably is, too. Eat hot or cold.

--- ALd'A

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

Copyright Jeff Berry
Originally webbed 1/20/2000
Last modified 1/20/2000