The Hitchhiker's Guide to Ancient Cookery

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Alexandre Lerot d'Avigné
Jeff Berry
(Number 17 in the Series, July 2002)

The Elevation of Nataliia to the Order of the Pelican

Another award and another excuse to make food! In this case, we are preparing food for the vigil. We found little solid data on food of the Rus, but some general guidelines. I'll be making Mushroom Pastys (as chronicled in HHGtAC #14), and also mortrews.

I decided on mortrews, since at one point we were thinking in terms of paté. We later abandoned that plan, but the mortrews still seemed like a good idea. I found several recipes for mortrews. From the Harleian MS, #279:
".xliiij. Mortrewys de Fleyssh. - Take Porke, an sethe it wyl ; thanne take it vppe and pulle a-way the Swerde, and pyke owt the bonys, an hakke it and grynd it smal; thenne take the sylf brothe, & temper it with ale; then take fayre gratyd brede, & do ther-to, an sethe it, an coloure it with Saffroun, & lye it with yolkys of eyroun, & make it euen Salt, & cast pouder Gyngere, a-bouyn on the dysshe."

From the Harleian MS, #4016:
"Mortreus de Chare. Take porke, and seth it ynow; and take it vppe, and bawde hit, and hew it and grinde it, and in a morter; And cast thereto grated brede, and then drawe the same broth thorgh a streynour, And temper hit with ale, and do al into a potte, and lete boile, and aley hit with yolkes of egges, And then lete it boile no more, And caste thereto powder of ginger, & serue it forth."

From Forme of Cury:

Take henn and Pork and seeth hem togyd. take the lyre of Henn and of the Pork, and hewe it small and gnde it all to doust. take brede ygted and do thto, and temp it with self broth and alye it with zolk of ayren, and cast thon powdo fort, boile it and do thin powdo of gyng sug, safron and salt. and loke it be stoudyng, and tho it with powdo gyng." From A Noble Boke Off Cookery:
"A mortins of flesche

Tak mortyns of fleshe take hennes and fresche pork and sethe them togedour then take them up and enbane them for nonse and hew the pork and grain it and cast it in again and chargejour it with myed bred and colour it with saffron and boile it and set it down alay it with yolks of eggs and staunch it with pouder and serue it."

Certain common elements leap out at one. All use pork, all mix it with bread crumbs, saffron and egg yolks. Most use ale and ginger. All chop it small or grind it up. The result, then, is something like paste or meatloaf.

On to the cooking! I started with some cheap pork roast, secure that it would be cooked long and chopped up, so a high quality tender cut would be wasted. I cut it into even sized slices and seasoned them with salt and pepper. The recipes tend to call for powder fort and salt to be added at the end, and more can be added at that point.

The cooking method is "seething", either a boil or a braise. I chose to go with a braise. First I heated a little oil and gave just a quick browning to the meat, this should serve to keep all the flavor from boiling out. Then I added water up to just about cover the meat and set it on to simmer till it be enow.

When the meat was cooked, I ran it through the food processor rather than hack it up and grind it in a mortar and pestle. I added broth to the mix to keep it moist, then mixed in bread crumbs and some fresh ground ginger. An egg yolk or two complete the basic mix. Add salt and pepper to taste.

I didn't reboil it in my test batch, and I confess to some questions about the best way to do it. Simply dropping the mix back in the broth would work I suppose, but might tend to thin it out, and we want it to be "stoudyng," or stiff. You could put it in a sausage casing or wrap it in cheesecloth or something. In any case, though, if there was enough egg yolk, the reboiling would also thicken it. A final possibility is that the mix itself should be loose enough that plopping it on the heat would look like boiling.

In any case, for the vigil, I'm left it much the way I did it above, but also did not use any yellowing agent. That's because we've got a Pelican shaped cookie cutter, and I'm going to use it as a form for the mortrews and I want it as white as possible. Then a little radish for a bleeding breast and maybe, at a friend's suggestion, capers for eyes, et voila! Serve it on a piece of dark bread for a framing to complete the presentation.

I used about four pounds of pork, two egg yolks, and about a cup and a half of bread crumbs -- maybe two.

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

Copyright Jeff Berry
Originally webbed 1 July 2002
Last modified 1 July 2002