There was a Caer Galen cooks guild meeting late last month (sadly under-attended, I might add), and we decided that everyone should either bring food or be prepared to make food there. I thought that I would experiment with some of the foods on my menu. For no good reason, I though I would start with a leche and brawn. So, first "a dyshe of Leches". Why Leches, some of you have no doubt grasped why this dish has such an unappealing name. It is derived from "leche" which is the word for milk in a number of the romance languages. It has nothing to do with blood-sucking vermin.
[Authors Note: The above is just flat wrong, by the way. This article was reprinted in "Serve It Forth" and His Grace Duke Cariadoc noted that the word leche is an archaic word for slice and has nothing to do with the word for milk in any language -- or rather it is an unrelated word that is spelled similarly. It still has nothing to do with blood-sucking vermin, though. I am indebted to His Grace for the correction, and let this stand as a warning that assumptions of any kind can be dangerous! - ALd'A 12/24/96]
Glancing through the recipe book, I find that my menu source has no recipe for Leche. Ok. Fortunately I have others. Working backwards I find, in "The Forme of Cury", the following:
Take rawe Pork and pulle of the skyn, and pyke out the skyn synew and bray the Pork in a mort w ayren rawe do thro sog, salt, raysons corance, dat mynced, and powdo of Pep powdo gylofre. a do i a bladder, and lat it seeth till ibe ynowh. and when it is ynowh, kerf it leshe it in likeness of a peskodde, and take grette raysons and grynde hem in a mort, drawe hem up with rede wyne, do thro mylke of almand colo it with sanders a safron and do thro powdo of pep a of gilofre and boile it. and whan it is boiled: take powdo of canel and gyng, and tep it up with wyne. and do alle thise thyng toghd. and loke that it be renys, and lat it not seeth aft that it is cast togyder, a sue it forth.
Hmm, not only is that hard to translate, but it looks like a real pain to make. (It is also worth mentioning that "Fabulous Feasts" has what claims to be a version of the recipe. To my eye, it looks almost nothing like the original. Caveat Emptor.)
Anyway, I have even more books, let us look further. Here we are, in Hugh Plat's "Delightes for Ladies":
59. To make Leach
Seeth a pint of Creame, and in the seething put in some dissolved Isinglasse, stirring it till it be very thicke, then take a handful of blanched Almonds, beat them and put them in a dish with your Creame, seasoning them with sugar, and after slice it and dish it.
Now, that's more like it. A quick glance in a good dictionary tells us that Isinglasse is gelatin made from fish guts. Lovely. (A later conversation with my father reveals that this was also used to clarify wine, interesting.) So, I decide to try the recipe. A trip to the grocery store reveals that they have no Isinglasse, but I'm guessing that regular gelatin will do (the first recipe works forward from pork and a bladder, so it should be ok). The gelatin packet says that it works on 4 cups of fruit juice, so I'll use 3 cups of Creame and 1 cup of skim milk (since I had some around). I'll skip the almonds, since I don't much like them. I'll use a quarter cup of sugar.
I did all that. It was ok. A little bland and a little thick. So, as a guess for the next recipe, I think that probably half to 3/4 the amount of gelatin and maybe 1/3 of a cup of sugar. Want to try it? Come to cooks guild, although it's probably over by the time this sees press. So the recipe is:
A leach, after Hugh Plat:
Heat 3 cups of cream or milk. Mix 1/2 to 3/4 oz. gelatin with another cup of milk according to directions on gelatin. Add 1/4 to 1/3 cup of sugar to the heating milk. Mix in the gelatin. Stir till well dissolved. Cool.
Next up, Brawn. Again we turn to the estimable Sir Hugh. He recommends:
13. To make tender and delicate brawne.
Put collars of brawn in kettles of water, or other apt vessels into an oven heated, as you would for household bread; cover the vessels, and so leave them as long in the over as you would doe a batch of bread. A late experience amongst Gentlewomen far excelling the old manner of boiling brawne in great and huge kettles. Quare if putting your liquor hot into the vessels, and the brawn a little boiled first, by this means you shall not give great expedition to your work.
Ah good, Sir Hugh Plat! He gives us oven temperature and cooking times! What more could a cook desire? Well, frankly, a cook could desire time. Which I ran out of. Still, let me make a few comments before moving on. Brawn is pork, so we are talking pork collars. I would assume that shoulders will be sufficient. So basically, one boils pork shoulders. Sounds easy, and very English. My guess is, oh, around 375 for around 45 minutes. If I were to do this recipe, I would be inclined to use beef rather than pork, since dealing with large quantities of pork makes me a bit nervous - some people won't eat it, and I have a paranoia about trichinosis.
The brawn would be served with mustard. Plain salad mustard might work, but is boring. I'm sure I can find a mustard sauce recipe somewhere. Well, who comes to rescue but...Hugh Plat! He writes:
25. Mustard Meale
It is usual in Venice to sell the meal of Mustard in their markets as we doe flower and meale in England: this meale, by the addition of vinegar, in two or three daies becommeth exceeding good mustard; but it would be much stronger and finer, if the huskes or huls were first divides by searce or boulter: which may be easily done, if you dry your seeds against the fire before you grinde them. The Dutch iron hand-mils, or an ordinary pepper-mill, may serve fro this purpose. I thought it very necessary to publish this manner of making your sawce, because our mustard which we buy from the chandlers at this day, is many times made up with vile and filthy vinegar, such as our stomacks would abhorre, if we should see it before the mixing thereof with the seeds.
Well, that is pretty darn straight-forward. Add some vinegar to mustard seeds that have been dried and ground. I would say that dried mustard would be just the thing.
Now, be warned, I haven't tried these last two yet, but I may do so a little later.
Last time I said I would talk about beginning budgets. So here we go. My usual manner would be to get a rough head-count, and a feast price first, and then work from that. Some people like to work with a price-per-feaster. I find that such small numbers are irritating, I like big numbers. So, for the sake of argument, and since this is a 12th Night Feast, I will pick the number 210, since it divides nicely by 2,3 and (almost) 4.
So, for 210 feasters I will want roughly the following:
Item per unit total 50lbs of Brawn $3 $150 Capons, 50 $4 $200 70lbs Roast Beef $3 $210 20 gallons milk $1.5 $ 30 gelatin,20 $1 $ 20 game hens, 210 $1.5 $315 ----- $925or about 4-5 per person.
This is only a starting point! The numbers are rough, I haven't included a lot of miscellaneous stuff in and have even skimmed over some entire dishes that I haven't quite decided on yet. The prices are all off the top of my head, and may be high or low (high, I hope). Still, it lets me know that I am in the right ballpark.
Next time: whatever I decide to write about!