Sunday, October 2, 2016

How to Make Roman Style Macaroni

From Martino of Cuomo's Art of Cooking, c1500:

Take some white flour, and add water and make a sheet of pasta slightly thicker than that for lasagne, and wrap it around a stick; and then remove the stick and cut the pasta into pieces the size of your little finger, and they end up with the shape of thin strips or strings. Cook in fatty broth or in water, depending on the season. But they need to be boiled when you cook them. If you cook them in water, add some fresh butter and a bit of salt. When they are done, place on a platter with some good cheese, and butter, and sweet spices.

My Redaction:

3 cups flour
2 + 1 T butter
1.5 C grated parmesan
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 qt beef stock

Sift 2 cups flour and a large pinch of salt, and mix 1 cup water gradually into it while stirring vigorously. Add flour as needed to form a kneadable dough, then work until somewhat elastic. Let sit for about 30 minutes, then knead again and divide into two balls. If you have a pasta machine, work each through the machine a couple of times until smooth and then reduce to a #3 thickness; if not, divide each ball in half again and roll into strips perhaps 6-7" wide and 1/12-1/16" thick.

Take a thin wood or bamboo skewer and roll the end of a pasta strip around it so it forms a tube. Cut the tube off the rest of the pasta with a sharp knife, pinch closed along the seam, and ease the tube off of the stick. Cut into 1" lengths of macaroni and set aside, avoiding piling the noodles on top of each other to prevent clumping. Repeat rolling and cutting process down the length of pasta strips.Boil the formed pasta in 1 quart beef stock and 1 quart water, with 1 tablespoon of butter and a large pinch of salt added, for 10 minutes or until al dente consistency. Drain, and serve with remaining butter, parmesan, nutmeg, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt.


The forming of macaroni in this way is quite laborious, and makes it appear much more of a luxury item than, say, lasagne would have been, based on the effort involved. I only made macaroni with about 1/3 of the dough before turning the rest of it into fettuccini in the pasta machine.

Monday, May 9, 2016

How to Make a Thick Soup of Squash

From Bartolomeo Scappi's Opera, 1570, translated by Terence Scully:

To prepare a thick soup of common squash during Lent.

Take a squash, scrape it and dice it. Put some finely chopped onions with it and put them into an earthenware or copper pot with oil and no water. Sauté them gently, stirring, because they will produce water on their own. When they have reduced, add in enough water to cover them by two fingers, along with pepper, cinnamon, saffron, and enough salt. Boil that. When it is almost cooked, put in gooseberries or verjuice grapes, and beaten fine herbs; finish cooking it. Serve it in dishes with pepper and cinnamon over top. With that squash you can cook pieces of tench or large pike.

You can do bryony the same way, although it would be better to parboil them before sautéing them. On days that are not fasting days you can use butter instead of oil and thicken it with beaten eggs.

My Redaction:

2 zucchini
2 summer squash
1 lg onion, diced
2 T butter
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
4-5 threads saffron
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 C verjuice
A dozen green grapes, chopped

Peel and dice the squashes. Sauté them along with the onion and spices until they have softened. Just barely cover with water and boil until the soup has reduced and thickened. Mix in grapes and verjuice, and allow to reduce again briefly. Remove from heat and let cool for 1 minute, then quickly mix in beaten eggs.

Matching old-world squash types can be tricky, but somewhere between the two kinds I've used here should approximate Scappi's "common" squash. Verjuice grapes are difficult to get ahold of, but verjuice can be purchased from middle eastern food stores, often even labelled as such, so I have compromised by mixing it with not-yet-turned grapes.

How to Prepare a Lombard Herb Tourte

From Bartolomeo Scappi's Opera, 1570, translated by Terence Scully:

Chop chard greens small with knives and wash them in several changes of water, letting them drain by themselves in a colander because if you press them their juice will come out and that is their goodness. Then get a pound of grated fresh Parmesan cheese or else Ligurian cheese, an ounce of pepper and cinnamon combined, a quarter-ounce of cloves and nutmeg combined, four ounces of fresh butter and six eggs. When everything is mixed together, get a tourte pan, greased with butter and lined with a shell of dough made of wheat flour, rosewater, sugar, butter, egg yolks and warm water. Put the mixture into the pan, covering it with a rippled sheet of dough. Bake it in an oven or braise it, and serve it hot. It is optional whether you put sugar into the filling or over the top.

My Redaction:
1 bundle chard, stems removed
6-7 oz. parmesan, grated
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 oz butter
3 eggs, beaten
2 pie shells (dough of your choice)
pinch salt
sprinkling of rosewater

Rinse the chard greens well and drain thoroughly in a colander. Chop them finely. Mix in eggs, parmesan, butter, and spices. Sprinkle rosewater on bottom layer of pie (or incorporate rosewater when preparing dough, if made for this purpose). Fill and cover pie. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until appropriately browned.

Normally I would prefer to blind bake a pie with such a wet filling, but following Scappi's instructions I did not do so here, and the bottom crust does not seem to suffer the sogginess that can result. Your mileage may vary.

How to Make an Anise Potion

From Bartolomeo Scappi's Opera, 1570, translated by Terence Scully:

To cook a potion of anise, sugar and cinnamon.

Get whatever amount of water you want and boil it for more than half an hour in either a glazed earthenware pot or a large glass double carafe. For every two and two-thirds liters of water, add in one ounce of anise. When it has boiled for another quarter of an hour, put in two ounces of fine sugar, carefully skimming it so the anise does not get pushed out. When it has boiled for another quarter of an hour, you will put in a quarter-ounce of whole cinnamon, immediately taking the pot off the fire and keeping the lid on it until it is half cooled: that is done so the water can pick up the essence of the cinnamon. When it is cold, filter it through white clothes, though it would be better to put it through a filter cone of coarse white wool with a bit of sponge at its bottom. That potion will have a cinnamon colour to it.

My Redaction:
1.5 quart water
1.5 tsp anise seeds
1/4 C sugar
1 stick cinnamon

Bring water to a boil and add sugar and anise. Simmer for 15 minutes then turn off heat and add cinnamon stick. When it has cooled, pour through a strainer and chill.

You could make this with powdered cinnamon as well, perhaps 1 tsp, you should just strain it more finely at the end, through a coffee filter, cheesecloth, coarse white wool, etc.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

How to Roast Stuffed Meat

From Bartolomeo Scappi's Opera, 1570, translated by Terence Scully:

To roast that breast of veal, stuffed, on a spit or on a grill.

Stuff the breast with beaten pork fat, fine herbs, garlic, eggs, and spices, and blanch it in boiling water. When that is done, take it out, let it cool and stick it with fine cardoons of pork fat that have some little sprigs of rosemary insides them. Mount it on a spit and cook it over a low fire. When done, it needs to be served hot with orange juice or lime juice over it.

My Redaction:
2 1-lb boneless steaks
3 T parsley
1 sprig sage
1 sprig rosemary
4 sprigs marjoram
2 T lard
1 egg
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp salt
juice of 1 lime

Flatten out steaks until they are fairly thin, perhaps 1/4". Finely chop herbs with lard, and beat together with egg, pepper, salt, and coriander. Spread this mixture onto the flattened steaks, then fold them over and seal the edges with toothpicks. Place in boiling water for about 1 minute, until outside becomes grey. Put steaks in a roasting pan and broil on low for 10 minutes or to desired doneness, flipping halfway through for even cooking. Remove toothpicks and cut into slices, sprinkling with lime juice to serve.

I was not able to obtain veal breast when I made this, so I substituted beef. However, I used porterhouse steaks with bones in, and their poor behavior in being stuffed and parboiled leads me to caution against using bone-in cuts.

How to Make Dainty Biscuit Morsels (Biscotti)

From Bartolomeo Scappi's Opera, 1570, translated by Terence Scully:

Get two pounds of white breadcrumb and bake it a second time. Grind it in a mortar and put it through a sieve so it becomes like flour. For every pound of that sieved substance, add as much again of fine flour, two and a half pounds of finely sieved sugar and four ounces of leaven ground in a mortar and moistened with fifteen fresh eggs; then everything should be mixed together three-quarters of an ounce of raw anise ground into powder and four ounces of rosewater. When everything is thoroughly mixed and beaten together so that it looks like fritter batter, let it sit for two hours in a warm place. Beat it again, adding in four more eggs and an ounce of salt; then let it sit for another hour. Than have a buttered tourte pan and put the filling into it so it is a finger's width in depth. Put that into an oven that is not too hot. Leave it there until it is dry. Remove it and with a sharp knife cut it into little long rectangles, as wide or as narrow as you like. Just as soon as they have been cut up, put them immediately into marzipan tourte pans, set out apart with paper under them, and put them back into the oven with a very moderate heat. Leave them there for half an hour, turning them several times until they have firmed up.

My Redaction:
1/4 lb plain breadcrumbs
1/4 lb white flour
10 oz sugar
1 oz yeast
4 eggs
1 tsp rosewater
1.5 tsp anise seeds, ground
pinch salt

Beat the eggs, and beat the yeast into them. Add the rosewater. Mix the dry ingredients together, then gradually beat the wet ingredients into them. Leave covered for three hours, then turn out into a buttered baking pan and cook for 40 minutes at 250 degrees, or until the surface has a slightly springy texture when tested.

Let cool for 5 minutes to reduce stickiness, then cut into approximately 1' x 5' "fingers". Place in a baking dish lined with parchment paper, and bake for twenty minutes at 350 degrees, or until solidified.

Serve with a dish of snow, preferably.

These have a much softer and chewier texture than modern biscotti, though they retain the twice-cooked aspect. As Scappi's instructions are ambiguous, he may mean to produce something as rock-hard as the modern version, but given that the second baking is only supposed to take half an hour at a moderate heat, this seemed unlikely to me.

I also overlooked the step of adding additional eggs in the middle of the resting period, which did not seem to do the biscotti any harm. It is possible that a higher egg-content would make them somewhat firmer, though again it seems unlikely that they would reach the stiffness of modern biscotti.

How to Make Milk Snow

From A Proper New Booke of Cookery, English, mid-16th century:

To make a dyschefull of Snowe. Take a pottell of swete thycke creame and the whytes of eyghte egges, and beate them altogether wyth a spone, then putte them in youre creame and a saucerfull of Rosewater, and a dyshe full of Suger wyth all, then take a stycke and make it cleane, and than cutte it in the ende foure square, and therwith beate all the aforesayde thynges together, and ever as it ryseth take it of and put it into a Collaunder, this done take one apple and set it in the myddes of it, and a thicke bushe of Rosemary, and set it in the myddes of the platter, then cast your Snowe uppon the Rosemarye and fyll your platter therwith. And yf you have wafers caste some in wyth all and thus serve them for forthe.

My Redaction:
1 C whipping cream
1-2 tsp rosewater, to taste
2 Tbl sugar
1 egg white
Sprigs of rosemary (optional)

Combine non-rosemary ingredients in a bowl. Beat with a mixer until quite stiff. Serve on a plate sprinkled with rosemary sprigs or other wintry-looking decoration.

I wanted this for a dinner party based on an April menu in Bartolomeo Scappi's Opera, wherein he serves a dish of milk snow along with some biscotti. However, although he references it, Scappi does not give a recipe. There are several others from the same general time period, with small variations in ingredients. I chose this one for the slightly stiffer texture that the egg white gives it.