Sunday, June 12, 2011

How to Roast Lamb in the Byzantine Fashion

I used boneless leg of lamb, but any kind of roast should do fine.

3 lb. lamb roast
2 t powdered coriander
1/2 t powdered spikenard (See below)

Mix spices together, adjusting quantities to your taste. Rub mixture on lamb, and cook in a 325 degree oven for about 90 minutes, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 155 (for medium).

The short medicinal text A Dietary Calendar (appearing in translation in Andrew Dalby's Flavours of Byzantium) mentions cooking lamb in April:
With this take gravy moderately spiced with spikenard, green coriander, and a little pepper, and the fruit of safflower because it relaxes the bowels.
It is also mentioned for June:
No spicing is required at all except coriander, spikenard, and anise.
I chose thus to use coriander and spikenard because they appear more constantly, salt because it is a ubiquitous addition to roasting meat, and pepper for reasons of taste. In my opinion using anise instead or in addition would be fine as well. Safflower is generally used for its color, as it is not considered to have a very strong flavor. It is suggested here for medicinal purposes, and I don't think that it needs to be obtained in order to achieve the intended flavor.

Spikenard (or simply nard), on the other hand, is an extremely potent aromatic spice, with a scent and flavor that are difficult to describe. I would venture to place it somewhere between cinnamon and catnip, and its application to cuisine is not necessarily obvious to a modern taste. Its flavor is less distinctive than its aroma, but I would still recommend being sparing in its use, as too much could easily give a dish an unpleasantly musky quality that is difficult to construe as desirable. Oddly, when its pungency is kept in check its impact on the dish is fairly mild. If you have some around, you should certainly experiment, but I think the dish can be made acceptably without it.

NOTE: if you do decide to obtain spikenard, make sure that it is Indian spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi) intended for culinary purposes, not American spikenard (Aralia racemosa).

Friday, June 3, 2011

How to Make a Lombardy Mustard

[One of six sauces I made from Forme of Cury for the feast at the King's & Queen's Rattan Championships in Malagentia (Fall 2010)]

The English take on a sauce of my country. It makes a thin and potent sauce, which you might prefer evened out by mixing in breadcrumbs - but it is usable as is.

6 tsp powdered mustard
3 tsp honey
1/4 white wine vinegar

Mix ingredients together thoroughly. Wine may be added for a rounder
flavor, and perhaps flour for thickness if desired. The flavors will
initially be quite strong, but will blend and mellow, slightly, as the
mixture sits for hours or days.


LUMBARD MUSTARDTake Mustard seed and waishe it & drye it in an ovene, grynde it drye. farse it thurgh a farse. clarifie hony with wyne & vynegur & stere it wel togedrer and make it thikke ynowz. & whan þou wilt spende þerof make it tnynne with wyne.

How to Make an Almond Sauce (from Forme of Cury)

[One of six sauces I made from Forme of Cury for the feast at the King's & Queen's Rattan Championships in Malagentia (Fall 2010)]

A fairly mild sauce. It could be doctored in various ways to make it more lively, but I think this captures the likely intent as write.

4 C blanched almonds
2 C white wine vinegar
2 C water
2.5 tsp ginger
1.5 tsp salt

Grind almonds in food processor. Add other ingredients to taste, and
water to desired thickness. Makes about 6 cups.


SAWSE BLAUNCHE FOR CAPOUNS YSODETake Almandes blaunched and grynd hem al to doust. temper it up withverions and powdour or gyngyner and messe it forth.

How to Make a Sauce of Galangal

[One of six sauces I made from Forme of Cury for the feast at the King's & Queen's Rattan Championships in Malagentia (Fall 2010)]

The flavor of galangal is an interesting and subtle one; if you needed to make this without any, you could perhaps approximate it by increasing the ginger a lot, and the cinnamon a little.

2 1/3 C breadcrumbs
2 C wine vinegar
3 2/3 C water
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 tsp galangal
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients except water together; use water to thin out as
much as desired. Makes about 6 cups.


Take crustes of Brede and grynde hem smale, do þerto powdour of galyngale, of canel, of gyngyner and salt it, tempre it with vynegur and drawe it up þurgh a straynour & messe it forth.

How to Make a Pepper Sauce for Veal (Pevorat)

[One of six sauces I made from Forme of Cury for the feast at the King's & Queen's Rattan Championships in Malagentia (Fall 2010)]

A delightfully savory sauce. Pevorat is believed simply to mean pepper.

2.5 C breadcrumbs
1/2 C olive oil
7.5 C beef broth
2 C wine vinegar
1 C water
5 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt (or less, depending on broth's saltiness)

Fry breadcrumbs in olive oil, using broad skillet with medium-low
heat. Bring broth to a boil. Add breadcrumbs, pepper, and any
necessary salt. Add vinegar to taste and water to desired consistency,
and simmer together for 20-30 minutes, adjusting fluid level as
needed. Note: the vinegar flavor and especially aroma will be
strongest during the simmering process, so do not worry if the sauce
tastes slightly more vinegary at this time. The sauce may also become
somewhat thicker as it cools - it can always be thinned with more
water for serving. Pre-thinning, makes about 9 cups.


Take Brede & fry it in grece. drawe it up with broth and vynegur, take þerto powdour of peper & salt and sette it on the fyre. boile it and messe it forth.

How to Make a Green Sauce (from Forme of Cury)

[One of six sauces I made from Forme of Cury for the feast at the King's & Queen's Rattan Championships in Malagentia (Fall 2010)]

As with most green sauces, the garlic is important to keep the flavor balanced.

1 packet Parsley (small packet, not bunch)
1 packet Thyme
2/3 packet Mint
2/3 packet Sage
3 T chopped garlic (use less if fresh; I used jarred)
2 C breadcrumbs
1.5 C white wine vinegar
2 C water
3/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ginger
3/4 tsp black pepper

Chop all greens together. Add breadcrumbs and blend, then add spices
and thin out to desired consistency with vinegar and water.

Makes about 4.5 cups.

Take parsel. mynt. garlek. a litul serpell and sawge, a litul canel. gyngur. piper. wyne. brede. vynegur & salt grynde it smal with safroun & messe it forth.

How to Make a Camelyne Sauce

[One of six sauces I made from Forme of Cury for the feast at the King's & Queen's Rattan Championships in Malagentia (Fall 2010)]

This is a thick, sweetly spiced sauce, mainly tasting like a raisin sauce.

1 C raisins
1 C almonds blanched
1/2 C breadcrumbs
2 C wine vinegar
1/2 C water
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

Chop almonds in food processor as fine as you can, then add raisins
and breadcrumbs and make the whole as fine as you can. Mix in all
other ingredients, in food processor or in a bowl.

Makes about 3 cups, improbable though the proportions make that seem.


Take Raysouns of Coraunce. & kyrnels of notys. & crustes of brede &
powdour of gyngur clowes flour of canel. bray it wel togyder and
do it þerto. salt it, temper it up with vynegur. and serue it forth.

How to Fry Leeks with Garum

3 Leeks
1/3 C olive oil
3 T Garum
1 T cumin (or to taste)
Salt & Pepper

Start 3 quarts of water boiling.

Split the leeks lengthwise, and clean them in running water. Be sure to spread the layers apart and wash between them, as grit often gets trapped inside, especially in the whites. Slice them coarsely, down to about 1/2", not going too far to the tips (white and pale green, essentially). Parboil them in the water for about 30 seconds, then remove and drain. Bring the olive oil to medium high heat in a frying pan. Toss the leeks with the garum and cumin, and a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Note that garum tends to be quite salty, so you should not need much salt beyond that.

Fry the seasoned leeks in the oil until they are soft and translucent, just beginning to take on a golden color.

This is a largely speculative reconstruction. The short medicinal text A Dietary Calendar (appearing in translation in Andrew Dalby's Flavours of Byzantium) gives several partial descriptions of leek preparations. For January, it recommends leeks amongst vegetables that should be served with olive oil and garum. Although no other spices are directly mentioned, several are recommended throughout the month, with cumin being prominent. In September and October (when I would be cooking), boiled leek dishes, and especially spicy leeks, were recommended, although again without any specific spices. I took together with this the advice of a similar text, Humoral and Dietary Qualities of Foods (also in Dalby), to always cook leeks more than once.

Attempting to follow these comments while producing a complete dish, I decided that multiple cooking and serving with oil could be served by parboiling and then frying. For the spicing I simply used cumin because it was grouped with those flavors that were recommended in combination with leeks.