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.

How to Sauté Fresh Peas

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

To sauté fresh peas, with or without their pod.

If you want to sauté peas in their pod, take the tenderest ones and cut off their flower end and their stem end, and parboil them in a good meat broth. Take them out, drain them and sauté them in rendered fat or melted pork fat. Serve them dressed with orange juice and pepper. Hong with those peas you can sauté a clove of garlic and parsley, both beaten.
[...] If you do not want them with their pod, shell them, parboil them and sauté them as above.

My Redaction:
2 14-oz cans of peas
1 T lard
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
4 T parsley, chopped
2 C beef broth
Juice of one medium orange
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt

Bring beef broth and an equal quantity of water to a boil in a pot. Drain the peas, cook them in the boiling stock for 2 minutes, then remove and drain again. Fry peas in the lard with garlic and parsley, stirring frequently, until they reach a somewhat drier texture and slightly darker color (or until they seem "done"). Salt to taste. Mix in pepper and juice immediately before serving.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

How to make Qatayif for Harun al-Rashid

From Annals of the Caliph's Kitchen,  c.1226, translated by Nawal Nasrallah:

For the batter:
Take 2 pounds of sifted fine samidh flour [high starch]. Also take four ounces yeast made from huwwara or samidh flour. Dissolve the yeast in water and remove any lumps. Add nine grams said, and three grams burn al-`ann [baking borax], both should be crushed and sifted.

Add the dissolved yeast along with some water to the flour, and knead the mixture well until it becomes smooth and free of any lumps. In consistency, it should be soft enough to the point if you were to pour some of it on a rukham [marble], it spreads.

Set the dough aside to ferment and put a mark for the height of the dough on kayl al-daqiq [container]. The batter is done fermenting when it puffs and rises about a finger's width above.

Heat a clean marble slab on the fire. When it is hot enough, ladle some of the fermented batter, and pour it onto the marble, the size is up to you. When it is done, take it away, and examine the back. If it looks too brown, reduce the fire.

Whenever you bake five pieces, wipe the marble with a piece of cloth. When you are done baking, cover the crepes with a clean damp cloth for about an hour and fill them with whatever you wish, God willing.

For the filling:

Choose fresh ripe walnuts whose shells can be easily rubbed off, and peel off their thin skins. Chop walnut with a knife, the way you chop fresh herbs. Take a similar amount of tabard sugar [white cane sugar], pound it, and mix it with the walnut. Sprinkle the mix with rose water of Jur, and mix and bind the mixture with almond oil.

Use this walnut mix to fill qatayif crepes [recipe above] Let each piece be as small as a morsel. Arrange them on a platter in attractively organized layers and pour freshly extracted almond oil on them. Sprinkle pounded sugar over and between the layers. Put the platter in a big wide bowl filled with ice, and present it, God willing.

My Redaction:

3.5 C bread flour
2 tsp yeast dissolved in 1 C warm water
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Mix dissolved yeast plus ~2 cups additional water with dry ingredients, getting it to the point of more liquid than solid (would definitely spread if put on a flat surface). Cover and allow to rise about 20%. Heat a non-stick pan on medium-high flame enough that water sprinkled on its surfaces steams instantly. Use a 1/3 cup measure to pour batter onto the pan and spread it around as evenly as possible by tilting the pan. When it appears to have set, flip with a motion of the wrist or with a spatula. Both sides should, like modern crepes, become firm and if possible slightly browned, although it is harder to achieve browning with this mixture. Makes about 9 crepes.


11 oz walnuts
8 oz sugar
2 tsp rose water
4 T sesame oil

Grind all together in a food processor, then spoon into crepes, perhaps 2 tbsp per crepe. Make a stack of crepes by alternating lines of them perpendicular to each other, log-cabin style. Sprinkle additional sesame oil and sugar on top and serve.


I didn't have almond oil available, hence the substitution of sesame oil, which the Caliph's kitchens would certainly also have had. The flavor combination seems to work well. The crepes are perhaps not as delicate as they could be, certainly compared with French-style crepes containing butter they lack a certain flexibility. Conceivably baker's borax would yield a different consistency, but I am inclined to think that baking powder is an effective leavening agent here.

Sadly, broad marble cooking slabs to place on a fire are less common than they were for the Caliph, but happily non-stick pans are a very convenient substitute.