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By Meadbh ni Clerigh and Elska á Fjárfelli
Dominion of Myrkfaelinn

November 12 marked our first Sunday A&S practice: “Redaction Challenge,” organized by Lady Meadbh ni Clerigh for both adults and youth. She distributed the challenge recipes, at practice and online, two weeks prior. The basic idea: interpret a medieval recipe, then taste-test the result with all in attendance. We could participate at any level, from basic follow-the-instructions cook to freestyle chef.

Our challenge:

Tart de Bry, a 14th century English cheese quiche or pie

The challenge gives the original recipe transcription, a modern translation of the recipe, and then one cook’s modern interpretation. Your challenge is to make that same recipe, which we’ll then share with all attendees. Use the modern interpretation, or go to the original and make your own version! Write down the proportions you used, and the steps, to accompany your creation. We’ll taste and compare, and share recipes.

BUT WAIT! There’s more!

Our young chefs-in-training have an option to participate as well! I have a second, simpler, concoction for the younger cooks (Rice Mould, 15th century). Encourage your mini-mes to give it a try!

With those words, we all set down to do some serious cooking!

The first Facebook post showed up Saturday evening, from Armegard: “Our interpretation of Tart de Bry is out of the oven. Can’t wait to try it tomorrow and see what everyone else comes up with!” That post was quickly followed the next day by a handful of delicious shots of sumptuous tarts, ready for the tasting. From Don Matteo Pesci: “Our Tart for the redaction challenge. Taste you soon!”

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Simon and Angelika’s Tart de Bry, as posted on Facebook. (photo by Simon) 

We brought six different Tarts de Bry (and two Rice Moulds) to practice in total. Big thanks to all who participated in our first redaction challenge! It was amazing to see, and taste, how one recipe turned into six very different tarts!

Each tart was delicious, in its own way. We loved having the two gluten-free options made by Angelika and Don Matteo Pesci. Elska loved the aged cheese version, which was by far the most savory interpretation. The bread cheese tart had a wonderful bouncy consistency, and the goat cheese version was the sweetest of all. Elska had assumed from the sugar ingredient that it was supposed to be more like cheesecake, and due to the freshness of the goat cheese it even had an otherwise unexpected delicate hint of lemon.

Same recipe, different cooks – six wonderful tarts, all wonderfully different!

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Left to right: Angelica, Armegard, Meadbh, Algirdas, Elska. (photo by Algirdas)

 

Notes on the challenge format

With the thought that not everyone in the Dominion has contemplated medieval cooking, the impetus behind the challenge is to get folks baking like a 14th century boss. To that end, Meadbh used the following rough guidelines:

  1. The recipe needs to be approachable for a medieval food newbie and average (or busy!) cook.
  2. The first few recipes shouldn’t contain too many exotic spices at one time (but those who participate will find themselves with many fancy spices to work with for future dishes).
  3. Since we lack kitchen facilities at the meeting hall, find recipes that don’t hinge on being served hot.
  4. When trying a meat-based recipe, offer a vegetarian challenge as well.
  5. Keep it economical.

For youth:

  1. Desserts (or foods) that …
  2. Don’t have too many steps/ingredients, with …
  3. Flavors that are kid-friendly.

The youth recipes are geared towards kids who are comfortable in the kitchen with no or little supervision, so as not to burden the parents with two work-intensive recipes to make. Medieval flavors can be challenging to a modern child’s palate, so our challenges might be dessert-heavy at first.

Myrkfaelinn’s challenge and results:

The original recipe

From Hieatt & Butlers’ 14th century Curye on Inglish:
174. Tart de Bry. Take a crust ynche depe in a trap. Take yolkes of ayren rawe & chese ruayn & medle it & þe yolkes togyder. Do þerto powdour gynger, sugur, safroun, and salt. Do it in a trap; bake it & serue it forth.

Gode Cookery translation: Tartee. Make a pie crust an inch deep in a pie pan. Take yolks of eggs raw & Autumn cheese & mix it & the yolks together. Do there-to powder ginger, sugar, saffron, and salt. Do it in a pie shell; bake it & serve it forth.

Ingredients suggested: One 9-inch pie shell, raw egg yolks, cheese (semi-soft, but not so soft that it can’t be grated), ginger (powder), sugar, saffron, and salt.

Learning opportunities: “Pie crust” and “cheese.” This recipe provided an opportunity for folks to research cheeses available to a 14th century cook, and to play with what “pie crust” meant and how to make it.

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Left to right: Meadbh, Marie’s rice mould, Matteo, Elska, Angelika, Simon’s rice mould, Armegard.

Myrkfaelinn variations:

 Algirdas and Aldanza Wolthus:

Filling: 6 yolks, 15 oz. basket cheese (fresh cheese made the previous morning from whole cow’s milk and cream), 1 Tbsp sugar, 8-10 strands powdered saffron, and 1 tsp salt.
Crust: butter, lard, einkorn flour, wheat flour, and water.

Result: between sweet and savory, with a smooth filling.

Angelika and Simon St. Laurent:

Filling: 6 yolks, 0.64 lb. Fontina and 0.32 lb. Bucherondin cheeses, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/2 cup sugar, 6 saffron threads, and 1/4 tsp salt, with the sugar sprinkled on top of the tart.
Crust: 2 cups oat flour, 1-1/2 sticks butter, 1/2 tsp salt, and 5 Tbsp cold water.

Result: savory – strong cheese flavor.

The mother and daughter team of Armegard and Emily:

Filling: 4 yolks, 32 oz. ricotta cheese, 1/2 tsp. ginger, 4 Tbsp white sugar, a few threads of saffron, and a dash of salt.
Crust: a store-bought shell.

Result: sweet – close to a modern cheesecake.

Elska á Fjárfelli:

Filling: 12 yolks, chevre (fresh goat’s cheese started Saturday and strained Sunday morning), 1 cup sugar, no saffron, and a pinch of salt.
Crust: 2 cups flour (wheat and all-purpose), 2 sticks butter, 3/4 cup sugar, and some cold water.

Result: sweet – close to a cheesecake, with notes of lemon.

Don Matteo and Alden:

Filling: 12 egg yolks, 8 oz. cheese (gouda-ish, grated); 2 tsp grated ginger; 2 Tbsp honey; 1/4 tsp saffron threads, crushed; and 1/4 tsp salt.
Crust: 1-1/2 cups oat flour, 1/2 cup butter, 1/4 cup water, and 1/2 tsp salt.

Result: savory – smooth texture.

And last but not least: Meadbh ni Clerigh

Filling: Wisconsin Bread cheese (grated), powder fine, and some ground saffron threads.
Crust (based on Paest Royall from A Proper New Booke of Cookery, 1545): 2 cups flour, 2 egg yolks, 2/3 cup butter, and 3-4 Tbsp cold water.

Result: savory – more spongy texture, with balance of saffron and powder fine spice notes.

Myrkfaelinn youth redaction challenge #1

 Rys (15th century), found in Seven Hundred Years of English Cooking:
Take a porcyoun of Rys & pyke hem clene, & seethe hem welle & late hem kele; then take gode Mylke of Almaundys & do ther-to, & seethe & stere hem wyle; & do ther-to sugne an hony, & seue forth.

Modern redaction: Pour the rice into the boiling water, stir, and then simmer until tender. Drain. Return the rice to a smaller saucepan, add the almond milk, sugar, and honey, and stir well. Bring to the boil and then simmer gently, stirring continually, for 10-12 minutes or until thick. Allow to cool. Pour into an oiled mold and chill. Turn out and serve.

Ingredients suggested: 1/2 cup rice, 2-1/2 cups water, 2-1⁄2 cups almond milk, 1⁄4 cup sugar, and 4 Tbsp honey.

Two of the youth participated in this challenge. Simon made his with red rice, sugar, honey, and almond milk; but the red rice would not set, so his mom ended up putting the stick blender in to get it to gel. It was yummy, but next time, no extra sugar: the honey is enough!

Mary of Harford made hers with basmati rice: double the rice and milk, but not the sugar and honey (which was a good call).

Both rice moulds were outstanding, but it was thought that maybe next time use a short-grain rice, like dessert rice, and see how much a difference that makes. They were, however, very nice dessert dishes. The mild rice flavor blended well with the sugar, honey, and almond milk flavors. These are strong contenders for economical dessert dishes at a feast. They are easy to prepare, can be made in advance, and are served cold.

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What’s next for the Dominion cooks?

Meadbh’s second challenge is dual: powder fine and powder forte. She advised us to think of these powders like curry—everyone has their own preferred blend of spices. So despite having a recipe to follow, we were encouraged to think of these recipes more as guidelines and come up with our own flavor profile! They won’t sit in our cupboards, either – Meadbh plans to bring more challenges this winter, which include using one or the other as an ingredient.

Since the adult challenge is less time intensive, she upped the youth challenge. This time, they’re charged to make a medieval mac and cheese: Makerouns from Forme of Cury (14th century).

Tart de Bry recipe can be found here at https://goo.gl/NU3v58
Rice Mould at https://goo.gl/ppS9ik
Powder fine and powder forte at https://drive.google.com/open…
Makerouns at https://drive.google.com/open…