Monday, July 27, 2009

Ember Day Tarts

This is the last of the recipes I worked up for a party a week or so ago. I wanted a pie that people who were vegetarian or Jewish could eat during the party. An herb, egg, and cheese pie seemed to fit the bill.

Ember Day tarts were pies in the Middle Ages that were eaten on non-meat days.

Ember Day Tart
Original Recipe
Curye on Inglysch
Page 136, Recipe 173

Tart in ymbre day. Take and perboile oynouns & erbis & presse out Þe water & hewe hem smale. Take grene chese & bray it in a mortar and temper it vp with ayren. Do Þereto butter, safroun & salt, & raisouns corauns, & a litel sugur with powdour douce, & bake it in a trap, & serue it forth.

Tart in Ember Day. Take and parboil onions and herbs and press out the water and chop them small. Take green cheese and grind it in a mortar and temper it up with egg. Add butter, saffron, and salt, and currants and a little sugar with powder douce and bake it in a trap and serve it forth.

To bake a pie in a trap is to bake it in a baking dish. Note the original recipe does not call for a crust.

1 lrg Onion
9 oz Spinach (Raw)
.75 oz Tarragon
2 oz Basil
15 oz Ricotta
3 Eggs
½ tsp Salt
¼ tsp Saffron
½ cup Currants
1 ¾ tsp Powder Douce
½ tsp Cinnamon
½ tsp Coriander
¼ tsp Clove
¼ tsp Nutmeg
¼ tsp Mace
[optional]Pie Dough (use the same recipe as in the pork tart)

Parboil the onions and herbs and drain well. These will need to have the excess water pressed out. Once the water is removed, chop the herbs and onions small.

Take the ricotta and put in large bowl. Break up into small pieces, then add egg and mix. Add herbs, salt, currants, and spices and mix well.

If you are using pie dough, roll out dough and place in pan. If you are not, you should liberally butter the pan.

Put herb and cheese mixture in pie shell. Bake at 350° 35-45 minutes until set.

I opted not to put the butter and sugar in the tart as I wanted something that was more savory than sweet and the butter and sugar were in the pie dough. I used pie dough to make this a little easier to serve and eat in a picnic setting.

The recipe calls for a fresh cheese. Most recreations of this recipe use farmer's cheese. I used ricotta cheese (another style of fresh cheese) instead because I wanted a little more moisture and creaminess than

Most Ember Day tarts I've had have spinach, onions, and parsley or just spinach and onions. They were good pies, but I wanted a little extra spark in mine. Tarragon and basil were just the trick!

While I only made two of these for the party, they really went over well. I never expected it would be so easy to get people to eat spinach! So much so, that I didn't get a piece of it for myself.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Apple Tarts

Okay, I must be insane. I have been baking in July, in 90°F temperatures. But the results have been soooo yummy.

The most recent pies were apple tartlets. And yes, these are medieval in origin. They serve as a nice reminder that everything old is new again.

Apple Tart
Original Recipe
Curye on Inglysch
Page 78, Rec 82
For to make tartys in apples, take gode applys & gode spyces & figys & reysons & perys & wan Þey arn wel ybrayed color wyÞ safroun wel & do yt in a cofyn & do yt forth to bake wel.

For to make tarts in apples, take good apples and good spices and figs and raisins and pears and when they are well pounded, color with saffron well and do it in a coffin and bake it well.

I used the Middle English Dictionary to translate terms I didn't understand.

Bray means well-pounded or cut into very small pieces.

2 Apples (Gala apples are similar to European apples)
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1/4 tsp Clove
1/3 tsp Coriander
1/8 tsp Mace
3 oz Figs
2 oz Raisins
1 Pear
1/4 tsp Saffron
1/4 tsp salt
Single batch of Pie Dough (use the same recipe as in the pork tart)

Peel apples and pears. Peel and chop apples, pears, and figs into small pieces. Add raisins and spices. Mix well.

The original recipe calls for a thick free-standing pie crust about 1" to 2" tall, but a thinner pie crust in a pan will work. Roll pie dough for 9" pies or 4" mini tarts. Put mixture to pie dough and bake at 350°F until done. I was doing 4" rounds folded over on themselves, so they were taking about 15 minutes.

I wanted a pie that could be hand-held, didn't make a mess, and eaten cold. I started by cutting the dough into about 4" rounds and folding the sides up and sealing the top and ends. Success on the hand-held part.

The figs and raisins provide all the sweetness for the filling; no sugar is necessary. As a result, I don't have a syrupy filling, which is all to the good. No goo oozes out of the pie and onto hands or clothes. Success on the not making a mess part.

These pies are excellent cold. In fact, I think they are better cold than warm. Definite success on the eaten cold part.

I definitely recreated the recipe backwards. I started by making a large batch of pies (70+ 4"inch rounds) so I didn't really pay much attention to how much filling I made. I also had dithered between making the pies totally hand-held or putting them into individual tart pans and didn't make a decision until I started rolling out the dough. Let's just say I had oodles of filling left over, so I plan to use it in as a compote with shortbread later. I have scaled the above recipe down from the initial experiment. I'm not entirely sure how many pies this recipe will fill; I was making little tarts.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Venison Pie

I am working out some recipes for a party I'm hosting next weekend. A couple of weeks ago, I worked out the pork pie recipe. Next on my list was refining the venison pie recipe. This one had a major challenge: I had a very limited supply of venison, so I didn't want to use it up perfecting the recipe.

I decided to try this recipe on beef and was quite underwhelmed. Then I gave it a shot with venison. This is definitely a recipe where beef is decidedly inferior to venison. While they share some elements in their flavor profile (to the point that they can often be substituted for one another), they are not identical. Ginger brings out much more complexity in venison than it does in beef.

Venison Pie
As stated in the pork pie recipe, recreating medieval recipes pose some challenges. Even English recipes do. Middle English is not Modern English; there are words in Middle English that no longer are used in Modern English, especially cooking terms.

Original Recipe
Two Fifteenth Century Cookery Books, Page 51, Recipe xix (this source is available through Google Books)
Venyson y-bake. Take hogħes of Venyson, & parboyle hem in fayre Water an Salt; & whan Þe Fleyssche is fayre y-boylid, make fayre past, & cast Þin Venyson Þer-on; & caste a-boue an be-neÞe, pouder Pepir, Gyngere, & Salt, & Þan sette it on Þe ouyn, & lat bake, & serue forth.

Take hocks of venison and parboil in fair water and salt and when the flesh is well boiled, make a good past and put the venison in and put powdered pepper, powdered ginger, and salt above and beneath it. Set it in the oven and let bake and serve forth.

1 lb Venison (ground)
1 cup Beef broth containing:
4 juniper berries
12 peppercorns
1-1/2 teaspoon Powdered Pepper
3 teaspoon Powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
Single batch of Pie Dough (use the same recipe as in the pork tart)

Boil the venison in the beef broth. Once the venison is mostly cooked, add spices and mix well. Let cool. Once the venison is cooled, add the 1/2 cup of water to ensure the filling is moist (but doesn't have standing fluids).

Roll pie dough out. Cut rounds about 4" in diameter (I used a mini-Bundt pan for a pattern). Put a tablespoonful or so of venison mixture in the center of each pie, fold over, moisten half the circumference of the circle, and seal. If you need more pie dough (I was working with much larger quantities of filling and pie dough) Bake on cookie sheet in 350° oven for 25 minutes.

Deviations from the Original Recipe
I started with beef broth, mostly because I didn't have any venison bones to make broth from. I added the peppercorns and juniper berries to the broth to create a little more depth of flavor.

I used ground venison instead of boiling the venison then chopping it small. It was a lot faster and easier, especially since I was making 40 of these things.

The recipe is actually for venison in a free-standing shell called a coffin. In medieval times, this is one way food was cooked and served. The coffin was not eaten; instead it was placed in an alms-basket for the poor. I wanted a pie that could be eaten by hand, so I made the half-circle pies.

I originally wasn't going to boil the venison, but it really does help the flavor by providing a nice vehicle for the spices and keeps the venison moist. Venison is naturally low in fat, so it responds very well to a moist cooking method. I kept the fluid to a minimum because I didn't want soggy pies.

These pies are really lovely eaten cold (which is how I had planned to serve them). As a result they are a great picnic or camping food.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Grilled Salmon

This past weekend was warm. Warm as in over 90 degrees each day. Cooking was not a high priority; I really didn't want to heat up my kitchen. It's on the first floor of the house and that is the cool floor. Grilling was my only other option. Who's going to notice if I heat up the outside by a fraction of a degree?

I know, I know: I need more pictures. But I was hot, tired, and sore so pictures weren't high on my list of priorities. I just wanted to make dinner and get it over with.

A couple of weeks ago, the local grocery store had sides of salmon on sale; welcome to the Pacific Northwest. We eat salmon like Maine eats lobsters. And salmon works well on the grill.

Grilled Salmon
1 fillet of salmon
1 tsp of orange juice (fresh squeezed is best)
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp canola oil

Spread the skin-side of the salmon with the canola oil; this side will be in contact with the grill. Mix the soy sauce and orange juice together and spread a little (1/4) of the sauce on the muscle-side of the salmon. Let sit for five minutes or so to marinate.

Heat the grill to a medium-low heat.

Mix the honey in the remaining sauce. Place the salmon on the grill, skin side down. Baste the muscle-side with the sauce. Grill for about 15 minutes, basting halfway through the cooking time.

Serve with rice or potatoes and a green vegetable.

I like the orange/soy/honey glaze on the salmon. The glaze prevents the salmon from drying out on the grill. Then the orange and soy really bring out the savoriness of the salmon while the honey helps highlight its natural sweetness.