A Happy Idea for a Picnic Dish

 

Two men carrying a box or picnic hamper to the delight of children, Sam Hood, State Library NSW

Two men carrying a box or picnic hamper to the delight of children, Sam Hood c. 1934, courtesy of the State Library of NSW.

 

“How we all love a picnic! Wrapped up in that one delightful word is the call of the bush, the call of the surf, fresh air and sunshine, happiness and lots of nice things to eat!”[1] Australia doesn’t have a monopoly on picnics by any means, but the great weather and natural beauty makes picnicking a popular pastime, and that’s nothing new.

 

Barbara Santich dedicates a whole chapter to picnics in her history of Australian food Bold Palates, and she makes the point that while early picnics were utilitarian (quick meals to break up journeys or roadside stops where there was no inn to be found), they were also a way to celebrate special occasions and even official functions. One of their great attractions was surely that they cut across social and class lines, helped along by guild picnics and cheap public transport. Santich also notes the popularity of ‘mystery hikes’ in the 1930s where bushwalkers took a train to an undisclosed location for a hike and a picnic; one of these in 1932 catered to 8000 people![2]

 

The recipe that I chose for this HFF challenge is from December 1933 and it’s nice to think that these picnic patties might have been taken along on a mystery hike or two. We’ve talked before about the advantages of pies, they’re easily stored, portable and great for eating on the go. These mini pies have exactly the same benefits, and can be eaten hot or cold.

Capture

The recipe was submitted as part of a competition to find recipes for picnic foods. Although the contributor, Mrs E.E. Wain of Campsie, only got a consolation prize of 2/6 the patties are probably easier to eat than the jellied rabbit which took out first prize!

[1] “Happy Ideas for Picnic Dishes.”

[2] Santich, Bold Palates: Australia’s Gastronomic Heritage, 88.

IMG_4358

The Redaction

Picnic Patties

 

For the Pastry:

230g flour

3 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

1/2 tsp lemon juice

120g cold butter, diced

Cold water, as needed

 

For the filling:

 

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp flour

1/2 cup stock (I used the water that I cooked the chicken in)

1/2 cup cream

Salt (and pepper)

1 cup chopped, cooked chicken (about 1 large chicken breast)

1/2 stick of celery, finely sliced

 

A little milk or egg wash.

 

  1. Place the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice and the butter. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until it is the consistency of breadcrumbs. Add cold water a tablespoon at a time and mix gently until the pastry comes together. Be careful not to knead the pastry. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and refrigerate until needed.
  2. To make the filling, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour. Cook for a minute and stir to remove any lumps. Add half of the stock and stir to combine, then add the other half of the stock. The mixture should be quite thick. Stir in the cream, seasonings, celery and chicken and turn off the heat.
  3. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Grease a cupcake pan. Roll out 2/3 of the pastry on a floured board. Cut circles from the pastry to fit the cupcake pan. Fill with the chicken mixture, then roll out the remaining pastry to cut lids. Place the lids onto the pies and press down around the edges to seal. Brush with a little milk or egg wash and use the tip of a sharp knife to make a small slit in the top of each pie.
  4. Bake the pies in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until golden on top.

 

IMG_4369The Round-Up

The Recipe: Picnic Patties (available here)

The Date: 30 December 1933

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: An hour.

How successful was it?: These were very nice, if a little bland. I would have liked them with some carrots and/or peas and a bit more aggressive seasoning. I also found the pastry a bit too thick, so that the proportion of pastry to filling wasn’t quite right, but that is easily fixed.

How accurate?: The recipe doesn’t specify how to make the pastry, so I used this recipe from 1934 for Creamed Chicken Turnovers. Overall I think that these were very accurate, the only major change that I made was to use butter in the pastry instead of lard or dripping, either of which would also make a very good pastry.

 

References

“Happy Ideas for Picnic Dishes.” The Australian Women’s Weekly, December 30, 1933. Trove.

Santich, Barbara. Bold Palates: Australia’s Gastronomic Heritage. South Australia: Wakefield Press, 2012.

IMG_4360

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‘Pies, hot pies!’

15th century chewets

I’m still catching up with some of the challenges from the Historical Food Fortnightly, but I’ve cooked all but the bonus challenge and the Celebratory Food from back in December so I’ll get them written up as soon as I can.

This recipe is for the Snacky Snackables challenge, and it’s something that I’ve been wanting to make for a while now – chewets. Cheap, fully self-contained for low mess, good for using up off-cuts and leftovers, easily bulked out with some veg and no cutlery required – pies make the perfect on-the go lunch or quick snack. Chewets are just a type of small pie, something like a modern pork pie, and they appear in many of our earliest English cookbooks.

A page from Ulrich von Richental's 15th century The Chronicle of the Council of Constance. Note the oven on wheels, that's real fast food! See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A page from Ulrich von Richental’s 15th century The Chronicle of the Council of Constance. Note the oven on wheels, that’s real fast food! See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Pies were sold piping hot and ready to eat by street-peddlers from at least the 13th century. According to Martha Carlin, cookshops and street vendors primarily served the poor in large, over-populated towns where cheap lodgings didn’t always have a fire for cooking, let alone an oven for baking.[1] The cries of the peddlers, tempting their customers in, are recorded in collections or in literature, such as the following from Piers Plowman:

“Cooks and their knaves cried ‘Pies, hot pies!
Good pork and good goose! Come, dine! Come, dine!’

Taverners unto them told the same tale:
`White wine of Alsace red wine of Gascony,
Wine of the Rhine, of Rochelle to help settle your meat!’”[2]

 

The Recipe

The recipe that I used comes from MS Harley 5401, a 15th century manuscript. It is a very simple recipe which uses left over chicken, but it is a bit unusual because the chewets are fried instead of baked.

Chewets, before being fried. As you can see, I made two different shapes to see which one worked better. I liked the flatter shape better, but it was harder to form and had more of a tendency to fall apart during cooking.

Chewets, before being fried. As you can see, I made two different shapes to see which one worked better. I liked the flatter shape better, because it cooked faster and more evenly, but it was harder to form and had more of a tendency to fall apart during cooking.

“Chewets. Recipe pe draghtis of capons or of hennes & shop pam small. Take & cast powdyr of gynger & cloes, pepyr & salt, & put pam all in a lityll cofyn & close it abowne, & fry hym in fresh grece, & serrof pam forth .ij. in a dysch.”[3]

The filling was simple to do, just mix some shredded chicken with spices, but the pastry was more problematic. There are several different camps among food historians and re-enactors when it comes to medieval pastry. Some people think that the pastry was simply not eaten, others that it was made only from flour and water but was still eaten, others that it must have included fat or eggs. The problem is that recipes from the time assume that people know how to make pastry and only mention diversions from the norm e.g. using chestnut flour or adding saffron. You can see two different interpretations of the evidence here and here.

For my pastry I used one of Eulalia Piebakere’s redactions for a boiling fat pastry, which is itself based upon Savouring the Past’s recipe for a Standing Paste Pie Crust. Not having done enough research myself (although I do mean to do more) I haven’t really made up my mind about the fat/no fat issue, although I do think that at least some of the crusts must have been eaten, otherwise why add chestnut flour or saffron? I also think that it makes more sense if hot pies being sold as street food had edible crusts. It’s hardly a convenience food anymore if you have to remove the crust and scoop out the insides.

The Redaction

100g plain flour

30g wholemeal flour

21g of butter

21g of lard

1/4 cup water

Salt

1 chicken breast, cooked (or any bits of cooked chicken left over from a roast or boiled chicken)

Pepper and salt

1/4 tsp ginger and cloves

Lard, to fry

  1. Put the butter, lard and water in a small saucepan and heat until it is just about to boil.
  2. Place the fat and a pinch of salt into a bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the hot fat and water, then mix it until it comes together as a ball.
  3. Knead the dough until it is smooth, and split the dough in quarters. From each quarter remove a walnut sized piece for the lid, then shape the chewet cases using either this method or this method (the first is probably easier to make, but you will need more fat to get it to cook properly, the second is a bit more fiddly but give a flatter pie that is easier to cook).
  4. Shred the chicken breast and stir in the spices. Season to taste. Share the filling between the pie cases. Roll out the lids and, using a little water to moisten the edges, place on the chewets and pinch around the edge to seal.
  5. Heat the lard in a frying pan, saucepan or wok. The amount of lard needed will depend on the shape of your pan, and the height of your chewets. Essentially the melted fat should reach about halfway up the chewet. Test that the lard is hot enough by putting a little pastry in the pan and see if it sizzles. When the fat is hot, add the chewets and cook until golden brown. When the bottom is done, flip the pies over very carefully and fry the other side.
  6. Drain the fried chewets on kitchen paper and serve hot.

15th century chewets

The Round-up

The Recipe: Chewets from MS Harley 5401 (available here)

The Date: 15th century

How did you make it?: See above.

Time to complete?: About 1 hour.

How successful was it?: Very tasty, and it was much easier to make the cases and to fry the pies than I was expecting.

How accurate?: The biggest issue is the pastry, and without doing a lot more research I’m not sure how accurate it was. There are a lot of different opinions about medieval pastry amongst historians and re-enactors, including a basic divide over whether it was eaten or not.

[1] Martha Carlin, Food and Eating in Medieval Europe (Bloomsbury Publishing, 1998), 31–51.

[2] William Langland, The Book Concerning Piers the Plowman, ed. Rachel Attwater, trans. Donald Attwater and Rachel Attwater (London: J.M Dent & Sons Ltd., 1957), 6.

[3] Constance Hieatt, “The Middle English Culinary Recipes in MS Harley 5401: An Edition and Commentary,” Medium Aevum 65, no. 1 (1996): 58.

Bibliography

Carlin, Martha. Food and Eating in Medieval Europe. Bloomsbury Publishing, 1998.

Hieatt, Constance. “The Middle English Culinary Recipes in MS Harley 5401: An Edition and Commentary.” Medium Aevum 65, no. 1 (1996): 54–69.

Langland, William. The Book Concerning Piers the Plowman. Edited by Rachel Attwater. Translated by Donald Attwater and Rachel Attwater. London: J.M Dent & Sons Ltd., 1957.

Orange You Glad

Chicken with Orange SauceI felt that for the next Historical Food Fortnightly challenge, which was to make something with oranges, I wanted to do something that was a bit earlier in date. Flicking through ‘The Medieval Kitchen’ by Redon, Sabban and Serventi I stumbled across Chicken with Orange Sauce which sounded promising and was very budget friendly.

The recipe is a translation from Maestro Martino’s ‘Libro De Arte Coquinaria’ which was composed before 1465 (one of the versions is dedicated to his patron who died in that year).[1] Martino was the official cook for several important Italian gentlemen in the mid fifteenth century, and something of a celebrity chef. He was a part of an international network of courts that shared recipes and tastes, ‘De Arte Coquinaria’ shows affinities with Catalan manuscripts in particular.[2]

The Recipe

“Roast Chicken. To prepare roast chicken, you must roast it; and when it is cooked take orange juice or verjuice with rose water, sugar, and cinnamon, and place the chicken on a platter; and pour this mixture over it and send it to table.”[3]

What I soon discovered though, was that oranges in this period were not the sweet oranges which we are familiar with today. Originating in an area comprising north-eastern India, northern Myanmar and southern China, the bitter orange was brought to Europe via Islamic Spain.[4] Bitter oranges were used to give a sour taste to dishes, especially sauces, and could be used as an alternative to verjuice. Although there are some mentions of sweet oranges in the 15th century, it wasn’t until the 16th century that they were cultivated in Europe. It may be that it was the introduction of a new variety from China by Portugese traders that was the impetus for eating oranges as a fruit, rather than using them just for their sour juice (in much the same way as we use lemons today).[5] That the oranges called for in our recipe were bitter oranges is clear from the option to use verjuice instead.

By Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen (List of Koehler Images) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Citrus Aurantium by Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As an interesting aside, one of the other results of the introduction of the orange was the invention of the colour ‘orange’. Mark Morton has pointed out that before the orange was being consumed in Europe, there were few things that were genuinely orange, and that anything that was orange-y could be described as ‘red’, ‘scarlet’ (both of which described a wider range of colours than now), ‘tawny’, or ‘brusk’.[6] It wasn’t until the 17th century that ‘orange’ was accepted as an adjective.

The Redaction

There are no quantities called for in the recipe, but as the authors of ‘The Medieval Kitchen’ provided a redaction of their own I saw no reason not to use their recipe, with one major exception. In the book, the authors say to use either bitter orange juice, or to use verjuice with rosewater. Having looked at the translation provided and, as much as possible with my basic Italian, the original recipe, I see no reason to read it as:

juice OR verjuice and rose water PLUS sugar and cinnamon

instead of:

juice OR verjuice PLUS rose water, sugar and cinnamon.

I also chose to add a bit of butter to the chicken, but that is a personal preference and you can certainly do as they suggest and use no fat. Of course, the original recipe calls for the chicken to be roasted, that is cooked in front of a fire, rather than baked in an oven, but if, like me, you don’t happen to have an open fire available then the oven will have to do.

Chicken with Orange Sauce from 'Libro de Arte Coquinaria'

Chicken with Orange Sauce

Adapted from ‘The Medieval Kitchen’ by Odile Redon, Francoise Sabban and Silvano Serventi.

1 chicken

Butter (optional)

Juice of 3 Seville oranges (or 2 sweet oranges and 1 lemon and omit the sugar) or 10 tbsp verjuice

1 tbsp rose water

1/2 tsp of sugar

1 pinch of ground cinnamon

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Place the chicken in a pan and, if desired, dot with pieces of butter. Bake until the chicken is golden and the juices run clear, basting frequently with the pan juices.
  2. Mix together the other ingredients in a bowl. Pour over the chicken and serve on a platter, or serve as a sauce with the chicken.

The Round-Up

The Recipe: Chicken with Orange Sauce from Maestro Martino’s ‘Libro De Arte Coquinaria’, translation in ‘The Medieval Kitchen’[7].

The Date: before 1465

How did you make it?: See above.

Time to complete?: The chicken took about an hour, the sauce itself was very quick.

How successful was it?: I liked the sauce, I was worried it would be very sweet but it wasn’t. It was a bit watery though, and I think it could have been even sourer. I would be interested to try it with Seville oranges if I can find them in season. It also made a lot of sauce for just one chicken, although it might not seem as much if you poured if over the chicken.

How accurate?: Well, I couldn’t get Seville oranges, I added a bit of butter, and I used an oven so it was really baked rather than roasted, so it could definitely be better.

Chicken with Orange Sauce from 'Libro de Arte Coquinaria'

[1] Nancy Harmon Jenkins, “Two Ways of Looking at Maestro Martino,” Gastronomica 7, no. 2 (2007): 97.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Odine Redon, Francoise Sabban, and Silvano Serventi, The Medieval Kitchen: Recipe from France and Italy, trans. Edward Schneider (Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press, 1998), 115.

[4] Frederick G. Gmitter Jr. and Xulan Hu, “The Possible Role of Yunnan, China, in the Origin of Contemporary Citrus Species (Rutaceae),” Economic Botany 44, no. 2 (1990): 267–77; Clarissa Hyman, Oranges: A Global History (London: Reaktion Books, 2013), 7–13.

[5] Hyman, Oranges: A Global History, 13–17; Herbert John Webber, The Citrus Industry …, [1st ed]. (Berkeley, 1948), 12–14.

[6] Mark Morton, “Hue and Eye,” Gastronomica 11, no. 3 (2011): 6–7.

[7] Redon, Sabban, and Serventi, The Medieval Kitchen: Recipe from France and Italy, 115.

Bibliography

Gmitter, Frederick G., Jr., and Xulan Hu. “The Possible Role of Yunnan, China, in the Origin of Contemporary Citrus Species (Rutaceae).” Economic Botany 44, no. 2 (1990): 267–77.

Harmon Jenkins, Nancy. “Two Ways of Looking at Maestro Martino.” Gastronomica 7, no. 2 (2007): 97–103.

Hyman, Clarissa. Oranges: A Global History. London: Reaktion Books, 2013.

Morton, Mark. “Hue and Eye.” Gastronomica 11, no. 3 (2011): 6–7.

Redon, Odine, Francoise Sabban, and Silvano Serventi. The Medieval Kitchen: Recipe from France and Italy. Translated by Edward Schneider. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press, 1998.

Webber, Herbert John. “History and Development of the Citrus Industry.” In The Citrus Industry …, edited by Herbert John Webber, [1st ed]. Berkely: University of California Press, 1948.

Last Lunch on the Titanic

Last year whilst in Belfast I visited the Titanic Quarter. Not many people realise it but Belfast claims the honour of having built the Titanic, and at the heart of the recently rejuvenated docks like Titanic Belfast. Part museum, part artwork, part monument to Belfast’s working class history, it’s a great way to pass a few drizzly hours in the city.

Titanic Luncheon Menu

Included in the exhibition is a remarkable object, a menu from the last lunch served on the Titanic. The 1st Class menu was taken from the sinking ship in the handbag of one Mrs. Dodge who escaped in a lifeboat with her son. Her husband also found a spot in a lifeboat, thanks to the steward Frederic Ray whose compliments can be found on the back of the menu.

 

The luncheon menu contains some 40 dishes for diners to choose from, and unfortunately making all of them was a bit beyond my budget. Instead I made a small selection which you can see in my own menu below.

 IMG_3875Titanic Luncheon Menu by Turnspit and Table

 

The Recipes

 

All the recipes are from American cookbooks and I tried to keep them as close chronologically as I could.

 

Cockie Leekie from ‘Mrs Rorer’s New Cook Book’ 1902

 

“1 fowl

2 quarts of water

1/2 pound of prunes

Yolks of two eggs

1 pound of beef marrow bones

2 dozen leeks

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoonful of salt

1 saltspoonful of pepper

 

Purchase the marrow bone from the round; have the butcher saw it into two-inch lengths, making four bones. Draw and truss the fowl; put it into a soup kettle; cover with cold water, bring to boiling point and skim. Add the marrow bones, the bay leaf and pepper;simmer gently for one hour. Add the leeks, neatly trimmed; simmer one hour longer. Add the prunes which have been soaked in water over night, and the salt; bring again to boiling point, and it is ready to serve. Remove the strings from the chicken, dish it in the centre of a large platter, put the prunes around, garnish the edge of the dish with carefully boiled rice, the marrow bones, and the leeks. Strain the soup into a tureen over the well beaten yolks of the eggs, and serve with squares of toasted bread. Serve egg sauce with the chicken. This dish takes the place of both meat and soup.”

 

Notes – I used a lot more water than the two quarts called for, I basically covered the chicken. I also used a lot fewer leeks, only 2 instead of the 2 dozen called for in the recipe. 10 mins before serving I spooned in the dumpling mixture and put the lid on to let them cook. To serve you pour the hot soup over the beaten eggs, forming strings of egg in the soup. I cut pieces of toast into small squares and floated them in the soup. I then served the chicken itself with the second course.

Cockie Leekie Soup

Dumplings from ‘Mrs Rorer’s New Cook Book’ 1902

“Put into a bowl one pint of flour with which you have sifted a rounding teaspoonful of baking powder and a half teaspoonful of salt; add about two-thirds of a cup of milk. Take the bowl and a teaspoon to the side of the fire and drop the mixture all over the top of the stew by teaspoonfuls. Cover the saucepan and cook slowly for ten minutes without lifting the lid. Dish by putting the dumplings around the edge of the platter; the stew in the centre, straining over the sauce; dust with a little chopped parsley, and send at once to the table.

Notes – I dropped large teaspoonfuls into the soup about 10 mins before serving and then served them with the boiled chicken. To be honest I didn’t like the mushy texture and lack of flavour.”

Cockie Leekie Chicken

Chicken à la Maryland from ‘The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book’ 1896

 

Maryland Chicken

“Dress, clean, and cut up two chickens. Sprinkle with salt and pepper,dip in flour, egg, and crumbs, place in a well-greased dripping-pan, and bake twenty minutes in a hot oven, basting after first five minutes of cooking with one-third cup melted butter. Arrange on platter and pour over two cups Cream Sauce.”

 

Cream sauce recipe is available here.

 

Notes- This was one of the lovely surprises of the evening. Juicy chicken with a crispy shell it was easy to make and really delicious. I also really liked it served with the cream sauce.

Chicken a la Maryland

Custard Pudding from ‘The Washington Women’s Cookbook’ 1909 (pg 66)

“One pint sweet milk, one cup sifted flour, stir together and cook until thick. When it is cool stir in flour, beaten eggs, two cups sugar and one cup chopped citron. Bake until it sets; serve cold with or without sauce.”

 

Notes – This was another surprise. When I was making it I was very concerned because it’s not a normal custard recipe and the cooked milk and flour was basically glue. I seived it to get rid of the lumps and continued with the recipe (except I replaced the chopped citron with some grated lemon peel) before baking it in a water bath for about 45 mins and it actually turned out very well. Probably better served hot.

Custard Pudding

Apple Meringue from ‘The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book’ 1896

Apple Meringue.

Use Meringue I. and pile lightly on baked apples, brown in oven, cool, and serve with Boiled Custard.
Canned peaches, drained from their liquor, may be prepared in the same way; it is then called Peach Meringue.

Baked Apples.
Wipe and core sour apples. Put in a baking-dish, and fill cavities withsugar and spice. Allow one-half cup sugar and one-fourth teaspooncinnamon or nutmeg to eight apples. If nutmeg is used, a few dropslemon juice and few gratings from rind of lemon to each apple is an improvement. Cover bottom of dish with boiling water, and bake in a hot oven until soft, basting often with syrup in dish. Serve hot or cold with cream. Many prefer to pare apples before baking. When this is done, core before paring, that fruit may keep in shape. In the fall, when apples are at their best, do not add spices to apples, as their flavor cannot be improved; but towards spring they become somewhat tasteless, and spice is an improvement.

Meringue I.

Whites 2 eggs.
2 tablespoons powdered sugar.
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice or
1/4 teaspoon vanilla.
Beat whites until stiff, add sugar gradually and continue beating, then add flavoring.

Notes – This was a bit of a multi-step recipe. You bake the apples first, then make the meringue before scooping the meringue onto the apples and baking again. It was very nice but very, very sweet. I think you could probably refrain from putting sugar on the apples at all, just a little spice.
Apple Meringue

Other Elements

– There were nuts and olives on the table for snacking

– I served baked potatoes, sliced tomato and beetroot with the chicken as per the menu. They also suggested lettuce but I just didn’t have any.

– Small bread rolls can be placed inside the folded napkins.

– Cheese is served with salad, bread or crackers before the dessert (but possibly between the pastry and dessert).

Stilton

Resources

  • ‘Last Dinner on the Titanic’ by Rich Archbold and Dana McCauley
  • For how to set a table I suggest ‘The Butler’s Guide to Running the Home and Other Graces’ by Stanely Auger and Fiona St. Aubyn, although my own table setting was limited by what I had on hand. For more about table settings and serving dinner you can try ‘Dinner is Served’ by Arthur Inch and Arlene Hirst.
  • For table etiquette see ‘The Etiquette of Today’ by Edith B. Ordway (although it is a little late).
  • I folded the napkins into a Bishop’s Hat using these instructions

No Peasant Left Behind

Chicken Soup à L’Ouverture de Cuisine

The challenge this fortnight: soups, stews, sauces and gravies. I set out wanting to explore the origins of the classic French dish poule au pot, and the seemingly simple chicken stew turned out to be rather intriguing.

 

Henry IV. Anonymous [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Henry IV. Anonymous [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The story goes that Henri IV of France aka Henry of Navarre, Henry the Great, Good King Henry or The Green Gallant (1553-1610), left with a nation devastated by more than 30 years of war between Catholics and Protestants, wanted to lead France back to prosperity. After a game of jeu de paume (the precursor of tennis), Henri and the Duke of Savoy were discussing the future of the kingdom and Henri says:

 

“si Dieu me donne encore de la vie, je feray qu’il n’y aura point de labourer en mon Royaume, qui n’ait moyen d’avoir une poule dans son pot”[1]

If God continues to give me life, I will ensure that there is no labourer in my kingdom who lacks the means to have a chicken in his pot.

 

The phrase became a rallying point for the French peasantry, particularly during the French Revolution and the dish has become a classic.

Unfortunately this quote is first recorded by Hardouin Péréfixe de Beaumont some 50 years after Henri’s death and while the sentiment fits with Henri’s efforts to encourage new techniques for farming, land management and even silk farming[2], there is no real evidence that he ever said such a thing. Even if he did, the use of the word “labourer” in French implies only the upper class of land owning peasant, not the majority the lower classes who were landless day labourers[3].

The Recipe

I couldn’t find any recipes which were explicitly linked with Henri, which makes sense since the gist of the phrase clearly emphasises the ability to afford a chicken rather than a particular way of cooking it. For a recipe that is somewhat related you could try this 1895 recipe (in French) for Poule Au Pot Belle-Gabrielle which is named after Henri’s favourite mistress (who was also an early adopter of that newfangled piece of technology: the fork)[4].

 Gabrielle d'Estrées, Mistress of Henry IV of France. By Benjamin Foulon or Maître IDC, 1594-1596 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Gabrielle d’Estrées, Mistress of Henry IV of France. By Benjamin Foulon or Maître IDC, 1594-1596 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

For something a bit closer to the time of Henri IV (1553-1610) I turned to L’Ouverture de Cuisine, a cookbook published in 1604, written by Lancelot de Casteau. Lancelot was a master cook in Liège in modern Belgium. He offers a recipe for boiled capon to be served in the first service which goes as follows:

“Boiled capon when it is somewhat cooked, put therein rosemary, marjoram, flour of nutmeg, a salted lemon cut into slices, a reumer of white wine, or verjuice, & butter, some beef marrow bones, & let them stew together well, served on toasted white bread.”[5]

Seems simple enough right? But what on earth is a reumer? It took a lot of digging, but eventually I got there. It’s the French name for a Dutch or German wineglass called a roemer named after the Romans who had introduced the Germans to glass-making. The green glass was shaped into round cups with thick stems covered in prunts or small lumps of glass. The prunts helped people hold onto the cups with greasy fingers during meals[6]. Although quite simple in form the glasses could be highly decorated with diamond point engraving and enamel and they can be seen in many paintings of the period. For extant examples try here, or here, or here.

Pieter Claesz, Still LIfe with Salt Tub, c. 1644. Pieter Claesz (1597/1598-1660) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Pieter Claesz, Still Life with Salt Tub, c. 1644. Pieter Claesz (1597/1598-1660) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 So how much does a reumer contain? The best information I can find says that in the 16th century glasses contained between 120 and 400ml[7], so basically anywhere from half a cup to more than a cup and a half.

 

The Redaction

 Chicken Soup

1 chicken (capon if you can find it)

A large sprig of rosemary

1 tsp dried marjoram

1/4 nutmeg, grated

1 preserved lemon, cut into slices

3/4 cup of dry white wine, or to taste

1 tbsp butter

3 or 4 beef marrow bones

Bread to serve

 

1. Place the whole chicken in a pot or slow cooker, cover with water and cook until the outside has turned white.

2. Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the bread. Cover with a lid and allow to simmer about 90 mins or until the chicken is cooked and falling of the bone. If cooking in a slow cooker cook on low for 8 hrs.

3. Remove the chicken and shred the meat. Add the shredded chicken back into the stock and season to taste. Serve over toasted white bread.

IMG_1131

The Recipe: Boiled Capon from L’Ouverture de Cuisine by Master Lancelot de Casteau (transcription available here)

The Date: 1604

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: I put it in the slow cooker overnight, so prep time was about 15 mins and cooking was about 8 hrs.

Total cost: The chicken was about $15 and the preserved lemons were pricey at $13 (would be a lot cheaper if home-made) but the marrow bones were only $5 and everything else I already had. All up around $30 for about 6-8 serves.

How successful was it?: It tasted good, although the grease sat on the top and had to be stirred well into the stock. The chicken was tender and juicy, and the stock was pleasantly citrusy.

How accurate?: Well obviously the choice of the slow cooker wasn’t exactly period, but it worked for me with the time constraints and mimicked a long, slow simmer nicely. I couldn’t get my hands on a capon so I used a free range chicken instead. I don’t know if the preserved lemons were the right choice, they certainly tasted good but I couldn’t find much about the use of preserved lemons in Europe at this time. Finally, the recipe didn’t specify exactly what to do with the chicken once it was cooked. Was it served whole? In its liquid? Cut up or shredded and served as a soup? Since the stock was tasty I went with the latter option and shredded the chicken before returning it to the hot stock.

 

[1]Hardouin de Péréfixe de Beaumont, Histoire du Roy Henry le Grand (Chez Charles Osmont, 1681), 528.

[2] Vincent J. Pitts, Henri IV of France: His Reign and Age (United States of America: JHU Press, 2009), 259.

[3] Ibid., 258.

[4] Leo Moulin, Eating and Drinking in Europe (Antwerp: Mercatorfonds, 2002), 196.

[5]Daniel Myers, “Ouverture de Cuisine,” Medieval Cookery, 2012, http://www.medievalcookery.com/notes/ouverture.html.

[6] Corning Glass Center, Glass from the Corning Museum of Glass : a Guide to the Collections. (Corning, N.Y: Corning Glass Center, 1955), 39, http://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015031699146; Percival MacIver, The Glass Collector;a Guide to Old English Glass, (New York: Mead and Company, 1919), 264, http://hdl.handle.net/2027/uva.x001070865.

[7] Moulin, Eating and Drinking in Europe, 198.

 

Bibliography

Beaumont, Hardouin de Péréfixe de. Histoire du Roy Henry le Grand. Chez Charles Osmont, 1681.

Corning Glass Center. Glass from the Corning Museum of Glass : a Guide to the Collections. Corning, N.Y: Corning Glass Center, 1955. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015031699146.

MacIver, Percival. The Glass Collector; a Guide to Old English Glass, New York: Mead and Company, 1919. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/uva.x001070865.

Moulin, Leo. Eating and Drinking in Europe. Antwerp: Mercatorfonds, 2002.

Myers, Daniel. “Ouverture de Cuisine.” Medieval Cookery, 2012. http://www.medievalcookery.com/notes/ouverture.html.

Pitts, Vincent J. Henri IV of France: His Reign and Age. United States of America: JHU Press, 2009.