Wednesday, 27 November 2019

I have awesome friends



The Dreamstress, in particular, is an enabler.  She keeps showing me pictures of things and encouraging me to make them.  Her latest suggestion is a necklace shaped like ouroboros, as seen in a 1801 fashion plate from Costume Parisien.


Close up of the snake's head.  This is made from nine or ten separate flat planes sewn together to make the head shape.



Here's the fashion plate in question.  Although the necklace is the focal point, the picture is small and not very detailed.  Even if you zoom in, all you can see is that the snake:

  • Is green
  • Appears to have a striped or spiral pattern on its body
  • Has a detailed head with facial features sculpted in three dimensions

I've had to make my best guess at how the necklace might have been constructed and go from there.


The Rijksmuseum describes this as a gold necklace, but it's coloured green in the picture.  Perhaps it's supposed to be gold and emeralds, but it looks more like a beaded rope to me.  


I suspect what we see in the fashion plate is likely to be one of these:


Beaded snake made by an Ottoman prisoner of war during WWI.  It's made using a beaded crochet technique.


The snake is a good luck symbol in Turkey and some other Near Eastern countries, where beaded snakes seem to have been a traditional craft item.  During WWI, some POWs from the Ottoman Empire made beadwork items, including snakes like this one, to earn money.

In the early 19th century there was a lot of interest in Oriental art, which was novel and exotic to Western Europeans, and it wouldn’t be surprising for a fashionable Parisian lady to have a necklace made in the Ottoman Empire.  But this is just a hypothesis.  There are many ways to make a beaded snake, and the Costume Parisien illustration predates the WWI snake by over a hundred years.  In any case, I didn’t especially want to learn bead crochet.  I wanted something relaxing to do while binge watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race.  Thus, my necklace is a tubular net made with silk thread and there's no crochet involved at all.


HSM details

The challenge: Above the Belt.

Material: Tubular net made using glass seed beads.

Pattern:  N/A; I made it up as I went along.

Year:  1801.

Notions:  Silk thread, glass beads in sizes 12/0 and 6/0.

How historically accurate is it?  I believe the original necklace was probably made using different techniques.  My version resembles the necklace in the fashion plate, but it's not a replica of any specific object and it's not made using historical methods.

Hours to complete:  15 or so.

First worn: Not yet, but I plan to wear it out on the town!  This necklace is a great statement piece for 21st century wear.

Total cost: $47.50.  

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

A Herjolfsnes dress

A 14th century dress based on finds from Herjolfsnes, Greenland.


Years ago I tried 14th century tailoring and it did not go well.  But as I've discussed before, those Herjolfsnes patterns are very easy to work with, so I decided to try again and this time the result is a success.

For this project I've explored some of the details of Herjolfsnes clothing construction.  The wool is a fairly reasonable imitation of the kind of fabrics used in Greenland and medieval Scandinavia generally, where diamond or chevron twills with different coloured warp and weft threads seem to have been popular.  It’s not vaðmal, which is what the Greenland clothes tended to be made of, but it’s really, really nice.

My dress is sewn with linen thread, which is plausible, but doesn’t seem to have been typical in Greenland.  It may have been more common elsewhere; flax apparently did not grow in 14th century Greenland.  The Greenland clothes were sewn with wool thread, which is not available today, meaning I would have had to spin it myself.  No thank you.

Many of the seams on the Herjolfsnes garments were sewn from the outside.  I can confirm this is the easiest way to sew some of these seams, especially the gores and just below the waist where the dress flares out towards the hem.

Because this dress was never going to be an exact copy of the Herjolfsnes finds I decided to make it a long, fitted, fashionable one of the kind illustrated in European manuscripts, but not typical of the Greenland finds.  However, as far as possible, I tried to make it using the same construction techniques as the Greenland clothes.

A pocket slit just below the waist of the dress, as found on some of the Herjolfsnes garments.  In the 14th century, pocket slits allowed your purse to hang down inside your skirt, where it was harder for thieves to access.


This method of tailoring is an interesting process.  It requires very minimal equipment, and you can cut the whole gown using just scissors and a string to measure with if you need to.  This has obvious advantages in the medieval context, especially in isolated communities like Greenland.  I expected to be doing some math to get the pieces the right size, but no.  You don’t even have to use Pythagoras’ theorem for the gores; they are just rectangles cut in half diagonally.  Additionally, the gores’ width can be adjusted to make the best use of the amount of fabric you have available.  The whole process is very practical, and surprisingly easy.

I now suspect the popularity of diamond and chevron twills was not just an aesthetic choice.  Fabric with a striped pattern is very convenient when you're cutting it into rectangles along the grain.


Front skirt gore.  It's not so easy to see on the patterned fabric, but it has a cool little fish tail detail at the top.


It’s easy to see how this method of tailoring progressed from earlier, loose fitting gowns to the figure hugging styles of the 14th century.  Making these things fit snugly through the torso is not difficult, and doesn’t require any extra materials or equipment, though it’s probably helpful to have a friend who can assist.  Most of the Herjolfsnes garments were loose tunics without a defined waist, but a couple show evidence of having been fitted by pinching in the fabric at the waist along the side gores and then sewing it.  They were still loose enough to be pulled on over the head; none of the Herjolfsnes gowns are so tight they had to be laced up like some of the gowns worn on the mainland, but I found it is possible to get quite a tight fit without needing to add lacing.  Wool has a little bit of stretch.


HSM details

The challenge: Details.  This dress has lots of fun little details, such as fishtail gores, pocket slits, and pieced sleeves.

Material: 3.5 meters of herringbone wool.

Pattern:  I used the patterns found in Medieval Garments Reconstructed: Norse Clothing Patterns for reference, but this isn't a specific pattern.  Instead, I used the cutting method the 14th century Greenlanders used, along with my measurements, to make the dress.

Year:  Mid 14th century.

Notions:  Linen thread.

How historically accurate is it?  It's made in the same way as the Herjolfsnes finds, although the materials aren't exactly like those used in 14th century Greenland, and the cut is likely more typical of mainland European styles than what Greenlanders wore.

Hours to complete:  Probably 30-ish.

First worn: Several times to get the sleeves sitting right.  The trick here is to rotate the sleeve head relative to the armscye until it stops wrinkling around your biceps.  Have patience and don't panic, you'll get there.

Total cost: $84.  Not a cheap project, but I couldn't resist that wool. 

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Clareyt: a balanced medieval wine



Balance was an important concept for the medieval cook, because medieval medical theory held that different foods increased the production of different humors within the body.  Thus, eating the right foods was essential to keeping your humors properly balanced.  Balancing your humors would help you recover from disease and, ideally, avoid disease in the first place, so eating a balanced diet was essential.

Medieval dietetics was a complex subject (see this link for a nice overview).  If you could afford it, you could get a physician to prescribe an individualized diet designed to help you achieve an optimal balance of humours.  In general, cooks tried to balance dishes according to the properties the ingredients were perceived to have: hot, cold, dry, and moist.

This clareyt recipe from the Netherlands is very similar to the hyppocras I made previously, but using white wine instead of red.  The term clareyt or clareit usually, though not always, meant a spiced white wine*, which had been strained through a cloth to remove any sediment.

It conforms well to medieval ideas of balance.  In this recipe white wine, considered cold and moist according to Hippocrates, is balanced with spices which were considered hot and dry.  According to medieval medical theory the ideal balance for humours should be slightly warm and slightly moist, i.e. slightly sanguine, so a wine which has these characteristics is obviously a healthy drink that will promote a good balance of humors.

Om goeden finen witten clareyt te maken

Om goeden finen witten clareyt te maken.  Neemt twee vierendeel ende een half pinte witten wijn of petau Dan neemt van dien wijn een lettel ende maecten werm in dien wijn doet bruyn suycker ende rueret so lange tot [28] dat dit suicker al wel ghesmolten es in dien wermen wijn Dan mingelt daer in een once ende een half once van de[30]sen na volghende poeder wel ende seer Dan suldijt ghie ten duer den sack acht oft neghe weruen ende clarify ceret Dyts dat poedere Neempt wt ghelesen caneel witten ghimber/ greyne lanck peper/ galigaen calini aromatici coriander asi. Maect hier af poedere ende laet al met duer loopen

To make good fine white clareyt

To make good fine white clareyt. Take two vierendeel [approx. 1.3 litres or 2 pints each] and a half pint of white wine or [wine of] Poitou. Then take a little of this wine and make it warm; into this wine put brown sugar and stir it as long until the sugar is all well melted in the warm wine.  Then thoroughly mix into it an ounce and a half of this following powder. Then you shall pour it through the sack eight or nine times and clarify it. This is the powder. Take fine cinnamon white ginger, grains of paradise, long pepper, galingale, sweet flag [Acorus calamus], coriander in equal parts. Make powder of this and let it all run through [the sack] together.

From Een notabel boecxken van cokeryen, English translation by Christina van Tets.


The original recipe makes 2.6 liters, while my modernized recipe is optimized to make one 0.75 liter bottle of clareyt.

Long pepper, grains of paradise, and galangal can be hard for a 21st century cook to obtain.  It’s worth trying your Indian grocer or an online supplier, and I've provided what I think are reasonable substitutions.  The original recipe also calls for sweet flag, a plant used in traditional medicine to aid digestion.  It probably features in the recipe because of its perceived medicinal benefits.  However there are few clinical studies on its effects “due to concerns of toxicity”.  I have omitted sweet flag from my recipe and I suggest you do too.


Ingredients 

1 bottle white wine
Brown sugar, to taste
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon grains of paradise (substitute with a mix of black pepper and cardamom)
½ teaspoon long pepper (substitute with black pepper, nutmeg, and cardamom)
½ teaspoon galangal (substitute with more ginger)
½ teaspoon coriander

Instructions

Heat a small quantity of the wine, and add the spice powder and half a teaspoon or so of brown sugar.  Stir until the sugar dissolves, then add the rest of the wine then strain it all through a cloth to get the sediment out.

These kids of recipes were intended to be made with sweet wine so I used moscato to make my clareyt, and if I make it again I'll consider leaving the sugar out entirely.  I don't think it's really necessary, but maybe 16th century Netherlanders had more of a sweet tooth than I do.

Unlike mulled wine today, clareyt was served cold (presumably cellar temperature, not fridge temperature), and a similar recipe in the same book recommends the clareyt is better if it's allowed to sit for a day before drinking, so I let it sit for a day before trying it.

For a modern wine drinker, clareyt has a strange taste.  It's sweet and a little syrupy, like a dessert wine, but it has clear notes of pepper and ginger with a warm, peppery after taste.  It tastes more like some kind of cordial than a wine, or maybe a wine-based cocktail.  Presumably that's how it's supposed to be, but it's so hard to know how these things tasted in period.

I want to try this recipe with other types of white wine like Riesling or chardonnay, because I think the results could be interesting.  And from a modern perspective, treating it like a cocktail opens up interesting possibilities.  What if it was served over ice, with a garnish of lime and sliced ginger?  There are a lot of summer drink possibilities here.


The Historical Food Fortnightly challenge: Balance.

The receipt/recipe: White clareyt from Een notabel boecxken van cokeryen.

The date/year and region: 16th century, from the Netherlands, but these recipes were popular all over medieval Europe.

How did you make it: See above.

Time to complete: 20 minutes, plus a day's waiting time.

Total cost: $9.50 for a bottle of Banrock Station moscato.

How successful was it?  On the whole I prefer hyppocras, but that's just because I'm more of a red wine drinker.  It's a very pleasant drink, and if you enjoy sweet wines you'll probably like it a lot.

How accurate is it?  I'm not sure how moscato compares to the kind of wines that would have been used, so it's hard to tell.


The term claret came to refer to French red wine around the beginning of the 17th century. 

Sunday, 8 September 2019

St Birgitta's cap




In the later medieval period, caps were an everyday clothing item for both men and women.  They kept people's hair clean and out of the way, stopped people's heads from getting sunburnt, and gave women something to pin their veils onto.  Like other utilitarian objects they don’t usually survive, but there is a 14th century cap which has been preserved as a relic, because it’s said to have belonged to St Birgitta of Sweden.  It’s an interesting item, made from two halves joined together with knotwork and finished with an embroidered band.

YouTuber Morgan Donner has put together two excellent videos on how to make this cap.  She has a video specifically about how to do the knotwork:





...and a longer video, which takes you through the entire process of making the cap.





Thanks to Morgan's videos, I was able to replicate the cap.  There is also a very good tutorial from Cathrin Åhlén at Katafalk, complete with a pattern, which I found really useful.

My knotwork is made from 6 linen threads, each of which should be about 5 times the length of the knotwork.  I started at the back of the cap and left half of each thread as a tail while I did the herringbone rows.  Then I used the tails to weave around the herringbone stitches and thus complete the knot.  It’s annoying if one of the tails isn’t long enough, but not a huge problem because you can darn in another length of thread.  Small mistakes in the weaving aren’t obvious either.


I'm 98% sure this photo shows the place where I had to darn in another length of thread.


And this is the back of the cap showing where the knotwork starts.


I found that a strip of thermal-backed curtain fabric works really well as a backing to stabilize the two halves of the cap while you complete the knotwork.  However, you’ll need to be very careful that whatever you use to draw the grid on your curtain fabric isn’t going to rub off onto your cap, or use a washable fabric pen that won't matter if it rubs off.  I used a biro, and was not very happy to discover that even when dry it transferred itself to my cap.  Fortunately, Sard Wonder Soap lives up to its name.

In the comments on Morgan's video about making the cap, someone suggested it might have originally been made for a child, with the knotwork added later so it would fit an adult.  I also wonder whether it might have been a regional style.  The images of caps which don't appear to have embroidery come from other parts of Europe, and the design feels very Scandinavian to me.  It reminds me of the wire posements found at Birka and other places, and it's based on the number 6, which is a recurring pattern with ancient Scandinavian textiles.



HSM details

The Challenge:  Everyday.  Caps like this were part of the 14th century European woman's everyday wardrobe, although they weren't always embroidered.

Material: Part of a pillowcase that I'm reasonably certain is linen.

Pattern: Cathrin Åhlén's pattern, which is available on her blog.

Year:  14th century.

Notions:  Linen thread.

How historically accurate is it?  It's made from linen like the original, in the same way as the original, so far as I can tell.  While it's not an exact copy, I like to think it's pretty close.

Hours to complete:  Around 10.

First worn: around the house after photographing.

Total cost: Probably a dollar or so.  I got the pillowcase, along with another pillowcase and a sheet, for $6 at the Sallies. 

Thursday, 20 June 2019

14th century hippocras for the 21st century consumer

Happy Solstice everyone!




Down here, of course, it is Yule.  Mulled wine is traditionally associated with midwinter, so this week I tried the medieval ancestor of the mulled wines we enjoy today: a hippocras recipe from 14th century France.




This recipe comes to us from the Jérôme Pichon’s book Le Ménagier de Paris, dated to around 1393 CE.

HIPPOCRAS. To make powdered hippocras, take a quarter-ounce of very fine cinnamon, hand-picked by tasting it, an ounce of very fine meche ginger and an ounce of grains of paradise, a sixth of an ounce of nutmeg and galingale together, and pound it all together. And when you want to make hippocras, take a good half-ounce or more of this powder and two quarter-ounces of sugar, and mix them together, and a quart of wine as measured in Paris.And note that the powder and the sugar mixed together make "duke's powder".
English translation by Janet Hinson and available here.


I chose it because it’s simple to make, and because unlike some hippocras recipes the quantity of sugar involved is reasonable.  Some of these recipes were pure bottled diabetes.  Since most of us today buy our wine in 750ml bottles, I've developed a modernized version of Pichon’s recipe which makes a 750ml bottle of hippocras.


Ingredients:

1 bottle of wine (I've used a merlot rosé - see the section on red wine to find out why)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
 tablespoon ground ginger
 tablespoon grains of paradise (or substitute a mixture of black pepper and ground cardamom – grains of paradise usually aren’t readily available today)
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg and galangal (if you don’t have galangal just use nutmeg, as galangal tastes somewhat like ginger anyway)
¾ tablespoon of brown sugar

Heat a small amount of wine and stir in the sugar and spices until the sugar dissolves.  Add the rest of the wine, and strain the mixture through a cloth to remove the sediment.  This is an important step which Pichon’s recipe omits to mention, because he assumed all his readers would know you have to strain hippocras.  Its name actually comes from the “Hippocratic sleeve” used to strain it.  You can make a Hippocratic sleeve at home by placing a cloth inside a funnel.

You may be thinking “Wow, that’s a lot of pepper”, and yes, it is.  Unlike modern mulled wine recipes, hippocras typically did contain a lot of pepper or grains of paradise, which taste similar to pepper.  It also seems to have been drunk at room temperature, not heated.


What’s it like?

Surprising, and I mean that in a good way.  Hippocras tastes unusual to a 21st century palate, because we're not used to the combination of pepper, ginger, and wine.  But it's an enjoyable drink full of complex flavours that complement the wine nicely.  If you consider your wine pairings, you’ll find spicy foods are often suggested as a pairing for different styles of rosé wine.  Peppery, spicy flavours work very well with the right choice of wine.

The pepper isn't as noticeable as you'd think, but it's definitely there and it gives the drink a pleasant level of heat, while the ginger and cinnamon enhance the wine's fruit flavours.

Personally, I think it could use a little more cinnamon and nutmeg, so measure those generously if you make the recipe.  I would also be inclined to skip the sugar next time, or perhaps to use honey instead.


Red wine in the Middle Ages

For the best approximation of a 14th century hippocras, I suggest choosing a rosé instead of a red.  This is because medieval red wines were very different from the reds we enjoy today.  They were pale coloured, more like a modern rosé, and fairly low in alcohol.  They were also drunk very young.  Medieval people preferred to drink new wine where possible because the wine tended to be poor quality by today’s standards, and it didn’t age well.

Apparently darker coloured wines were considered desirable, and there are several extant recipes for using food colouring to improve the colour of wine.  Shortly after his hippocras recipe, Pichon supplied a recipe for making white wine appear red:

TO MAKE WHITE WINE RED AT THE TABLE, take in summer the red flowers which grow in the wheat, called rose-mallow and other names, and let them dry until they crumble into powder, and secretly drop them in the glass with the wine, and it will turn red.

Did this really fool people into thinking they were drinking red wine?  Medieval wine must have been very different from 21st century wine if colour was the only way people could tell whether they were drinking white or red.  Even with a lot of spices in there, it should be possible to tell the difference.  I now have many, many questions about just what exactly wine was like in the 14th century.

Anyway, back to the hippocras.  Despite the variable quality of medieval wine, hippocras wasn't intended to mask the taste of bad wine.  No one would want to waste expensive spices on bad wine, and some recipes specifically suggested using high quality wine if it was available.  In the Middle Ages high quality meant fruity young wine with a deep, rich colour; in a modern context I recommend a full-bodied wine at the sweeter end of the spectrum.


The Historical Food Fortnightly challenge: Solstice.

The receipt/recipe: Hippocras from Le Ménagier de Paris.

The date/year and region: 14th - 15th century France.

How did you make it: See above.

Time to complete: 20 minutes.

Total cost: $10.99 for a bottle of Peter Yealands merlot rosé.

How successful was it?  I like it!  This is definitely something I'll make again and, as an added bonus, you can get suitable wines very cheap if you shop carefully.

How accurate is it? I used a 14th century recipe and tried to choose a wine similar to what I think was used in period, but I'm not an expert in medieval wines and therefore I'm not sure how well the taste matches 14th century hippocras.

Monday, 29 April 2019

Mushroom ketchup: not as expensive as you think



This post is all about my attempt at one of the signature flavours of the 18th century: mushroom ketchup.  Mushroom ketchup was to the 18th century what garum was to the Romans, an all purpose flavouring agent used in a wide variety of dishes, and in fact the taste is not unlike fish sauce.  It's a salty, savoury, umami flavour.

Due to the popularity of mushroom ketchup, historical recipes tended to assume you were making the stuff in industrial quantities, which is prohibitively expensive for most of us today.  But do you, as a modern cook, actually need an industrial sized bucket of mushroom ketchup?  In this post I'm going to make a smaller, affordable quantity of this ketchup using about 500 grams of mushrooms.  If you do need a large quantity of it, here is an awesome cheat recipe made with mushroom bouillon.

Recipes for mushroom ketchup varied, but they all followed the same basic pattern.  You salted your mushrooms and left them to sit for a while so the salt could draw out the mushroom liquor, then you squeezed all the liquor into a pot, boiled it with spices, and strained it again into bottles.  Some cooks added wine or ale, but this was apparently optional, and the spices involved varied.


Here is a recipe from Hannah Glasse's The Art of Cookery.


And here is John Farley's version from The London Art of Cookery.  The similarity in titles, by the way, was probably not accidental.  Farley seems to have "borrowed" a lot from Hannah Glasse, who herself plagiarized earlier authors.















At least one recipe requires the salted mushrooms to be placed in a low oven for 24 hours, but I don't care to leave the oven on for a full 24 hours with no one to watch it while I sleep and go to work and besides, not all recipes included this step, so I just put my casserole dish full of mushrooms next to the hot water cylinder.  Note that I have chopped my mushrooms to make them easier to squeeze.

Here is what I ended up with.  At this point the mushrooms have been sitting for a full 24 hours and have released an amount of juice which, frankly, surprised me because I had expected some liquid to be visible, but as you can see there's none.  They smelled good though, so there's that.



Maybe this is why John Farley says to leave the salted mushrooms for four days, and maybe Hannah Glasse didn't say to heat the mushrooms because her audience already knew that.  But my mushrooms weren't looking good.  Hmmm.  What if I zapped them in the microwave?  Microwaving things makes them soggy, right?

Now we're getting somewhere!  In this picture they've been microwaved for five minutes.


I microwaved my salted mushrooms for one minute at a time on medium power, about fifteen minutes in total.  I took them out to check their progress after each minute and kept going until there was a lot of liquid in the dish and the mushroom pieces were soft.

It seems you do need to heat the mushrooms in order to extract their liquor, but you can totally cheat and use a microwave.

Here's my modernized version of Hannah's mushroom ketchup recipe.  For around 200 mls of ketchup you will need:

500 grams mushrooms
About 2 tablespoons of table salt (it doesn't need to be exact)
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground mace
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

Clean your mushrooms, remove the stalks, and chop them.  Layer them in a pan with the salt sprinkled over them and leave them somewhere warm until they're soft and sitting in a nice pool of mushroom liquor or, y'know, help them along in the microwave.

Squeeze all the mushroom liquor into a saucepan using a cloth.  This will take a lot of squeezing, and you will be able to extract a lot more liquor than you think.  Don't throw the squeezed mushrooms away, you can dry them completely and use them for cooking.

Add the spices to your saucepan and simmer it, covered, for 15 minutes, then cool it and strain it into a bottle.  The ketchup will be watery, and that's okay.  It's a concentrated flavouring not a sticky condiment.  You add small quantities of it to boost the flavour of stews and gravies.

If you have a whole kilo of mushrooms (try the farmers' market), it's worth doubling this recipe because it is labour intensive and trust me, you will find plenty of uses for mushroom ketchup.  It's delicious.  There's a reason people in the 18th century were nuts about this stuff.  It tastes, obviously, of mushrooms, but with wonderful aromatic citrus and gingery top notes from the spices.  10/10, this stuff deserves to make a comeback.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Beef stewed savorily

Beef stewed savorily, from John Farley's The London Art of Cookery.  Just look at that cross section!


This is another John Farley recipe.  It's a kind of pot roast, made with beef sirloin which has been stuffed with forcemeat, rolled up, and braised in a stew pan.

The recipe.  I used fish sauce instead of anchovy liquor, because I didn't have any.  I didn't have oysters either, but they're optional anyway.


I used rump steak for this recipe, because the cut of meat now known as rump in the UK and Australasia is roughly equivalent to what 18th century Londoners called the sirloin.  We know this because Mr Farley included a helpful diagram.  He also included a forcemeat recipe, which I made ahead of time and refrigerated.  It only takes about half an hour to make and I can assure you it's time well spent.

That's why the lighting is different in this photo - it was taken the night before.


This is the forcemeat.  It's made from minced meat and bacon cooked with mushrooms, shallots etc. and whizzed in the blender pounded in a mortar until smooth.  It's supposed to be made with veal, but I used a 1:1 mixture of beef and pork.  It tastes amazing and is unquestionably the best part of the entire dish.

Beef stewed savorily is not a difficult recipe to make.  Here you can see my piece of rump steak with forcemeat spread all over it.  All it needs now is to be rolled up like a Yule log made from meat and secured with string.

Two Yule logs, technically, because the rump steak came in two pieces.


I was apprehensive about the stewing part because this is the first time I've ever stewed meat.   I braise meat all the time in the oven and I know this is pretty much the same thing, but when I was a kid stew was one of the things mum made that I absolutely hated, and as a result I've never cooked it.  So I was a little worried the stewing process would ruin this very promising rolled roast.  But Mr Farley didn't let me down.  After consulting the Google academy of culinary skills, I seared the meat well on all sides, and stewed it on a low temperature for two hours.  It came out delicious and very tender, although the beef part was a little bland.  I had suspected this might happen, so while the beef was stewing I made French olive sauce with some of the cooking liquid.

Meat does tend to lose its flavour when boiled, and in the 18th century meat was often boiled, which is most likely why The London Art of Cookery contains an entire section on mouth-watering sauces for all occasions.

The recipe doesn't specify what sauce was intended to be served with beef stewed savorily; presumably this was not something Mr Farley thought he should have to spell out for his readers.  French olive sauce was a great choice, but any rich, savoury sauce or gravy would work well.



The Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge: Savoury.

The Receipt/Recipe: "Beef stewed savorily" from John Farley's The London Art of Cookery.  Technically, however, this is a three-for-one package of savoury recipes since in order to make it I first had to make Hannah Glasse's mushroom catchup (blog post forthcoming) and John Farley's forcemeat recipe.

The Date/Year and Region: 18th century London.

How Did You Make it: As per the recipe, I stuffed a piece of beef with forcemeat, rolled it up, and stewed it.

Time to Complete: All up, just over two hours, but two of those hours were cooking time.  The forcemeat took another half hour.

Total Cost: Including the mushroom ketchup and the forcemeat, the total cost came to around NZ$30 (currently roughly equivalent to US$20).  It's not a cheap recipe.  But on the other hand, I have plenty of forcemeat and ketchup left over for future recipes, and some good stock for sauces.

How Successful Was It?  Very.  This is something I'd happily serve to guests, and as long as you've made your forcemeat ahead of time it has potential to be a dish that looks impressive without requiring a lot of effort.  You do, however, need to serve it with a good sauce or gravy, and you do need to take the time to make the forcemeat stuffing.  Don't be tempted to cheat and use sausage meat, you'll regret it.

How Accurate Is It? I used modern kitchen equipment and made a couple of ingredient substitutions, but for the most part I followed the original recipe and I believe my beef stewed savorily probably turned out the way John Farley intended.