English

Beef and Bacon Pie

Ah, winter. The time of research, respite, and repair. I’ve spent much of it knee-deep in a few different books researching pies in their various forms, so when Lord Olaf Steinabrjotr approached me to make something for Æthelmearc Region One Twelfth Night, I responded with, “How about a pie?” It would, in theory, be the prize for a heavy combat tournament or a feat of strength competition, so I asked myself what typical manly fighter-types like the most. Beef. Bacon. Beer. And probably more bacon.

Easy enough. My mind went immediately to the Beef and Bacon Pies found over at Inn at the Crossroads.

She uses and redacts a 16th century English recipe from A Propre New Booke of Cokery, 1545, but I found this recipe to be lacking in the spices that my palate craves for this. So I went searching through my beloved resource, The Cookbook of Sabina Welserin (published 1553 — merely 8 years of difference here), and went searching for her own take on beef pies.

Here are the recipes I used for reference:

A Propre New Booke of Cokery, 1545, per Inn at the Crossroads:

To make Pyes.

Pyes of mutton or beif must be fyne mynced & seasoned with pepper and salte and a lytel saffron to colour it, suet or marrow a good quantitie, a lytell vynegre, pruynes, great reasons, and dates, take the fattest of the broath of powdred beefe.

Das Kochbuch der Sabina Welserin, 1553: 

120 If you would make a game pie, which should be warm

Lard the game well and cook it and make a formed [pastry] dish and lay in it preserved limes and cinnamon sticks and currants and lay the game therein and also put beef suet into it and a little Malavosia and let it cook. This pie is better warm than cold.

152 To make a good roast

Take veal or a sirloin of beef, lay it overnight in wine, afterwards stick it on a spit. Put it then in a pot. Put good broth therein, onions, wine, spices, pepper, ginger and cloves and let it cook therein. Do not over salt it.

68 To make a quince pie

Peel the quinces and cut the core cleanly out with a knife, fry them in fat. After that stuff the quinces with currants, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Afterwards take beef marrow or finely chopped kidney suet or skimmed fat from some other meat and put good Malavosia or Reinfal on it, sugar, cinnamon and cloves, however it seems good to you. The dough for the pie is found in number [sixty one].

Given that marrow bones are difficult to come by for me, I opted to follow the Inn at the Crossroads recipe and swap bacon in for it. However, unlike that recipe, I absolutely reserved the bacon fat — though the flavor profile of this pie is inherently different because of the bacon, the richness is still there because of that reserved fat. I added currants, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon to the English recipe, ultimately turning this pie into something inherently more German for the time. I then tucked it all into a standard short paste crust and made a thickened sauce with the plentiful drippings. The end result was much sweeter than I’d anticipated because of the dates, but ultimately exactly what I’d wanted: a hearty 16th century pie.

 

Astrid’s Beef and Bacon Pie

For the pie:
2 lbs beef roast
6 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
Handful dried currants
Handful raisins
Handful dates, seeded and chopped
Powdered ginger
Powdered cloves
Powdered cinnamon
Salt
32 oz Beef Broth
1/4 c red wine vinegar, approximately
1 c water, approximately
Flour or cornstarch

For 1 crust:
2 c flour, approx.
1 c butter, cubed
Pinch salt
Ice water

  1. Cube beef, then sear on all sides in pan. Set aside.
  2. Chop bacon, fry in pot. Do not strain fat. Add beef, dried fruit, spices, beef broth, vinegar and water.
  3. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until liquid is reduced and beef is tender.
  4. Set the meat and fruit aside, straining all solids from the liquid. Separate about 1/4 c of the liquid from the rest.
  5. Add flour or cornstarch to thicken, stirring over low heat until desired consistency is reached.
  6. Prepare short crust (2 batches if you want the crust and a lid), blind-baking the bottom crust at 350*F for 10-15 min.
  7. Add meat and fruit and the reserved 1/4 c liquid. Cover with lid; press crusts together and poke a hole in the lid.
  8. Bake at 350*F until crust begins to brown. Add an egg wash and bake for another 5-10 min.
  9. Pour warmed gravy into the pie through a funnel into the hole in the middle, then serve.
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Ale and Onion Soup

One of my go-to recipes for sideboards and lunches is an ale and onion soup; in fact, it’s appeared at almost every sideboard I’ve cooked. It became my go-to because not only is it a solid vegetarian option, but it also really translates well to the modern palate; we commonly eat one form of it as French onion soup. I originally found a recipe for it on Gode Cookery, then modified it to my tastes from there. I always omit saffron due to cost, add minced garlic, and use stout or some other dark beer instead of ale. These are my personal preferences for this soup, and I always serve it with crusty bread.

The original recipe from Gode Cookery:

Oyle soppes. ¶ Take a good quantite of onyons, and myce hem, noyt to smale, & seth hem in faire water, And take hem vppe; and then take a good quantite of stale ale, as .iij. galons, And there-to take a pynte of goode oyle that is fraied, and cast the onyons there-to, And lete al boyle togidre a grete wile; and caste there-to Saffron and salt, And þen put brede, in maner of brewes, and cast the licour there-on, and serue hit forth hote.

– Austin, Thomas. Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books. Harleian MS. 279 & Harl. MS. 4016, with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1429, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS 55. London: for The Early English Text Society by N. Trübner & Co., 1888.

The Gode Cookery Translation:

Take a good quantity of onions, and mince them, not to small, & boil them in fair water, And take them up; and then take a good quantity of stale ale, as 3 gallons, And there-to take a pint of good oil that is fried, and cast the onions there-to, And let all boil together a great while; and cast there-to Saffron & salt, And then put bread, in manner of brews, and cast the liquid there-on, and serve it forth hot.

As for a recipe — I’m not sure I’ve ever made a small batch of this soup, and I always buy the giant bulk bag of onions for a feast, because I use a lot of them… So the rough recipe follows as such:

Ale and Onion Soup

Ingredients:
Lots of sweet yellow onions, finely sliced
Minced garlic
Butter or canola oil
4 bottles of dark beer
6-8+ boxes of broth
Sage
Salt
Pepper

Directions:
Peele, halve, and thinly slice onions. Sautee with minced garlic in butter or canola oil, then add beer and broth. (Vegetable broth if offering to vegetarians, otherwise use beef broth.) Add salt, pepper, and sage to taste. Serve hot with bread and butter.

Tartlets for Laurencia’s Vigil

I was honored to have Baron Janos ask me to contribute tartlets for Laurencia’s vigil at Ice Dragon. I’m not overly familiar with medieval English food, so I relied on recipes from the good folks over at Medieval Cookery.

Photo by Sir Ian
Photo by Sir Ian.

I made well over 10 dozen tartlet crusts using their recipe Short Paest for Tartes (A Proper New Booke of Cookery, 1575). The recipe calls for 1 1/2c flour, half a stick of butter, 2 egg yolks, 1/2 tsp salt, a pinch of saffron, and ~ 1/2c water. After rubbing the butter into most of the ingredients, add water until the dough just sticks together. Let it rest, roll it out, and fill your pan with the dough. What I failed to notice was that I’d grabbed the self-rising flour instead of the all-purpose, so my tartlet crusts got a bit fluffy..

..which nixed the Ember Day Tarts from my planned offerings. So I went with the other two I’d planned: Chardewardon and Mon Amy.

Chardewardon (various 15th century books) is a light custard made by creating a “pear sauce” (as you would applesauce), then adding egg yolks to thicken it. The recipe calls for one egg yolk per pear, softened by simmering in wine. I added ginger and cinnamon while the pears softened, strained the liquid off, then added yolks and half the amount of sugar the recipe called for and simmered until it thickened. I grew frustrated with this recipe because it didn’t thicken as I’d expected it to in the pot, but rather thickened and sat up after cooling in the fridge overnight. The resulting custard is light and refreshing, and I’ll likely make it again for feasts and non-medieval functions.

Mon Amy (A Noble Boke of Cookry, 1468) is, essentially, a medieval cheesecake, and I chose it for this reason — who doesn’t like cheesecake? The recipe is more complex than the chardewardon by far, and I’m going to fiddle with it for future use. It calls for making fresh cheese, which is then strained per usual, and though I was wary of this step, I followed it anyway, and was met with the issue I’d anticipated.. Fresh cheese, after having the whey strained, is hard and crumbly. It doesn’t melt well, in my experience, and is..chewy. Simply “whisking until smooth” isn’t feasible, so I poured my hot cream and fresh cheese into a food processor and pulsed it a few times until the big chunks were reduced to..smaller ones. I returned the mixture to the pot and followed the rest of the directions.. However, the cream, sugar, honey, and yolks only thickened enough to create something like a thick porridge of fresh cheese curds, and it carmelized a bit as I prepared my ice bath to cool the pot down. (I’d thought it had scorched and was about to cry until I tasted it. Thankfully it hadn’t!) I wasn’t happy, but let it settle in the fridge overnight, and what I awoke to was a very dense, delicious cheesecake-like custard that needed to be softened a bit with heat before I could really spoon it into the tartlet shells. It wasn’t a disaster, but I’m going to revise my own methods for this recipe before serving it again.