English

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.

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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.