Thursday, June 30, 2016

Eating Medieval: Chestut Medley

In the past weeks, I've been putting a great deal of focus on researching the foods eaten throughout The Blue Bells Chronicles.  Modern foods are just as easy to find as I expected--especially Minnesota hotdishes!  (Yes, there's a recipe for Carol's favorite ham and noodle dish!)

What I didn't expect was how very easy it is to find medieval recipes online.  In fact, the trick is to narrow down a vast wealth of information, to sort through authentic medieval and medievalesque-inspired, and to decide whether to publish authentic recipes or redacted versions, or both.

To study the feasts and foods of the middle ages is to begin to feel that we, today, live a very limited culinary existence.  The variety of foods they ate was stag...stagg....staggering.  (Get it...stag...venison?  Never mind!)  On the flip side, however, in reading recipe after recipe, it also seems that much of what they ate would be very familiar to us.  There are only so many ways to cook chicken, after all.  As one medieval blogger said of cheese:

The main problem, then with medieval cheese, is that if you try to serve cheese to people who are interested in having some medieval cheese, they're likely to be underwhelmed.  Modern cheese, being reasonably similar to its medieval counterpart, isn't going to feel medieval enough to satisfy the craving for authenticness or exoticness.

Having recently made a medieval walnut-in-honey treat, and bought the ingredients for Hildegard von Bingen's Cookies of Joy, I have to agree.  The walnuts in honey (which I will soon get around to posting the recipe for) were delicious--and not remotely exotic.  They tasted quite a bit like a Payday bar made with crushed walnuts instead of peanuts.  When the honey cooled and hardened, they tasted like peanut brittle made with walnuts instead of peanuts.

Looking at the ingredients for the cookies and the pictures online, I suspect they will also be tasty, and very much like today's sugar cookies or ginger snaps.

However, in my research yesterday, I found one recipe that looks quite interesting: chestnut medley.  This is a medieval-inspired recipe, so perhaps not strictly authentic medieval.  However, would like to try it.

3.5 ounces dried mushrooms
7 ounces chestnuts
7 ounces chestnut, or black poplar, mushrooms (if these aren't available, try a white button or portobello, or any brown mushroom with plenty of flavor)
1 glass of white wine
7 ounces chickpeas
2 sprigs of rosemary
olive oil
4 sage leaves
salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Crush the garlic cloves; fry them in a pan with oil, mushrooms, rosemary, and sage.
  2. When the garlic is soft, add the wine.
  3. When the wine has evaporated, add chickpeas.
  4. Add salt and cover with water.
  5. When the chickpeas are cooked, use a hand blender to puree them with the mushrooms
  6. Return puree to the pan; add chestnuts and dried mushrooms.
  7. Boil until the mixture is reduced.
  8. Season with salt and pepper.

Happy Eating!

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