Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cooking medieval

In which we observe that history tastes good.

[Nazrid Palace, la Alhambra, Granada, Spain, built during the 13th and 14th centuries. Photo by Cindy Van Vreede.]


"... and they gave them supper." (Chapter 9) What did Amadis and Agrajes eat?

We will never know, but some medieval Spanish recipes are still available to us. Here is a simple meal ye can make at home. Remember to include bread, olives, and wine.

Rabbit a la medieval

This recipe comes from Toledo. Rabbit is still common in Spanish supermarkets, but you can substitute chicken.

salt to taste
a handful of parsley
two spoons of vinegar
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
olive oil
one rabbit (or chicken), cut in quarters or pieces

Crush the garlic, salt, and parsley in a mortar, and add vinegar and oil to make a paste. Spread over the rabbit, and bake in a 180C/350F oven for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Al-Andalus onions

Note the Moorish influence.

medium-sized onions
ground cinnamon, nutmeg, or other sweet spices (I recommend ginger)
honey or sugar, if desired

Peel the onions and cut a cross at the root end. Arrange them in a cooking pan next to each other, but not crowded. Sprinkle with salt, saffron, and spices. Cover with water and add a little butter. Cover and cook over a slow fire for about 20 minutes until the onions are tender and the water has evaporated. Uncover, add the honey or sugar, raise the fire, and carefully caramelize the onions.

Almond pudding (Menjar blanc)

From the Libro de Sen Soví, a 14th-century Catalan cookbook. You can substitute a liter of cow milk for the almond milk. Sancho Panza liked this with cooked with chicken breasts (Don Quixote de la Mancha, Chapter LXII).

400g/2 cups blanched and skinned almonds
1 liter/quart boiling water
1 cinnamon stick
1 piece of lemon peel, yellow part only
200g/1 cup sugar
6 tbsp. rice flour (or cornstarch)

Grind or finely chop the almonds. Place in a bowl and pour boiling water over them, let sit for at least 10 minutes, and pour through a cheesecloth, squeezing it tight. Put in a saucepan, add cinnamon, lemon peel, and sugar. Simmer for a few minutes. Dissolve the flour in a little liquid and add, stirring constantly until thickened, and simmer a few minutes more. Pour into a mold and chill.

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