Cooking for Potlucks: Medieval Pies
Pies are a familiar, fairly easy and perfectly authentic dish to take to a medieval potluck. I have included two of my favourite standbys, with the original recipes and my version.
Tart in Ymbre Day
Ember Days were fast days when meat was forbidden but dairy products were OK. This is a basic vegetarian quiche!
Take and perboil onyons & erbis & presse out the water & hewe hem smale. Take grene chese & bray it in a morter, and temper it up with ayren. Do therto butter, safroun & salt, and raisouns corauns, & a litel sugur with powdour douce, & bake it in a trap, & serve it forth.
Form of Curye (a 14th-century English cookbook).
You'll need a blind-baked tart case ("trap"); I use basic shortcrust pastry with a bit of saffron and an egg-yolk. Line with baking paper, fill with beans or rice, and prebake it at 200 degrees for about 10 mins.
Parboil one large onion, drain and chop. Add "erbis", herbs - fresh ones work better, I tend to use thyme and marjoram, but use your favourites.
The recipe specifies "grene chese"; other versions of this recipe suggest "good fat cheese", which I read as a slightly softer cheese, I habitually use a mixture of 1 tub cottage cheese and about a cup of grated cheddar. Mix this well, adding 3-4 eggs.
Add about 3 tblsp butter (it works better if you partially melt it in the microwave), a pinch of salt, a few strands of saffron, about half a cup of currants, two tsp sugar, half a tsp ginger and half a tsp cinnamon. (Poudre douce is literally sweet powder; it was a spice mixture containing sugar and the less pungent spices. Poudre fort, the strong mixture, would contain pepper, etc.)
Mix well and pour into the pastry case (having first removed the paper and baking beans!). Bake at about 180 degrees until the top has browned slightly and a knife comes out clean.
There are several different versions of this dish in various English medieval cookbooks; as well as using different types of cheese, some omit the currants, others specify which spices to use. I have also had good results using ricotta, or a mixture of cheddar and mozzarella, in place of the cheddar and cottage cheese. For Duke Cariadoc's version, see Cariadoc's Miscellany
Champignons en paste
Mushrooms of one night are the best, if they are small, red inside and closed at the top; and they should be peeled and then washed in hot water and parboiled, and if you wish to put them in a pasty add oil, cheese, and spice powder.
Le Menagier de Paris (14th century French)
These are basic and rather yummy cheese and mushroom pasties. I make them quite small, for eating convenience. One punnet of mushrooms to about a cup of grated cheddar seems to work quite well.
Wash the mushrooms (if they're not the tiny ones), parboil very lightly, chop and mix with cheese, a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper, and a teaspoon of ginger.
I use a basic shorcrust pastry (again, I add saffron and an egg yolk); the pasties look very authentic if you cut circles of pastry, fold them in half over the filling, and crimp the edges.
Bake at about 200 degrees until they're brown. Make sure that you seal the pastry properly, the filling tends to bubble out.
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