Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Brother Cadfael evening

A Brother Cadfael evening
Originally uploaded by amkb

Anna: Last night we hosted the first of what we hope to be many historically-themed dinners. It was a fantastic success!

This evening combined two interests of mine - Medievel cookery and the Brother Cadfael books by Ellis Peters. The character was born in Wales, lived an adventurous life as crusader and sailor before settling down in England and becoming a monk. This gave a wide range of possible cultural dishes from the time period, which took place in the first half of the 1100's.

In this photo, you're seeing the first remove (course) of the evening. The leek soup is a Welsh recipe our guests made, and was quite delicious. The breads are a rye and multi-grain, purchased from a store that sells stone-oven type baked breads. (Most people during the time period would not have had ovens, if they were allowed to bake their own bread in the first place, and had to buy their bread from the local baker). Fresh fruit, a selection of cheeses, herbed butter, spiced "wine" and berry juice round out the start of the meal. Oh, and the white stuff in the bowl is salt. These would have been put in front of the person of highest status during a meal.

You'll also notice the place settings include a knife and a spoon, but no fork. Forks weren't used for quite a while yet.

The second remove included a chicken stew our guests chose that had beef in it as well (it was oh, so tender and flavorful!), mushroom pasties (we'll be making those again!), and a salat (salad) of fresh greens and leek with an oil, vinegar and fresh herb dressing. Most of the salad recipes I found were much more complex, but they used whatever was avialable during the season, so that's what I made it with. These were all eaten off trenchers.

The third remove was a bit more challanging - baked apple and a strawberry tart. The strawberry tart included an ingredient we'd never encountered before. A google search had 0 results! So we made a vague guess based on the fact it was pourable and used a strawberry syrup. Both the strawberry tart and baked apple recipes had no quantities and what instructions there were, were very confusing. The apple dish included egg yolk, of all things. So we winged it. ;-) They turned out all right.

One thing's for sure. Folks in the 12th century ate very well! The dishes were wonderfully flavored and satisfying. Our meal, with only a few dishes in 3 removes, was quite a lot simpler than the menus I've looked at from the time period. We didn't even try for something fancy, either. Some of the recipes (or should I say, reciepts) were incredibly elaborate.

My older daughter is already talking about a future evening. Perhaps with an ancient Egyptian them, or pioneer cooking. Whatever it ends up being, we'll definately be doing it again!

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