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Get medieval in the kitchen with new cookbook |
Food & Drink

Get medieval in the kitchen with new cookbook

Matthew Zabierek
| Tuesday, June 21, 2016 9:00 p.m
Lisa Graves
Virile Chickpeas
Lisa Graves
Welsh Rarebit on Toast
Michael King
Lisa Graves and Tricia Cohen
'A Thyme and Place,' by Lisa Graves and Tricia Cohen
Michael King
Lisa Graves and Tricia Cohen
Lisa Graves
Elizabeth I reinstated celebration of Hocktide, which her father, Henry VIII, had banned. It is celebrated the second Monday and Tuesday after Easter. In Henry’s time, on the first day, men would tie up women until they paid a fee. On the second day, the roles were reversed. The money was donated to the local church. When Elizabeth brought back the holiday in 1575, kisses were given as payment instead of money.
Lisa Graves
Women collected wild carrots the week before the Michelmas feast. They used a three-pronged mattock to dig a triangular hole around the carrots in order to pull them from the ground. This hole represented St. Michael's shield and the three-pronged shovel represented his trident.
Lisa Graves
St. Michael the Archangel is celebrated on Michaelmas on Sept. 29. Michaelmas was often referred to as 'Goose Day.' Eating goose on this day meant good luck and prosperity for the new farming cycle.
Lisa Graves
Queen Matilda, wife of William the Conquerer, inspired Pig Face Day, which is still celebrated in the village of Avening in Gloucestershire, England. The story goes that she was in love with the handsome Lord of Avening. Upon his rejection, she threw him into a dungeon, where he died. Her guilty conscience compelled her to build a church. When it was complete, she gave thebuilders a pig's head on which to feast.

As fans of “Game of Thrones” can testify, people living in medieval times had quite the appetite.

From exotic poultry dishes and smoking roasts to an abundance of seasonal fresh fruit, wine and cheeses, the period was no stranger to fine cuisine and extravagant feasts.

Now, just in time for the “Game of Thrones” season finale, you can taste for yourself, thanks to “Thyme and Place: Medieval Feasts and Recipes for the Modern Table” (Skyhorse Publishing, $16.99), a newly released cookbook that offers recipes inspired by traditional Medieval fare.

The book, which includes 35 recipes ranging from Bacon Jam to Summer Harvest Wine, takes readers through a calendar of traditional medieval feasts, a history of each celebration and modernized recipes for dishes typically served for the occasion.

Right-As-Rain Apple Cake, for example, is served on St. Swithin’s Day, July 15, when people watch the weather because an old tradition says the weather on that day will continue for 40 more days.

“It’s not just a cookbook. It’s more of a book with recipes,” says co-author Lisa Graves, who writes and illustrates for her history blog,

The project was a collaboration between Graves’ love for the medieval period and the culinary creativity of her friend and co-author, Tricia Cohen of Green Tree.

Each recipe is accompanied by colorful, whimsical illustrations hand-drawn by Graves.

The book’s storytelling and illustrations resemble the same playful, snarky tone that is familiar to fans of Graves’ blog, which has over 10,000 followers.

“We wrote it so that it’s easy to read and not just a boring history book. You’re learning something while laughing, and that’s how you remember it,” Graves says.

Many of the book’s recipes, Cohen says, have been reimagined and modified as more practical dishes that suit today’s tastes and palates.

“We wanted to reinvent the food so you can cook it now and don’t have to go out and hunt a goose,” Graves says.

For example, Cohen describes a traditional medieval vinegar and lobster dish that was just that — lobster served in vinegar.

“Gross, right?” Cohen says.

Cohen instead created a seafood dish with lobster and shrimp served in a simple white-wine vinegar sauce with butter, garlic and coriander.

“I tried to say, ‘If I went to a restaurant how would I want to eat this,’ ” Cohen says about many of the dishes’ modifications.

Other recipes take ingredients available during medieval times to create more recognizable dishes, including a breakfast sandwich Cohen created in recognition of St. Martin’s Day. The Nov. 11 holiday celebrated the altruism of St. Martin of Tours. The holiday was, coincidentally, usually fueled by an abundance of wine.

Keeping with the theme, Cohen created a breakfast to help soothe hangovers following the holiday. The sandwich, all the ingredients for which could have been found during the period, included a poached egg, caramelized onions, candied bacon and bearnaise sauce between two Belgian waffles cooked with cheese in the batter.

“It’s interesting to see that some of the concepts that they used in medieval times are not that much of a stretch from what we see today,” Cohen says about dishes served in Europe from the fifth to 15th centuries.

Cohen attributes much of her culinary inspiration for the book to Gloria Fortunato, the owner of the Wild Rosemary Bistro in Upper St. Clair, where Cohen says she obtained ideas and techniques for many of the book’s recipes, including her “Perfect Pasta” recipe, which she dedicates to Fortunato.

The book, released on June 7, has been “well received,” says Graves, who adds she and Cohen were once fearful that “only their moms were going to buy it.”

Graves and Cohen hope to create similar books for other historical periods for their “Deconstructing History One Bite at a Time” series, including books with history factoids and recipes from the Pilgrims and Vikings.

Matthew Zabierek is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7893 or

Fried Pork Balls With Sage Creme

This dish was adapted from an original, circa 1390, recipe:

Sawge yfarcet. Take pork and seeþ it wel, and grinde it smal, and medle it wiþ ayren & brede ygrated. Do þerto powdour fort and safroun wiþ pynes & salt. Take & close litull balles in foiles of sawge; wete it with a batour of ayren & fry it, & serue it forth.

– Recipes from “Forme of Cury”

For the meatballs:

2 cups uncooked ground pork

1 large egg, beaten

7 tablespoons panko

12 teaspoon allspice

14 teaspoon ginger

14 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of ground cloves

Pinch of ground saffron

1 14 teaspoons salt

4 fresh sage leaves, finely cut; plus a dozen sage leaves, whole

For the tempura batter:

1 cup flour

1 tablespoon cornstarch

12 cup seltzer water

Salt, to taste

Lard (can substitute canola oil)

12 whole sage leaves

For the sage creme:

2 tablespoons butter

1 large shallot, minced

2 tablespoons minced fresh sage

34 cup mead

34 cup heavy whipping cream

For the meatballs: Mix meatball ingredients in a large bowl. Mold the mixture to form meatballs. Parboil meatballs for 10 minutes. Place meatballs on paper towel to cool.

For the tempura batter: While meatballs are boiling, create the tempura batter by mixing together the flour, cornstarch, seltzer and salt to taste. Mix until smooth. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Melt a hunk of lard in a heavy pan. After the lard has heated over medium to medium-high heat, take two forks and toss the cooled meatballs into the tempura batter.

Turn the meatballs gently in the lard until the tempura is golden. It does not have to look perfect … as long as it tastes good. When the meatballs are finished, toss the whole sage leaves in the tempura batter and give them a quick fry in the hot lard.

For the sage creme: Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy pan. Toss in the minced shallots and minced sage. After the shallots are soft, pour in the mead and stir. Pour in the whipping cream and stir. Boil down by half until thick, on medium-high heat.

Garnish the meatballs with the creme and a piece of crispy sage.

Virile Chickpeas

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

Zest (1 tablespoon) and juice of one lemon ( 14 cup)

2 cans (15 ounces each) chickpeas (Garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed

2 cups baby spinach, chopped

1 cup chicken stock

12 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

12 cup shredded cheddar

14 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Heat the olive oil in saute pan on medium heat. Add the garlic and rosemary to hot pan, cook until fragrant, then add the lemon zest (it smells sooo good).

Stir and add the chickpeas to mixture. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir in the lemon juice, spinach, chicken stock, salt and pepper. Cook until the liquid is gone.

Remove from heat, add to a serving plate and finish with the cheddar and parsley.

Bacon Jam

1 12 pounds thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 large sweet onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

6 mission figs, chopped (optional)

12 cup dark-brown sugar, firmly packed

12 cup apple-cider vinegar

14 cup honey

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 tablespoons Drambuie or bourbon

18 teaspoon salt

Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat and add the bacon. Cover and cook for approximately 25 minutes. Check on the bacon with some frequency, giving in a stir each time.

After the bacon begins to crisp, remove the cover and cook for another 5 minutes or so. Turn the heat off when the bacon is fully crisp. Remove using a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate. Let the fat in the Dutch oven cool for a few minutes and then — hear us — save the stuff in a container for future cooking.

Leave all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat in the Dutch oven. Turn the heat back to medium. Add onions and garlic, scrapping up any delicious bacon bits from the bottom of the pan, and cook until soft. After they are soft, add the figs.

Drop the heat to medium low and add the brown sugar, cider vinegar, honey, ginger, pepper and Drambuie. Cook for 10 minutes, just enough time for the mixture to start to get jammy.

Adjust the heat to medium for 5 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent the jam from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Lower heat to medium low and add the bacon. Cook for 20 minutes, covered. Stir occasionally. Remove lid and cook for 5 more minutes. Add salt.

Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Add mixture to food processor and chop to desired texture.

Categories: Food Drink
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