Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes in developing and creating a modern version of a medieval dish? After all, medieval recipes are very often light on detail, not just in their refusal to give out quantities or proportions of ingredients but also in their timings, and even in their actual methods of preparation and cooking.
Fourme of Cury, the medieval cookery book on which I largely work, may mean method of cookery but, in reality, the instructions given in this famous culinary treatise, by the master cooks of King Richard II, are frequently of the bare minimum variety.
It is hardly surprising that it is so, since Fourme of Cury, like other medieval recipe collections, was used as a memorandum for experienced cooks. Of the Delia Smith ‘How to boil an egg’ sort of methodology it is not!
What this means in practice for me is that the how-to of some recipes is difficult to work out. This problem is compounded when I substitute modern equipment for medieval. I don’t actually have a medieval range, cauldrons, or a brick oven built into the wall of my kitchen.
Moreover, very often I will compare one medieval recipe in Fourme of Cury with a similar one in another medieval English collection, or a contemporaneous French or Italian work. This leads to borrowing and inevitably to tweaking of the original recipe. Indeed, I like to develop recipes, not simply “recreate” them, in order to make them as appealing as possible to a modern palate.
Notwithstanding all the challenges, it is tremendously satisfying to work it all out, so to speak. And it is fun too.
What you will see in my latest video is how I began to do this with the recipe Chycches, one of a few vegetarian, actually vegan, dishes in Fourme of Cury. As you probably realise, I am omnivorous, so my version of the dish doesn’t remain vegetarian (a little chicken stock never goes amiss). In addition, I do take some things – well, cheese – from an Italian recipe of around the same time to give it some umph.
What you will also see in the video are the ups and downs of my process. It did take an awful lot of judicious editing in order to get the video to a consumable size, but you will nevertheless still see my indecision, mistakes and moments of sheer floundering! Who thought chickpeas could be so disobedient?
But there was, in the end, a genuinely delicious dish for me (and the cameraman) to taste – definitely one of my favourites so far. So please take a look, and feel free to leave a comment, either here or on the YouTube channel.
You can also find my finalised recipe for Chycches, which shows how things changed a little more after the video. Head on over to my Buy Me A Coffee page to get this. It’s free!
Finally, I would like to thank my life partner Ray, my lovely camera-lights-action-man, for encouraging me to persevere with this video. I kind of lost the will to do anything with the rather large amount of camera footage after I lost my dad in May. But he gently encouraged me, carried on with editing parts of it for me (he doesn’t normally do any of the editing), and marshalled it into a form from which I could produce something worthwhile. Thank you, Ray.
If you are interested in supporting my independent research and creative work, you might like to buy me a coffee. And I mustn’t forget to thank my generous monthly Premium Content subscribers for their continued support.