Iron Chef, sort-of...

Principality of the Mists Fall Investiture
Saturday 10 November 2001


Saturday 10 November 2001 the Principality of the Mists, here in the Kingdom of the West, held the Investiture of its new Prince and Princess, Richard de Camville and Elisabeth. Instead of the usual Medieval feast, we had a competitive feast.

There were three teams of cooks, each headed by one Chef. Each team was to make one course for one hundred people. Each course had to have at least four dishes: meat, vegetarian, side dish, dessert - although the Autocrat said we could make more. Because the kitchen was small, the Autocrat suggested that we cook some of our dishes ahead of time. The "secret ingredient" would be revealed the morning of the feast, but we only had to include it in one dish.

I had originally volunteered to be a support cook on a team, since because i've only been in the SCA about 2-1/2 years, i didn't feel i was knowledgeable enough to head a team. A couple weeks before Investiture, the autocrat came to me and asked "Would you be willing to head a team?", and I said, "Uh, sure."

Since my persona is Near Eastern, I decided to make authentic Near Eastern Medieval food. While searching my resources, I found a number of recipes that were distinctly Persian in origin, although there are no purely Medieval Persian cookbooks, so I decided to make Medieval Persian food the focus of my feast.

Saturday morning the Autocrat revealed that the secred ingredient was...

... saffron and supplied the cooks with some. Fortunately I had chosen to serve Saffron Rice.

All day the kitchen area was a-bustle with cooks chopping, cooking, and shaping various dishes.

After myriad events - such as the investiture of the new Prince and Princess, a small tourney held in the rain, an arts-and-sciences exhibit, a class on cordials that included a tasting, impressive scrolls on display awaiting signatures, and more - it was time for the feast.

Each Chef was introduced to the Prince and Princess and to the populace by "Emperor Chang" (played powerfully and humorously by Aaron of Buckminster), who strode forcefully up and down the hall waving a huge fan.

My team made the First Course.

Iron Chef Persian - First Course Menu

  • Zaitun Mubakhkhar - Spiced Smoked Olives
  • Sals Abyad - White Sauce - spiced walnut-sesame butter
  • Badhinjan Buran (Persian) - Princess Buran's Eggplant - eggplant pureed with yogurt and spices, garnished with fresh mint leaves and yogurt topped with fresh pomegranate seeds
  • Bustaniya (Persian) - Orchard Dish - chicken and lamb with pears and peaches
  • Arruz al-Zafran (Persian) - Saffron Rice
  • Garnish for Meat and Rice Tray: Cooked Garbanzos and
    Rutab Mu'assal - Honeyed Dates, stuffed with almonds, scented with rosewater
  • al-Mauz (Persian) - Batter-fried Bananas, garnished with crushed almonds and cinnamon
  • Laimun Safarjali (Persian) - Lemon-Quince Syrup Beverarge
  • Lauzinaj (Persian) - Phyllo-wrapped rose-scented marzipan, garnished with honey and crushed pistachios

The Second Course was prepared by Iron Chef Oertha
The team of Iron Chef Oertha was headed by Magnus Zwerver, best known to me as a great Court Herald, but who originally came from the West Kingdom Principality of Oertha (Alaska). Magnus, and his team made an elegant, succulent, and delicious meat course cooked to perfection on a charcoal grill of thin steaks rolled around a filling of duxelles - very finely chopped mushrooms cooked with finely chopped onions and garlic (mmm-mmm-mmm). This was wheeled into the hall and quite dramatically carved for the head table by Magnus himself. Next came a dish of risotto made with chopped Portabello mushrooms and a dish of Brussels sprouts leaves cooked with butter and garlic and topped with Parmesan cheese. A serving tray of all three dishes was brought to each other table. The finale was baklava with one layer of chopped nuts and a second layer of custard cream. The delicious dishes came from the creative minds and hands of the various team cooks.

The Third Course was prepared by Iron Chef de Paris
The team of Iron Chef de Paris, headed by Euriol of Lothien, minister of the West Kingdom Cooks Guild and of the Mists Principality Silver Spoon. Euriol, and her team had to serve after we were all stuffed from the First and Second Courses. They thoughtfully made a lighter course. The dishes were from "Le Menagier de Paris", I think. First came the moist and tender whole salmon - wheeled into the hall and dished out before the whole gathering. It was accompanied by a lovely looking Cameline Sauce, which I am embarrassed to admit I forgot to taste. Rounding out the dinner were mushrooms cooked in Brie (insert lip-smacking noises here) and homebaked domes of bread. For dessert there was a beautifully presented tray, decorated with tiny red maple leaves, and bearing an assortment of marzipan fleurs de lys, walnut brittle, and baked turnovers stuffed with spice chopped fruits and nuts.

The Head Table were the ultimate judges, although comments from other diners were considered. I'm afraid I don't remember the names of all who sat at the Head Table. Those I do remember were - from my left to my right - Sir Veniamin Medvednikogotev, the new Bard of the Mists Connor and his lady, Prince Sir Richard de Camville and Princess Elisabeth, and Pied d'Argent officer Marguerite du Royon and her consort. I apologize to those who I forgot. I'm still learning names and faces.

Everything was so delicious it was difficult to select a winner. The contest ended in a tie between me and Euriol, to be resolved at a "cook-off" to be held at Mists Spring Coronet.

I would like to thank the folks who assisted me:

  • Rose de la Mans and Juan Santiago
    - for allowing me to take over their kitchen for ten hours on Friday and allowing me to use their able minds and hands, and for lending me their pots, cooking utensils, and serving containers. Without them Iron Chef Persian would not have been possible.
  • Vittoria of the College of Ste. Katherine
    - she and her room mate let me into their kitchen on Tuesday so I could make the Spiced Olives and grind the walnuts for the Salsa; Vittoria also taste tested the olives and helped cook, dish, and garnish at the feast and graciously served the Head Table.
  • Geoffroi de Bonfils
    - my consort, who allowed me to do some prep work in his kitchen, even though he works Saturdays and couldn't attend the Feast.
  • Teresa le Merchant and her daughter Ariel
    - for great efforts helping me chop, peel, slice, dice, cook, dish, and garnish at the feast, despite Teresa being a bit under the weather.
  • Halima de la Lucha
    - for helping dish and garnish at the feast.
  • The Servers
    - of whom there were a great number and few of whose names I can recall - for graciously carrying out dish after dish of food and for serving the beverage to the diners.
  • Autocrat Branwen Cryccthegn Deorcwuda and all the others who made this event possible, including outgoing Prince Parlan and Princess Arianwen, incoming Prince Richard de Camville and Princess Elisabeth, all the other volunteers, and all the diners.
    ... and last but not least,
  • all the other Iron Chefs and their teams for a surfeit of really really delicious food.

Medieval Resources

All the recipes i used were from historic recipes, or were derived from them. At the end of each original recipe, I refer to its Medieval source. I've used a shortened version of the name of the book or author, as listed below.

  • al-Warraq = al-Kitab al-Tabikh (The Book of Dishes) by Abu Muhammad al-Muzaffar ibn Nasr ibn Sayyar al-Warraq. This late 10th century cookbook is a compendium of recipes from cookbooks from several centuries which are now lost to us. Among then are around forty recipes from the great gastronome Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn al-Mahdi (779-839 CE), half-brother of the Caliph Harun al-Rashid, as well as a number of recipes from Abu Samin, a chef to the Caliph al-Wathiq who died in 847 CE. [selected recipes translated by David Waines in In a Caliph's Kitchen]
  • al-Baghdadi = al-Kitab al-Tabikh (The Book of Dishes) by Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn Karim al-Katib al-Baghdadi, the thirteenth century author of a surviving cookbook. [selected recipes translated by David Waines in In a Caliph's Kitchen and complete text in "A Baghdad Cookery Book", trans. by A.J. Arberry, notes by Charles Perry, in Medieval Arab Cookery]
  • Familiar Foods = al-Kitab Wasf al-At'ima al-Mu'tada (The Book of the Description of Familiar Foods), 1373 [complete text translated and introduced by Charles Perry in Medieval Arab Cookery]

Bibliography

  • Maxime Rodinson, A. J. Arberry, and Charles Perry. Medieval Arab Cookery. Prospect Books, Devon UK: 2001. ISBN 0907325-91-2
  • David Waines. In a Caliph's Kitchen. Riad El-Rayyes Books Ltd., London UK: 1989. ISBN 1-869844-60-2


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Copyright Anahita al-Qurtubiyya bint 'abd al-Karim al-Fassi, 2001
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