Sommachia - Chicken with Spicy Sumac Sauce
Zambrini, Libro della cucina
from Perry, Medieval Arabic Cookery
Take some jointed chickens and fry them in bacon fat. Take some almonds, some sumac and water and cook with the chicken. The dish should be quite thick. Serve. The same recipe can be applied to fish, partridge, capons, etc.
Polastri a Sumacho boni e perfecti
Frati, Libro di cucina
from Perry, Medieval Arabic Cookery
If you wish to make chicken with sumac for twelve people, take twelve chickens and two pounds of almonds, also about an ounce each of cinnamon, ginger, and [?]plums[?- pepper, maybe] , two ounces of cloves, half a pound of plums and one pound of sumac. Take the chickens and brown them whole in melted bacon fat. When they are well browned, add some sweet spices, root ginger, cinnamon sticks, and whole cloves and brown well (again). Add a little water, then take some very clean sumac and put it to soak in some plain vinegar. Take the unpeeled, washed almonds, pound them thoroughly and diffuse the resulting powder in water. Take the sumac and mix it well with the vinegar in which it has soaked. When the chickens with the other ingredients are cooked, add some prunes which have been washed thoroughly, then take the sumac and strain it; repeat with the almond milk and throw away the solid residue. Add the remaining liquid to the chickens and boil with the spices to taste and plenty of water and salt. This dish should be made with sumac, spices, saffron, vinegar and sumac juice. When the entire mixture had been boiled well, remove from the fire in order to serve it. Place the chickens on the plates (or, rather, trenchers) and serve with no further garnish. If you wish to serve the chickens in pieces prepare these in the same way.
20 lb. chicken parts - boneless, skinless thighs
bacon fat - we used olive oil
1 ounce ginger root
1 ounce cinnamon sticks
2 ounces whole cloves (i suggest using much less, say, 1/2 oz.)
3/4 cup+ 1 Tb. + 1 tsp. sumac
1/2 bottle red wine vinegar (1 qt)
2 heaping cups ground almonds, ground (about 2 lb)
a little water
1/2 lb pitted prunes
1 Tb. pepper
salt to taste
1. Brown chickens in melted bacon fat.
2. When well browned, add some sweet spices, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves and stir to coat chicken.
3. Add a little water and bring to a simmer.
4. Soak some ground dried sumac in some plain vinegar.
5. Soak ground almonds in water.
6. Mix the sumac well with the vinegar in which it has soaked.
7. When the chicken is tender, add the prunes.
8. Strain the sumac, save the liquid, and discard the solid residue.
9. Strain the almond milk, save the liquid, and discard the solid residue.
10. Add the two liquids, spices as needed, salt, pepper, and saffron to the chicken
11. Simmer with water to cover for at least 15 minutes, until chicken is well cooked and sauce is thick.
This had WAY too much clove. I think about 1/4 as much as i used would be plenty - or even less...
To make it edible, I kept adding powdered sumac and vinegar and sugar directly into the pot until the flavor was a bit better balanced. In the end, some folks really liked it and some thought it was a bit too clovey but edible, and a few pushed it to the side of their plate. This is the last time i believe a "period" recipe.
The original calls for a pound of sumac, soaking in vinegar and discarding the pulp. I am not sure exactly how much sumac i used, as i added it directly to the pot, but it was approximately 1/4 lb. I suspect that they were using fresh berries, not the dried powder that is available here.
Menestra de Meloni - A Soup of Melon
Cuoco Napoletano, 14th c.
trans. Terence Scully
Get good melons and take out the good part and grind it in a mortar and set it to boil in a little fat broth; then take it a little away from the fire, and for every bowl, add in one egg beaten with a little good cheese, a little verjuice, a little ginger or pepper, and saffron; and when dishing up put sugar and cinnamon on top; this dish should be somewhat thick.
2 large Cranshaw melons
2 Tb. butter
Queso Fresco (Mexican cheese)
1/2 c. verjuice
2 tsp. powdered ginger or pepper
1/8 tsp. saffron
sugar to taste
AHEAD OF TIME
1. Halve melons and scrape out the seeds.
2. Puree the flesh of one melon in a blender or food processor.
3. Cut up the flesh of the other melon into medium-small cubes.
3. Bring melon puree to a boil with broth.
4. Reduce heat and simmer until it begins to thicken somewhat. This took a long time on a low fire. I checked on it often to give it a stir.
5. Put the melon soup into a big pot, crumble the saffron and add it to the soup.
6. Reheat soup to a high simmer - no need to bring to a boil.
7. Beat eggs well while soup is heating.
8. When the soup starts to bubble around the edge, reduce the fire under the melon.
9. Temper the beaten egg with a little melon soup, stir well, then add a little more soup to egg. Do this until you're satisfied the egg is well warmed up, but not cooking.
10. Then stir the beaten eggs into the pot of soup - stir constantly as you pour the eggs slowly.
If the egg begins to curdle (form shreds as in Chinese egg drop soup), stop pouring immediately. Take the soup off fire. Temper egg with more soup, little by little. Then once again pour egg into soup, stirring as you pour.
11. Then stir in cheese, verjuice, ginger or pepper, and saffron. This dish should be somewhat thick.
12. When dishing up, sprinkle each serving bowl with a little sugar and cinnamon.
- I used Cranshaws because they were large, ripe, and the most inexpensive melons in the store.
- I didn't puree the entire melon so there would be some texture, a concession to my personal taste. The Medieval recipe purees the whole thing. However, the chunks of melon cooked down quite a bit and were not terribly "lumpy".
- I used vegetable rather than meat broth so that vegetarians could eat it.
- I didn't actually use vegetable broth. Instead, i added vegetable stock concentrate directly to the pureed melon because it was already so watery. Around here, the "Better than Bouillon" brand is cheaper than icky broth cubes per serving.
- I added butter to make up for the fact that i was not using "fat" broth.
- I was conservative with the cheese, because of how the soup had tasted at home. I could have used more and it would have been fine. I don't think it suffered terribly from a little less cheese, though.
- This was nice and custardy, sweet melon with a bit of tartness from the verjuice and cheese. Some folks said it tasted a bit like winter squash soup.
- There wasn't much of this left over...
Pulentium - Barley Polenta
Pliny, Naturalis Historia, 18, 73
in Giacosa, A Taste of Ancient Rome
Vicenis hordei libris ternas seminis lini et coriandri selibram salisque acetabulum.
20 librae of barley, 3 librae of linseeds and 1/2 libra of coriander, in addition to an acetabulum of salt.
2-1/2 lb. barley grits
1. Put all ingredients into automatic rice cookers - this will take several batches, not all at once.
3 gallons vegetable broth
1/4 cup linseeds (should have used 2-1/2 cups)
1/2 cup whole coriander seeds
salt to taste
additional water as needed
2. Turn on rice cookers.
3. When the rice cookers indicates that it is done, check it. It might not be. If not, start up rice cooker again.
We put one partially cooked pot of grain into a wide flat pan and put it in the oven, which was still on (350), and cooked until the liquid was absorbed.
1. Bring vegetable broth to a boil.
2. Gradually stir in all ingredients
3. Simmer for approximately 1 hour. Add more boiling water if the barley absorbs all there is and still isn't soft.
NOTES: I was surprised that this was rather a hit. There wasn't much left over and that was taken home by diners.