Thursday, July 31, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly: Challenge #5: Pies

For this Historical Food Fortnightly challenge, I think I went a little over-board.


I love pies.

Not just sweet pies, but savory ones too.

Besides the fact that a well made pie tastes good, I love pies because they are self contained, and aesthetically pleasing. There's also something about them that makes me think of a room full of hobbits - or a dark, smoke filled tavern where Aragorn lurks in the corner.

 Pies are portable.  Pies are sculptural.  Pies make me think of Middle Earth.

They also remind me of the past more than any other food.  They are a food that crosses nearly every century in modern history.  They cross every social border, and nearly every cultural one too.  High class pies, low class pies, foreign pies....they are everywhere you look.  They are the quintessential food of my English and Irish ancestors, and as far as food can be, pies are in my blood.

I giggled and rubbed my hands together when I read that pies (of course) were on the HSF list of challenges.
So, in honor of one of my favorite genres of food...I outdid myself and MADE 3 PIES.

Yes.  Three.

And it took me 12 looooooong hours.  How did they do it?!  I will separate each one, and give you the best run down that I can.  Pictures will be first, followed by the descriptions.

Pie #1:  A Vegetable Pie in a Standing Crust

Standing crust after initial cooking, but pre-vegetables.

The cooked vegetable pie.

The Fricassee Sauce... no recipe here, it's just a basic seasoned rue... butter, flour, milk, salt, pepper and herbs.

The yummy vegetables ready to be devoured! 
(Don't eat this crust, it's pretty and functional, but doesn't taste good.  It eats like a rock.)

The Recipe:
 Vegetable Pie, by Sarah Martin, The New Experienced English Housekeeper

The Practice of Cookery, Pastry, and Confectionary

The Date/Year and Region: English/American, late 18th century.

Time to Complete: 3 or 4 hours

How Successful Was It?: Very successful with all of the family.  It turned out exactly like I thought it would.  I would make it again, if it didn't take so long to make the crust.  I'll probably save it for special occasions.  It was a bit heart braking to have to throw away the crust when we were finished eating the vegetables.

How Accurate Is It?: I didn't alter this recipe one bit.  The only thing I can say is that I had a lot of help from the people at Savoring The Past. 

Pie #2: Beef Pie, with Puff Paste Crust.

I savored this with brown English mustard.

The Recipe: 

Puff Paste Crust (with help from Savoring The Past)

Take a pound of fine flour and half a pound of firm butter break the least half of it among the flour then wet it with about half a mutchkin half a pint of cold water and knead it very smooth If the paste stick to the table lift it up strew a little flour beneath it and when it is properly wrought up roll it out Divide the remainder of the butter into four parts take one of them and stick bits of it over the paste Strew some flour over it and give it a clap down with your hand to keep the butter from shifting then fold up the paste and continue to do so three times more when all the butter will be wrought up use it as quick as possible because it is the worse of lying.
or this one:

Puff Paste - By Gervase Markham, 1615, The English Huswife, Containing the Inward and Outward Virtues Which Ought to Be in a Complete Woman (SERIOUSLY!!! That's the title!)
Now for the making of puff-paste of the best kind, you shall  take the finest Wheat flower after it hath been a little bak't [dried] in a pot in the Oven, and blend it well with eggs, whites and yelks all together, and after the paste is well kneaded, roul out a part thereof as thin as you please, and then spread cold sweet butter over the same; then upon the same butter roul  another lets of the paste as before, and spread it with butter also; and thus roul leaf upon leaf with butter between ill it be as thick as you think good: and with it either cover any bak't meat, or make paste for Venison, Florentine, Tart, or what dish else you please, and so bake it. 

For the hand pie filling, I did what Mr. Markham suggested every "Complete Woman" should do, and filled it with any "bak't meat" I felt like.  In this case, it was ground beef, seasoned with onions, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire Sauce.  So there.

The Date/Year and Region: Late 18th century, or early 1600's, depending on which crust recipe you use, England/America

Time to Complete: 4 or 5 hours...this pastry was the most time consuming.

How Successful Was It?: Delicious.  The crust was everyone's favorite the flakiest, crunchiest, buttery pastry or croissant that you can find in Europe. (Not the soft, weak croissants in America.)

How Accurate Is It?: Accurate...except perhaps the ground beef filling.


Pie #3: Strawberry Pie with Short Paste Crust and a side of Custard

Pre-cooked pie.

What they strawberry design looked like BEFORE it fell during the baking process.

The Custard.

The Recipe: 

Short Crust- By Mary Harrison, 1905, The Skillful Cook: A Practical Manual of Modern Experience


  • 1 pound of flour
  • 3/4 pound of butter
  • enough cold water to mix rather stiffly
  • pinch of salt


Rub the butter into the flour until like fine bread-crumbs.
Mix with cold water, using as little as possible (if too much is used the crust will not be short).
Roll gently to make the paste bind.
If this paste is used for tarts, add one dessertspoonful of castor sugar to the flour.

Strawberry Filling - (I followed the instructions from this recipe for the filling, but did not use their crust or presentation.) By Gesine Lemcke, 1920, Desserts and Salads

press 1/2 pint strawberries through a sieve and mix them with 3 tablespoonfuls powdered sugar; wash and drain 1/2 quart strawberries, put them in a dish, pour the mashed strawberries over the whole fruit and fill them into the tartelettes

Custard - By John Farley, 18th century, The London Art of Cookery

The Date/Year and Region: England/America, year depends on which part of the recipe you are referring to.

Time to Complete: 2 or 3's all a blur.

How Successful Was It?: I have to say that the flavor was excellent, but the consistency was a flop.  It was WAY too runny and wet inside of the pie.  Next time, I would thicken the sauce up before I put it into the pie.  The custard was fabulous.

How Accurate Is It?:  I followed all recipes, except I added lemon juice and cinnamon to the strawberry filling...but since I used three different recipes for the pie, I can't really say it belongs to one or the other.  So, out of the three pies, I would say this one is the least accurate.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly: Challenge #4: Foreign Foods

It's time again for another Historical Food Fortnightly event...this time, an 1844 English/American version of an Arabian dish called Dumpokht.

The Challenge: Foreign Foods: Dumpokht - E.R. – (The dish mentioned in the book 1001 Arabian Nights as the Kid stuffed with Pistachio Nuts ) from A New System of Domestic Cookery by Maria Rundell.

The Recipe: You can read all about the history of the recipe HERE at The Old Foodie.  I won't claim to have her research skills. But here's the basic recipe:

Dumpokht.- E.R. – (The dish mentioned in the Arabian Nights as the Kid stuffed with Pistachio Nuts.- Clean and truss a fowl or rabbit, as for roasting; then stuff it with sultana raisins, pistachio nuts and boiled rice, -in equal parts. Rub fine an ounce of coriander-seed, freed from the husks, four onions, a dozen peppercorns, six cloves, and a teaspoonful of pounded ginger. Set twelve ounces of butter in a stewpan over the fire; rub the pounded ingredients over the fowl or rabbit, and let it fry until perfectly well browned and tender. Boil in a quart of white broth twelve ounces of rice, two ounces of sultana raisins, two ounces of pistachio nuts, and two of almonds, the two latter blanched, and cut into thin slices. When the rice is nearly tender, strain off the broth, and add the rice to the fried fowl; stir the whole well, that the butter may completely saturate the rice, and keep it near the fire to swell till wanted. In serving surround the fowl with the rice. Observe that, in pounding the onions, the juice only is used with the spices, or they must be rubbed and pounded so finely as not to be perceptible. Chestnuts may be substituted for pistachio nuts.

The Date/Year and Region: 1844 English/American recipe, based on an Arabian dish. (*Note: There are earlier editions of this cookbook dating back to 1807.)

How Did You Make It: Check out the pics below...

Blend the spices with the onion.

Coat the chicken meat with the above mixture.

Chop the nuts and raisins.

Add the nuts and raisins to the broth and rice.

Cook rice as usual.

Grab the MASSIVE amount of butter required.

Melt the butter in the bottom of your pot.

Fry the chicken. *It's really more like boiling the chicken in butter.*

Remove the chicken from the butter when it's cooked thoroughly.

Add the cooked rice mixture to the butter that remains in the pot.  Let it soak it all up for a few minutes.

Then add the chicken back in and season with salt if you like.

Time to Complete: About an hour.

How Successful Was It?: Why is every dish from the past either brown or yellow?  Seriously?  I've realized that my modern culinary sensibilities are so used to a variety of colors in my food.  From red peppers to purple beets to bright green salads and refreshing blueberries, everything I eat now not only tastes and smells good, but looks good too.  I had to add cilantro to freshen it up a bit.  Looks aside, I would definitely make this dish again.  The texture was soft, with bits of crunch from the pistachios.  It was filling, warm and tasty too...buttery and nutty with a bite of sweet every now and again.  I actually expected it to be much more pungent than it was, because it called for so many strong spices.  But in reality, the flavors were both subtle, and distinct.  Everything about this dish (except the color) was well balanced.

I'm not a huge meat eater, and I think I would like this dish just as much, if not more, without the chicken.  If I wanted to make this dish Vegetarian friendly, I would cook the rice, etc as stated, and then just brown the butter with the onion/spice mixture and pour it over the rice.  Give it a good stir and serve it like that.  It's tasty stuff!

How Accurate Is It?: To be honest, I feel like the recipe is a bit confusing.  It starts by saying I should stuff my meat and then later tells me to add the rice etc. to the fried meat.  So which is it?  Although all of the ingredients are the same, I did not use a whole fowl (chicken, in my case) but instead only used thigh meat. Because of this, I could not stuff the bird.  Instead, I made the rice/pistachio/almond/raisin part of the meal separately, and then added it to the cooked chicken and butter later.  I chopped the chicken thighs and fried them in the butter...and WOW...SOOOO much butter it was...and then the rice dish, when added, soaked up all of the extra butter and chicken fat.  Another alteration I made was using only one onion instead of four.  One was enough.  Also, I used modern cooking appliances.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Jane Austen Festival, Louisville, KY 2014

I've just returned from the 7th annual Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, KY, hosted by JASNA Louisville.

I'm exhausted and creatively wiped out, but I can honestly say that this was, perhaps, my favorite festival year.  The weather was a big contributor to that.  The day was slightly overcast, and the high was only around 76* F.  All of us who were portraying Merveilleuse and Incroyable had sooooo much fun being loose and pretentious, upper-class snobbery, or stiff, buttoned-up prudishness from this crew.

I always enjoy seeing fellow costumers/reenactors that I only get to see once a year, but that I dearly love from afar.  Being around like-minded people not only makes me feel "normal," but fuels my creativity for future projects.  Although I am creatively beat right now, ideas are passively swimming around in my head.

On Friday, I went solo onto the cool, drizzly grounds of Locust Grove, and participated in a Turkish paper marbling class given by the Master paper marbler John C. Bielik.  Fascinating stuff.  I only wish I had the materials to do more marbling at home.  You can see my attempts above...I obviously need to work on this art form.  Here's a video of him doing what he does best: 

On Saturday, the day progressed slowly and casually, beginning with a little window shopping.  It took a lot of restraint, but I refrained from buying any more fabric.  I did purchase a few small items...some 1/4 inch twill tape, a few buttons, some new bee's wax and some Dutch black tea.  Our little group spread out some blankets, and picniced on the green while listening to the two British speakers, authors Jo Baker and John Mullan, who were near by in the 'big tent.'  We also participated in the Regency Promenade, where Oh!, did I mention that we broke the record for the Guinness Book of World Records attempt at most people dressed in Regency attire?  Yes.  Yes we did.  Take that, Bath, England.  It's on!  You can watch a neat little video about it HERE.  We ended the day with a relaxing tea.

Because there are so many photos that I want to share with you, I'm going to just throw them all out at once from here on out, with hardly a comment.  If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask them in the comment section.  Enjoy!

A shameless selfie.

We were trying so hard to be so serious...

It obviously didn't work.

At the "big tent"...listening to the guest authors.

Lining up for the record setting promenade.

Relaxing at tea time.

A view of Carson's Incroyable hair.  I cut and styled it myself.

And finally, the only shot I could get of my hair was after the festival, so I'm afraid it might not be in top shape.

If you couldn't come to this year's festival, there's always next year.  The time to start planning is now!