two slices of beef pot roast in a brown bowl, with several cubes of cooked turnip and a pile of cooked, shredded beet greens about the size of a peach.

Of Turnips

Togli rape bullite colle foglie, e polle a cocere con carne di bue, e pepe, e cruoco. E quando sono cotte, le poni in scudelle per la comune famiglia.

Turnips (rape).
[32] Take turnips (rape) boiled with their leaves, and set them to cook with beef, and pepper, and saffron.  And when they are cooked, put them on plates for the common family.

It has been so very long.

I broke my knee quite spectacularly. It’s been well over a year and a half, and now, at last, I can cook and show again.

I have missed this tremendously. Thank you for waiting.

In autumn, today, just as through history, beef becomes affordable. Herds are thinned of their non-breeding stock, non-milkers, and excess numbers, so the feed stores put away all summer will be sufficient.

At the same time, normally, root vegetables are being prepared for storage as human feed, and are at their very best.

Not having been able to garden at all has left me in the perfectly ordinary position of having to purchase vegetables, so I was unable to get turnips with their greens attached, and in fact, was unable to get really decent ones. These are acceptable.

of-turnips-3

I got beets for another dish, and am using their greens here, supplemented with a little chive for some sharp bite.

I selected a shallow ceramic vessel with a good lid to cook this in, to allow the items to fit closely.

The order in which the instructions are written suggest boiling the turnips, then adding them to a vessel with the beef, rather than cooking them together.

In not instructing to add the beef to the boiling pot, it’s not instructing me to boil. In telling me to cook the turnip with the beef, I cannot roast, as I cannot skewer turnips, I could fry, but that is not specified, and likely would be. Other dishes in the book call for what appears to be adding beef to moist, cooked items and “set to cook” which usually means near coals.

There is no guidance to add liquid, so I did not add liquid.

Adding seasonings to the vegetables after placing them with the meat brings me back to thinking about the cookery of vegetables in large pots, and keeping them separate. I often consider whether it is more likely to cook many items in one pot, separated by perhaps a sack or by binding, or whether each item in a larger kitchen would have its own pot, own place by the fire, even if just boiling.

I cook tonight’s greens separately, then add more water to cook the roots. While I believe the greens are intended to cook while still attached to the roots, therefore for a decent while, these are beet greens which are more delicate, and I prefer them this way. They were chiffonade cut.

of-turnips-4

I cut the roots small (fork size) to cook, also for personal preference. I pulled out (most of) the greens, and missed a little. They will be in the oven for some time cooking with the beef, so whole turnips would work just fine if that is your preference.

of-turnips-7

The beef has no instruction or modifiers. Not what part, not rich or lean, nor large or hewn to pieces. I went large. It was on sale. It’s a nice chuck roast. My proportions of meat to vegetables in the pot are entirely inverse to those of pretty much any propriety, but we want leftover meat for other meals.

This is to be served with a crusty loaf, sliced thinly. The broth will reappear soon, in another dish.

The results; The vessel, vegetables, and meat combined together to cause enough liquid in the dish to comfortably braise it in the pot. Upon chilling, this became a dense aspic.

of-turnips-11

The meat became a lovely pot roast. The turnips picked up the flavors of the meat nicely, the beef adopted a little of the horseradishy bite of the turnip.

I did not use enough pepper, though the salt balance worked out well for hot service. I think it will need more for cold use. The saffron was utterly lost.

Original text is held at

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/33954/33954-h/33954-h.htm

The translation work by Ariane Helou at https://renaissancefood.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/an-anonymous-tuscan-cookery-book/

is solidly reliable (so far) and I am happy to suggest others may find great value at her site.

Beef is stunningly expensive, so it needs to go a long way when we get it. It is winter right now, a time when we long for slow braises which fill the air with the aromas of warmth and comfort.

There are only two of us, though, and while it is possible to make Stew For Two, it’s not so much fun. I also find it frustrating to have a mass quantity of something with a very strong flavor profile, as meals can get repetitive after a while.

This dish is quite simple. It’s easy to ignore for hours, it’s easy to use in many different ways.

It’s very mild, so it will match quite nicely with many options of sides, and the beef flavor will shine.

The wine you choose will be important here, as the goal is a brightness from the verjus. A new wine is appropriate, something with a bit of acid such as a “two buck” or taverna wine.

 

beef in a cryopac, and the ingredients for the dish measured and arrayed in dishes.

A rather large bounty of beef

25. Verjuice soup of chicken or whatever meat you wish.

BROUET DE VERJUS DE POULLAILLE OU DE TEL GRAIN COMME
VOUS VOULDREZ. Cuisiez en vin, en eaue et en verjuz tellement
que le goust du verjus passe tout l’autre, puis broyez
gingenbre et des moyeulx d’oeufz tous cruz grant foison,
et passez tout parmy l’estamine ensemble, et mettez boullir;
puis gectez sur vostre grain, quant il sera friolé, et mettez
du lart, au cuire, pour luy donner goust.

 

Cook in wine, water, and enough verjus that it tastes mostly of verjus. Add some pork fat to give flavor.

Crush ginger and bread, and moisten with egg yolk, and strain this through a cheesecloth.

Boil it and throw it onto your meat, when it is browned.

4 LBS of beef (or a whole lot less, it’s OK)

2 cups wine

1 cup water

1 cup verjus

4 oz pork fat, prosciutto rind, or other barding,

1 teaspoon dried ginger powder

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

2 raw egg yolks

Wash the beef and place it in a vessel of the size that seems best; close but with room for wine and some simmering space. Be sure the lid fits well.

beef tenderloin in a pot, curled up to fit.

Layer the fat over the meat, if you wish to use it.This fat is partly to protect the meat, partly to allow the richness to melt in. Higher collagen cuts will rely less on this, though they would still benefit. A layer of cheesecloth with olive oil would work for a very lean cut in which you prefer not to add pork.

Add the liquids and permit to simmer until the meat is fully cooked. I choose to simmer it til the meat falls apart, much like for Ropa Viejo

about to disintegrate, the meat has shrunk.

Remove the meat, allow the broth to cool slightly,

Blend the ginger with the breadcrumbs, and fold some broth into the bowl of breadcrumbs,

Allow them to soak up the broth for a time, then add them to the pot.

Separate your eggs, and either fold them cautiously into the pot of cooled broth, or temper the broth into the eggs, then

add them to the pot.

Simmer the broth with the egg yolks and bread crumbs til thick.

Meanwhile, in a pan, sautee your meat and allow it to brown. The instructions are pretty clear that the meat and broth should be separated before the broth is thickened.

Another choice is to allow the meat to settle in the pot and brown within the broth, but I find this lends a somewhat burnt taste. I believe this might have been a not-unknown  method, as there are several notes explaining how to remove the burnt taste from a brewet as required.

Serve the meat well sauteed, with the thick, seasoned sauce.

 

Please note; There are many translations of this dish which are written differently. There are other varietions of instruction in related books, some calling for more specific seasonings.

I disagree firmly with the instruction placed in one translation of this recipe to brown the meat before braising, as the entire mindset of Medieval cookery is counter to that method, for humoral reasons.

I will go more into depth on humours some other time.

 

Scully, T. (1995). The art of cookery in the Middle Ages (p. 223). Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: Boydell Press.

http://www.staff.uni-giessen.de/gloning/tx/vi-vat.htm

http://www.telusplanet.net/public/prescotj/data/viandier/viandier415.html#viandier18

The Opera of Bartholomeo Scappi

Recipe 11, book II

a small serving bowl with two pieces of meat, each about 4" long and 1" thick and 1" wide, along with two slices of bread

Bowl made by Brunissende Dragonette de Brocéliande

It took a few tries to get this one right. It didn’t so much fight me as surprise me, as it’s supposed to be simple braised meat. However, there are a number of small details which can lead to or detract from success.

First off, it calls for a lean loin of beef, as well as some fat and backbones. I did not find a short cut for this. Chuck did not work, cubes did not work. A lean bit of loin, some diced beef fat, and a couple of bits on the bone worked well enough, but even wrapped in fat, it did dry out. It did not get gristly, and was a bit chewy. For our own use, we intend to stick with short ribs or a similar braising cut. Select your cut of meat carefully.

ingredients for a previous making of the dish, with all ingredients displayed. Purpose of image is to highlight grass-fed-beef, which was not optimal for this type of cooking.

Grass fed beef cubes were not optimal.

The second concern was proportion of liquids and spices.  Trying to balance them as a group did not work well, and being cautious was frankly a bad idea.  Referring to my experiences making sauerbraten, I went bold.  Once I went with liquid measures of 1 lbs meat, 1c liquid, 1T salt, it all got better.

Then on to the spices and liquids themselves. I had to consider the type of white vinegar to use, suss out whether historical Malmsey happened to be similar to what we have in the cabinet, and how to get rose vinegar.

I went with a white wine vinegar, and to make an ersatz rose vinegar, I added a small amount of rose water to more of the same white wine vinegar. It’s past the season in which I could make some, though next year when the roses bloom I will make a point to do so (be aware of your rose sources! Mine are not sprayed, and are a strain known to have been grown historically. You may be able to get cooking roses at an Indian market).

For the malmsey, I used what I have, which is a rather sweet dessert madiera.

In order to balance the proportions of sweet wines to sharp vinegars, I used equal parts and blended the liquids separately, until I was satisfied that I had a flavorful proportion.

The next hurdle was named “fennel flour” in my English translation. I was curious. Fennel pollen? Fennel seed? Powdered fronds? What part of fennel contributes the flour? It was exciting to consider that such a trendy, modern ingredient as fennel pollen could be represented in this book, but my research led me in a completely other direction.

According to the herbals I consulted, it seems that fennel flour may be another nomen ascribed to nigella sativa, which I have in my spice rack as kalonji seed. It’s the oniony peppery seeds on top of rye bread when seeded rye does not have caraway, and appears in some grocery brands of naan.

Now that I had everything in place, it was time to cook!

Unfortunately, there was another ingredient I did not account for. The cookpot itself had a lot to do with the success or failure of this dish

First, I made it in a dutch oven. There was too much space, not enough liquid, and the meat dried out.

In a crockpot, the bits on top also dried out, for the same reason; the pot was not self-basting. Next time, I will put some parchment paper directly on the surface to prevent this.

Finally, I switched to a tagine; a self-basting braiser. At long last, we had a dish worth sharing with you.

 

Please enjoy Braised Beef, Scappi Style!

2 lbs of beef loin, excess fat removed and reserved ( get something marbled, or it will be tough and dry)

2 ounces (plus or minus) of minced beef fat (trimmed from above)

1 lb beef neck or backbones, cubed, not trimmed of fat.

(or three pounds of short ribs or shanks)

 

½ c red wine

½ c white wine vinegar

 

1 TBS salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp cloves

1 tsp ginger

1 tsp coriander (seed) OR “fennel flour”, nigella sativa seed.

 

a small metal bowl with a greyish powder; the spices have all been powdered together

the spice blend is not visually inspiring.

½ c “Greek Wine” or malmsey (dessert wine )

¼ c mustum (raisin flavored grape syrup used as a sweetener, sold at Italian and gourmet markets as Vin Cotto)

¼ c rose vinegar (2 tsp rose water to ¼ c white wine vinegar. Adjust by your own nose)

 

4 oz minced fresh pork fat

6 slice prosciutto (use a butchers’ end if you can get one, it’s for flavor not décor)

 

3 oz dried sour cherries

2 oz dried prunes, quartered.

spices and salt, a bowl of pork fat and prosciutto, and a bowl of cut beef, with a row of bottles for the liquid ingredients. Missing are prunes and dried cherries

Another time with the same recipe

 

Blend the whole spices, whizzing them in a spice grinder and set aside.

Blend the liquid ingredients using the measures above, and put them aside in a container. It will smell earthy, darkly sweet, and a little sharp.

Trim the beef of excess fat, cut meat into single portions of about 5-6 ounces.

Cut the beef fat.

Cut the pork and fat, reserve.

 

Place the beef, beef bones, and beef fat into the pot, then spice the meat with about 2/3 of the ground spices. Toss so it is reasonably well distributed.

Put a weighted bowl on top, and allow the meat to sit at cool room temperature for several hours to marinate. (Modern solution: zip bag and a good squeeze)

 

a bowl with another bowl set inside it, a gallon jug of water inside the inner bowl, for purposes of pressing the meat in the bottom of the larger bowl not visible) in a marinade for several hours.

Pressing meat

After the marination, put the meat neatly in the pot if it is not yet there, then add the pork fat, and lay the prosciutto carefully over the serving portions of beef to help baste them.

If the meat seems to call for it, add more of the spice blend.

Check liquid levels, be certain the pot will neither boil over nor dry out. You can either add proportionally more of the liquids, or keep an eye on the pot and add water if the levels deplete enough to concern.

Place the pot in a 300* oven, and let it cook for an hour.

Put the dried fruit in, make sure it is all submerged. Baste while you have the lid off.

Lower the temperature to 225.

Two hours later, remove the vessel from the oven, and permit it to cool to serving temperature.

 

The flavor is assertive, lively, and exciting. It’s not a boring quiet little dish in any way; it’s peppery, bright, and deep. Not too sweet from the mustum and the malmsey, not too sharp from the double dose of vinegar, and not too tannic from the wine, we both had to fight to stop going back for more broth.

There was not a whole lot of floating fat, which was a concern. It was just enough to protect the meat.

We loved it. It’s been requested as a regular.

I had some left over spice mix. which I braised some brussels sprouts in. They were also delightful.

“Neapolitan Recipe Collection”

as translated by Terence Scully

Recipe 46

Goat Kid or Mutton with Thick Broth Get kid or mutton and cut it into small pieces, and put it into a pot with salt pork, then get sage, mint and onion, and cook everyhting together; then get good spices and saffron, distemper them with the meat’s broth and let everything boil together until the meat falls apart, then lift the meat out into a dish with the thick broth.

After boning out a shoulder of mutton, I peeled as much silverskin as I could, and sliced it into “spoon-size” bits of about a half-ounce each.

a deep pan with mutton chopped to about half-ounce bits, a chopped onion, and seasonings

on low heat.

Then I chopped the onion the way I sometimes like to; in half, then slice one half finely. I did this so the larger one could signal the cookedness of the dish, and the quantity would not overwhelm the small portion being made. It also made for a handy spot to stick cloves later.

Only having dried herbs, I used the sage, but chose savory over plain mint. Dried mint does nothing for me, and savory struck me as a good and tasty compromise. I don’t suggest it, it didn’t quite fit the palate.

I have salt-pork, it is unsmoked streaky bacon. I put two slices of about an ounce each into the pot. Had I chosen not to use it, I would have used olive oil and salt

Though the dish calls for no water, I added a small amount, being of the thought that a “pot” is a wet-cooking vessel. Though the meat did later give broth, it needed some liquid to start. Sticking would have ruined dinner.

The dish was cooked with a lid on the whole time.

 

After the meat cooked through, I added cracked pepper, a couple of cloves and a shard of cinnamon. Again, I am not a fan of using saffron except when I know the dish is otherwise honed, and feel it is worth the expense. Sunday dinner is not that time.

Had I used a larger quantity of powdered spices, I would have put them into another, smaller pot with broth and allowed them to simmer together (distempering) til the broth was thickened and the spices were homogeneous. As I was using a small amount of whole spice, this step would not have been beneficial, and the broth was not thick as a result.

After an hour the meat is cooked but not to tenderness, and the onion half is completely soft. I put the lid back on and simmered at low for another twenty minutes, then served it up.

 

the same pan, an hour later, with a rich broth, collapsing half-onion, and tender meat

it's ready for plating.

1 lb lean meat, trimmed and cubed.

1 onion, medium, halved and one half sliced thin.

½ tsp sage, dried

(½ tsp savory, dried, used here but not preferred)

(1 TBS mint, preferred, would be best fresh)

2-4 oz salt pork (or other fat and salt)

(do not add salt to the dish unless you skip the salt pork)

2-4 oz water

3 cloves

an inch of cinnamon

½ tsp cracked long pepper

 

Place the  meat and onion  in the pot with a small amount of water, and set burner to medium.

Add herbs, and put the lid on the pot.

After 45 minutes to an hour, either

add your whole spices or

remove a cup of the cooking liquid, and add your powdered spices to it, then in a separate pot, simmer the spices for a few moments until they become homogeneous with the broth. At this point, re-introduce the now-spiced broth to the pot, tasting for balance. You may not choose to use it all.

Put the lid back on the pot, lower the temperature and continue cooking until the meat is ready to fall apart.

Check for salt, and serve.

 

A pot with a good lid is about all you really need to pull this off. A second, smaller pot for simmering the spices would be useful.

Ratings;

– “hidden” pork product. Make sure it’s marked when feeding groups.

– really needs the fresh herbs

– not the most popular meat.

– not the most evocative dish.

+ toss it in the pot and forget it, then simmer the spices in some of the broth. Pretty simple.

+ Minimal waste, made from trim.

+ great “intro” dish, easy to take a small portion, and not unfamiliar flavors.

cooked portions of meat in a bowl, ready to be served

“Neapolitan Recipe Collection”

as translated by Terence Scully;

Recipe 50

Florentine-Style Meat in a Baking Dish: Get veal or another meat with the bone, cut it into the pieces as small as a fist, and put them into a baking dish with a little water, a beaker of wine and another of good verjuice; if you master likes, add in a few slices of onion or, should he not like onions, use parsley, the root that is along with raisins, dried prunes, and salt; cover the meat by no more than a finger of water, and set it in the oven; when it looks half done, add a few cloves, a good lot of cinnamon, pepper and a good lot of saffron let it taste of pepper; when it is half cooked, turn it over; then take it out onto a plate with the spices and sugar on top, or else leave it in the baking dish. You can do the same with fish that is, grey mullet or eels cut into pieces four fingers in width, washed well and put into a baking dish with a little oil. Note that you can make these things sweet or tart according to our master’s taste..

It’s winter. It’s cold, I want to make hearty food. There are beef short ribs in the fridge. It looks like a plan.

cut the meat into approximately 4 ounce chunks, and poured an equal proportion of wine, verjus, and water over them. I shaved an onion into the pot, put in a good handful of black raisins, and seasoned the pot with about a half-teaspoon of salt.

 

meat, sliced onions, and raisins in a wine-based cooking liquid, in a large pot.

all of the ingredients ready to go

After 45 minutes I put in the called for spices, and let it go for another 15 or 20 minutes.

It’s a bit of a pot roast with overtones of sauerbraten. We are not complaining.

cooked portions of meat in a bowl, ready to be served

The final product, waiting for sauce and vegetables.

This is a regular dish on our table, it only needs about 5 minutes of attention at the beginning, and two in the middle of cooking. It needs no fancy slicing for service, as it is already in portion controlled pieces.

I appreciate the ease with which I can adapt this balance from sharp to sweet by using more or fewer raisins and /or prunes. It’s good comforting food which succeeds best when a cheap rough cut of beef is used, though the original suggests many alternative proteins.

I used;

1c Commercial verjus

1c California red Zinfandel

1c water

2 lbs short ribs

1/4c black raisins

A cinnamon stick, crushed (canela)

a healthy pinch of pepper

4 whole cloves,

a pinch of Kosher salt

RATINGS:

+ Cheap cuts of meat work well.

+ Simple seasonings.

+ One burner, no complex methods.

+ reminiscent of Sauerbraten, so not a challenge to the timid palate.

+/- Calls for verjus (but there are reasonable substitutions available).

+ Pairs nicely with a variety of sauces and vegetable options

All in all, there is nothing about this presentation I do not enjoy, and nothing I cannot recommend.

It’s a clear winner.