Minutal of Apricots

Apicius contains a number of dishes labeled as Minutal.
These dishes are all hashes of one form or another, whether they are vegetable, seafood, or meat. They also all finish with a “tracta”, a disc of prepared semolina, crumbled in to thicken the sauce for presentation.

Sometimes you have to work with what is in the pantry. In this case, it was what was in the yard. Though the instructions specifically called for dried onions and mint, and fresh apricots, I have it the other way round.

This dish is considered a “compound” dish, a dish of several elements. It is a sweet and sour pan casserole of meat, onions, fruit, and sauce.

The first instructions call for a cooked shoulder of pork. I don’t have a shoulder, I have ribs. I poached them with seasonings chosen to work well with the Minutal, by placing wine, pepper, dill, onion, and a little fish sauce in a pot, putting the meat in, and adding water. I then raised the temperature to a boil, slapped a lid on the pot, and turned off the heat. When the pot cooled, I put it away in the fridge overnight.

When it was time to make the dish, I had a little problem. I have fresh onions, fresh dill, fresh mint, but I do not have fresh apricots.

The instructions call for dried “Ascalonian” onions. That’s a scallion, a green onion. I think that means I have to dry some scallions this week, toward the future.

The apricots I have are dried minced apricots, which will cook up quickly and help thicken the dish, rather than juicy ripe apricots which will add some tang and a lot of juice. That’s a little sad. At least they have no sulfites or sweeteners. If those were all I could find, I would use slightly under-ripe peaches or make a different dish completely.

Adicies in caccabo oleum liquamen uinum; concides cepam ascaloniam aridam, spatulam porcinam coctam tessellatim concides. his omnibus coctis teres piper cuminum mentam siccam anetum, suffundis mel liquamen passum acetum modice, ius de suo sibi; temperabis;. Praecoqua enucleata mittis, facies ut ferueant, donec percoquantur. tractam confringes, ex ea obligas, piper aspargis et inferes.

Put oil, liquamen and wine in a pan.
Add dried scallions and already cooked, cubed pork.
Cook together.
Add seasonings and liquids, taste.
When seasonings are correct, add apricots
and simmer until they are cooked.
Crumble in a tracta, cook til thickened. Serve.

What I did is not what I would do with an ideal pantry.

assembled ingredients arrayed

2 TBS olive oil
1 TBS fish sauce
4 oz onion, diced, or scallions, or optimally, dried scallions.
16 oz pork (or turkey thigh), poached til fully cooked, cooled and diced

½ tsp pepper, ground
1 tsp cumin
1 sprig or 1 tsp mint
1 sprig or ½ tsp dill
1 TBS honey
1 TBS raisin wine or must syrup
up to ¼ c fish sauce (be wary of oversalting the dish)
up to ¼ c wine vinegar (if you are using a sweet wine, balsamic would work here to sub in for the syrupy quality the passum would have provided)
Up to a cup of wine. I had a local white, but would suggest a red, such as a Chianti.
6 fresh apricots or 2 oz of dried unsulphited unsweetened apricots.

Turn on the heat, warm the pan, and when you add the oil, also add the fish sauce and a splash of the wine.
When it is warm, add first the onions, then the diced meat. Warm it through.

onions and precooked meat  in the pan

Place the seasonings in the pan, stir to try to distribute them more evenly.
Add the honey, melt it in to the pan, then add the passum (or balsamic,) wine, vinegar (unless using balsamic) and blend together. Add half of the fish sauce, then taste for salt. Add the rest to your taste.
Place your fresh apricots in the pan, or fold in the dried ones so they are covered by liquid and can rehydrate in the sauce.
Watch the pot carefully, the fresh ones will make a wetter dish, the dry apricots may absorb too much liquid and encourage burning. Be prepared to add a little more wine to the dish so it does not burn.

before adding the apricots and thickener, the dish is dark brown and has a lot of broth

When the apricots are fully cooked, add thickener, to the dish, allow it to cook through, and serve.

We both thought of this dish as an interesting analog to pulled pork BBQ. The flavors are different, but the notes and elements of well cooked meat that “pulls”, a rich thick sweet tangy sauce, and deep notes of earthiness combine to make a very pleasing summer or winter dish.

I have made this since with fresh apricots. The difference is, as expected, most notable in the tartness and in the liquidity. The fresh fruit did affect the tenderness of the meat as well.

the finished food in two different bowls. There is a sheen on the food from rice flour

Should you choose to use turkey thigh, I strongly suggest skin off, bone on, and low temperature so as not to toughen the dish.
We had it with bread and a salad, but did not need the bread. We planned to use the leftovers for lunch the next day but they did not last long enough.

Curye on Inglisch 38

I don’t like rice.

I’ll eat it, but I won’t go out of my way for it. It just isn’t my thing.

One of the recipes that seems to find its way into more cookbooks than any other is blancmange. Rice. This does not  inspire excitement.

However, it’s as  economical as it is pervasive, using broth, almonds, rice, and leftover chicken picked off of the bones, or when made especially for a particular diner, only a little of the breast of a capon.

As much as I don’t love rice, it would be disingenious to avoid making this dish.

I had lots of reference sources available. Some call for verjus, others for pikefish, and a large variety of spices.

I used this iteration from Curye on Inglisch.

38 Blank maunger. Take capouns and seeth them, thenne take hem vp; take almaundes blaunched, grynd hem &alay hem vp with the same broth. Cast the mylk in a pot. Waisshe rys and do thereto, and lat it seeth; thane take the brawn of the capouns, teese it small and do therto. Take white grece, sugur and salt, and cast therinne. Lat it seeth; thenne messe it forth and florissh ot with aneys in confyt, red other whyt, and with almaundes fryed in oyle, and serue it forth. (p106)

 

  • Take capons and seethe them-poach a chicken and make some broth.
  • Make almond milk using that broth.
  • Simmer rice in the chicken-almond milk
  • Add shredded chicken. Specifically “teased”, not diced.
  • Add “white grece”
  • sugar and salt, and let it seethe.
  • Serve with a garnish of anise comfits and toasted almonds.

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 16 ounces raw almonds, soaked overnight, peeled.
  • 1 quart of chicken broth, warmed
  • ¼ c chicken fat from the broth
  • 1 cup cooked chicken, shredded
  • 1 cup rice, soaked
  • ½ TBS salt
  • 1 TBS sugar

the assembled ingredients for the dish; chicken broth, peeled almonds, rice, chicken, sugar, salt

GEAR

basin to soak almonds

processor for almond milk

strainer for almond milk

pot to cook in (or rice cooker)

spatula

HOW TO

Set aside a dozen almonds for garnish.

Place the rest of the almonds in a processor or blender. Whiz til they are meal.

Add chicken broth, whiz to commingle well.

Strain and press solids,  set them aside for a future dish.

 

a food processor with almond milk being made with chicken stock.

There is not enough sp`the almond milk is no longer liquid, and risks burningace in this processor for the almond milk to be properly made, it must be transferred to a larger vessel to be completed.

  • Start by putting a couple of teaspoons of chicken fat into the cooking pot, and toast the almonds. Set them aside. Don’t wipe out the pot.
  • Place rice in the same pot, add almond milk. Watch the pot closely, as almond milk does not behave quite like water, and will cook out at a different rate. If your almond milk is depleted before your rice is done, supplement with broth, or if you are out of that as well, use water.
  • When the rice is done (or if you are clever, when the rice cooker dings) fold in the chicken and spices, and add chicken fat a tablespoon at a time until you are pleased with the mouthfeel and texture. Don’t skip the chicken fat step.
  • Place in a bowl or on a plate, garnish with toasted almonds, and serve. If you wish to use anise comfits, decorate with them as well.

NOTES

Every time I make a chicken, I save the bones to make broth.  I put the prior broth in a pot, warm it up, and add the bones. It gets richer, denser, and more flavorful every time. This dish would have been pretty insipid without the intensity of the broth, as it was the primary source of flavor.

I have read a lot of conflicting opinions on what rice was most likely used historically. I chose to use Arborio which I had on hand.

Skinning a pound of almonds took two hours. It’s fussy.

I put the almond and chicken mixture into a pot to warm together, because the processor could not hold enough liquid to make the almond milk. It worked out pretty well, as straining the almond milk is potentially messy.

I added my salt and sugar directly to the chicken meat in order to ensure the seasonings being evenly distributed. There’s more of a risk of over or under seasoning using this method.

The pot I used is not the best one for a dish like this. The squared off bottom corners invited sticking and burning, so I wound up stirring constantly. This worked out in my favor, as it wound up being accidental risotto.

Honestly, it was a good dish. I did not enjoy it, but only because I am still not partial to rice.
I was asked to serve it again, and I will. If haste is an issue, I may use both commercial almond milk and strong broth to create the depth of flavor, which would make this a 30 minute dish. It was a success.

If you wish to explore the very wide world of Medieval blancmanges, check out this link to the Medieval Cookery site; it’s a list of several. You are certain to find a type there that will work for you.

http://www.medievalcookery.com/search/display.html?fourm:36

 

Hieatt, C. B. (1985). Curye on Inglysch: English culinary manuscripts of the fourteenth century, including the “Forme of cury. London ; New York ; Toronto: Oxford university press