Sorrell with Eggs – For a Plate.

I wanted a snack. I have a planter of herbs growing on my porch. I also wanted to post a new recipe here. Luckily, UPenn MS Codex 1038 has a simple, tasty recipe for “Sorrell with Eggs.”

I first started cooking with sorrel after watching a lot of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage series. This strong, spicy herb is fantastic with eggs and dairy. (Find more of Hugh’s sorrel recipes here.)

The Recipe

Sorrell with Eggs – For a Plate.
Take Two handfuls of Sorrell wash’d and Pick’d, put it in a Saucepan
with a little bit of Butter, a Dust of Flower, a little Pepper and Salt, a
Scraped Nutmeg, Stew all these a Quarter of an hour before you use it,
pour to it two or three spoonfuls of drawn Butter, and Garnish it with
hard Eggs, cut in Quarters one End of the Quarter on the Sorrell
And the other in the side of the Dish.

Lemony sorrel leaves are cooked with butter and spices, sauced with clarified butter, and served with a hardboiled egg. The note “For a Plate” and the final instructions for garnishing suggest that this dish would have appeared on a banquet table among other cold, highly-seasoned dishes.

Our Recipe

2T butter (to clarify, for serving)
1 cup sorrel leaves, washed and sliced into 1/2-inch strips
1T butter (for cooking)
1t flour
1/4 t freshly ground pepper (2-3 grinds)
1/4 t salt
1/8 t ground nutmeg (2 scrapes from a whole nutmeg)
2 eggs, hardboiled

Prepare your drawn (or clarified butter). Heat 2T butter in a small saucepan over a low heat. Let cool. Skim off any foam from the top. Discard any solids at the bottom. (Martha Stewart can help you make a bigger batch to serve with boiled lobster here.)

Hardboil your eggs. (I like Heidi Sawnson’s mini recipe from Super Natural Every Day: Cover eggs with water, bring to a boil, turn off the heat and let the eggs cook more in the water for 7 minutes, then cool in cold water before peeling.)

Put the remaining 1T butter in a small pan over a low heat. Add the sorrel, flour, and spices. Stir to combine. The flour will thicken the sauce to form a light gray. I added a little water during cooking to thin out the mix. When the sorrel is cooked down and the mix smells good, remove from heat. This took about five minutes for me.

Plate individual servings of the sorrel mix on small plates. Add the butter. Peel and cut your egg into quarters. Artfully arrange your egg quarters so the one end is on the sorrel mix and the other end is on the plate. Season your egg with freshly ground pepper to taste. Take a photograph because it’s so pretty. Snack away.

The Results

I will likely make this again. The sharp sorrel is delicious with the buttery sauce and the yielding egg. The nutmeg adds an aromatic note. And, a bonus, the cooking process didn’t take long or make the apartment unbearably hot.

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to make (lamb) Cuttlets

Lamb dishes will always have a special place in my heart. From this stuffed shoulder I made last spring to these stuffed eggplants from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem that I’m preparing for a gathering next week, I’m always eager to try new lamb recipes. So when I saw this receipt for lamb “Cuttlets” in MS Codex 252, of course I was immediately intrigued.

The Recipe

lamb cutlets

to make Cuttlets
take a neck of mutton and cut it Rib from rib then beate them flatt
with a cleaver throwing one some salt and pepper, grate crust of
french bread be sure it tis not burnt for it will be bitter and throw it
one and broyle them, for your sauce take some grauey squese in some
Lemon mince one oynion and put in heat it over the fire and soe put it one
the cutletts

This recipe is relatively straightforward: season and cook your meat, make a delicious sauce, serve. Lamb is a perfectly fine substitute for mutton.

Lamb neck is a cheap and flavorful cut. Sold whole or cut into rounds, it’s perfect for stewing or braising. Despite my love of lamb, I wasn’t familiar with this specific cut when I purchased a frozen lamb neck from the Livengood Farm stall at my local farmers’ market intending to make these cutlets. As took the defrosted meat out of the refrigerator and looked at my recipe notes, I was immediately confronted with a home butchery challenge. How was I going to cut this neck into cutlets!? Thanks to aid and encouragement from my spouse Joseph and our handy, heavy-duty, serrated bread knife, I managed to separate two “cutlet” rounds from the neck. (I slow-cooked the rest of the neck whole in flavorful stock and it was delicious.) To keep this cutlet recipe quick and easy, make sure you ask your butcher to  cut you some nice bone-in rounds or boned neck fillets.

Our Recipe

Makes two cutlets. 1-2 cutlets per person would make a nice serving.

2 lamb neck fillets
2T bread crumbs (unseasoned)
1/2 onion
2T butter
2+ T flour
2T-1/4 c stock (I used homemade chicken stock. Feel free to use whatever you have around.)
2T lemon juice
2T parsley, chopped
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Turn on your broiler.

Finely mince the onion and sauté in butter. Leave this cooking on a low heat as you prepare and broil the cutlets.

Coat the lamb cutlets with breadcrumbs and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Put them in an a roasting dish that you are also comfortable using on the stovetop and place under the broiler to cook. (I used a skillet.) Cook for 5 minutes and then turn the cutlets over and cook for another 3-5 minutes. 8-10 minutes total cooking time. Remove the cutlets from the pan.

Transfer the butter and onion mix into the lamb cutlet roasting pan or skillet. Add flour to the pan and stir to make a roux . Add stock to the pan little-by-little and stir to make a thinner gravy. Add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Plate the cutlets, pour the sauce on top, sprinkle with parsley. Consume immediately.

The Results

Flavorful lamb, crisp breading, zesty  gravy: this dish is a warm, rich, and comforting treat. Next time I might add sage to the sauce as it cooks. Serve alongside some baked squash, roasted brussels sprouts, or a simple salad.

To stuff a Shoulder of Mutton with Oysters

It’s an in-between time. I’ve finished teaching my spring courses, but I’m still reading final papers, grading exams, and clearing my desk for summer research (and cooking).  The stalls at the farmers’ market have asparagus, rhubarb, and spring greens alongside scruffy apples and potatoes. Spring flowers and green leaves promise warmth, but it’s been a chilly, rainy week. Although I love spring sunshine, a gray Saturday was a perfect opportunity to cook a shoulder of lamb stuffed with oysters.

I found this recipe back in the fall and I immediately knew I wanted to try it. I love lamb, I love oysters, and I’d never eaten anything like this. The recipe is from MS Codex 785 and this manuscript also includes the Simnel I made at Easter and the biskets that formed the base for Bisket Pudding. Compiled in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, MS Codex 785 includes some complex culinary recipes along with standard items (biskets, dumplings, pancakes). This recipe’s combination of meat and seafood, mutton and oysters, is not entirely unusual in early modern culinary manuscripts. Sauces and stuffing rich with anchovies, for example, appear in preparations for chicken and other meats, too.

The Recipe

lamb with oysters

To stuff a Shoulder of Mutton with Oysters

Mince a good many Oysters very small, put to
Them grated bread, some suet mince’d small some
Sweet marjoram and lemmon peele all mince’d
Very small, beaten pepper, and salt if you
Find your oysters make it not salt enough, role
These very well up together in the yolks of eggs
Stuff all the inside of the Mutton very thick
Then have a good quantity of oysters ready
Stew’d against the Mutton is roasted to put
Into your dish for Sauce.

On a frigid day a few months ago, I purchased a frozen shoulder of lamb from the Livengood Farm stall at my local farmers’ market. If they had had mutton (an older sheep), which they sometimes do, I would have bought it instead. It’s often cheaper! I mention all this because until I defrosted the lamb shoulder on Saturday I had no idea what kind of bones were in my roast. In addition to the blade bone, there were also ribs in this roast which is sort of unusual. (Here’s a great YouTube video about how to remove the blade bone from a shoulder of lamb.) After much deliberation about the ribs, and assistance from my spouse Joseph, I decided to stuff, tie, and roast the lamb shoulder with the bones in. This dish will be easier to prepare and serve if you, or your butcher, bone your lamb shoulder before you start. The modern recipes for stuffed lamb shoulder from Julia Child and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall that I consulted in search of cooking times, all suggest starting this way. Here are recipes from Hugh, lamb shoulder roasted whole and stuffed lamb shoulder, and Julia braised stuffed lamb shoulder.

The  oysters delayed me for a while. I didn’t want to shell-out for “a good many” gorgeous raw oysters only to chop them into a stuffing. But I also found the cooked and canned options vexing.  I’ve purchased many cans of boiled clams over the years to bulk out a favorite pasta dish, but at first I could only find small, expensive cans of smoked oysters. I wasn’t sure if the smoked oyster flavor and texture would work in this dish. After some supermarket sleuthing, I found a can of boiled oysters and a small container of stewing oysters at a Reading Terminal Market fishmonger stall. I was finally ready to cook.

Although the oysters make this stuffing distinct, I could certainly taste the marjoram and lemon. Marjoram, a member of the oregano family, pairs wonderful with rich meats like lamb. I used grated beef suet in my stuffing because I had some in the freezer from when I made minced pies, but butter will certainly work in its place.

The end of this recipe mentions an oyster sauce. I added a few oysters to the roasting pan assuming that they might cook in excess lamb fat and form the basis of a wonderful gravy. However, the stuffing soaked up all the lamb’s juices and the pan oysters were desiccated. (They  had a jerky-like flavor and consistency and, honestly, they were delicious.) Since I didn’t have any extra oysters on hand, I did not attempt to serve this roast lamb with an oyster sauce. I’ve draft a provisional recipe for this garnish below if you’re interested in trying it. Next time I will buy more oysters!

Our Recipe

butcher’s twine
1 shoulder lamb or mutton (mine weighed 2 lbs, including bones)
8-12 oz raw or cooked oysters, chopped (I used an 8 oz can of boiled oysters and 3 oz of fresh, stewing oysters. If you have abundant, cheap, fresh oysters available to you, by all means use those instead!)
2 cups stale bread, chopped into small pieces
3T breadcrumbs
10 T beef suet, grated OR 8 T butter, cut into small pieces and left to come to room temperature
2 T fresh marjoram, roughly chopped (2T fresh oregano will also work. In a pinch, 2 t dried oregano might be a decent substitute if you can’t find fresh.)
Zest of one lemon
1 t ground black pepper plus more for coating the roast
3 egg yolks
Salt to taste
*oyster sauce to serve

Clean and prepare your lamb or mutton shoulder for stuffing.

Preheat your oven to 425F.

If you are using fresh chopped oysters, you may want to saute them in butter for a minute before adding them to the stuffing mix. This stuffing is not cooked before use like many modern stuffings.

Prepare stuffing. Mix bread, breadcrumbs, suet, chopped oysters, marjoram, lemon zest, and pepper. Taste test to see if you need more salt. Mix with egg yolks to soften. If your stuffing is dry and isn’t combining in glorious squishyness, add more butter or another egg yolk.

Stuff the lamb shoulder. Using butcher’s twine, tie the roast at one-inch intervals and place it in a roasting dish. Dress the lamb with pepper and salt. I added a few whole oysters to the pan and balls of leftover stuffing.

Roast at 425F for a half hour to brown the meat. Then turn the oven down to 325F and roast for another 30-60 minutes (depending on your preference for rare to well-done lamb). My roast needed 50 minutes at 325F. Rest 20 minutes before carving. Serve something green, something starchy, and maybe oyster sauce.

* A speculative recipe for oyster sauce, which I did not make:  Cook 3 oz fresh oysters in 2T butter. Season with marjoram, black pepper, and salt to taste. Serve with the cooked roast.

The Results

The lamb was moist and rich, the stuffing was herbaceous, mineral, and fishy with oysters. Now I want to stuff all the lamb. Joseph and I ate this as an elaborate weekend lunch with roast carrots and turnips, grilled asparagus, and my sourdough bread. It was a perfect, in-between, spring meal. Give this recipe a try on a rainy spring day before the strawberries show up at the market and the summer heat kicks in.

To stew Pease the French way

When I’m not cooking archival recipes, I eat a lot of greens. Kale, spinach, chard, green beans, peas, escarole, cabbage, broccoli, or lettuce feature in most of my meals. But many of the vegetable recipes in the manuscripts we’ve consulted are for preserving vegetables for future use. We baked peas into a tart and pickled tomatoes, but we’ve featured fewer fresh vegetable dishes, like herb soup and this recipe “To stew Pease the French Way.” Alyssa and I were both excited to find this recipe for peas and cabbage in MS. Codex 644, a manuscript connected to the Frankland family that we’ve turned to for “Cheap Soupe” and “Oven Cakes.” We were also inspired by the note, “Excellent,” under the title.

If you’re looking for a new way to eat your greens, a recipe to use up that partial head of cabbage lingering in your fridge,  or even searching for a last-minute Thanksgiving side, read on!

The Recipe

pease the french way

To stew Pease the French way – Lady Monson
Excellent.
1 quart of young pease. 2 Cabbage Lettuce. A small
square piece of Ham – with a Boquet (which consists of
Thyme – Parsley – & young onions tied up) and a small
piece of Butter – put them into a stew pan, & stew them
for 10 minutes – have ready some boiling water,
add a little at a time, till your pease are quite
tender, after which add a little ButterFlour,
with a little salt & sugar, to your taste – you
must judge the thickness so as you may Eat them
with a Fork. ~ Aug[u]st. 1816 RLS

The bundle of herbs and smoky meat pair beautifully with the sweet peas and the savory cabbage. The addition of a roux thickens the cooking liquid into a delicious sauce.

The source of the recipe, “Lady Monson” may be Lady Anne Monson (1726-1776). Monson traveled to India soon after marrying Colonel George Monson of Lincolnshire in 1757 and spent her last decades living in Calcutta and traveling South Asia collecting botanical specimens. It’s tempting to link the Monsons and the Franklands given their shared history in India and South Asia, but I have not been able to confirm the connection.

Our Recipe

1 quart (4 c.) peas, fresh or frozen
1 large green cabbage, sliced thinly
4 stalks thyme, 4 stalks parsley & 4 scallions, tied up with butcher’s twine
1 slice ham or 2 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces
3 T butter (1 first, 2 for roux)
1/2 c. boiling water
2 T flour
salt and pepper to taste

Brown ham or bacon in butter.
Add cabbage, peas, herb bouquet, water, salt, and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes.
Blend 2 T butter, softened and flour, add slowly to the vegetable mix. Cook for 5 more minutes until the vegetables are cooked, but haven’t lost all their crunch.

(You may need to adjust the cooking time if you are using frozen peas.)

The Results

This is a delicious way to eat your peas. We chopped up the scallion and parsley to garnish our servings and I liked the bites that included the herbs best. You could easily leave out the smoky meat to make a vegetarian version of this dish. Smoked salt or a sprinkle of paprika might add that savory note to a vegetarian version.

We also think this would taste delicious with roast turkey, potatoes, and stuffing, which is why we’re sharing this recipe with you today. Let us know how it turns out, whenever it happens to grace your table!

Herb Soop

A few weeks ago, thanks to my old friend George Leader, I was lucky enough to visit an archaeological dig at an eighteenth-century farmhouse on The College of New Jersey’s campus. I’d never been to a dig site before, so the technical details alone were fascinating: the reasoning behind determining where to dig in the first place, the standing sieve to strain buckets of earth for artifacts, the practice of wrapping fragile artifacts in foil (who knew!), the technology used to date wooden architectural features. I really dug it. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)

Seeing the farmhouse, getting to hold some of the artifacts unearthed that day – a metal button, a shard of blue and white pottery, and a small clay sphere that we theorized might have been a marble – made me think about this project and what we can uncover. I’m used to engaging with the past through words on a page. The archives always feel a little bit magical to me: these texts still exist centuries later, and I get to touch them, smell them, read them. I felt a similar tug at the dig, seeing artifacts being unearthed and thinking about our access to the past through what happens to have been left behind. At a basic level, archaeological investigation and archival literary research give us physical access to fragments of past lives, preserved deliberately or accidentally. You figure out where to look, but you don’t always know what you’re going to find.

This project is one of reconstruction from a distance and with pieces missing: the recipes are vestiges of what did get recorded, leaving little behind of what didn’t. Cooking from the archives creates a powerful bridge between me and the past. I will never stand in a kitchen without refrigeration, without even the possibility of electric lights, without having spent my whole baking life reaching automatically for ingredients like vanilla extract and uniform sticks of butter, but I can still approximate how Naples biscuits would have tasted nearly three hundred years ago.

There’s always a gap, though, related to how just far that bridge can reach. Working on this project has brought me up short at this gap time and again: reading handwritten manuscripts begs to know more about the person who wrote them, but there’s often little headway to be made. We can decipher handwriting, but identities are harder. This impulse isn’t just personal – it’s a question that comes up often for me and Marissa, of who wrote these recipes down, of what we know about them. Usually, not much. But this recipe left a faint trace of one of the individuals behind it.

This Herb Soop comes from UPenn MS Codex 1038, home to some of my favorites, like the Maccarony Cheese and Desart Cakes. The volume contains at least three separate hands, and we still don’t know anything about these writers. This handwriting is the second in the volume, probably written down sometime in the 1790s or early 1800s. The end of the recipe attributes it to “Lady Laroche.” (She is probably the source and not the writer of this recipe, since several subsequent recipes in the same handwriting are attributed to other women.) It is nearly impossible to know anything about the other women whose names accompany their recipes – the Mrs. Baker who gave the writer her recipe for Curd Cheescakes, the Mrs. Fordham who told her how “To make Flumery,” or the Mrs. Turner who showed how “To Dress a real Turtle as the[y] do in the West Indies,” for instance. “Lady,” however, provides direction in a way that “Mrs.” often cannot.

It turns out that this “Lady Laroche” can be one of only two women. James Laroche, a Bristol politician and slave-trader, was created baronet in August 1776. Since the baronetcy became extinct when he died in 1804 without any male heirs, this Lady Laroche has to have been one of his two wives. The first Lady Laroche was born Elizabeth-Rachel-Anne Yeamans in Antigua. An heiress (she brought at least one plantation to the marriage) and widow, she married James Laroche in 1764 and moved to England with him. After Elizabeth-Rachel-Anne died in 1781, James remarried; his second wife may also have been named Elizabeth. We know nothing else of her except that she survived her husband and died in Wales in 1824. Can we know how or even if this recipe writer and either Lady Laroche knew each other? What else they might have talked about, why this particular recipe was the one shared? No. But sometimes, even this small glimpse into archival identities feels like uncovering something satisfying.

The Recipe

Herb soopHerb soop contd

To make Herb Soop

Take Parsley, Spinnach, Cabbage Lettice, Leaves of
White Beet, Sorrell, Cucumbers, Pease & small Onions
with the green ends to them, a little Mint, and a very
little Fennell. Wash them all clean, and Chop the
Herbs very small. Season them with Pepper & Salt,
Put them into a Pot to stew with a piece of Butter
according to your quantity, but no Water. Let
them stew quite tender. Have ready boiled some
Cream or Milk, with the Yolks of Eggs beat up in it,
Mix this gently with the Herbs and serve it up.
You must not let it boil, or be on the Fire after the
Eggs are put to it. You are to observe it is not to
be a thin liquid, but more herbs than Soop. that is,
thick of the Herbs. Less than half a pound of butter
will do unless the Terene is very large. There shoud
be Cellery chopped amongs the herbs if to be had &
—-
other herbs you like but not strong of any one in particular.
Some leave out the Fennell, as it is apt to be too strong.
Lady Laroche.

Our Recipe

3 generous handfuls of spinach (about 1 1/2 c. chopped)
1/2 c. parsley, chopped
a few mint leaves, chopped
1 large or 2 small cucumbers, diced (I also seeded mine)
1-2 celery stalks, sliced thinly
1 c. chopped cabbage
3/4 c. green peas (fresh or frozen)
3 scallions, sliced thinly
1/2 tsp. salt
a few grinds of pepper
1 tbsp. butter
1/2 c. milk
1 egg yolk

In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients except for the milk and egg yolk. Cook them over low-medium heat, stirring often enough to prevent the greens from sticking. Cook until the greens are all wilted and the cucumbers are translucent; for me, this took about 20 minutes. (Though you could probably let them “stew” even longer.) Heat the milk in the microwave or on the stove until quite hot. In a small bowl, whisk the egg and then, still whisking, add the hot milk in a steady stream. Remove the herb mixture from the heat and stir in the milk. Serve immediately.

The Results

The Soop tasted green: stewed together, the herbs and vegetables made a pleasantly flavorful whole. I’d never had cooked cucumbers before and was curious – they softened but held their shape, rather like zucchini, and provided nice texture in the soup. I liked the zip from the scallions and the chewiness of the cabbage (even if cooking it did make my kitchen rather … fragrant). In its piling together of many different herbs and vegetables, the Herb Soop felt like a precursor to some of Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes. I found it satisfying that what I was tasting was probably pretty close to some of the results this recipe would have yielded for eighteenth-century cooks: all of the ingredients remain available, the cooking technique was easily duplicated in my kitchen (albeit with the ease of a gas stove), and the methodology was specific enough that I could follow the recipe’s instructions closely.

In fact, this Herb Soop recipe is quite detailed in its ingredient list and instructions – it’s very helpful to know, for instance, that the end result should be “more herbs than Soop” – more so than many of the other recipes we’ve engaged with, like Artificial Potatoes. But it provides few precise measurements. I guessed at these proportions, determining them largely based on what I had and what I liked. (I don’t love fennel, so I’m one of those “some” the recipe mentions who “leave [it] out.” And my little produce market doesn’t carry sorrel, so I didn’t use it.) And I imagine that’s what early cooks did as well, making the soup slightly differently each time based on what needed to be used or what was available.

What else could you toss in here? Leeks, zucchini, basil, cilantro, green bell peppers – really, anything green that happens to be lurking in your crisper could make its way into this soup. Some hot pepper flakes would liven things up. I see the appeal behind the milk-and-egg liquid choice: it’s a rich addition and adds some depth to the greens. However, I might substitute some vegetable broth or chicken stock for a lighter soup. Basically, this recipe provides a wonderful alternative idea for using up the leftover greens that I normally toss into a grain salad, a stir-fry, or baked eggs.

IMG_4511

An Excellent Cheap Soupe

It’s soup season. I live in southern California and I have absolutely no complaints about winter weather, but I did get a good dose of cold when I visited Alyssa in Philadelphia this month to work on project planning and to prepare for our forthcoming profile in frankie magazine (out April 2015). In any case, who doesn’t enjoy a good bowl of soup?

This recipe comes from Ms. Codex 644. Penn’s catalogers suggest that the manuscript was compiled between 1750 and 1825 and attribute this book primarily to a Lady Frankland with some additions in other hands. A note inside the front cover the manuscript entitles the volume “Grandmama Lady Frankland’s Receipt Book.”

grandmama lady frankland

This manuscript may be a product of the household of Sir Thomas Frankland, fifth baronet (1718–1784). This is a preliminary speculation, but one I hope to research in more detail. I’ve linked to wikipedia above because it’s freely accessible, but I’m also drawing on information from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 

Sir Thomas Frankland married Sarah Rhett of South Carolina (1724-1808) in 1743 and she may very well be the “Grandmama Frankland” who compiled and used this recipe book. The family likely lived at the Frankland estate in Mattersey, Nottinghamshire while Frankland traveled between England and the West Indies where he was involved in the Atlantic slave trade, among other commercial ventures. The couple had many children (somewhere between thirteen and nineteen according to various accounts), and nine lived long enough to be mentioned in Frankland’s will. This recipe for cheap soup would certainly feed a crowd.

If this volume truly is a product of the Frankland family, my preliminary biographical research leaves me with many questions about the volume: What kind of history can these recipes possibly reveal? Can the volume provide a window into the history of slavery? Does it have anything to tell us about southern foodways, transatlantic communication, and global recipe exchange? For example, Frankland was born in the East Indies, possibly in India, and that connection to South Asia may explain the presence of a recipe for Indian Curry in the volume.

Stay tuned for more on Ms. Codex 644 as we continue to research its provenance and try out its intriguing recipes!

The Recipe

cheap soup recipe

Lady Fagg
An Excellent Cheap Soupe
1 pound of Beef cut in small pieces
perl p[b?]arley
2 2 oz Rice. 1/2 pint split Peas
6 potatoes. 2 large Onions —
pepper & salt to the taste. put al[l]
these with one Gallon of water
into a deep Pot – Tie it down,
& Let it bake 6 hours –
NB – dont strain it but turn
it alltogether into the Dish – th[is]
will make a good meal for 6
or 8 people, & does not want
any bread to eat with it.

This is a straightforward recipe and it required minimal modification to work in my kitchen.

The soup recipe, like many others in the volume, is attributed to Lady Fagg in a small note at the top right corner of the page. Other sources noted in the manuscript include – Lady Monson, Lady Roche, Miss Colville, Miss Bedingfeld, Miss Bowles, Richard Jebb, Mrs. Cowslade, Baroness Philetsen, Dr. Addington, Dr. Bateman, Dr. Reynolds, and Dr. Darwell.

The final paragraph is a note that adds extra information to Lady Fagg’s recipe. “NB” stands for the Latin phrase nota bene, roughly translated as “take note.” This phrase that was used in books as a mnemonic aid to mark passages, thoughts, instructions for future use. It appears in many places throughout the manuscript.

Our Recipe

1 lb stewing beef, cut into 1-2 inch cubes
4 T butter, for browning beef
2 large yellow onions, chopped
2 oz pearl barley, rinsed and sorted
7 oz split peas, rinsed and sorted
6 potatoes, chopped into 1-2 inch cubes
cooking liquid: 1 cup chicken stock & 2 quarts water (This was the maximum amount of liquid my largest pot could hold. If you have a big stock pot, you should be able to accommodate a full gallon of cooking  liquid. I recommend using 1/3 vegetable or meat-based broth and 2/3 water.)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 325F. Measure, chop, and prepare all ingredients.

Heat 2 T butter in an oven-safe stock pot or dutch oven. Brown the beef cubes in butter to seal-in their flavor. Add the other 2 T of butter as needed. When the beef is mostly browned, add the onions and allow them to soften for 1-2 minutes. Add the barley, peas, potatoes, and cooking liquid (stock and water) and cover. When the soup has come to a rolling boil, add salt and pepper to taste. Then transfer the pot to the oven to cook for approximately 2 hours. Check every 45 minutes or so to make sure the grains have not absorbed all the liquid and add water as needed.

The Results

This soup is tasty, warm, and filling. It could easily feed a large group or provide delicious leftovers for future meals.

The leftovers fed me, and my spouse Joseph, for a few meals. He even thought it tastier leftover because the flavors deepened. Although the recipe note insists that the soup does not need to be served with bread on the side, bread did make it a more substantial meal. Our batch produced ten servings (with bread) and if we’d had a larger pot we could have made an even greater volume. This soup is economical even in 2015 with its smart use of cheap cuts of beef and filling, healthy grains and legumes.

A sprinkling of fresh herbs like sage or parsley would add extra flavor to each bowl. I would suggest serving this soup on a cold night with warm bread, a green salad with a kale or spinach base, and a nice bottle of  your favorite stout or porter.

to make a Brown Frickasey

As the end of November approaches each year, I get increasingly excited about two things: Thanksgiving turkey and the annual re-run of the “Poultry Slam” episode of This American Life. Like it or not, November and December are the very height of poultry season. Unsurprisingly, there are lots of recipes for cooking poultry in Penn manuscripts from making chicken pot pie and fried chicken (two ways) to numerous instructions for roasting.

When I cooked this recipe last Tuesday it was raining in southern California. It was a major news event out here. It was also one of the first dark, chilly, and damp days I’ve seen in ages. I decided to try a recipe “to make a Brown Frickasey” from MS Codex 252 and it was a perfect dish to warm the house and the belly.

The Recipe

frickasy

to make a Brown Frickasey

tak the Rabbits ore Chickens and cut them into littill pesses then set it
ouer the fire with a Littill butter and burne brown then flowre the meat
before you put it to the butter then put it in to fry it Brown and when it
tis brown put in some strong broth A couple of anchoves season it
with salt and pepper, mince some oynion and strowe it with some
parseley cut smalle you may put in some oyesters sweet breeads
Lamb sones and sausage meat let this stew well together better then
a quarter of an howre if it be not thick enough you may thicken it
with the yolks of too ore three Eggs then squese in the Juice of
Lemon and sarue it up

This is a simple and delicious recipe with lots of room for variation: Brown a delicious mix of meats in butter then add more meat, stock, and flavors. Ken Albala’s Cooking in Early Modern Europe, 1250-1650 describes a fricassee as a method for frying meat and adding a flavorful sauce. As this recipe demonstrates, it is a very flexible method that works well with poultry and other meats. I decided to use chicken breasts, pork sausage, and chicken stock, but I also could have faithfully followed this recipe using rabbit, oysters, sweet breads, or other offal.

Our Recipe

3-4 T butter
2 chicken breasts, sliced into 2-inch strips
4 T flour (for coating chicken)
1/2 lb. pork sausage meat (either sausage removed from its casing or sausage meat sold uncased)
1  onion, medium sized, chopped
4 anchovies, chopped
1 1/2 -2 c chicken broth
salt and pepper (to taste)
the juice of half a lemon
2 T chopped parsley

Lightly flour the chicken strips by rolling them in a plate or bowl of flour. Finish chopping the onion and anchovies and readying the sausage meat . Make sure your stock is also ready to go if you’re defrosting it or using a concentrated boullion preparation.

In a dutch oven or large pot, heat the butter until it melts, smells nutty, and starts to darken in color. Add the strips of floured chicken slowly. Don’t worry if all the chicken doesn’t fit at the beginning because the strips will shrink as they cook. Turn the meat over so that it cooks on both sides. When the outside of the chicken starts to brown, add the sausage meat and cook for 1 minute. Add the chopped onion and anchovies and cook for 1 minute more.

Add the broth and simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes. When the gravy is thick and everything is well cooked, squeeze the juice of half a lemon into the stew. Sprinkle parsley on top. Serve hot.

Results

My spouse and I devoured this delicious stew with some roast butternut squash, kale salad, and a bottle of fine, west-coast IPA. It was warming and satisfying meal. We both picked additional mouthfuls of sausage-y chicken out of the pot after we’d cleaned our plates.

I started by browning 2 T butter and added about 2 more as the chicken cooked. The sauce thickened into beautiful gravy on its own. I used homemade chicken stock that I (try to) always keep in my freezer. Homemade stock from pork bones would also be a delicious addition. Store-bought or concentrated stocks will work well here, too. But be sure to taste the mix before adding additional salt.

I can see how this method of preparation would work well for a variety of poultry and other meat. The strips of chicken stayed tender and flavorful, but this would be great with dark meat chicken. I used peppery pork breakfast sausage meat from a local farm. I think a pork and sage or even a pork and apple sausage would work well here. Finally, the anchovies added an unexpected note that was more umami than fishy. I suggest that you give them a try if you’re an anchovy skeptic, but not if you absolutely despise these small, flavorful fish. The lemon adds an essential bright note that complements the fat and savory flavors of the dish.

 

 

Collar Beef

Although so far our adventures in archival cooking have been mostly meatless, the recipe books in Penn’s collections contain many interesting preparations for meat, poultry, and fish. From a recipe to “Stew a Hare” to instructions for how to make “English Bacon” and “Pickle Pigeons,” these recipe books reveal a no-waste, “nose to tail” approach. Most either use the whole animal in a single preparation or preserve meat for future consumption. However, many of these recipes do not lend themselves to modern, apartment cooking (especially during the Philadelphia summer). Alyssa and I were thrilled to find this relatively simple recipe for “Collar Beef,” or braised flank steak seasoned with fresh herbs, in Ms. Codex 252. Collar Beef is a flavorful and relatively inexpensive recipe for red meat.

collar beef

The Recipe

To make Collar Beef
Take a thinn flank of beefe lay it water three houres
then take it out of the water and salt it well with spanish
salt and let it ly in the salt 1 dais then wash it clene water
uery well then take a Roleing pin and beat it well littell
then with a knife cut the inward side of it crosse then strue
som pepper nutmegg cloues an mace an beat them small
and strew it on the inside of it then take som sauory
time sage an bay leaues shred them uery small an strew
them ore the spice then roll it up an bind it uery hard with
a pack thred then put it into an Earthen pott fill it up
with Clarett and bak it

The flank steak is prepared with salt, dressed with a mix of savory herbs, rolled and trussed with string, and braised in red wine. “Clarett” was (and still is) a common name for red Bordeaux wines in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England. We used an inexpensive Bordeaux blend. Instead of soaking our steak for three hours and then salting it for a full day, we salted ours for a few hours before we began cooking. At the advice of our butcher, we also did not pound the steak with a rolling pin; instead, he butterflied the cut for us. We couldn’t find the herb “sauory” in our local markets, but we both thought it would be a nice addition to the spice mix to try it if you have it on hand! We also decided to add dry bay leaves to the wine instead of including fresh bay leaves in the roll as they are not always kind to the stomach.

Our Recipe

* Adjust seasoning based on quantity of meat and taste.

1 lb flank steak, boned and butterflied

butcher’s string

2 T fresh thyme, chopped

3 T fresh sage, chopped

1 t ground pepper

1/4 t ground mace

1/4 t ground nutmeg

1/4 t cloves

2 bay leaves

2 cups red wine

salt

A few hours before cooking, lightly salt the flank steak and allow it to rest at room temperature. Wash off any remaining salt and pat the meat dry before proceeding with the recipe.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Open the butterflied steak and rub the inside with the dry herbs. Close the steak, then spread the layer of fresh herbs on top. Roll the flank steak (we rolled width-wise, to create a shorter and fatter roll than rolling length-wise) so the herbs are encased inside. Tie the steak in 2-3 places with string.

Place the prepared steak in a dutch oven with a lid. Pour in the wine and add the bay leaves. Cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes (or until the steak is cooked to your liking.)

Slice into rounds to serve.

 

The Result

“Collar Beef” was intensely flavored with wine and herbs. The method of salting and braising the tenderized the notoriously tough flank steak. We found that the central slices were the most balanced. Next time, we might add some chopped garlic and parsley to the herb mix.