Category Archives: Recipes

Foods and Feasts 2015, Governor’s Table: Banbury Tarts

First, here are the links to two more of the Foods & Feasts recipes – fig pudding, and pease pudding. The pudding is an old English way of cooking food, and refers to any food that is cooked in a water bath.  In case anyone is worried about the taste, pease pudding tastes like cooked peas or split pea soup, and fig pudding tastes like Fig Newtons.

Another old recipe is the spiced fruit and pastry Banbury Tarts; they are mentioned in Gervase Markam’s The English Housewife (1615) as a cake, and Thomas Dawson’s The Good Housewife’s Jewell (1596-7) as “cremitaries” or purses.

Banbury Tarts 2015

From The Good Housewife’s Jewell:

Take a little marrow, small raisins, and dates (let the stones be taken away) these being beaten together in a mortar.  Season it with ginger, cinnamon, and sugar.  Put it in fine paste and bake them or fry them.  So done, in the serving of them cast blanch powder on them.

My recipe is adapted from several additional sources as I’ve tried to perfect the taste and mouthfeel of the recipe over 10+ years of making them for people.

Banbury Tarts (recipe)

1/2 cup each of golden raisins, dark raisins, dried figs, dried dates, and currants.  Chop the dates and figs into pieces roughly the size of the dark raisins.

1 Tbsp each of ground cinnamon, mace, allspice, and ginger.

1/2 Tbsp each of ground cloves, nutmeg, and white pepper.

1 cup sweet wine, like Madeira or Marsala

4 pre-made pastry crusts (I like the refrigerated Pillsbury brand), or enough pastry to make 32 three-inch circles.

2 WEEKS -2 MONTHS AHEAD: Mix all fruit and spices in a lidded Tupperware-style container.  Put the lid on the container and shake a few times to distribute the spices evenly over the fruit.  Pour in the wine, and give the closed container another good shake.  Store in a cool dark place, giving the sealed container a shake every week or so.  (This mix will stay good indefinitely.  If it dries out too much, add a bit more wine.)

When you are ready to make your tarts, prepare or open your pastry for cutting.  Cut out as many 3″ circles as you can get out of the pastry; gather up and re-roll pastry scraps.  Brush the inside of each pastry circle with milk, then put 1/4 to 1/2 Tbsp of fruit in the center.  Fold the pastry up on three sides, creating a triangle-shaped pouch.  Press edges together firmly.

BAKING METHOD: Preheat oven to 375F.  Put sealed tarts 1/4″ apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Brush the outsides with milk.  Bake at 375F for 18 minutes, or until the top is a nice golden brown. Put on a cooling rack until pastries are room temperature.

FRYING METHOD:  Using a deep fryer or a large heavy saucepan, fry sealed pastries in hot oil until golden brown on the outside.

OPTIONAL:  Warm 1/4 cup honey until liquid, brush on the outsides of the pastry.

The pastries will store in a sealed container for up to 3 weeks.

NEXT TIME:  Gingerbread.

Foods and Feasts recipe #3: Sugar Cakes

This one’s an easy documentation, because it’s featured in Fooles and Fricassees: Food in Shakespeare’s England, Folger Shakespeare Library, 1999. Appendix I is a transcription of Mrs. Sarah Longe: Her Receipt Booke, c. 1610. The biggest thing I changed (other than reducing the amounts a bit) was that rather than wash the butter in rosewater, I ground dried rose-petals I had collected from my own (pesticide-free) roses over the summer into the sugar before using it in the recipe.

(I totally cheated on that, btw; I processed it in a blender.)

I am very sorry; I forgot to take pictures of them directly, but they really do just look like round cookies.  All the way in the back, they’re in the silver bowl on the right-hand side.

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Despite the name, this is actually much more of a shortbread cookie than a cake. The dough is rolled thin, and cut out “with a glasse”.

Original recipe: “Take a pound of butter, and wash it in rose-water, and halfe a pound of sugar, and half a douzen sponefulls of thicke Creame, and the yelkes of 4 Eggs, and a little mace finely beaten, and as much fine flower as it will wett, and work it well together [;] then roll them out very thin, and cut them with a glasse, and prick them very thicke with a great pin, and lay them on plates, and soe bake them gently.”

Redacted recipe:
1/4lb salted butter (one stick), softened
3/4 cup sugar (I used the ground rose-petal sugar)
1 egg yolk
1tsp mace
1-1/2 cups sifted white flour, plus some extra

Cream the butter and sugar together in a medium mixing bowl. In a separate small bowl, beat the cream and egg yolk until blended, then add to the sugar and butter. Add the flour 1/4 cup at a time, sifting into the bowl, until the mixture forms a ball that does not stick to the sides of the bowl. Make sure you pick up any dough crumbs in the bottom of the bowl. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 325F. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface until about 1/4″ thick. Cut out rounds with a cookie cutter or wine glass. Put the rounds on a parchment lined, ungreased cookie sheet. Prick them all over with a fork* (like shortbread), then bake until light golden, about 17-20min.

Like shortbread, you don’t want the cookie to brown too much. It should be barely golden on top, and a little browner underneath.

*I really did use a big brass pin to prick them all over. This is actually a good opportunity to do decorative circles or hearts, or whatever you like on the tops of the cookie, since shaped cookie cutters aren’t really period.

Recipe #2: Fig Pudding

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So… fig pudding. Like the pease pudding, it’s cooked in a water bath, either by tying it up in linen or muslin and directly boiling, or by cooking in a bowl put in the water (essentially, a double-boiler effect). In this case, with the sweet pudding, it’s better cooked in a bowl, so you don’t lose the flavour of the figs. Now as to the length of time it’s been a pudding, rather than, say, a fruitcake-like thing, it’s harder to say, but it’s pretty old, probably almost as old as the first dried figs imported to Britain. The fifteenth-century recipe* I have uses raisins and dates in addition to the figs, having all the fruits mixed with eggs, fat, flour, and breadcrumbs, and worked into a dough that is then boiled in water (and then suggests you can warm slices of the pudding on the griddle). I prefer it with just the figs, as it’s an excellent connection with something the Jamestown Settlement & Museum visitors know – “Oh, bring us some figgy pudding” from the carol We Wish You a Merry Christmas – and it is a proper period dish made with just the figs. My experience with the pudding was that it tastes very much like a Fig Newton. Without further ado:

Fig (figgy) pudding

Ingredients:
2 cups dried figs, chopped small
1 cup lard or suet, if you can get it (it’s better with suet)
1 cup flour
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (crumble up some bread; it needs to be fresh, not dried)
1 egg, beaten
2 Tbsp milk
Lard, for greasing the pudding bowl

Tools:
medium mixing bowl
medium ceramic pudding bowl
6-qt saucepan

In a medium bowl, combine figs, lard, and breadcrumbs. Beat the egg and milk together, and add to the fruit mixture, adding more milk if needed to make a stiff dough. Grease the pudding bowl heavily (be generous; you want the cooked pudding to come out of the bowl), and pack the dough in firmly, flattening the top evenly. Fill the saucepan half-way with water. Cover the pudding bowl tightly with foil and place in the 6-qt saucepan, making sure the water doesn’t come up more than 2/3 of the way up the bowl. Bring the water to a boil, them simmer for 3 hours, checking the water every half hour, adding more water if needed. Do not allow the pan to boil dry.

Once the pudding is cooked, immediately turn it out onto a plate. Serve warm or cold.

* pp. 112-113, Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books, Thomas Austin (ed.), printed for the Early English Text Society, Oxford University Press, 1888(facsimile, Boydell & Brewer, Ltd., New York, 2000).

Foods and Feasts 2014, Jamestown

We had an amazing turnout for Foods & Feasts, with Gardiner’s represented in almost every building at one point or another.  I know I had a great time, and really enjoyed the questions from interested and engaged visitors.  I also got some time with the chickens, which always makes me happy.

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Robert and I worked the Governor’s House, with Gardiner’s members Greg and Alison, and Jamestown staff member, Samantha.  I had the “Great Hall” for most of the two days, with a big layout of period foods, set up as if the Governor was about to eat the midday meal.  This year I roasted a goose, made venison in red wine with a side of frumenty, a pease pudding, a fig pudding, meat pies, fresh-baked bread (in the popular “penny loaf” size), Banbury tarts, and sugar cakes.  Bob polished the silver – no small feat, as almost the entire table was set with silver except for the salt cellar and flagon (both beautiful replicas by Steve Millingham Pewters), and a beautiful blue and white glazed pitcher (by Eadric the Potter).

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Photos will be forthcoming, but I thought I’d get the ball rolling with the first of my recipes for the table.***

It’s a very old British dish: (Striped) Pease Pudding.  (Side note: A friend was looking at my hand-written recipe, and she briefly thought it looked like “stupid pease pudding”.  I thought that was hilarious. Aren’t you all glad I’m typing this out?  My handwriting is illegible to me, half the time.)

Anyway…

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Striped Pease Pudding
Ingredients:
1/2 lb yellow dried split peas
1/2 lb green dried split peas
2 tsp butter
2 eggs
2 chicken or vegetable bouillon cubes
salt and pepper to taste
water
lard to grease the pudding bowl

Utensils:
2 2-qt saucepans
2 medium bowls
sieve
1 ceramic small/medium pudding bowl (any ceramic bowl will do; the shape of the pudding is determined by the inside shape of the bowl).
aluminum foil
Large (6-qt) saucepan

Put the yellow peas in one pan, and the green peas in the other.  Add 4 cups of water and one bouillon cube to each pan.  Cook the peas until they are soft, which can take a while, so be patient.  Keep adding more water as needed to cover the peas and allow them to cook evenly.  Once they really start becoming mushy, lower the heat to a bare simmer, and cook, stirring often, until all the extra water is gone.

Sieve the peas separately into the medium bowls, making sure all the lumps are out.  Allow to cool until barely warm.  Add 1 egg, 1tsp butter, and salt & pepper to each bowl and whisk until the egg and butter are completely blended with the peas.
Grease the 1-qt bowl heavily (be generous; the pudding will be hard to unmold otherwise).  Carefully layer the green and yellow peas 1-2″ deep into the pudding bowl, making sure not to put in too much of the peas at once, so that the layers don’t mix.  Fill a third of the large saucepan with water.  Cover the pudding bowl tightly with aluminum foil and place in the large saucepan, making sure the water is neither too high (it will get into the pudding and ruin it) nor too low (the pudding will burn).  Bring the water to a boil, then lower to a simmer, cooking the pudding for 2 hours, adding water to the large saucepan if needed (be careful not to let it boil dry).

Allow the pudding to cool for about 20 minutes, then turn out onto a flat plate.  Serve warm or cold (unmold the pudding while warm; store in the fridge), in slices.

There’s a picture of last year’s pease pudding under the December archives for 2013.

This pudding is one of the oldest traditional British puddings*; the earliest mention I found in my own books was in a cookery book from 1420**.  It used to be made by putting whole dried peas (no egg!) into a linen bag, tying the top closed, and putting it into the pot where the meat was boiled for soup or stew.  The peas would swell up and take on the flavour of the pork and seasonings.  While not a fancy dish in the aforementioned form, when the peas are layered in colours of yellow and green before cooking so that the resultant dish is striped when cut into slices, it is far more elegant, and provides a welcome addition to pork and ham dishes.

If you feel brave, try making it the traditional way, and boil it in pork broth.  Make sure the peas are given enough room to swell up in the bag; Dorothy Hartley (Food in England) says that it will come out as a round “cannon-ball” shape that you then crumble apart gently, and add butter.  The broth provides the salt.  Personally, I find that it needs more salt than just that provided by the broth, but I like my peas salty.

*The word “pudding” refers to the manner of cooking, not the flavour, in much the same way as “roast”.  A pudding can be sweet or savoury, but it is always boiled in a water or stock bath.  The use of “pudding cloths” is older than the use of pudding molds, but I follow the reasoning that molded foodstuffs like aspics and set puddings were considered an attractive addition to the 17th century table, so I cook my pudding using a bowl.  I cannot document the use of specially shaped ceramic molds further back than the late 18th century, so even though I own a really pretty one, I don’t use it for Jamestown interpretation.

Sources:

** Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books, Thomas Austin(ed.), printed for the Early English Text Society, Oxford University Press, 1888 (facsimile, Boydell & Brewer Ltd., New York, 2000).

Food in England, Dorothy Hartley, 1954, Macdonald & Co Ltd., London.

***Photos by Andrea Callicutt, added to post by Jen Thies