TBP – I got a complaint earlier about including too many photos! So today you don’t get as many ingredient shots as I took (you only get two! *gasp*). But this meal was amazing, and our friend said he had never tasted chicken so tender. I, on the other hand, fell in love with the stuffing. CHERRIES IN STUFFING, it’s like having TWO desserts!
Sorry this took so long to get up, I’ve been horribly busy with assignments and stuff and I was feeling pretty out of it that day. But we have three more posts on their way to you very soon.
A couple of weeks ago I discovered the food history section of our University Library. Somehow, amazingly, I’d never run across it at work and as TBP and the Breeze can attest, I got a bit excited. Showing great restraint I borrowed a mere seven titles and am currently plugging through them under the justification of it being ‘practically study’. Pleyn Delit by Constance B Hieatt and Sharon Butler gives a recipe in the original language (if that language bears a vague resemblance to modern English, and otherwise translated) with a reference to the text it was drawn from, followed by a version of the recipe translated for modern readers and their tastes. While they go to great lengths to explain that medieval cookery was not all heavily spiced sauces on boiled chickens, there is still a fair bit of that going on. Fabulous Feasts by Madeleine Pelner Cosman on the other hand (and granted I haven’t finished reading this one yet) features more recipes that seem accessible for modern tastes and comes recommended by Julia Child, so what more could you want? This menu draws from both of them. As it was, yet again, a public holiday rounding up the (fairly standard) ingredients was somewhat of a trial, made no easier by the fact I had my clumsiest day so far this year and managed to knock something off the shelf in every store we went in to as well as ruin a caramel, nearly ruin a thermometer, drop a mug and cause two boxes of plastic cups to fall on my foot. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am all class.
Chicken with oats, ricotta, cherry stuffing & a bread sauce
Farsed Chicken from Fabulous Feasts
(recipe is verbatim except for my comments in parantheses and quantities/temperatures were translated to metric)
1 large roasting chicken, 2-2.5kg
½ c dry lentils
1 ½ c ale
1 c chicken broth
200-300g cherries (we used jarred)
200g ricotta cheese
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sweet basil
2 TB butter
⅔ c white wine
¾ slices of white bread, crumbled
¼ tsp salt
Soak lentils in ale overnight (or skip this step if you’re disorganised). Boil lentils in residual ale plus broth for 15 minutes. Drain lentils and reserve 1 cup of fluid.
Remove pits from cherries (we used jarred so this was already done) and cut each in half, or if very large, in quarters.
Mix lentils, cherries, ricotta, and oats. Sprinkle on salt and basil (which I replaced with thyme).
Stuff the bird, rub the skin with butter (or dot if you’re lazy) and bake at 180 degrees celsius for about 2 hours or until flesh is tender and skin crisp. Prepare a ‘gravy’ with 1 cup of reserved lentil fluid, wine, bread and salt, gently simmering all for 10 minutes.
I admit I was a bit skeptical about the ‘gravy’ as I’d never had a bread sauce before, but it did all come together passably smooth. Just keep stirring, it works even though it looks unlikely.
L: “gravy” at the point where I started to panic. R: barley just before the eggs are added.
Frumenty from Pleyn Delit
(recipe is verbatim except for my comments in parantheses)
Aym clene Wete and bray it in a morter wel that the holys gon al of and seyth yt til brete and nym yt up, and lat it kele and nym fayre fresch broth and swete milk of Almandys or swete mylk of kyne and temper yt al, and nym the yolkys of eyryn; boyle it a ltyl and set yt adon and messe yt forthe wyth fat venyson and fresh moton.
Cracked Wheat (Barley Variation)
1 c pearl barley
3 c meat stock or bouillion, or use half milk (can be almond milk)
optional: pinch of saffron, 1 or 2 egg yolks (both highly recommended by the book)
Bring the stock to a boil and stir in the barley and saffron (if you have time, heat the stock and saffron and let them sit a while first). Cover the pan and turn the heat very low; let the frumenty cook for about 45 minutes (or a little longer for barley). It may be served as it is, or you can remove it from the heat, stir in beaten egg yolk, then return to very low heat and stir for a few minutes before serving.
I added some extra liquid so I could safely leave it on the stove while I did something else and had to strain some of it off so it wasn’t soupy. Depending on how high you have the heat, you may have to do this even if you use the correct quantity.
Spynoch Yfryed from Pleyn Delit
(recipe is verbatim except for my comments in parantheses and quantities/temperatures were translated to metric)
Take spynoches; parboile hem in sepying water. Take hem up and presse out he water and hewe in two. Frye hem in oile clene, & do her-to powder & serve forth.
1 kilo fresh spinach, washed, picked over for withered leaves, and trimmed
salted water for parboiling
2-3TB olive oil
pinch each of ginger and allspice
parboil spinach in a large pot of water for about 4 minutes; drain, press out excess water with your hands, and chop the spinach; put in a saucepan or small casserole with oil and seasonings. Stir and leave to cook over very low heat for another 15 minutes or so; or put in covered casserole in a low oven for about 20 minutes
This spinach was not amazing. Spinach is my go-to lazy vegetable for Game of Thrones dinners but I normally wilt it in the pan juices. Maybe I didn’t fry it long enough? I only gave it about five minutes because I was pretty convinced there’d be nothing left after fifteen. It’s probably worth giving this one more go with something a bit hardier like cavolo nero.
We went down south last winter and road-tripped home again via the Blackwood Meadery near Karridale (and the Venison Farm and everything else delicious we passed). They don’t have a website but if you’re in the South-West you should consider going to check them out. One of my favourites was the plum and mead liqueur, which we had a nip of in keeping with the stone fruit theme. On the hot tip that it would be a good match for roast chicken we challenged my irrational fear of Chardonnay and tried a lightly oaked specimen from Margaret River that did indeed go quite nicely.
Verdict: all round delicious. I would definitely make the chicken again for a non-themed dinner as the flavours were modern and although it sounds odd, unusual but not unfamiliar. The barley was a bit of a dark horse and may become a staple at Game of Thrones night in the future. I’m going back to my usual spinach method in the future though.
Okay, so the titles are really terrible. They’re all my fault. – TBP
In hindsight, working until 5 then trying to scrounge up the ingredients for a feast on a public holiday was probably an ambitious move. I had been thinking seafood but after noticing The Inn At The Crossroads (an ASOIAF food themed site you should check out) had done a seafood stew recently and not wanting to be a copycat I fell back on the Westeros equivalent of an easy weeknight dinner.
Roast honeyed chicken on trenchers
Sweet pickled baby beetroots
Caramelised onions & parnsips with thyme
Spinach in pan juices
Soft & crumbly cheddar
The very first dinner I cooked for our AGOT role playing game back in 2010 was trenchers with individual roast cornish hens so I felt I was on pretty safe ground here. Last time, I bought some excellent thick crusted bread days before we wanted to eat it and let it go authentically stale. Coming off the end of an extra-long-weekend, I was lucky to find two loaves even barely big enough, and paradoxically unlucky in that they’d been baked that day! By that point it must have been just about the only fresh bread left in Perth. I toasted them on both sides on the bottom shelf of the oven and we served them on top of plates in case they weren’t strong enough.
For a public holiday I really lucked out with my ingredients – I managed to get two Mt Barker Free Range chickens from a local IGA and had stockpiled some new baby beetroots and parsnips from the farmers markets at Clontarf (as of yesterday they are now on winter hours) on Saturday. The crumbly cheddar was from Cape Naturaliste via said IGA and the spinach and onions were all I could get at that time of day.
1 Free Range (& preferably organic) chicken per 4 people
1 TB honey per chicken
1 very large loaf of rustic bread per 2 or 3 people
1 bunch of baby beetroots
¼ c balsamic vinegar
¼ c brown sugar
1 bag of young parsnips
a few sprigs of thyme
1 bunch of spinach
1 pickling onion per person (or more if you’re keen)
100g butter (or more to taste)
a litre of chicken stock (organic, or homemade, or from vegetarian powder)
a few tablespoons of plain flour
Salt & Pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 180.
Unwrap the chicken, rinse it clean (including inside the cavity), drain and pat dry with paper towel. Wiggle it’s limbs around a bit to limber things up (especially if you’ve defrosted it) and check for broken bones. If you find any, do the world a favour and take it back to where you bought it from and make a stink. Rub the skin around a bit to loosen it up.
Cut a few thin slices of butter and put them to one side. Place the chicken breast side up on a board and starting at the cavity, ease the skin away from the flesh with your fingers. Push a few pieces of butter under the skin (if you have access to duck or goose fat, use that instead). Crack some salt and pepper over the skin and place chicken on the top shelf in the oven. Roast until done (82c if you have a thermometer, or until the juices run clear, or an hour a kilo) then remove from the oven, drizzle lightly with honey and put aside (under a little alfoil tent if you are so inclined) to rest. Pop it back into the oven 5 minutes before you’re ready to eat so the honey gives it a bit of a glaze.
Peel and trim the beetroots, avoiding any sort of porous surface in the process. Place in a small saucepan with an equal quantities of brown sugar and balsamic vinegar – not your best vinegar, as you’ll want around a quarter cup according to taste. Cover with water until all the beetroots are submerged and bring to the boil. Simmer until beetroots are tender enough that you can spear them with a fork without too much resistance.
Trim and wash the parsnips. Cut them into quarters, longwise. Simmer or steam them until almost tender.
Meanwhile, skin, trim and cut the onions in half from root end to root end. Melt the remaining butter in a heavy frying pan, add the onions, cover and start to slowly fry. Once the parsnips are tender and the onions look softened, add the parsnips to the pan and increase the heat to medium. Strip the thyme leaves from the stalk and add to the pan. Fry, turning occasionally, until the onions are caramelised and the parsnips have picked up a bit of crunch.
15 minutes before you want to eat, place the baking tray, sans chickens, on the stove top on a low heat (if your tray is not flame-proof, carefully scrape it into a small saucepan). Add the spinach and heat gently in the juices until wilted. Put the spinach to one side and use the remaining juices to make a gravy.
Cut the chicken into quarters using sharp kitchen shears. You could leave them intact and carve them at the table, but I find you get less wastage this way and I wanted to get the same vibe as that first time where we had a whole cornish hen each. Slices are way less visceral and way less fun. The chicken here is done, even though the juices are red – they ran clear until I cut through the bone and we checked with a thermometer to be sure.
Place everything on to the table and let everyone serve pile up their own trenchers. Cutlery was strictly forbidden.