[Smashy the Hammer] [An Aspiring Luddite]
I carry no phone
An aspiring Luddite
In a wired world.
[Jeff Berry]
Jeff Berry is an early adopter of the Internet and the Web, a late adopter of Twitter, and declines to adopt Facebook. With the death of Google+, he's experimenting with federated platforms. He admins a medievalist Mastodon instance, and can found on the PlusPora diaspora pod. He hates cell-phones.

Medieval-Lenten Double-Header, Caboches and Tilapia in Brasey
29 March 2012

The medieval Lenten diet was much more restrictive than the modern one - no meat, dairy or eggs for the entire duration of Lent. That meant fish. A lot of fish. These days, there are other options for the Vegan-plus-fish Lenten observation - tofu, seitan and a wider variety of fruits, nuts and vegetables than would have been available to the average medieval diner. For that matter, even our choices of fish and seafood are more extensive than most folks would have had access to.

That said, fish is still a good choice during Lent, and medieval sources often have a good selection of fish dishes. Some are tricky to make these days; they might, for instance, call for the blood of the fish in addition to the flesh. Many call for that ubiquitous substitute for broth, almond milk, which if you don't keep almonds handy (or buy commercial almond milk) can add significantly to the hassle of making a dish. Some, however, have none of these problems, and I've chosen one of them for this week.

The dish is "Pykes in brasey," a 15th century recipe from the collection known as The Forme of Cury. For those interested in such things, the must-have book is Curye on Inglysch, a scholarly edition of not only Forme of Curye but several other recipe collections from roughly the same time. Pike being not usually to hand, I used tilapia instead.

To go with it, I took a non-Lenten vegetable dish, "Caboches in potage," from the same source and modified it to make it Lenten.

Pykes in brasey

Pykes in brasey. Take pykes and vndo hem on þe wombes and waisshe hem clene, and lay hem on a roost irne. Þenne take gode wyne and powdour gynger & sugur, good wone, & salt, and boile it in an erthen panne; & messe forth þe pyke & lay the sewe onoward.
One manuscript has an addition/variation to the recipe:
... powder of canell, wyne, venegir, & light bred and stere all togedir and drawe hit thorowe a straynour; then boyle hit with pouder of peper;

Tilapia in brasey
First, make the sauce. Take everything but the fish and mix it well in a small saucepan. Simmer and reduce until it becomes a thin syrup.

Cooking the fish is simplicity itself. Put it on the "roost irne," although if you don't have one, a good heavy pan will do. Heat the pan to medium hot, and if you need to, put just a little olive oil down. Flop the fish on and cook, turning a few times as needed, until it is done. No seasoning is necessary on the fish itself, the sauce will take care of that. Plate the fish, pour the sauce over and you're done.

This version of the sauce hews closely to the original, but draws from the variant manuscript (Aberystwyth, National Library of Wales, Peniarth 394D, for those keeping score at home), for the vinegar. It's a lovely sauce and would go well with a wide variety of fish, and probably other things as well.

Caboches in potage

Caboches in potage. Take caboches and quarter hem, and seeth hem in gode broth with oynouns ymynced and the whyte of lekes yslyt and ycorue smale. And do þerto safroun & salt, and force it with powdour douce.

Caboches in Lent
Cut the onions small, "ymynce" them if you wish. Cut the cabbage into quarters, or whatever size you prefer. Put both into a pot, add the other ingredients and simmer covered for an hour or two, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is tender.

This recipe is not so much a version of caboches in potage as inspired by it, what the tv shows might call, "Based on a true recipe." To make it Lenten, I needed to remove the broth, and I chose to add some flavor back in via the mix of vinegars. I opted for balsamic, since powdour douce often contains sugar, and balsamic vinegar adds a touch of sweetness. I would have added leeks if I had any, but I didn't so I didn't. As for the saffron ... it's just too expensive.

It turned out well, but then again, let's be honest ... it's boiled cabbage. As long as you don't cook it until it's pulp, you'll probably be alright. This combination of ingredients for the liquid gives a sweet-and-sour feel to the proceedings, which we found enjoyable.

© 2012 Jeff Berry
The Aspiring Luddite