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Wednesday, April 30, 2014


The Four Basic Spices: Cloves, Cinnamon, Ginger and Pepper
Photo by: Lord-Williams
OCat natura, Cat espècies, Eng spices. These are obtained from various parts of plants, including the bark, flowers, buds, fruits, seed, roots and secretions. Spices are found in tropical or semitropical climates. Covarrubias defines them as drugs coming from the Indies used to flavor stews and any other medicinal substance sold by pharmacists. It should be noted, however, that mustard, saffron and caraway were cultivated in Iberia.

The Introduction of Grewe’s translation of Sent Soví, states that the spices most commonly used where pepper, ginger, galingale, cinnamon, cloves, mace, nutmeg, cardamom and saffron. All were imported except saffron. Spices were used to enhance food dishes. For the last four thousand years they have been the symbol of prestige, wealth and culture. Formerly, meals were not an “eat and run affair.” Food was savoured.

All spices contained properties affecting the four humours. The importance in cookery was to obtain the proper balance of spices for good health. Throughout history, the demand for spices gave impetus to exploration in the Orient, which lead to geographical discoveries and conquests throughout history.

During the Middle Ages, spices were the result of cultural borrowing. By 1191 Arabs held the monopoly on the spice trade and charged outrageous prices. Grains of paradise and mace among others had to be imported, which made them expensive. Between the 11th and 13th C Jews took part in spice trading between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean and Africa during the 15th C. In Europe spices were not in vogue until prices dropped during the 13th C, which continued until the 17th C.

Spanish medieval cooking was adopted from the Arabs who spiced their drinks, fish, meats and jams. Further, they were used medicinally. Christians went against their norms by sharing with Arabs the idea of gratification of the senses through food.

Since misconceptions have sprung up such as the medieval application of spices to preserve meat. Some herbs can preserve blood but generally food was preserved with salt. Most spices were added to fresh meat. Dishes were not drowned in spices to mask rotten food. The use of them was. based on the art of combining them or edifying them not on the quantity. Like colors, certain spices cannot be mixed with others. Pepper, ginger, cinnamon and cloves were the four basic spices.

In the 17th C. Puritans in England even prohibited their use. Then saffron was out as well as parsley too, except for peasants. By the 19th C. sugar was discarded as well. In the 16th C, Europeans discovered America not for food as a necessity but for the desire to eat well. Flavorings, spices and herbs are what Europeans seek. They maintain that in spite of big stomachs, Americans have no palate. They never discovered Europe! If this is true, then what are international politics really about today? Food makes a man tick but the flavors influencing him are the pith of his character and the personality of his nation. 

[Anón/Grewe. 1982:13:V:66:VI:67:VII:67 etc; Anón/Huici. 1966:206:129-130:207:130:208:130 etc; Covarrubias: 1998:552-553:64b; ES: Collins. Apr 1, 96; ES: Figueroa. “Especias.” Jan 29, 03; ES “Gastronomía.” May 2, 03; ES: Strassmann. May, 00; Gitlitz. 1999:34-35; Ibn Razīn/Granja. 1960:44:21: 48:21:310:29; and Nola/Pérez. 1994:202]

For about 6 persons

Sealing the Meat
Photo by: Lord-Williams

apple juice from 1 ½ lb apples
2 ¾  lbs lamb[1]
¼- ½ C olive oil
1 onion skinned and quartered
salt to taste
1 tsp coriander
¼ tsp pepper
1 tbsp ginger scraping
1 tsp cinnamon[2]
2 eggplants[3]
1 lb whole apples
4 eggs slightly beaten


Make apple juice by washing apples and cutting them into eights. Do not skin them as the skin adds flavour. Put the apples in a saucepan with 1 ½-2” water. The less water the stronger and  better the juice. Simmer covered. From time to time remove the lid and mash the apples with a potato masher.  When very soft, remove from heat and strain. Save the pulp to make applesauce. Set the juice aside for cooking the lamb.

A Unique Ancestor of A Quiche
Wonderfully Delicious!
Photo by: Lord-Williams
Cube ¾ of the lamb. Set the other 1/4th aside. Put the cubed lamb in a pot with oil and seal it. Add onion, salt, pepper, ginger, cinnamon and oil.  Sautee the onion until translucent. Then cover with apple juice pressed from apples and cook without a lid to reduce the liquid for about 1/2 hour. [4]

Grind the meat set aside and make meatballs. Slice the eggplants in half. Rub them with salt and turn them flesh side down on paper towels and leave for ½ hr. When the meat is done, peel the eggplants and boil them separately with whole peeled apples and meatballs. When done, cut the eggplant into cubes and peel and very thinky slice the apples.

Pound the cubes of meat into small pieces.[5] Return them to the pot and add the eggplant, apples and meatballs. Pour the eggs over the dish, cover and let the dish settle on the hearthstone until eggs coagulate[6] and ready to serve in soup bowls.

[1] The original recipe calls for 3 kilos, but it should the number of guests should be considered.
[2] The only basic spice missing from this recipe is cloves.
[3] Unfortunately, eggplant was not in season, a gourd was used instead.
[4] The chef probably would have added garum at this point. As this is not indicated, a bouillon cube was added to enhance the flavour.
[5] This was not done because the meat was tender.
[6] As seen in the final photo, instead of leaving the eggs to coagulate on the hearth, individual oven-proof soup bowls were filled with the mixture and two beaten eggs were poured over each. Then it was grilled in the oven making it a delightfully hearty dish.

Monday, April 28, 2014


Fresh Green Asparagus
Photo by: Lord-Williams
OCat esparaguat, espárrec, Cat espàrechs, L. Asparagus officinalis, Ar. isfarāj or asfarāj, Hisp Ar. junjul, Fr. asperge, Eng asparagus. Greeks and Romans found them cultivated as a delicacy in Egypt and subsequently took them back to their countries. The Lusitanians consumed them in the 2nd C BC. Romans first cultivated them for to make medicines and later they became luxury food at their feasts. It is thought that asparagus were cultivated in Spain when under the Roman Empire but during the Visigothic rule in Spain consumption of asparagus declined.

Upon the arrival of Ziryab, the famous Kurd musician, in 822 he found green asparagus growing wild around Cordova where he became a member of the caliphate’s court (see Ziryab). He reintroduced consumption of asparagus in Al-Andalus cuisine, which brought about the cultivation in Spain of white asparagus (espárragos).

Aphrodisiac asparagus were those with thick pale stems between purple and rose color. They have to be firm from top to bottom. They were eaten daily for fortification with fat, egg yolk and ground condiments.

Less erotic were wild asparagus, Cast. trigueros (green, Ar. asfaraŷ). Wild asparagus, which has more flavor but the least valued, was used in the same way as cultivated white asparagus. The difference between the three types is that white asparagus receives no sun, being protected by mounds turf, purple asparagus is that which has been exposed to a little sun light prior to building the mounds and green asparagus is totally exposed to the sun.

They were served hot or cold, in stuffing, as a dish alone, with meats, cilantro, chickpeas and other ingredients. One medieval recipe calls for asparagus stuffed with minced meat, cilantro, pepper, caraway, olive oil and egg yolks. Once stuffed, they were boiled in water and then mixture was thickened with eggs, breadcrumbs and more minced meat. Always, meatballs were served with this dish. Asparagus roots with sprouts were thought exquisite. Powders were made from them were considered to be a good aphrodisiac.

Preparing Fresh White Asparagus for Cooking
Photo by: Lord-Williams
Medicinally, this vegetable relieves bee stings when directly rubbed on them. It was used in syrups for rheumatism, insomnia, nerves and diabetes.

The fall of Arab domination in Seville and Cordova, in the 13th century, renewed the decline of asparagus but Muslims in Granada kept up the tradition. The 13th Century Al-Andalus manuscript contains four recipes for asparagus. It is interesting to note that the 14th Century Catalan manuscript Sent Soví also contains four recipes for asparagus but Nola’s Catalan manuscript from the 15th century makes no mention of asparagus at all.

Frying Breaded Asparagus
Photo by: Lord-Williams
It is known that asparagus did not find their way to the rest of Europe until the 16th C. They were documented in England in 1559. Later, Pepys wrote that he liked them very much. See verduras.

[Anón/Grewe. 1982:CXVII:142:CXVIII:142.CXVIIII:143 etc; Anón/Huici. 1966:257:151-152; Arjona. 1983:32; Benavides-Barajas. Nueva-Clásica. 1995:129; Bodelón. 1994:77; Bolens. 1990:29:329; ES: Sorrenti. Apr 4, 02; Groundes-Peace. 1971:24; and Muñoz.



1 bunch of asparagus, about 12 ounces
salt to taste
1 egg
1 c flour
olive oil for frying
½ c white wine[1]
Uniquely Delicious
Photo by: Lord-Williams 
mixed seasoning, which could include:
1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
1 tbsp ginger scrapings
1/2 tsp nutmeg 

1 tsp sugar


Wash and peel asparagus. Cut off tough ends. Fill a pot with salted water and bring to a boil.

Add the asparagus and boil, until almost done. (White asparagus take longer than green asparagus. White asparagus may take10 minutes if well peeled, while green asparagus may take as little as 2 minutes.) Remove, pat dry and gently squeeze each stem to try to remove excess water, using a cloth or paper towels.

Dip each stem into slightly beaten egg and then in flour. Gently fry in olive oil until almost done. Heat the wine and sprinkle it over them, then the seasoning and sugar and serve.

[1] Balsamic vinegar is a substitute if wine is not desired.

Friday, April 25, 2014


Spreading a Little Lard
Photo by: Lord-Williams
OCast, Cast esparce, to scatted or spread a little. [Villena/Calero.. 2002:60b]



2 partridges[2]
about 16 slices of bacon
2 garlic heads
6 oz grated Aragonese[3] cheese
1 tbsp lard
4 egg yolks
1 qt mutton broth
slices of bread from half a 1 lb round loaf

Adding Layers of Bread and Meat
Photo by: Lord-Williams
Sprigs of parsley
Bacon bits


Remove feathers from partridges and put them in boiling water. Leave them until the Lord’s Prayer has been recited. Remove them and clean them well. Roast them covered with bacon. When roasted, remove the bacon and set aside. Carve the fowl for serving.

Fry the bacon until browned and let cool. Crumble and set aside for garnish.[4]

Then make an almodrotes, a garlic and cheese sauce: Grate cheese. Take two garlic heads roasted in ashes or in the oven at 400ºF/200ºC for 30 minutes. Remove the skins and mash the cloves in a mortar. When cool, add the cheese and mash all together. While doing this, add lard with egg yolks and mash all together. When well mashed, thin the mixture with 1 c cold mutton broth because if warm the cheese would melt.

Then take slices of bread soaked in mutton broth in a basin.[5] After removing them and putting them in a large plate, make layers alternating slices of bread and slices of pheasant meat until the dish is filled. When full, pour the almodrote on top of all. After that spread melted lard over the dish.

Villena's Cheese and Garlic Sauce
Which is a Cover
Photo by: Lord-Williams 
Return this to the oven and brown it in the oven. Garnish with parsley and bacon bits and serve.

[1] See blog titled Almodrote, published August 23, 2011 for Nola’s recipe for this dish, blog titled capírotada for a Sent Soví recipe for the same, #CXXXXI published September 8, 2012 and another version from Sent Sovi #CXXXXII, published in blog titled cerdo lechon, published Febraury 11, 2012.
[2] or substitute with a chicken
[3] As it is not clear what Aragonese cheese was, the type of cheese or cheeses used, therefore, is up to the chef.
[4] The Medieval Spanish Chef’s addition for using the bacon covering the fowl while roasting.
[5] See blog titled alfajana published July 7, 2011 for the type of basin to which Villena referred.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


The Beauty of Emeralds Takes Away the Breath of All Beholders!
Photo by: Lord-Williams

emerald. A precious stone which Villena recommended to be worn in a ring on the ring or baby finger while serving meals or eating as a protection against ills, poison and polluted air. It was thought to ward off evil sorcery. Avenzoar claimed it fortified the mouth and stomach, stopped vomiting and reanimated the system. If poison is swallowed he recommended the weight of nine grains of emerald be embibed in a drink to stop the action of the poison. If worn as a ring it scared away poisonous snakes. See manos, comer con. [Ibn Zuhr/García Sánchez. 1992:123:150; and Villena/Calero. 2002:16:11a]

Monday, April 21, 2014


Escudilla - An Individual Soup Bowl
One Serving
Photo by: Lord-Williams
OCast scudilla,scala,sopera, Cat escudella, OCat scudella, Leon escudiella,[1]

1. individual soup bowl or large cup for other liquids. In Catalonia, they were deep, hemispherical with small handles called orelletes. Normally they were glazed earthenware or wooden. In Leon, they are wooden bowls or plates used in smoking and serving meat. They are most appropriate for eating botillo. Egyptian pharaohs first used them. Europeans copied them but they disappeared with the Barbarian Invasions in the 5th C. Later, probably during the 7th C in Spain, the bowl came back for soups and other dishes served with spoons. When the bowl was au gratin or had a crust on top, then it was shared between two eaters.

2. a serving. If a recipe calls for six escudillas, it is for six portions.

3. a measurement estimated to be about 600 ml or 20 fl.oz today.

4. soup, pottage, or cream sauce.

[Anón/Grewe. 1982: XXVIIII:78:XXXXIIII:86:XXXXVII:91 etc; ES: Carroll-Mann. Guisados 2-art. Jun 6, 01: glos; García Rey.1934: 85; Gázquez. Cocina. 2002: 123:211; Lladonosa. Cocina. 1984:63:157; Nola. 1989:xiii-3:xx-1:xxxi-2 etc; Nola/Pérez. 1994:196; Ruíz/Brey. 1965: 1175a186; Sánchez-Albornoz. 2000:154:202]

6 Servings


Frying Guts and Hearts
Photo by: Lord-Williams
For a broth:
bones and entails from 1 chicken
3 lamb hocks
2 lamb stomachs

300 gr scalded and peeled almonds

8 stripes of streaky bacon
guts from 2 chickens
2 chicken hearts
2 rabbit hearts
lard or bacon grease for frying
2 onions
juice from 2 lemons, oranges or bitter pomegranates
2 tbsp honey

Peacock Sauce
In a Bowl or Escudilla
Photo by: Lord-Williams
Peacock Sauce:
1½ tsp ginger scrapings
1½ tbsp cinnamon
1½ tsp cloves
1/3 tsp cardamon
¾ tsp saffron

Other spices:
1 tsp ginger shavings
1 tsp freshly ground cinnamon
2 tsp mashed and dissolved saffron

1 chicken liver
10-12 chicken wings


The Pottage Before Adding Chicken Wings
Photo by: Lord-Williams
Make a chicken broth or lamb. Mix 1 qt broth with almonds. Let soak for 6 hours. Chop the almonds, strain this and set aside.

Fry the bacon and set aside. Save the bacon and the grease.

Chop the guts and hearts. Gently fry them in lard or bacon grease. Separate the meat from the fat. When cooked remove and set aside.

Scald onions in boiling water. Quarter the onions and fry them in the lard or grease. When translucent, remove excess grease. Chop the onions, the gut mixture and the bacon to make a paste. Put this back in the frying pan.

The Pottage with Chunks of Chicken Meat
Photo by: Lord-Williams
Add the juice with honey, 1 tsp peacock sauce, the other spices. Add almond milk and bring to a boil for 5-10 minutes until cooked.

When it appears to be cooked taste to insure that it is sweet and sour enhanced by the seasoning. The color should be that of a mixture of cinnamon with saffron.

Grease from spit roasting pheasant or chicken can be added but care must be taken not to make the sauce too greasy.

Also a chopped chicken liver may be added after straining it through a sieve with a little broth. Chopped wing meat from chickens or pheasants can added as well. It is recommended to mash the meat in a mortar and strain it.[2] The sauce should be thick and served in small portions.

[1] ES: Carroll-Mann. Guisados 2-art. Jun 6, 01: glos states:

Escudilla, "Dish" is used in three ways in the text. First, it refers to a bowl. Second, it is used as a synonym for "a serving". Many of the recipes say, "and this will make number of escudillas". Lastly, it is a measurement of volume, much like 19th century recipes call for a "wineglass" or a "teacup" of a certain ingredient. A recipe for preserved dates in Granado calls for "three pounds of water, or three escudillas" (Granado, 395) which seems to indicate that the escudillas of that time held about 16 fl. oz. Studies of 15th and 16th century Iberian pottery found at archeological sites show that escudillas varied in size, with rim diameters ranging from 8 cm. to 15 cm. (about 3-3/8 to 6 inches), but 13-14 cm. (about 5-1/4 to 6 inches) seems to have been the most common. A modern bowl in my kitchen, whose shape and proportions are similar to illustrations of medieval escudillas has a rim diameter of 13-1/2 cm. and a capacity of 600 ml. (about 20 fl. oz.).”

[2] This batch was made by simply adding whole raw chicken wings with bones and skin to the sauce. When the meat was cooked the "medieval carver" removed the skin and bones from the wings and put the chunks of meat back into the pottage without mashing it in a mortar.

Friday, April 18, 2014


Avila, Spain Medieval City Walls
Author Showing How Weights Chained to Walls Worked
for People with Scruples!
Photo by: Beatriz Cabrera
OCast and Port escrópulo, Eng scruple. One scruple weighed one dinar (coin), 1,198 miligrams or 20 wheat grains. See dinero. [ES: Carroll-Mann. Guisados 2-art. Jun 6, 01:96:ftn 12; and Nola/Pérez.1994:82:196]



½ oz cinnamon
1/ 8 oz cloves
1 lb sugar
½ oz ginger

For Dukes with Scruples
(Sugar, Cinnamon, Ginger and Cloves)
Photo by: Lord-Williams
While listing the above ingredients, Nola states that cloves are not included when preparing Duke’s Powder for lords. He continues that ginger can be added “for the ‘passions of the stomach.’”

Concerning apothecaries weights, they are measured in the following manner: one pound is twelve ounces; one ounce, eight drachmas; 1 drachma, three scruples; on the other hand, the clearest way of understanding this is: one drachm weighs three dineros, scruple weighs one dinero, and a scruple is twenty wheat grains.[2]

[1] In her footnote 12 of  ES: Guisados1-art - 6/6/01, Lady Brighid ni Chiarain states that “Barbara Santich suggests that this recipe title is a misnomer, and an indication of Italian influence on Catalan cooking. A very similar blend of spices — minus the sugar -- is found in an anonymous Venetian cookbook of the late 15th century. It is called specie dolce, ‘sweet spices’. Several recipes in that cookbook call for dishes to be topped with sugar and unspecified spices before serving. Santich theorizes that specie dolce was the spice blend, which was sprinkled with the sugar. The Italian name specie dolce, ‘sweet spices’, may have been mangled in translation to become the Catalan polvora de duch, "powder of the duke".

Which came first the chicken or the egg? The 14th C Catalan Sent Soví manuscript recipe #CCXX, p 216 is for “Duke’s Powder,” naming the same ingredients as Nola including one pound sugar and with the addition of galingale and cardemoni (apparently a tropical fruit).

[2] In her footnote 12 of  ES: Guisados1-art - 6/6/01, Lady Brighid ni Chiarain explains: “There seems to have been some differences between Catalan and Castilian measurements. The Libre del Coch specifies that a drachm weighs 2 diners, whereas the Spanish versions say that 3 dineros weigh a drachm. Both sources say that a diner/dinero weighs the same as a scruple.”