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Autumn Feast May 9th 2009

A Note on the Menu Names

For the feast I was working with English translations of Martino and Scappi. All the names of the dishes that I made were in English. In the case of Martino, this usually takes the form of "How to make Lenten caviar pottage", and for Scappi this usually follows the form of "To prepare currant sops". Neither of these are "titles" for recipes as we know them. However, in Scully's translation of Scappi, he provides selections from Book IV, where Scappi listed a number of the menus that he had served, in the original Italian. I decided it would be quite cool to provide the menu in Italian, so translated all the items back into Italian. To do this, I used clues from the English text; for example Martino's mushrooms are listed as "in the Genoese style", the rib dish from Scappi is listed as a "Venetian bresaola", and Scully has annotated this with a description of what makes it a bresavoli, that being the Italian. I also made a lot of use of the extant menus in book IV, and the indexes at the back of Scappi which provide a great deal of relevant vocabulary, in addition to my modern Italian dictionary and a little Florio for fun. However, my Italian is still at a very basic level, so there will be mistakes in it - but any mistakes in the Italian names here are mine, and definitely not those of the translators of these works.

The Sources

I worked primarily from two sources for this feast. Other sources are listed in my text.

Martino of Como, Parzen, Jeremy (trans.), Ballerini, Luigi (ed.), The Art of Cooking: The First Modern Cookery Book (California, University of California Press, 2005)

Bartolomeo Scappi, Scully, Terence (trans.), The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570): L'arte et prudenza d'un maestro cuoco - The Art and Craft of a Master Cook (Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2008)

This was my first attempt at researching and cooking a feast, and the first time I had really tried any period cooking. I wanted to do a sixteenth century Italian feast, as Mistress Katherina Weyssin wanted to have a sixteenth century Italian ball, and we wanted it all to tie in together. I did some background research on what primary sources were available for sixteenth century Italian cooking (not a lot, as it turns out - heaps for the fifteenth century though), and accordingly ordered my books through Amazon at the start of January, to give myself plenty of time to experiment with recipes and get a feel for what I was cooking. Martino, while a fifteenth century author, was reprinted many times over, as well as being plagiarised by Platina, so I was quite comfortable including him as a source for the feast.

Amazon lost the first order. Panicking, I spent some time exploring redactions already available in books that Katherina owned - hence the use of some of these within the feast menu. My books arrived early in April, which didn't leave a lot of time to experiment. I managed to trial some of the recipes I was less sure of ahead of time, to check they were palatable and allow myself room to adjust redactions if necessary. There was another major event on between when my books arrived and the feast, which further limited trial time. But everything came together in the end, and I have since come to the conclusion that my first ever attempt at pasta (I made the dough the night before the feast, got as far as confirming it would function as pasta, realised I was exhausted and resolved to finish rolling it and stuffing it through the afternoon of prep time) was indeed beginner's luck.

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Seating & Serving:

For the May feast, we (Katherina and I, not the Imperial) played around with some different seating and serving ideas, and in general these worked well. This has sparked my interest in the development of serving practices in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and cultural variations in practise. This is therefore one of my current research projects, and, while I one day would like to have a finished article of my research, in the mean time I intend to have a "work in progress" version on my website, that I can update as I go.

Having spent a lot of time looking at the sample menus available in Scully's translation of Scappi, I had a reasonable idea of how I wanted the serving of the food to go.

Katherina and myself also spent a reasonable amount of time looking at paintings of feast scenes, and from this we were able to develop a working plan for how the hall would be set up, and firm up ideas on the serving of the food.

From the images we looked at, we found that a larger number of the feasts were seated either in a "U" shape, with an opening at the central base of the "U", or just as two straight tables with a central gap. It was common for all the guests to be seated on one side only of the tables. From an artist's perspective this is a highly convenient layout that enables him to best portray all the guests clearly. However, on the unused side of the table, there would often be chairs scattered randomly, and perhaps one or two people would be portrayed as seated at these chairs, chatting with other guests across the table.

As this feast was a trial first feast for myself, and for a small number of people (25), we decided to also trial this seating arrangement. Six tables were set up around the edge of the hall to create an open "U" shape, with Baron and Baroness seated either side of the central gap and all guests seated around the outer edge. In the large, open central area that this created, a number of chairs were scattered to encourage guests to wander around and chat with other guests, rather than have everyone effectively chained to their seat for the evening.

This set up worked extraordinarily well, both from a socializing perspective and from a serving perspective. The guests wandered freely between dishes, using the seats as we had intended to conveniently chat to guests seated elsewhere. From a serving perspective, with only two servers per course they were able to start service by offering the Baron and Baroness first choice, and then continue smoothly moving down the table, before placing any leftover food on the credenza (sideboard) for people to help themselves to seconds (or thirds). There was no fuss or bother, no difficulty moving between tables, and none of the usual problems associated with crowded tables being filled with dish after dish of food.

We had seen a large number of credenzas in the pictures that we looked at (and are now very adept at playing "spot the credenza"), and from my reading in Scappi had some idea of what was to be set on one. For the occasion, Mistress Weyssin constructed a remarkable sideboard out of a set of moveable stairs, set on top of a platform and covered over with tablecloths. On the credenza itself she displayed all the spare silver platters that we were not using for the feast itself.

The concept of the credenza came from my reading of Scappi's sample menus. One of the first things I noted in looking at these is that courses are divided into "credenza" courses and "cocina" (kitchen) courses. The start of the meal always commences with the serving of a credenza course, and always finishes with another credenza course. There can be more than one credenza course at the start, but this is always balanced by the same number of credenza courses at the end of a meal. The number of cocina courses varies, seemingly depending on the occasion for the feast and the number of guests attending. The minimum number of cocina courses that can be served is one, and this is labeled as "primo et ultimo servitio di cocina" (first and final serving from the kitchen).

My observations up to the May feast were that the primary differences between credenza and cocina courses were the type of food served and where it was served from. Credenza courses tended to be light, of cold food, and, funnily enough, served from the sideboard. Therefore for this feast, the first credenza course was placed on the credenza, from where the servers came and took it around the tables to offer to the guests, starting with the Baron and Baroness, who were seated either side of the table split.

The main feature of cocina courses that I had noticed was that they contained the hotter, more substantial dishes, therefore from the perspective of the cook, this was the main focus of planning for myself. The cocina course was passed directly to servers straight out of the kitchen, as the food came ready, and we mostly were able to maintain a steady flow of food. Leftover food was placed back onto the credenza, where guests could come and help themselves to seconds if they wished.

The final course was another credenza course - again, this consisted of light, cold food. However, from Scappi's sample menus, I was able to note that one of the key differences between the final credenza courses and the first credenza courses was that the final course mostly consisted of sweet food, whereas the first ones tended to be almost all savoury. This final credenza serving was placed directly onto the credenza, and guests were able to come back and forth and help themselves as they wanted to.

As this was a slightly different set up to a "normal" feast, I noted on the menu copies that I provided that the first course was light, and should be treated as an entree, that the cocina course was the "main" course of the meal, and that the second credenza course was similar to a modern "dessert" course.

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The Food

For measurements given in Scappi, I used Scully's interpretation of the measurements.

For recipes from Martino, I mostly went with the very technical system of what felt about right.

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On the table:

Pane et butiro - Bread with butter.

This wasn't in any of the extant menus provided in Scappi, but I decided it would be nice to have on the table to give people something to nibble on while they waited, if they were hungry. This was mainly utilized by the children. I did find pictorial evidence of bread rolls sitting directly on the tablecloth in clusters of four, so this is how I decided to serve them. I used a modern bread recipe, but it did not adapt especially well to rolls instead of a loaf. I suspect however that the main issue here was my level of patience, and therefore I shall focus on developing my bread-making skills.

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Primo Servition di Credenza

Morseletti di biscotti - Dainty biscuit morsels

Refer to Appendix 1.i for this recipe.

Mistress Katherina prepared these ahead of the feast, however, we did not pretest this recipe before making it for the feast. I was over at her house at the time of making, so we combined brainpower occasionally to reconstruct the recipe. These make up very like a modern biscotti.

Of note is the sheer volume of dainty biscuit morsels that this recipe will create when followed directly. With Scappi's measurements, you will end up with about enough morseletti to serve 100, not the 25 that we were serving. Clearly Scappi thought that this was an appropriate amount of morseletti to make, and probably in his position as cook to the pope, it was. Either that or he didn't want to have to make them too often.

In place of white breadcrumb baked a second time, we used store-bought toasted bread crumbs.

As Scappi's measurements make such a huge quantity of morselletti, it would have been better for us to halve the main ingredients, using a ratio of 1:1:1.5 for the breadcrumbs, flour, and sugar, and adding only eight eggs in the first instance and two in the second, two ounces of leaven, half an ounce of anise, and two ounces of rosewater.

One of the first things we noticed with this recipe is that if Scappi's instructions are followed directly, when you get to the stage of having everything "thoroughly mixed and beaten together" it will not so much resemble the fritter batter he wants as it will a very solid rock. You need to add quite a lot of water to get it to resemble a fritter batter. Katherine broke her favourite spoon attempting to stir the mixture without this. However, once you have made the happy addition of water until it becomes of batter-like consistency, the rest of the instructions can be followed and work beautifully.

For the instruction to "put that into an oven that is not too hot" we used a temperature of 180 degrees C and a bake setting, for about 20 minutes, with careful monitoring to prevent burning. For the second baking, we brought the oven right down to 120-140 degrees C, and again monitored the morselletti carefully against burning. This was very necessary, as they dry out very slowly, but burn in an instant.

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Ciambelle con zuccaro & canellata - Ciambelle with sugar and cinnamon

Refer to Appendix 1.ii for this recipe.

My initial reaction to this recipe, once I had worked out that a "ciambelle" is a little ring, was "cool! Period donuts!" However, once I had made them up, I realized that they actually more closely resemble a slightly sweet mini bagel.

The recipe as presented by Scappi is accurate, and can be followed directly. Again, the quantity was rather large for a feast for 25 people, and would probably do for 40-50 quite adequately - but that being said, I also didn't have any left over to bring home. They were not to my taste, but I did enjoy making them, and clearly enough other people enjoyed eating them, so it all worked well.

The recipe calls for the dough to be kneaded for an hour. I could have done this by machine, but without first testing by hand would not have known what texture I was looking to achieve. And given that I'm working with me, chances are I'd've burnt out the engine. As it turns out, the amount of kneading is necessary, as the texture of the mixture does change throughout the kneading process. I kept my hands moist with almond oil as Scappi suggests - this had the added bonus of nicely conditioning my hands, and presumably left them smelling pleasant as well. In order to alleviate potential boredom, the solution I came up with to requiring an hour of my time was to knead the dough in a nice large bowl seated firmly on my lap and watch a couple of episodes of Doctor Who. Don't blink.

When the ciambelle have been boiled, they are more half cooked than fully cooked, and taste quite doughy and not very palatable. To bake them, I put them high up in an oven as a compromise for the requirement for needing more heat above than beneath, at 180 degrees C for about ten minutes, which was plenty to cook them through. Once they had cooled I arranged them on the plate and sprinkled them with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.

What I have not yet been able to do is to work out how to "make the rosette on them with a feather dipped in fresh egg white". Presumably you are drawing some sort of rose shape onto the ciambelle - Scully has a footnote here which reads "si dar'e loro la rosa" - but whether this means something going around the edge of each ciambelle, or just a small flourish at one end of them, or perhaps several mini rose shapes, I am not yet sure.

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Olive di piu sorti - A variety of olives

In several of the sample menus provided in the translation, Scappi serves olives from a variety of places. I simply bought three or four various types from the supermarket delicatessen, and served them in small bowls on the trays with ham, so that each tray had two different types of olives to choose from.

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Presciuto cotto tagliato in fette, servito con sugo di melangole, & zuccaro sopra - Cured pork cut in slices, served with orange juice sauce and sugar over

I used sliced ham from the delicatessen as the budget did not stretch to prosciutto and I'm awfully common and don't like it anyway. I forgot about the sauce and sugar, although I am fairly sure that most people did not mind seeing their meat without sugar. "Sugo di melangole" is a false friend that continues to plague me - I keep interpreting it as "melon" instead of "orange".

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Primo et ultimo servitio di Cocina (First and final service from the Kitchen)

Brisavoli di vitella alla Venetiana - Venetian bresaola of grilled beef ribs

Refer to Appendix 1.iii for the recipe.

I trialled this recipe prior to the feast with great success. What makes this a Venetian bresaola instead of any other type of bresaola is the fact that the ribs are split and served individually. It was not easy to find beef ribs split lengthwise rather than hacked across to give many little chunks of bone, but fortunately one of the local halal butchers had these and I was able to order them ahead. A point of note with this is that when you order them ahead and say you want 15 ribs, cut into halves, it pays to specify the size of rib that you are after. Beef ribs are quite large, and if you preorder them to pay on the day the butcher will make sure that you have the largest ribs it is possible to get.

One of Scappi's first instructions for preparing the ribs is to press them with the flat of a large knife to spread them out a little. I failed miserably at this, I can only hope that this rather futile gesture becomes slightly less futile with practice. However, beating them to soften the meat made me feel better about this.

For the rose vinegar, I found that equal quantities of rose water and vinegar worked very well. I only had cider vinegar available, but this was fine.

The spice mixture I made up into a separate bowl, making sure that the ingredients were well mixed before sprinkling them over the ribs. Again, I found that equal quantities of everything worked very nicely.

Lacking any decent weights to put the ribs under pressure, I put my dictionary in a bowl and sat this on top of them for six hours. This did not give a great deal of pressure, but apparently was adequate enough to help tenderize and marinade the meat.

This was the first time I had cooked anything with fat laid over to prevent the meat from drying, however, the more I read Scappi the more I find that he uses this technique with just about everything. There's a reason that cardinals were cardinal-shaped. Since the ribs do have a layer of fat placed over the top, it is best to use a fairly deep tray to cook them on, otherwise you will end up with a pool of fat at the bottom of the oven to clean off.

I grilled the ribs at 180 degrees C for 30-40 minutes, turning them several times during cooking.

An issue I encountered with the feast ribs that was not an issue in the trial run was lack of oven space: I only had one standard household oven to cook on and in, and my three trays of ribs took up all three shelves in the oven. This also meant that they required much closer monitoring, and I had to shuffle the trays several times to get all the ribs cooked but not burnt. This meant that some ribs were served medium-rare, which some people loved but some did not. If I was preparing this again for a feast and knew I had only the one oven, I would make sure the ribs were fairly well cooked ahead of time, and really only needed reheating in the oven.

To make the garnish, use about a cup of vinegar to several tablespoonsful of sugar, a decent teaspoon of cinnamon, and a half teaspoon each of cloves and nutmeg, mixed well together. That quantity should serve 8-10 people, so can be increased or decreased as necessary. I served this on the side so that people could decide for themselves how much they wanted.

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Pomi sdengosi - Braised eggplant

Refer to Appendix 1.iv for the recipe.

I prepared a trial run of this recipe using the non-fasting version, however, to accommodate dietary requirements at the feast I made the fasting version. Both versions work well and taste good, although I am slightly more partial towards the non-fasting version because it includes cheese.

The trial run was made using two largish eggplants and one small casserole dish (to serve four to six people). This quantity of eggplant will adequately serve four as the main meal component, six as a hearty side, and eight to ten people at a feast where there is a large variety of food on offer to sample from.

Having read the recipe through, I decided to treat it a little like a curry and created a "wet" mix and a "dry" mix. The "wet" mix contained all the herbs, the "dry" all the spices, verjuice (cider vinegar here) and sugar done separately. Each layer will take roughly two handfuls of fresh herbs prior to chopping/crushing, and a teaspoon of precrushed garlic, or 1-2 cloves, and about three tablespoonsful of spice. I used an equal quantity of parsley to all the other herbs, being scant on fennel as it was in short supply, and omitting burnet altogether. To make the spice mix, use equal quantities of pepper, cinnamon and cloves, but only about 1/3 of the quantity of salt.

With regards to the recipe as presented in translation by Scully, it is interesting to note that the recipe says to "clean off" the skin, rather than to peel, which he then specifies in the next two eggplant recipes. I ended up peeling the eggplant, as cleaning off the skin did not really work. Also interesting to note that the skin is described as "purplish", this may indicate a slightly different variety to today's stock standard dark purple aubergine. Since the feast, I've seen eggplants more accurately fitting this desciption in some of my local Asian supermarkets/vege shops.

For my own "modern recipe" version of this dish, refer to Appendix 3.

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Fungi alla Genoese - Salted mushrooms in the Genoese style

Refer to Appendix 2.i for this recipe.

When first reading through the recipe, I noticed that there was no mention of adding salt anywhere in the recipe, yet the name for the dish specifically states that the mushrooms are salted.

At the time, I thought this possibly meant that the mushrooms were dried - to a modern cook, this would then make sense of the requirement for the mushrooms to be soaked in lukewarm water for several days; however fresh mushrooms are obviously also eaten as, earlier in the book Martino discusses the cleaning of mushrooms, and states that they should be cleaned well and then boiled in water with garlic and breadwhite as they are poisonous in nature (p68), so it is possible that this is just another method of ensuring the mushrooms are not poisonous. The more I have looked into it though, the more convinced I am that in this recipe Martino is referring to the use of mushrooms that have been preserved by salting, a practise still used in some Slavic countries today, and one that I intend to try myself at some stage. I am also keeping an eye out for any period references to preserving food by salting, but it's a pretty lazy eye at the moment.

For the feast I made the recipe with fresh mushrooms, following Martino's instructions. They were definitely not salty. Having now cooked the recipe with fresh mushrooms, I am more convinced that the recipe does indeed call for mushrooms that have been dried with salt. I would like to try this recipe again with appropriately dried mushrooms, to see what difference it makes to the end result and to hopefully confirm my suspicions.

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Cauli con nocchiate - Nut-stuffed cabbage

Refer to Appendix 2.ii for this recipe.

This was a really fun recipe to make, and a delight to serve because it looked so attractive. It sounds promisingly vegetarian-friendly: It's not. You could possibly adapt it for lacto-ovo vegetarians by using Kremelta or some other vegetable fat in place of the animal fat, however, it would spoil the balance of the flavours to make it vegan.

There was a point where it seemed as though this dish would have to go from the menu as the ingredients were looking almost prohibitively expensive - two types of nuts, and parmesan cheese, when cheese was at its very highest pricing. Fortunately, though, having trialled the recipe in advance it was a relief to find that it could remain, as the quantities of those ingredients required were quite small, and, as the dish was so very rich, people only required a very little bit as a serving.

This recipe for Martino is unusual in that he specifies the use of two cloves of garlic and two eggs (presumably as a binder). Sadly, he then fails to quantify any of the other ingredients, so a bit of guesswork was required to construct appropriate quantities around this.

For one "cabbage" that will serve 4-6 people (it will quite easily feed six, probably more, as it is so very rich), and that uses the specified quantities of ingredients above, the following worked very well: 50g each of hazelnuts, parmesan cheese, and walnuts, a handful of each type of herb, a teaspoon of pepper and a decent pinch of saffron, and about 100g of fat that has been blended in a food processor.

This, with the garlic and eggs, will form nicely into a ball a little bigger than a tennis ball. This is then wrapped in cabbage leaves that had been soaked in warm water to soften them - I used a Savoy cabbage to make it look prettier - and then cooked. At this stage again Martino fails us as the instruction provided is simply to "cook with other cabbage leaves and serve as soon as it is done cooking". I hold three theories on this: One is that the nut loaf is steamed with other cabbage leaves around it. The second is that the whole lot is boiled. The third is that it is baked in the oven. For both the trial run and the feast, I baked it in the oven at 180 degrees C for about half an hour. This worked very well, although strictly speaking I was not cooking it with the other cabbage leaves, so I would like to try it again with both other methods and see how these work, and whether they work any better.

To present the nut loaf, I peeled off the outer layer of cabbage which had become a little crispy with cooking, and rewrapped the whole thing in a fresh leaf, before placing each loaf in a bowl that was just the right size to hold it nicely and make it look as though a whole mini head of cabbage was being served up.

A note with the fat: The recipe calls for "finely chopped veal fat". Early on, I decided that this meant not dripping, unless I was unable to secure some other source of fat. Fortunately, the local butcher was more than happy to give me plenty of fat scraps, which I then ground in the food processor. Grinding fat in a food processor is really interesting - it clumps together nicely. It also makes it possible to tell very quickly which bits are gristly or stringy, as these just will not process, and it really is much better for the end result to pull these out, as no-one really wants to eat gristle or spend hours chewing on a stringy bit of fat. Having now made the recipe several times in this way, I would not change to dripping, as the ground fat helps create the texture (it is almost haggis-like) and give added richness to the flavour.

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Fave - Fried fava beans

Refer to Appendix 2.iii for the recipe.

This dish was an astonishing success. Several people told me "I really like broad beans, and that was really yummy". The rest told me "I don't like broad beans at all, but I really loved that dish". This dish also has the added virtues of being vegan, filling, and cheap as chips to make.

Had it been broad bean season, or even if it had not but I thought of it ahead, I would have grown fresh broad beans for this. However, frozen work perfectly fine.

I made one substitution in this dish, and that was exchanging figs for dates, which I did as we had heaps of dates in the Ildhafn supply cupboard that needed using up, and because Scappi often uses these as an appropriate substitution in his recipes.

I used equal quantities of beans, onions, dates, and apples, chopping the latter three ingredients to be equivalent in size to a broad bean. I used a small handful of sage for every 500g of broad beans. In addition, for the "good herbs" that Martino calls for, I called on the same herbs I used in the pomi sdengosi (mint, marjoram, parsley), and used about the same ratio (1:1:2), to come out with another two handfuls of herbs to each 500g of beans. As far as spices went, I used some mace, cinnamon, and cloves.

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Composte di spinaci - spinach

This was really just to add another vege, and a plain one, to the offerings. I just cooked fresh spinach for this, with a little salt, and it really helped to balance out some of the richness and sugar of the other dishes. I should have researched it but I didn't.

That being said, I have since come across some references to compost and salad recipes that I need to chase up.

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Anatre domestiche con tortellini & agliata - Duck in brine, served hot with garlic sauce & tortellini with capon flesh


Refer to Appendix 1.v for the recipe.

There were two sticking points with this recipe: boneless beef marrow and boiled veal udder, neither of which I had access to and neither of which I could think of an appropriate substitution for (nor could anyone that I asked). In place of the beef marrow I used beef dripping, and in place of the veal udder I used butter. These two items, in addition to the chicken fat, are mainly used to cook the chicken breasts in, and since the breasts are supposed to be boiled in this concoction, it needed to be something that would convert to liquid. This had the end result of making the chicken very rich in taste, however, where the recipe calls for "everything" to be ground up I actually discarded a large portion of the combined fats, leaving just enough to provide a moist coating to the chicken pieces before they were ground.

For the creamy cheese I just used cream cheese, and allowed one 250g pottle for one quantity of the filling.

Scappi is quite specific in this recipe as to the quantities of almost everything, including the herbs and spices, so I followed his measurements but doubled the quantity I made. This would have been enough for a feast of 40-50 people, if someone who has made pasta before and is adept at shaping tortellini made them.

"enough" saffron, as there is no way of knowing what he would consider enough to be. I put in a decent teaspoonful for the double mixture. People assure me that they could taste the saffron quite strongly (in a pleasant way), however, this is one of the things that I cannot tell (due to my lack of sense of smell), so I have to take their word for it.

The pasta dough is unusual in that it contains no eggs. However, it makes up nicely to a good pasta dough. I started by melting the butter, then added the other liquids before adding the sugar (I was a bit wussy on the sugar front, and only added a couple of tablespoonsful, but I am not sure people would have enjoyed the pasta as much if it was much sweeter), and finally enough flour until it actually became a kneadable dough.

I had intended to have the tortellini prepared ahead of time, unfortunately however, the filling was the one item I left behind when heading to site, so these and the duck were consequently one of the last items served.

I had never made pasta or pasta filling before, or attempted to put pasta filling into pasta and then cook it, so that was a really good learning experience. The end result was quite edible, rich, and moreish, but I would really like to get in some more practice at making pasta, and learn how to shape pasta better as really what we ended up serving looked like ravioli rather than tortellini.

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Duck in brine

Refer to Appendix for the recipe.

This was really quite straightforward. I was cooking two ducks, so I put them together in a pot, covered them with water, added a couple of teaspoons of salt and then some more, and set them to boil. Once they were boiling, I turned them down to simmer for a few hours, then turned them off altogether but left them in their water so that they stayed hot until serving. This was a really effective method of cooking them, unfortunately it made presentation somewhat more difficult as the meat was literally falling off the bone. Quite a lot of people found it hard to believe it was duck, and those same people tended to follow up by saying that they had never liked duck so much before.

I had a bit of a surprise when I opened the bags with the ducks in - they still had heads and feet attached. However, a little work with a cunning cleaver, and I was able to do a very entertaining dance with the liberated duck feet. Well, at least I found it entertaining. The weaker-stomached were not so sure. Having now cooked the duck in this way, I understand why Scappi says to remove the wings as well as the neck and feet - once they were cooked, they there was no meat left on them and they just looked rather pathetic really.

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Violet sauce

Refer to Appendix 2.iv for Martino's recipe.

I tried this first directly from Martino's recipe, then I read The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy #101 p167 and found that I had redacted it exactly the same as the authors had there, except for a slight variation in the amount of bread added. On the day, Lord Androu le Greyn was helping me, and he makes the best sauce so I asked him to make it.

Incidentally, when I first trialled this recipe I made my own must from fresh red grapes. I also bought a litre of McCoy's dark grape juice (made with 100% fresh reconstituted grapes), to compare the end product. Homemade must is exactly the same as the stuff McCoy's sells. The difference is that half a kilo of grapes costs more and produces less must than paying $2.47 for a litre from McCoy's.

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Cipollata - Onions

Refer to Appendix 1.vii for the recipe.

Ludwig von Regensburg kindly peeled the 3kg of onions for me that I was using. I followed Scappi exactly, except for the amount of sugar he calls for, which I decided to halve, as there was already plenty of sugar going on in most of the other dishes, and I did not think a modern palate could handle onions quite that sweet. The onions got eaten, but several people commented on their sweetness, so I was glad not to have added the extra sugar.

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Secondo et ultimo servitio di Credenza (Second and final serving from the Sideboard)

Almond torte - Marzipan Torte

Refer to Appendix 2.v for Martino's recipe.

I first trialled this recipe using the redaction in The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy, #135 pp203-205, while I was waiting for Martino and Scappi to arrive from Amazon and getting nervously closer to the feast date with still no sign of the books. Their redaction worked just fine, so when Martino arrived I read him, but stuck to the redaction from The Medieval Kitchen. I discovered that the rice flour wafers cook up nicely on a sandwich press.

Having done a trial run on the torte, I discovered that if I used the magic word "marzipan" a lot of people either refused to try it or said "I'll try a little bit, but I don't really like marzipan" and therefore treated it suspiciously. Once I decided to call it an "almond"torte instead, people had no hesitations about eating it. A couple did ask "it's not marzipan, is it?" I lied through my teeth and told them it wasn't, since what they were thinking of as marzipan was quite a different beast to this torte. Funnily enough, they liked it.

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Refer to Appendix 1.viii for the recipe.

These are essentially meringues. I did trial the recipe ahead of time, and decided to use three egg whites as this seemed like a reasonable quantity to trial the recipe with - not too much and not too little. Three egg whites turns out to hold about a kilo of icing sugar. And, as it turns out, three egg whites turns into about 80-100 zuccarini.

I followed Scappi's suggestion and added about a tablespoon of rosewater to the egg whites, which gave the zuccarini a nice flavour.

The recipe calls for them to look like ciambelle, or little rings, so the paste needs to be stiff enough that you can pick it up and mold it with your fingers into the appropriate shape.

At first I was dubious about brushing them with beeswax, however, I am told by those with a sense of smell that allows them to taste such subtle differences that it adds a very delicate flavour to them. I used yellow beeswax as I already had that and did not have access to refined beeswax.

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Quince Jellies

Scappi serves these in some of his extant menus, however, on this occasion I used the redaction from The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy pp215-216. That redaction is actually taken from a fifteenth century French recipe, but this is one of the things I made while waiting for books to arrive. These were very popular.

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Amandole et pistacchi

Pistachios are mentioned by Scappi as being served in the credenza courses, however, since we already had a lot of almonds in the Ildhafn supplies, I served both.

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Pere di piu sorti - Assorted pears

Seasonal fruit is a common feature of the final credenza courses, and since pears were in season I served three varieties cut into slices.

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Conditi, et confettioni a beneplacito

These are commonly served at the end of a meal in many sources, Scappi certainly unswervingly serves them as part of the final credenza course. I would like to learn to make my own, however, on this occasion I bought a selection from my local Indian store. The Indian shop even had silver coloured ones, which looked very nice. A few people liked these, the rest of us agreed that they tasted like soap. At some stage, I want to play around with making my own conditi and confettioni.

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Appendix 1:Recipes from The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570): L'arte et prudenza d'un maestro cuoco

i) p533 V.237


To prepare dainty biscuit morsels

"Get two pounds of white breadcrumb and bake it a second time. Grind it in a mortar and put it through a sieve so it becomes like flour. For every pound of that sieved substance, add as much again of fine flour, two and a half pounds of finely sieved sugar and four ounces of leaven ground in a mortar and moistened with fifteen fresh eggs; then everything should be mixed together with three-quarters of an ounce of raw anise ground into powder and four ounces of rosewater. When everything is thoroughly mixed and beaten together so that it looks like fritter batter, let it sit for two hours in a warm place. Beat it again, adding in four more eggs and an ounce of salt; then let it sit for another hour. Then have a buttered tourte pan and put the filling into it so it is a finger\rquote s width in depth. Put that into an oven that is not too hot. Leave it there until it is dry. Remove it and with a sharp knife cut it into little long rectangles, as wide or narrow as you like. Just as soon as they have been cut up, put them immediately into marzipan tourte pans, set out apart with paper under them, and put them back into the oven with a very moderate heat. Leave them there for half an hour, turning them several times until they have firmed up. In order to keep them white, keep them covered with rag paper. In that filling instead of wheat flour you could use the same amount of starch flour, though with more leaven and more eggs. You can also make biscuits like that with fine flour, eggs, sugar, coriander flour and musk. And instead of flour you can do it with double-baked white bread, powdered, eggs, sugar and leaven. And when you put them into the tourte pan to cook them, instead of greasing the pan you put wafers or host wafers under them.

If you want to do it differently, see the Book titled On Convalescents, separate from this Fifth Book, at Recipe 142."

ii) p587, VI.140


To prepare small ciambelle with eggs.

"Get ten fresh eggs and six ounces of fine sugar and make a dough of them with as much fine flour as the eggs can hold; the dough should be thick. Knead it for an hour, taking care not to add any flour when you knead it or when you make them, but rather greasing your hand with almond oil or Greek wine. When they are made, put them into boiling water and leave them boiling until they float up. Take them out with a holed spoon, put them into a basket to let them drain. When they have cooled, set them out in tourte pans of a big enough size, with edges that are not too high, and that have nothing on their bottom; arrange the ciambelle regularly in the pans. Bake them in a moderate oven which is hotter above than beneath. And before you take them out of the oven, make the rosette on them with a feather dipped in fresh egg white. Serve them however you like."

iii) p136 II.7


To make Venetian bresaola of grilled beef ribs.

"Get a rack of ribs of a fat ox or cow, of mature age, slicing it apart rib by rib. With the flat of a large knife press each of them, spreading them out a little, and beat them with the spine of that knife on one side and the other: that is done so that the meat will be softer and more tender. Then they are splashed with rose vinegar, and sprinkled with pepper, cinnamon, salt, fennel flour, or coriander. Pile them up on one another under pressure for six hours, more or less, depending on the time you have. Cook them slowly on a grill, turning them over occasionally, with a slice of pork fat on each so they do not dry out. When they are done, they need to be served with a garnish of vinegar, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg on top. You can do the same with a rack of ribs from a wether, a weaned calf and a suckling or free-ranging calf."

iv) pp360-361 III.229


To braise eggplants.

"Get eggplants that are not too ripe or too bitter, and clean off the purplish skin they have - although you do find white ones - and cut them lengthwise into several pieces. Let them steep for half an hour; discard that water and set them to boil in a pot in fresh water that is lightl salted. When they are well cooked, take them out and let them drain on a table. Have an earthenware baking dish or a tourte pan ready with oil; carefully flour the pieces and make a layer of them in the pan. Get beaten mint, sweet marjoram, burnet and parsley, and beaten fresh fennel tips or ground dry fennel along with crushed garlic cloves, and scatter all that over the layer of eggplant, as well as enough pepper, cinnamon, cloves and salt; splash verjuice on that and sprinkle it with sugar. Repeat, making up two or three layers. Cook it the way a tourte is done. When it is done, serve it hot in dishes with the broth over it. If it is not a fasting day you can put slices of provatura or ordinary cheese and grated bread between each layer; and, instead of oil, use butter."

v) p230 II.177


To prepare tortellini with capon flesh.

"In a mortar grind the flesh of two capon breasts that have first been boiled with a pound of boneless beef marrow, three ounces of chicken fat, and three ounces of boiled veal udder; when everything is ground up, add in a pound of creamy cheese, eight ounces of sugar, one ounce of cinnamon, half an ounce of pepper, enough saffron, half an ounce of cloes and nutmeg together, four ounces of very clean currant raisins, a handful of mint, sweet marjoram and other common aromatic herbs together, four fresh egg yolks and two with their whites. When the mixture is so made up that it is not too salty, get a rather thin sheet of dough made of flour, rosewater, salt, butter, sugar and warm water, and out of that dough, with a cutting wheel or dough cutter, cut out large or small tortellini. Cook them in a good fat broth of chicken or some other meat. Serve them with cheese, sugar and cinnamon over top. In the same way you can do it with the flesh of spit-roasted turkey hens and peacocks, and of pheasants and partridges and other commonly eaten fowl, and also of veal loin roasted on a spit with kidney-fat."

vi) p211 II.p145


To boil poultry-yard geese and ducks and do them in various dishes.

"Old poultry-yard ducks are very tender between October and Christmastide, which is when their proper season is. They have to be plucked, either dry or in water, and be left to hang undrawn for three days, more or less, depending on the relative coolness or warmth of the place. Draw them, wash them, remove their neck, wings and feet. If you want to stuff them with grated cheese and eggs along with their fat and common spices, that is a possibility. Cook them in salted water or in a meat broth. When they are done, serve them hot with garlic sauce or some other sauce in dishes. If you want you can also cover them with macaroni or tortellini, or else with rice.

If you want to stew them, cut them up into pieces and, when those are washed, put them into a pot with verjuice, prosciutto cut up small or fine saveloy, and some of the condiments in the previous recipe ground up with a little saffron. Cook them with the pot sealed tightly. They have to be served hot, covered with their broth.

In all of those ways you can do up a domestic duck, and a Muscovy duck, which is bigger and darker than our local one. From the breast meat of a goose or duck you can make all those dishes that are made from a turkey cock in Recipe 141.

In the above ways you can also do a swan, which is much bigger than a goose, has a longer neck, extremely white plumage and a black beak. Many of the above wildfowl are found on the banks of the Po. In the winter, after they have been hung, they can be roasted on a spit the way a crane is done in Recipe 142."

vii) p358 III.224


To prepare cipollata.

"Get old, white, sweet onions and parboil them in water. Take them out and pound them with knives. When that is done, saute them in very good oil; for every two pounds of beaten onion put in a pound of Milanese almonds that have been made into milk - which milk should have become four pounds - along with a pound and a half of sugar, half an ounce of pepper, an ounce of ground cinnamon, a quarter-ounce of ground nutmeg and three ounces of rosewater. Cook that mixture in a casserole pot over a moderate fire, adding in a little verjuice. When it is done and is rather firm, serve it in dishes dressed with sugar and cinnamon.

You can make tourtes with that mixture by adding raisins and beaten fine herbs. It has to be served hot."

viii) p587 VI.139


To prepare zuccarini that look like ciambelle.

"Get fine sugar that is reduced to powder.Get beaten fresh egg whites and put them into a shallow basin along with as much of that sugar as the eggs can hold - that is, so they form a thick paste. With that paste make up ciambelle, which you put into a tourte pan. They should be sprinkled with flour and brushed with white wax. Bake them with little heat under them and somewhat more above. They need little cooking because the egg whites swell up in a lively way and end up light. Along with those ingredients you can put in a little rosewater or musk water if you like."

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Appendix 2: Recipes from The Art of Cooking: The First Modern Cookery Book

i) p117 Salted mushrooms in the Geonese style


"Take the mushrooms and soak in lukewarm water for two or three days. Change the water every day. Then boil until well cooked and let them dry for a little while. Cut them into morsels half the size of a chestnut. Then fry in good oil. Then take a clove of garlic and a half of one of the mushrooms; crush together in a mortar with an amount of bread crust equivalent to a chestnut, and a little verjuice. If it is too strong, add some water and let [...] some of the oil in a pan. Then add this sauce and fry together and serve. These [...] how people like them, and they should be seasoned with fresh pepper."

ii) p126 Nut-stuffed cabbage


"Take the hazelnuts and some good PIacentine cheese, two cloves of garlic crushed together with the other ingredients, good herbs, well-crushed marjoram, mint, and parsley with walnuts, then take two eggs that have been beaten, finely chopped veal fat with pepper, and saffron, and season generously with pepper; use this paste to make a loaf; then take some cabbage leaves, as they say in Lombardy, and wet this with warm water; then enclose the loaf [...] in different parts of the leaves, so that nothing can spill out; then cook with other cabbage leaves and serve as soon as it is done cooking."

iii) p66 Fried fava beans


"Take some fava beans, and sage, and onions, and figs, and some apples, as above, and some good herbs as well, and mix together, and fry in a pan with oil; and after you have finished preparing this fry, remove and top with some good spices."

"As above" refers to p65, Crushed Fava Beans

"Take some crushed fava beans that you have picked over; clean and wash well before placing over heat. When they begin to boil, pour off their water, add enough water to cover by one finger, and season with salt to taste. Simmer, covered, over hot coals away from the flame; cook thoroughly until the water has been absorbed and then crush in a mortar. Then return to heat in a pot.

Take a finely chopped onion and fry in a pot with some good oil, being careful not to burn. Take a bit of sage and some figs or some finely chopped apples, and add to the oil with the onions, and heat well. Then serve the crushed fava beans in bowls topped with some good spices."

iv) p79 Violet sauce


"Follow the order in the recipe above, except it is not necessary to add broth, but take some red grapes and crush well by hand in a pot or other container; simmer for a half hour; then strain this must, which you will use to thin the garlic sauce; and the same can be done with cherries. This garlic sauce can be used in times of meat or fish, as you wish."

"As above" refers to p79, White Garlic Sauce

"Take some almonds that have been carefully peeled and crush; when they are half-crushed, add however much garlic you like, and crush together adding some cool water so that they do not purge their oil. Then take some bread white and soak it in lean meat broth, or fish broth if on a fast day; and you can serve this garlic sauce to suit all seasons, fat and lean, as you wish."

v) p87 Almond torte


"Peel the almonds well and crush as much as possible, because they will not pass through a strainer otherwise. Note that in order to make the almonds whiter, more tasty, and sweeter in the mouth, they should be soaked in cool water for a day and a night or even more, so that they will peel themselves when you squeeze them with your fingers. When you crush them, wet them with a bit of rose water so that they do not purge their oil. If you really want to make it good, take an equal weight of sugar as of almonds, that is, a libra of the one and a libra of the other, or more or less, as you wish, and add also an ounce or two of good rose water; and incorporate all these things together well. Then take some wafers, also called nevole, made with sugar, and wet them with rose water; dissolve them in the bottom of a pan and add this mixture or filling on top. Once you have sprinkled and spread the filling over the wafers, wet it again with a little rose water, and top with some good powdered sugar. When you have spread the entire surface with the sugar, cook it in the oven or over a flame, just as with the other tortes, slowly, being very careful to apply moderate heat and checking it often so that it does not burn. Remember that, similarly, marzipan tortes should be short and thin rather than tall and thick."

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Appendix 3: Shannon's Baked Eggplant Recipe



  • 2 x medium-size, ripe but firm eggplants
  • Salt
  • A large handful each of fresh mint, sweet marjoram, and fennel tips
  • Three large handfuls (two shop-bought bunches) of fresh parsley
  • 3-4 t (generous helpings please) precrushed garlic, or 4-5 cloves, crushed and finely chopped
  • 3t ground cinnamon
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2-1t ground pepper
  • 1/2-1t cloves
  • Butter - about 50g
  • Flour - about 1C
  • 3T (or really heaped teaspoons) sugar
  • 3/4C verjuice or cider vinegar
  • 1 large or two small stale white bread rolls, grated
  • Cheese, sliced

To make:

Peel eggplants, slice lengthwise into three or four pieces each, soak in cold water half an hour. Drain, transfer to a saucepan, and bring to a boil in fresh, lightly salted water, cook until well done. Drain off water, and leave eggplant to finish draining on a clean tea towel.

Coarsely chop all the herbs, and mix together with the garlic. Mix all the spices together in a separate bowl.

Get a lidded baking dish (deep, and about 20-25cm diameter) ready, by chopping butter into thin layers and placing evenly over base of dish.

Put some flour into a shallow bowl, and carefully coat each piece of eggplant on both sides with the flour, on the way to the baking dish.

Lay one layer of eggplant into the baking dish, sprinkle over generously with herbs, then with the spice mix, the sugar, and 1/3 of the verjuice or vinegar, being careful to distribute everything evenly. Top with a handful of the grated bread, and a layer of cheese slices. You should have enough eggplant to make two more layers on top of the first. Finish with the cheese layer, then put the lid on the pot, and cook at 180 degrees celsius for 30-40 minutes.


Como, Martino, Ballerini, Luigi (ed.), Parzen, Jeremy (trans.), The Art of Cooking: The First Modern Cookery Book (Berkeley, University of California Press, 2005)

Scappi, Bartolomeo, Scully, Terence (trans.), The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570): L'arte et prudenza d'un maestro cuoco(Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2008)

Redon, Odile, Sabban, Francoise, Serventi, Silvano, Schneider, Edward (trans.), The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1998)