Cooking medieval – history tastes good

Sent-SoviAs you may know, I translated the Spanish medieval novel of chivalry Amadis of Gaul into English. (If you’ve never heard of it, here’s why.)

That project sparked an interest into all things medieval, including cooking, since I love to cook. Here are some medieval Spanish recipes for a simple meal you can make at home. Remember to include bread, olives, and wine on your table to make it authentic.

Rabbit a la medieval

This recipe comes from Toledo. Rabbit is still common in Spanish supermarkets, but you can substitute chicken.

salt to taste
a handful of parsley
two spoons of vinegar
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
olive oil
one rabbit (or chicken), cut in quarters or pieces

Crush the garlic, salt, and parsley in a mortar, and add vinegar and oil to make a paste. Spread over the rabbit, and bake in a 180C/350F oven for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Al-Andalus onions

Note the Moorish influence.

medium-sized onions
saffron
ground cinnamon, nutmeg, or other sweet spices (I recommend ginger)
butter
honey or sugar, if desired

Peel the onions and cut a cross at the root end. Arrange them in a cooking pan next to each other, but not crowded. Sprinkle with salt, saffron, and spices. Cover with water and add a little butter. Cover and cook over a slow fire for about 20 minutes until the onions are tender and the water has evaporated. Uncover, add the honey or sugar, raise the fire, and carefully caramelize the onions.

Almond pudding (Menjar blanc)

This comes from the Llibre de Sent Soví, a 14th-century Catalan cookbook (see photo). Be aware that the almond milk in this recipe may be different from the almond milk you usually find in the supermarket today. You can also substitute a liter/quart of cow milk for the almond milk. Sancho Panza liked chicken breasts with cooked with menjar blanc, according to Don Quixote de la Mancha, Chapter LXII.

400g/2 cups blanched and skinned almonds
1 liter/quart boiling water
1 cinnamon stick
1 piece of lemon peel, yellow part only
200g/1 cup sugar
6 tbsp. rice flour (or cornstarch)

Grind or finely chop the almonds. Place in a bowl and pour boiling water over them, let sit for at least 10 minutes, and pour through a cheesecloth, squeezing it tight. Put in a saucepan, add cinnamon, lemon peel, and sugar. Simmer for a few minutes. Dissolve the flour in a little liquid and add, stirring constantly until thickened, and simmer a few minutes more. Pour into a mold and chill.

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