First, a survey. It would really help me out if you all filled this out. It is short, and hopefully fun, but It will help with some ideas I have had: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/QZFHSHB
Next up, I have participated in two crossover shows on the Agora Podcast Network Feed. This feed is dedicated to shows that involve multiple members of the community, and it is a lot of fun. This month being October, the feed has been used for spoooooky stories, originating from the home regions of the Agora Network podcasters. Being geniuses, the powers that be at Agora Podcast Network World Headquarters have dubbed this series "Agoraphobia."
Heh. Agoraphobia. That cracks me up every time.
I provided a segment discussing the terrifying history of the apple tree that ate Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island. It is located in the fourth installment of Agoraphobia. If you are into spooky stuff, check out Agoraphobia. If you are not into spooky things, at least check out my installment!
In addition to Agoraphobia, the Agora Podcast Network Feed hosts The Exchange, a show generally hosted by friend of the show Thomas Daly. This interview show highlights the podcaster of the month at Agora, and this month it is me! Very exciting. Tom and I had a great chat. I think you will all enjoy it.
you can check out both Agoraphobia and The Exchange at the Agora Podcast Network's feed, located here.
OK, now to the meat of this post. So to speak. Today's episode was inspired by a request from Knight of the Realm David Von Weasleballs, who asked for information about medieval food along with a recipe. The following recipe is by me, but reflects what I have learned about medieval cookery for the peasantry. As is discussed in the episode, most people only had pots, were desperately poor, and had no time for fancy cookin. So many relied upon a sort of amorphous porridge based on a stock, cracked grains, and whatever else they had to hand. This was simmered all day and was eaten over thick sliced of dense, multi-grain bread called trenchers.
Lest this sound horrible, my experience is that any dish is what you make of it, and variations of this kind of porridge were enjoyed by all classes. Indeed, porridge in various forms is a key staple in most peasant diets anywhere agriculture is a main source of calories. I have been experimenting over the last few months with home-brewed Congee, a rice porridge from southeast asia, which is what I used as the basis of this recipe, but I consulted authentic surviving medieval cookbooks to ensure that the congee was not too far off from the genuine article. By the way, huge shout out to listener Leslie who helped me track down sources for these cookbooks. I consulted a bunch of sources but I think for the purposes of this blog post this link will be the most pertinent. Keep in mind that there were many regional variations on medieval cuisine. I focused on French cuisine, but at the level of porridge the only real difference is the types of ingredients locally available.
On to the recipe itself. Given what I discuss in the episode regarding the Colombian exchange and industrial farming, it can be difficult to get a really authentic medieval food experience. One thing I forgot to mention is that carrots as we know them were not bred until the early modern period. So use parsnips if you can get them, but look. the idea here is to get a flavor, and idea of what food was sort of like. Not necessarily to kill ourselves making everything spot on. In that spirit I am recommending the use of a pressure cooker to cut the cooking time from roughly all damn day to between an hour and a half hour. Obviously they did not have pressure cookers in the middle ages. If you want a more authentic experience use a slow cooker, or put a dutch oven over a low fire in your back yard and have your children watch it while you do backbreaking labor. If they burn it they don't get any.
To complete this train of thought, the ingredients listen are more like guidelines. you can use anything you have lying around to flavor this. If you make your own stock, try using as little salt as possible, since it was pretty expensive back in the day. The things that are kind of important are the proportions of grain and split peas to liquid. The peas and the grains are going to explode and thicken the broth here, which you want, but if it is overly thick it will burn. I say this from personal experience. It is better to over thin this at least until you open the pressure cooker. Ok here is the recipe:
⅓ cup of any three of the following (you can get all of these online or at a hippie grocery store, but even your most milquetoast megamart should have three. Be sure to check the foreign food aisle. For some reason barley is often put with the dry beans in the Goya section.):
Steel Cut Oats or Whole Oats
7 cups of stock, ideally chicken stock and ideally home made but I am not judging. I do this with store bought all the time.
¼ cup split peas
1 cup shredded cabbage (optional, see note)
1 Carrot roughly chopped into bite sized pieces, or parsnips if you can get them.
The meat from half a chicken, picked and shredded
1 Turnip, cleaned and chopped
1 Onion, diced, or a leek, in thin rings.
4 cloves of garlic, just kind of smashed up a bit
1 bunch of sage
6 bay leaves
1 bunch thyme
1 bunch wood sorrell, aka the clover with the yellow flowers. If you can’t get sorrell, a splash of lemon juice.
½ cup of non waxed cheese rind, or else some kind of hard cheese.
1 6 quart pressure cooker
1 Tb + 1 pat butter
Salt to taste
Gather all the herbs and tie into a bundle, or place in cheese cloth. Set aside.
Place any of the grains you have chosen to use which are whole into a food processor. So, you probably don’t need to add the oats, but most of the others probably come whole. You need to crack them to speed the cooking, but you don’t want powder. Pulse the whole grains a few times, just so most of the grains are visibly cracked.
Melt the 1 TB butter over medium heat in the pressure cooker pot and let it foam out. Add in the onions and saute for five minutes. Add the carrots or parsnips, turnips, and garlic. Saute with the onion for another five minutes. Make sure you have your stock and herbs on hand. Turn up the heat to high. Add the grains. Stir around for a minute or two until you smell a nutty smell. Stirr for an additional minute. You don’t want them to burn, just get some extra flavor. Add the herb bundle and the stock. Stir to make sure nothing is stuck to the bottom of the pot. Consult your manual, and make sure that you have not overfilled the pot.
Cover and set the pressure to its higher setting. Once the pressure cooker comes to full steam, turn down to low (to maintain pressure but not boil everything off) and allow to cook for 20 minutes. After the time has elapsed, turn off the heat and allow to cool gradually. Do the steam dump if you are in a hurry but the longer process makes for a better final product I think.
When the pressure has released, open the pressure cooker, and put the heat back on low.
Cabbage: Many people like cabbage stewed. This is traditional. if you want to do it like that toss in the cabbage with the veggies before using the pressure cooker. Many others hate cabbage. If you hate cabbage, just leave it out, though it was a very common survival food. I like cabbage in the manner described hereafter:
In a small pan melt and foam the pat of butter. Add the cabbage and quickly saute over a high heat until you see flecks of brown. Add into the stew along with the chicken. Warm through and Adjust seasoning. Serve. If you want to be super authentic, get one of those hippietastic multi-grain breads and put a slice on the bottom of a bowl.
Hopefully you all enjoyed that! Finally, here is the episode: