“In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” This simple rhyme has long aided schoolchildren nationwide in remembering the year that European explorers ‘discovered’ the Americas. Discussions about the explorations of the Vikings aside, 1492 is the first time the ‘Old World’ (Europe) really started interacting with the ‘New World’ (the Americas) in an incontrovertible way. The simple children’s rhyme fails to grasp the true enormity of what would become the first empire on which the sun never set (a title most commonly used to refer to the later British empire). Christopher Columbus himself was Italian but he sailed at the behest of the newly-founded Spanish monarchy (shortly after they rousted the last of the Moors from the Iberian peninsula) and claimed the lands he found for the burgeoning Spanish Empire. Fast forward most of a century and Spain not only controlled a large chunk of the New World, it had holdings spread across the Pacific and even parts of Europe. These diverse holdings, as well as the various cultures which had previously invaded the Iberian peninsula, helped shape Spanish culture and cuisine.
The year is 1572, Manila was recently captured and made the seat of the Spanish Captaincy General of the Philippines, the last remnants of the Incan empire have fallen to Spanish conquistadors, and we, my friends, are celebrating these great victories.
For this feast I have prepared many dishes both familiar and exotic to delight your palate and showcase the bounty of the Spanish Empire. If you are so inclined, these pages contain more than just the recipes I used, but also a taste of the history of the kingdoms of Spain and the great lands under their dominion.
A Brief History of Spain
The 1500s were a particularly eventful time in Spanish history. If you want to know all the gritty details, there are a number of books on the subject. I will try to hit the highlights with particular emphasis on the effects on Spanish cuisine.
Spain at this time was not the single country it is today, but rather a collection of semi-unified kingdoms: Aragon, Castille, Leon, and Navarre. I will however continue referring to “Spain” as it is less of a mouthful. The first glimmerings of a united Spain was under the reign of Isabella I and Ferdinand II. The union of the crown of Castille (Isabella) and the crown of Aragon (Ferdinand) through marriage is considered the foundation of the Spanish Monarchy. Under their reign the Reconquista (reclaiming the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslims) was completed with the surrender of the city of Granada on 2 January 1492. It is from the Alhambra (which was the palace of the Emirate of Granada) that Columbus was sent on his fateful voyages. After Isabella’s death in 1504, the crown of Castille passed to their daughter, Joanna, and her husband Philip.
Son of Holy Roman Emperor Maxmilian I, Philip I was the first Habsburg ruler in any of the Iberian kingdoms. He died after only a couple of years leaving Ferdinand II (who was still king of Aragon and also of Naples and the Indies) as regent for his son Charles and wife Joanna (who was claimed to be mentally ill). Charles was heir to the Spanish kingdoms (including their holdings in Italy and the New World) as well as the Habsburg lands (modern day Netherlands, Belgium, and parts of France) and later the Holy Roman Empire (which at the time encompassed modern-day Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, Switzerland, and parts of France and Italy). The borders, of course, were in near-constant flux due to clashes with Ottomans and the French, and ideological differences with the Protestant German princes. The union of so much of Europe under a single ruler was short-lived but does perhaps account for the inclusion in a Spanish cookbook of the time (Libre del Coch) of recipes that originated outside of Spain. The prevalence of Italian cheeses in the cookbook is likely a result of Naples, Sicily, Sardenia, and Milan being under the dominion of the rulers of Aragon and Castille on and off since the 13-1400s.
Going back earlier in the history of the peninsula to understand the formation of Aragon and Castille, we start with the Romans. Other cultures (among them the Greeks and Phoenicians) explored Iberia prior but the Romans were the first major influencer on the culture and politics of Spain. From the end of the 3rd century BC to the 4th century AD, Roman interests dominated life in Hispania (as they called it). They introduced olives and wine grapes as well as irrigation techniques and aqueducts, among other technological and artistic advances. As with Rome itself, Hispania fell to the invading Visigoths. Little changed culturally during the 3 centuries the Visigoths ruled Iberia as they had largely adopted Roman culture before their arrival. The next major upheaval in culture in Spain came with the arrival of Islam in 711 and the establishment of al-Andalus 5 years later that encompassed almost all of the peninsula. Ruled by the Umayyad dynasty even after they were ousted from the caliphate in Baghdad by the Abbasids, al-Andalus had a profound effect on the culture and cuisine of the Iberian peninsula. Trade routes were established with the rest of the Islamic world by the 9th century allowing for the import or many foods which are now staples of the Spanish diet: citrus fruits, fig, almond, sugar cane, rice, and saffron. From a meat perspective, the Muslims brought with them domesticated cattle, sheep, horses, donkeys, chickens, peacocks, and doves.
The mountainous northernmost portion of the Iberian Peninsula escaped the advance of Islam and it is from there that the Christians launched the Reconquista, a 7-century long effort to reconquer Spain from the Muslims. After the Berber revolt weakened Islamic rule, the Christians managed to push as far south as the Duero River, east to Basque country, and west to Galicia. These semi-united Christian states started out as one kingdom that as it expanded was divided among the heirs of the kings (and sometimes re-consolidated by the most ambitious of the heirs). These kingdoms included Leon, Castile (which eventually joined with Leon to form Castile-Leon or just Castile), Barcelona (later called Catalonia), Navarre (annexed to Castile in 1515), and Aragon (which later subsumed Catalonia through marriage).
Given their location at the joining of Mediterranean and Atlantic, it is no surprise that both Spain and Portugal were masters of the seas. Other than a brief period in their history when they were ruled by the same person (Charles’s son, Philip II), they have been in direct competition since the Reconquista reclaimed the lands of Portugal from al-Andalus. The Treaty of Tordesillas nominally split the world between Portugal and Spain in terms of rights of discovery (aka conquest). Signed in 1494, the treaty established a meridian line in the Atlantic approximately halfway between the Portuguese-owned Cape Verde Islands and the islands discovered by Christopher Columbus for Spain as the dividing line. Portugal had rights to everything east of that line (including part of modern-day Brazil) and Spain everything to the West (the rest of South America and all of North America, though it was not known at the time how extensive those lands were). The Treaty of Zaragoza signed in 1529 established the anti-meridian in the Pacific to fully divide the world in half between Spain and Portugal. It is perhaps worthy of note that: a) these treaties did not apply to the rest of Europe who did whatever they pleased and b) the Philippines, which were colonized by the Spanish, were in Portugal’s hemisphere; fortunately Portugal was primarily interested in sources of spices (of which the Philippines were not) and didn’t care.
Although Spain is able to grow sufficient food to feed its people, the geography often made it difficult to transport goods from one part of Spain to another. Certain crops such as wheat and barley, therefore, were easier to import from other locations such as France (which like Spain is a term of convenience) via the sea. Another primary import was fish which were not found in local waters. In return, Spain exported local fish varieties (well preserved of course via drying, smoking, or salt), along with wines (both red and white), vinegar, and a variety of crops not grown elsewhere in Europe: citrus fruits, apples, figs, dates, raisins, and nuts (especially almonds). With the conquest of “New Spain”, exotic new foods were imported as well. Among these were cacao, vanilla, and agave.
Spain’s Overseas Empire
The many lands conquered by Spain during the exploration phase of their history were as varied as they were spread out across the globe. In the Americas, what started as a few islands found by Columbus soon spread to most of the rest of the Carribean. The Aztecs in Mexico fell to the Conquistadors in 1521, followed by the bulk of the Inca in 1532, and the last remnants of the Inca Empire in 1572.
These lands in “New Spain” contributed to the coffers of Spain (and thus the rest of Europe) through their rich deposits of gold and silver, which were the primary exports. Foodstuffs which were native to the area (such as cocoa, vanilla, and agave) as well as those that were introduced by the Spanish (sugar) were exported as well.
Spain’s Pacific holdings, on the other hand, were much less lucrative. None of them were significant producers of spices which would have allowed Spain to compete with Portugal and the Middle East spice trade. The Philippines, which were the largest of the Spanish holdings in the Pacific, were valuable primarily for their trade links to China which predated the Spanish conquest and continued under Spanish rule. Trade goods on the Spanish galleons generally one direction around the globe to avoid Portuguese-controlled waters: (China)-Philippines-Mexico-Spain.
Planning the Meal
When planning a meal it is helpful to consider what culinary sources are available: those that have both survived to the present time and been translated to English. There are a few Spanish cookbooks from the medieval period. One, Libre del Coch, is closest in time to 1572 and is thus the predominant source I used.
The oldest known edition of Libre del Coch was printed in Barcelona (in the Kingdom of Aragon) in 1520. It was written in Catalan by Master Robert, cook of the King of Naples, known as Robert de Nola. It is likely a copy of a cookbook written before 1491 as it does not account for changes to Lenten diet allowed in Spain with contributions to the crusades. Additionally, the book is dedicated to King Ferdinand of Naples who ruled from 1458-1494. It shares many recipes with an earlier cookbook from the same region: Libre de Sent Sovi which was written by an unknown author in 1324. Both Libre del Coch and Libre de Sent Sovi are representative of Catalan/Argonese cooking and are not necessarily representative of the culinary tradition of the other parts of Spain. For those that are interested, there is another cookbook, The Book of Cooking in Maghreb and Andalus in the era of Almohads (modernly known as the Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook), which as its title suggests, details the cuisine of the area still until Islamic control when the recipes were written in the 1200s. It is an excellent book with many delicious recipes (some of which can be found here: Andalusian Feast Documentation).
The introductory parts of Libre del Coch include some information as to the order of service:
“First the fruit, and after it a pottage; and then roast, then another pottage and then cooked [things, like stews]; unless it is manjar blanc [blancmange], for this pottage is usually given at the beginning, after the fruit. Some lords eat at first all that is stewed, and then all that is roasted. If there are frying pan fruits [cheese or fruit fritters] it must be given afterwards, as it were, and then the other fruit. And this is the way and manner in the service, according to the custom of the court of the king my lord”
Records of the Bishop of Valencia (a city approximately 200 miles south along the coast from Barcelona) around the same time period as Libre del Coch substantiate that fresh fruits were served at the beginning of the meal and adds that the end of meal often included cheeses, nuts, olives, pan fruits, nougat, marzipan, and wafers.
As the idea of what sorts of dishes should end a meal has changed significantly over time, replacing savory cheeses, nuts, olives, etc with sweeter dishes such as pastries, a balance must be struck between historical accuracy and modern preferences. To that end I have moved the cheeses and olives to the beginning of the meal and emphasized the pan (cooked) fruits which I have used cook’s discretion to make somewhat sweeter than they would have been. Sugar was used primarily in a medicinal capacity at that time so these recipes relied on the sugar in fruit to provide sweetness. The modern palate is much more saturated with sugar and needs a greater quantity than the fruits alone can provide to find a dish ‘sweet’. Additionally, if you’ve ever compared fruit from the grocery store with fruit from a farmer’s market or home-grown, you may have noticed that the mass-produced (and usually larger) fruit from the grocery store is generally less flavorful and less sweet.
Instead of ‘courses’, which is the usual term, I refer instead to ‘plates’, which is how I am serving them, grouped together on a plate.
- First Plate:
- Assorted cheeses
- Figs in the French Manner
- Second Plate
- Another Modern Pottage
- Third Plate
- Roast Pork
- Broom-Flower Dish
- Fourth Plate:
- Lamb Pottage
- A Pottage of Noodles
- Fifth Plate:
- Good Gualantina Sauce
- Pottage called Peach Dish
- Clarea from Water
- Clarea **(not actually served due to site restrictions)
I chose to restructure the order of the dishes: rather than serving only one pottage after the roast, I have chosen to serve 2: a pottage of lamb and an accompanying pottage of noodles. I have made this choice to provide some diversity in case of allergies or if anyone is not fond of lamb. Additionally, I have chosen to serve broom-flower dish alongside the roast. Though it is not mentioned explicitly, there are a number of sauces intended to complement roasts of various kinds. I have selected a sauce noted in Libre de Sent Sovi to be an excellent accompaniment to roast pork. Before the roast I am serving both a pottage (called another modern pottage) and mirrauste, a dish very similar to blancmanger which is noted to be served at the beginning of the meal.
This plate will include olives, bread, and cheeses alongside the called-for fruit.
To Eat Figs in the French Manner
Take dried figs, the sweetest that you can get, black and white, and remove the stems and wash them with good white wine which is sweet; and when they are very well-cleaned, take an earthenware casserole which is big enough, which has a flat bottom, and cast them inside, stirring them a little; and then put this casserole upon the coals, and well-covered in a manner that it is stewed there. And when they are stewed, and they will have absorbed all of the moisture of the wine, stir them a little, and cast fine spice on top of them; and turn them, stirring in a manner that incorporates that spice in them; and then eat this food; and it is an elegant thing; and it should be eaten at the beginning of the meal.
Dried figs, whatever variety is available
White wine, a sweeter variety, preferably one from Spain or Italy
- Cinnamon, 4 parts
- Cloves, 2 parts
- Ginger, 1 part
- Destem the figs
- Place figs in a single layer in a pot
- Add an amount of wine not to exceed the level of the figs
- Cover and simmer on low until all the liquid has been absorbed
- Add spices and gently mix
For the figs I plan to use turkish figs as I was lucky enough to be able to find a source of them. Mission figs are more widely available at grocery stores and are also delicious.
A pottage to start the meal along with mirrauste which is similar to blancmanger and thus is served before the roast.
Sauce for mirrauste is made in this manner. Take a pound of almonds, and four ounces just for five dishes and then toast the almonds, and grind them; and then take a crustless piece of bread which should be soaked in good broth; and then grind it with the almonds, and strain it, that it shall be quite thick; and then let it go to the fire with an ounce of cinnamon, but the cinnamon must be put in when you strain the almonds; and then take the squabs (16) and roast them; and when they are almost half-roasted, remove them from the fire, and cut them into pieces; and then cook the sauce with half a pound of sugar in the sauce; however, stir it constantly with a stick of wood or a large wooden spoon, and when it is cooked put the squabs in this sauce with the other birds or pullets or hens; let it all be done in this manner, and then take the pot-grease and put it into the sauce with the squabs; and then you may prepare dishes; and of the slices of the birds you may put four in each dish; and on top put sugar and cinnamon moderately; and in this way you make perfect mirrauste.
- Note 16: Pigeons and doves are taxonomically identical, and are all members of the family Columbidae, which includes stock doves, woodpigeons (also called ring-doves), rock doves (also called rock pigeons), and turtledoves. “Pigeons” is the generic term for members of this family. Palomino means a young male wild pigeon (or a young pigeon of undetermined gender). It is not clear if Nola is referring to a specific species in the recipes for palominos. I have translated it as “squab”, which is a word used for young pigeons and doves of all kinds.
1 lb 4 oz Almonds, toasted and ground (can substitute almond flour)
Crustless bread, soaked in broth
1 oz Cinnamon
Squabs (can substitute chicken)
½ lb sugar
Cinnamon and sugar for garnish
- Toast and grind the almonds (or lightly toast the almond flour).
- Soak the bread in broth and then grind in with the almonds.
- Add the cinnamon. Strain the mixture to get the almond milk. Alternatively, use pre-made almond milk, mix in ground cinnamon, and skip everything up to this point.
- Heat the almond milk. When the chicken is nearly ready, add the sugar.
- Roast the chickens until they are about half-cooked.
- Cut up the chicken and add it to the almond milk-sauce.
- When the chicken is fully cooked, serve it and garnish it with cinnamon-sugar.
Another Modern Pottage
Take the fleshy leaves of the bledas (61) which is chard, and clean them very well; and give them a brief boil with water and salt, so that they come out half-cooked. And then remove it from the fire, and remove more than half of the broth; and return it to cook on the fire with a little good sweet oil; and when they are cooked, taste them for salt; and then prepare dishes and cast good grated cheese upon them, and also cast some of this cheese beneath them; and they are good for Lent, if you have a dispensation.
- Note 61: In most of the recipes for chard, Nola uses the Catalan name, bledas. Here he also identifies it by the Spanish name, acelgas.
Sweet (olive) oil
- Clean chard leaves and parboil them in salted water.
- Remove more than half of the broth.
- Add a little olive oil and continue cooking.
- When they are finished cooking, remove them from the pot and add grated cheese.
I plan to use rainbow swiss chard for the variety of colors. Many of the other dishes in this feast are rather blandly colored so some color will be delightful.
The roast meat with its sauce, along with an accompanying pottage for those who don’t eat pork.
Although different kinds of roasts are mentioned in the extant menus, no recipes are given. Being a well-known process, no recipes were needed.
Libre de Sent Sovi specifies a number of sauces which can be served with pork that are also present in Libre del Coch. Of these, I have selected a mustard sauce which I believe will complement the roast pork.
You must take mustard seed, and clean it of the dust and the soil and the stones, and grind it well in a mortar; and when it is ground, strain it through a cloth strainer; and then take the mustard powder and put it in a mortar with a crustless piece of bread soaked in meat broth, and grind it all together; and when it is well-ground, blend it with a little bit of lean broth without fat which is well-salted; and when it is blended in a good manner so that it is not too thin, take honey which is good, and melted on the fire, and cast it in the mortar and stir it well until it is well-mixed, and prepare dishes. Some cast a little vinegar in the broth; you can add peeled, toasted almonds, ground-up with the mustard.
Mustard seed (can substitute pre-ground mustard)
Crustless piece of bread
Almonds, peeled, toasted, ground fine (opt) (can substitute almond flour)
- Grind the mustard seed and strain it through a fine strainer
- Soak a piece of crustless bread in meat broth and grind with the ground mustard
- Add well-salted broth until the appropriate consistency is reached (not too thin)
- Warm honey and mix into the mustard
- If desired, add vinegar and/or almond flour
I am not planning on adding almond flour though I may add vinegar if I want some acidity to cut the sweetness of the honey. It is good either way.
Take rice and make flour of it and sift it through a sieve; and take milk of goats or of sheep, and if this is not to be found, take almond milk and dissolve this rice flour in the almond milk or goat milk, in such a way that it shall be quite clear; and then set it to cook in the pot; and into the pot you shall cast these things: sugar, and peeled dates, and pine nuts, and whole, clean, blanched hazelnuts, and the dates cut into the size of fingers; and cast all fine spices into the pot and stir it constantly with a stick; and if you wish to make the ginestada white you may make it in this way, and likewise you may put cinnamon instead of sugar upon the dishes, and seeds of sour pomegranates; and it is necessary that the pot rests a little while before you prepare the dishes.
- Note 28: The name comes from ginestra, the broom plant. This yellow-flowered shrub is the “sprig of broom”, the planta genesta that gave the Plantagenet dynasty their name and emblem. Most recipes for ginestada call for large amount of saffron to color it yellow. This particular one gives the cook the option to leave it white. See also recipe 238.
Milk (goat or sheep or almond)
- Mix the rice flour with the milk and simmer it over low heat.
- Add the other ingredients. Continue simmering, stirring constantly to avoid scorching.
- I opted to use whole rice in place of rice flour for the aesthetic. Many of the dishes in this cookbook are pottages (which is to say, tasty mush). Some variety is preferred from a visual standpoint. The texture of the dish will be different but the overall flavor should be similar. When cooking with rice instead of rice flour, the directions are different: once all of the ingredients are added, cover the pot and simmer on low until the liquid is absorbed and the rice cooked.
- To provide some diversity (and because almond is expensive), cow’s milk was used in this recipe. I was unable to source sheep or goat’s milk.
- I did not peel the dates as it is a time-consuming, tedious process and doesn’t have a significant effect on the flavor or texture of the dish.
Another pottage after the roast plus a bonus pottage in case anyone does not like lamb.
Take mutton and make small pieces three fingers long and set it to cook in a clean pot with your salt and your provisions (47) and skim it very well; and when it is well skimmed, take parsley, and mint, and marjoram, and savory, and hyssop, and other good herbs, and onions cut small, and cast it all into the pot and cook it well; and then grind almonds which are well-peeled and blanched; and when they are well-ground, cast upon them livers of hen or kid, which are of equal worth if they are tender, and cook it in your pot. And grind everything together with the almonds; and after it is ground, blend it with good hen’s broth, and strain it through a woolen cloth; and after it is strained, take a pair of eggs for each dish and blend them with the same milk, and strain them through a woolen cloth; and then mix everything; and when the meat is cooked, cast milk in the pot; and when it has turned thick it is cooked; and consider that you must cast in a lot of herbs; and you can dish it out, casting meat into the dishes.
- Note 47: It means collection, supply, materials. Nola uses it in the sense of necessary ingredients
Provisions (likely oil and/or liquid of some kind to keep the lamb from sticking to the pot)
Herbs: Parsley, Mint, Marjoram, Savory, Hyssop, other herbs as desired
Onions, diced or minced
Almonds, peeled and blanched (or almond flour)
Chicken liver (or goat liver if you can find it)
- Cut the lamb into pieces approximately 2-3 inches long
- Braise lamb chunks in a pot with salt and “provisions” (see note above). Skim as needed
- Add the herbs and onions
- Make the almond milk (or substitute pre-made almond milk and mix it with a little chicken broth)
- Grind the almonds (or use almond flour)
- Cook the liver and grind it with the almond flour
- Add chicken broth and strain it through a fine-weave cloth (preferably woolen)
- Mix the almond milk with 2 eggs and blend them well together. Strain through a fine-weave cloth (preferably woolen)
- When the lamb is cooked, add the almond milk-egg mixture and simmer until the sauce thickens
Hyssop and savory can be difficult to source. Lavender is a good substitute for hyssop as it has the most similar flavor profile. Sage can also be used and is generally available in the grocery store. Thyme can be substituted for savory, and sage works as a substitute for that as well. With either substitution, some of the flavor nuances will be lost, but sometimes that can’t be helped.
A Pottage of Noodles
POTAJE DE FIDEOS (43)
Clean the fideos of their filth, and when they are well-cleaned (44) put a very clean pot on the fire with good fatty hen’s broth or mutton broth that is well-salted; and when the broth begins to boil, cast the fideos into the pot with a piece of sugar; and when they are more than half cooked, cast goat or sheep milk into the pot with the hen’s broth or mutton broth; or instead of that, almond milk, for that can never be lacking; and cook everything well together, and when the fideos are cooked, remove the pot from the fire and let it rest a little while; and prepare dishes, casting sugar and cinnamon upon them; but as I have said in the chapter on rice, many say that with pottages of this kind which are cooked with meat broth that one should not cast in either sugar or milk, but this is according to each one’s appetite; and in truth, with fideos or rice cooked in meat broth, it is better to cast good grated cheese upon the dishes.
- Note 43: Thin, short noodles.
- Note 44: This seems to be a scribal error, repeating the opening phrase of the previous recipe. Rice often needs to be rinsed and to have foreign objects removed from it; noodles do not.
Fideos (thin, short noodles. Can substitute vermicelli)
Broth of chicken or lamb, well-salted
Milk (goat or sheep) or almond milk
Grated cheese or cinnamon and sugar
- Boil noodles in broth that was well-salted according to cook times on the package.
- When the noodles are mostly cooked (approx ⅔-¾ of the way through the alloted time), add the milk.
- When the noodles are done, take off the heat and add grated cheese.
As anyone who has made boxed mac n cheese has probably noticed, these directions are awfully similar to the instructions for simple mac n cheese. The ratios of broth:noodle:milk are unspecified allowing the cook some flexibility. If you get the ratios right, only a little bit of liquid will remain at the end to help incorporate the cheese. The cheese flavor is more subtle than with modern mac n cheese, but it is delicious.
- I was unable to find fideos noodles in the local stores and opted to use very similar short vermicelli noodles of german origin instead.
- Similar to the earlier recipe for a broom-flower dish, I substituted cows milk for the called-for sheep or goats milk. I could have used almond milk but preferred cow’s milk for the creaminess it gives this dish.
Finishing up with the cooked “pan” fruits which I have made on the sweeter side to more closely conform with modern concepts of how a meal should end (with dessert!).
Good Gualantina Sauce
You will take apples that are sour, and also sweet ones, and then make almond milk the night before. And prepare the apples the night before, and cut them small, just like a finger; and you must blend the almonds with good meat broth; and set the apples to soak with the said milk the night before; and take cinnamon, and cloves, and ginger according to the quantity that you wish to make and set these spices to soak the night before in rosewater; and in the morning take a little rice flour, and set it to cook with the almond milk; however, do not cast in the apples until it is half cooked, and the spices likewise; and when the sauce turns thick, cast in the best broth that you have, and let it cook completely; and the spices should be tied with a thread.
Apples, a mix of sweet (most reds) and sour (such as granny smith)
The night before:
- Dice the apples and soak them in the almond milk
- Tie the spices (or place them in a cloth bag) and soak them in rosewater
The day you want to make it:
- Strain the almond milk from the apples and set it to simmer with the rice flour
- When the almond milk has thickened somewhat, add the apples and the spices
- When the sauce thickens more, add some broth
- When the apples are completely cooked (soft) and the sauce is the consistency you want, remove the spices and serve.
I am adding some sugar to sweeten the dish to more closely align with modern conceptions of dessert.
Pottage called Peach Dish
POTAJE LLAMADO PERSICATE (129)
You will take the peeled peaches, and cut them into slices, and cook them in good fat broth; and when they are cooked, take a few blanched almonds and grind them; and when they are well-ground, strain them rather thick with that broth. And then cook this sauce with sugar and a little ginger, and when it is cooked, cast in enough pot-broth or that which falls from the roasting-spit. And let it stew well for a little; and then prepare dishes, and upon each one cast sugar; and in this same way you can make the sauce of quinces in the same manner; but the quinces need to be strained with [the] almonds, and they should not be sour, and likewise the peaches.
- Note 129: Durazno is the Spanish for “peach”, but Persico (“Persian”) is the word for the peach tree. The Latin name, prunus persica, means Persian plum, because the fruit was introduced to Europe from Persia.
Peaches, peeled and sliced
Almonds or almond flour
Drippings (from a roast), opt
- Simmer the peaches in broth.
- If using almonds, grind them to flour.
- Mix some of the broth with the almond flour and strain it and add it back in to the pot.
- Add sugar and ginger.
- When it is nearly done, add in the drippings if desired.
I am using pre-peeled, pre-sliced canned peaches with no sugar added for convenience.
I am adding some sugar to sweeten the dish to more closely align with modern conceptions of dessert.
What meal would be truly complete without something to drink? Both versions of clarea would be appropriate: the alcoholic one from wine and the non-alcoholic one from water so that everyone may enjoy. Sadly, the site does not allow the consumption of alcoholic beverages so only clarea from water may be served. I have included the recipes and redactions for both versions so may make some for yourself at home if you wish. And, as a special treat (and request from the autocrat), I have made for you a New World specialty: xocolatl.
Clarea (Note: not served at feast due to site restrictions)
Three parts cinnamon, two parts cloves, one part ginger, all ground and strained through a sieve, and for one azumbre (6) of white wine, put an ounce of spices with a pound of honey, well-mixed and strained through your sleeve (7) of good thick linen, and strained through it often enough that the wine comes out clear.
- Note 6: A measurement approximately equivalent to two liters.
- Note 7: The sleeve was a long cloth bag, used to strain the wine so that no spice sediment remained in it.
2L white wine, preferably from Spain or Italy
1 lb honey
1 oz spices, ground fine:
- ½ oz cinnamon
- ⅓ oz clove
- ⅙ oz ginger
- Mix the spices and honey into the wine and mix well. I find it helpful to warm the wine a little to help dissolve the honey
- Pour through a cloth bag of thick linen (or other tightly woven yet permeable fabric). Repeat as necessary to remove sediment from the spices. I recommend starting with a looser weave fabric and using progressively finer weave fabric with each pass. Starting with a very fine weave fabric takes forever.
The flavor of the wine is very easily overpowered by the spices and the honey. So it doesn’t really matter what variety of white wine you use. I have made some from a homebrewed pear wine and it was delicious.
Clarea from Water
To one azumbre of water, four ounces of honey; you must cast in the same spices as for the other clarea; you must give it a boil with the honey over the fire, and when it is off the fire you must cast in the spices.
1 oz spices, ground fine:
- ½ oz cinnamon
- ⅓ oz clove
- ⅙ oz ginger
- Mix the water and honey and bring to a boil.
- Remove from heat and add the spices.
This one doesn’t specify to strain it and since straining the wine version took forever, I’m not going to worry about straining it. Most of the sediment should filter itself out over time.
It is my pleasure to introduce to you this most exotic of drinks. Brought to you from the savage lands of the New World by the brave explorers who venture there, this rare treat is a true delicacy.
According to legend, chocolate was first introduced to Spain by Christopher Columbus though some sources dispute this. Only after a (re)introduction by Fernando Cortes in 1528 did it gain traction as anything other than a curiosity. With the addition of sugar, it very quickly became a favorite of the nobility and spread to the rest of Europe. Xocolatl translates to “bitter water” which is an apt description as chocolate on its own is quite bitter. The earliest evidence of chocolate is pottery shards from c. 600 BC in the time of the Olmecs. The Mayans and later the Aztec were also enamored of chocolate, a favorite drink of those wealthy and/or important enough to drink it. Cacao was also used in a medicinal capacity.
Although chocolate didn’t gain popularity in Europe until the 17th century, it did start to see increased use in the later 1500s in a medicinal capacity. Several explorers documented the growth and use of cacao by the peoples of mesoamerica at the time. Different additives might be used in the preparation of the drink depending on its purpose. Some of the most commonly mentioned additives are maize (corn), vanilla, honey, herbs such as mecaxochitl (Piper sanctum), and spices such as peppers, achiote/annatto, and anise. After its introduction to Europe, sugar, cinnamon, and milk were added to the list of possible inclusions in place of many of the indgineous (and not readily available in Europe) ones.
The version I make for your delight today consists of:
For the base of the xocolatl, I used Taza Chocolate vanilla dark chocolate discs which are stone ground in a process which mimics the traditional method used to grind the chocolate into paste to mix with water. In this case, the chocolate paste is molded into discs which are chopped or grated before being dissolved in hot water to drink.
If you are used to modern American (here used to refer to the USA, not the continents) powdered hot chocolate mix, you may be surprised by the flavor. Minimally-processed chocolate has an almost-fruity flavor to it that is lacking form the more heavily processed chocolates common today. Xocolatl is also not nearly as sweet, more similar to modern European hot chocolate than the much sweeter American varieties.
- Phillips, William D, and Carla R. Phillips. A Concise History of Spain. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016.
- Menu planning:
- Senhora Rafaella d’Allemtejo. A Dinner of 16th Century Spain. http://www.fridayvalentine.com/rafaella/kingdom_AS/spanish_food.pdf
- The Feeding of the Nobility in the Old Regime: The Table of Archbishop Juan de Ribera, Virrey de Valencia (1568-1611)
- Coe, Sophie & Coe, Michael D. True History of Chocolate. THAMES & HUDSON, 2019.
- Moss, Sarah, and Alexander Badenoch. Chocolate: A Global History. London: Reaktion Books, 2009.
- Grivetti, Louis E, and Howard-Yana Shapiro. Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 2011.
- Chocolate in History: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/5/1573
- History and Science of Chocolate: http://www.mjpath.org.my/2013.2/history-and-science-of-chocolate.pdf
- Wilson, Philip K, and W J. Hurst. Chocolate As Medicine: A Quest Over the Centuries. , 2015.
- From Aphrodisiac to Health Food: A Cultural History of Chocolate: http://misc.karger.com/gazette/68/grivetti/art_1.htm
- Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. New York: Ten Speed Press, 2009.