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I've always loved history, so when I discovered my love of experimental cooking, it didn't take long for me to start re-creating those dishes from historical recipe books.
Success in that field has been... mixed. Some recipies have worked to varying levels of acclaim, while others took several tries to get right. We don't talk about the time I tried to make medieval jelly and accidentally invented 15th century jello shots.
In 2020, the week before Australia went into lockdown, I'd been asked to cater for a historical feast, hosted by the Society of Creative Anachronism for their annual Newcomers event.
Yes, there was a lot of panicking when the impending lockdown was announced two days before the event, with me frantically trying to find out if the event was still on, and if not, what the **** was I supposed to do with a refrigerater of food intended to feed eighty people?
I themed the menu so that each course was from a different time period, Antiquity, the Viking Age, and the late 15th Century.
All were well-recieved, but three dishes went down particularly well; the Fish Stew, the Berry Sauce for the roast meat, and my edible Tudor Heraldry.
If we hadn't promptly locked down for the next year, I might have actually been able to present it to the Cooks Guild in person.
I'll write up the other two later. For now, this is the recipe for the berry sauce, along with my own notes.
Berry Sauce for Red Meat
Type of dish: Sauce
125g wild leek or scallions
2 tsp ground or crushed mustard seeds
1 tbsp drippings (or other fat)
100 ml mead
1 tsp dried mint
1) Boil or roast the beef depending on how “fancy” you want your meal
2) Meanwhile, chop the wild leek finely
3) Melt the drippings in a pot
4) Saute the wild leek with the mustard seeds in the dripping
5) Core and chop the plums
6) Add all the fruits to the pot and let them boil until they are soft and mushy
7) Crush the fruits in the pot with a spoon
8) Press the fruits through a cheesecloth or strainer to get rid of the solid parts
9) Pour the mead over the crushed fruits, the extract as much juice as possible
10) Pour the fruit juice back into the pot and reheat it
11) Slice the meat thin and put it in a serving dish
12) Pour the sauce over the meat and sprinkle with mint
13) Serve warm
- Chopping the plums will take time, do that before you start sautéing the leek and mustard
- While making friends with an Artisan brewer is the best source of mead, Dan Murphey and most liquor stores carry a commercial one
- Most supermarkes sell lard or ‘dripping’ as a dairy-free alternative to butter. It’s also good for roasting vegetables
- The mint can probably be left out with minimal difference to flavour
- The amount of mead to use is a guideline, not a hard rule. If you want the sause a little sweeter, add more mead. The alcohol will burn off in the cooking.
- Save the stewed fruit. Paired with custard or ice-cream, it makes a good dessert, and you can freeze it in ice-cube trays for a healthy frozen snack.
(I was submitting the recipe in a competition later in the year, which was indefinitely postponed due to lockdowns. So, I asked people to write down their reactions in the commentary book.)
"Hey, do you think the shops are still open? I want this over ice-cream."
"Can I get the recipe? I need this in my life to go with everything!"
"If I leave a comment, can I get more?"