Welcome to my newest project where every week I’ll cook a new historical recipe with beer as an ingredient. Each recipe will be at least 100 years old, with most written between 300-700 years ago. I’ve scoured the archives and have at least a year’s worth of these to try, so join me as I work to recreate them. It’s all part of trying to produce some more regular content whilst I work on finishing my book. Some of these foods sound completely delicious and others… not so much. So allow me to be your culinary guinea pig on our journey from medieval hearths to Victorian kitchens. I know that brewing an ancient ale can be a bit daunting, but you can recreate most of these using any beer you can get your hands on. So it’s a fun way to reconnect to brewing in the past, without actually brewing. Though, in fairness, some of these recipes are quite complex.
But let’s start with an easy one. We will begin with a medieval recipe coming to us from The Forme of Cury, which is a group of recipes that were compiled by the Master Cooks of Richard II in 1390. It was later presented to Queen Elizabeth I by Edward Lord Stafford. So quite a lofty and prestigious history for our menu item today. I am actually going to be making a few recipes from this book as there are many that require ale. But let me not get ahead of myself.
I have elected to make ‘Frytour of Pasternakes of Apples’. I would be lying if I said I didn’t pick this one initially because of the word ‘pasternakes’ and then was drawn in further by the ingredient ‘skyrwater’. Come for the carrots, stay for the parsnips, which are the translations of these words, respectively. So we are making a fritter of apples, carrots, and parsnips. Here is the recipe in its medieval form:
Take skyrwater and pasternakes and apples, & parboile hem, make a batour of flour and ayrenn, cast þerto ale. safroun & salt. wete hem in þe batour and frye hem in oile or in grece. do þerto Almaund Mylk. & serue it forth.
Another word you may not know is ayrenn which means eggs. And the almond milk they are talking about here is crushed or ground almonds mixed with boiling water, broth or wine and sweetened.
So here is my modern translation of ‘Fritter of Apples of Carrots’:
Take parsnips and carrots and apples and parboil them. Make a batter of flour and eggs, add to this ale, saffron and salt. Wet or coat the apples, carrots and parsnips in the batter and fry them in oil or grease. Add them to some almond milk and serve it.
So let’s get into how I made it and the results.
First thing first, there are no measurements so I am going to have to wing it. Which is grand as that’s usually what I do anyway so works perfectly for me. As I am not sure if this is going to be good or terrible I am not going to make loads. I am especially suspicious of how this is going to taste with parsnips and carrots, the apples seem okay. So I opted to use two apples, one carrot and one parsnip.
1. I cored and peeled the apples, parsnip and carrot. Then I cut them all into thick slices about 1 cm thick. You can use any apples you have on hand, I used Honeycrisp as they are my current favourite.
2, Parboil the carrots and parsnips and let them cool off a bit. I did not parboil the apples.
3. Next I mixed flour and eggs. I wasn’t sure what sort of ratios I was going to use, but given that I am adding ale in some amount, I wanted to make sure the egg to flour mixture was on the dry side before the ale was added. I ended up using one cup of flour, one medium egg and one cup of ale. I started with a 1/2 cup but then added the second as it was too dry. I used the Connemara Irish Ale. It worked really well.
4. Add saffron and salt. If I were making this again, I would add more saffron for a stronger flavour, but I like things heavily spiced.
5. Heat up some oil. I just used vegetable oil, but basically whatever sort of bland oil you have on hand,
6. Dip apple, parsnip, and carrot slices in the batter
7. Fry in oil- approximately minutes 3-5 minutes depending on size etc.
8. Serve with almond milk- I sweetened mine a bit in accordance with medieval almond milk
Well, they were much better than I had thought they would be, but fried food is fried food so I guess that’s the thing. The apples were really quite nice, but shockingly the parsnips were a close second they almost tasted like potato chips. The outside was crunchy with hints of the beery malty flavour and the inside was nice and soft, so it was really a lovely combination. I preferred the almond milk with the apples, kinda like a cereal of some description. The only thing I will say is if I was making this for a modern palate, I wanted more spice to them. Good but just a wee bit plain for me. So I went a bit rogue and added some mixed spice blend to the batter and fried some apples this way and it was very nice. You could add some honey on top and that’s dessert.
Overall, would make again with more spices.