Wednesday, 29 June 2016

A sweet recipe from the Middle Ages...all the way into your plate

My Thursday recipe is a little bit special today...not only because it is, for a change, a sweet one, but also because it is from a long, long time ago - the Middle Ages. It comes courtesy from Lindsey Townsend, one of the nine authors of LETTERBOX LOVE STORIES, an anthology of romantic short stories which is now available for pre-order here. Lindsay's story, PLAIN HARRY, is set in the Middle Ages...

Hello Lindsay and welcome. Thank you so much for this delicious recipe for Pears in Syrup. Tell me, why did you choose this recipe for today's blog?
Every now and again I have a go at a recipe from the ancient or medieval worlds, officially for research purposes but mostly through a mixture of curiosity and greed. Since I now own a copy of Constance Hieatt's delectable book of authentic medieval recipes, Pleyn Delit, this time it was one of those deceptively simple but spicy, wine-warm sweets which the fourteenth and fifteenth century loved.

The recipe calls for 1 kilo/2 lb of pears, 500ml red wine, 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar, 125 gm sugar, 1tsp. cinnamon and 1/4tsp. ground ginger, plus an optional 6-8 whole cloves and a pinch of saffron. There are several methods of cooking this fifteenth-century delicacy in Prof. Hieatt's book (recipe 113: Wardonys in Syryp), and medieval cooks would have used pots over an open fire, but I like to keep it simple, so used a casserole and a fan oven.

Parboil the pears in water for a few minutes, then peel and quarter them and lay them in the casserole. Add the cinnamon and sugar to the wine in a saucepan and heat it through until the sugar has dissolved, then strain (if necessary) and pour the mixture over the pears. Cover the casserole and leave it in the oven for about an hour at around 250C (180C in a fan oven worked fine). Remove the casserole and add the wine vinegar, cloves and saffron. If necessary, remove some of the liquid and boil it for a few minutes to reduce it, which will slightly thicken and sweeten the syrup. Put the casserole back in the oven and give it another 15 minutes or so. 'Look that it be sharp and sweet (poinaunt an dowcet)', the recipe says. Cool, serve and eat.

For more detail, more cooking methods and a mass of other recipes, see Pleyn Delit. The medieval English cook may well have used Warden pears, grown at the Cistercian abbey of Old Warden in Bedfordshire, and the abbey's coat of arms (top left, from the abbey's page at Bedfordshire County Council Archives) shows three of them. A similar dish, 'peres en confyt', includes mulberries for darkness and appears in the fourteenth-century cookbook, Forme of Cury.

This is fascinating, Lindsay! Thank you so much... Lindsay's story in LETTERBOX LOVE STORIES is called PLAIN HARRY.

 The blurb for 'Plain Harry' by Lindsay Townsend
 Recovering from a brutal marriage, Esther is living quietly as a widow when a letter from her brother Sir Stephen destroys her contented life. Stephen orders her to marry Sir Henry—but who is this “Plain Harry” and how will he treat her?

Set in medieval England in a time when women had few rights, this story shows how love can flourish in the unlikeliest of places and between the unlikeliest of people.

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Lindsay Townsend, historical romance.  

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1 comment:

  1. Wow...this one sounds very interesting...but I'm not sure just how 'sweet' it would be. I think I've had something similar to it during the Renaissance Faires I go to but this one sounds so very easy to make.

    Thanks for sharing Lindsay.