Category Archives: the middle ages

Mincemeat Pie

mincemeat pie

Mincemeat Pie

To end the year on a sweet note, this recipe was made in my last class of 2017, A Dickens Christmas at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Arts.

A sweet pie of British origin, mincemeat consists of of mixed dried fruits and spices traditionally served during the Christmas season. Its ingredients can be traced to the 13th century, when returning crusaders brought with them Middle Eastern recipes containing meats, fruits and spices. In Georgian times the meat was dropped. Mincemeat pie was loved by Charles Dickens.

Mincemeat filling:
2 apples, peeled, cored, chopped2 apples, peeled, cored, chopped
1 cup apple cider
⅔ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup dried apricots, chopped
½ cup dried cherries
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup dried currants
½ cup dried figs, chopped
zest of one orange
½ cup fresh orange juice
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup raisins
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon round nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup rum

Simmer apples, apple cider, brown sugar, apricots, dried cherries, cranberries, currants, figs, orange zest, orange juice, golden raisins, raisins, schmaltz, allspice, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and rum in a medium pot over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost all of the liquid is evaporated, 30–25 minutes. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl, cover, and chill to let flavors develop. (Filling can be made 3 months ahead; freeze in an airtight container.)

Use as a filling in your favorite pie crust or make individual tartlets like the ones shown above!

Makes enough for 2 9-inch pies
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit




As early as 610AD at a monastery in Southern France or Northern Italy, monks used scraps of dough and formed them into strips to represent a child’s arms folded in prayer. The monks offered the warm, doughy bread to children as a bribe if they memorized their Bible verses and prayers. They called it a Pretiola, Latin for little reward. The Pretiola then made its way into Germany where it became known as the Bretzel or Pretzel. Today they are a typical street food in the U.S.

1 ½ cups warm water (110 to 115° F)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
22 ounces flour (about 4 ½ cups)
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
vegetable oil, for pan

10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda

1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
sea salt for sprinkling

Combine the water, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450° F. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan. (If you’re making rolls, roll into approximately 5×3-inch sections.)

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large spatula or spider and return them to the sheet pan. Brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 14 minutes, giving the pans a spin half way through. Let cool at least 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 pretzels
(Perfect recipe by Alton Brown)

Baked Salmon with Mustard Crème Fraiche

salmon with mustard creme fraiche

Baked Salmon with Mustard Crème Fraiche

Mustard cultivation is ancient; the Greek writer Herodotus mentioned mustard as a cultivated plant in the 5th century BC. It has always been important in Europe because it grows locally therefore making it the most inexpensive of the spices. The first sizable commercial mustard businesses arose in the mid-14th century around Dijon, France.

1 1⁄2 pound salmon
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
1⁄2 cup crème fraiche
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon
fresh thyme and lemon slices for garnish

Preheat the oven to 450° F .

Place the fish on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish.

While the salmon cooks, prepare the mustard sauce. Stir together the crème fraiche, two mustards, lemon zest and lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve the salmon warm or at room temperature with a dollop of crème fraiche. Garnish with lemon slices and thyme.

Serves 6

Roasted Cod with Tomatoes and Olives

roasted cod with tomatoes and olives

Roasted Cod with Tomatoes and Olives

Consumed fresh or dried and salted, cod is historically one of the world’s most important fish. It has been an important economic commodity in international markets since the early Middle Ages and the Norwegians, Portuguese and Basques have all played an important role in its trade. The North American east coast developed in part because the fish, and many New England cities are located near cod fishing grounds. It’s one of my favorite fishes.

1 ½ pounds cod
1 pound assorted grape and cherry tomatoes
30 assorted olives, pitted
3 sprigs thyme
¼ chopped basil and oregano
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine
2 tablespoons chicken broth
salt and pepper
juice of one lemon, or more to taste

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Place the tomatoes in an ovenproof dish and toss with garlic, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Add the thyme and roast for about 10 minutes. While the tomatoes are cooking, cut the fish into 6 equal sized pieces, rinse, pat dry and season with salt and pepper on both sides.

Remove the tomatoes from the oven. Add the chicken broth and wine to the dish and nestle the fish into the tomatoes. Scatter the pitted olives and return to the oven for 12 to 15 minutes. The cod should separate easily and be just opaque in the center when cooked through.

When cooked through sprinkle with the fresh herbs and drizzle with lemon juice and serve.

Serves 6