Turns out to have been a really long time since I wrote a Dinner Party, and for a while there I was really stuck on what to do, but then I watched The King and now I’m doing a Medieval Dinner Party. Though I suppose more technically it should be called a Banquet.
So far as I could find, they haven’t been translated into modern English, so I’ve struggled to convert The Forme of Cury myself, and topped up with some recipes from Medieval Cookery.
Medievalrecipes.com tells us our Baquet would more technically be a long succession of dishes, loosely grouped into five courses:
- Pottage (a kind of soupy stewy kind of thing)
- Meat and fish
- Exotics (like swans or peacocks)
- Savoury and sweet tarts and pastries
- Candied fruit and cheese.
Though we’re going a bit simpler than that for our Medieval Dinner Party.
You could do more or less the same meal for both noble and peasant, though the reality would be that peasants probably got by with stewed herbs and bread. We could, for the purposes of this meal, pretend it was a feast day the nobles had gifted the peasants.
Water was very often contaminated, so common peasant drinks were beer, cider and milk, while nobles drank wine. And by beer, I mean a weak ale that was also used in bread making.
You could get whisky, but more as a medicine than a recreational beverage.
A proper Banquet would’ve featured a large, dressed table on a dais for the hosts, plus smaller, lower tables set perpendicular to the large table. The lower your rank, the further away you’d be from the action. Think the Starks at Winterfell in Game of Thrones. (No comment on the season finale.)
Many modern ears can’t get a grip on original Medieval music, partly because it uses a different tonal scale, the instruments were manufactured differently, and because there has been such a huge drift in language that the lyrics are pretty much indecipherable.
If you’re inclined, you can get modern Medieval style music written for fantasy movies and folk groups.
But, it was pop music with political overtones, so for our Medieval Dinner Party, you could try a modern equivalent like rap or Pussy Riot.
And for set dressings, a bare table, crockery, thick glassware and wipe your face on your clothes.
I’m tempted to say rags, but work clothes or a costume hire shop would do just as well.
Medieval Dinner Party Planning
As always, our Dinner has six guests invited to arrive at 6.30 for 7.00 pm.
6:30 Apéritif: Cruste Rolle with your choice of beer, cider or wine
Sift 2 cups of flour into a bowl, and make a well in the centre. Beat three eggs with a little salt and saffron, then mix with the flour (add more flour if it’s too wet or water if too dry). Roll into a thin layer, and cut out small shapes. Fry in olive oil. Serve hot if possible.
You could make the biscuits ahead of time, and fry them up as your guests arrive.
7.00 Entrée: Cabbage Pottage with your choice of beverage
Wash and finely slice a cabbage, two onions and two leeks, bring to a boil with three cups of your preferred stock.
Mix saffron, salt, grains of paradise, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, and galangal to taste, add to cabbage and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.
8.00 Main: Cormarye, Salad of Roots, Salat and your choice of beverage
Preheat your oven to 180 °C (350 °F).
Mix 1½ tsp coriander, 1½ tsp caraway, ½ tsp pepper, ½ tsp salt, 2 cloves crushed garlic, 2 cups red wine and 1 cup stock.
Pour over 1 kg (2 lb) of pork loin and bake for about 2 hours until done. About an hour in, turn the meat over, and baste with the liquid.
Cover with foil to keep warm. Bring the liquid to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes to reduce to a good thickness.
Wash, peel, chop and bake a mix of carrots, parsnips and turnips. If you keep the pieces large, add them (in a separate tray) to the oven at the same time as the meat, or if they’re smaller add them at the halfway mark. Whisk together three tablespoons of oil with one of vinegar, some salt and pepper, and dress the salad just before eating.
Chop and mix onions, leeks, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme and mint. When you’re ready to serve, whisk together three tablespoons of oil with one of vinegar plus a clove of crushed garlic, salt and pepper and dress the leaves.
9.00 Dessert: Peeres in Confyt with Snowe
Peel and core four pears, cut into quarters if you like. Slice a little off the bottom so they’ll stand upright in a pan. Pop them in a pan with some good red wine and mulberries. Simmer for 15 – 30 minutes, and when they’re done, pull them out and leave to drain.
Make a syrup by boiling Vernaccia wine with sugar and ginger. Vernaccia is a crisp, light white wine from Italy with a slightly bitter after taste. You could substitute Granache if you can’t get it. When you’re almost ready to serve, reheat the pears in it, trying not to mix the wine colours too much.
Whisk an egg white, a cup of cream, a tablespoon of sugar and teaspoon of rose water until thick.
If you make this with the egg white, you’ll get a light, airy mixture, or you could leave it out if you’d prefer a heavier cream texture.
10.00 Tea, Coffee, Candied Fruits and Cheese and a wee whisky
You’d be more likely to drink hot spiced wine after dinner but by this point. you might be ready to get back to the twenty-first century so do the tea and coffee.
If you’d like to candy your own fruit, do it at least a day ahead. Clean, stone/de-pit and dry the freshest fruit you can get, and cut into 0.5 cm (0.25″) slices or bite-size chunks.
Combine 1 cup of sugar with 3 cups of water in a heavy-based pot and bring to the boil. Drop the fruit in, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 30 – 50 minutes until it goes translucent.
If you’re doing citrus peel, blanch for 20 minutes in boiling water, but make sure it’s completely dry before it goes in the syrup. Use a 1:1 ratio for the syrup.
Remove the fruit with a slotted spoon and lay on a wire rack covered in waxed paper to dry. Then roll in granulated sugar and store in an air-tight container.
Wensleydale, Cheddar and Cheshire are period-appropriate. Most likely eaten without crackers, but add them and some fresh fruit if you like.
You can make a good deal of this meal ahead, and reheat just in time to eat.
12.00 Prepare the biscuits.
12.30 Prepare the pottage vegetables and spice mix.
13.00 Prepare and poach the pairs. Prepare the Vernaccia syrup ingredients.
14.00 Prepare the Snowe and keep refrigerated.
3.30 Prepare the spice mix for the pork and marinate the meat. Leave to absorb the flavours.
4.00 Wash and dry the salat leaves. Prepare the dressing, but don’t add until you are ready to serve.
5.00 Prepare the roasting vegetables and dressing.
5.30 Preheat the oven, and get the pork and vegetables on.
6.25 Start frying some biscuits.
6.30 Guests arrive
6.45 Cook pottage
7.00 Serve the pottage.
7.45 Take the meat out of the oven and keep warm while you reduce the sauce.
8.00 Dress salat and root vegetables. Slice meat and serve.
8.45 Heat the Vernaccia syrup and reheat the pears.
9.00 Serve the pears.
10.00 Serve the tea/coffee, cheese and whisky.