Fest-Cooking3-art - 3/13/14
"How to Cook for Festival Like Mistress Yseult, Part III" by by Mistress Yseult de Lacy. Desserts and Sweet Nibbles. (humor)
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
How to Cook for Festival Like Mistress Yseult, Part III
by Mistress Yseult de Lacy
Desserts and Sweet Nibbles
These are an essential part of Festival fare, as a swift energy boost or a reward for surviving something unpleasant (three-hour courts or an entire afternoon of Peerage meetings spring immediately to mind). The well-prepared camp cook will have snacks available, and Important Personages will wrangle invitations to dinner just for those fabulous desserts. Now, since we are at Festival, desserts don’t have to be complicated to be impressive and delicious. Let us start with Pears in Red Wine Syrup, an elegant but basic recipe.
You will need pears, preferably ripe. Bosc pears are usually available at this time of year and are quite suitable. When you are shopping for them, test their ripeness by squeezing them gently. They should be firm but with a nice give to them, like Sir Bruiser’s squires’ yummy little behinds. Oops. Shouldn’t say that in a family recipe. P’raps I shouldn’t have tested the wine already.
Anyway, allow one pear per person. If you have Important Personages coming to dinner (see above*), you will need to keep the ripest, best-formed, most caressable pears aside for special presentation, again one per Personage. You will also need enough sugar or very light honey to make enough heavy syrup (1 part sugar to 1 part water) to just cover the halved pears in your pot when mixed with the wine. You will also need red wine; this is very important. Choose a nice vintage and get at least two bottles; after all, you’ll be poaching those damn pears for a couple of hours, and you’ll need something to keep you going. Don’t forget to get a cask of red for the pears; you’ll need 1 part wine to 1 part syrup. Oh. I said that. You’ll also need some cinnamon sticks, ground nutmeg, and a few cloves. It’s important to check the cask wine to make sure it’s actually fit to drink--- you shouldn’t cook with wine you wouldn’t drink after all the good stuff runs out. If it’s horrid, give it to the Boy and make him go buy something better (don’t let him actually drink it till he gets back).
Open the good wine, and pour yourself a generous glass. Now strip the pears bare mother naked and cut the ones for the masses in half, right down their perky little bottoms. Leave the ones for the Personages whole, with stalks still intact. Personages tend to like performing their own dissections.
Mix the sugar and water, and add the wine and spices. Place the pears and liquid in a large pot, and set it to simmer uncovered over a slow fire. Keep your eye on the Boy, and do not let him adjust the fire in any way whatsoever without your permission. Wielding a large, heavy ladle will help with this.
Place a comfy stool next to the fire, pour another generous glass of red, and settle down to tend the pears.
Oh – I almost forgot! The special pears for the Personages need to be poached as well. Send the Boy to find a covered vessel large enough to hold these pears set upright. When he returns, hit him with the ladle and inform him what he’s brought is not suitable, and to put the plate back in the kitchen tent (“WASH it first!”) and the other Utensil back under your bed, and you’ll wallop him within an inch of his little life if he goes into your pavilion without your permission again. Or perhaps just empty the Container over him.
Once a Suitable Vessel has been procured, stand the Special Pears upright within and ladle syrup from the main pot into it to half-way up the pears. Cover the Vessel and set by the fire, turning frequently to keep the heat even.
An hour or so will pass. By now you may need to open the second bottle of good red. Do so, especially since you will probably find the Boy has finished the first. Bring the bottle out and set it by your stool to avoid further encroachments. Once the good stuff is finished, you may need to repair to the remains of the cask, provided the Boy has left any.
Test the pears with a fork; if it slides in easily, they are done. If not, pour another glass of red and continue guarding the pears. Test again at 20 minute intervals until you can fork them properly.
Instruct the Boy to take the Pot ‘o Pears for the Masses off the fire and put it on the bench in the kitchen tent while you fetch the fancy serving platter for the Special Pears. Scream in horror as you return with said platter just in time to watch as the Boy dumps the entire Pot o’ Pears into the fire.
Remain calm. Remember, the Canny Camp Cook is prepared for all disasters. After you have finished beating the Boy with the ladle, use it to point to the Secret Storage Area in the kitchen tent. Instruct him to Bring You the Boxed Contents, then beat him again for good measure and send him back to his Mother.
Rescue (Presentation Will Happen, Really)
From the boxes, first remove the emergency bottle of Good Red, open it, and pour yourself a generous glass. Lord knows, by now you need it. Take out the spice packet, the small cask of rough red, and the several cylindrical metal containers. Use the included special tool to open these containers.
Return to the fire, remove the Special Vessel With The Pessle holding the Brew That Is True from the fire. Carefully extract the Pears for the Personages from it and arrange them on the Fancy Plate. Stir the syrup within the Vessel, and return it next to the fire, uncovered, to thicken.
Recover the pot, which the Boy decanted into the flames. Give it a quick rinse to remove the black bits. Back in the kitchen tent, slop the entire contents of the cylindrical containers, the spice packet, and the small cask into the pot, and stir well. Hang the pot over a low fire to heat. No need to let it boil. Resist the urge to hang the Boy as well.
Check on the syrup in the Special Vessel. Stir and turn frequently to let it thicken. How are the new Pears for the Masses doing? They should be nice and hot by now.
Presentation, Part II
Ah! The other cooks are bringing the remains of the main courses back to the kitchen. Good, your special bits have been set aside, as arranged. Quickly whip into the tent and cover them so no one (especially not the Boy) notices they’re there. Back out to the fire, check the Rescued Pears for the Masses, carefully lift off fire and take into kitchen tent. Back to the fire, collect the Special Vessel. Feels a bit light –look inside. EMPTY!!!!
Where, oh where, is the thickened syrup? What can you pour over the Special Pears on their fancy… plate? OK, where are the pears. BOY!!!! The pears, the special pears. The ones that WERE on that plate. WHERE ARE THEY????
They didn’t have any syrup so you thought they were rejects and you ate them. Boy, do you know what the word “nincompoop” means? …I thought not. The thickened syrup by the fire? You only found it halfway through the pears, but it was really yummy. I. WILL. DEAL. WITH. YOU. LATER.
Grab a bunch of half-pears from the Pot for the Masses. Slap them on the fancy plate. Slop a ladle of the plebian sauce over them, and a dollop of cheap, boxed custard on top.
Serve it forth to the Special Personages. Likewise for the masses.
Collect praises. See if you can finish the bottle of Good Red before collapsing in an exhausted heap.
Later. Much, much, much later.
* All the best recipes have footnotes. This is one.
Copyright 2010 by Chris Robertson <yseult_de_lacy at optusnet.com.au>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, please place a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.