A Dinner at Pennsic

My lord and I have the custom of cooking dinner for our entire encampment one evening at Pennsic, working from period recipes. On this occasion we were cooking for 25 people. Our constraints are that there are only two of us, although we usually get some help; we have a fairly good kitchen set-up, but it does not so far include an oven; we do not keep a cooler at Pennsic; and we wanted to do something simple enough that we could be assured of being able to wash the dishes in daylight.

The easiest sorts of food to cook over a campfire are spit-roasted meat and dishes in a large pot or frying pan. As no one in our camp was making a grocery store run that day, we decided against meat. Greens, eggs, and butter were the most perishable foodstuffs we were using, and all will keep for a day or two without refrigeration as long as you do not leave them out in the sun; also, eggs are available on site. As we make them, two of the recipes have meat broth. They could, however, be made suitable for a medieval fast day out of Lent (or for a modern vegetarian) by using vegetable broth instead, as the original recipes merely say "good broth." I figured that to feed that number of people we would probably need three large pots of food, so we might as well make three different dishes as well as dessert.

There are several medieval versions of noodles and cheese, both English and Italian. We chose Losyns (p. 108) as it specifies that the noodles be made in advance and dried, thus allowing us to do so at our leisure before we came. The name of the dish is presumably related to lasagna, so one could make long flat noodles, but we interpret it as the losenges of heraldry and make diamond-shaped noodles. We generally use a mixture of whole wheat and white flour, on the theory that most medieval flour would not be as fine as our modern white flour. "Poudre douce" (sweet powder) is a spice mixture used in both this and the following recipe; we do not know exactly what is in it, but our guess is sugar, cinnamon, and ginger. We mixed it up before we came.

The Carrots in Potage(p. 50) recipe is originally for turnips in potage, with "pastunakes" (carrots or parsnips) or skirrets (a root vegetable we have been unable to find) given as alternatives. It works fine with all three of the vegetables we have tried, but carrots are the easiest to be sure of finding in a modern grocery store. For the Fried Broad Beans (p. 15), we bought dried fava beans in advance at a specialty food store. The greens we used (cabbage, parsley, and spinach) were period ones which we could buy locally; other times we have used turnip, mustard, or dandelion greens.

For a dessert, the most obvious choices are fruit, sweets one can make in advance and bring, such as Islamic candies and pastries or late-period English cakes, and things you can do in a frying pan. Since we were eating fruit and nibbles we had brought with us for most of our breakfasts and lunches, we decided on Murakkaba(p. 82), an interesting solution to the problem of how to make a thick cake without an oven. There are also English recipes for fritters we could have made, but the murakkaba was such a hit the previous year that we decided to repeat it.

Equipment needed:

Two large pots (1 1/2 to 2 gallon) with lids, plus a third to heat wash water; two large frying pans for broad beans, one of which gets re-used for murrakkaba; about four bowls, one quite large; a cutting board; a sharp knife or two; several big spoons and ladles; a measuring cup and spoons (if you don't want modern-looking ones, take a period-looking mug and spoons and measure how much they will hold at home); and a cooking set-up which allows two large pots and two frying pans on the fire at once.


What we made, which fed our 25 people almost exactly, was: 4 recipes of Losyns, 4 recipes of Carrots in Potage, 4 recipes of Fried Broad Beans and 3 recipes of Murakkaba, done as 2 cakes.


[by Elizabeth; originally published in Tournaments Illuminated #113]

Note: Page

Back to my medieval pages

Back to my home page