COOKING: Tartare of apples à la French
Even the women played an important role during the military events of Famaleonis: they weren’t just a mere background presence. They oversaw impromptu duties and delighted the palate of the army men with delicious dishes from original recipe books, like for example Libro de arte coquinaria by Mastro Martino or Libro per cuoco by Anonimo Veneziano del Trecento, just to name some of them.
I would like to present you an easy recipe that will surprise you for the refinement of its taste: the apple pie à la French ( Tartare di Pome ala Francesa ) by Mastro Martino.
The recipe is from Libro di cucina del cuoco di casa Trivulzio di Milano, cent. XV, which was written from 1645 to the end of the seventeenth century in Northern Italy.
Here I show you the original recipe, as well as its interpretation made by Anna Fabbri, whom I thank for the support.
Original recipe: Tartare di Pome ala Francesa
«Per fare tartare di pome ala francesa fa cocere le pome como e dito de sopra e haby pignolli ben pisti et mette le pome in esse con zucharo asay canela zenzero zafrano pocho poche ova de luzio(*) ben pisto distempando ogni cossa insema con aqua rossa o altra aqua passando per la stamegna(**) per forza per esse uno pocho spissa ma non troppo poy fali una pasta distempata con uno pocho de ollio zucharo e aqua e salle fazendolla dura et fa che passa Et fa che in questa pasta sia dela materia supradicta suttille de uno ditto et volle esse cotte al forno overo ala padella dandogli lo focho adazio farane poy ale nevole(***) fare con zucharo e fale in polvere con pocho di zucharo e polveriza di sopra con aqua rossa».
(*) ova de luzio: pike eggs.
(**) stamegna: thin cloth made of goat hair, in other words the sieve, an essential instrument of the cuisine of the Middle-Ages and Renaissance.
(***) nevole: cialde (a type of sweet not leavened) made of flour and cooked must?.
Ref. C. BENPORAT, Cucina italiana del Quattrocento, Olschki, Firenze (1996), p. 205;
Modern interpretation: Tartare of apples à la French
For the dough: 200 gr of flour, 60 gr of sugar, 30 gr of butter and a spoonful of oil
For the filling: 1 kg of apples, 6 spoonful of sugar, a teaspoon and a half of powdered ginger, 2 teaspoon of cinnamon, half a sachet of saffron, 6 spoonful of rose water, 50 gr of pine nuts, 4 spoonful of wheat starch (not potato or corn starch, for obvious reasons…), and some “lingue di gatto” (a type of biscuit)
Cook the apples in the oven or in a pan, mince them and add the grinded pine nuts and the other ingredients, except the “lingue di gatto”. Prepare the dough stirring flour, sugar, oil, fresh water and butter, in order to get a compact mixture. Roll out the dough in a puff pastry not higher than an inch. Lay the filling and cook just enough between two “testi” made of earthenware and covered in embers (historical recipe), otherwise cook in the oven at 180° for an hour/an hour and half ( modern recipe). When it’s almost done, sprinkle with pulverised “lingue di gatto” and finish baking. Take out of the oven and sprinkle with sugar and rose water.
When you are about to cook a Medieval dish, you have to remember that often, in the original recipe books, the notes and the dosages of the ingredients may have been very vague (a lot, very little, as much as you need etc.). This happened because the cooks were writing for other cooks, and therefore trusted the reader’s culinary knowledge, comparing it to his own.
We have to keep in mind though that the Medieval “palate” had for certain no resemblance to our current taste, and the ingredients themselves of course have been subject to changes during the centuries. Some of them therefore can be very difficult, if not impossible, to find.
For this reason, it must be said that the “modern” translations of Medieval recipes developed mostly from experiments and personal elaborations from original texts, with all the problems and omissions that can be caused by this (no-one has ever manage to travel back in time and confirm his doubts!).