Cowshed – Feedback from the Feast Steward

Below follows the feedback from Danielle on her experiences of cooking for Cowshed this year:

Birthday Feast Ramblings
by Danielle of Adamastor

In retrospect, the preparation for the feast was the most daunting aspect of taking on the mantle of Head Cook. I spent almost three weeks prior to the event looking up recipes, trying to verify authenticity, and selecting what I hoped would be a tasty range of dishes that would fit within one period and culture. In the end I took the easy path to a mostly 16th century German feast, guided by Marx Rumpolt.

Once the dishes were selected the rest flowed easily enough. Guided by ocd and a terrible desire to control this impending feast, I meticulously planned what I could prepare when, and made lists of what to do on the night and at what times. Sadly, even after taking off the preceding Thursday and Friday off from work to cook and prepare, my timing and execution was still found wanting on the night. If there is one thing I learned about cooking for largish gatherings, it’s ‘if you can prepare it beforehand, do so!’ Time slips by so quickly when things are cooking and courses need to be served.

Fortunately for me, there were numerous helping hands willing to slice, roll, fry, glaze, arrange, serve and administer the all-important sanity-preserving sherry. Once the event had started and the kitchen was buzzing with friendly banter and busy hands, I enjoyed myself immensely. Timing issues were forgotten in the heat of the moment as myself and the impromptu kitchen crew worked to get the courses out.

Most gratifying of all though, were the almost finished dishes. There is nothing better than to see the food you worked so hard to prepare and make good almost completely devoured. My thanks to those who were my willing extra hands during the cooking, to those who helped clean up afterwards and to all who came hungry and did the food justice by stuffing themselves.

Despite the pre-event stress and controlled chaos on the night, Head Cook is definitely a mantle I shall volunteer to wear again.

Menu and Recipes:

Mörserhühner mach wie folgt (Fried chicken balls – Maister Hannsen des von Wirtenberg Koch Kochbuch, translated by Rita Drexl )
Mörserhühner make as follows: Divide a cooked chicken in pieces and take the lean and boneless meat. Take a thin dough with pepper, anise, pepper and saffron, mash it in a mortar and bake it in few fat, that is a Mörserhuhn.

Ingredients
8 chicken breasts
250ml chicken stock
4 tblsp flour
3 eggs
1 tsp pepper
salt to taste
1 tsp aniseed
pinch of saffron

Preparation
Poach the chicken breasts in the chicken stock until they’re cooked through. Drain and allow to cool. Mash until thoroughly mashed (I used the handle of a rolling pin) and mix in spices. Form into small 2cm balls and allow to chill.
Break eggs into flour, add milk to make a thinnish batter and add a bit of salt. Coat balls in batter and fry until golden.

Heidenische küchen (heathen cakes – as mini pastry pockets, as documented in ‘Ein Buch von guter spiese’, translated by Alia Atlas)
Diz heizzent heidenische kuchen. Man sol nemen einen teye und sol (den) dünne breiten und nim ein gesoten fleisch und spec gehacket und epfele und pfeffer und eyer dar in und backe daz und gives hin und versirtez niht.
These are called heathen cakes. One should take a dough and should spread it thin and take a boiled meat and chopped fatty bacon and apples and pepper and eggs therein and bake that and give out and do not damage.

Ingredients
1kg beef stew meat
1 pack center cut bacon, chopped
1 small onion, rough chopped
1.5 tbsp salt
1 carrot, rough chopped
1 tsp. black pepper, ground
1 stalk celery, rough chopped
2 large apples, diced
1 Tbsp. Italian Herbs (I used mixed herb blend)
10/12 large eggs, beaten (judge consitency of filling)
2 rolls premade puff pastry (because I’m a lousy cheat XD)

Preparation
Combine stew meat, onion, celery, carrot in stock pot with 1 tbsp salt and herbs and enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer and cook until meat if fork tender. Remove meat from stock, and shred. Cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and let drain on paper towel. Cook diced apple in bacon fat until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove apples and drain on paper towel. Combine shredded beef, apples, bacon, salt, pepper and eggs. Roll out premade puff pastry and cut with pastry cutter. Spoon 1 tbsp filling into pastry circle and seal. Bake at 400F for 10-12 minutes, until pastries are golden.

Cucummeren (cucumber salad – ‘Ein New Kochbuch’, by Marx Rumpoldt, translated by M. Grasse)
Schel die Murcken/ vnd schneidt sie breit vnnd duͤnn/ mach sie an mit Oel/ Pfeffer vnd Saltz. Seind sie aber eyngesaltzen/ so seind sie auch nit boͤß/ seind besser als roh/ deñ man kans eynsaltzen mit Fenchel vñ mit Kuͤmmel/ daß man sie vber ein Jar kan behalten. Vnnd am Rheinstrom nennet man es Cucummern.

Ingredients
500g cucumber
2 Tbs.p Olive Oil
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. Ground black pepper

Preparation
Peel and slice cucumbers. Toss with remaining ingredients and form into roses (stealing inspiration from Mairi Jean!!!).

Pickled Beets (‘Ein New Kochbuch’ by Marx Rumpolt, translation by M. Grasse)
Red beets preserved with small cut horseradish/ anise/ coriander/ and a little caraway/ special if the beets are cut/ marinated in half wine and half vinegar.

Ingredients
Boiled small, quartered beets, strained: enough to fill a nice big jar.
Mix of half white wine and half red wine vinegar
200g Radishes
1/2 t whole anise seed
1 t coriander seed
1/2 t caraway seed

Preparation
Combine all ingredients except beets in a pot. Bring to a boil, simmer 5 minutes, pour on the beets (already in the jar). Close tightly.

MAINS!
Ein gut spise
Garlic lamb
Brat Ruben
A dish of lentils
Gesotten Zwibelsalad

Ein gut spise (A good Food – roast chicken with pears – ‘Ein Buch von guter spise’, translated by Alia Atlas)
Nim hüenre. die brat niht volle gar. entlide die zu morseln, und laz sie sieden nur in smaltze und wazzers. und nim eine rinden brotes und ingeber und ein wenic pfeffers und anis. daz mal mit ezzige. und mit dem selben sodich in. und nim vier gebraten küten. und daz condiment dar zu. der hüenren. laz ez wol da mit sieden. daz ez werde eben dicke. hastu niht küten so nim gebraten bieren und mach ez da mite. und gibz hin und versaltz ez niht.

Take hens. Roast them, not very well. Tear them apart, into morsels, and let them boil in only fat and water. And take a crust of bread and ginger and a little pepper and anise. Grind that with vinegar and with the same strength as it. And take four roasted quinces and the condiment thereto of the hens. Let it boil well therewith, so that it even becomes thick. If you do not have quinces, then take roasted pears and make it with them. And give out and do not oversalt.

Garlic roasted leg of Mutton
Salt the leg/ and skewer it (on a spit) / and when it is half roasted/ so take fresh garlic/ that is quite young/ lard (cut small slits and insert the garlic) therewith/ and let it finish roasting/ and if you wish to prepare it/ so make a brown broth (gravy) thereto/ cut a little new garlic therin/ put a little vinegar and crushed pepper therein/ and let it simmer therewith/ and if you prepare it so/ it is a lovely roast to eat/ And so can (the) Nobility and farmers well eat it. (Marx Rumpolt)

Brat Reuben (Fried root vegetables – ‘Ein New Kochbuch’ by Marx Rumpolt, translation by M. Grasse)
Brat Ruben/ vnnd schel sie/ zerschneid sie/ vnnd geb sie in eine Schu:essel/ vnnd gibs warm auff ein Tisch/ bestra:ew sie mit Zucker/ seind sie auch gut.

Ingredients
500g carrots
500g parsnips
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. sugar

Preparation
Peel and slice carrots and parsnips. Saute carrots and parsnips in olive oil over medium heat until tender. Place in serving bowl and sprinkle with sugar.

A dish of lentils (‘Ein New Kochbuch, Marx Rumpolt)
Take lentils/ wash them fine clean/ and soak them. Take also a good beef-broth/ let simmer/ cut onion and a little garlic into it/ so that it comes nice and thick/ and when it is cooked/ so put green well-tasting herbs/ that have been chopped fine/ thereto/ and cooked bacon/ let it simmer therewith/ so it becomes good and tasty. You can also cook lentils without onion/ how one likes to eat it/ so it may be prepared.

Gesotten Zwibelsalat (Onion Salad – ‘Ein New Kochbuch’, Marx Rumpolt, translated by M. Grasse)
Gesotten Zwibelsalat/ oder gebraten/ macht man sueß mit weissem Zucker/ oder mit kleinen schwartzen Rosein.
Cooked onion salad/ or roasted (fried)/ make it sweet with a white sugar/ or with small black raisins.

Pear Tartlets (substituted strawberry for pears and precooked the filling! – ‘Das Kochbuch’, by Sabina Welserin, translated by Valoise Armstrong)
Make a pastry shell and let it become firm in the tart pan. Afterwards take strawberries and lay them around on top as close together as possible, after that sweeten them especially well. Next let it bake a short while, pour Malavosia over it and let it bake a while, then it is ready.

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