Friday, September 2, 2011

Tips & tricks for medieval cooking

One of the things I tell people regularly is that while medieval food can be amazing and delicious, sometimes it's hard to find the original ingredients. What we have available in the modern day is so much more than what was available in medieval years, but many of their ingredients are now costly or hard to locate. Here are a few substitutions you can use when cooking medieval recipes that will help you live in a modern world.

Don't have verjuice or access to crabapples to make it yourself? Use pickle juice in place of verjuice with meats. It tenderizes the meat, so it's great to use on cheaper cuts, and it adds a flavor that cannot be beat. Another sub for verjuice is red wine vinegar. You don't want to use as much as you would with the pickle juice, but I almost always add a good 1/4 c. of red wine vinegar to the beef roast in the crock pot. It's always fall-apart tender!

If you're trying to make a meal more medieval, use chick peas instead of other types of beans or peas. There were no green beans in the medieval period, but chick peas were readily available. They are delicious and nutritious, and in my experience, even picky kids will eat them!

Can you eat pasta with a medieval meal? YES! The Arabs brought dried pasta to the Mediterranean back in the 8th century. One starch you cannot use is potatoes! Those didn't make it to Europe until the New World explorers brought it back. Green beans came from the Caribbean, and tomatoes are from South America! Be cautious about adding ingredients that hadn't even been discovered in the medieval period!

If you need the color of saffron threads but can't afford them, turmeric is a wonderful substitute. It won't give you the flavor of saffron, but  at around $150 per ounce on average, most people can't afford to use a lot of saffron, especially when it's just needed for the golden color. The flavor isn't exactly like saffron, but no one will likely know the difference! You can also find turmeric called manjal or haldi if you're in India or the surrounding countries.

The key to good cooking from any era is flexibility and creativity. If you can't find ingredients locally, search Google's shopping section for what you could order online. Call specialty markets that you might not usually go to shop at; sometimes they have things from other parts of the world that no one else has! Take the time to  grow the ingredients that you can. Herbs and veggies are easy to find seeds for through catalogs and online sources, and small gardens can be created even in apartment settings using buckets, planters and small community plots.  Get in on a garden with friends, and create a medieval feast with the bounty!

Food should be tasty and fun to prepare as well. Enjoy the range of options that the modern world offers while trying to stick to at least the overall idea and feel of the food. You'll be glad that you took the extra time to make these meals, and the easy shortcuts won't even be noticeable to the eaters! They'll just know it tastes good!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Easy and quick foyles!

I know it's been a while since I posted a recipe...I apologize! Moving took quite a toll on me...being chronically ill is something that I fight daily, but some days my illnesses fight back more, so the trip and all the settling in just wore me clean out. On top of that, I've been busy working on the formation of a new diocese in Byzantium Novum!
One thing I've learned is that moving across the country means less time in the kitchen, and that I really need easy dishes to serve when time seems to not exist! I want to share a recipe for foyles, similar to what we would call pancakes. Everyone loves pancakes, and these stacked, spiced cakes are good any time. Serve with a bit of cream or honey for a really decadent dessert or special breakfast! To serve with a more savory meal, garnish with crushed parsley. Served like a slice of cake, these stacked foyles are divine.

Foyles- Spiced Pancakes

1/2 t. salt
1c. flour
1c. whole milk or almond milk
3 eggs, beaten till frothy
2/3c. brown sugar (use molasses sugar if you can get it)
1/4c. slivered almonds, candied ginger, candied anise (use any mix of these, but only 1/4c. total!)
a bit of butter for frying

Sift the salt and flour, and add in the milk and brown sugar. Make a smooth batter without beating it too much.*
Fold in the frothy eggs.
In a separate bowl, mix the brown sugar and the 1/4c. of extras together and set it  aside.

Be sure to use a hot skillet or griddle, but give it a good coat of butter before cooking these. For an open fire, use a stone that is indirectly heated, and be sure to add a good layer of oil or butter so they don't stick.

Cook just as you would modern pancakes. Drop a bit of the batter and be sure it's thin, so spread it a bit if needed. These are not super fluffy like modern pancakes, but also not as thin as crepes. Flip them when the edges start to bubble a bit and firm up. When done, stack them and keep them warm. Between each pancake, sprinkle just a bit of the brown sugar mix on top. When you get a good stack, cut it into slices, like a cake. You'll never want modern flapjacks again!

*Overbeating will make the gluten in the flour very sticky and you won't get a good texture. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Just a quick check-in

We're finally settling into Tennessee, and the unpacking is almost done. I just wanted to check in here quickly to let you all know to keep watching! New recipes coming soon!


Friday, July 15, 2011

For Marcus Audens, Pork and Peas

This one has taken me a while to get to, not because I haven't wanted to, but because life has been BUSY! But today, this amazing food is cooking in my kitchen, and my nose is quite pleased! So, here's the process I'm following. I wish I had my camera to take photos!!

This morning my dear hubby and sous chef helped me by cutting this huge pork shoulder and ribs slab into several pieces. I froze half for another time, and took the tip, the big shoulder piece and a couple of ribs. I seasoned them well with salt and pepper and just popped them in the fridge for later. Before I started the veggies, I put the pork pieces in a pan and coated with olive oil on both sides.* I roasted them at 400 degrees about 15 minutes and flipped for another 15 minutes. This will give you time to chop veggies and clean up this round of the meal!

The chichees were soaked overnight last night and then again today with fresh water. Once I got the meat in the oven , I dumped the soaked peas in my big stew pot, covered them in water, and added the following**:
2 chopped carrots
2 chopped celery ribs
2 chopped leeks (chop then toss in a bowl of cold water to separate and rinse)
1 large chopped onion
several cloves of raw garlic that had just been broken with the flat side of a knife
Then I added just a little bit of chicken bouillon, but only because it was in the fridge that was getting cleaned out at the time!

Added some fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil and bay) to the pot and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. The roasted meat goes in next with all the drippings and olive oil you began with. Then I put in about half the head of roasted garlic. It's 6:20pm and we're simmering with everything in the pot and the lid tipped a bit to vent the amazing smell.

 6:45 and I almost couldn't leave the pot. It smells SO good. I decided it was time to add some more herbs and some spices to the mix. I tossed in a good heavy center-of-my-palm full of ground coriander and about the same amount of curry powder. I also tossed in a bit of rubbed sage, and stirred it all while enjoying the steam facial!
This will be a recipe I will be using again. I can already tell by the smell that it's going to be amazing.

7pm- added about 4 or 5 cloves of roasted garlic. YUM Stirred well, still simmering!

8pm- could no longer resist. I had a small bowl. It was delicious! It's a rich broth, very mild with a wonderful balance of herbs and spices. Took out what was left of the stems from the fresh herbs and removed the pork to cool so I can shred it.

10pm- The pork is shredded and I made some plain rice to go with this soup. Big bowls of rice are covered in this flavorful soup, and the steaming bowl is very good and very reminiscent of a time gone by. Everyone is full and happy with our late-night feast.


*Had I been cooking over flame, just sear each piece quickly in a pan or on a long stick for the purpose. You don't need to cook it through, just brown it.

**You could also use shredded cabbage, turnips, rutabaga, parsnips, beet roots and greens, chard, spinach, just about any veggie you have on hand that would have been medieval (or not!).

Saturday, July 9, 2011

From Modern to Medieval: Beans and Rice

While I would love the chance to cook all my meals in a stone oven or over an open flame, I typically use my very modern appliances to prepare and cook meals. And while many medieval recipes come out of my modern kitchen, they are certainly not the majority. I'm a Southerner, born and raised, and I love to cook all kinds of foods. Tonight, it'll be red beans with sausage and rice. I thought I'd share this recipe with you too. And once you know how to make it, I'll turn it around into a medieval dish too! I suppose that would be reverse redaction...that sounds far too complicated! LOL Enjoy both options!

Red Beans and Rice

For the rice, I have to admit I love a boxed one here. Zatarain's Yellow Rice is a favorite, and it goes beautifully with this dish. You can definitely make white rice and it would be delicious. For the Zatarain's, just follow the directions on the box. For white rice, use the directions...typically you use one cup of rice to two cups of water.

Soak red kidney beans overnight or at least a couple of hours in hot water. Drain them and rinse them. In a crock pot (6 hrs.) or on the stove (just a couple of hours) put:

soaked beans- about 1/2 lb.
*1 can beef broth (about 2 c. homemade)
*1 can tomato sauce  (about 2 c. homemade) OR a can of diced tomatoes w/ juice    and a small can of tomato paste
*1 ham hock, leftover pork roast bone or lamb bone
 *bacon & grease- this is optional if you want to use olive oil without the meat, but  I recommend crumbling the cooked bacon into the beans and use all the grease for  the onions, peppers, celery and garlic
*a couple of tablespoons of Old Bay (or your favorite Cajun seasoning)
*a good tablespoon of black pepper
*a few good shots of Tabasco or Durkee or Frank's hot sauce (and more once it's     in the bowl if you like!)

In a skillet on the stove-top, heat up a couple of tablespoons of bacon grease or olive oil. Add one or two chopped onions to the oil and stir well. Toss in a couple of crushed cloves of garlic, 2-3 chopped celery ribs and 2 chopped bell peppers.

Add a 1/2 lb to a lb. of sliced sausage; you can use andouille, kielbasa, or whatever you have! You can add in leftover beef or pork, and even chicken is good. Brown it all just a bit, then toss it in with the beans, oil and all.

Top it off with water, and keep an eye on it, adding water as needed.  Stir it now and then. As the beans get closer to being done, stop adding water. Let it thicken, or you can add a bit of tomato paste to thicken it at the end if needed.

Serve it over hot white or yellow rice. It's SOOOO good.

Now, to turn this into a medieval dish. We have all the right ingredients:

*celery, peppers, onions, garlic
*olive oil
*meat bone, likely would have been pork or lamb
*bacon/pork grease- you'll need to cook about 1/3 lb. of bacon and then crumble
*rice, and the turmeric to  create the yellow color as well as saffron for flavor
*water, stock or broth

The only non-medieval ingredient on my list is the tomato sauce. Tomatoes came to Europe with adventurers returning from the Americas in the 1500s, and even then they were considered poisonous because of their red color. The leaves of the plant are actually poisonous, as tomatoes belong to the nightshade family. They were originally grown in Europe as ornamental plants. There was a deadly problem however, as the acid in the tomatoes increased the leeching of lead out of plates and often the wealthy with their lead-ridden plates were falling dead, and they believed it was the tomatoes that did the deed. Once Italian cooks started making pizza with tomato sauce, all of Europe figured it out - tomatoes are tasty.

You could also add in cubed potatoes, carrots, leeks, turnips, greens, or whatever else you have in the house. Of course, potatoes aren't medieval either, but we've already covered that as I recall. A pot of beans with a little seasoning makes a fine meal, but add in some other veggies and have a pot of soup. To thicken it, use a handful of breadcrumbs or mix up a roux. For a quicker, more modern thickener for soups, stews and beans is instant potatoes. The flakes thicken the liquid and add a complimentary flavor to the dish. Not in a medieval pot, though!!

Food today isn't all that different from food hundreds of years ago. We still use beans in cooking, and they provide an excellent source of protein that we need. Beans are the go-to food for many folks, especially in economic times like these.
They are cheap, easy to prepare, and you can use a wide variety of veggies and spices, herbs and sauces, to add to the flavor.

I hope you enjoy these easy meals, and I hope you try your own versions! I wish I had my camera...I'd post pics! My camera is in Boston with my son. So send me your pics!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Just a few changes...

I've changed just a few of the settings here to make things easier, I hope, for everyone! Please let me know if you see anything weird come up, or don't like something!

I'll be back at it soon with a requested recipe for Pork & Peas!


Friday, June 17, 2011

Grilled Fruits and Fig Compote with Bread and Cheese

With the hot weather and afternoon storms here in Colorado, there's no doubt that summer is really upon us! One of my favorite activities is cooking outside on the grill, especially after the rain has cooled off the heat of the day. Today, I want to give you a great way to enjoy the grill and still feel like you're eating in the Middle Ages!

Putting fresh fruit on the grill is a trick that so many people don't know about! Grilling brings out the most amazing flavors in fruits, and it also serves to caramelize some of the sugars in the fruit, which adds a depth of flavor you just can't get without grilling. You can grill all sorts of fruits, from peaches to bananas, but to keep it medieval, use fresh citrus, apples and pears. Add in some freshly baked bread lightly toasted over the flames, fresh fig compote and a variety of cheese with some delicious honey, and you have a wonderful camp treat, breakfast, or appetizer course. Served after supper, this combination makes a lovely way to end an evening, and an easy dessert that everyone will love! And your friends can take part in the magic; let them grill their own fruits!

Grilled Fruits

Apples, Pears, Lemons, Oranges cut in half or large slices, about 1/4 inch thick

Place fruits down on the grill for just a moment or two. The goal is to get just a bit of those char marks on the fruit. Grill them with the skin on!

Serve grilled slices of fruit with some toasted country bread, fresh cheese and honey or a delicious fig compote! Did you know that figs are the sweetest of all fruits? There are hundreds of varieties, but in the Western US, the black mission is the most common.

Fig Compote

1 big orange- you need as much juice as you can get out of it, and you can add in the pulp if you remove the membrane covering the pulp
1/2 lb. figs, roughly chopped
2 T. honey- make it a good one, as fresh as you can get!
1/2 c. red wine *Note: if you wouldn't drink it from a glass, don't cook with it!
1 c. water
3 sprigs of thyme, tied in cheesecloth

Mix orange juice, figs and honey in medium saucepan. Let it sit for about 10 minutes. Add the other ingredients, and stir while bringing it to a boil. Once it's boiling, turn it down to a very low simmer. Stir it off and on for about 20-30 minutes. It should be thickened, and most of the liquid should be gone. You want a nice thick compote. Toss out the thyme and cheesecloth, and let it cool if you can keep people out of it long enough! Store in the fridge.

This recipe could likely be done in a crock pot as well, but I wouldn't want to  underestimate the time. If you try it in a crock pot, please let me know how long it takes! Over a fire, you'll need to be careful that it doesn't start to scald in the pot. Definitely use a lower flame for this compote, and be sure to keep stirring to avoid any sticking at the bottom. It should take about 15-20 minutes over a fire.

This compote is delicious on fresh toasted bread. Top the bread with a bit of delicious Mizithra cheese and a little dollop of the compote for a delicious breakfast. Add in a slice of grilled apple or pear, and you have the most amazing treat!

For the cheese, I would recommend substituting any good, fresh goat's milk cheese if you cannot find Mizithra in your market or make your own medieval-recipe cheese. Mizithra can also be found labeled as Anari or Nor, depending on where it was made. Check out your local stores for specialty cheese sections; King Soopers has some stores that have beautiful cheese sections that are manned for lots of sampling!

Mizithra is a cheese that can be used for many delicious recipes, mixed in a salad or as part of the mix in mini-pies, which make amazing hand-held snacks. Blend some of the compote and pieces of Mizithra cheese and put little spoonfuls in phyllo dough squares. Fold over and seal with a bit of beaten egg, crimp the edges and bake till golden!  Yum!

This is a very sweet mix of foods, and some may find it too sweet! Once sugar made its appearance in the medieval world, it was a luxury that the wealthy indulged in as often as possible. The sweeter the food, the higher one's status!

It was the Byzantines that gave us the extensive use of honey and sugar that we continue to enjoy today. Baklava, the gloriously sticky, sweet stuff, came from Byzantium, and it was Byzantines who first enjoyed the blending of sweet and savory flavors. It boggles my mind to think of all the sugar that is in our diet today. Nearly everything has some form of sugar added, and the artificial foods in our diets are often full of hidden sources of it. In Byzantine times, there was very little sugar in the diets of the common man and woman, and what sugar was consumed was usually in the fruits and honey they ate. Our use of processed and artificial sweeteners has removed the decadence of sweet things. The recipes I've shared here help bring back some of that natural sweetness that doesn't need anything artificial to make it better. Enjoy!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Finally getting back!

I must apologize for vanishing for so long! My computer decided to get very ill and that little virus removed everything from the hard drive. It died despite all efforts to save its life, and only recently have we been able to Frankenstein our way back online!

I cannot believe how much amazing information, research, written pieces, photos and more that was lost! For someone so fascinated with the simpler lifestyles of days gone by, it's horrible how connected I feel the need to be to my computer!

I hope you'll continue to be patient with me as I continue working my way back into the 21st century. I hope to be posting recipes again soon!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Challenge 2- Turnip Soup

I've put together a couple of options for the turnip soup. One is a cream version, one is a thinner stock version. The stock version would be more period-appropriate, and could be thickened with some mashed beans or peas. Oats or other grains could also be used to thicken the soup, as could pieces of bread. These options make more of what is called a pottage.

An important note on broth and stock: There's a difference between stock and broth. Stock is made with bones, and broth is not. For veggies, it's kind of the same thing, both being made with fresh veggies. You can save all sorts of extras in a freezer bag, then make veggie stock when you have a full gallon-sized bag. Peels, skins, bruised pieces, etc. all work very well for stock. For meat stock, use raw bones along with the vegetables. Be sure to either tie it all up in a cheesecloth, or strain the stock well to keep out little pieces of unwanted bits. Freeze the stock in ice cube trays, then toss the cubes into freezer bags and label. You will have fresh stock on hand all the time! You can make stock in the crock pot, too! Put it all in the pot, cover with water, turn on low for 12 hours.

Cream of Turnip Soup

1 c. peeled and diced turnips
1/2 c. scraped and diced parsnips
1 1/2 c. beef or lamb stock (this really needs a meat stock for the flavor)
1/2 c. coarsely ground almonds (don't use the salted or roasted ones. Raw almonds here!)
1 c. heavy whipping cream
3 egg yolks
1/2 t. salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Gently simmer the turnips and parsnips in the broth until soft, 10-12 minutes or so. Stir in the almonds and heat for 2-3 minutes. In a separate bowl, break and mix the yolks and salt with the cream. Next, add the lemon juice and slowly pour 1/2 c. of  hot soup into egg mixture, stirring well as you pour in the soup. This will temper the egg mixture so you don't get scrambled egg soup! Slowly pour this tempered mixture into the soup pot and stir it well. Continue heating for about 5 minutes on low heat, stirring a couple of times. Serve piping hot with fresh bread!


Turnip Soup

4 c. stock (beef, chicken, lamb or vegetable)
1 c. peeled and diced turnips
1 c. chopped leeks
1/2 c. peeled and diced parsnips
1-2 chopped white carrots (wild carrots are white or purple, but orange ones will do fine!)
2-3 ribs of celery, chopped
1 onion, peeled and diced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and diced
1/2-1 lb. cooked or 1 can chichees, drained and rinsed (optional)

Put all of the above in a crock pot or stove-top pot and stir. Simmer for 30 minutes or so. If you use a crock pot, I'd recommend setting it on low for 4-6 hours.

Next, add:
chopped roasted pork or lamb (This is optional, but a great way to use leftover meats)
juice of one lemon, plus the lemon zest of half the lemon- can add zest of the whole lemon if desired
fresh herbs- chopped
fresh chopped chard or spinach leaves

Put these in and stir gently. Simmer another 20-30 minutes, until all vegetables are softened and the greens have wilted.

I've been challenged! Challenge 1- Black-eyed pea salad

In chat tonight, I was asked to find a couple of recipes that would have been eaten in Byzantium. One was a turnip soup, and the other was a black-eyed pea salad with a honey and vinegar dressing. Well, I decided to see what I could come up with. I hope these are enough to meet the challenge! The soup recipes will be posted on their own!

Black-Eyed Peas with Honey Vinegar Dressing
1/2 c. honey
3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar (you could use red wine vinegar for a milder flavor)
1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 c. fresh herbs, chop or chiffonade (use what you have, but your options are plenty: thyme, rosemary, Italian parsley, savory, oregano and others!)
Sea salt to taste (a pinch or 2)

First, blend the herbs, garlic and the oil, then stir in the honey. Whisk in the vinegar until you have an emulsion. Add a pinch or 2 of sea salt and taste. Once emulsified, pour into a bottle and keep refrigerated .

For the salad:
Cooked black-eyed peas
Chopped onion
Cress (optional)
Chopped white carrots
Chopped celery and leaves

Mix the above in the amounts desired. Blend in enough of the dressing to flavor the vegetables well, but not leave them overly wet.

You can make this with all sorts of other ingredients for various flavors. Add chopped jalapeƱos for some kick. Add in drained Mandarin oranges with some freshly grated ginger for an Asian flare. Fresh chopped bell peppers can add some crunch, or toss in some halved cherry tomatoes! Replace the black-eyed peas with chichees. The possibilities are endless!

Of course, these other options aren't Byzantine, but not every meal has to be perfectly period. Cooking is about enjoying your time in the kitchen, preparing food with love, and serving it to people who will be nourished body and soul.
In medieval times, people cooked with what was available to them, and one had to be flexible with ingredients. Today, it's not much different if you have a garden. Sometimes you have to alter a recipe to match what's ready to harvest!

No matter what you cook, do it with love. Food isn't just about nutrition; it's about feeding the soul as well!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Commemorating the Founding of Constantinople May 11

Byzantium Novum invites you to join in our virtual celebration of the founding of Constantinople on May 11. Byzantium Novum is a micro-nation dedicated to the rebirth of Byzantine culture and civilization which was formed to become a small, legitimate successor state to the Byzantine Empire. We exist as a micro-national sovereignty project, working to bring Byzantine civilization to life in the modern world as much as is possible. Our goal is to establish a physical, symbolic and administrative world capitol of 100 acres or more, where the Byzantine State may have a real-world existence and coordinate Byzantine interests around the world. This year, we celebrate 1681 years since the founding of “The City.”

Citizens of Byzantium Novum will be celebrating in a variety of ways. From cooking period foods in the modern kitchen to speaking with the Senate in a chat room online, May 11 will be a celebration of the rejuvenation of Byzantine culture. To chat, just go to Signup on is free, and this will be the permanent home of our chat sessions. Join Senators Baduila Chalkeus and Amma Doukaina, along with Count Ulfr the Varangian and others from 7pm-9pm EST.

There are many ways to celebrate this auspicious occasion with us, despite our distance in the real world. There is a wonderful documentary about Byzantium here that you can watch for free:

Interested in eating like they did during the Empire? Although this year the Greek Orthodox Church will be fasting (wine is allowed) on May 11, it is a wonderful opportunity to try your hand at the foods of the Eastern Empire! If you follow the Greek Orthodox calendar, Agiozoumi and fresh bread are a wonderful option for fast days, Wednesdays and Fridays. This is a simple, but delicious, soup. Here’s a small menu to get you started for a non-Orthodox meal. Have baskets of crusty Greek bread available throughout your meal!

Appetizer course: Dried and fresh figs, citrus fruits, walnuts, almonds, fresh melon and Mizithra cheese.  A bowl full of melitzanosalata is delicious dipped with that crusty bread! Caviar or roe as well as brined capers were popular in Byzantine times for those who could afford it, also.

Main course:  Fish dishes would include any of a variety of Mediterranean fish and shellfish either fried in olive oil or boiled gently with leeks and lots of dill. Kippered sardines and herring were commonly eaten also. There is a lot of room for you to be creative and use the type of seafood you like. Consider adding in mussels or eel to your dish!
                 Fresh omelettes called sphoungata, served with delicious ingredients like Feta cheese; chichees (chickpeas) cooked in olive oil and salted water with lots of fresh cloves of garlic, stuffed peacocks and turtledoves, and a variety of resined wines, called retsina, would also be served as part of the main course. You can order retsina from many companies online, and may be able to find it in your local wine market. 
               Meat dishes would include roasted pork basted in honeymead, and many companies today make mead in varying levels from very dry to very sweet. For meat, you’ll want to find a dry or semi-dry version. You could roast a leg of lamb with spearmint and rosemary, as well! Be sure to serve a sallet, similar to a modern salad, at the end of the meal. Arugula, watercress and other wild greens tossed very lightly with some olive oil and herbed vinegar make a wonderful end to the meal (yes, they ate salads at the end!). This cleanses the palate in advance of dessert and was believed to aid digestion.    
For dessert, serve kopton, of course! Kopton was very similar to the baklava we know today. Sweet, rich honey with layers of nuts and perfect phyllo dough is absolutely the best way to end any meal! You can easily purchase baklava at your local Mediterranean restaurant or local bakery. Fresh honey along with apples, pears, figs and other fresh fruits can also be served to add variety!

Exarch Matyas offers a prayer for the day: O God of Heaven, Father, on this day of commemoration, from your son Jesus to the first called of His apostolic patriarchs; Saint Andrew, send your Holy Spirit to the people who follow your sacred traditions, Lord we are your servants, give your holy power to your sacred traditions, as they have survived forever. We do this in remembrance of your glory. Amen.

And from the Chaplain of Megalopotamia, this prayer: Show us your mercy, O Lord, and grant us your salvation. Clothe your ministers with righteousness; let your people sing with joy. Give peace, O Lord, in all the world, for only in you can we live in safety. Lord, keep this nation under your care, and guide us in the ways of justice and truth. Let your way be known upon earth, your saving health among all nations. Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten, nor the hope of the poor be taken away. Create in us clean hearts, O God, and sustain us with your Holy Spirit.

Let us bless the Lord. Alleluia. Alleluia. Thanks be to God. Alleluia. Alleluia.

May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. -Romans 15:13

On this day of commemoration, we celebrate our Byzantine heritage! It is our desire to encourage our citizens and potential citizens by showing real-world options for bringing Byzantine history to the modern day. Please join us by celebrating, and let us know what you’re doing! Send photos and details to, and be sure to look around on our website!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Sand Ovens

Of course, these days everyone camps out with propane stoves, modern cookware and utensils, and the car not more than a short walk away. No modern convenience need be done without, even in the middle of the wilderness. Have you ever thought, though, of what you'd do without all those wonderful things? In the Middle East, sand ovens are still common. Bread is baked, meat is roasted, and it all happens in a hole in the ground! These ovens are used because you don't need more than a goat and a knife. There's not much to carry, and you could wrap the meat in just burlap and toss it in! Roasted meat without extra seasoning is still delicious, but I like to add the herbs and things. I hope you'll try this out if you have a chance. It takes some work, but it's worth it. If you do this, take pictures and send them to me!

What you need to do:

Dig a 3' x 3' hole in the sand. I wouldn't recommend doing this in the local playground, but a nice stretch of beach or even a SW backyard would work beautifully!

Dump a good heavy layer of hot coals or hot stones in the bottom
Top with either a cleaned whole goat or hog. I would recommend cutting a whole hog in half nose to tail, and use 2 of these ovens- 1 oven for each half. I'd also recommend putting them split side down so the fats disperse through the meat. and adds all that extra flavor! You'll need more coals for a hog than a goat- at least 2-3 times as much, depending on the hog's size. You could also use leg of lamb.

Rub the beast in and out with olive oil, dress the meat with fresh herbs, salt and pepper. You could put in some slices of lemon or orange as well, especially for pork. For lamb, use rosemary and fresh mint.
Wrap the meat very well in banana or grape leaves, and tie it all up with twine so that all the meat is covered well.  Lay it in the hole, on top of the bottom layer of hot coals.
Dump in hot coals so that the meat totally covered. Top off the rest of the hole with sand. Be sure to mark it!!! You don't want to dig up the entire beach looking for your goat. :)

A small goat will take a few hours. The bigger the meat, the longer you need to cook it. Lamb should be checked in 2-3 hours depending on how rare you prefer it. Half a hog should be in all day, at least 8-10 hours.

Once you dig it out, unwrap it and enjoy! For a modern touch, you could put veggies or potatoes wrapped in foil down in the top layer of coals.

Whether it's on your little section of beach for the weekend, or a fun way to feed the family at this summer's reunion, using a sand oven is a sure way to make friends fast! Cook it, and they will come, I always say!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Chichees w/ Garlic

One of my favorite simple foods is chichees, more commonly known as chickpeas or garbanzo beans. One of the first recipes I redacted and tried making for myself was chichees with garlic. I call them chichees because in medieval house receipts (where recipes got their start), that's what they were called.
Everyone loves this dish, and it couldn't be easier. Chichees were used quite often in the Byzantine Empire, and indeed, throughout Europe as well during the Middle Ages. It's said that chichees were the one bean the more wealthy people of Byzantium would eat. Still considered "poor food," beans of all sorts are packed with protein, inexpensive to make, and they are delicious alongside roasted meats and veggies.

What you need:

About a pound of cooked chickpeas- if you cook these from dry beans, be sure to soak them overnight in warm water. This will help bring out all the nutrients in the beans and shorten the cooking time! You can always use a can or 2 of them, drained and rinsed!

Several cloves of garlic (3-4 to just flavor, or several if you like to eat them cooked)- just cut these in half- don't mince them.

What to do:

Put the cooked beans in a saucepan and put in enough fresh, warm water to just about cover the beans. They don't need to be covered all the way.

Pour in enough olive oil that the beans and garlic are all submerged. I usually measure out about 1/4 inch or so over the beans. It's a lot of oil, but worth it.

That's it. Now put the pan on the stove, and simmer without a lid. I usually let it simmer for about an hour, but after 30 minutes, scoop out the garlic and chichees. You can separate the oil at the end and add some fresh chopped herbs and lemon zest, then use it to dip fresh bread!

Note: If you love garlic as much as I do, you can take a large head of garlic, cut off the pointed end down to just where the garlic is barely sliced through. Pour on a bit of olive oil, wrap in foil and roast for about an hour at 350 degrees. Use the roasted garlic instead of fresh in the chichees for a sweeter flavor! Keep a couple of cloves out to spread on your bread. Yum!!!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Roasted Pork with Honeymead

 During the Eastern Empire, pork and lamb were the most common meats used. There was, for nobility, also ass, deer and wild boar. Pork was most common because it was easy to raise pigs, and the animal has a multitude of uses! I love pork in simple recipes, where the flavor of the meat really comes through and melts in your mouth. You could spit a whole hog over an open fire for this recipe, as well, but a crock pot or roasting pan in the oven sure do make it easier! Mead or honeymead are available in most larger liquor stores. If you live close enough to a winery or brewery, they may carry a local brand that you'd like to try, and you may even have a local meadery!

large pork butt, 5-7 lbs., salt and pepper the meat all over
2 bottles of favorite brand of honeymead (also labeled 'mead')
variety of fresh herbs to make a good handful, options include:
     Italian parsley, onion tops, basil, bay, rosemary, sage, savory, thyme
     (Stuff these inside a spitted hog along with a good shake on of salt and black           pepper.)

Place the pork butt in either a large crock pot or in a large roasting pan with tight lid.  You can tie up the herbs or just lay them on top and around the roast (I like this way). Pour in about half the bottle of honeymead. Pour the other half in glasses and share with friends!
 For the crock pot, you'll want to cook this on low for 8-10 hours. In an oven, I would slow cook this at about 300 degrees for 4-6 hours, basting well with the remaining bottle of honeymead about every hour. It should be practically falling off the bone when done.
You can add in large pieces of leeks, onions and garlic to the pot as well- but they only need a couple of hours, so put them in later on in the cooking time.

Agiozoumi Re-creation

In Byzantine times, agiozoumi was prepared and served as a drink on fast days, Wednesdays and Fridays. If you are commemorating an event from the Empire, but need to maintain dietary, religious restriction, agiozoumi is definitely something you should try! It's an onion soup that is served with plenty of bread! Pieces of bread are often used to soak up the soup, and can be torn into small pieces to thicken the soup in the bowl!

2 T. very good olive oil 
 2 chopped onions
 2 chopped garlic cloves
 1 t. salt
 1 pinch black pepper
 A few bay leaves
 1/2 t. fresh marjoram

 1 c. Greek yogurt
 2 pints of vegetable stock
 1 T. chopped Italian parsley

 Optional- chopped leeks

 Heat  the olive oil in a heavy pot & add in onions. Cook about 2 minutes until translucent. You could add in some chopped leeks as well, if you have them. 

Add the chopped garlic and all the seasonings. Mix it just a bit. Add the yogurt & mix well. Pour in the stock and stir.
Bring the soup to a simmer. cover & simmer for 20 minutes.

Melitzanosalata- Greek Eggplant Dip

Did you know that eggplant was commonly used during Byzantine times? And fresh lemons were plentiful! They are so much better than the bottled juices we have available now. Always use fresh ingredients! Here's a delicious recipe to serve with your crusty Greek bread! 

 2 large eggplants
 3 T. fresh lemon juice
 3 cloves garlic, minced
 1/2 cup very good olive oil
 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
  salt & pepper to taste

  Preheat the oven to 400 F or roast over an open fire. Use a fork to prick the eggplants all over. Put them on a baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes till they're nicely roasted and soft. Remove and drain them on a paper towel if needed. Let them cool just a bit until they can be handled without scalding yourself. Cut them in half and scoop all the insides out into a food processor. Add the minced garlic and fresh lemon juice. Pulse a few times to combine. Continue to pulse while adding a steady stream of olive oil. Stir in parsley, salt and pepper.

Serve with bread and alongside fresh fruits, nuts and cheeses for a starter course to midday or supper meals!

Crusty Greek Bread

 Did you know that bakers in Byzantium were never called to public service? Their animals could not be taken into service either. Bread was, and still is, a staple food in the Greek world. Here's a recipe for a crusty country bread that would be very similar to the round loaves served during the Empire.

1 ounce of fresh yeast or 2 tablespoons of dry yeast
1/2 cup of lukewarm water
1/2 cup of corn flour (not corn meal) 

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in lukewarm water. Slowly add the 1/2 cup of flour and mix until all lumps of flour have dissolved, to form a thick liquid. Allow to rise about 15-20 minutes.


8 cups of unbleached bread flour
1 tablespoon of salt
2 1/2 cups of lukewarm water (1/2 c. is extra if you need it.)
2 tablespoons of whole milk
2 tablespoons of honey
2 tablespoons of olive oil (to coat the bowls and loaves)  

Sift the remaining flour with the salt, put in a large mixing bowl, and make a well in the center. Add oil, honey, milk, yeast mixture, and 2 cups of the water in the well. Pulling in the flour slowly, mix with hands until it's a cohesive mass. (If more water is needed, add in small amounts from the remaining 1/2 cup.) Turn out onto a floured surface and continue kneading until the dough is nice and smooth and no longer sticks to the hands.

Note: You could cheat and use a stand mixer with a bread hook!

Place the dough in a lightly oiled mixing bowl and roll until all sides of the dough are lightly oiled. Cover the bowl with 3 dish towels: 1st one dry, 2nd one dampened with warm water (wet towel and wring out), and the third dry. Place in a warm place and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. 

Punch it down and knead for 5-6 minutes on a floured surface. Divide the dough into 3 or 4 equal portions, and form them into round loaves. Place them several inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets or a stone and cover with 3 clean dishtowels (the middle one damp). In a warm place, allow the loaves to rise for 1 hour.

Preheat your oven to 450F.

For a thicker crust, score the tops of the loaves in a cross shape. Otherwise, bake as it is on the rack just below the middle of the oven for 30-35 minutes until browned. When tapped on the bottom, bread will sound hollow.

When the loaves are done, remove from oven and cool on racks.

Come on in!

Welcome! I am so glad you've come to my kitchen. Re-creating recipes from the past in a modern setting is a passion for me, so much so that I got a degree in medieval and Renaissance culinary history! I believe that feeding the body must be paired with feeding the soul. We are what we eat, as they say. Food made with love breeds love.

 I look forward to sharing delicious recipes from the Byzantine Empire, as well as other places during the same time period. The foods we love today were traded through Constantinople. Spices, fruits, even sugar, came through the Byzantine Empire. Our Byzantine ancestors were, indeed, on top of the spice trade, and they created many of the foods we enjoy today. Marzipan was created during the Empire, and the first recipes to mix sweet and savory came from that period as well. They were the first to use saffron for cooking, and the first to use rosemary and mint on lamb. Even caviar came from the Empire!

 I hope that the recipes here will encourage you to try and make a medieval dish in your very modern kitchen. Perhaps you have access to a true fire to cook over, which would make it that much more realistic. No matter the heat source, you can create ancient recipes in your very own kitchen with very modern cookware.