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.