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                                                                   Francisco Goya

I grew up eating wild game meat.  My dad owned a fishing and hunting store. He, my brother Jim and sister Joan hunted all the time.  It was a great way to stretch the food budget of a household of nine.  One of my favorite was rabbit. My mom cooked it two ways, in a stew or deep fried.  I loved them both. So, while looking through Williams Verral’s cookery book, I came across “Collops of Rabbit in Champagne wine” and it looked interesting. Being that we don’t hunt, Allan and I took a ride up RT 4 to Loudon and the Hungry Buffalo. They sell all kinds of wild game. We purchased enough rabbit tenders for two meals.

A few days before I wanted to make this I printed Verral’s receipt and read it over twice. I recommend that everyone read early receipt at least  twice. This way you will understand what you need to do to change it into a modern equivalent and save yourself from a cooking catastrophe. Also, I need to decide what else would go with it. I felt that cranberries would complement the rabbit and, being that there would be a bit of a sauce, I decided to have French rolls to accompany it. Then I picked a dessert that Allan has been asking for, baked custard. Along with the custard I thought it would be nice to place a tiny Madeleine on top.

I made the cranberry sauce and the Madeleine the day before our meal and sealed them in a tight container. The next afternoon I made the Cream Custard  from Lady H in Richard Bradley ‘s 1732 cookery book, and put it in the refrigerator until later.

The next day arrived and I made the custard in the early afternoon in a nice water bath. Then I started the French rolls  from Hannah Glasse receipt. We are only two people here so I froze most of the rolls. This is an experiment I’ve been wanting to try to see how will they come out the next time I want to use them.  I also froze some of the cranberry sauce for later use.  That evening I assembled all the ingredients for the collops. I chopped the green onions and  shallots put the herbs and seasoning into a small bowl and poured out the right amount of broth. I salted and floured the collops and I was ready to cook.

The fire had been going for a while and the coals were ready.  I sautéed the rabbit tenders to a golden brown and then took them out and put the plate aside to keep warm. In the same pan used for the rabbit went some butter, the mushrooms, green onions and herbs, salt and pepper.  When they were softened and the mushrooms had turned a nice chestnut color, I added a knob of butter mixed with flour and stirred it in to make a roux, then cooked it. If you don’t cook a roux long enough the flour taste remains. I stirred in the white wine and lemon juice and some chicken stock and let this  simmer a while. The rabbit was then added in, tossed around to coat and cooked for a few more minutes. I moved the pan from the coals and covered it.

My French rolls would be baked in the new reflector oven that I recently bought, this was the first chance I had to use it. When the rabbit was out of the way, I moved it closer to the fire so they would obtain a crispy golden  top.

Dinner was ready.  With everything on the table, we began to plate.

We sat  leisurely eating while the custard heated up in a warm kettle by the fire. I like my custard warm. After I took them out I toasted the top with a hot iron out of the fire.

With the custard ready I placed a mini Madileine on it. Allan was in heaven.

Now the review on this meal is complicated.  I loved the cranberry sauce and the rolls were flaky and moist.  The custard delicious and the Madeleine on top was a perfect compliment.  The rabbit sauce I did not like. They say if you’re going to use wine in a recipe use one you love. Well, I am not a fan of white wine and should have thought about this.  I found the sauce to be overly sweet from the wine and the lemon didn’t help the matter. I did like the rabbit. After scraping off the sauce I found it very tender and tasting somewhere in-between white and dark chicken meat.

Now Allan, he loved it. The next day he had it for lunch and said it tasted even better after sitting  overnight. Don’t be reluctant about trying this rabbit receipt, if you like white wine.  You may love it like Allan did.

Our next rabbit receipt will be from Edward Kidder.  I’ve read this receipt and with a change or two I’m sure I will like it.  I’ll post it soon.


“My dinner is still in the woods.” -Unknown


William Verral, 1775

“The Complete System of Cookery”



Before there were vessels to bake our food in, flour was mixed with lard and water, formed into various shapes, and filled with a mix of meat and or fruit with spices. As I mentioned in earlier posts, these vessels had names like Chawetty, Chewits, Coffins , Daryoles , Pyes and Pasties; once filled, they were baked or deep fried.

These parcels with savory or sweet filling would be served at Medieval and Tutor banquets. The smaller Chewits and Hand Pyes made a very convenient package for the traveler or worker to put in a pocket and eat on the way. ENGLISH TAKE OUT!


I decided that the first workshop of the year would be on how to make these smaller chewits and hand pyes. I spent many weeks pouring over receipts from the 14th century to the 18th century, trying to find receipts that did not include, cocks combs, tongues, sweet breads, ambergris and other ingredients unlikely to be eaten by my participants. It took a while, and I settled on several receipts that I was sure would fit our 21st century taste.

The day of the workshop arrived, and I assembled the ingredients on the wall dresser and the side table. I also needed items for our pottage. Being that the hand pie and chewits were going home with their makers we needed to have a light midday meal while we worked.


Due to unforeseen circumstances, three participants rescheduled for other workshops. However, Paul and Heather arrived ready to explore these medieval techniques. After reading through the receipts, we needed to prepare some things ahead of time. The apples were cored, put into a kettle to bake, the spinach went into a pan to steam, marrow bones were roasted and eggs boiled.

Our first receipt came from the Tutor Cookery of Hampton Court Palace in England, “Figs and Dates Hand Pyes.” The figs and dates were chopped with spices and mixed thoroughly.  Robert Smith’s receipt from The Compleat English Cook was “Apples Pyes to Fry.” The cored apples in the bake kettle had split their skins and the pulp was just right for scooping out, and mixing with lemon, quince marmalade and sugar. Heather added the sugar as she knew Paul would be a bit heavy-handed.


Our third pye was a receipt from The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened – 1669, “Excellent Marrow-Spinach-Pasties” This receipt is both savory and sweet as it has marrow, spinach, currants and sugar.

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Our dough was next and the receipt came from a medieval cookbook called A Proper new Booke of Cokery – 1545. This receipt was different than some; it calls for egg whites and saffron water to mix with the dough. With a pinch of sugar added we were sure it would be tasty.


Each receipt made enough dough for 12 hand pyes. Heather and Paul rolled it out and cut out circles about the size of a tea cup. Each circle was given a half tablespoon of filling, the edge of the dough dampened and then folded over to make a half moon. With the edges crimped in various ways they were placed on the platter.

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With the hand pyes all filled and ready to cook, Heather and Paul took turns by the warm fire frying them. When they got to be a golden brown they were placed on a towel to drain.

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The day before I made Manchet Rolls from “Martha Washinton’s Booke of Cookery.” Placing the bowl in a warm place for over two hours, the yeast worked its magic and it had doubled in size. When I punched it down and divided the dough; it made 16 rolls. I baked some and froze the rest. I’m hoping the frozen ones will cook as nicely as the first ones did.


For our midday meal I made a “Pease Pottage” from Robert May’s, The Accomplisht cook. I wanted to make the potage hearty so I decided to beef it up a bit with extra vegetables. First I boiled a smoked ham knuckle for a long time the day before and the day of the workshop I skimmed off the fat from the gelatin broth. I hung a pot over the fire and sautéed a few onions, garlic, carrots and celery, and when they were soft in went the broth, peas and the rest of the larger cut carrots, onions, celery, parsnips and potatoes. This simmered all morning and was stirred now and again.

Deserving a rest after frying all the hand pyes, Heather and Paul sat to enjoy a midday meal of pottage and manchets. On top of the pottage we floated a bit of sherry which complemented the flavors of the broth and vegetables that had simmered together.

For dessert, we dug into the hand pyes, each one was different and all were very good. With our meal finished, we began the next part of the workshop, the Chawettys .9copy

Paul prepared the loin of the hare to use in the 1685 receipt from Robert Mays, The Accomplisht Cook, which includes grapes and thick bacon mixed with spices both sweet and savory. Heather sautéed the pork tenderloin over the fire for the “Pork Chawettys” receipt that I found in the, Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books – Published by the “Early English Text Society” in 1888.

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The Pork Chawettys were seasoned with dates, ginger, cinnamon, bleu cheese and hard boiled eggs. With the fillings prepared, the dough was made with flour, lard, butter, salt and water. This made a stiff dough and Paul, who is the expert at dough-making, made a quick task of it.

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The dough was divided in half and each half cut into four pieces. Then each piece had some removed for the lid of the Chawettys. I have seen several different ways to make the vessel for the filling. In Robert Deeley’s book , The Cauldron, The Spit and The Fire, he pictures a wonderful old coffin form made of wood. I have one now, however it is too large for chewits. So we used a potato masher. This worked very well, and both Heather and Paul’s dough raised high.

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Every cook has his or her own likes and dislikes in spices, and other ingredients they might use. I explained that the receipts I printed were guidelines, and they could put other spices or fruit in to them as they might like. The Pork called for a green cheese. A green cheese is any unripe cheese such as bleu cheese. Paul is not really a cheese person so he omitted the bleu cheese and instead he added the leftover apples from the hand pyes. The hare filling included fresh grapes. With the filling placed inside, the lid was rolled out and brushed with water and pinched in place.


With two different fillings, we decided to decorate the tops of the pork Chawettys so they would know which one was which when they came out of the oven. Heather and Paul made theirs different so they could tell the cheese from the non-cheese.


When they were all made, the chawettys were basted with an egg yolk and saffron mixture that made the crust a lovely red yellow. In several receipts, I found the use of cochineal, red sandalwood and saffron to turn the dough red. Not having my delivery from Dobyns and Martin Grocers yet, I only had the saffron and it looked fine. The chawettys were slid into the oven to bake for about 25 – 30 minutes.


Baked to perfection, the chawettys were taken out and the proud makers took them home. Heather said they would have them during the Super Bowl. They left, and then returned a bit later, as Heather had forgotten her glasses. They had already eaten several of the hand pyes in route, not waiting to get home. They did look very tasty.

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I was sorry to see them go, both Heather and Paul, and the accomplishments of the day. I will need to make my own soon. I’m thinking turkey, chestnuts and cranberries.

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There is still room in a few classes so:

“Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.”
― Ruth Reichl





Robert and Mary Smith are not relatives, although genealogy can prove me wrong. Robert Smith wrote Court Cookery Or the Complete English Cook, in 1725. Mary wrote The complete house-keeper and professed cook, in 1772. So why have I joined them together? Well, they both have a receipt for Chicken Fricaffee. Mary’s is To Fricaffee Chicken and Roberts is A Brown Fricaffey of Chicken or Rabbit. The receipts have some similar ingredients, and some very different. They both use a pre-made gravy, one white, one color not mentioned. So I thought I’d check out their gravy receipts, too.

They both have several receipts for gravy; I picked Mary’s, To make White Gravy and Roberts, A good Gravy. Mary uses vegetables to enhance her Leg of veal and Robert uses, butter, anchovies, mushroom and truffles to add his flavor. (Boy what a time to be all out of truffles). These gravies are meant to be made and kept for use when called for. Living with a gravy master, I’m going to have Allan whip up something using both receipts. I know the anchovies will find their way into the sauce. Now the Fricaffe receipts differ in that Robert uses vinegar and is very heavy-handed with the butter and Mary uses lemon and hardly any butter at all. Mary only has some seasoning and Robert empties the buttry of everything he could find. Onions, gravy, parsley, mace, salt and pepper, egg yolks and cream make it in both receipts.

2copyThis evening, it will be just two of us, so I will fricaffey a large Cornish hen. I start with cutting the hen in pieces and putting out all the ingredients I will need for the receipt. I’ll use the long-handled spider, as well a few pots for rice and carrots. Allan had a great fire going and we sat in front of it and enjoyed a glass of wine while we waited for it to burn down so it would have coals.1 copy

The coals were ready and very hot. I mixed butter and a bit of oil in the bottom of the pan and the butter melted instantly but did not burn. I put the chicken pieces in, skin side down, then later when I felt they were nice and brown I turned them over. When I did, the grease in the pan caught fire on the edge and I had to back the pan off the fire a little.

If I was to compose a fricaffey receipt, I’d add mushrooms to give it that earthy flavor to complement the hen. I don’t think Mary or Robert would mind if I added them. I had shitake and oyster mushrooms left over from the making the gravy, so in they went with the chopped onion.2-copy


When everything was a nice crispy brown, I poured in Allan’s Gravy and sprinkled in the salt, pepper and spices. In making the gravy, Allan used a combination of Roberts and Mary’s gravy receipt. There were beef and pork scraps in the freezer which he browned along with chopped celery, carrots, and shallots. Next came the anchovies, mushrooms, parsley, herbs, spices and some red wine. He simmered this for a long time and then strained the liquor from the pot.

The carrots were on the fire simmering away earlier and keeping warm on the hearth. I scooped them out and added them to the spider and gave everything a stir.


Now Robert puts vinegar in his fricaffey and Mary uses lemon. Allan suggested using wine vinegar; this was poured in and mixed about. Then I whipped the egg and cream in a bowl and added some of the hot gravy from the pan into it to temper the eggs and keep them from scrambling in the spider. Once I added the amount I thought I’d need, I gave it a good stir and shook the pan as suggested by Robert’s receipt. Now Robert finishes his fricaffey off with a half pound of butter, I don’t think I need that. I did however; add some of the carrot water from the pot to the pan so the pieces could stay on the fire longer. I wanted to make sure the hen was cooked through.

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Having the carrots ready when I started the hen helped to speed up the cooking process and the pieces took less than 30 minutes. The rice which was leftover from the night before had been sitting by the fire the whole time; it was so hot I could not believe it. Then again, the bell metal pot it was in is a great conductor of heat.

Time to serve, I put the rice down first, then the hen pieces with the carrots and mushroom then I poured the gravy around the dish and on the mushroom mixture. I garnished it with some parsley. The fricaffey was cooked perfectly, and we liked the ingredients, however, the vinegar taste was not present and I think next time I will use Mary’s Lemon at the end as a finish.

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I think Robert, who wanted to “render the Art practicable and eafy,” and Mary, who wrote her book for the “greater ease and assistance of ladies, house-keepers and cooks,” would be happy knowing that I used their receipts and l combined them for my own practicability and greater ease.

Now what should I cook next time – any suggestions?

Your most humble servant,