Misadventures in Medieval Cooking (Recipe)
by Nicole Locke, author of The Knight’s Scarred Maiden
My latest release, The Knight’s Scarred Maiden, involves the heroine, Helissent, who after losing her entire family in a fire finds work and solace in baking and cooking.
So I thought I better give some of her recipes a go. This is the first in a three-part blog on my adventures in Medieval cooking. Why three parts? Because when you’re making The-Giant-Yeast-Blob that tries to devour your helping children or have bees chasing you in your kitchen, there’s a lot to say.
A couple of caveats, I did not attempt any recipes over an open fire in my back garden, and I also chose recipes that my family would eat. Some of these recipes were later periods than Helissent, so if I came across a ‘modern’ ingredient, I left it out or substituted.
Today, it’s all about Desserts.
In the story, there’s an intimate scene between Rhain and Helissent as Rhain is cradling her face and tracing her lips with the tip of his thumb. It’s not only the feel of Rhain that’s significant to Helissent, but that he tastes like her apple fritters.
This time when her tongue came out he pushed his thumb into its path so it wasn’t her lips she wetted or tasted, but him.
Quickly she closed her lips and he made a disappointed sound.
‘Do you know what you’re showing me?’
She only knew how she felt. Anticipation, a giddy freedom, a heavy need and want. Ingredients stirring and folding within her.
‘I’m going to kiss you. I’ve warned you.’
‘You’ve already kissed me.’
His lips curved. ‘Not as I want to; not as I’m going to. If you want to stop, you need to leave, now.’
She was incapable of moving. He smelled of warmed leather, the acrid bite of steel. But it was the lavender and sage from the gardens that enticed her more. The fact she knew he’d eaten her fried apples from the taste lingering on his thumb.
1 apple, pared, cored and sliced into thin rings
1 egg yolk, beaten at room temperature
½ cup flour
¼ cup warm ale or beer
1 tbl yeast
3 tbl oil
1 tsp sugar, or to taste (Modern ingredient, but necessary if you’re going to eat these!)
Combine warm ale and yeast. Beat together egg yolk, flour, ale and yeast to make a smooth batter. Let the mixture sit covered until risen, about 20 min. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Dip apple rings into the batter. Fry until golden brown and drain. Sprinkle with sugar.
These fritters were incredibly yummy, but I must have used a high yeast ale because each one looked like the amoeba. At this point, covering them in icing sugar was essential for taste and appearance!
Honey is life for Helissent. Not only was it used to heal her injuries she suffered from the fire that took her family, but she uses it in all her baking. She also loves to describe the hero with her favourite ingredient.
This scene is after Rhain and Helissent travel together. Rhain fights his desire for her because of his lineage and the enemy who is after him. Helissent fights it because she is scarred, and to her understanding, ugly. Here, Rhain wants to protect Helissent by leaving her at one of King Edward’s castles.
‘It’s safe here, Helissent. There are walls, and guards to protect you if it comes to that.’
‘Why do you care about protecting me?’
‘There’s a chance just in the brief time we’ve been acquaintances he would know of you. You could be a target.’
Disquiet folded and stirred in her stomach, but it wasn’t enough. ‘We’re just strangers.’
He held that studying gaze. His warm amber eyes, so like honey. As a child, she used to hold it to the sunlight or a candle and stare at it between her fingers. Always it shone a different way depending on the light. His eyes were like that, showing her a different way and one she never knew she could take. Or one that she deserved.
‘We’re not strangers, Helissent. I don’t think we’ve ever been.’
1 cup honey
1 ¾ cups breadcrumbs
1 pinch saffron
Dash black pepper
Box leaves for garnish
Put the honey into a 2-quart pot and slowly bring it to a boil. Do not leave the pot unattended. Skim the scum that rises to the surface. When all the scum has been removed, add the saffron and pepper. Stir. Remove the pot from the heat. Add breadcrumbs, and stir until thoroughly mixed. Cool completely and place on a cookie sheet covered in waxed paper. You can cut squares or make into round balls and cover in cinnamon.
My recommendation on the recipe? Don’t use a local honey. Or at least not so local that as you are innocently scooping the mixture onto the waxed paper, a swarm of bees doesn’t fly into your kitchen, and start diving for the heated pot.
Terrified for myself and the bees, I double-checked that the stove was turned off, flung the sizzling pot into the sink, grabbed my mixture and ran into the other room.
Luckily, my kitchen is separated by French doors and I could watch the bees, who surrounded the pot for several minutes. Even hours later when I thought it was safe, there were a few bees still having a good time in the bits sticking to the side of the pot.
As for the Gingerbread I saved? It never got cut in squares or rolled into balls, but eventually, I scrapped off what I could from the waxed paper, and ate it. It was delicious.
For further dessert recipes, I’ve shared some on my website: https://nicolelocke.com
About The Knight’s Scarred Maiden:
A maiden for the mercenary
Mercenary knight Rhain is living on borrowed time. With a vengeful warlord pursuing him, he has accepted his fate—though first he must get his men to safety.
When he rescues mysterious and deeply scarred Helissent from her attackers, Rhain soon wishes he wasn’t marked for death. He can never be the man she deserves—his scandalous lineage alone dictates that—but Rhain can’t resist the temptation to show this innocent maiden how beautiful she truly is…