More 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 is obsessed with cooking and baking. She talks in culinary terms, much to the confusion of other characters. She compares people around her to ingredients. And while she’s kissing the hero? Let’s just say much heat is applied to the process.
To understand her, I tried some of her recipes. This is the second in a three-part blog on my adventures in Medieval cooking. Today, it’s all about the Mains, and you can’t have a meal in Medieval times without Trencher Bread, a bread that is round, flat and used as a plate.
First, I’d like to share a sneak peek into the story. It’s a dining scene between Rhain and Helissent. Unwittingly, Helissent tells a bawdy joke, and everyone, except Rhain, laughs. Tormented already with his attraction for her, Rhain’s overwhelmed with the impulse of taking her to a bed—immediately.
‘You’re not laughing like the rest of them. Why?’
‘The others aren’t imagining what I am, what I shouldn’t be. What I haven’t for years now. Not even a temptation.’
He made her sound like she was a honeycomb just out of reach. ‘And you are now?’
‘Yes.’ He grabbed his goblet and his fingers flitted around the stem as they did with the dagger at his waist.
If possible, those slight caresses wound her tighter to this moment with him. The fact she knew, somehow, he was aware of her, as a man is of a woman.
It was an absurd thought, but there was something behind Rhain’s eyes as he then retrieved her goblet and set it down.
Rhain, who seemed incapable of taking his eyes off her lips until she was sure she’d left wine there and darted her tongue to lick it.
His chest expanded and he turned his attention to the table. His eyes darted as if looking for answers until they fixed on her empty trencher. ‘Should we eat?’ he said. ‘You’ve done nothing but eye the food. You’re torturing me with the wait. Don’t you wish to taste it?’
She was certain she couldn’t get food past the constriction in her throat.
This recipe wasn’t in either Medieval cookbook I own, so I tried one from the internet. I know, don’t believe everything you read. After the debacle of this, I did further research and realised that what happened to my family was typical of this type of bread. So I’m here to warn you.
Yes, warn. I make bread, I’ve even been known to make my own bagels. Loads of things can go wrong, but they are fixable. But making this bread was…I don’t know what happened.
It started simple. I mixed the ingredients in my largest bowl (4 quart), placed that on a baking sheet, and covered it to proof overnight.
I woke up to THE BLOB spilling over the bowl, oozing past the baking sheet and overtaking my countertops. It was mere centimetres away from dripping onto my floor.
Before I had my morning cup of tea, I valiantly fought back with oiled spatulas. To my dismay (and as a mother, a certain pride in their manners) the children came to the rescue. Who could blame them? After all, what child wouldn’t delight in scooping up a giant yeasting bubble–sort of like fluffy clay, right?
Except…this wasn’t like clay. This was sticky. I mean crawling up your hands to your elbows and into your hair sticky. They. Were. Doomed.
No hope. I had to save the bread. I mean, the children. I started pelting extra flour at them. When my daughter pulled free, I ordered her to retreat to the bath in the hopes that water could restore her (for days I continued to find little flour splats in my bathroom).
My son, still trapped with the remains, and me, with dawning horror at the cleaning that was to come, stood in the kitchen that was a mere shadow of its former self.
But I was saving the bread.
Scraping the remains out of the bowl, off the countertops and onto the baking sheet, we shuffled to the back garden. While I threw more flour on him and the mixture, he began to knead until finally it resembled something that looked like dough. Triumphant, I grabbed the tray to step into the kitchen that was no more.
With my son doggedly informing me it was all for naught, that there was no way anyone would eat it, I baked it, let it cool, and scooped out the centre just as they did in the Medieval times. It truly looked like the perfect edible plate: hard crust, with a soft centre that could be transformed into breadcrumbs for other recipes. It was even flat and yet round with edges to hold sauces.
Alright, it’s true, I had only one loaf instead of four, but I took a bite, and it was delicious.
Oh, and if you still want the recipe? I can’t find it. No, really, I can’t. I think The Blob ate it. There are other sites that talk of trencher bread, some in fact mentioned their sticky situations. All I can tell you is the ingredients I used were:
Spelt & Rye Flour
Dry active yeast
Luke warm water
If someone has a tried and true trencher bread recipe, please share!
And as for other Mains? I made loads that were all successes. Sauces for fish and poultry, a pottage with fennel and a scrumptious almond chicken. I’ve shared these recipes (and a few minor adjustments) on my website. https://nicolelocke.com
On June 13th, I’ll be divulging the secrets to good honey cakes. Why? In The Knight’s Scarred Maiden it’s the cakes that brought the hero and heroine their happily ever after (of course).
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…