Once upon a time I was a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). It’s a loosely (often very loosely) historical recreation group that had its genesis in the 1960s. I was a member on and off for 20+ years. Finally the politics were too much and I ended it. I still love historical stuff (as you can see from my interest in Steampunk and Dieselpunk) and anythign that has to do with swords, but one big group that has “ranks” in it, not for me any more. I’d do LARPing, for instance with Alliance, but frankly I haven’t the time and I’m just not very social.
However, I did end up making some great food when associated with such things. The food of the Middle Ages/Renaissance weren’t all “rotted meat with spices” (which is generally quite a myth). You can find medival recipes for battered and fried cheese sticks and what amound to funnel cakes (one of the best cookbooks and research on the subject: The Medieval KitchenRecipes from France and Italy ). I’ve come up with one of my own, for meat pies, that had great acclaim.
During one of a casual gathering of some friends from the SCA, it was also discovered that they were great dipped in a real medieval recipe for “Savory Toasted Cheese”. Now, the pies on their own have enough fat to make them best as an occasional treat and with the cheese dip, they are downright dangerous.
Flaky Cheddar Cheese Crust (courtesy of Rose Beranbaum’s Pie and Pastry Bible. Wonderful book. Get it if you like to cook.)The following makes a 9” single crust. I usually make a double batch and get about a dozen hand-pies from it
8 Tbsp butter (don’t use anything else)
1 ½ c. white flour
¼ tsp. salt (don’t use if you use salted butter)
1/8 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper (can omit or add extra)
¾ c. sharp cheddar cheese, grated and cold
2 ½ Tbsp ice water
1 ½ tsp. cider vinegar
Cut the butter into small cubes (3/4 inch) and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
Place flour, salt, baking powder and cayenne in a gallon ziplock bag. Add cheddar cheese. Seal the bag, pressing most of the air out. Rub cheese and flour mixture together until it resembles a coarse meal. Open bag and add butter cube. Close bag and expel the air. Once sealed, use a rolling pin ro flatten the butter into thin flakes. Place bag into freezer for 10 minutes or until butter flakes are very firm.
Open bag. Scrap sides of bag with a spatula to get butter flakes and flour into bottom of bag. Add ice water and vinegar. Seal bag, expelling most of the air. Knead the mixture in the bag until mixture holds together in one piece and feels slightly stretchy when pulled. Take the dough out of bag, flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic or just replace in bag and seal. Refrigerate at least 45 minutes, preferably overnight.
Take out of refrigerator and let set 5-10 minutes so dough is workable. Cut or tear dough into walnut sized hunks. Roll out between wax paper until 1/8” or so thick, usually about 7” diameter roughly. Fill with cooled filling, by placing a tablespoonful or two on half of the circle leaving a margin of about ½”. Moisten margin and fold over rest of dough, pressing to seal. Make a small slit on top to release steam.
To make the beef filling:
Take a 3-5 pound beef chuck roast. Chuck is what you want, even if some other cut is cheaper. It has enough fat to make the filling tender and juicy. Place the chuck roast in a roasting pan, the type that your grandmother had with the lid. Mix envelope of onion soup mix with a cup of water and pour over roast. Add 3 more cups of water. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Place roast pan in oven then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Roast until you can easily pull apart with a fork, about 2 to 3 hours. Add water if it gets low. You want about 3 cups of meat juices when you’re done. When done, remove roast from pan. Dissect roast and remove all chunks of fat and gristle, and tear the meat into shreds. Take meat juices and pour into saucepan. Make a thickener of a loose paste of water/milk and cornstarch or flour. Bring juices to the boil and add thickener by the tablespoonful until it thickens to a good gravy. Cool gravy. Add to meat until it makes a moist mixture. You don’t want too much gravy. Cool mixture. And proceed as above.
The pies can sit for a day before baking, but make sure to refrigerate. To bake hand-pies:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pies on cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Bake for 20-30 minutes. They will usually leak a bit of gravy but that doesn’t hurt anything.
That’s it! These are very good with horseradish sauce or the extra gravy and a beer.
Savory Toasted Cheese aka “Cheesy Goo”
3 parts cream cheese
2 parts butter
1 part brie (remove rind)
Melt together. It generally goes easiest to first melt the butter, then add the cream chees and then the brie. Whip with hand beater for it to be satiny smooth. Dip bread, vegetables, PIES, etc into it while warm. Keeps nicely in a fondue pot or for a crowd in a crockpot.