• Oh and one more thing…

    …have a truly happy and fulfilling new year!

    Hildegard’s next celebration will be on the twelfth day of Christmas, Epiphany,  King Richard II’s  birthday.

    How did he celebrate?  More later…

  • Swan at last!

    There are many variations on the recipe for roast swan that Hildegard would have eaten during the Twelve Days of Christmas.  If you want to copy her here’s what to do.

    First catch your swan.  This is best done by a woman as they saw a swan can break a man’s arms with one blow of its wings.  Women should be OK then.

    The favoured method is to creep up  behind the chosen swan and throw both arms round it, pinning it s wings to its sides.  Then carry it into your kitchen.

    Next pluck, draw and truss.   While it’s being turned on the   spit by  a small   ragged boy prepare a paste of eggs, clear as paper and daub  over said swan, careful that no wings or thighs are broken.  The neck must be skewered to hold it upright as if the swan is swimming on a lake.

    Skewer  the wings and  the thighs with another close to the feet which must be spread.

    When it is well cooked, gild with paste,  take  out the skewrs except at the neck, make a terrace with pastry which is one fist thick and flute it nicely all over to two feet long and a foot and a half broad and have it painted green like a meadow.  Then gild your swan with a skin of  silver  leaving two fingers width around the neck that is not gilded.  Then have a flying cloak made with crimson sendal on the inside and emblazon the top with whatever arms you wish.  Present to whomever you wish.

  • Early Christmas present

    My American publisher, St Martin’s Press, have just told me that The Red Velvet Turnshoe  is on the shortlist for Best Historical Mystery of 2009 along with three American authors.  Our own Val McDermid is on the shortlist for Best Police Procedural with Sarah Paretsky, Louise Penney and Kathy Reichs, American writers well-known on this side of the Atlantic,  and  the English contender for Best Contemporary Mystery is Reginald Hill.  Great news for us all!  Best of luck everyone!

  • Not swan again!

    I’m delighted to find the recipes for swan are rolling in.  Watch this space for something different at Christmas!

    As I’m  a non-carnivore I hope you realise  this is entirely speculative.  No swans were harmed in the writing of this blog.  But  Hildegard is off to Windsor for Christmas so for her swan is definitely on the menu.

    Keep them coming!

  • Roast Swan

    As it’s nearly Christmas I thought I’d have a look to see how Richard II’s cooks prepared their swans.  Instead I’ve found something that you’ll be more likely to eat.  It’s called Almond Milk and was used as a thickener and flavouring in meat and fruit dishes.  You could eat it hot or cold like a dip.  Here’s how to make it:

    Put fair water in a pot with sugar or honey so that it be douce.  Then salt it and set it on the fyere and when it is at boiling scom and let it boile awhile.  Then take it from the fyere and let it kele.  Blanche your almondes and grind them and temper them with the same water into a good thik mylk.  Put in wyne that it may have a good flavour therof and serve it with cut bred, tosted and basted and tosted again that it be hard.  Serve tosts in one disshe and the Almon mylk in another.

    Good luck!

  • V and A medieval galleries

    I’ve just been to see the new galleries which opened this week.  They really are a stunning assembly of objects from across several countries, mainly France, Italy and Germany, although there are one or two things from England and some wonderfully strange belts and ornaments from Switzerland.  The only thing that disappointed me is that there is so little from England.  I know that many pre-Reformation buildings and their contents were destroyed by fat Henry as he was called up north but that only makes it more important to display what remains.  For instance there are some wonderful medieval tiles in the British Museum which no-one can see because they’re kept in a basement, wrapped up in red tape.  Why can’t they be loaned to the V & A to give an idea of what was once a major export from this country?  Tiles similar to the ones found at the Abbey of Meaux – where, like most Cistercian abbeys there was a kiln built for the purpose –  are found as far afield as Hungary and the BM has around 1500 of them in store.  If they’re like the ones in the wonderful catalogue by Elizabeth Eames they’re far more interesting and beautiful  – with their honey-coloured lead glaze – than the tile pavements on show here from France and Germany.  In fact after seeing this exhibition you’d be forgiven for thinking the English were still running around in woad.  Sorry to grumble.   A knowledge of  British history is so far down anyone’s list of interests these days.  It’s a pity.  We could learn a lot from it.  But do go to the V & A if you get the chance and also have a look at the BM’s medieval galleries – smaller than the V &A but full of astonishing and beautiful artefacts (including a few tiles from Meaux!)