Wednesday, 10 February 2016




I have been a huge history nerd since I was young, and one of my favourite time periods is the English Tudor dynasty. My obsession was so strong that I went to Shakespeare camp as a kid. This partially explains why I was so drawn to Leah Moncada's blog post: Baking with the Bard: Where's my Sparknotes? In this post Leah provides step by step instructions to recreate three historical recipes from the Elizabethan and Jacobean era.

I really wanted to remake the first recipe Leah outlined: minst pie (mince pie). However, after critically evaluating my skill level in the kitchen, and realizing that I didn't want to eat an entire pie by myself, I decided against it. Instead while searching the internet I came across the Hampton Court Palace Website, and the: Tudor cook-along videos. It was as if I was meant to find this website, because the title of the first video was: Ryschewys close and fryez - a perfect alternative to Christmas mince pies. I couldn't believe my luck!  All of my fears vanished after watching the interactive video, and I was inspired to try the recipe for myself.

This recipe requires few ingredients, most which you can purchase at the local supermarket, or bulk food store. I highly recommend going to Bulkbarn as it is less expensive. The spices: saffron, mace (nutmeg), and canelle (cinnamon) were the most expensive components to the dish. The only spice that was difficult to find was the saffron, which I ended up getting at a Chinese grocery store.  For the spices you only need a small amount.

I initially had some trouble with making the dough which is called paste in the video. My issues were that I put in too much saffron water and as a result, needed to add a lot more flour and sugar to balance out the ratios. I also did not know if I needed to strain the saffron from the water, or if I should leave it in to combine with the dough. In the end I decided to remove the larger pieces of saffron before adding the water.

photo credit: Hayley Mae Jones

For the filling, I recommend modifying the amount of spices to your taste rather than following the recipe, as I found that there was too much cinnamon. I also discovered that I did not have a mortar and pestle at home, and I ended up putting all of the ingredients into a plastic bag, and smashing them together with a soup can. To be honest, I don't know who won: the filling or the soup can.

photo credit: Hayley Mae Jones
photo credit: Hayley Mae Jones

I ended up frying the recipe in corn oil, as the video does not specify what type of oil to use, nor what specific temperature was needed in the cooking process.  I also had some leftover dough which I fried up as well. 

photo credit: Hayley Mae Jones

photo credit: Hayley Mae Jones

This recipe doesn't take too much time to make, and is super tasty. I highly recommend that the Ryschewys close and fryez are eaten warm.  That being said, if this doesn't seem to be your kind of recipe (or you just don't like dried fruits), the Hampton Court Palace website has other recipes, including chocolate recipes from the Georgian era. Perfect timing for Valentine's Day! 

photo credit

In the end, my experience goes to show that reproducing historic recipes authentically and with few resources at hand without spending a copious amount of money can certainly be a challenge. You have to wonder how historic sites that have cooking programmes do it, and applaud them for their often very dedicated efforts. I ended up improvising based on what was in my kitchen and what matched my level of ability, and although the result was positive - it was edible after all! - I know that those in the age of Shakespeare were cooking in an entirely different context. I can honour and try to imitate historic dishes, but to make something that accurately represents what used to come out of English kitchens hundreds of years ago has significant difficulties. This final point is truly what makes "Historic Kitchen" great: Leah is always honest about the shortcomings, inaccuracies, and improvisations made in her own process but she still strives to reach a level of authenticity that honours and continues the legacy of the delicious recipes she selects.

If you do try some of the chocolate recipes, let me know in the comment section bellow, or through the Musings' social media!

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