Welcome to Week 3 of the 2022 Great Colonial Cook Off.
Not sure what it’s like in your corner of the world, but here on Newfoundland’s southern Avalon, it’s hot… REALLY HOT! I’ve spent the last few days running around like a mad thing, trying to track down air conditioning units in an attempt to prevent student employees from succumbing to the heat. Even “Lori the unflappable” is starting to feel the effects of this heat wave. On Friday she told me she was staying cool by “whipping off her kirtle between tours”. I’m pretty sure she was serious!
Fortunately, our next dish is a quick one. No standing in front of a hot stove endlessly stirring grains or watching coffee simmer this week! The recipe comes from Thomas Dawson’s The Good Huswife’s Jewell, or more specifically, the second part “where is to be found most apt and readiest wayes to distill many wholsome and sweet waters. In which likewise is shewed the best maner in preseruing of diuers sorts of fruits, & making of sirrops. With diuers conceits in cookerie with the booke of caruin” (1597).
Dawson authored several popular and influential books on cooking and housekeeping, but he was not a chef. Instead, he was a collector and compiler with a particular interest in what the who’s who of England were whipping up in their kitchens. The resulting collection is a mix of older, much loved classics and brand new dishes featuring (then) strange and exciting new ingredients like tomatoes and potatoes.
This week’s recipe is an example of the former and features the weird-to-us combination of savoury and sweet that was a hallmark of medieval and Tudor food. Interestingly, it is also vegetarian.
Contrary to popular belief, vegetarianism was NOT uncommon in the 17th century. There were plenty of “flesh-avoiders”. Their refusal to eat meat, however, was NOT tied to concerns with animal rights and welfare, but in a desire to promote spirituality by curbing excessive appetites.
But back to Dawson’s recipe, which goes like this:
To make fried toast of spinage
Take spinage and seethe it in water and salt, and when it is tender, wring out the water between two trenchers. Then chop it small, and set it on a chafing dish of charcoal. Add thereto butter, small raisins, cinnamon, ginger, and sugar, and the little of a juice of an orange, and two yolks of raw eggs. Let it boil til it be somewhat thick, then toast your toast, soak them in a little butter and sugar, and spread thinly your spinach upon them, and set them on a dish before the fire a little while. And so serve them with a little sugar upon them.
No spinach? No problem. You can use any bitter green. I’m going to give dandelion greens a go, maybe with a bit of wild sorrel thrown in. After all, they’re free! And we can’t wait to see what wild wonders today’s guest chef – professional forager and author Shawn Dawson (no relation to Thomas Dawson… we think!) – will add to his fried toasties. That’s right folks. Shawn will be joining Lori in the Colony’s 17th century kitchen today (Tuesday, July 26) to add his own foraged flair to the Cook Off. Drop by the kitchen or stay tuned to the Colony of Avalon’s Facebook page to see what he whips up!
Remember, add a photo of your fried toast of spinage (or whatever green you choose) in the comments of this week’s recipe post on the Colony of Avalon’s Facebook page for a chance to win weekly and grand prizes. Up for grabs this week? A copy of Shawn’s fantastic book Forager’s Dinner PLUS a berry bag from local maker Crackerberry Bags. Get for gathering berries and sooooo much more. Currently available exclusively from the Colony of Avalon Giftshop.
Deadline for entries is 11:59 pm, Monday, August 1, 2020. Can’t wait to see what you cook up!