In the Kitchen with Mina

Dear Constant Reader,

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To celebrate a successful run of The Bod of Avon, we’re having a wrap party at Stately Babydoll Manor. Scratch has promised authentic Elizabethan delicacies for the guests. This is not as crazy as it sounds.

You know from my writings here that I am a bit of a culinary historian with an interest in mid-century cuisine. But I also do research into Renaissance cooking, mostly Elizabethan England, and Scratch dabbles a bit too.

Here’s one of my favorite Elizabethan snacks. The recipe was originally published in The Good Huswifes Jewell by Thomas Dawson in 1597. And looked like this:

To make Peascods1 in Lent2
Take Figs, Raisons, and a few Dates, and beate them very fine, and season it with Cloves, Mace, Cinamon and Ginger, and for your paste seeth faire water and oyle in a dish uppon coales, put therein saffron and salt and a little flower, fashion them then like peasecods, and when ye will serve them, frye them in Oyle in a frying panne, but let the Oyle bee verie hotte, and the fire soft for burning of them

Odd as it may look, it’s more straight-forward than Medieval recipes. For one thing, it’s not in Middle English. Here’s my version:

4 dates
5 figs
1/4 c. raisins
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground mace3
pinch ground clove

1 c. water
1/3 c. oil
1 c. flour4
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch saffron

Oil for frying

Grind together salt and saffron5. Simmer together water & oil. When boiling, remove from heat and beat in flour, salt & saffron6. Keep beating. Really. It will turn into a soft dough. Let the dough cool.

Chop fruit finely and mix in the spices.

Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into 3″ diameter rounds.7

Place a spoonful of fruit filling on half of a round of dough, fold the other half over & pinch shut. They’re supposed to look like peapods, so you can curve them a little into shape. The dough might crack a bit, but that’s okay.

You have two options for cooking. You can fry them in oil, like the recipe says. Make sure the oil is quite hot because the dough is like a little sponge. Serve these hot. Or you can (less authentic, but healthier) bake them on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 350°F for 25-30 minutes until golden. These will keep longer than the fried version.

Makes about a baker’s dozen.


1 A “Peascod” is a peapod. A “codpiece” is something else entirely. Even if they look similar.
2 In the 16th century Lent meant no meat, no dairy, no eggs — basically vegan, plus fish. There’s also a “flesh day” version of this recipe with meat, butter, and eggs.
3Mace isn’t that common a spice these days. If you don’t have any in your spice cabinet, you could substitute a little nutmeg. Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and clove are the classic quartet of Elizabethan spice. There’s even a little song.
4I use a mixture of flours, based on the researches of Marian Walke, to approximate the flour of the time: 3/4 c. white flour, 2 1/2 Tbs. cake flour, 1 Tbs. wheat flour, 1 1/2 tsp. rye flour. You don’t have to be this compulsive.
5 I do this with a mortar & pestle. The salt helps pulverize the saffron threads for even distribution. I did this hastily (because I was trying to cook & take photos) and ended up with little orange splotches in my dough instead of a lovely golden tint.
6 This is essentially choux pastry — like cream puffs or eclairs — without the butter & eggs.
7 A biscuit cutter works great for this.

Published in: on 26 February 2013 at 11:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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