Mid Anglia Group, Richard III Society

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A Mediaeval Feast in Essex

I stupidly decided to cook a mediaeval feast to celebrate New Year’s Eve with some friends. I say ‘stupidly’ not because it wasn’t a success but because the amount of work and fiddly techniques nearly killed me!

I wanted to do something similar to one of the courses of Richard’s coronation feast, so about 15-20 dishes, mixed sweet and savoury. I had tasted some mediaeval recipes while at Middleham in July and loved the different tastes and rich flavours, so I bought the recipe book the dishes had come from. This was ‘The Medieval Cookbook: Feast for the King, compiled by Patricia Rice-Jones. I also had another book, The Medieval Cookbook by Maggie Black

I chose a variety of recipes and created the following menu: A Mediaeval Menu

Obviously, one person (me) would not be able to cook all this in one day, so I began early and started with the sugared almonds, crystallised ginger and mixed pickles. The recipes were not difficult, but very fiddly and time-consuming as they were all done from scratch. There were often several processes to go through for each dish. Even the sugared almonds required you to painstakingly add a tablespoon of sugared water to the almonds in a pan and jiggle them about over the heat until dry – several times over! The vegetables and apple for the pickle had to be hand peeled and sliced before the process started.

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I then made some stocks to freeze for several of the recipes, made from lamb and chicken bones. With the lamb stock, I made the venison stew – I did it in the slow cooker and the smell was fantastic! Not so when I tasted it! The unfamiliar herbs I had used (hyssop and savory) were extremely bitter and the stew tasted horrible. Knowing I could not serve this concoction as it was, I added honey, red wine and cranberries. Phew! It was delicious. I let it cool and froze it. Here is the finished dish, served in bread trenchers with a slice of frumenty.

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Venison stew and frumenty

The next cooking session involved pastries. I made figs in coffins and the chicken pasties with ready rolled pastry (I’m not a complete idiot!) and froze them to cook on the day. Then I made the ‘Grete Pye’. This was formed of a layer of minced beef with suet and spices. Then a layer of game meat, a layer of chopped dates and prunes with spices and finally another layer of minced beef. I made a pastry rose design to decorate it (of course!). Here are the figs in coffins and Grete Pye:

Over the next couple of weeks, I cooked various dishes which could be made in advance, such as the wine sauce for the salmon and the chicken (which would later be crowned with eggs). These are the finished dishes:

The day before, I spent most of the day preparing and cooking, in particular the Leche Solace (a sort of blancmange) and the Geli Partied with a Device had to be allowed to set in the fridge and the orange segments were marinated in honey and spices. The pictures here are of the Leche Solace and the baked orange served in the halved peel.

I will relate the procedure to make the Geli to show you how elaborate and intricate some of the processes were. This jelly was made with a bottle of fruity, white wine and a pound of sugar, some cinnamon, nutmeg and fresh ginger. After simmering for about ten minutes, it is cooled for three to four hours, then strained through muslin lined with coarsely-ground almonds. Milk is added and it is then strained several times through muslin until it clears (I gave up after six times – it would have to do!). Gelatin, dissolved in water, is added to the reheated wine mixture and stirred until dissolved. White rose petals were placed in the dish and the mixture poured over and left to set – I had picked the last white rose from my garden in November and frozen it. I had one leaf and I arranged it with some of the petals on the top once it had set. For me it was the most delicious item. Here is a photo of it.

Phto of Geli partied with a device

Geli Partied with a Device

On the day, New Year’s Eve, I was still cooking. I reheated the venison stew in the slow cooker, made the frumenty and Lombard slices, roasted the salmon and baked the frozen pastries. The sauce for the salmon had to be reheated and the pears had to be peeled and poached and the oranges baked. I made the dough for the fritters from scratch and left them to rise. Trying to time all of this was an absolute nightmare!

Photo of roasted salmon

Roasted Salmon

However, the feast was a great success, all except the sautéed lamprey, which was disgusting – we all tried one small piece and gave the rest to the dogs. There was so much food, I didn’t bother to cook the fritters until late in the evening, as no-one had enough room to eat any! The fritters and lamprey are pictured below.

 

The feast was finished off with a gingerbread ‘subtletie’ of a York Rose with gold leaf centre. I also made Hippocras (spiced wine) and served Lindisfarne mead.

Photo of gingerbread subtletie

Gingerbread Subtletie

My guests entered into the spirit by dressing up. All in all, it was a great success but I will never voluntarily make a mediaeval feast again, although I may well make some of the individual dishes and I have already used some of the more unusual spices that I don’t normally use.

Photo of 'mediaeval' guests

‘Mediaeval’ Guests

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Haunted Essex

Some of the venues in this article are surprising and the nocturnal visits sound very expensive but they include some classic historical venues. In Colchester, the Castle and (Howard) Red Lion are included, as is the Redoubt at Harwich, although the Kelvedon Nuclear Bunker and North Weald Station are much newer. In the north of the county, many of the locations are connected to Matthew Hopkins and his anti-witchcraft activities, or earlier victims such as Ursula Kemp (the St. Osyth Cage). In the south, there is also the Valence House, Dagenham.

Good luck ghost-hunting.

Thetford

We know Richard III was first buried (and exhumed many years later) on 25 August and it seems logical, although we don’t know exactly, that John Howard, Duke of Norfolk was interred on the same day. So, it seemed to be the ideal date to visit the 1107 Cluniac Priory, which lies only five minutes from the station. It was a dry day, which is very helpful because Thomas Cromwell’s commissioners were ruthless in implementing the Dissolution and so is the Priory today. The foundations and first foot of the walls remain as well as more at the north end, away from the entrance gate. Norfolk was moved here to join his family a few years after 1485 but before about 1540, when they were taken to St. Michael’s, Framlingham.

The local Wetherspoon, in the market place, bears the Howard heraldic name of the Red Lion and I lunched in there. The walls were festooned with local history – from the Iceni, the Priory building to the Dissolution and the local factories – but I couldn’t photograph these because there were diners in the way. There was a poster about Ayrton Senna, who lived in Attleborough during his Lotus days.

Just round the back was the Dads’ Army Museum, which gave me two ideas about Edward IV. He had a brother with an apparent drink problem and, whilst married, had feelings towards a widow named Grey, both of which apply to Captain Mainwaring.

Discovered in Norwich

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Whilst visiting Norwich to see the Whitefriars plaque to Lady Eleanor Talbot, Richard’s sister-in-law, in Tomblands near the Cathedral, I happened to take lunch in a particular hostelry, the Glass House. It is principally named for the city’s stained glass industry and various panels, also commemorate the author Harriet Martineau, the rebel Robert Kett, Cotman and the other “Norwich School” artists.

The panel nearest the main door was this one (left). Sir Thomas, who bore the name of a North Norfolk village, served John of Gaunt, helped to implement Henry IV’s usurpation before joining Henry V as an archery commander at Harfleur and Azincourt, and eventually dying in 1428. The other pictures are of Sir Thomas,  Henry IV and the Upper Close at Norwich Cathedral. 

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Grundisburgh

This EADT article is about the village just a few miles from Ipswich town centre, including the rather splendid mediaeval St. Mary’s Church (left) with about sixty angels on the hammer-beam roof, wall paintings, a more recent tower and a cenotaph. Grundisburgh Hall is not far away, as is Alice Driver Road, named after the 1558 martyr that the article omits to mention.

John Ball and Colchester

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Here are some of the panels just inside the door of the Colchester Playhouse, now a theatre-themed public house. They illustrate John Ball, after whom a minor town centre road is also named, becoming a priest, a prisoner at Maidstone and then participating in the 1381

Peasants’ Revolt (from 30 May), fighting at Blackheath (on 12 June) and then being executed at St. Alban’s on 15 July that year.

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murreyandblue

Here are some of the panels just inside the door of the Colchester Playhouse, now a theatre-themed public house. They illustrate John Ball, after whom a minor town centre road is also named, becoming a priest, a prisoner at Maidstone and then participating in the 1381

Peasants’ Revolt (from 30 May), fighting at Blackheath (on 12 June) and then being executed at St. Alban’s on 15 July that year.

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Nine of Ipswich’s oldest buildings …

many of which we have visited:

Wingfield

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Wingfield is a village in the middle of North Suffolk, just a few miles off the A140. There is a “castle”, but this is privately occupied and the owner is a little secretive. The village also features a small “college” and wedding venue, also known as Wingfield Barns, but its main features are St. Andrew’s Church and the “de la Pole Arms”, an excellent hostelry which is directly opposite the churchyard.

This Church tells the story of the de la Poles as they expanded from their mercantile origins in Hull and married an heiress of the Wingfield line. Monuments to three heads of the family and their spouses lie near the altar, which was moved further east as the church grew to accommodate the last of these tombs. Nearer to the door, a board (left) summarises the de la Pole genealogy as they experienced close association with the Black Prince…

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Newsletter: September 2017

MAG Newsletter Sept 2017

Further information on Christchurch Mansion

This Cricketerswas our original report. The additional image comes from The Cricketers, a nearby hostelry.Cricketers2

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