Monday, January 11, 2016

Duck, Three Ways, Part One: Hoerendreeten van Entvoghelen

I don’t know about you, but I love duck. I don’t make it very often, but when I do, it’s usually for a special occasion. I’ve made it so many ways - I’ve tried Alton Brown’s method of steaming it, then searing it in a skillet to crisp the meat; I’ve plain old roasted it like a chicken in the oven; I’ve even ground it up and made it into meatballs. I love the rich flavor it lends to my plate, and because it is not as common as chicken may be on the modern dinner table, it lends a certain “Wow” factor to any occasion. 

During the middle ages, like today, duck was less common than pork, chicken, and beef, but it was certainly on many a menu. Recipes on how to prepare mallards and wild duck can be found in the cooking texts from many cultures within SCA period. In some cases, while a recipe for the duck itself may not be present, one for how to prepare a sauce to accompany a roast duck would be, implying its presence on the table. 

When I prepare a duck at home, because it is so special, I want to use as much of the animal as I can, to make it last a little while longer. Depending on what I’m doing with it, I will also render the fat from its skin, and use the bones to make stock once we’ve eaten the meat. This got me thinking - they had to have done something similar in period. Food was a precious commodity for a household of any socioeconomic status. Certainly, as much of the animals they ate would have been utilized as possible, whether it was for culinary purposes or not. 

It is with this “Waste Not, Want Not” mentality that I approached this project. I wanted to see how many dishes I could make using a duck and all of its byproducts, and how far into the production of each of these dishes I could go while using only itself as my main ingredient. 

In the first item, Hoerdrendreeten van Wilden Entvoghelen (Wild Duck Fritters), I used the meat from the duck to make meatballs, which were then either cooked by boiling in duck stock made from the bones, or fried in duck fat rendered from the skin.

For the second item, Chopped Liver, I used the offal from the duck, fried in duck fat, to create a dish with its innards. 

The final item is the rendered fat itself, which has many uses in period - both culinary and medicinal.

In this article, I will be focusing on the duck fritters, as they were the main attraction of this particular project. 

Hoerendreeten van Wilden Entvoghelen
(Fritters of Wild Duck)

This recipe is not taken directly from a period text. Rather, it is a concept inspired by several recipes from 15th century Dutch cookbooks. 

Een notabel boecxken van cokeryen (15th-16th century) includes a recipe for a duck and bacon meat pie:

Pies of Wild Duck
[6] Pies of wild duck. [7] Take duck which has been laid in hot water with bacon. Add thereto [8] cloves or ginger.
I love duck, but when I made this pie, it was so rich that I could not eat a whole slice. So I began looking for other ways I could incorporate the luxury of duck meat into an SCA feast menu without overwhelming the diners. Just a taste is all I needed.

As I looked through other Dutch cooking texts, I came across a recipe for fritters...

2.1. Hoerendreeten or hot fritters
Take dough, tempered with eggs, and the afore mentioned stuffing. Make little balls and put it in the dough and beaten eggs. Let cook in boiling fat, and when they are done, coat with melted sugar. (Wel ende edelike spijse, 15th century)

... and zeroed in on the suggestion to fill it with “the afore mentioned stuffing,” which is a recipe involving pork, eggs, and raisins placed earlier in the text. I’ve actually made this stuffing before, only I filled apples with it, and it was delish! But I digress... I began to think - what if I took this meat-stuffed fritter variant, and used duck instead of pork? I knew I wanted to evoke the same flavors present in the wild duck pie, so I opted to use ginger and cloves as the main spices. 

Meaty mise en place.

The meat from one whole duck (approx. 1 lb.)
4 oz. fatty bacon or fatback
The offal from your duck (optional)
1/4 c. milk
1/2 slice stale white bread, torn in pieces
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves

Cooking Oil
Chicken or Duck Broth

Use the coarse grind plate on your meat grinder to send the pork and duck through (in that order - the fat from the pork will grease the gears up for the leaner duck meat). This includes the offal if you are choosing to use it. Set in the fridge to chill. 

It's like school glue!

Heat the milk up in a small pan, and add the stale bread. Remove from the heat and let this sit until the bread is soaked, then whisk to create a thin paste. Allow this to cool to room temperature. 

Tastes better than it looks, I promise!

Take meat out of the fridge, and mix in the cooled milk paste, egg yolks, salt, pepper, ginger, and cloves. Pass through your meat grinder again using the medium grind plate. Form meatballs approximately 1 oz. in weight each. They will be delicate to handle, so be gentle! Place each meatball on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, then chill in the fridge for at least two hours so they firm up. 

Here is where I did some experimentation with the cooking process. I actually halved the number of meatballs I made and cooked one batch by boiling them, and the other batch by frying them:

There is a pork meatball recipe (Pumpes) from a 15th century English text, Harleian MS. 279, that is commonly used at SCA feasts. According to this recipe, the meatballs should be cooked by boiling them in broth. The modern cook in me knows that when you boil anything in order to cook it, you risk leaching out the flavor. To combat this, I used the stock I made from the bones of my duck, and about half a bottle of hard cider. This was brought to a boil, and the meatballs were dropped in. They cooked for about 8-10 minutes, or until my meat thermometer told me they were at a safe temperature (160 degrees). 


The other half other half of the meatballs were rolled in breadcrumbs, then fried in fat, just as modern meatballs are cooked. However, to show that duck fat was useful in the kitchen, and to try to incorporate as much of the duck as I could into this project, I used the duck fat I rendered myself from the little guy’s skin. 

The Verdict

Boiling the meatballs is the documented technique with which to cook them, however the end product is tough, dry, and bland. Even though they were cooked in broth, there still wasn’t enough flavor in these meatballs. 

Frying the meatballs produced a much more tender, moist, and flavorful result, but the breadcrumbs provide a crunchy crust that would be delightful if these were being eaten as is. Instead, the texture was out of place once dipped in batter and fried in the fritter dough.

My recommendation, after this experiment, is to bake these in the oven without using the breadcrumbs on the surface. You will get the same tenderness that frying brings, without the loss of flavor or the odd crunch that comes from the breadcrumbs.

Another thing I would do differently is to pass the meat through my grinder a second time using a finer grating plate. The fatback added the perfect amount of moisture to the duck meat without overpowering the duck flavor I was aiming for, but the large chunks of fat made the texture of the meatballs a little off, and could potentially prove to be an unpleasant experience for the person eating them. 

Now, on to the fritter dough.

Fun Fact: The literal translation of the Dutch word hoerendreeten is “whore’s farts.” In doing some research on why fritters would be called by this name, and whether there was a modern version of the recipe I could use to help me redact, I learned that they were interchangeable with “Nun’s Farts,” or “Nun’s Puffs,” which are a common pastry still made today. They are very similar in structure to Yorkshire Pudding, only sweeter.

The original fritter recipe does not give you much help in figuring out how to make it - “take dough and temper it with eggs.” So I relied heavily on modern recipes for Nun’s Puffs There is not much deviation from this general recipe - which is, in fact, a dough that is tempered with eggs - and looking at modern recipes was helpful in nailing down the right proportions of ingredients.

2 cups AP Flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
4 eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 cup milk
Cooking Oil

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Use water to thin the batter out if it is too thick for it to stick to the meatballs when you dip them. It should be the consistency of pancake batter, or maybe slightly thicker.  

Put enough cooking oil for deep frying in a pot. For this project, I used duck fat I rendered myself (about 4 ducks’ worth), but canola or vegetable oil would be just fine. Heat the oil until it is hot enough for frying. (I test the temperature by dropping a small amount of batter in the oil - once it starts sizzling, it’s ready)

Once your meatballs have cooled and drained, dip each one in the batter until completely covered with a thick coating. Drop carefully into the hot oil and cook until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels. DEVOUR.

This is by no means  the final redaction of this recipe, as far as I’m concerned. I would like to do more research into the fritter batter - especially since funnel cake is another recipe in the same text, and I would guess its recipe would be similar to what is needed for the hoerendreeten. Still, the end result of this particular rendition was delightful, if not a bit labor-intensive.

Duck can be a fantastic addition to any feast menu, and it need not be served in large amounts. This is a wonderful way to make the meat stretch just a bit further, while giving your diners a satisfying taste of luxury! 

(Stay tuned for Part Two: Rendering the Fat)

Monday, May 25, 2015

An Un-Bear-Able Sausage Experiment, Part One

My barony is fortunate to be home to many hunters who are very generous with their spoils. We have often enjoyed venison at local events at no cost to us because of these fine folks. It is along similar lines that I recently came into possession of about eight pounds of bear meat. Oh yes. Bear.

I’ve made bear before. For one Yule event a few years back, I acquired some and turned it into sauerbraten. We called it sauer-bear-ten. With this haul, however, I had another plan in mind: Sausage. 

Because I was unable to find any period recipes for bear, let alone bear sausage, I knew I would need to make up my own, but I needed to do a little more research. I wanted to know how modern hunters made bear sausage, so I could get an idea of what kind of seasonings would pair well with the flavor of the meat. I also wanted to know about specific cooking techniques and timing, as bear is known to be a harborer of Trichinosis.

When all is said and done, I want to serve this sausage in a charcuterie course at the Seven Pearls dinner. My goal is to have a variety of home made sausages and specialty cheeses to provide. However, because they are all being served on the same platter, I wanted to try and add some visual differences to some of the sausage as well. So for this project, I purchased some non-edible, fibrous casings from Amazon. They were two and a half inches in diameter, making them much larger than the usual hog intestine casing I usually use, which comes out to about an inch to an inch and a half in diameter. In period, they probably would have used stomachs or intestines of larger animals to create different sized and shaped sausages. Those can be difficult to find if you don’t have a specialty shop nearby. Even Amazon came up a bit short when I was searching for larger casings. These were the best option I was able to find.

As I said, there are no recipes from 16th century Flemish cookbooks for bear sausage. I even looked into some German and French resources from around the same time. Sabina Welserin has one sausage recipe for venison, but since I intended to use that for a deer venison sausage being served on the same platter, I did not want to replicate the flavor combinations with the bear. 

Bear and pork paste - Yummy!
Because bear is a dark, beefy flavor, I wanted something to bring that out without being too overpowering. I selected a combination of salt, black pepper, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, clove, and grains of paradise to season the meat. All of the spices were found in Flemish cooking during this time period, and I have seen many of them in sausage and meat recipes from the 16th century. 

Believe it or not, bear is an incredibly lean meat. The first time I cooked with it, I seared a small strip in a pan like a steak. No liquid come out as it cooked - my pan remained bone dry the entire time it cooked. So I knew I needed to add some extra fat to this if I was going to get a moist sausage that didn’t crumble when you bit into it. My go-to fat source is pork belly. I get it from my local restaurant supply store, and it has a nice sized fat cap that is perfect for adding fat to sausage. In a pinch, I also use salt pork, which has a much larger fat cap, but I had the pork belly available so that’s what I used. 

I added about ten ounces of pork belly to the not-quite-two pounds of bear and mixed it in by hand. Next, I added my spices and mixed those in. Once they were pretty well incorporated, I put the whole mess into the work bowl of my KitchenAid, turned it up to 6, and let it go for about three or four minutes until the fat and meat were combined into a paste. 

About a cup of water was added next to add moisture, as the paste was still a bit dry. Then it went into the casing.

Insert "meat log" joke here.

Hello, gorgeous.

A friend of mine offered the use of her smoker for this, and who am I to turn down the prospect of smoked sausage?! So I took the monstrosity of meat to her place. For this experiment, I used hickory wood to smoke the sausage. Hickory is a new world tree, so the flavor profile would not have been correct for 16th century Flemish. Apparently the local sporting goods store doesn’t understand that we reenactors need a bit more variety in our wood chip selection. Oak and beech trees are native to the Flemish region of the Netherlands in period, both of which are still used as meat smoking wood today. In my future endeavor, I plan to try them out.
About halfway done.

We smoked the sausage until it reached 175 degrees - Trichinosis is killed off at 160 degrees, but I wanted to be extra sure. It smelled wonderful! 


It was when I cut into and peeled off the casing that my troubles began. 

Most of the sausage was clinging to the inside of the casing, so when I tried to peel it away, it ripped it out of the log formation, casing the whole structure to become a crumbly mess. This is probably a result of a low fat content. Adding more fat will help. I have read on many hunting forums that some 80/20 ground chuck, or pork shoulder should help with this. 

The smoke really enhanced the saltiness of the meat, without bringing out the other flavors. So the result was a salty, but bland, meatloaf. I think the addition of the beef or pork shoulder will help this out tremendously as well, as it will add a greater volume for the salt to season. 

Cue "Price is Right Fail Tuba."

After talking it through with my friend, her family, and my husband, we realized that the final problem with my bear sausage was this strong, bitter flavor we were getting on the back end. It needed a bit of sweet to balance out the cloying nature of the salt and game meat. It was common in period to add dried fruit to sausage, so we tasted a bit of the bear with a few raisins, and OH MY GOD did it make a difference. 

Overall, I call this experience a success - while the sausage was not a hit on the first try, I was able to get some great feedback, and leave with a plan to improve upon the recipe. Thankfully, I have enough bear meat left to apply these improvements. Here’s hoping they work as well as we think they will!

Stay tuned for Part Two of this exciting adventure in meat!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Roffioelen van Wermoese

Roffioelen is an odd little Middle Dutch word. Generally speaking, it refers to a small pastry made by pressing two layers of dough around a filling. It even sounds like the word “ravioli” when you say it out loud. Normally, I would use that to guide my interpretation of my recipe - I’m making roffioelen, which sounds like ravioli, so my end product must resemble that. Not-so-generally speaking, there are some anomalies that break the mold. That makes things a little more complicated.

In the version of Een notabel boecxken van cokeryen that I am using for the Seven Pearls dinner, there are five recipes for roffioelen. The first three are quite similar to one another:

127. Om roffioelen van appelen ende van noten te ga. [23]dere te maken Neempt appelen ende noten die breect [24] oft wrijft wel te ghadere Neemt dan greyne of ghim[25]ber/ caneel/ ende potsuyckere/ te ghader minghelt dyt [26] seer wel onder een Dan maect deech als hier voer ge[27]screuen staet. Ende maect daer af een ronde schy[28]ue als een taylloore. Dan vult deen helft vander ron[29]der schiuen metter voerseyder spisen Dan decket mit[30]ter andere helicht vander seluer ronder schiuen. Ende [31] so bac mense int smout tot datse ghenoech sijn. Als sy [*E4r] ghenoech sijn dan doetmense wte ende men dyentse [2] metten pancknoecken intleste alsmen gheten heeft.
127. To make roffioelen from apples and nuts together. [23] Take apples and nuts; break them [24] or grind them well together. Then take grains of paradise or ginger, [25] cinnamon, and potsugar; mix this [26] together very well. Then make dough as stands written before this. [27] And make from it a round disc [28] like a plate. Then fill the half of the round [29] disc with the aforesaid dish [i.e. the apple and nut mixture]. Then cover it with [30] the other half of the same round disc. And [31] so one fries them in the oil until they are enough. When they [*E4r] are enough then one takes them out and one serves [2] them with the pancakes at the end [of the meal] when one has eaten.
128. Om ghemeyn roffioelen te maken. Neempt ghym[4]ber suycker ende caneel met soute alte gadere ghemin[5]ghelt dat salmen aldus te gader duwen in eenen ron[6]den clont Dan salment leggen in eenen scheel die ghe[7]drayt es ende so toe ghesloten so voerscreuen staet. Dan [8] salment backen in raeptsmout. maer nyet seer lange [9] Ende alst ghebacken es so salment suyckeren met broot[10]suyckere.

128. To make common roffioelen. Take ginger, [4] sugar and cinnamon with salt all mixed together; [5] one shall press it thus in a round [6] lump. Then one shall lay it in a flat piece of dough which is turned [7] and closed as is written earlier. Then [8] one shall fry it in rape oil, but not very long. [9] And when it is fried so one shall sugar it with loaf [10] sugar.


129. Roffioelen binnen der vastenen. Neempt appelen vighen/ sofferaen luttel pepercoecx [13] ende cruyt Dyt moet al tsamen wel ontwee ghestoo[14]ten sijn in eenen mortier Dan leytment int deech ghe[15]lijck voerseyt es al ghedect Aldus bacment int smout [16] oft somighe backent oock wel inden houen
129. Lenten roffioelen. Take apples, figs, saffron, a little peperkoek [13] and spices. This must all be ground together [14] in a mortar. Then one lays it in the dough [15] just as said before, all covered. Thus one fries it in oil [16] or some bake it in the oven.

When making ravioli as we understand it today, the dough pocket is made by mixing flour and eggs, then rolled out thin and cut to the desired shape before being stuffed, sealed, and cooked (usually boiled). In each of these recipes, a filling is encased in dough, and then fried or baked. 
The dough itself, in each of these three cases, is mentioned as having been described in a previous recipe in the cookbook. It is, in fact, found in the recipe immediately preceding the first one for roffioelen: 
126. Om panckoecken te maken inde vastenen. Neemt [14] fijn bloeme die suldi beslaen met gheste Dan maeckt [15] daer af deech Dan salmen van dien seluen deeghe ne[16]men een cleyn clontken ende maken dat viercantych [17] seer dunne emmers soe dunne alst moghelyck es om [18] maken tot dat cleyn gaetkens worpt: Dan bacxse wel in [19] raeptsmout Sommyghe dye willen backen der inne [20] rosinen ende dye steken si hyer en daer eene ende oock [21] cleyn stucxkens van appelen.
126. To make lenten pancakes. Take [14] fine flour which you shall beat up with yeast. Then make [15] dough from it. Then, from the same dough, one shall [16] take a small lump and make it square [17] [and] very thin, in any case as thin as it is possible to [18] make, until small holes appear. Then fry them well in [19] rape oil. Some, who wish to, fry raisins therein [20] and they stick them one here and there and also [21] small pieces of apple.

With the introduction of yeast, it is clear that we are now talking about a pastry dough. It makes sense (at least in my head) if we are going to fry the dough, as the yeast strengthens it. I would be concerned that the pasta-based ravioli would break apart in the oil as it fried, or would become too hard. With a yeast dough, this takes on more of a fritter-like nature. 
When I do any recipe redaction, the first question I usually ask myself is “What kind of dish am I supposed to be making?” Before I begin creating a detailed list of ingredients, or how much of them to use, I try to figure out WHAT I am making. By looking at a recipe and identifying some of the key ingredients, and how I am being instructed to treat them (are they being ground up? Boiled? Roasted? Boiled and then fried?). Once I am able to see this, I am able to understand what I am making based on my general knowledge of how certain modern dishes are traditionally made. For example, if a medieval recipe tells me to take an egg and stir it, then to dip a thick slice of bread into it before frying it in a pan with some butter, I can safely assume that the recipe I am trying to redact is going to produce something eerily similar to French Toast. I can then use this assumption to guide how I proceed in terms of how much of each ingredient I should use, how long the dish should cook for, and what the end result of the redaction should look like.

In order to fully understand what a roffioelen was on a cultural level in Dutch cuisine, I ran a search for the word on Google. I found many recipes for an apple and walnut roffioelen which used a yeast dough as a shell, confirming the idea that we are not talking about specifically pasta-based dishes here. I was unable to find roffioelen made with a different filling, though. 

What is so complicated about this recipe compared to the others? It seems like this would be a cheese and vegetable stuffed pastry, made similarly to the apple fritter-style ones already recorded in the cookbook. If a roffioelen is a filled pastry, especially one that has stood the test of time to have developed a place among modern Dutch cooking, then why wouldn’t this thing called roffioelen be made the same way, just with a different filling? This is where it gets complicated. See, here is the recipe:

131. Om roffioelen te maken van wermoese. Men sal [27] nemen wermoes ende petercelie elcx al euen vele [28] Dat salmen te samen wel cleyne scheruen also salment [29] dan broeyen ofte lutelken laten sieden. Alst ghesoden [30] es so salment wel cleyne stooten Dan salmen nemen [31] terwen bloeme ende die te ghaderen mynghelen ghe[32]lijck duenne deech. Dan salmen nemen inghelschen [E4v] case seer cleyne ghemalen ofte seere cleyne ghebriselt [2] ende minghelen metten deeghe hier af salmen maken [3] lange smalle duenne cloncten ende sieden dye in een [4] panne met water herde wel Als dye herde wel gheso[5]den sijn soe salmen dit uut doen met eenen vischspane. [6] Dan salmense legghen te versipen. Als die versepen [7] sijn so salmen nemen schoon schotelen ende legghen[8]der daer inne Te weten in elck schotel twee oft drye oft [9] viere. Daer na salmen nemen botere ende smeltense [10] inde scotelen ende men sal nemen van dyen case ende [11] stroyenden daer oppe. Dan neempt lombaerts [12] poedere dat stroyter oock op Ghy sult weten datmen [13] dyt in lombaerdyen pleecht te gheuen des auonts ende [14] des noenens in die stadt van wermoese inden eersten [15] eermen yet anders diende.

131. To make roffioelen of green leaf vegetables. One shall [27] take green leaf vegetables and parsley, of each the same amount. [28] One shall chop them together very fine; then one shall [29] blanch them or simmer them a very little. When it is cooked [30] so one shall grind them small [in a mortar]. Then one shall take [31] wheat flour and mix them [all the ingredients] together just like [32] thin dough. Then one shall take English [E4v] cheese* ground or crumbled very small [2] and mix it with the dough; from this one shall make [3] long, narrow, thin lumps and boil them thoroughly [4] in a pan with water. When they are thoroughly boiled [5] so one shall take them out with a fish slice. [6] Then one shall lay them to drain. When they are [7] drained so one shall take clean dishes and lay [8] them therein. To wit, in each dish two or three or [9] four. After that one shall take butter and melt it [10] in the dishes and one shall take some [more] of that cheese and [11] scatter it over. Then take Lombard [12] powder; strew that also on top. You shall know that [13] in Lombardy one customarily serves this in the evening and [14] at noon in the place of vegetables at the beginning [of the meal] [15] before one serves anything else.

Do you see? DO YOU SEE? This recipe makes no mention of creating a filling and then stuffing it into dough. It sounds to me that the stuffing BECOMES the dough. We are instructed to combine the greens, cheese, and flour as if it were a dough, and then to boil it. Normally, I would think that stuffing the yeast dough was implied based on the name of the dish. After all, many recipes for pies during the middle ages did not mention a thing about the crust. The writer of the cookbook probably assumes that since the recipe is for a pie, then then reader already understands that a crust is required, and is not necessary to mention because it’s such a basic element of the recipe. It makes sense, then, that taking the greens and cheese mixture and stuffing it into a yeast dough, even though it has not been mentioned, is a necessary step in creating what is culturally known as “roffioelen.” 
But then why would the dough casing be mentioned in three previous recipes for roffioelen, and not this one (or the one before it in the cookbook)? If it was unnecessary to mention because “everyone knows what roffioelen is,” then why mention it three other times? No. I believe this was a deliberate omission. For some reason, while it is called the same name, this is not a variation on the same basic recipe. This is an entirely different animal. 
There were two modern versions of Roffioelen van Wermoese that came up when I ran a search on the name. The first one, from a French food blog, understood the mixture of cheese and green leaf vegetables to be a garnish of sorts that was laid on top of thin strips of pasta, NOT encased in it like a ravioli should be. The second one, written in Dutch, was more of a dumpling, forming a ball with the cheese, greens, and flour that will be boiled to cook through. I could understand how they each came to their respective conclusions for what this dish should be on a structural level. The first version held on to the idea of the “long, narrow, thin lumps” in the original text is represented in the long, thin, narrow lasagna noodles that form the base layer of this dish. The second version understood the idea of mixing flour in with the cheese and greens to mean that this was the only dough involved in the recipe. 
Both are feasible interpretations, but I am inclined to agree with the second recipe as the one that is the closest to the intent of the original text. Why? I used the cookbook’s glossary.

: bladgroente waarmee een gerecht een groene kleur krijgt. Spinazie, een bekende groente in die tijd, wordt in ons kookboek niet expliciet genoemd, maar is in recept 131 een uitstekend kleurmiddel. Door gebruik van wermoes wordt in recept 131 een groene deegwaar, een soort ‘gnocchi' verkregen. Zie daarvoor ook: roffloelen van wermoese. Soms ook snijbiet (Latijn: beta cicla).
Warmoes: leafy vegetable with which a tribunal gets green. Spinach, a vegetable known at that time, in our cookbook not explicitly stated, but is in an excellent recipe 131 colorant. By the use of wermoes recipe 131 is in a green dough product, is obtained a kind of "gnocchi '. Also see: roffloelen of wermoese. Sometimes chard (Latin: beta cicla).

The translators of this version of the cookbook also agree that this is more of a dumpling than a straight up ravioli. Understanding that I am making a gnocchi now makes this recipe so much clearer. 
To make things more complicated, there is another version of this recipe in another Middle Dutch cookbook which is a contemporary of the one I'm using. There are some distinct differences - I believe it calls for a Belgian cheese called Herve (a form of Limburger) rather than the "English cheese" of the version I'm using. It also very clearly states that eggs are to be used in forming the dough, which screams "pasta" to me. The version in the cookbook I am using doesn't mention eggs at all. I may play with this a little further and try to marry the two recipes to create something that is familiar in texture, but with a medieval end product. 

My recipe

1 head green Swiss chard or spinach leaves (about 3-4 handfuls of leaves when chopped)
1 bunch flat leaf parsley (about 2-3 handfuls)
2 Tbsp salted butter
2 tsp minced garlic
1 1/2 cup AP flour
8 oz. crumbly cheese (sharp Cheddar, Wensleydale, Chesire)
1/2 cup water

Make sure you remove the parsley leaves from their stems, and the chard is torn into pieces you are able to work with easily. 

Melt the butter in a skillet or sauté pan, and add the garlic. Let it cook for a second or so, then add both the chard and the parsley. Cook these down completely, then add to the work bowl of your food processor. Puree this for a few seconds to break the leaves up, then add the cheese. Let it go in the processor for a while longer, and then begin to slowly add the flour - I added 1/4 cup then let it go in the processor for a few seconds before adding another 1/4 cup. Once all of the flour is in, let it go for another minute or so in the processor, until the ingredients are evenly combined in the bowl. Next, slowly add the water until a dough forms. You can add more or less, depending on what consistency you want your dumplings to have. I found that 1/2 cup did the job for me. 

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Transfer the dough into a gallon sized ziplock bag, and snip one of the bottom corners. Use this like you would a piping bag, squeezing the dough out of the hole. Using kitchen shears, cut the dough strips about an inch or so in length into the boiling water. Cook these  in the water for about 3-4 minutes, until they all are floating on the surface of the water. Drain them, and toss them with a few extra tablespoons of butter. Sprinkle with a little more of the cheese that is in the dough when you serve it.


The result is a dense, bright green dumpling that really livens up the plate. The flavor will be as mild as the cheese that you use - when I tried this recipe with a mild cheddar, I found it to be a bit bland. The next time, I used a sharper cheese, which really helped. 

Another note: The original recipe did not tell you to saute the greens with butter and garlic. This was a creative decision I made in order to bring out some of the flavor of the greens in the dish. It seems to be much more medieval to boil your greens before grinding them up to use in recipes, however I am not a fan of boiled greens. The water sucks all the joy and flavor out of them. If I can achieve the same end (soft, malleable green mush), I would rather choose the cooking method that will add a layer of flavor to the dish, rather than the one that removed a layer. 

I brought these to a recent Cooks’ Guild meeting in my barony, and they were promptly devoured. 

I still wonder why these are called roffioelen when they are clearly not what the other roffioelen recipes instruct you to make. But for now, I will be content in the idea that they will be a delicious addition to the table.