Then Serve It Forth…

By Berengaria de Montfort of Carcassonne

To Eat Figs in the French Manner (de Nola)

The original recipe:
Take dried figs, the sweetest that you can get, black and white, and remove the stems and wash them with good white wine which is sweet; and when they are very well-cleaned, take an earthenware casserole which is big enough, which has a flat bottom, and cast them inside, stirring them a little; and then put this casserole upon the coals, and well-covered in a manner that it is stewed there. And when they are stewed, and they will have absorbed all of the moisture of the wine, stir them a little, and cast fine spice on top of them; and turn them, stirring in a manner that incorporates that spice in them; and then eat this food; and it is an elegant thing; and it should be eaten at the beginning of the meal.


We did, in fact, open our Second Breakfast course with this dish.  There were several reasons I chose this dish:
1) the proportions suggested in the redaction I started from suggested making it for a large audience, such as at our Kingdom Feast & Bardic;
2) the dish itself has only three ingredients, although one of these, poudre fine, is a spice powder or melange (mix).  That, however, can be made in advance, and fine tuned; then in preparation for your feast, you just scoop out the amount you need.  Nota bene:  I *always* take more of something that might be hard to replicate or find in case the container gets lost, broken or dropped into a sink.  By all means, try your hardest to avoid any of those things happening; but accidents happen to the best of us.
3) the dish is vegan; again, not always my priority, but it does feel good to be able to offer such a thing in an era of restricted diets.


One large feast-sized recipe of Figs in the French Manner:

About 60-80 figs - I used about 2/3 Black Mission, 1/3 Kadota figs

1 gallon Muscat wine (or any medium-sweet dessert or fortified wine - one iteration of this during testing, I made with part port because I was short of muscat, and it was quite good)


2-3 tbsp. poudre fines*

Separate figs and remove any stems. Place in a large pot.  Add wine to cover.
Simmer gently until figs have plumped up.
Keep warm until ready to serve [or cook to this point, then chill overnight - flavour will intensify].
[Gently reheat in another large pot if chilled and stored and then] Plate and divide Poudre fines by number of plates, then sprinkle evenly across the figs.
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I keep threatening to do an article solely about spice powders.  Here follows the recipe for Poudre Fines provided by Nola:

*Poudre Fines: Spices for Common Sauce (De Nola)
Three parts cinnamon, two parts cloves, one part ginger, one part pepper, and a little dry coriander, well-ground, and a little saffron if you wish; let everything be well-ground and sifted.
3 tbsp cinnamon
2 tbsp ground cloves
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ground pepper
1/8 t coriander
1/8 t saffron, ground (@ 4-6 threads)

Mix together thoroughly until a uniform colour is achieved.  Store in a tightly covered jar if not using immediately.
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The reason I want to expound upon spice powders in more detail is that I have found that newer cooks are sometimes very anxious about "doing it wrong" when it comes to something like making up a spice powder from a period source.  Likely every chef in a noble household in our period had their own blends of spice powders tuned to their taste or that of their masters.  Some of the better known ones - Poudre fort (strong powder), poudre douce (sweet powder) and poudre fines (fine powder) had certain key spices that were fairly universal; but it is very likely that the quantities of ingredients varied from household to household, depending on what they had and liked.  The various chefs and cooks might have added a touch of this or that, something thatmay have been a personal favourite, or may have been commonly available in their area.  Nola's version of Poudre Fines, for example, was the first occasion I'd ever seen a touch of coriander used - probably not at all surprising for a cook working in SW Europe.

So don't worry that you're "doing it wrong" if you find you'd rather add a bit more ginger and throttle back on the cloves a little; just remember that if you completely eliminate an ingredient or two, or substitute something else, you're making something new.  :-)  Be sure to label it accordingly, and if you're making it for a competition, document what would have been done and why you are making the substitution.