This month’s column takes us a bit farther afield, with a recipe from Germany. The recipe is for a starch side-dish, since I have been concentrating on rather meaty main dishes for some months.
Ein mus von rise (Rice Puree)
from Ein Buch von guter speise (1345-1354)
Bibliothek des Literarischer vereins in Stuttgart. Stuttgart: Literarischer verein, (1884)
Der wölle machen ein rys mus. Der nem aber gestozzen mandelmilich und menge ez mit rismele. Und siedez wol. Und nim einen apfel und snit den würfeleht. Und roest den in eime smaltz. Und stauwe daz uf das mus und gibz hin.
TRANSLATION: How one wants to make a rice puree. One takes but pounded almond milk and mixes it with rice meal and boils it well. And takes an apple and cuts it diced and roasts in a fat, and strews on the puree and give out.
This translation was taken from “A short description of Das Buch von guter spise”, © 1993 by Alia Atlas[i], which is available with a number of other excellent resources on the homepage of Associate Professor Martha Carlin (University of Wisconsin-Mulwaukie). A link to her culinary resources is on the Terra Pomaria Website, third link under “General History”. Das Buch von guter spise is also available in Volume II of Cariadoc’s Miscellany, © by David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook, 1988, 1990, 1992. I cannot recommend this last resource highly enough! His Grace Duke Cariadoc of the Bow is one of the premier researchers and resources in the SCA, and most of the recipes I have addressed in this column were taken in the original from his Miscellany, Volume I. If you would like information on ordering this gold mine, please see me at any meeting or event.
You can obtain “rice meal” either of two ways: First (and most authentic), you may pound brown rice in a mortar. (And please note that I said “pound” not “grind”. What you are striving for here is broken rice grains, not rice flour. The coarseness is your choice, and will give you different results with different textures.) However, if you have neither the time nor the arm muscles for breaking rice this way, you can buy a product in stores, called “cream of rice”. There are several brands available in the cereal aisle of commercial grocery trade or health food stores, which are usually made from white rice, and will give a finer-textured result.
Peel and dice a tart apple in small cubes; sauté until just tender in fat (lard or chicken fat if for a main dish starch, or butter if for dessert.) Keep warm over very low heat. Bring two cups of almond milk to a boil in a medium saucepan. Have two additional cups heating to a simmer nearby. With a whisk, blend in 1½ cups of rice meal, whisking briskly to ensure there are no lumps. This step is more critical if using cream of rice cereal, rather than coarser broken rice. Once smooth, reduce the heat to moderate until the rice starts to thicken. Once the rice starts to thicken, reduce heat to simmer and switch to a wooden spoon for constant stirring. As the rice absorbs the almond milk, gradually add more from the milk you have simmering, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. When all of the almond milk is added, you should have a mass thick enough to mound a bit when dished up. This process should take 20-30 minutes. If the mixture is too thin, continue to stir over low heat until it becomes thick enough. Taste one of the coarser grains to ensure the rice is done. Dish up to your serving platter, decorate the top with the sautéed apples, and serve hot. This starch would be very nice with a pork main dish.
If you are a food maven, you may notice that the technique here is midway between the techniques for a risotto and for a polenta. For this dish, you are trying for something a bit creamier than a polenta, but not a thin as you would fix for a breakfast cereal. If you are willing to break up Arborio rice, you can get a heavenly creamy result, but not all rices will perform the same. Also, if you are using commercial almond milk, be careful it does not scorch while you are working at high heat. Commercial almond milk is slightly sweetened, and will burn in a heartbeat, if you don’t watch carefully.
The fat you sauté the apples in is also a matter of choice. The modern German translation for the word “Schmalz” is simply “fat”. If they mean fat of a specific type, they will tell you: “Schweineschmalz” means “pig fat”, or lard. Those of you with a Jewish connection may recognize the word as a Yiddish one, referring to the rendered fat of a chicken, specifically of the large leaf of fat that you will find when butchering your own bird for dinner. This sheet of fat renders into a very fine fat for cooking, which can also be purchased in a jar at ethnic grocery stores as (not surprisingly) “Schmalz”. You can use a lard substitute, i.e., vegetable shortening, to sauté the apples, but if you don’t want to use lard or schmalz, I recommend butter, because it has more flavor than vegetable shortening.
Schmalz: Rendered chicken fat. While schmalz can be purchased in any Jewish market, it is easy to prepare fresh at home. Combine chopped fresh chicken fat and skin with a little water in a small frying pan over medium-low heat until the fat is liquid and the solids have shrunk to very small, crunchy bits. Strain the bits from the fat and use for other recipes. Watch carefully while rendering so the bits don't burn. Refrigerate the fat.
[i] Found on the Internet at http://cs-people.bu.edu/akatlas/Buch/about.html