19 Aug To Eat Figs in the French Manner (de Nola)
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.
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.
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.