Bolitos de Chocolat y Coco

Bolitos de chocolat y coco

bolitos de chocolat y coco

1985 was a big year for me.  I traveled to Peru that summer to study food.  Later in September I went to Paris, with the intent of moving my business there. (Read more about France in Balsamic Vinaigrette, 8/22/16.)

My jocund days in Peru were filled with the warm blazing sun, but nights were very cold; I experienced the southern hemisphere’s winter that July. Machu Picchu met my love for mountains in a grand way.  The ancient trail leading to these ruins made for an arduous climb.  We got off the train and labored, with copious sweat, for hours to complete its last leg. The day was memorable.

My far-reaching, historical catering business was three years old during my time in South America.  My mind was a sponge for details about food.  While there, very morsel that went into my mouth came out as a comment in my journal.  Most of this keen eating took place in inexpensive cafes, where chickens were always roasting on open hearths.  The better of these humble restaurants had guinea pig and Cebiche, raw white fish “cooked” in lemon juice.  Street vendors’ food also provided me with rich information. However, my greatest joy was the private dinner invitations I received to both rich and poor homes.  Note: there are only these two classes there.

Karen, my then neighbor in Billings, Montana, and her Peruvian boyfriend inspired me to make this colorful sojourn.  Indeed Chino’s family blessed my trip: I may not be alive today, but for them, as great trauma occurred for me in this country. Fortunately his family was extremely influential.  For instance, his second cousin was president during my visit.  (This man was ousted a number of days after I left; my friend’s brother-in-law was murdered by terrorists several months later.)

My trouble came when I and my traveling companion, a longtime friend from Paris, let down our guards.  We always covered each other’s backs in the marketplace, as robbery is ever present in this poor nation.  We went our separate ways one day in Cusco.  On my own, I was mesmerized by the wide array of vendor’s goods: blankets on the ground displayed raw meats; brightly dressed women loudly announced their vibrant vegetables; modest pots and pans were set up elsewhere.  Stopping I indulged in a delicious, doughnut-like pastry.  Next I reached for my funds to buy freshly squeezed orange juice.  My wallet was gone!

Absolutely everything of importance was in it: my passport, money, travelers’ checks, credit cards, and return ticket home.  This unseasoned traveler was without identity and provision in a volatile place.

God’s grace got me to my homeland safely through a multitude of miracles! The last of these happened just hours before my plane’s departure-the president of Aero Peru, a friend of Chino’s family, reinstated my plane ticket at this critical moment.

My repertoire of catered meals included a Peruvian dinner, even before I experienced this culture. The background for this authentic repast came from a cook book shared by Chino’s girlfriend; however this account was strictly for the upper class.  For hors d’ouvres at these events, I used the youth’s favored dish Ocopa-chunks of boiled, bland purple potatoes, topped with cheese, walnuts, mild chiles, and eggs. The main course boasted of Aji de Gallina, an incredible walnut chicken. Dessert was Suspiro Limeno, a light, airy custard.  The feast ended with Bolitos de Chocolat y Coco.  To this day, these chocolate/coconut balls are the finishing touch at ever meal I host.

Chocolate has an interesting history.  Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes introduced cocao beans to Europe in 1528, when he returned from “New Spain”.  There the Aztecs mixed cocao paste with spices to make a thick drink.  In their convent at Oaxaca, creative Spanish nuns added sugar, which made this chocolate beverage even more palatable. 1

Chocolate was highly prized then and still is today.  These superb, truffle-like candies are a rich man’s food in Peru.  This recipe is simple and foolproof-don’t miss this delectable treat!

  1. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), p. 89.
Making bolitos de chocolat y coco

making bolitos de chocolat y coco

Bolitos de Chocolat y Coco (Peruvian chocolate/coconut balls)  Yields: about 6 dozen balls. Total prep time: 45 min.

12 ounces unsweetened chocolate (Baker’s is best.)

1-14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk  (It’s important to use Borden’s Eagle Brand.)

2 tsp butter

2 cups unsweetened fine-flake coconut  (Available in bulk at our local Winco and other supermarkets.)

  1. Break chocolate into pieces in a medium-size, heavy-bottom saucepan.
  2. Add butter.  Melt slowly over low heat.  Watch carefully, as not to burn.
  3. Meanwhile open the can of milk and place ½ cup of coconut in a measuring cup.  Set aside.
  4. When chocolate is completely melted, quickly add condensed milk.
  5. Stir over low heat for about 30 seconds.  It will start forming a soft ball. Toward the end of the 30 seconds, stir in the coconut.  (Do not overcook, or chocolate will be dry.)
  6. Remove from heat after about 30 seconds; continue to stir vigorously until soft ball is formed all the way.  Cool just enough for handling.
  7. Place ½ cup of coconut in a small bowl.  (You will add more coconut to the dish as needed.)
  8. Form small balls of chocolate and roll in coconut.  Place in an 8×8 inch pan.
  9. Chill chocolate for several hours; then place in a freezer-storage bag.  Double the bag for long-term freezing; these will keep for a very long time in freezer.
  10. Excellent chocolate, so easy, absolutely foolproof!

 

Rosee, a Medieval Dish Flavored with Rose Petals

Rosee-a medieval dish flavored with rose petals

rosee, a dish flavored with rose petals

As I was envisioning this series on foods of the Middle Ages, I was told of a renaissance happening here in our city: we have been chosen as one of eight finalists in a national competition called America’s Best Communities.  Its goal is community revival in America.  This makes me aspire towards Tualatin leading the United States in the regeneration of its local people.

The best is always saved for last-dessert!  This medieval recipe, rosee, reproduces more of the excellent flavors of King Richard II’s court.  However there is a greater value in this post; here I share my vision for revival along with this delicious dish.

Some historians say the Renaissance, or birth of humanism, had its heritage in the beliefs and customs of the Middle Ages.  I discovered this truth in The Encyclopedia of the Renaissance.  This movement’s inheritance is defined there: its patrons were often the medieval church and the papacy, the lives of the saints, along with the Bible, its artistic themes.  The questions of the Christian faith and morals were its issues, while the prayers and canons of the Mass constituted the texts for its music. Indeed the burgeoning of the Renaissance is founded in the spiritual and intellectual traditions of the medieval church. 1

A number of historians made this connection.  Likewise my series on 14th century, medieval foods gave me impetus for a proclamation: I see an awakening happening here in Tualatin (which began with prayer in my Abundant Life Family Church).  We will lead our country with renewal, a renaissance.

Our town has already received $100,000, as a finalist in the above competition, to establish this vision.  Mobile Makerspaces, a well-equipped trailer, presently reaches certain schools.  It establishes a powerful birthright in our children, who are our future.  This happens with a bounty of traveling technical equipment, such as creative electronics and 3-D pens.  These ingenious tools give tomorrow’s citizens hands-on experience with big concepts in STEAM (an acronym for science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics).  Mobile Makerspaces is igniting our youth with passion for these disciplines.

Our city’s Mayor Lou Ogden, the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce, Mirror & Mask Community Theatre, Tualatin Public Library, and Tigard-Tualatin Public School District are all partnered together to implement our winning project.  Tualatin will grow as a result of this promotion of ‘on-fire learning’.  These powerful activities draw our excited youth into careers in these areas.  Much will be accomplished as a result of this.  Our own underemployed and unemployed will get jobs, while our local industries’ deep need for skilled workers will be met.

I clearly see us as winners.  We will lead the nation in community revival.  Tualatin’s future is rosy, so is America’s!

  1.  Paul F. Grendler, ed., Encyclopedia of the Renaissance, 6 volumes (New York:  Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1999), Vol. 1, p.431-436.

Rosee, a Dish Flavored with Rose Petals is adapted from a historical recipe in Lorna Sass’ To the King’s Taste (New York: Metropolitan Art Museum, 1975).  Yields: 4 servings.

5/8 cup whole raw almonds

1 1/4 cups boiling water

1 1/2  tbsp honey

dash salt, plus more for garnishing  (Real salt is best, available in health section of local supermarket.)

1/4 cup dried, crushed rose petals  (You may use the 1/2 cup fresh petals that haven’t been sprayed; tear these into small pieces.)

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp dried ginger

1 tsp rice flour  (Rice flour is available in bulk at certain supermarkets, such as New Seasons.)

1/2 cup dates, chopped fine

1 1/2 tbsp pine nuts

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Fresh rose petals for garnish  (These are optional.)

  1. Chill a medium/large bowl and beaters for an electric mixer in the freezer. This facilitates the whipping of the cream.
  2. Prepare almond milk.  (May be done up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated.) Place almonds in a food processor and repeatedly press the pulse button, until nuts are finely ground.  May also use a Vitamix or blender.  You will need to add 3 tbsp ice water, during the grinding process, if using either of these last two appliances.
  3. Boil water in a medium saucepan.  Dissolve honey and dash of salt in boiling water.  Stir in ground nuts.  Take off heat, let sit for 10 minutes, stir several times.
  4. Add rose petals to almond milk and let soak for 10 minutes more.
  5. Add cinnamon and ginger.  Cook for 5 minutes over low heat; stir occasionally.
  6. Sprinkle flour over milk mixture; continue cooking, while beating with a wire whisk until thickened.
  7. Add dates and pine nuts.  Mix well with a spoon.  Remove from heat, set aside, and cool to room temperature.  Do not cool in refrigerator.
  8. After custard is cool, beat the cream in the frozen bowl, until it forms soft peaks.
  9. Fold whipped cream into cooled custard.  Chill.
  10. Place in individual serving dishes.  Lightly salt each serving and garnish with 2 fresh rose petals, if desired.

 

Medieval White-Dish

White-dish

white-dish

Here is a bird’s eye view of a 14th century nobleman’s kitchen, as was common during the reign of King Richard II.  It consisted of a large, separate structure with many fireplaces built along the walls, each with its own cooking area.  At least one fireplace was large enough to roast a whole ox.  A raised open hearth was situated in the center of the kitchen.

Bake metes (baked foods) were concocted in an oven, prepared first with a blazing fire, getting its brick walls red hot.  Cooks placed the pies, custards, and pastries in the hot oven, after they swept out the ashes.  These items baked, behind a closed door, until the oven was cool.

Bakers, however, made breads in separate buildings in larger kitchens, such as that of King Richard II.  The stoves in these bake houses were often 14 feet wide.

Our king was extravagant; he daily entertained over a thousand guests.  There is record of a very large shopping list for a banquet he gave on September 23, 1387. His overseer included 14 salted oxen, 2 fresh oxen, 120 sheep, 140 pigs, 120 gallons of milk, and 11,000 eggs, among taxing quantities of other items.

These feasts were held in the castle’s great hall.  Here the king and special guests sat on a raised platform, or high borde.  The lesser guests assembled at tables that paralleled the side walls.  The backless benches, on which they sat, were called banquettes; thus we got the name banquet for such affairs.

Cooks in many of these kitchens prepared white-dish, or blank-mang.  It was a popular dish in England, as well as on the Continent, during the Middle Ages. Chaucer’s chef made this receipt.  Our poet wrote in his “Prologue” to the Canterbury Tales (c.1386):  “For blancmange, that made he with the best.”

I am indebted to Lorna Sass for her documentation of this information in To the King’s Taste (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975).  Below is my version for her delicious, historical recipe.  Its preparation is easy with my introduction of 21st century appliances  Can’t encourage you enough to try this.  It’s a palate pleaser!

Next week I will be making the connection between these medieval foods and our “renaissance” happening right here in Tualatin, Oregon.

White-Dish is adapted from a recipe in Lorna Sass’ To the King’s Taste (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975).  Yields: 4-6 servings.

2 large chicken breasts

2 1/2 cups water

1 1/4 tsp salt  (Real Salt is best, available in health section of local supermarket.)

1/2 cup raw whole almonds

1 cup brown rice  (I like basmati rice, available at Trader Joe’s.)

3 tbsp butter

4 tsp brown sugar, packed down  (Sucanat  evaporated cane juice, may be substituted; this is close to what they used in the Middle Ages.)

3 tbsp anise seed

1/4 cup sliced almonds

  1. In a tightly covered medium-size saucepan, over medium heat, boil chicken in water, to which 1/4 tsp salt is added.   Boil for about 10-15 minutes.  Be careful to not overcook.  Check meat by cutting with a sharp knife; center should be slightly pink.  (Meat will be cooked more later on.) Remove chicken from broth; set aside both broth and meat.
  2. To make the almond milk, grind 1/2 cup whole raw almonds in a 11-cup, or larger, food processor. Pulse repeatedly until almonds are a fine powder.  (A blender or Vitamix will also work; add 2 tbsp of ice water to nuts, before grinding, if using either of these.)
  3. With food processor running, slowly add two cups of broth through the feeder tube on top of the processor.  (You may have to add water to make 2 cups of liquid; if perhaps you have extra broth, be sure to save this.)  Let sit for 10 minutes.  This makes almond milk.
  4. Put almond milk in the saucepan.  Add remaining 1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp butter, and sugar.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Add rice, cover,  and reduce heat to medium low.  Simmer gently for about 40 minutes, or until rice is soft.  Watch carefully so rice doesn’t cook dry; gently check bottom of pan with a fork, being careful to not stir rice.  Add more broth, or water, as needed.
  5. Meanwhile dice chicken into 1-inch cubes.  Set aside.
  6. In a small sauté pan, cook almond slices in remaining 2 tbsp of hot butter.  Watch carefully, sautéing only until light brown.  Salt them lightly and set aside.
  7. Crush anise seed using a mortar and pestle.  May also grind in a DRY food processor by pulsing lightly.  Set aside.
  8. Add chicken when rice is soft; stir, and cook about 5 more minutes, or until meat is hot.  Watch moisture in bottom of pan, so rice doesn’t burn, add water or broth as needed.
  9. Serve garnished with buttered almond slices and crushed anise seed.  SO GOOD!

Medieval Perrey of Peson Soup

Perrey of peson soup

perrey of peson soup

This heavenly soup is from the late 14th century manuscript collection titled the Forme of Cury (Manner of Cookery).  King Richard II, who reigned in England from 1377-99, requested the compilation of the methods of food preparation from his grand court. This record of 196 recipes resulted.  He was an extravagant king who daily dined with over 10,000 guests.  It took 300 cooks to prepare his extraordinary meals.  These manuscript receipts providentially allow us to replicate, in part, the flavor of his feasts.

Lorna Sass discovered two volumes published by the Early English Text Society, while she was researching at the Columbia University library in the early 1970’s. They were filled with Medieval manuscript recipes; among them was the Forme of Cury. She published a number of these in To the King’s Taste in 1975.  Here she includes both the original version in Middle English and her translation of that. This is followed by her developed cooking instructions based on a 70’s kitchen.  Her goal was to plainly duplicate these exceptional tastes as closely as possible.

I have simplified several of her recipes even further; my versions utilize our modernized conveniences nearly fifty years hence.  Perrey of Peson, puree of pea soup, is my first inspiration.  The flavor here is much the same that our illustrious king experienced.  However I substituted dried peas for the shelling of fresh ones; thus, this distinctive soup is available year round.  Poetic license had me choose yellow peas instead of green.  Either will do.

The basic techniques for preparation in medieval times were much the same as today. There was paraboyling, bakying, stewying, scaldying, broyliying, tostying, fryeing, boilleing, and roosting.  However these manuscript recipes only document vague preparatory steps with the needed ingredients.  There were no quantities and not many details.  Below is an example: here you’ll find this soup’s receipt given in its entirety as taken from Sass’ book:

“Take peson and seeth hemsaft and cover hem til thei berst.  Thenne take up hem, and cole hem thorgh a cloth; take oynons, and mynce hem, and seeth hem in the same sew and oile therewith,; cast thereto sugar, salt, and saffron, and seeth hem wel thereafter, and serve hem forth.”

Indeed let us serve this forth!

A pot of perrey of peson soup

a pot of perrey of peson soup

Perry of Peson  Yields: 8 servings.  Total prep time: 1 hr & 20 min/  active prep time: 20 min/  cooking time: 1 hr.  This puree of pea soup is adapted from a manuscript recipe from Lorna Sass’  To the King’s Taste (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975).

2 tbsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best; olive oil at high temperatures produces carcinogens.)

1 large yellow onion, chopped

2 cups dried yellow peas  (Available in bulk at Winco; may substitute dried green peas; I choose these yellow peas, though the manuscript recipe calls for fresh peas.)

2 quarts bone broth or 2 liter-boxes chicken broth (See recipe under Tortellini Soup, 2016/10/10, for easy, inexpensive bone broth.)

2 cups water

scant 1/4 tsp saffron threads  (Spanish saffron available inexpensively at Trader Joe’s.)

2 tbsp brown sugar, packed down in spoon  (May also use sucanat, evaporated cane juice, which is close to what they used in the 14th century.)

Season with Better Than Bouillon, a healthy chicken base  (Most grocery stores carry this.)

White pepper and salt, to taste  (Real Salt is best, available in health section at local supermarket.)

  1. Heat oil in a medium sauce pan, add onions, and sweat (cook until translucent).
  2. Add peas; stir to coat with oil.
  3. Add broth, water, and saffron; bring to a boil over medium temperature; reduce heat and simmer at a low boil for 1 hour, or until peas are very soft.  DO NOT ADD SALT WHILE COOKING, AS PEAS WON’T SOFTEN.
  4. Add brown sugar when peas are soft.
  5. Next season with a small amount of Better Than Bouillon; taste and add more slowly.  Add white pepper and, finally, salt to taste.  Add these last three items slowly, adjusting as you go, until desired taste is achieved.
  6. Take off heat and puree with a stick blender, also known as an immersion blender, available at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.
  7. Check seasonings again, serve hot.  Freezes really well also.  Explodes with flavor!