Sunday, March 29, 2020

Productivity In The Time of Covid

We are living in strange and frightening times. For the last fortnight I have been in isolation except for essential medical appointments because I am especially vulnerable to infection. I am regularly house-bound because of illness, but this is something different. Usually I suffer terribly from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) because I am isolated and sick and everyone else is out having fun. All Lochac face-to-face SCA activities have been suspended, so all my friends are now missing out too. Everyone is feeling sad and anxious. Anticipatory grief is a real thing.
My doctors are also playing around with my medication which is affecting my mood, pain levels and blood pressure. Plus a family friend died unexpectedly this week, which was a horrible shock.

I have been feeling low as well as guilty because I feel like I should be counting my blessings and making the most of this time, and I really haven't managed to get anything much done. So many talented people posting tutorials and pictures of completed items online and I am struggling to get the basic stuff like dishes and washing done.

An SCA friend sent me a meme today that really helped. It said something to the effect of "It's OK to NOT be at your most productive during a global pandemic!" Obvious stuff, when it is put like that, but I was so caught up in feeling bad about wasting time that I hadn't thought about it logically.
So if you are feeling the same, please be kind to yourself. It's only natural to be anxious and feel uncertain during a pandemic! Follow health guidelines, stay safe, and do whatever you need to do to get through this time.

With thanks to Violet for the right meme at the right time
And thanks to Cathy for the supportive words and the great title.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Embroidery Designs - Acorns

I hope all of you are well and taking care of yourselves. Enjoy these acorn designs.
From The Needle's Excellency (Boler) - 1634 held at the British Museum  available at Modelbuch Muse

From The Trevellyon Miscellany (1608) available on Pinterest. More information can be found here:

From A Scholehouse for the Needle (1632),  individual pages reproduced on Pinterest

From A Scholehouse for the Needle (1632),  individual pages reproduced on Pinterest

From A Scholehouse for the Needle (1632),  individual pages reproduced on Pinterest

From Lotz 106 by Jean Le Maistre (1564) at 

Pattern from _Lucidario di Recami_ by Iseppo Foresto, published by Jeronimo Calepino, dated 1564. reproduced at Modelbuch Muse

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Isolation Embroidery Challenge

I've started a hand-embroidery challenge in my SCA group to try and help keep everyone feeling connected and motivated during the suspension of activities. The idea is that all the participants will work on one or more hand embroidery challenges over the enforced break, and share our progress on the baronial Facebook page. Then, when events resume, we display our finished items in person.

The tricky part was accommodating various levels of expertise and confidence, while still offering a theme that had something for everyone. In the end I settled on an open theme and open technique. People can work on heraldic items, UnFinished Objects (UFOs), items for upcoming competitions or largesse, or even those big projects that have been on the Wish List for some time - whatever they like. Sounds super exciting, doesn't it?

What it means in real time is that I’m faffing around deciding what to do for the Challenge (i.e. wasting time being overwhelmed by the possibilities of doing All The Things). In the mean time I decided I need to stop wasting time and that I really should try and finish this embroidered partlet I started for the baronial Heraldic Challenge.

Normally partlets are my favourite thing to embroider but I’m hating on this one because the pale lilac thread is really hard to see, so my stitching is sloppy, plus it is reinforcing how much my eyes have been impacted by medication in the last couple of years.

DMC stranded cotton seahorses done in split and double running stitch on a base of leftover cotton broadcloth due to financial limitations.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Suspension of Activities

Copper engraving of Doctor Schnabel (i.e., Dr. Beak), a plague doctor in seventeenth-century Rome, circa 1656 Image from:

An announcement was made on the weekend by the Kingdom Seneschal and Crown that all face-to-face SCA activities would be suspended until the end of April (when things will be reviewed). The next couple of months were going to be jam-packed with events, as we are going into Autumn here in Lochac, and it is the perfect time of the year for garbed activities.
As an immuno-compromised person, the announcement is a little bit of a relief, but I am also feeling a bit lost and sad. We haven't had many cases of Covid-19 in my state yet but bans on mass gatherings and suggestions to restrict contact are designed to stop a spike in contagion which our health services would not be able to cope well with.
So, this seems like a good time to review plans, finish off projects and do some tidying up. The change in plans has left me floundering because the next several weeks were entirely mapped out. (Plus, I don't have an infection at the moment for a change!)
I have masses of unfinished projects, tons of paperwork to do, and so many ideas I'd like to start, as well as needing new garb, so I will never be bored. The challenge will be how best to use the time.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Making Heraldic Bunting

This week I have been testing out paints for a group project to make heraldic bunting for events.
I've been testing how different paint types cover and how rich the pigments are.
Even though I have been in a big rush to get the samples done in time for the next SCA meeting, I have really enjoyed the painting. I am thinking that I might try making a painted banner - when I have a bit more time.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Red and Gold Tie-On Sleeves Made From A Sari

I made these sleeves last year as a bit of an experiment. I found a child's tunic made from a sari in a local thrift shop, and loved the fabric. Although a modern fabric, it did not look jarringly modern, and I felt that it would make a nice pair of detachable sleeves.

I carefully washed and dried the tunic. Unpicking it was challenging as the fabric is delicate and has gilt metal threads through it. I would not be surprised if it is a silk or silk blend fabric. The garment had obviously had several adjustments for a growing child, and there were interesting tucks and joins all over the tunic.

I also removed the trim which was pretty but very much the worse for wear.
Once the fabric pieces had been carefully pressed, I positioned my sleeve pattern so that the pattern was facing the same way on both sleeves while trying to avoid any holes or damaged areas.
Cutting the wine coloured cotton lining fabric was much easier; no patterns or mends to worry about.
I usually don't use my fashion fabric as a pattern, but I was in a big hurry for this project.

Once the sleeves and linings were cut out, I edged them with zigzag stitch to reduce fraying. I then machine sewed the seams, and finger pressed the inside of the sleeves open. I hand sewed the seams open with tiny, hidden stitches. I then put the lining and sleeve together inside out.

This is always a step that I have trouble with. I just can't seem to visually 'get' how they are supposed to go, so I usually baste or safety pin along where the seam will be prior to sewing, and then turn them right way out to make sure the insides of the seams are hidden and the fashion fabric is outside and facing the right way with everything looking correct. Only then do I turn it back inside out, pin and sew. After another double-check, I clip the curves on the armscye and then turn the sleeve the right way out.

I usually baste or pin around the shoulder part of the sleeve to make sure it is sitting right and then I work the eyelet holes. This is a job that I detest as it is very painful for my fingers. I usually can only do one or two holes a day.

When I had the eyelets done, I hemmed the wrist area. I turned the fashion fabric up first, and stitched it down with tiny hidden stitches. Then I pinned the lining into place, slightly shorter than the outer fashion fabric hem. (This stops the lining from rolling out.) I then stitched the lining wrist hem down.

I think I paid around $4AU for the sari tunic. It is delicate and probably won't last too many wears, but I was happy with how the sleeves turned out and I thought it was a worthwhile experiment at a good price.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Recipe for a Tart of Spinach

Pastry recipe from A proper new Booke of Cookery.
Declaring what maner of meates be best in season for al times of the yeere, and how
they ought to be dressed, & served at the Table, both for fleshe dayes and Fish daies.
with a new addition,very necessary for al them that delight in Cookery. 1575.
Available at

To make short paste for a Tart.
Take fine Flower, a litle faire
water, & a dish of sweete butter, & a litle
saffron, and the yolkes of two egges, &
make it thin and as tender as ye may.

Recipe for A Tarte of Spindage from The good huswifes Jewell.
(Wherein is to be found most excellend and rare Deuises for conceites in Cookery, found out by the practise of Thomas Dawson. Wherevnto is adioyned sundry approued receits for many soueraine oyles, and the way to distill many precious waters, with diuers approued medicines for many
diseases.) 1596

To make a Tarte of Spinadge.

Take Spinadge and seeth it stalke and
all, and when it is tenderly sodden,
take it off, and let it drayne in a Cul-
lynder. and then swing it in a clowte, and
stampe it and straine it with two or three
yolkes of egges, and then set it on a chafin-
dish of coales, and season it with butter and
Suger, and when the paste is hardened in 
the Ouen, put in this Comode, strake it

Recipe for Poudre Fine - Le Menagier de Paris

"Take an ounce and a drachma of white ginger, a quarter ounce of hand pciked cinnamon, half a quarter ounce each of grains and cloves, and a quarter ounce of rock sugar, and grind to powder.

I omitted dsffron from the pastry and Grains of Paradise from the Poudre fine due to lack of availabitlity. I only used spinach and parsley leaves in the filling mixture. I'd like to try this again with grated boiled eggs rather than whisked to see how the texture compares. I'd like to try adding non-white sugar to my poudre fine to see how the taste compares (eg. raw or palm sugar).

3 egg yolks
Pinch of salt
2 C plain flour
200g unsalted butter at room temperature
splash of milk to moisten

I added the salt to the flour and mixed, and then I rubbed the cubed butter into the flour/salt mix. When the mixture resembled fine crumbs, I mixed in the egg yolks and kneaded lightly. I added a splash of milk for extra moisture (but an extra egg yolk would have been better). I baked the pastry in a pie pan at 200 degrees C for 15 minutes. I didn't have baking beans to hand, so I pricked the base with a fork to prevent the pastry rising.
When the pastry was cooked, I removed it from the oven and cooled it on a rack. When it was cool, I filled it with the spinach mix and baked it (see below).

Tart Filling
500g cleaned, chopped spinach (frozen is great)
250g ricotta
250g grated tasty or mature cheese
200g dried parley or a large bunch of fresh (to taste)
7 small/medium eggs
dash of pepper and salt (to taste)
1/4 tsp powdered clove
1TB each of sugar, ginger and cinnamon

I mixed the spinach, parsley and spices together before adding them to the whisked eggs and mixing until well combined. I spooned this mix into the pre-cooked pastry casing (I made 2 smaller ones) and baked at 180 degrees C (FF) for 35-40 minutes. I added more spice than I normally would have because I tend too under-spice. It would also be fun to play around with different types of leaves and herbs.
This amount of mixture made too much filling for the pastry below. You could double the pastry, but I cooked the rest of the mixture up into a frittata.

Some comments I received included:
"Good ratio of greens to egg and cheese. Base is crunchy which I like but a bit thick"
"Good base for a dish, with a subtle flavour. Would benefit of being served with a sauce or relish"
"Excellent base, moist and crumbly. The spinach flavour is a little overpowered by the base; it is otherwise gorgeous"
My family also enjoyed it.

As always, I am indebted to those members of the Populace who take the time to comment on recipes so that dishes can be improved.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Partlet with Holly Embroidery - Update 4

I'm pretty happy with how the 'border' turned out. Something different from the other partlets in my wardrobe, anyway.

The next big decision to make was which lace to use. I still haven't found the time to learn to make bobbin lace, so I had to use commercially made lace from my stash. I wanted gold, but the bright gold really made it look to Christmas-y. Luckily I remembered a lighter gilt lace that I had tucked away.
I'm really pleased with how it looked once sewn on. I also added a line of small running stitches in single thread to finish off the hem area. 

Now that the pain of all those little berries is not as fresh in my mind, I am already thinking about other colour combinations that I could do! Hemming first.

Monday, March 2, 2020

A recipe for Hirchones or Yrchouns - Hedgehog Meatballs

This is a fun recipe that I have made many times. Kids and adults alike get a kick out of these spiky little meatballs.

The original recipe is from Two Fifteenth Century Cookbooks c 1430-1450  (Harleian MS 279);view=fulltext


Take Piggis mawys, & skalde hem wel; take groundyn Porke, & knede it with Spicerye, with pouder Gyngere, & Salt & Sugre; do it on þe mawe, but fille it nowt to fulle; þen sewe hem with a fayre þrede, & putte hem in a Spete as men don piggys; take blaunchid Almaundys, & kerf hem long, smal, & scharpe, & frye hem in grece & sugre; take a litel prycke, & prykke þe yrchons, An putte in þe holes þe Almaundys, every hole half, & eche fro oþer; ley hem þen to þe fyre; when þey ben rostid, dore hem sum wyth [leaf 30 bk.] Whete Flowre, & mylke of Almaundys, sum grene, sum blake with Blode, & lat hem nowt browne to moche, & serue forth.

My Recipe
Several of the people in my SCA group don't like pork, so I used beef this time around. (I find using pork results in a tastier, more moist meatball.) I omitted the pig stomach due to modern sensibilities. I used raisins cut in half instead of currants because they were what I had to hand. I decided not to colour the hedgehogs; I like them brown.

1.5 Kg beef mince
1.5 tsp ginger
1.5 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
50 slivered almonds
raisins cut in half

I added spices to the mince mixture and worked it with my hands until it became very sticky. I shaped the mixture into oval 'hedgehog' shapes and added raisin pieces for eyes. I studded the balls with almond 'spines'. In the past I have pre-toasted the almonds, and they get a bit over-browned in the oven. This time I left them un-toasted and stuck them in the meatballs. Use your own judgement based on your oven.
I cooked the meatballs in a moderate oven (180 degrees C) on a lightly greased tray for 20 mins until brown.

Some of the comments I received included:
"The texture of the beef worked nicely, but more spice would be appreciated. Otherwise fabulous."
"I liked the crispy almonds and the raisins were a delightful addition to the flavour"
"Was a little dry but was well spiced and seasoned"

Adjust the spices to your (and your audience's taste). If I make these for my family or people I don't know, I use small amounts of spice. People who are used to medieval food will probably want more spice. I have also experimented with the texture of the mince. Mince from the supermarket tends to be quite coarse, but if you can get finely ground mince it produces a remarkably different texture and mouth-feel in the finished meatball. I have even tried these with chicken mince.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Partlet with Holly Embroidery - Update 3

With the holly embroidery complete, I felt that there was too much negative space between the centre-front hem and the design, so Trevellyon came to the rescue again! I adapted the border design around the holly pattern in his book and worked it in red and green.

The central horizontal stitches are double running stitch and the border is worked in split stitch (both with two strands of DMC floss).

Monday, February 24, 2020

Partlet with Holly Embroidery - Update 2

Split stitch and double running stitch embroidery is complete.

Recipe for 'A Tarte of Rice'

This recipe comes from the Good Huswifes' Jewell-

A Tarte of Rice
Boyle your Rice and put in the yolkes of two or three Egges into the Rice and when it is boyled, put it into a dish, and season it with Suger, Sinamon and Ginger and butter and the iuyce of 2 or 3 orenges, and set it on the fire again.
From The Good Huswifes' Jewell by Thomas Dawson, 1596

My recipe
1C Arborio rice - well rinsed
1.5 C water plus 200ml extra
50g butter
5 tsp sugar
1 heaped tsp cinnamon
1 heaped tsp ginger
3 egg yolks, small to medium eggs

Cook rice until al dente. Lightly beat the egg yolks and add the spices. Stir.
Add the egg yolk/spice mix to the rice and stir. Add sugar and mix well.
Cook the mixture on moderate heat until rice is nice and soft and the mix starts to fuse together with the individual grains looking less defined. (I  cooked it is the microwave due to time constraints, but a a small saucepan on the stove top would be ideal.) You may need to add extra water here if the mix looks too dry.
When the mixture is cooked and the rice is very soft, put into a serving dish and sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on the top. Caster sugar would be best here.
Next time I will add more spice. Cooking in the microwave meant that the dish didn't have  a lovely crust like you get when you put it in the oven to brown after cooking.

I have made this recipe with and without the orange juice. I liked the recipe above (without the orange juice) better; it was less acidic.

Some of the comments I received included:
'Delightful! Lovely as a dessert or between courses. I think the addition of cream over the top would be great'.
'I really like this, it is nice and I want to eat more!'
'Loved it- delicious. The flavours are well balanced and really liked the kick of ginger on the tongue. It was a little dry but arborio rice left overnight does that. Would recommend almond milk as a substitute for the water or orange juice. If you reduced the sugar it would be a good accompaniment to a fatty strong flavoured meat.'
'Nice texture, well cooked. Good spice.'

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Recipe for An Italian Pudding

Here's another recipe from the Revel that I cooked for late in 2018. The original comes from The Newwe Booke of Cookerie and which I found reproduced on Steffan's Florilegium and also here  from a later print edition

This is an excerpt from A NEVV BOOKE of Cookerie (England, 1615)
The original source can be found at Thomas Gloning's website

To make an Italian Pudding. Take a Penny white Loafe, pare off the crust, and cut it in square pieces like vnto great Dyes, mince a pound of Beefe Suit small: take halfe a pound of Razins of the Sunne, stone them and mingle them together, and season them with Sugar, Rosewater, and Nutmegge, wet these things in foure Egges, and stirre them very tenderly for breaking the Bread: then put it into a Dish, and pricke three or foure pieces of Marrow, and some sliced Dates: put it into an Ouen hot enough for a Chewet: if your Ouen be too hot, it will burne: if too colde, it will be heauy: when it is bakte scrape on Sugar, and serue it hot at dinner, but not at Supper.

My recipe redaction:
1/2 tsp rosewater
1/2 tsp nutmeg
5 small-med eggs
1 loaf of white bread with crusts cut off
2/3 cup of sugar
250g dried dates, chopped small
1 cup of extra dried fruit of choice (eg. raisins, currants, sultanas)
1/2C to 3/4C of cream, depending on the dryness of the bread.

Make sure all the crust is removed from the bread and dice it small. Beat the eggs and mix in the sugar, cream, rosewater and spices. Mix the bread into the wet mixture gently. The mix should be fairly moist, similar to a bread pudding. Add the dried fruit and mix. Put into a lightly greased dish. Dot butter around on the top if you wish. Cook in moderate oven (about 170 degrees C) until cooked through and golden brown. Serve hot.

I omitted the marrow because so many people would be put off by it and I thought it might make it a bit greasy. Next time I make it I might soak the fruit in port or something similar for a little while before I add it to the mix. I'll have to do some research to see what would be most appropriate.
I am usually not a fan of bread pudding, but I did like this one.

Some of  the comments included:
'I liked it! Would be great with ice cream.''
'This was a generous and delicious dish. Wanted to go back for more. Wonderful texture.'
'I loved everything about this pudding - the taste, presentation and abundance of fruit. A nice pudding.'

This style of recipe appears to have continued to be popular into the next century, as there are several variations in later cook books. Here is an example:

A Baked Pudding after the Italian fashion, corrected
Source: The whole Body of Cookery Dissected, 1661
Take a penny white loaf or two, and cut it in the manner of dice: put to it half a pound of Beef suet minced small, half a pound of Raisins of the sun stoned, a little sugar, six sliced Dates, a grain of Musk, the Marrow of two bones, season it with Cloves, Mace, Nutmeg, salt and Rose-water, then beat three Eggs with about half a pint of Cream, and put it to your bread and other ingredients, and stir it together softly that you break not the bread, nor Marrow: then slice some thin pieces of Apple into the bottom of your dish, that you bake it in, and put your Pudding theron: bake it in an oven not so hot as for Manchet: when its enough, stick it with Cittern and strow it with Sugar.

I am very lucky that I have an adventurous Barony who are very generous with their time and are happy to provide detailed commentary on dishes to help me improve. I thank them all, but I have especial thanks for Baroness Linet and Viscount Aylwin who can always be relied upon to comment and offer detailed suggestions on how specific dishes may have been done in the period.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Recipe for 'Gourdes in Pottage' from Curye on Inglyshe

I decided to try this recipe for a Pumpkin pottage because it was so unusual. I have several vegetarians in my local SCA group, so I omitted the pork meat.

'Take young Gowdres; pare hem and kerue hem on pecys. Cast hem in gode broth, and do perto a gode pertye of oynouns mynced. Take pork soden; grynde it and ayle it perwith and wip yolkes of ayren. Do perto safround and salt, and messe it forthe with powdour douce.'
From: Curye on Inglyshe: English Culinary Manuscripts of the 14th Century {including The Forme of Curye}

Poudre duce recipe

take an (?) of white ginger, a (?) of hand picked cinnamon, half a quarter ounce each of grains and cloves and (?) rock sugar and grind to powder.
From: 'Libro di cucina' reproduced at

My recipe
1 butternut pumpkin, peeled and chopped
4 medium onions, diced
3 Cups of water with 3 boullion cubes
1/2 walnuts chopped
yolks of 3 small eggs, beaten
3 tsp ginger
2 tsp nutmeg
3 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
2 tsp salt
7 tsp sugar

I peeled and cut the pumpkin. I cut it into large chunks and added the chunks into a boiling broth made of 3 cups of water and 3 bouillon cubes. Then I added the diced onion. I cooked the mixture until the pumpkin was nearly cooked. Then I added the chopped walnuts and cooked for another five minutes and turned off the heat.

While the pumpkin mix was cooking, I beat three egg yolks with the spices. To prevent the yolks from cooking and thickening due to the hot mixture, I added spoonfuls of the hot broth into the egg and spice mix and stirred through to gradually raise the temperature. Then I gradually added the yolk and spice mix to the main pot, stirring after adding each small amount. When it was all mixed in, I turned the heat back on to medium heat and cooked for another 5-10 minutes.

I used imitation saffron as the real thing was not available. It is inferior to the real thing as it adds colour but not taste or scent. I added chopped walnuts instead of meat to cater to vegetarians. Vegetarian boullion cubes were used instead of meat based cubes.

I found the taste interesting. I don't like walnuts at all, and the texture of pumpkin puts me off.  I could tolerate this dish, and I am glad I made it. I specifically wanted a filling vegetarian dish for the vegetarian members of my Barony, but I think that the addition of fine chicken or pork mix instead of walnuts would really improve this recipe. Adding chopped blanched almonds would add a nice texture too.

Some comments I received included:
'Nice flavour and texture. Good filling food. Excellent winter fare.'
'Smells nice and spicy, love the texture and crunchiness. Very nice hearty pottage.'
'Really enjoyed it. Nice mix of textures and the spice mix really added to it. Not usually a fan of pumpkin but it really works in this recipe.'

My family (who are unused to medieval food) also tried it and said it was unusual but tasty.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Partlet with Holly Berry Embroidery - Update 1

Here are the progress pics from week one of working on the holly berry partlet:

I like the way it looks with the green embroidery done and the un-embroidered berries showing in a lighter colour. I might consider doing another in lighter colours in the future.....

Saturday, February 15, 2020

A Heart in Honour of St Valentine

A medieval heart shape brooch held by the British Museum, item number 1967,1208.8.
This brooch is made of gold and was created 1400-1464. It is part of the Fishpool Hoard which was discovered in Nottinghamshire, England in 1966.
It has a vertical pin and has three loops at the base where pendants were once attached. It has twisted bands of blue and white enamel with beaded borders. The enameled bands have a lovely punched gilt floral motif in them.

The inscription on the back says 'Je suy vostre sans de partier' (I am yours forever) with white enamel, each word alternating with foliate sprays but the enamel has been lost over time.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Recipe for 'Plummes in Syrop' from 'A Treasurie of Commodius Conceits and Hidden Secrets'

This recipe is an absolute ripper and would be part of the menu for my dream feast. It is super simple to prepare, and decadently delicious.

Plummes condict in Syrrope Chapter. xv.
Take halfe a pounde of Suger,
halfe a pint of Rose water and
a pinte of fayre Rayne water,
or of some other distilled water,
seeth ye Suger & ye two waters vpō
a softe fyre of coles, till ye one halfe
be consumed: thē take it frō ye fire &
when it leaueth boylīg, put therin
halfe a pound of ripe Damazines,
or other plummes, & set it agayne
on the embers, & kepe it in the lyke
heate tyll the plummes be softe by
the space of an howre if neede bee,
then put into it some cloues brused
and when it is coulde keepe it in a
Glasse, or in an earthen or Gally∣potte,
the stronger the Syrrope
is with Suger, the better it wyll
Some put into the Syrroup Sinimon, Saunders, Nutmegges.
From - The Treasurie of Commodious Conceits, & Hidden Secrets: And May be Called, the Huswiues Closet, of Healthfull Prouision. Mete and Necessarie for the Profitable Vse of All Estates Both Men and Women: and Also Pleasaunt for Recreation, with a Necessary Table of All Things Herein Contayned. Gathered Out of Sundrye Experiments Lately Practised by Men of Great Knowledge. By John Partridge, 1573. Available at;view=fulltext

My recipe is slightly different as damsons (plums) were not in season and I could not get sandalwood ('sanders'). I thought wine would be a nice alternative to the water and rosewater base in the original.

500g pitted prunes
500ml red wine (I used a lovely cabernet merlot)
1/4 tsp rosewater essence
approx. 300g sugar
1/4 tsp nutmeg and cinnamon
5 cloves

This is one of those annoying recipes where the amounts are just guidelines and the ingredients are 'to taste'. The amount of sugar depends on what sort of wine it is and how sweet it is. I opted for very light spices and rosewater because the wine was perfect on it's own. I put the wine and sugar and spices into a small saucepan and warmed them so that the sugar dissolved. I added the prunes and then kept the mixture cooking gently so that the wine reduced and became syrupy. Don't let it all get too hot or it will taste burnt.

Let the mixture cool in the saucepan. I made mine in advance and kept it in the fridge overnight. I gently reheated it and served it warm. Because it is only gently heated, I wasn't sure if all the alcohol would cook off, so I kept this away from the kids just in case.

I tried this with cream on the side and also with a good quality vanilla bean ice cream. If you like rich, sweet desserts, I think you will enjoy this.

I did plan to try a redaction closer to the original version, but I honestly haven't made the time because my version is just so nice!

Monday, February 10, 2020

Partlet with Holly Berries

My first 'holly' project is going to be a partlet decorated with the holly design in one of Trevellyon's borders from his Miscellany. (I plan to register a heraldic badge that has holly on it, so there my be more holly themed items in the future.)

A page from Thomas Treveyllon's Miscellany from 1608
The base fabric is a lovely fine linen. The design was marked out with an iron-away Frixion marker. The berries are embroidered in two strands of red DMC 498 cotton, and the leaves and stems in two strands of green DMC 3818 cotton. I considered other colourways, but decided to go with realistic colours for this first project. In period, of course, silk would most likely have been used for this project. I have used cotton due to cost and availability issues.

The stems, leaves and berry outlines are being worked in split stitch, and the line across each berry is done in double running (Holbein) stitch.

When making partlets, I often do what is not recommended, and make up the garment first. I use a small hand-sewn hem on my Italian partlets, and I find having the centre front hem completed can be useful in ensuring that the design is perfectly aligned with the centre front edge of the partlet. If you decide to do it this way, you should be careful to ensure that the edges of the garment do not get stretched and warped by your hoop. I use a very small hoop and move it often, being careful not to stretch the linen base fabric.

Friday, February 7, 2020

A Recipe for White Leach

Image of a dish of cream from
A recipe that has proved to be very popular with adults and children alike is White Leach from 'The Good Huswife's Jewell' (1596). I made this silky white milk jelly as part of the spread for my Sweete Delyte Revel, and the dish was clean by the end.

A White Leach
Take a quart of new milke, and three ounces weight of Isinglasse, halfe a pound of beaten suger, and stirre them together, and let boile halfe a quarter of an hower till it be thicke, stirring them all the while: then straine it with three spoonfuls of Rosewater, then put it into a platter and let it coole, and cut it into squares. Lay it fair in dishes, and lay golde upon it.
From: Thomas Dawson The Good Huswives Jewell (London: 1596)

My recipe:
300 ml heavy cream
300 ml skim milk
1/2 cup sugar
4 tsp gelatine powder
1 1/2 tsp rosewater
nutmeg to taste

I used skim milk as it is what I usually have in the house. I added heavy cream to make it richer.
I substituted gelatine powder for isinglasse as it is much more easily availabile.

I mixed the milk and cream together gently in a small saucepan and then heated the mixture gently. AS it was warming, I sprinkled the gelatine powder into the mixture.  The version of the recipe reproduced in Peter Brears' book "All The Kings Cooks" (p. 179) suggested that the mixture should be heated to 60 degrees C so I followed that advice. I then stirred in the sugar and rosewater into the warm milk mixture until it was well mixed with no grains. I added a little bit of nutmeg for richness and to complement the creaminess.
I then put into a lightly greased dish to cool and set in the fridge. I let mine set overnight.

This recipe can be presented in a dish or can be put into a lightly greased pan and cut into rectangles or lozenge shapes when set. Served up as individual wobbly pieces, this dish is very striking and appeals to the inner child in diners.

Some of the comments I received included:
"It is very nice and yummy"
"This is my all time favourite. It was smooth and silky and nicely set. Well presented with a bottom layers of creaminess to make a simple sweet go to the next level"

I will definitely continue to make this one. Interesting variations could include different flavours such as orange essence or a stronger rosewater flavour. I am tempted to make some different colour variations for fun, or even try a layered jelly with different colours.

You can learn more about historical jellies at

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Medieval Cucumber Salad - Cucummen from 'Ein New Kochbuck'

One thing I really enjoy in the SCA is experimenting with medieval and renaissance recipes. Those of you familiar with them will know that measurements are not always listed and there is often a great amount of assumed knowledge (such as 'prepare in the usual way..') which can make it very interesting.

Image from:
Last year I tried out this cucumber salad recipe from Ein New Kochbuck - A 16th Century Collection of German Recipes by Marx Rumpolt.

"Peel the cucumbers/cut them broad and thin/season them with oil/pepper and salt. But if they are salt preserved/they are also not bad/better than raw/because one can salt it with Fennel and with caraway/that both can be kept over one year. And near the Rhine-stream one calls it cucummen."

I have to say at the beginning that cucumbers are one of my favourite salad items and I love them fresh and raw, so I was predisposed to not like this recipe very much.

My version of the recipe:
2 large cucumbers peeled and chopped
2tb extra virgin olive oil
1.5 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

I washed the cucumbers and peeled them and cut them into thin rounds. I poured the oil over and then sprinkled on the salt and pepper and mixed. I omitted the fennel and caraway seeds because I don't like them. The resulting salad was not unpleasant but was not a showstopper (but perhaps my bias against dressed cucumber is showing). I was interested in the comments of the populace after tasting this. I would like to try it with more intense salt flavours as the recipe talks about 'salt preserved cucumbers'. I suspect that the author is referring to some sort of brined pickle, which opens up a whole different arena of flavours, and which would make fennel and caraway more suitable as flavouring agents in a brine.
I would be prepared to try it again chilled, and with a different sort of oil with a less distinct flavour. I'd be interested to see what sort of impact leaving the skin on would make. Similarly, it would be interested to experiment with small cucumbers (like gherkin size) and to find out if cutting length ways with a mandolin would make a difference to the taste.

Some of the comments I received included:
"I found it quite nice, just the right amount of salt and pepper"
"It's good; really nice flavours and not overpowering"
"Nice flavour, would like to try them very cold"
"Nice flavour and texture. Pepper seemed to settle - I liked the stronger pepper flavour on the lower level"
"Good balance - neither the oil nor the other flavours are too dominant, but all of them are clearly present"

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Embroidery Designs - Holly Berries

I was recently reflecting on embroidery designs and decided that I would like to have more items decorated with my heraldry and with holly. Luckily, holly berries (or, at least, berries that could be holly) seem to have been quite a popular sixteenth century motif and I didn't have any trouble finding several designs.

From The Trevellyon Miscellany (1608) available on Pinterest

From The Trevellyon Miscellany available on Pinterest

From The Trevellyon Miscellany available on Pinterest

From The Trevellyon Miscellany (1608) available on Pinterest
From A Scholehouse for the Needle (1632),  individual pages reproduced on Pinterest

From A Scholehouse for the Needle, individual pages reproduced on Pinterest

An extant coif c. 1590 held in the V&A Museum, London

Embroidered panel c. 1600 available at Pinterest and held by the V&A Museum 

Coif decorated with currants or holly held by the Embroiderer's Guild London and reproduced in Elizabethan Stitches by Jacqui Carey ISBN 978-0-9523225-8-0, p. 84

Design from 'Ein New Kunstlich Modelbuch' by Peter Quentel c.1544, page 13r
Available at The Metropolitan Museum

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Embroidered Collar and Cuffs with Pony Detail for a Knighting Gift

Last year I was honoured to attend the elevation of a friend to the Chivalry. I wanted to make a small gift as a memento of the occasion. I decided that embroidered collar and cuff panels for a shirt would be appropriate.

I based my design on a band from the Trevelyon Miscellany(1608); a modelbuch for artists which has a breathtaking array of designs just crying out to be embroidered. I copied the design, and simplified it as well as adding in pony's heads - an element of the recipient's heraldry. I traced the design out onto tracing paper. I photocopied the design and reduced it in size so that the same basic design was used for collar and cuffs (but smaller in size on the cuffs). I then modified the design slightly so that it would fit into the size panel required to go around the wrist.
I traced the design onto my base fabric using a window as a light source and a Frixion marker.
The base fabric is linen and the embroidery worked in Guterman silk in split stitch.
Sometimes you just need to take a break and rest the eyes and re-energise! 
The project was a little challenging as I was on a strict time deadline and I was still having issues with my wrist and hand from the injury in Nov 2018 and my underlying health problems. My stitching is not as fine or as accurate as I would like, which is disappointing. It also took at least twice as long as my usual slow pace.
I love designing embroideries, but I think my favourite moment is when the marker is ironed away and the stitches remain.
The finished piece. I left it in a single panel so that the pieces cannot be lost until it is made up into a garment, and because people make shirts slightly differently and I wanted to allow plenty of fabric for turning under. (Base fabric is zigzag stitched on the edges for durability until it is cut into panels.)

I also can't recommend Modelbuch Muse enough - it is a wonderful information base relating to Renaissance dress as well as lovely embroidery designs to try:

Portrait photo credits: S.J. Taylor - many thanks!