Historical Food Fortnightly 2016 #1 Meat-and-Potatoes: Blamanger of Fysshe
The Challenge: “They are a staple for the tables in the most rustic cottages as well as the fanciest banquet tables – and it’s also an idiom meaning a staple or the most basic parts of something. Make a historic ‘meat-and-potatoes’ recipe – however you interpret it.”
The Recipe: “Blamanger of Fysshe” from the Harleian collection, 279.1.98. Printed in Pleyn Delit: Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks
The Date/Year and Region: I am confident that this is a recipe from a manuscript known as “Fifteen Century Cookery Book 1.”. England.
How Did You Make It: I made the almond milk, then followed the recipe.
Time to Complete: 30 minutes or so.
Total Cost: I paid $9.99 for the lobster and can’t remember the rest but less than $15 total for one serving.
How Successful Was It?: It was….interesting.
How Accurate Is It?: As accurate as I could make it without precise amounts.
For this challenge, I wanted to make a meat-and potatoes dish that was not literally meat and potatoes. I did a mental search of foods that were very popular during different periods that interest me, and then remembered that I had a recipe called “Blamanger of Fysshe” bookmarked for over a year for the last Historical Food Fortnightly. Blancmanger, or blamanger as this particular scribe wrote it, was a very popular dish all over Europe in the Middle Ages, and shares the name with a modern dessert but they are not very much alike. In the Middle Ages, the dish consisted of rice and almond milk with some white protein, most often chicken or capon but, as is the case here, fish as well. It was called blamanger because it was a, mostly, white dish. Modern blancmange is similar to panna cotta.
This particular recipe is printed in the book Pleyn Delit, and the authors do give a modern adaptation. I did read the adaptation, but there was too much modernization for my liking, plus I like to work from the original recipe or a transcription/translation without creative rewriting. It is my practice to remain as true to the original as possible. Yes, I cook in a modern kitchen, which already removes a layer of authenticity, but I can still strive for as-authentic-as-possible.
Original recipe (#64 in Pleyn Delit; HARL 279.1.98):
“Take rys, an sethe hem tylle they brekyn, & late hem kele; Þan caste Þerto mylke of almaundys; nym perche or lopstere & do Þerto, & melle it; Þan nym sugre with pouder gyngere, & caste Þerto, & make it chargeaunt, and Þen serve it forth.”
Modern English translation:
“Take rice, and boil them until they break, and let them cool; then add almond milk; take perch or lobster and add, mix it; then take sugar with powdered ginger, and add, and make it thick, and then serve it forth.”
There’s quite a bit of French influence in the language of that recipe.
The modern recipe:
Blancmange of Fish
1 lobster tail
1 cup water
1/2 cup short grain rice*
1/2 cup almond milk
1/4 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp powdered ginger
In a large pot of salted water, boil tail the lobster for 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool; chop into large pieces.
In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Add the rice, stir. Bring to a simmer, lower the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes or until the rice is just al dente. Add the almond milk, sugar, ginger, and lobster. Cook, stirring, until the rice is tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. Serve immediately.
Makes 1 serving.
The original recipe calls for the rice to be cooled before adding everything else, but I did not do that. The reason is two-fold. First, I made this for lunch and I was hungry so there was no time. Second, the rice is heated up again with the rest of the ingredients to make it thick so skipping the cooling part and going straight to mixing does not actually change the outcome of the recipe. I do not know why the cook chose to let the rice cool but it does not make much sense. I did make the almond milk, but you can use unsweetened store-bought almond milk in a pinch.
The making of this dish was pretty easy and straightforward, but the results were….interesting. Truthfully, I did not like it at all. It was possibly worse than the tongue from a previous HFF challenge. However, that has nothing to do with the recipe itself and everything to do with my modern palate. That said, if you like almonds and want to try something you definitely will not find on any modern menu, Blamanger of Fysshe might be worth a a try. I did pick out the lobster and ate it.
*If you are interested in reading about why I chose short grain rice, see this post: Rys.