The first course of my Dinner Party Through Time was a little amuse bouche from a mediaeval recipe dating around 1400. On the throne was Henry IV, Geoffrey Chaucer was a contemporary; indeed, he was present at his coronation.
The recipe calls these little mouthfuls tartlettes, but they are actually more like a stuffed ravioli or even dim sum. Left-over pork is ground up with spices and other flavourings, wrapped up in a paste and simmered in salted water.
Unfortunately there’s no photographic evidence of this dish so you’ll have to make do with a picture of Henry IV and imagine him eating one.
Here’s the recipe:
Take pork ysode and grynde it small with saffron, medle it with ayren and raisons of coraunce, and powder fort, and salt; and make a /bile of dowhg and close the fars thereinne. Cast the tartlettes in a pan with faire water boillyng and salt.
Although it is relatively simple to cook, this was very much a rich man’s dish with saffron and currants as well as powder fort. This was a commonly used spice mix made up of ground ginger, cumin and long pepper. Long pepper is very difficult to source these days, so for my version of the recipe I used regular black pepper.
I could have covered my meat mixture, or ‘farce’, in thinly rolled fresh pasta, but instead went for the less fiddly option of using filo pastry. I wasn’t convinced that the tarlettes would taste good boiled as in the recipe, so for the dinner party, I simmered half of them and baked the remainder. It turned out that everyone preferred the simmered tartlettes. How little faith I had!
This recipe makes around a dozen tartlettes
350g of lean, cooked pork
good pinch of salt
heaped teaspoon of powder fort spice mix
1 tbs single cream
1 egg, separated
4 sheets of filo pastry
Powder fort spice mix:
3 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground black peppercorns
1 tsp ground ginger
To begin, mince the cooked pork and thoroughly mix in the salt, powder fort, currants, cream and the egg yolk.
Unfold three or four sheets of filo pastry. It can be a tricky number to keep it from drying out, but you should be able to avoid any major disasters by keeping the pastry sheets covered with a damp tea towel.
Cut a strip of filo three centimetres thick and roll a generous teaspoon of the mixture in the filo strip. You are aiming to cover the filling with two or three layers of pastry so there may be enough in one strip for more than one tartlette. Seal the pastry with a light brush of egg white. Continue until you have used up all of the mixture.
Cook the tartlettes by dropping them into simmering salted water for three or four minutes, remove with a slotted spoon and drain them carefully on some kitchen paper. Eat them immediately.
If you don’t want to boil your tartlettes, they can be brushed with more egg white and baked in the oven at 200⁰C for 8 minutes or so.