Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Duck Redux

I have written twice previously about a putative Anglo-Saxon recipe for a stew involving barley, duck and leeks; here and here.

This time, I went for utter simplicity.  The only seasonings were fresh sage. dried bay leaves, and sea salt.  I used butter to fry the leeks, garlic and duck pieces, and chicken broth to steep it all in.  I did add some mushrooms to the pan as I was sauteing everything, because I had a bit less duck than I wanted.  No vinegar.  After sauteeing the duck, leeks, garlic, and mushrooms, I placed everything into my slow cooker pot, and allowed it to cook  on the low heat setting for about 10 hours. 

The result was wonderful.  Flavorful *and* (in my opinion) plausibly period.  My husband, a confirmed carnivore, didn't even mind that it was a bit short on duck.  I think I will make the recipe in this form as a part of my permanent cooking repertoire from now on.

I've also think I've found where this particular recipe comes from.  I found it in a compilation on a reenactor site, but judging from the citations it appears to be from the following book:
Berriedale-Johnson, Michelle. The British Museum Cookbook. (British Museum Publications 1987).*
There are two reviews of the book on Amazon.  One claims it has wonderful recipes, while the other criticizes the book for not citing source materials to support its implied claims that its recipes use period ingredients and methods.  (The reviewer who praised the book specifically cites the duck with barley recipe I've been experimenting with as an example of a recipe that provides "alternate choices").

I am not surprised to learn that Ms. Berriedale-Johnson's book includes recipes that feature ingredients that are out-of-period for the recipe--as my exploration of my Christmas presents showed, many "historical" cookbooks do.  In my opinion, the student of cooking simply has to dive in, read whatever material is available on historical periods of interest, and be prepared not to take an author's word that a proposed recipe as "historical" if it doesn't match one's own research.  Whatever her flaws, however, Ms. Berriedale-Johnson has helped me find a recipe I love and intend to keep, and I'm willing to be a bit sympathetic to her because of that.

And I still have to try the stew with rabbit, which my local butcher carries, and see how that differs from my now familiar "duck-a-leekie" stew (to use my husband's name for it). 

* Amazon has a 1995 book with the same author and title; I assume it's a more recent edition of the book used by the reenactor site and have accordingly provided a link to the page where Amazon sells the 1995 book.

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