04 October 2009

Pepys At Table

From 1660 to 1669 Samuel Pepys kept a detailed diary. It is one of the most influential documents of the seventeenth century. Among the many issues, ideas, indulgences discussed in the diaries, Pepys wrote about what he ate.

Christopher Driver and Michelle Berriedale-Johnson combed the diaries to find out what Pepys might have eaten. Pepys At Table gives us not only recipes, but a look into the diet of the seventeenth century. Exotic fruit was the culinary darling of the time. A bill for orchard trees lists 12 varieties of peaches, eight varieties of both plums and pears, three of cherries and apples, two of apricots and nectarines and a quince. Access to such fruits would be the envy of any greengrocer today. Pepys also prided himself on the rather Italian “fork” or more rightly, the pronged knife that was becoming all the rage in Europe.

With no recipes in Pepys diary, they turned to several cookery books published during the period, then the original, period, recipe was adapted for the modern cook

1667 September 4th
“… the business broke off without any end to it, and so I home and thence with my wife and W. Hewer to Bartholomew fayre and there saw Polichinelli (where we saw Mrs. Clerke and all her crew); and so to a private house [a quiet tavern] and sent off for a side of pig and ate it at an acquaintance of W. Hewer’s where, there was some learned Physique and Chymical Bookes; and among others, a natural Herball, very fine.
Here is Hannah Wolley’s recipe from The Accomplisht Lady’s Delight 1675.

To Broyl A Leg of Pork

Cut your pork into slices very thin,
having first taken off the skinny part
of the fillet, then hack it with the
back of your knife, then mince some
Thyme and Sage, exceeding small,
and mingle it with pepper and salt,
and therewith season your collops
and then lay them on the Gridiron;
when they are enough, make sauce
for them with butter, vinegar,
Mustard and Sugar and so serve

And a contemporary recipe.

2 lbs/1 kg pork – either half leg, sliced in thick “collops” as Hannah Wolley suggests, or a filet, sliced thickly, or 4 meaty pork chops.
4 teaspoons each fresh thyme and sage, finely chopped. If fresh herbs are not available, us dried but reduce the quantity, especially the sage.
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 ozs / 50g butter
1 oz / 25 g dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons wine or cider vinegar
2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard

Chop and mix well together the herbs, salt and pepper. Coat the meat thoroughly in the mixture on both sides.
On a griddle or a large frying pan, or even under a hot grill, broil the meat rapidly on both sides till it is cooked through and crispy brown on the outside. It will take about three minutes on each side.
Meanwhile in a small pan melt the butter and the sugar, then add the vinegar and mustard and allow all to cook together for a few minutes. Serve the pork immediately, with the sauce in a separate dish.

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