This past weekend, I entered in the Persona Pentathlon competition at Atlantia’s Kingdom Arts and Sciences Festival. My five items were all for an Italian woman of the mid sixteenth century. I entered:
- Filled Eggs
- Mashed Bean Pottage
- A Painted Coffret
- A Pair of Pinked Sleeves
- Bascia Marchese – a dance reconstruction
Over the next few weeks, I will post about all of these items. Today, I am starting with the eggs.
The Filled Eggs I entered were taken from a recipe in Epulario. Epulario quale tracta del modo de cucinare ogni carne, vcelli, pesci, d’ogn sorte, & far sapori, torte, pastelli al modo de tutte le prouincie, con la gionta di molte altre cos le bellissime was first published by Giovanni de Rosselli in 1517 in Venice, and was republished in Italian at least six more times in the sixteenth century, and at least five in the seventeenth century. The first English translation of this book was printed in 1598. This cookbook was heavily plagiarized from Libro de arte coquinaria, written by Maestro Martino da Como in the early fifteenth century. Many of the recipes in Epulario were copied word for word from Martino’s work, including much of the recipe for “Filled Eggs,” though de Rosselli changed some of the syntax and terminology. The frequent republication of this book either shows the popularity of the recipes therein or a general fascination with historical books, including cookbooks.
The Transcription of the Recipe
Per fare oua piene.
FA bollire lova fresche in l’acqua fin che siano ben dure, & cotte mondaralle politamente & tagliale per mittade, & cauarai fora tutti gli suoi rosci, guardando de non romeere il bianco, & de quelli rosci ne pistarai vna parte con vn poca de uva passera frescha. Item del petrosillo mazurana, & menta tagliata o battuta bene minuta, aggiungendoui vno o duoi bianch di oua o piu secondo la quantita che vuoi fare con le specie dolce, o forte come te piace. Et questa tale compositione mesto lato ogni cosa insieme faralla gialla col zaffarano, & impirane quelli de oua soprascritti frigendoli in oleo molto adagio.
Nota per farli desopra el suo sapore conueniente.
Prenderai alcuni di quelli rosci de oua che sono remasi con vn poco de vua passera, & pistate insieme mol to bene gli distemprarai con vno poco de agresto o vino cotto cioe sapa, gli passarai per la stamegna giongen doui vn poco di zuccaro, vn poco di garoffani, & di canella assai facendo bollire vno pochetto questo tale sa pore & quando le dette oua vorrai mandare a tauola bu tali desopra questo sapore.
My Translation of the Recipe
An additional translation of the original recipe was made as some of the details and meaning were lost between the Italian book published in 1562 and the English translation published in 1598. John Florio’s dictionary, Queen Anna’s New World of Words, was used for this translation to confirm the period meaning of the terminology.
To make filled eggs
Boil fresh eggs in water until they are very hard and cooked, remove the shells cleanly, and slice [them] in half, and remove all of the yolks, heeding not to break the whites, and those yolks stamp one part with a little of fresh raisins . Item of parsley, marjoram, and mint cut or beaten very small, adding one or two egg whites or more according [to] the quantity that will be made, with the good spices, or [as] strong as you please. And this compound stir broadly everything together, making [it] yellow with Saffron, and repack these in the aforesaid eggs, [and] fried leisurely in oil.
Note for making over the sauce quickly.
Take any of these eggs yolks that remain, with a little of grape raisins, and stamp together very well distemper with a little verjuice or boiled wine that has passed through a strainer, adding a little sugar, a little cloves, and enough cinnamon, boil a very little that sauce and when the said eggs shall be sent to the table, throw over [them] this sauce.
Materials Used in Period and in the Reconstruction Presented
The original recipe called for the following ingredients: eggs, raisins, verjuice or wine, sugar, parsley, marjoram, mint, cinnamon, cloves, oil and unspecified spices. All of these items were used in this recipe except the verjuice or wine, as alcohol wass impermissible at this event site and verjuice is not available to me locally. A wide range of alternatives for verjuice are suggested in a variety of sources, with vinegar, sherry, and lemon juice being the most common suggestions. Sherry is, again, impermissible, so I experimented with using lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and white vinegar in the sauce and found lemon juice the most pleasing flavor, so it was used for this dish. Dry herbs were used for their availability, and ground spices to mix better in the sauce. Olive oil was used for the frying.
3/4 C raisins
1/2-3/4 C lemon juice
2 T dried parsley
1/2 T dry mint
1/4 T dry marjoram
a pinch saffron
2 T sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
Enough olive oil to lightly coat the pan
Hard boil all of the eggs, and then peel them, being careful to keep the whites intact. Cut them in half lengthwise. Carefully remove the yolks, putting six yolk halves in one bowl and setting it aside, and the remaining thirty yolk halves in another bowl. Chop the whites of four halves and ½ cup of raisins all very fine, and add them to the thirty yolks, along with 2 tablespoons dried parsley, ½ tablespoon marjoram, ½ tablespoon mint and three threads of saffron. Mix this well, until the saffron colors the mixture yellow. Spoon this mixture back into the cavities of the 32 egg whites, packing it tightly into the spoon first. Fry these eggs in a pan lightly coated with olive oil over medium-low heat until lightly brown. Set aside.
To the remaining six yolk halves, add ½ cup lemon juice, ¼ cup finely chopped raisins, 2 tablespoons sugar, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, and ¼ teaspoon ground cloves. Mix well, thoroughly mashing the egg yolks. Heat this mixture in a saucepan over low to medium-low heat until it just starts to simmer, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat immediately. Poor this sauce over the eggs just before serving.
The Filled Eggs were generally well received by everyone who tried them, especially as they taste nothing like Deviled Eggs, though they do look like them. The major critiques that were received were that fresh herbs would be preferable and that the sauce may be better with pureed raisins, rather than chopped. Additionally, I would like to experiment with actual verjuice for the sauce in the future, to consider how it changes the overall flavor.