Fig and Raisin ‘Cream’
Today’s post is a bit different from my usual ones. Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that I recently went to Florence (Italy) and in the Museo Casa di Dante, found ‘The Medieval Cookbook’ by Maggie Black. Published by The British Museum and published in English!
Ever since I did my genealogical MSc with the University of Strathclyde, I have become a bit obsessed with the Medieval period and so I was pretty impressed to have found ‘The Medieval Cookbook’ in an Italian museum. Of course I had to buy it and I have decided that trying recipes that may have been familiar to my Medieval ancestors is as good an excuse as any to do more baking and cooking! As this is not a new book (first published in 1992), there are bound to be reviews written by others, but I am approaching this as a purely amateur cook, who is no food stylist either! The good thing about the book thought, is that Maggie lists the original sources that the recipes have been adapted from and gives some background information to each themed chapter.
My first adventure in Medieval cookery began with a recipe that Maggie Black calls Fig and Raisin ‘Cream.’ It seems to be a sauce-like topping that can be used for stewed fruit, stiffened and put in pastry cases or in my case, I used her suggestion to use it as a topping for ice cream. I think only my more upper class Medieval ancestors might have come across this, although Maggie does say that figs were popular in Lent! My ideas about Medieval cookery were that it could be quite complex, but this was a surprisingly easy recipe, which tasted quite delicious at the end.
The basic ingredients are dried figs, raisins, red wine, small amounts of black pepper, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, soft dark brown sugar, rice or cornflour (I used cornflour), red food colouring and salt to taste (all the recipes have been modernised, with modern measurements).
Essentially, you dissolve the sugar with the spices in the wine with the figs and the raisins, mash it to a paste (I admit I used a blender!) and then mix it with a paste made from the cornflour, food colouring and a bit more wine (the ‘cream’ bit). Then you simmer it until it thickens some more. The end product was quite a thick sauce which was still a little warm when poured over the ice cream. It tasted like Christmas to me because of the cinnamon and cloves. It was quite sweet though, so perhaps a bit more salt or less sugar was needed. It may be that tastes have changed since the recipe was invented. I would definitely suggest vanilla ice cream too- I only had Neapolitan to hand and the mixture of strawberry and chocolate ice cream with the fig sauce was certainly interesting!
It may not be the most attractive sauce because of the dark colour, but overall it was a big hit with the rest of the family and I would certainly try it again. I’m even thinking of experimenting with it as a mince pie filling for Christmas. For those following #GBBO, it seems like it would also go quite nicely in Fig Rolls….