My weekdays this week are bordered on both sides by weekends acting at a Renaissance Faire. So, since I’ve got chosen family in from out of town and medieval Europe on my mind, I thought we’d watch a fun semi-period movie and have a tasty semi-period feast to go along with it. Spoilers; you’re in for a little bit of a history lesson on this one, but I promise to be brief and maybe even funny.
Our film this week is another old favorite of mine. It stars The Joker, Vision, Hoban “Wash” Washburn, and Robert Baratheon, first of his name, King of the…whatever, we’re watching A Knight’s Tale. If you don’t know the film, it’s the story of a man-at-arms who disguises himself as a nobleman to enter fighting tournaments to make money. Of course, things go sideways occasionally, there’s a ham-fisted romantic subplot, and some pointless intrigue by the cookie cutter antagonist. This is another “don’t analyze, just enjoy” movie, just lighthearted and fun.
One of the recurring themes throughout the film is whether a person can make more of themselves than the life they were born into. Our hero was born to a thatcher in London and sent off to train to be a squire under some lord or knight (it doesn’t matter) so that he could be more than his father, there’s a lady blacksmith fighting all sorts of period (and contemporary) sexism, a poet with a familiar name looking to become famous, and others. It’s a whole bunch of wholesome tropes and an absolute hoot.
Throughout the movie, scenes of medieval markets and cities and festivals are juxtaposed with classic rock songs, some cute swipes at the fourth wall, and some other assorted anachronisms and historically inaccurate conceits. It seemed appropriate to take some VERY old school traditional ingredients and apply modern techniques and sensibilities to them. Renaissance cooking wasn’t exactly the most flavor or ingredient driven cuisine; most food for commoners were boiled together in a big pot until soft, barely seasoned, and slapped on a plate or a crust of bread. Cuts of meat would have been tough and fatty, and spices would have been unheard of.
But we aren’t eating like commoners, we’re eating like knights and lords and that means eating “high on the hog.” This is the time period from whence that phrase derives, by the way, since the wealthy nobles would have been able to afford/secure the choicest, most tender cuts of meat like the pork loin we’re using for this recipe. I stuck with some traditional Elizabethan era veggies for the roasted veggies and the salad, but everything will be more flavorful, lighter, and less sweet than the food nobles would have eaten back in those days. I’ve also included a quick version of my dill pickle recipe so you can make the modern version of a snack that’s been popular for centuries.
No need to dress up in armor, or a bodice, or puffy pants for this meal. You can find everything at your local mega-mart or farmer’s market. I even have pickles for sale on my website if you’d rather buy the artisan product than try your own hand at the process. Also, I made this for ten people originally and cut back the quantities shown in the pictures by about half. Keep that in mind, but this is totally a meal worth inviting a big group over for. Feasts are better when you have a larger court!
Rost Beest nd. Root Vegetabls nd. Green Salat, Pykles
*Roasted Pork Loin with Root Vegetables, and Spring Salad with Herb Lime Vinaigrette
For the pork:
- 2-2 ½ pounds Pork Loin (you could use chops, and roast them for a shorter time)
- ¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
- 4-5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- Almost 1 sprig of thyme, finely chopped
- Almost 1 sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
1) Pat the pork dry and truss. Here’s a video from my culinary alma mater on why and how to truss a roast:
2) Mix the herbs and oil together (you could use a food processor to do the chopping and mixing for you), and then liberally coat the pork with the mixture, reserving about 1 tablespoon.
3) Set the pork on a rack over a foil lined baking dish, and place in the oven.
4) Set the oven for 250F and let it come to temperature with the pork inside. We will slow roast the pork for a couple hours before adding….
The Root Vegetables:
- 3-5 medium turnips, cut into ½ inch pieces
- 3-5 carrots, cut into ½ inch pieces
- 1 onion, quartered and separated
- 5-10 whole cloves of garlic
- Reserved herb oil from pork
- Salt and pepper to taste
1) Mix the chopped veggies with the herb oil, adding enough additional oil to lightly coat them.
2) Once the pork hard been in for 2- 2 ½ hours, remove it from the oven, add the veggies to the baking dish and return to the oven.
3) Increase the heat to 350F, and allow to roast for an additional 30-45 minutes, until the pork reaches 150F in the center and the veggies are tender, but not mushy. If this doesn’t happen at the same time, remove the finished part from the oven and cover loosely with foil.
4) Allow the pork to rest for at least 10 minutes before carving. While you’re waiting, you can make…
The Salad and Dressing
- 1 bunch spinach, washed and trimmed
- 3-5 radishes, sliced thin
- Radish tops, washed and roughly chopped
- 8oz green beans, trimmed and cut into 1inch pieces
- ¼ cup parsley, roughly chopped
- 1tbs mustard (or 1tsp dried mustard)
- Juice and zest of 1 lime
- Remaining rosemary and thyme, chopped fine
- 3oz oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
1) Add the veggies to a large bowl, and season with salt and pepper.
2) In a bowl or mason jar, mix the mustard, juice, zest, and herbs until well combined.
3) Add about ¼ oz of the oil and whisk or shake the jar to combine. Continue adding small doses of the oil (¼ – ½ oz) until it is fully incorporated
4) Add the dressing to the salad, mix well, and check for seasoning.
Quick Dill Pickles (one pint jar)
*not pictured but included because we were snacking on them while we cooked
- 8oz English or pickling cucumbers
- 3-5 cloves of garlic, whole
- ½ oz fresh dill, roughly chopped
- 1TBS salt
- 1TBS pickling spice (if you don’t make massive quantities of your own, store bought is fine)
- 3oz vinegar (I used white, you could use cider or red wine)
- 6oz filtered water
1) Slice cucumbers 1/8 inch thick and pack into mason jar along with half the garlic and dill
2) Bring remaining ingredients to a rolling boil, then boil for 5 minutes before adding to the jar (be careful, use a funnel if needed) and lidding tightly.
3) Leave on the counter until they reach room temperature, then move them to the fridge to cool over night. These will keep in the fridge for a month or so, and the flavor will get stronger over that time. (Note: quick pickles are NOT preserved, nor are they shelf stable. The process produces the right flavor, but without most of the preservative benefits of brining and canning. As such, they will have a milder flavor and MUST be kept refrigerated once they’ve cooled.)
Plate the meal together and you’ll be feasting…
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