Sunday, 26 May 2019

Frumenty - perfect for historical breakfast or lunch

This Sunday morning I decided to do somthing extra with my breakfast so I made frumenty. Frumenty is found in cookbooks from the Middle Ages and into the 18th century. It is a good exampl of the changing taste of the people eating the food. In the Middle Ages it is mentioned as a staple and it should be served together with lamb or veal. In the 18th century though it is considered as a food suitable for invalids.

Frumenty is basically a porridge made from wheat berries. There is a difference between the medieval and 18th century recipes. In the 18th century it is cooked with milk, and even sometimes with cream, while the medieval recipes has it made with water and just a bit of milk or almond milk. The almond milk was to be used during lent and other fasting periods when you should not eat dairy. The option with almond milk of course makes it easy to turn this into a vegan dish.

This is a medieval recipe for frumenty for two persons. Swedish translations of some of the words are in italics.

100 ml wheat berries (matvete)
200 ml water
75 ml milk or almond milk
pinch of salt
pinch of saffron
handfull of xanté currants (korinter) or raisins
1 egg yolk (skip for a vegan meal)

Pour everything except the egg yolk into a pot and simmer on a low heat for around 15 minutes. Take a spoonful of the warm mixtures and whisk it with the egg yolk before adding all the egg to the pot. This s to temper the egg yolk so it doesn't turn into scrambled eggs when added to the porridge. Stir until the mixture has thickened.

A recipd with both currants and saffron is a recipe for the upper classes. To make it a more lower class meal you can remove those. If you want to really show off your wealth you add not just a pinch but a lot of saffron and even some sugar on top.

The taste of the medieval frumenty is pretty bland, it is a porridge after all. I think that the 18th century version, that is richer due to the milk, is better and more suited to my taste of what a porridge should taste like. It is very filling though and you will not go hungry after a bowl of frumenty. It is a very easy recipe though and I recommend it for warm breakfast or lunch.

The great 18th century cookshow Townsend and Sons have an episode when they make 18th century frumenty. They take the time to remove the husks from the wheat berry, I didn't bother about that this morning.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Lady Poe assembled

My last post was about my favorte part of the costuming process, but right after that comes my least favorite part. It is the part when it's time to assemble and sew it all together. The mistakes you make in this part are not as easily adjusted or hidden as everything else you have done up until now. I defnitely hit a motivational hurdle, I was afraid that after all the work I have done, the gown wouldn't fit.

Well I had to push through that an tonight it was time to get everything on and finally start seeing what the gown will look like on me, and not on the dressform.

When I had struggled to get everything on I could do a sigh of relief. I can get everything on by myself. There were some casualties, one of the straps on my stays was ripped off and I also tore a bit of the waist seam on the robe, so I will have to reattach those. Overall I am satisfied with it, but there is still a lot of work to do. One thing I was really worried about was the length of the robe and petticoat. I have really tried to use as little fabric as possible, and I was worried that it was going to be short. It is on the short side and would have looked even better with a few extra cm, but it will work. I will hem it with a hem facing, so that I don't have to do any double folds and loose any cm to the hem.

I am thinking that the robe opens up too much over the petticoat. I like the look, but I don't think I have enough fabric to be able to trim such a big piece of the petticoat. If I make the opening smaller, then maybe I can make some trim on the petticoat as well.

The sleeves are good, but I actually have to adjust my shift. The sleeves on the shift are longer than the sleeves on the robe, and the bunch under the outer sleeve. I think the sleeves will sit better with another shift. I need to go and see if I can find another shift, or if I need to shorten and take in the sleeves on the shift that I'm using.

I haven't posted about the petticoat, so here are some details of that. I wanted to save as much fabric as possible, so I decided to only use my silk for the front of the petticoat, the back is made from a grey cotton sateen.

If Madame Pompadour could use cheap fabric on the invisible parts of her petticoats, then I can do that as well. The back is made of a width of fabric (150 cm). The front is made of two widths of the silk, so in total 200 cm. I have sewed fake seam lines in the middle of each width of silk to mimic the period width of silks (50 cm).

The skirt is pleated into a waistband of cotton tape. Normally I would have hidden the cotton tape behind the fabric, but I want to save every mm of length so I made the waist tape the top of skirt instead.

On the back of the tape I have sewed a more narrow cotton tape over the raw edge of the silk, to protect it and keep it from fraying.

The next step of the process is to cut out and attach the sleeve ruffles and the stomacher. Those are the last irregular pieces of fabric, after that I will now how much fabric I will be able to use for trim. I will first trim the edges of the robe, and then when I see how much is left I can do the petticoat. In a worst case I will have an untrimmed petticoat. The stomacher will have contrasting fabric for decoration.

I will of course also have to fix the seams that I ripped while getting dressed.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Favorite part of the costuming process

Making a costume is a process. It involves several phases, from coming up with the idea to the finished thing. My favorite parts of this process are actually the early parts. The planning, when you set out to research what you need to do in order to make the costume. Now this can be a very frustrating thing. Historical costuming is easier, but for cosplay projects when you want something to look exactly like something else, then it can be annoying.

When you have gathered your supplies, then it's time to start making the costume. The first cutting out of the fabric is usually daunting, after that there's no turning back, especially if you have started working in something that's expensive and you won't have a second chance if you mess something up.

My Lady Poe is right now at my favorite stage of making a costume.

The main pieces are cut out, but they are not all sewn together, the skirts and sleeves are just draped on to the dressform. Still you can see that it's starting to look like a gown, and it is possible to imagine what the end result will look like. What I like with this stage is that it's so early in the process, I haven't made any big mistakes yet. If you don't count having to redo one of the skirt seams because I sewed it wrong side out and had to redo it, but that's not a mistake that will affect the end result.

Since nothing is totally sewn together there are also no problems with the fit, and my dressform is much more symmetrical than me and doesn't need to move, so everything just hangs the way I want it to.

I also haven't had to skimp on details yet, neither because I'm out of time nor material. I'm still not stressed about if I will be able to finish the gown or not, or not fulfill my expectations of it.

Will it end up as the gown I see in my head right now? Probably not, but at this moment I can just sit and look at it and imagine it.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Lady Poe sleeve's

I'm working on and off on the Lady Poe. I think I'm not stressed enough to put in an extra gear to get it finished, I'm also doing the long seams on the skirt and it's so boring that I find it hard to motivate me. Today it was Tuesday and I brought the sleeves with me to our Cosplay Dalarna crafting evening.

For the pattern of the sleeve I'm using my oldest 18th century pattern, my ugly pink satin jacket based on jacket C on page 26 of Patterns of Fashion 1. The sleeve fit fairly well though so when I trashed the jacked I reused the lining of the sleeve as a pattern for future 18th century pieces. I've used the pattern for my pet en l'air as well.

The sleeves are fully lined. In order to sew them together I first sewed the outer fabric, and one side of the lining together.

I sewed them together with a backstitch. From experience I'm stressing the sleeve seam a lot so I wanted it to be as strong as possible.

I then folded the other piece of the lining of over the raw edges of the first seam and hemstitched it in place, making sure to only cath the bottom layers so that the sttches wouldn't be visible on the outside.

Now it's only to press the sleeves and finish the main robe so that I can attach them to it.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Medieval chicken with almonds and grapes

Today is the first of May and I have invited my mother, sister, and brother-in-law to a spring dinner. I'm going to serve a medieval recipe of chicken that I've worked on for the last year. The first time I did it I made it as a filling for pies that I brought to Tuna Ting. This recipe is more of a stew, if you want it as a filling you need to thicken it more, or simply fish out the meat and vegetables from the broth.

This recipe is not based on a particular recipe from a certain cookbook. Almonds and almond milk were really popular in the time period and variations of cooking meat in almond milk comes up in several cookbooks. The combination of almonds and grapes is still found around the Mediterranean. Today when non-dairy milk products have become a lot more common it is fun to use them when cooking medieval food. Make sure that you get natural and and unsweetened almond milk though. Of course for the most historically accurate version you can make the almond milk yourself. 

This is a recipe for the upper class, and would have been a real rarity up in the North, where you don't exactly have a lot of fresh grapes. It is more likely that they would have used zante currants (korinter) instead if trying to make it up here. If you want to make it even more luxurious add some saffron to it.

This is the base recipe, I will give you vegetarian/vegan and camp-friendly versions at the end.


700 g chicken cut in cubes
4 schalottes, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2-3 handfulls of green grapes
500-600 ml of almond milk.
2-3 egg yolks
fat to fry in.

Fry the schalottes and garlic until they are shiny and translucent, but not brown. Add the chicken and let it get some colour, but don't brown it. Add the almond milk and the grapes and let it simmer until the chicken is cooked through. Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl, add a 100-200 ml of the broth and whisk it in, then add the egg mixture to the main stew and whisk while heating it. The eggs add thickness, if it doesn't thicken enough you can use flour or starch to thicken it, preferably wheat.

Add some fresh grapes on top when you serve it.

Serve with: For a medieval serving I serve it with bread, rice or roasted turnips (majrovor) and some pickled onions.

Vegetarian and vegan versions
This is a recipe that is easy to make vegetarian or vegan versions of. I have switched the chicken for turnips, and that gives it a stronger flavour. Simply cook the turnips until just through, there should be some resistance to them and not a mush. For the vegan version you need to thicken it without the eggs, either with modern starches or if you can find wheat starch. Regular wheat flour can also be used as a thickening agent.

At a camp
Everytime you work with chicken you have to think about the hygiene. In the summer and in a place where you don't have access to a dishwasher, or at least a lot of hot water, it's possible to substitute the raw chicken for pre-grilled chicken. Fry the onions, add the almond milk, bring it to a boil and add the the egg yolks. As a final step take the pre-cocked chicken, remove any skin if it had one, shred it and put it in the almond sauce.