It was a sultry Sunday morning in south Wales
. Dozens of people are pouring into our medieval camp to have a go at longbow archery
and ask stupid questions about medieval life (one kid, looking at the fire, actually asked "what are those yellow things?". Sheesh.) And yours truly is stuck there with nothing more inspiring to play with for the benefit of the expectant audience than half a swede
. I mean, I ask you. Barring turnip
s, can you think of a less exciting vegetable?
So here's what I did:
- Peeled and cut the swede into chunks, then set it to boil in salted water until tender (lacking a skewer, I checked the consistency of the swede with a sharp knife).
- Diced and fried an onion until golden brown, then set it aside.
- In a mortar, I pounded some coarse salt, some peppercorns, a pinch of sugar and half a stick of cinnamon. If you ask me, it's the spicing that made this dish so special. Swede is a naturally tangy vegetable, and the onions were nice and savoury - the combination of the different flavours worked extremely well.
- Once the swede was soft, I mashed it up in a bowl, added the onions, the spices, an egg and about half a cup of flour (which I had the good fortune to be able to scavenge from the medieval village's resident baker) and mixed everything well.
- I set some oil in a shallow pan to warm over "a goodly fire" (this is as much guidance as we get from medieval cookbooks, so y'all can deal, too!). Now as for shaping the fritter, I did it with two spoons, but this can be rather fiddly and needs a bit of practice; if you're making these at home where you have running water on hand, do it by dusting your hands with flour and making little patties between your palms. Plop in the oil and fry on each side until a fairly deep brown. Drain the excess oil and serve warm.
Now, I don't like swede. I wasn't expecting anything much from these fritters, and was only making them for something to do. Consequently, you could have blown me over with a feather when I tasted them. They were gorgeous. Tangy but sweet, crispy on the outside but meltingly soft on the inside. A perfect snack or vegetarian main course (you can even skip the egg if you're a vegan). And they even have the added advantage of being extremely medieval in character: the many stages of cooking, the spices, the almost unrecognisable state of the original ingridients in the final product - all of these are hallmarks of medieval cuisine. Try them - I promise you won't be dissapointed.