This fourteenth-century recipe is especially for Lent, the period between carnival and Easter. Meat and dairy products were banned from the table (see the recipe for Fake Fish), and inventive cooks would create delicate dishes within these limitations, even though meals during Lent should be sober occasions.
This sweet almond-rice pudding with raisins and pine nuts was such a delicate dish. In a modern menu, Gensetada can be served as a dessert, but in the fourteenth and fifteenth century it was served together woth grilled fish and sweet and savoury pasties.
The altar piece with the Last Supper is painted by the Catalan painter Jaume Huguet (1412-1492). Maundy Thursday (on which the last Supper took place) is part of Lent – it is the day before Good Friday – but the roast on the table symbolizes the Lamb of God.
Genestada is medieval Catalan for broom, modern Catalan: ginesta. Where I live (North-West Europe) broom flowers in May and June, but in the South of Europe the season can start as early as March or April. That is why the oldest recipes declare that this pudding is a Lenten dish. The reference to broom is just for the colour of the dish, which reminds one of broom flowers because of the saffron. The broom-family is large, from Scottish broom (Cytisus scoparius) to Spanish broom (Spartium junceum). Broom belongs to the same family as legumes, the Fabaceae. In late summer broom develops pods (just like f.e. peas), see picture.
Broom is not really a ‘culinary shrub’, although flower buds and twigs are used in medicins because of their diuretic and laxitative properties and the effect on the heart rithm. There is but a thin line between medical and toxic, so don’t play apothecary. The twigs were also used in the Middle Ages to make brooms with, which might explain the English name for … broom.
Llibre de Sent Soví
The recipe on this page is from the oldest Catalan cookery book still in existence, the Llibre de Sent Soví. It has survived in a manuscript from the beginning of the fifteenth century, but the text itself is older, from the first half of the fourteenth century. It is a compilation of (even older) recipes, and was used in its turn as source for other cookbooks, like the Cuoco Napoletano, a South-Italian cookbook from the fifteenth century (see the recipe for Zabaglione). Many recipes from the Llibre de Sent Sovíwere were also used in two other Catalan manuscripts from the fifteenth century, both now in Barcelona.
The Llibre de Sent Soví opens with an index representing an older version of the text. Of the 91 recipes that the Index mentions, only 58 can be found in the actual cookbook, and 14 recipes from the cookbook are not mentioned in the index. Because one of the manuscripts in Barcelona, the Llibre de apparellar de manjar, has kept all the recipes that were copied from Sent Soví together, 16 more recipes from the original text could be traced. These are incorporated in the edition from 2008. Many of the recipes are for sauces and dishes that were eaten with a spoon, and the very first recipe is one that I have a special place for in my heart: peacock, served with its feathers, with an accompanying sauce.
The original recipe
The Catalan text and English translation are taken from the edition of Santanach and Vogelzang from 2008, pp.94/95 (see bibliography).
Si vols fer genestada a dejuni, fets llet d’ametlles e cola-la e mit-la en una bella olla. Aprés hages farina d’arròs ben picada e passa-la per un sedàs de seda, e puis destrempa-ho ab la dita llet; e sia ben clara, per tal que coga bé. Aprés, quan la’n deuràs llevar, mit-hi safrà en guisa que torn a color de genesta. Hages canyella e clavells, e mit-ho a coure tot entregue; ha-n ‘hi alguns que no volen que hi parega: hages un bell drap e embolca-ho dins. E bulla tota vegada. E pots-hi metre, si et vols, un poc d’olo vell. E puis, a la darreria, hages panses mundades e mit-les en l’olla. E assabora-ho de sal.
E deu ésser bé espès, a manera de farines, e deu haver molt sucre., que tolga la sabor de l’arròs e de les ametlles. E pots metre, a quatre escudelles, una lliura d’ametlles e tant arròs com ne cabria en un grisal de mostalla. E qui s’alta, pot metre hom pinyons torrats dins, e aquells hi lleix hom bullir. E puis per escudelles mit-ne hom assats. Guarda’t que abans que hi metes los pinyons torrats sien un poc refredats.
If you want to make broom pudding for fast days, make almond milk and strain it and put it in a good pot. After that, take flourmade of ground rice and pass it through a sieve or silk, and then mix it with the milk; it should be nice and clear, so it cooks well. Then, when you have to take it from the heat, put i saffron so that it has the colour of broom. Take cinnamon and cloves, and put them in to cook whole; there are some who do not want the pieces to appear: take a good cloth and wrap the spices inside. Boil it all the while. You can put in, if you wish, a bit of old oil. Then, at the end, take cleansed raisins and put them in the pot. Flavour with salt.
It should be quite thick, like porridge, and it should have a lot of sugar, to overtake the flavour of the rice and almonds. And you can put in, per every four bowls, a pound of almonds and as much rice as fits in a mustard bowl. If one likes it, one can put in toasted pine nuts, and these one leaves to boil. After that, one distributes enough pudding for the bowls. Take care that before you put in the pine nuts they should be a little cooled off.
In a note to the recipe Santanach explains that, according to other redactions of the recipe (in the two manuscripts from Barcelona) the pine nuts are not boiled, but added at the last moment when the pudding has cooled a little.
The raisins are to be cleansed. Today all raisins are from seedless grapes, but in the past you had to remove the pits from the raisins before using them. That must have been a rather tedious job.
For 4 to 8 persons (depending on the manu, the place of the dish in the menu and the appetite of the guests, it is a filling dish); preparation in advance 35 minutes; preparation 10 minutes.
5 dl almond milk made from 150 gr ground almonds and 6 dl water
50 to 60 gr rice flour
60 gr sugar
½ tsp saffron
50 gr raisins
30 gr pine nuts
1 Tbsp olive oil (optional)
pinch of salt
Preparation in advance
Make almond milk – Pour boiling water over the ground almonds, add cinnamon and cloves, and let stand for a half hour. Strain, first through a coarse sieve, then a finer meshed sieve or a cheese cloth. Keep cinnamon and cloves.
Roast the pine nuts. Wash the raisins and drain them
Put the almond milk in a pan with sugar and spices.
Add rice flour and mix well using a whisk. Bring to the boil, keep whisking (or stirring) until the almond milk has thickened. This will take a couple of minutes.
Crush the saffron in a small bowl with a tablespoon hot water, and add to the pudding. You can strain it first, but I like to see the saffron in a dish. Add raisins.
Sprinkle the pinenuts over the genestada just before serving.
Not piping hot! Genestada can be served warm or at room temperature, but I liked it best when it was still warm. You serve it in a bowl with a spoon.
They are everywhere around the Mediterranean Sea, stone pines (Pineus pinea). When the pine cones are ripe, they open up and you can see black-brown nuts. Peel these, and you finally arrive at the creamy white pine nuts. There are many kinds of pine trees, not just in Europe and the Mediterranean, but also in Asia and North America. Some Chinese pine nuts contain a substance that alters your taste for some time in an unpleasant way. American and Mediterranean pine nuts do not have this side effect. The pine nuts of the Pineus pinea are long and narrow than Asian pine nuts, and more expensive. Pine trees have been in cultivation for millennia (about 6000 years). On this blog are great pictures, from the green, closed pine nut to the peeled pine nuts. The pine cone in the picture on the left is more than twenty years old. It once fell from a pine tree to the ground, nearly hitting me on the head, while I was on a holiday in Italy.
This is simply ground rice. Rice flour is used a lot in processed baby food, and in Asian cuisines it is used to make noodles. There are two kinds of rice flour, from longgrain rice and from glutinous rice which is typically used in Asian sweets and desserts. Rice is gluten-free, so rice flour is also free from gluten. For this recipe I used rice flour from long grain rice, not from glutinous rice.
These are dried grapes. There are several kinds of raisins, depending on the kind of grape that was used. Sultana’s are NOT raisins a special brand, but the dried berries from the sulatana grape. Currants are original the dried grapes of a grape variety with small berries that was grown in Corinth (Greece). There are more varieties used for raisins, like the Seedless Thompson.
The orange-red stigmas of a crocus. In medieval times (as in modern times) it was used to colour dishes yellow. If you want to have the most effect of the colouring, crush the dried stigmas in a spoonful of hot liquid (water, milk, broth, vinegar, whatever is most fitting for the recipe it is used in).
The editions below were used by me. Links refer to available editions.
- J. Santanach and R. Vogelzang, The Book of Sent Sovi: Medieval recipes from Catalonia(Barcino/Tamesis, 2008).
- T. Scully, The Neapolitan Recipe Collection: Cuoco Napoletano (New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, Ms Buhler). University of Michigan Press, 2000.
A recipe for Medieval Rice-Almond Pudding
‘Genestada’, a recipe for a Catalan dish for Lent from the fourteenth and fifteenth century (the Llibre de Sent Sovi).