In the medieval and Renaissance cookbooks, we find many recipes for fritters, both sweet and savory. In the past, we prepared elderflower fritters and pancakes with aromatic herbs and flowers.
The fritters we are preparing this week are sweet and really simple to make. The ingredients are all white: pine nuts, egg whites, cheese, flour, sugar. This is a characteristic of medieval cuisine that we found in the past when we prepared, for example, blancmange, almond cream, and sweet rice. A recipe easy to make but so tasty to be suitable for an emperor, as the author himself suggests.
The source we used for this recipe is a manuscript conventionally called Anonimo Veneziano, a beautiful cookbook written in the 14th century. You find below the original text with our translation, the method, and the video of the recipe with subtitles in English and Italian. Enjoy!
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350 gr firm cheese
50 gr flour
20 gr pine nuts
white cane sugar
Cut the cheese and pound it in the mortar. Beat the egg whites and add them to the cheese, mixing well and adding the flour and pine nuts. Melt the lard and, when it’s hot, pour the mixture with a ladle, fry the fritters one or two at a time, then plate them and dust with ground sugar. Serve them hot.
Note about the ingredients
The author specifies to use slices of cheese, which means that the cheese needs to be firm enough to be cut, but without excess humidity; otherwise, you will need too much flour. We suggest do not use an aged cheese for a better outcome of the recipe.
The fritters are cooked in assay onto, a lot of fat. If you prefer, you can substitute lard with olive oil.
Pine nuts were commonly used since the Antiquity. Michele Savonarola, a 14th-century physician, writes that they are hot and dry in the second degree and hard to digest. The best way to make them more temperate is by soaking them in hot water. Prepared in this way, they make good blood and give strength. It is interesting to notice that the habit of soaking pine nuts in water is very old: in De Re Coquinaria, the most important source of ancient Roman recipes, we find frequently the direction to use pine nuts steeped in water.
Sugar is very common in the medieval and Renaissance recipes, but we find it mentioned by Roman and Greek authors such as Dioscorides, Pliny, and Galen. Cooks had at disposal many varieties of sugar, but the white one without impurities was considered the best.
Fritelle da Imperadore magnifici. Se tu voy fare fritelle da Imperadore, toi la chiara de l’ova e fete de formazo frescho, e battile cum la chiara de l’ova, e mitige un pocho de farina e pignoli mondi. Toy la padella cum assay onto, falo bolire e fay le fritelle. Quando sono cocte, polverizali ben zucharo e tienli caldi, etc.
Magnificent fritters for an emperor. If you want to make fritters for an emperor, take the whites of eggs and slices of fresh cheese. Beat them with the eggs and add a bit of flour and shelled pine nuts. Place a lot of lard in a pan, make it fry, and make the fritters. When they are cooked, dust with sugar and keep them warm.
Translations of Historical Sources
Opusculum de Saporibus by Mainus de Maineris (14th century)
Registrum Coquine (first part) by Johannes von Bockenheim (15th century)
Roast Chicken with Salsa Camellina
Afrutum or Spumeum – 6th-century Byzantine recipe
A Medieval Breakfast – Wine, Carbonata, and Millet Bread
Salviata – Eggs and Sage
Tria di Vermicelli
Frittelle Ubaldine – Pancakes with Flowers and Herbs
Medieval Saffron Cheesecake VIDEO
Drunken Pork – Early Medieval Pork Stew VIDEO
Medieval Monk’s Stuffed-Egg Soup VIDEO
Medieval Apple Pie VIDEO
Medieval Onion Soup VIDEO
Medieval Gnocchi VIDEO
Medieval Lentils and Mustard Greens VIDEO
Medieval Chicken Soup – Brodo Granato VIDEO
Medieval Turnip Soup VIDEO
Medieval Beans and Bacon VIDEO
Medieval Prawn Pie VIDEO
Medieval Foxtail Millet Polenta and Spit-Roasted Goose VIDEO
Medieval Blancmange VIDEO
Medieval Peasant’s Beef Stew VIDEO
Medieval Peasant’s Leek Soup VIDEO
Medieval Quail Stew with Coconut VIDEO
Medieval Chicken Pie VIDEO
Medieval Green Ravioli VIDEO
Medieval Walnut Bread VIDEO
Medieval Lasagna VIDEO
Medieval Lamb Stew VIDEO
Medieval Quails with Sumac VIDEO