Pies, prepared usually with meat, fish, and vegetables, were quite common in medieval and Renaissance banquets, from the most simple to multiple-layers preparations with a huge number of ingredients. They were considered a kind of stuffed pasta, as well as the green ravioli we have prepared recently.
Today we prepare a chicken pie selected from an anonymous southern-Italian manuscript, called Anonimo Meridionale, an excellent cookbook dating back to the end of the 14th century and the beginning of the 15th. This pie is called torta levenexe, a word whose etymology is unclear. There are many variations of this recipe in other coeval manuscripts, with substantial changes.
The author does not give directions about the crust of the pie, considering clearly its preparation a well-known step, but we can find information in other medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, for example, that the bottom crust has to be thicker than the upper one.
It is not a quick recipe, but incredibly tasty and it is worth the time. Below, you will find a note about the ingredients and the original recipe with the translation into English. For the preparation of the pasta, we suggest watching the video in which we showed the method step by step. Enjoy!
300 gr re-milled durum wheat semolina
spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, long pepper)
Parboil the chicken for 30-40 minutes, depending on its size. It has to be not completely cooked but not raw.
In the meantime, pit and chop the dates, then pound coarsely the nutmeg in the mortar and grind finely long pepper and cinnamon. The cloves are used here whole, the author specifies.
Now, prepare the dough with flour, two pinches of sea salt, and warm water. Divide the dough into two parts, one bigger than the other. Roll a pasta sheet not too thin with the bigger part. It has to be larger than the pie plate.
Grease the pie plate with lard and place the bottom crust. Now, you can roll a thinner sheet, the same size as the pie plate, for the upper pie crust, cutting the excess parts.
Remove the chicken from the pot and let cool before deboning it, keeping the broth aside.
Melt a good quantity of lard in a pan, then add the chicken cut into pieces, two pinches of salt, the spices, and the dried fruit. Mix all the ingredients together and let them cook for ten minutes adding chicken broth.
Now you can fill the pie crust, covering it with the thinner sheet of pasta. Seal the pie moistening the edge of the crust with a little water to close it better, cutting the excess part if the bottom crust is too large.
Moisten the upper crust with a bit of water before the pie is completely cooked, sprinkling it directly or using a brush. We cooked the chicken pie in the oven for 30 minutes, but the cooking time changes depending on the size of the pie and the dough you prepared.
When it is done, plate and serve it still hot.
Note about the ingredients
The only mandatory spices are nutmeg and cloves. The author suggests adding the better spices we have. For this recipe, we chose two of the spices more used in this period, cinnamon and long pepper, but you can use the ones you prefer, for example, white or black pepper, fresh or dried ginger, cardamon, saffron, and cassia.
We used re-milled durum wheat semolina, an excellent flour to prepare pasta, but the anonymous author says nothing about the kind of flour. The best quality flour, according to the medical texts and the cookbooks, is the white one without bran, considered apter for the tables of nobles.
You can grease the cake pan with lard or extra virgin olive oil, as you prefer, or just slightly dust it with a little flour.
Se voy fare torta levenexe, mictice uno pollastro soffricto et taglialo et fale lessare et mictice dactari et uve greche et garofani integri et nuci moscate poco tritate con coltello et le melgliuri spetie che tu poy avere, et lu brodicto che te remane de quisti pollastri. Mictelo nella torta, et quando elio è presso che cocta, mictice con essa uno pocha de acqua, et fiet bona, et quella peccone ch’io non do quanto ne voglio.
To prepare the levenexe pie, make a soffritto with the chicken after having cut and parboiled it, adding dates, grapes, whole cloves, nutmeg slightly chopped up with the knife, the better spices you have, and the chicken broth. Fill the pie. When it is almost done, add a little water, and it will be good. And it’s a shame that I don’t serve this pie as much as I want.
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