Frying ‘Chervil'(?)

My apologies for the series of very brief posts, I have been extremely busy. Again, from the Innsbruck MS:

Chervil, courtesy of wikimedia commons

107 If you would fry charbel (chervil?), prepare (dough) sheets like for hare’s ears (hasen orlein) and cut them apart in the middle. Put hot fat into a mortar and let the mortar stand in the embers. Stick them (the dough pieces) on a skewer and place that in the mortar and stir it about. Let it fry this way and turn it (the skewer) over. That is good etc.

It may seem hard for us to fathom that something deep-fried on a stick was once considered the height of sophistication, but here we are. At first sight, this is as recipe for fried dough. The point, as far as I can see, is that the fritters are attached to wooden skewers and immersed deeply in hot fat that is heated in a moirtar rather than a pan. This would produce a deeper immersion and allow for a three-dimensional shape that pan frying does not. That may explain the attraction of the recipe.

The charbel that is fried here is a bit of a mystery. It is hard to see where chervil comes in, but on the other hand equally hard to see what else the word could refer to. The dough used is firm – hasen orlein are fritters of rolled-out dough, and the term occurs in references to other fritters shaped this way. Clearly, it is not a case of dipping herbs in batter and frying them, as was done in other cases. It is possible that the reference is to the shape, with the dough mimicking either the leaves or the seed pods of chervil.

The Innsbrucker Rezeptbuch is a manuscript recipe collection from a South German/Austrian context. It dates to the mid-fifteenth century and survives as part of a set of medical and culinary texts bound together. The editor Doris Aichholzer published it together with two related manuscripts and drew attention to the less elaborate, more practical recipes. The manuscript is of unknown provenance, but has been owned by the Habsburg emperors since at least the early sixteenth century. It is now held at the Nationalbibliothek in Vienna. An edition, German translation and commentary can be found in Doris Aichholzer: Wildu machen ayn guet essen… Drei mittelhochdeutsche Kochbücher, Peter Lang Verlag Berne et al. 1999

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