More about Fladen

Following the post about the fladen recipes from the Mondseer Kochbuch, we will look at the ones from the Buoch von guoter Spise today. Those with no access to Melitta Weiss Adamson‘s excellent translation will have to make do with mine:

86 A fladen.

If you want to prepare a fladen of meat, take meat that comes from the loin or the belly and take bone (marrow). See that it is boiled well and chop it small. Grate half as much cheese into it and mix it with eggs so it becomes thick. Season it with pepper and spread (slahe) it on a sheet made of dough. Slide it into an oven and let it bake, and serve it hot.

87 A fladen.

Again a fladen of belly and bone (marrow) well boiled, and again grate as much cheese into it as there is meat. Stir it well and mix it with eggs, and strew in chicken, a quarter the amount, be it boiled or roasted. Then put it all on a sheet of dough, slide it into the oven and let it bake. Serve it hot to lords, and do not oversalt it. that is also good.

88 A fladen.

Again a fladen made of meat and of the loin. Grate a fourth as much cheese into it and mix it well with eggs. Add enough spices and put it on a sheet made of dough, well made. And make many holes in the fladen and break whole eggs into them. Serve it hot.

89 A fladen of meat

A fladen made of the meat of loins, and grate into it about a fourth of cheese and add enough eggs, and make it fat enough with bacon. Spread it on a sheet made of dough. Have pig’s feet and calves’ feet put on it and the filling put right on top. That is called a pastry (bastede) of good chickens well made.

90 A fladen of calf liver

If you wish to prepare a good fladen of calf liver, take calf livers and chop them small. Have enough raw bacon cut into it and also add enough spices. Make a hollow roast well made and sliced two fingers wide filled with a good filling. Put it into the fladen and bake it well, and serve it hot.

91 Again a fladen.

If you wish to prepare a fladen of the meat of bellies, take a fourth part of cheese with it and break enough eggs into it. Also add chicken livers and stomachs. Slice a pear lengthwise and strew it under that, and put it on a sheet (of dough). Let it bake and serve it.

92 A fladen.

If you want to prepare a fladen of the meat of loins, boil it well and chop it small and grate enough cheese into it. Also break enough eggs into it and spice it well. Prepare a sheet of dough. Set triangles of pastry dough (dri ecken von basteln) on it as a shield, filled with chicken. Do not oversalt it, and serve it.

93 A fladen of meat

If you want to prepare a fladen of the meat of bellies, boil it well and chop it small, and mix in quartered walnuts. Add spices enough, and bacon and eggs. Lay it on a white sheet made of dough. (Place on it) five fine pastries of chicken, one in the middle like the five on a die. Bake it and serve it hot.

94 A good filling

A heron is put on a platter (schiben). A fladen of loin meat chopped quite small beforehand and a fourth part of cheese grated into it and mixed well with spices. Also mixed with eggs and made fat enough with bacon, and a fourth part of chicken strewn under it. Bake it well in an oven and then lay it on a platter. Set four skewers into it a finger thick and one ell long, with half a roast thrust onto it. A nice pastry head (pastry shell?) set on top of it empty. Twelve half breadrolls, and a small cake on each skewer. And then boiled milk with eggs and well coloured with saffron, pour it into a cloth and weigh it down with stones until it is dry. Cut it a finger thick and a span long, thrust onto little skewers. These are stuck all around the fladen like a fence with small baked cakes. Lay a wreath all around it with leaves and fried birds set upon it, and serve it to your lord.

95 If you want (to prepare) infidel heads

The infidel head is made (thus): A good fladen of meat, the fourth part of chicken well strewn in and cubed apples cut into it. Spice it enough and mix it with eggs. Slide it into an oven so that it is baked and lay it on a platter. Two strong skewers are stuck into it one finger deep in the middle and a pastry head (crust?) set on them well filled with chicken. A calf’s head in it, boiled and laid on a roast and basted with eggs so that it becomes pretty with saffron. Set on a fladen and hard-boiled egg yolks thrust into its mouth. Flowers cut from egg white strewn into the head. Small fried cakes are set around the fladen on skewers.

It is very clear immediately that both the Mondseer Kochbuch and the Buoch von guoter Spise devote an inordinate amount of space to these fladen. No other recipe collection I know of does. The recipes from the Buoch von guoter Spise, though, are more numerous, more detailed, and far more elaborate, suggesting that the Mondseer Kochbuch omitted parts of an original source that the Buoch retains. Some recipes – specifically #88, 91 and 93 – clearly are parallels. Others do not show up in the Mondseer Kochbuch, though the first recipe there involving quinces also does not feature in the Buoch von guoter Spise. Generally, the instructions here are more detailed than in the Mondseer Kochbuch, telling us for example that the sheet is indeed made of dough, that eggs are slid into holes in the fladen prior to baking, and that the hollow roast of liver which the Mondseer Kochbuch also describes is destined to go on a fladen at all.

What is entirely absent from the Mondseer Kochbuch is the series of increasingly elaborate presentation pieces based on fladen. It is from these we learn that these must have been quite substantial, thick enough to hold up skewers and large enough for various dishes to be laid out on them. In #89, pig’s and calves’ feet are laid under the filling and presumably baked into it to be pulled out at the table and eaten. Recipes #92 and 93 feature small chicken pastries decoratively arranged on the base of the meat fladen. Even if we assume that some effort could have gone into decorating these, they pale in comparison to the truly lavish displays in #94 and #95, though.

I am not entirely sure how to read these recipes, but I suspect they describe one full display of foods each rather than a series of dishes or options. In #94, a thick fladen has large skewers stuck into it that support half roasts and a pastry case (though it is possible this is placed on top of the fladen, maybe between the skewers). Breadrolls and cakes are arranged around it and a fence of sliced strips of hard custard built around the edge. Finally, this is decorated with leaves and fried birds – presumably small songbirds – and served along with a roast heron. It is possible that the platter with the heron is meat to balance atop the central skewers, or indeed that they hold up the bird in some artful arrangement.

The final recipe referred to as an infidel head indeed puts not one, but two ‘heads’ on a fladen base, in this case with cubed apples mixed into the meat. The pastry ‘head’ may be no more than a reference to a pastry case, referred to in Latin texts of the 14th century as a testa, but it could equally well be a representation of an actual head. The calf’s head, parboiled, roasted and basted, most likely goes directly on the fladen since it is hard to see how the skewers would hold up its weight. Decorated with hard-boiled egg yolks like an apple in the mouth of a roast piglet and flowers cut from egg whites, it must have been quite a sight. Surrounding the entire thing with a stockade of fritters on skewers almost seems superfluous.

This enormous concentration of animal protein and fat seems vulgar to us, but we should be careful not to imagine it as a primitive display. Dough can easily be arranged decoratively, and even a simple fladen reimagined with an egg wash and a braided edge, or a pretty pattern of pear slices arranged on it, becomes a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. Alongside the labour of chopping the meat filling by hand, the effort involved seems almost trivial. The skewers, too, need not have been coarse pieces of wood. Early Modern Central Europe was home to entire cottage industries based on people with time and sharp knives, so we can easily picture these pieces carved and patterned. With little carved flowers or green leaves to add flashes of colour, the whjole thing could have been quite sophisticated, though it is hard to see how it got to the table anywhere near as hot as the plainer fladen are meant to be served.

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