Roe Deer Back Roast in Crust

This recipe is from the Mondseer Kochbuch. Aside from being another parallel with the Meister Hans collection, it is one of my wintertime favourites:

135 Back roast of a roe deer, or a hare roasted entire

Of back roast. Take the back roast of a roe deer, lard it well with small pieces of bacon, sprinkle it well with salt, and throw ginger, caraway and pepper on it. Wrap it in dough like krapfen. Let it bake in an oven. Note by the light (colour?) that it is fully roasted. Prepare hares roasted entire the same way.

And this is what it looks like in Meister Hans:

A back roast of roe deer make thus:

Item of the back roast of roe deer: lard it well with small pieces of bacon (speck), strew it well with salt and throw upon it pepper, ginger and caraway.

Wrap around it (bewind es mit) a dough as though for small krapfen (filled pastries) and let it bake in an oven. Note, judging by the lightness (of the dough), whether it is baked entirely. You can also bake hare in one piece this way.

This is clearly the same recipe. As medieval recipes go, it is also a very nice one. It sets the threshold for engaging with it as a newcomer very low, offering a familiar format and an easy technique. If you have never worked with venison and would like to, it is a good beginner’s dish. It will not dry out or burn, and even if you fail to achieve the perfect pink-in-the-centre doneness moderns aim for, you will have a tender, flavourful piece of meat to serve with a medieval fruit sauce.

I made this for the booksigning part for my Landsknecht Cookbook, and it was very successful there. The crust I used was a basic combination of flour, eggs, and butter, with a high proportion of eggs to make it pliable and impermeable. The meat was barded with bacon strips (larding is possible, but in my opinion excessive effort in this case) and rubbed with salt, pepper, ginger, and caraway. I then baked it slowly at only 140°C for almost four hours. It can be done at a higher temperature faster, as it probably was in thermal mass ovens in the 15th century, but this is the simplest approach and very useful if you are busy with other things.

As an aside, the slightly more detailed recipe in the 1460 Meister Hans manuscript suggests that the Mondseer Kochbuch or its family is not the source of Meister Hans. It is therefore plausible that Meister Hans is indeed what it purports to be, and the collection was already in circulation in the late 1430s.

The Mondseer Kochbuch is a recipe collection bound with a set of manuscript texts on grammar, dietetics, wine, and theology. There is a note inside that part of the book was completed in 1439 and, in a different place, that it was gifted to the abbot of the monastery at Mondsee (Austria). It is not certain whether the manuscript already included the recipes at that point, but it is likely. The entire codex was bound in leather in the second half of the fifteenth century, so at this point the recipe collection must have been part of it. The book was held at the monastery until it passed into the Vienna court library, now the national library of Austria, where it is now Cod 4995.

The collection shows clear parallels with the Buoch von guoter Spise. Many of its recipes are complex and call for expensive ingredients, and some give unusually precise quantities and measurements. It is edited in Doris Aichholzer’s “Wildu machen ayn guet essen…” Drei mittelhochdeutsche Kochbücher: Edition, Übersetzung, Quellenkommentar, Peter Lang, Berne et al. 1999

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