Jun 28, 2012
The Shakespeare Cookbook, by Andrew Dalby and Maureen Dalby, has just been published by the British Museum Press. To celebrate, we’ve decided to publish an extract of one of the recipes for apple fritters – enjoy!
Crab-apples are a native English fruit. Cultivated apples, though they seem very much at home in England, are not: they were introduced by the Romans, and they stayed on when the Romans departed.
‘The bigness of a groat’ in the recipe below comes out as not more than an inch across (a groat was a silver coin worth four pence). Which seems unexpectedly small, but the apples to be used might be semi-dried with concentrated flavour.
To make frittors with apples. Take fine flour, and temper it with butter and a litle salt, and make a batter, and take a very little saffron to colour your batter withal, and when your batter is made, strain it through a strainer, then cut your apples of the bigness of a groat, and put them to your batter; then put your suet to the fire, and when it is hot, put a piece of your apples to your suet, and if it rise quickly, then your stuff is well seasoned, if it abide in the bottom, then it is not half enough: therefore when it riseth from the bottom, fill your pan one after another as fast as ye can, and when they are fair coloured, take them out with a scummer, and put them in a platter, and always whiles they are in the pan stir them with a stick, and look that ye have liquor enough. Then take your fritters, and put them in a fair platter, and then scrape sugar enough upon them [Blanch powder]. With two ounces of sugar, a quarter of an ounce of ginger, and half a quarter of an ounce of cinnamon, all beaten small into powder, you may make a very good blanch powder to strow upon roasted apples, quinces or wardens, or to sauce a hen.
-Thomas Cogan, The Haven of Health (1636)
Apple fritters are made in a similar manner today, and the use of ale in batter mixture is still well known. If one prefers to avoid deep frying then the French grimole, a cross between a clafoutis and a pancake, is a suitable substitute.
125 g/4 oz plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
100 g/3½ oz caster sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
125 ml/4 fl oz/½ cup milk
4 dessert apples, peeled and sliced
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/ gas mark 5. Make a batter with the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, eggs and oil. Gradually whisk in the milk until you have a thick batter. Tip in the apples and pour into a greased mould – the shallower the better – a 30 cm/12 inch flan dish would suit. Cook for about 45 minutes. Dredge with sugar and serve hot with cream.
The Shakespeare Cookbook is available through the British Museum online shop.
Text © The Trustees of the British Museum, cover image © National Portrait Gallery, London.