[Sca-cooks] Turk's Head Subtlety Recipe?

Rob Downie rdownie at mts.net
Wed Aug 23 19:06:58 PDT 2006

I was looking for ideas for subtleties for our upcoming  Crusades themed 
event and came across a reference for "Turk's Head"  from the late 
C.13th - Manuscript Additional 32085, and 1320 to 40 - Manuscript Royal 
12.C.xii. Both aka an Anglo-Norman Culinary Collection, collected in an 
article:- "Two Anglo-Norman Culinary Collections Edited from British 
Library Manuscripts Additional 32085 & Royal 12.C. xii" HIEATT, 
Constance & JONES, Robin F. Speculum Issue 61/4 1986
[square brackets = translator's notes]

However, the instuctions are very confusing.  Has anyone had experience 
with this recipe before?


23. Turk's head. How to make the dish called Turk's head from a fish day 
or in Lent. Take choice rice and wash it and dry it; then grind it 
thoroughly, mix with thickened almond milk, and put in spices and 
saffron, as directed below, and sugar. Make a pastry case; then scald 
eels and remove the excrement; then cut them up; and take parsley, sage, 
and some broth, and grind it in a mortar, and put in saffron and mixed 
ground spice; then cover [with a pastry lid] and put it in the oven, 
etc. ["etc" here means "and serve it"]

26. Turks head. {This is the recipe referred to above in 23, however it 
uses a pig's stomach to roast the pork, chicken and almond mixture in}


26. Turks head. A sheet of pastry [used as a case] well filled [?] with 
rabbits and poultry, dates, peeled and sweetened in honey, new cheese, 
cloves and cubeb; (put) sugar on top, then a generous layer of ground 
pistachio nuts; the color of the ground nuts, red, yellow, and green. 
The head (of hair) should be black, arranged to resemble the hair of a 
woman, in a black bowl, with the face of a man set on top.


The instructions are quite sketchy - whereas recipe #23 mentions 
covering the pastry case with a pastry lid, but doesn't mention making 
it look like a face, recipe # 26 seems to indicate that the final result 
should look like a human face (The head <of hair> should be black, 
arranged to resemble the hair of a woman, in a black bowl, with the face 
of a man set on top).  I'm assuming the "face of a man set on top" might 
be another layer of pastry, essentially creating a closed coffin, since 
I can't imagine red yellow and green pistachio nuts as a convincing face 
(and it is mentioned in the first recipe).  I have no idea what was used 
for the hair, other than it should be black.

Any ideas or interpretations on what this actually is?

Maybe I sould just stick to cast sugar items or marzipan...

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