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

Johnna Holloway johnna at sitka.engin.umich.edu
Thu Aug 24 14:52:22 PDT 2006

Turk’s Head

This is one of these recipes where it is helpful to read all the 
footnotes and trace all the sources mentioned. Since I am in the unique 
position to have the sources and the Concordance, here’s what I have found:

Baroness Faerisa mentioned—

“23. Teste de Turke” and “26. Teste de Turk. E” recipes in original MSS 
A on page 865

What she did not mention is that there is also 27. Teste de Tourk on 
page 868 in MSS B. This appears later in that same Speculum article by 
Hieatt and Jones.

Note for 23.1 Teste de Turke ‘Turk’s head’; cf. CI 1.27. 43* Hieatt and 
Jones mention that decorating instructions are found in B27. Note for 
recipe 26 indicates that this recipe is probably the earliest. (We dated 
it as c1290 in the Concordance.) They write “the sausage-like result is 
to be made like a head with egg-yolk gilding, etc.”

MS B 27 reads: Turk’s head. A sheet of pastry [used as a case] well 
filled (?), with rabbits, poultry, dates, peeled and sweetened in honey, 
new cheese, cloves, and cubebs; (put) sugar on top, then a generous 
layer of ground pistachio nutes; 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.” A-N CC p. 879

The notes for recipe 27 in MS B are “Turk’s head’: cf. A23 and 26; bon 
farois ‘well filled/stuffed’? While the recipe gives us the genral idea 
of the effect to be aimed at, it is, unfortunately, not entirely clear. 
In the absence of other directions for achieving the effect of black 
hair, we conjecture that the black bowl called for below provides a 
background representing the hair of the “Saracen,” and the 
yellow-green-pink tints of the pistachio finish give the “Turk’s” 
complexion; while en un neyr esquele might equally well mean “in the 
shape of a black bowl,” the M.E. translator did not so understand it, 
and rendered the passage as “Y*at hed schal beon blake addressed oy*e 
manere of hier of wymmon on a blake dishe” (CI p. 48)

--- Going back to the footnotes:

Ok, this first note is for the Diuersa Cibaria or Diversa Cibaria-- 
recipe 43 (found in Curye on Inglysch) page 52. If you read that recipe, 
one discovers it’s a “Teste de Turt.”

The second note is for Diuersa Cibaria or Diversa Cibaria: recipe 27 for 
a “Test de Turt” page 48.

Hieatt and Butler write that “ ‘head of a Turk’ (Saracen). In I 27, 
directions are given for making a ‘face’ of ground pistachio nuts, 
tinted variously, on the basic tart; this effect is not explained in I 
43, but is probably to be assumed here too, since the rubric indicates 
this to be a festive dish for fish days in the Christian season, 
although the A-N describes it as suitable for Lent. A Simpler version of 
the latter recipe in MS L is entitled Teste de Cure (in CB, p. 112).” 
[Curye on Inglysch page 219]

The CB notation leads us back to Laud MSS 553 for the recipe titled 
“Teste de Cure” on page 112 of Two Fifteenth=Century Cookery-Books.

These are all the recipes that we identified in the Concordance.

I will mention that Terry Nutter in a note about early pastries back in 
1996 wrote that it was “A sort of sausage dish in a pastry casing 
(number 23, Teste de Turke en kareme).”

There are some scattered mentions in the Florilegium and I am at work on 
finding an actual picture.

I will lastly note that under the title “TESTE DE TURT (Saracen Head 
pye)” it’s being featured at an upcoming Halloween banquet in Washington 


Hope this helps,

Johnnae llyn Lewis

Rob Downie wrote:
> 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] SNIPPED
> Any ideas or interpretations on what this actually is?
> Faerisa

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