You cannot think of February without associating it with love. And although the celebration of Valentines Day, as we know it, as a marriage of chocolate and red roses, is wholly a Victorian novelty, the exchange of sweets, trinkets and gifts at St. Valentines day in the Tudor period was certainly a way to bring some fun into an otherwise dreary winter. At court and for the manor born, exchanging Valentines was done by members of the household. Everyone from Staff to nobles alike were assigned a Valentine to bestow a secret gift to at random - so it would not be unheard of to hear an account of a maid receiving a years wages as a gift having been drawn by the master of the household.
Later in the month, to herald one final gust of winter folly, came Shrovetide, which occurred during the third week of the month. You may know now as Mardi Gras. Both then and now , in all of Christendom around the world, are several days of community festivals and events as a last chance of decadence before the austerity of lent . During the Tudor period , on the last day of these celebrations, a Tuesday, kitchens of both rich and poor would be clamouring to make use of the last bits of meat and dairy. Pancakes with various sweet and savoury toppings were the perfect and easy way to do this. It was also the last stop before lent for some soul spring cleaning, or what the Tudors called “Shriving” your way to a last minute confession! Hence why we now celebrate Pancake day on Shrove Tuesday.
And though you might not imagine February in Europe as a stellar month in the kitchen garden, there are some seasonal standouts like Purple Broccoli and Rhubarb. Not to mention abundant treasures from the North Atlantic sea. But the real star of of the month in Tudor England was the Seville orange. Brough from Spain and cultivated locally, they were traditionally only available for a short time in February and extremely prized for the rare citrus ability to survive in winter. These winter oranges were recognised not only for their known health benefits in preventing winter sickness, but also for bringing a burst of bright pleasure to the otherwise dreary cold days. In the Annotated Dyets Dry Dinner (1599), Henry Buttes reminds us that the latin for “gold” is “aurum” in describing the orange “ as being like Golde whence they are called Augantia of Aurum” which is translated as “ golden apple”
The Tudor Modern menu for February is inspired by all things love, citrus and the glimmers of joy to be found and celebrated in the garden. You will even find delectable pancakes both sweet and savoury, fluffy and flat, that are sure to delight the palate of every type.
A bit of our inspiration from The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin of 1588:
To make the pancakes:
Take new thicke Creame a pinte, four of five yolks of Egs, a good handful of flower, and two or three spoonfuls of ale, strain them altogether into a faire platter, and season it with a good handful of Sugar, a sooneful of Synamon and a little Ginger: then takea frying pan, and put in a little peece of Butter, as but as your thombe, and when it is molten browne, cast it out of your pan, and with a ladle put to the furthesr side of your pan some of your stuffe, and hole your pan aslope, so that you stuffe may run abroad all ouer all the pan, as thin as may be: then set it to the fyre, and let the fyre be verie soft, and when the one side is bakes, then turne the other, and bake them as dry as ye can without burning
Date and cashew milk Protien Smoothie
Skillet coddled eggs with leeks and potatoes
fluffy American style Pancakes
Rhubarb and rose compote
Caramelised ginger Cauliflower steak burgers
Savoury buckwheat crêpes stuffed with guyère, purple broccoli, brown mushrooms and lardons
for a Snack
Lemon, rose & cardamom polenta love cake
Clementine jelly and dark chocolate shortbread bites
Roasted garlic and Jerusalem artichoke dip
Easy homemade Pumpkin seed Oatcakes
Mussels steamed in Cider and Bacon Brown butter
Slow roast duck with citrus & pomegranate