Author Archives: adelisasalernitana

About adelisasalernitana

This blog is the exploration of the life of a 12th century woman in the court of King Roger II of Sicily. Looking at the tripartite culture of the kingdom – Norman, Greek, and Muslim – how people dressed, the food they ate, the buildings that they lived in, and the remnants of Muslim culture in modern Sicilian language, food, music, and customs.

Tangled up in threads


So, right now in addition to music, I have been engaging in spinning, using wheels; weaving; and knitting. But mostly spinning and weaving. And like in 12th century of Sicily, I have been spinning and weaving with silk.

Currently I am weaving a sash on my kiddie 2-heddle loom. The sash is being woven on a cotton warp with a weft of two-ply spun silk. Because of the larger width of the spacing in these heddles and the fineness of the yarn, the effect is very interesting, as you can see.

This is possibly a sett of 4 ends per inch (4 warp threads per inch), it is much larger than the standard 8 ends per inch for rigid heddle weaving (rigid heddles also come in 12 ends per inch and 15 ends per inch; and finer than that and you’ll have to switch to a floor loom with wire heddles).
Closeup that captures the shimmer of the silk.
So far this is winding very evenly and with a good amount of tension and no stretching of random warp threads, so the weave isn’t overly pulling to one side or the other.

This sash will be dyed yellow and be submitted for the pool of prizes for an SCA tourney in September. The wearer will probably have to pin it closed rather than tie it, as the weave is a little thick, but we shall see once I get it off the loom. Yellow was chosen because it is one of the East Kingdom colors, and it is the color the fighter I am weaving this for has requested.

This is the second sash I have woven on this loom. The weave is not particularly historically accurate, as it’s like an uncut corduroy (but since it’s woven on only two shafts, there is no ground fabric to hold the weaves to cut them and create that fuzzy texture). But I think the effect is interesting and it weaves up easily. And it’s still eminently touchable. Here you can see a corduroy woven in silk, with the weaver explaining the technique.

Now comes the question of, what would a 12th century Sicilian loom have looked like? Although Sicily imported a lot of woven silks, the island also exported silk fabric, as this article attests. (The writer cites a lot of David Abulafia’s works, and he is probably the foremost researcher on medieval Sicilian and Mediterranean production and trade.)

Here is another article talking about the Islamic roots and influence in textile design in Sicily. So, looking at the brocade examples in that article, weaving those designs would take large looms, with at least four shafts (to enable twill weaving and brocade floats), and probably heddles made of thread rather than rigid heddles. I’ve found a photo of an old loom in a medieval house in Italy; this came off a random Pinterest page.

This looks like a simpler two-shaft loom, but you can see the thread heddles, the string parts that lift up and lower the warp threads.

Horizontal looms like this one appeared in China, and probably spread through the silk trade into the Islamic world. When foot pedals were added, this greatly sped up weaving.

The types of surviving cloth from Sicily are complicated brocaded twill weaves. To make the brocaded areas, pickup sticks were possibly used. But I think they just had multishaft looms. Some of the medieval brocade loom weaving techniques may have been preserved in the manufacture of Varanasi saris, which have roots in the 16th century and the Persian Mughal empire.

Incidentally, I tend to use Varanasi-style saris for making my Arabic Sicilian tunics. The handwoven ones are still expensive, but used cheaper machine-woven ones can be found on eBay and of course from certain SCA vendors.

Here is the link to a video on Varanasi hand weavers.

While I would love a multishaft floor loom, the enormous amount of floor space I’d need, the expense of a modern loom (even a used one will cost more than $1,000, and I don’t have the wherewithal to rehab an old or antique one), and the time needed to master such a loom make such an acquisition unlikely. Instead, I am sticking with tabletop rigid heddle looms and learning techniques on them.


Medieval musical instruments on the cheap


Yesterday I got to teach a class at a live SCA event for the first time in years, at Nova Schola in the Shire of Hartshorndale. It was a lovely relaxed event and it was good to see people in person again.

I don’t teach very often in the SCA, more because I don’t think people would be interested in the niche subjects I am interested in. Though I taught two online classes during the pandemic in virtual events, in-person teaching is different. This class actually grew out of my second online class, in which I talked about how to convert a pineapple ukulele into a citole-like instrument. For this in-person class, I took this subject and added on information about plucked psalteries. The intent of the class is to encourage beginning musicians to play actual medieval music, on more “authentic” instruments, and not be challenged by the cost of a reproduction medieval instrument.

Why this subject? In the context of the SCA, there has been a longstanding tension between the philosophies of “the music is more important than the instrument” and playing “period” music. People raised on trad Irish music and fantasy filks (neither of which I am knocking, I love and have played both genres) come to events with their guitars hoping to be bardic entertainers. I too was hauling my guitar to events, and ran into a problem: while I could do fingerpicked, transcribed versions of late-period lute music such as Dowland, I could not replicate the “drone” sound of early medieval music on my guitar.

After acquiring my own citole, I figured out why I was so frustrated with trying to play early medieval music. It was to do with “temperament,” the difference between the way a modern guitar is tuned and the way a citole is tuned. Modern musical instruments are the product of even temperament, but medieval musical instruments use what is known as Pythagorean tuning, and medieval music is based on this tuning system. To a modern ear trained on modern music, most medieval music subsequently sounds weird. (Some of these weirdness can be found in Irish, Scandinavian, and other traditional folk music, as this video explains – and I believe that this is why people think trad folk music is actually medieval when quite a lot of it was composed in modern times.)

But back to my class. Say you’re a guitarist who has fallen in love with actual medieval music and want to be able to sing and play at the same time (so no recorders for yoy). Or you just want to play those sprightly early melodies, and you’ve discovered that your guitar is not really suited for them. DADGAD tuning helps, to a point, but that is a modern “Celtic” music convention and doesn’t really hit the sweet spot of playing, say, Spanish cantigas. My answer here is “Get a citole,” but I also realize that this can be monetarily out of reach to a lot of people. And I think I came up with a rather simple, elegant solution for less than $100.

I also talk about plucked psalteries in this class, and it’s nice to let people know a simple “kiddie instrument” can be used in medieval music. A quality reproduction hogsnose psaltery is an expensive investment, but a much cheaper child’s “toy” can still be used to play medieval music.

Ye Olde TikTok


Almost a year after everyone else has caught on, I started a TikTok. It’s been a way to quickly record and throw online bits of music I was working on with my circle. I suggest you follow me on that app ( I am also AdelisaSalernitana there).

Here is one video from there:


Fromabout 1150. Once sung in the Cappella Palatina in the Palazzo Normanni. #medievaltiktok #earlymusic #medievalmusic #Sicily @violadagoomba

♬ original sound – Christiane Truelove

And while not Siiclian, I have been learning a lot of the 13th century Cantigas de Santa Maria:


This was the hardest cantiga for me to learn. About a lame man who was restored by the Virgin Mary. #medievaltiktok #medievalmusic #SCA #earlymusic

♬ original sound – Christiane Truelove

Working through the Troparium


So I did a thing. For the SCA East Kingdom’s Crowns Arts and Sciences Championship and Display, I decided to do a performance, of “Anni novi circulus” from MS 289. After working up the tune in MuseScore and getting the words from the David Hiley manuscript, I fired up Zoom and after about 20-ish takes, got a clean-ish performance. And no, I was not competing, only displaying, I do not need that kind of pressure in my life! (Insert nervous laughter here.)

Here is the link to a video and the accompanying essay I wrote about the piece, performance choices, etc.

In case there’s a problem viewing the above link, here is the performance itself.


Also, Trouvere Medieval Minstrels did a livestream of songs from the Troparium on Facebook Live. If you recall, Gil from Trouvere was the one who brought my attention to the Hiley manuscript. Because her partner Paul can actually read medieval notation, they have been going through the original Troparium manuscripts online at the Biblioteca Nacional de España in Madrid, working on new tunes and reworking others. Buy them a coffee!

Music for the season


We had an online medieval Yule feast on Saturday, and I had worked up this piece for the music session. For the heck of it, after the feast was over, I fired up the Zoom background and figured out how to record a piece. This is “Resonet in Laudibus,” a 13th century Christmas carol. It’s not Sicilian, but German. Perhaps Frederick II heard it while battling up in the north of Italy. My 13th century Spanish-style citole from Trouvere Music Works makes a good accompaniment. I am so still in the video to prevent the head stock from disappearing into the background (Zoom is not so great with movement).

The background is the throne platform and mosaics of the Cappella Palatina.

Enjoy, and happy holidays!

Makke vs. maccu: Medieval bean mash


It’s December 2020, and the COVID-19 pandemic still rages on. The Society for Creative Anachronism last week announced that we can’t hold any events until after May 31, 2021 – and that’s if a vaccine is widely distributed and taken by a large number of the population. I’m not holding my breath here, but I have a tiny bit of hope.

And I still have medieval activities to do. When I last posted, I was talking about learning to play the citole. That is proceeding. And just after Thanksgiving, I received a two-shaft rigid heddle kiddie loom from China to try my hand at weaving, since I spin so much yarn and I can’t possibly knit it all. Verdict: Well guess I’m going to find a real desk loom and get even better at it. I may even remove the heddle cards and the reed from the kiddie loom, sidle up to woodworking friends, and ask them to make me finer dent heddles and a beater so I can go really fine with my weaving, a greater number of threads per inch. This may be really good for making wide-band trims. We’ll see.

And I am still cooking. I watch a lot of culinary shows on YouTube while doing handicrafts, mostly historical documentary kinds of things. So today I clicked on Max Miller’s “What Did Medieval Peasants Eat?” and watched him talk about making “Makke” from The Forme of Cury.

I suddenly sat very straight up and said, “Ugh! I am such an idiot!” Because for years, I had overlooked something in Sicilian cooking that once upon a time, everyone ate, but is now considered a peasant food: Maccu, or mashed fava beans.

Makke recipe from the Rylands manuscript.

The Forme of Cury is one of the oldest known cookbooks, from 14th century England. It consists of recipes from the court of Richard II (to the left you can see the recipe as written in the manuscript in the John Rylands Library, Manchester).

Both the words “makke” and “maccu” stem from the Latin maccare, to mash. Both are made from fava beans – the only bean varietal available in Europe in the Middle Ages. The Form of Curye recipe calls for light-colored favas that are ground until they are “as white as milk.” Today’s readily available favas are dark brownish in color when dried and bright green when fresh. But there’s a very old varietal of fava bean in England called “Martock beans” that apparently vary in color, from black to brown to white. It’s also possible that there was a white variety that was cultivated but has been long lost as favas are very aggressive cross-pollinators. (Update: Doing a Google search for “white broad beans” yielded this cultivar, White Hangdown, which is either very pale green or white. So, there are white broad bean cultivars available to the modern cook.)

There are some differences between makke and a traditional maccu. For one thing, makke calls for the addition of beer or wine after the beans are cooked and as you mash them. Makke also calls for fried onions put on it before serving. Maccu at its most basic is fava beans cooked with fennel seeds or fennel fronds, olive oil, and salt. Fennel grows wild in Sicily so for a hungry peasant, a bulb of fennel or even dried fennel seeds can be foraged up pretty quickly. But onions and garlic are other optional things to add to the dish, and some versions of the recipe do call for them. These days it’s most traditionally made at the end of winter for St. Joseph’s Day.

So with similar names and with fava beans being grown in both England and Sicily, where did makke/maccu originate? The Sicilian claim is that the dish has been eaten on the island since Roman times. There are no 12th century Norman medieval Sicilian cookbooks so it’s not like I can check there. But there have been some very extraordinary ties between Norman Sicily and Plantagenet England. The most significant is Joan of England, daughter of Henry II, being queen of Sicily. She was married to William II. You can read more about the life of Joan of England here in an essay by the scholar Jacqueline Alio. She came with a horde of ladies in waiting, churchmen, and servants; and later her older brother Richard I spent a year occupying Messina with his soldiers.

Incidentally, the cathedral of Monreale has one of the earliest surviving depictions of Saint Thomas a Becket, not very long after Henry II’s nobles murdered him.

During the reign of Henry III, grandson of Henry II and Joan’s nephew, the king was allied with Frederick II Hohenstaufen, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily, who had married Henry’s sister. After Frederick’s death, Pope Innocent VI made an offer to Henry III to place his son Edmund Crouchback on the Sicilian throne; Henry threw a huge amount of money at the enterprise but was unable to secure it. Rebecca Star Brown details the circumstances in an interesting post.

This was about 100 years before Richard II (the king whose reign Form of Curye dates from) was even born, and according to the historian GA Loud, even in the 1250s Sicily was seen as an exotic and foreign place, despite the shared Norman ancestry of the royal houses. But maybe all those servants and cooks who went along with Joan and Richard I brought something back to England when they returned; a recipe for a dish of mashed fava beans, and passed it on, to others who enriched it with ale or wine. While Richard II’s cooks felt it was worthy of a king, “maccu” eventually became peasant food in Sicily.

So when I get to cook a feast again, I am going to make maccu and makke, and let people decide which they like better. And if I have enough leftover maccu, I’ll chill it, bread it, and fry it, because that’s supposed to be delicious too.

Getting medieval with it during a pandemic


As COVID-19 continues to rage across the world (especially in the United States, but not going to get into the politics of it here, suffice it to say is that the occupant of the Oval Office and his administration dropped the ball in every conceivable way), those of us who enjoyed gathering with others for medieval fun and games have had to figure out ways to keep those passions alive. The Society for Creative Anachronism has told us there will be no large-scale public events until February 2021 at the very earliest. We have been making do with online meetings and gatherings.

Back in March, I ordered myself a citole from Trouvere Music Works because I figured that since I had lots of time on my hands, I could learn a new instrument. This turned out to be a good strategy. The citole I now have was modeled after ones in the illuminations for Alfonso X “El Sabio” ‘s Cantigas de Santa Maria. While the Cantigas are more than a century later than the Norman reign in Sicily and are very much a product of their place (being written in Galician-Portuguese), they’re the largest collection of medieval music that we have and the citole has been a fairly easy instrument to pick up. Once events start up again, I’ll be able to sit and play it and be entertaining enough.

Here is one piece I have been able to learn, “Totentanz,” a 14th century German tune by that fine composer, Anonymous. Enjoy!

Recovering from Al-Hafla (and sharing a few recipes)



One of the prizes for the Al-Hafla poetry contest, a brass goblet with a beaded cup cover and a brass medallion, both with the arms of the Barony of Buckland Cross.

Valentine’s Day weekend (Feb. 15, to be precise) the Barony of Buckland Cross hosted the second annual reincarnation of a well-loved event called Al-Hafla. The event was one that gave an opportunity for the “Unaligned Middle Eastern Tribes” of the SCA to meet and party together sooner than Pennsic (it used to be held in January but February was the earliest we could manage to do this year). Live music, dancing, and lots of food of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean origin were the order of the day.

This year I once again served as a cook for the event, but I was also in charge of the menu and securing the site, etc. What made my job infinitely easier was the participation of every single member of the Barony either on site that day and helping me plan out details. Our Baron, Aurddeilen-ap-Robet, went all out for decoration, obtaining tent cloths and stands to stretch it out across the hall. Aurddeilen also baked cookies from authentic medieval and old Middle Eastern recipes, and brewed tea and coffee. His sweets table was also a treat for the eye, beautifully arranged with all of his drinks decanters and dishes. Tommaso, the husband of our Seneschal Jaz, created folding table legs to support the brass tray tables given into Jaz’s keeping by one of the founders of the event, Baron Mukhtar Durr al-Jabal al Mukhfi. Baron Durr was also there on site early to help set up.

And when it came to the food, we had a lot of it. We went for a rolling dayboard spread, where people could help themselves when they wanted to. Besides oil cured black olives from Turkey, Turkish panir and Greek feta cheeses, Turkish stuffed grape leaves, flatbreads and rustic Italian breads, and some Turkish eggplant relish, my idea was to have a variety of hot and cold dishes of various kinds. Some of the dishes I chose are not of the medieval period, but they are Middle Eastern favorites and people expected them: chickpea hummus, spanakopita, and cucumber yogurt salad. Also popular but probably not period to any particular country is our “Moroccan chicken” – chicken breasts and thighs marinated in whole milk Greek yogurt suffused with ras al-hanout spice mixture (containing cumin, cinnamon, coriander, black pepper, turmeric, and saffron) and grilled.

There were some period recipes on the table however. Jaz made a medieval sumac chicken, using the recipe from Scheherazade’s Feasts: Foods of the Medieval Arab World. I wound up making my cicera fracta (the onion and saffron version of it). As well as my version of the Emir of Catania’s chicken dish, or chicken baked in bread, a traditional recipe from Sicily of cooked chicken macerated with pistachios, chicken broth, lemon juice, bread crumbs, and capers, all combined into a hollowed semolina bread loaf and baked (you can get a recipe here in my revised paper on on Sicilian food).

In the runup to the event, however, I found myself leafing through Charles Perry’s Scents and Flavors: A Syrian Cookbook. I was thinking of recreating the lamb/garlic/spinach/chickpea dish I had done from this text from 2019’s Al-Hafla (from Chapter 6: Sautes and Related Dishes, Section on Spinach: four recipes), but the quantity of lamb I used last year was prohibitively expensive. I needed to cut my budget way, way down.

Providently, the answer to reducing my food costs came when I opened the book randomly and stumbled upon the lentil dishes:

Section on lentil dishes, for which there are four recipes

The first recipe is of two kinds. Market folk and the bulk of people cook the first kind—so there is no point in giving a recipe here. It is worth noting though that adding carrots, chard, large taros, and saffron will improve it. (Scents and Flavors, page 133)

According to Charles Perry’s footnote to this recipe, the reason for “no point in giving a recipe” is because the dish is simply just boiled lentils. Of course I opted for the jazzed up version. Unsure if taro was available at the local Indian market and without the time to look, I went with chard, carrots, and saffron. Here is my version:

Syrian Lentils with Chard, Carrots, and Saffron

2 pounds of lentils

1 large bunch of carrots

1 large bunch of green chard

1/8 teaspoon of saffron threads softened in a few ounces of hot water

Boil the lentils until just done. Peel the carrots and chop them into thin disks (recipes in this book called for either carrots in coin form or in slivers; I opted for the coins). Destem the chard and roughly chop the leaves. In a separate frying pan, saute the carrots in olive oil until soft, and add the chard, sauteing until that is soft and cooked through. Add the carrots and chard to the cooked lentils. Mix thoroughly. Add the saffron and water; mix thoroughly. Serve warm.

I had some leftovers from this amount, but it freezes well. If you want to adapt it to more modern and carnivorous tastes, add chicken sage sausage to it, it’s really delicious.

Second recipe Boil lentils until done. Pound meat, boil, drain the water, and pound in the mortar until soft. Add in hot spices, pour in tail fat, and cook it in a brass pan until it contracts and browns. Put in a frying pan—putting in a layer of noodles, a layer of pounded meat, a layer of lentils, and so on—until the pan is full. Pour on a good quantity of melted fat and a little of the meat broth. Put the fat on while it is on a low fire—pouring along the edges, using a thin ladle, so that the fat reached underneath/ Keep boiling until the noodles are done and it is ready to eat. (Scents and Flavors, page 133)

My first thought when I read this is, “This is Syrian hamburger helper.” I was not about to boil meat and pound it in a mortar the night before an event when I had many other things left to do, though. I opted to use ground meat (which also means I did not also need to use lamb’s tail fat, since I was not going to boil all the fat out of the meat). I was set on using ground lamb mixed with ground beef, like in a kofte mixture. Unfortunately, due to my local Turkish market burning down (don’t ask, I have no idea what happened, but it’s closed and gone now) I had no ready resources for ground lamb so instead used beef. This was not the meat the recipe actually called for—there’s a section of chicken recipes but everything else is lamb—but I had to improvise. As far as “hot spices” go, pepper, cinnamon, coriander, and cumin rank among those, and they flavor beef well. And since I have galangal and long pepper on hand, I planned to use those too.

What did the author mean by “noodles”? From my research on medieval Sicilian food, my assumption was that this was dried semolina pasta, the type known as “itriya” (“threads”). In Sicily, dried pasta was made as early as the 12th century and even became a trading commodity. Frustratingly, there is not one recipe in this book for the noodles made for savory dishes. They must have been so common and commonly made that it was not needed to give a separate recipe for them. The cooking directions for this recipe, however, with the call for liquids to be added to the dish as it cooks low and slow, certainly in my mind point to the pasta being a dried one rather than fresh.

Interestingly, the combination of lentils with pasta has continued into modern-day Syrian cooking, with a dish called horaa esbao; this is one version I have found, but it is very different than the medieval version. For one thing, it is meat free and uses flavorings such as pomegranate syrup. Like most homestyle dishes, every cook puts their own twist on the recipe. Some make their own fresh pasta, some use dried.

Here is my redaction from Scents and Flavors:

“Al-Hafla Casserole”

5 pounds of ground beef

2 pounds of lentils

Enough dried thread-like pasta, broken up, to generously cover the bottom of a large catering tray pan (two boxes of spaghetti or angel hair will do, I used a Polish noodle that I found at my local international market on sale that looked like short broken up spaghetti and saved me time).

1 box or two small cans of beef broth

Cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, coriander (not found in any of the recipes but also used by me: long pepper and galangal, because I had them and they stand up well to beef)

Preheat oven to 375F. Boil the lentils until done. Brown the beef with your chosen spices; drain some, but not all, of the resulting fat. When the meat and lentils are cooked, layer the noodles at the bottom of the tray; then layer the meat, and then the lentils. Pour about half of the beef broth into it, and put into the oven for about 45 minutes, adding the rest of the broth midway through. It’s done when the pasta at the bottom is cooked.

Verdict: People liked it, and the redaction made a lot of food (I was aiming for 60 people and spent about $50 on ingredients, so it certainly was economical). It is a rib-sticking dish between the lentils and pasta. I want to try it again, in smaller quantities, with ground lamb and without the galangal and long pepper.


This past weekend, my local SCA group held a big event – the investiture of our new baron and baroness. Because the king and queen of the East were there, there also were a looooooot of people attending at least for the day, to see the ceremonies, etc.


Image of cooked chickpeas from,

That meant about 200 people to feed during the day, and I pitched in to produce some food for the dayboard. Looking for something vegetarian/vegan, I looked at cicera fracta, a 13th century Italian recipe from the Liber de Coquina. The cookbook was written by someone around Naples in the 13th century; there is a theory by the linguist Anna Martellotti that the Liber and another southern Italian medieval cookbook, the Anonimo Merdionale of the 15th century, have recipes that originally derive from the court of Frederick II of Italy. Frederick’s mother Constance was the daughter of Roger II of Sicily, and Frederick spent his childhood in the Arabicized Palermo court, and as emperor had many Muslims among his soldiers and personal retainers. There is also her theory that his personal cook, Berardo, was the originator of some of these recipes in both books. If you’re curious about the Anonimo Meridionale recipes, David and Rebecca Friedman have translated Libre B of the Meridionale and redacted some recipes.

Here is the recipe for cicera fracta:

Item, aliter : accipe cicera fracta et pone ad decoquendum cum oleo, pipere et safrano et cum caseo detruncato et ovis perditis et ovis debatutis; uel aliter, cum ciceris fractis et perbullitis et, aqua bullitionis eiecta, ponatur cepa frissa et bene confecta cum lardo uel oleo sicut dies exigit.

Crudely translated, it’s a chickpea porridge either flavored with oil, saffron, pepper, cheese, and crumbled hardboiled eggs, or oil, bacon (technically lardo), and onions.

There’s also another version in which the chickpeas are cooked in almond milk, with saffron and ginger.

Well, neither version of the first cicera fracta recipe would really do for vegans/vegetarians; the second cicera fracta recipe, while vegetarian, didn’t appeal to me. Also there are people with severe nut allergies who attend events, and I didn’t want an open crockpot of almond milk stew to be aerosolized death for them.

Having no saffron in the house and no chance to get more before the event, I went rooting among my medieval spices and found my grains of paradise and my cubebs.

Although grains of paradise were present in medieval Arabic cooking and perfume making, they were unknown (or rather forgotten about) in Europe when the Liber de coquina was written. Cubebs were known but they and grains of paradise were considered “hot,” humorally speaking, so I would have been a very irresponsible cook in medieval times. And I added white pepper too!

So this is what I wound up doing: I soaked 2 pounds of dried chickpeas overnight, and then in the morning, I boiled the chickpeas for a few hours, in water in a large stockpot, until they began to get soft. I then added sea salt, 1.5 teaspoons of grains of paradise, ground to a powder; 1.5 teaspoons of cubebs, ground to a powder; and about the same of white pepper. I boiled the whole thing a few hours more, and then caramelized in olive oil four medium onions, slivered. Once the onions were ready I dumped them into the pot and simmered for about 15 minutes, then dipped out about half of the chickpeas and onions into my mixer bowl, and using my stick blender to puree it. I pureed about half of stew again after returning the first batch of pureed chickpeas and onions to the pot. Then I simmered the mixture to thicken it a bit more.

The resulting effort was hearty, and the sweetness of the onion counterbalanced the sharpness of the spices used. I was told several times by people, “I don’t like chickpeas, but I like this!”

I’ve made the bacon and onion version before and lots of people who like bacon like that, because, well, bacon. Though I want to try it with lardo, if I can get my hands on any. I’ll try prosciutto or speck as well.

The saffron, cheese, and egg one…I don’t think it should be a melty cheese; I think it calls for something very salty and strong, like feta or ricotta salata. The eggs, I would hardboil and then crumble on as a garnish, with more egg provided so diners can add what they wish. The same thing with the ricotta salata, adding some to the pot before serving and providing some on the side so diners can add what they wish.

I have to admit I am intrigued by the almond milk one; I wonder if I added sugar to it, how it would taste. Sweetened almond milk pottages are a staple of medieval cuisine after all. Looks like I am going to be giving an order soon to for some saffron (the best online source I have found for saffon, quality and prices are very good).



More medieval Sicilian music


I havLuteLadyCapellaPalatinaen’t had a lot of time to do much in the way of research lately. I keep trying to change that, but overall, I am a lazy lump and being a freelance writer and editor, I have clients to keep happy, because eating and keeping my bills paid is nice.

At present I am looking into pieces of music in anticipation of getting my rehabbed rebab/citole back one of these days. One of the pieces I would like to play is one allegedly from the Troparium de Catania, called “Anni novi circulus,” and it’s a Christmas song.

There’s just one problem: I cannot find the damn lyrics anywhere and my Latin is not good enough to just listen to the versions I have found and write the words down. You think one scholar would have analyzed the text in an article but apparently when it comes to early medieval music, the Troparium de Catania doesn’t get a lot of scholarly love.

MS 19421 allegedly has “Anni novi circulus.” But Madrid also has three other manuscripts of Norman Sicilian music. There’s MS 288; MS 289; and Vitr 20/4. They’re all scanned images and not searchable except for me straining my eyeballs. Pretty simply, I am just trying to find the three words “Anni novi circulus” and hoping that the rest of the words of the song are there. Wish me luck!

Here is Al Qantarah’s version of “Anni novi circulus.”

Trouvere Medieval Minstrels also did a version of “Anni novi circulus” on their CD “Magna Melodia”; here is a video with a snippet of the song and some glorious images of the Cathedral of Monreale and the Capella Palatina. The CD itself is available on iTunes and Amazon.


The fabulous Gill Page of Trouvere graciously replied to my inquiry, and has told me the words are in MS 289. But even better, there is actually a thesis available from David Hiley, where he transcribed the pieces of 289, with lyrics.

I have just bashed out my own version in SoundCloud, and now look forward to transcribing and performing more of these pieces.