Monday, September 3, 2007

A Summer Feast from the Catalan Courts of Aragon and Naples

Rowany Yule Feast 7th December 2002


The venue will be the Croydon Masonic Hall, Station St, Croydon NSW (now managed by the Croydon Lebanese Neighbourhood Association), site of several previous Yule feasts. The Hall is centrally located, convenient to Croydon rail station and with free parking available.


Yule Feast is the time when the Barony of Rowany puts its best food forward, hosting an event with an emphasis on splendid pageantry and baronial tradition along with a sumptuous menu. The talented populace of the Barony eagerly contributes to the festive atmosphere of the event, providing singing, music and dance, and courtly and bardic entertainments for the populace.

Mistress Marguerite de Rada and Master Bartolomeo Agazzari have volunteered to decorate the Hall using the “R” bunting owned by the barony, supplemented with decorative hangings offered by Casa Celi and the steward. Their large “Livre du Chasse” hangings have been offered by Mistresses Rowan and Yseult, and will form the backdrop to the high table and Baronial court. Casa Celi have also offered their sun pavilion for the desert banquet, to be held on the grassed area in front of the hall. Specifically designed floral arrangements including ivy garlands, fruit pomanders and “topiaries” will decorate the tables, with the high table forming the focal point.

Mistress Gabriella della Santa Croce has volunteered to provide the boar’s head for the Yule procession, and to arrange the plate for the dessert banquet.

As is traditional, the Green Man will signal the start of the feast, ushering in the boar’s head procession and carol. (It has been suggested that the Green Man collect loose change for donation to a charitable Christmas appeal: this will need to be discussed in Baronial Council. A donation jar on the reeve’s table may be a more appropriate option.)

The procession should feature a Baronial banner/parade shield, and items of significance in the Barony’s history such as the Reliquary of St Ursula. The procession will this year be led by St Lucia, in white and wearing a crown of candles; all the candles in the hall will be lit from those on Lucia’s crown (perhaps by previous Barons) while the boar’s head carol is sung.

Lady Annabella de Swinburne has offered to co-ordinate a dance performance.


The Yule feast this year will be a grand banquet such as one would find in the early 16th century courts of Aragon in northeastern Spain, and Naples in southern Italy. In the 15th and 16th century Naples was part of the Kingdom of Aragon, and shared many cultural elements including food and the order of service.

One of the major sources for this menu, the master cook Robert (or Rupert) de Nola wrote books in both countries, in both Italian and Catalan. I have used his cookbook "Libro de Cozina" as a main source, supplemented by various Italian sources such as the works of Bartolomeo Scappi, Maestro Martino, Domenico Romoli, and anonymous Catalan and Neopolitan recipe collections. These collections represent a quite distinct style of dining in the medieval Mediterranean lands, appropriate to a Sydney summer event and easily incorporating the traditional Yule inclusions of seafood and seasonal stone fruit.

The order of service in Mediterranean feasts is also a little different to what some feasters may be used to. The food is generally lighter and more varied, the idea being the diner has a small taste of everything on offer rather than lots of a few heavy dishes. This concept survives in the antipasto and tapas styles of eating common in Italy and Spain to this day.

The meal usually begins with an "antipasto" service "di credenza" (from the sideboard) comprising fresh fruits, savoury nibbles and usually cold meats. The meal continues with the service from the kitchen, with roast meats and

vegetables, in this case chosen to recall the colours of the Barony. This is followed by pottages, exquisitely tasty casseroles more usually found served before the roast in northern Europe. There is another cold service from the sideboard of lighter sweet items, before rising from the table to sample the dessert banquet in the cool of the garden.

It will be noted that the event’s scope is more ambitious and exotic, and hence less budget conscious, than recent smaller “tavern” feasts. While undeniably more costly, the menu reflects the very high standard that has come to characterise the Barony’s signature feast, wherein the feast stewards traditionally pull out all the stops; the comments that “all people want from a feast is roast beef, salad and bread” are dramatically out of step with Baronial tradition. Although more expensive than smaller events, the entry costs for Yule feast are nevertheless in line with previous years’ entry costs (source: Folia Roani, 1991-1999).

There is no off-board provision.


First Service from the Sideboard (cold)

Green and black olives

Chilled grapes

Strawberries, lightly dressed with balsamic vinegar

Aragonese Sops (period pate on crostini)

Plate of Figs (dried figs flavoured with roses)

Biscotti (two styles, plain and flavoured with fennel)

Galine ho Caponi (Chicken roasted with lemon and sage, served with honey-lemon sauce)

Mortatella (sausages of pork, fennel and spices cooked in red wine stock)

Laid salad of lettuce and edible herbs, sliced lemons and sweet oranges

First and Second Services from the Kitchen

On the table, bread and condiments (salt, pepper, rosemary and olive oil)

Porco e Salsa di Granate (Roast pork stuffed with raisins and rosemary served with pomegranate sauce)

Compote of white vegetables and fruits marinated in vinegar, mustard and honey

Spinach tart (with feta, mint and herbs)

Roast red onion salad with spices

Frigacy of Shrimpes (prawns with herbed vinegar sauce)

Rice in almond milk (served as small moulded cakes)

Fresh peasepods fried in butter, sugar and salt

Cazuela de Salmon (delicately spiced casserole of salmon flavoured with orange and verjuice, herbs and raisins)

Flaones (white ricotta tarts with mint)

Second service from the Sideboard (cold)

Torta de Capreto (layered pie of kid, spices, finely chopped dried fruits, mild cheese and turkey, sauced in the oven with wine and verjuice)

Almonds and walnuts

A variety of cheeses

Dessert Banquet
Sweet oranges, sliced and dusted with cinnamon and other fresh fruits: grapes, cherries, plums
Tarte de Perry (tart of caramelised whole pears)

Torta de Cerase (cherry and fresh cheese tart)

Quarter-Tart of Pippins (tart of apples poached in spiced red wine)

Crimson gingerbread (dyed with cochineal)
White gingerbread (spicy marzipan wafers layered between sugar-paste)

Almond macaroons
Jumbles a hundred (glazed knot biscuits)

White leche (milk jellies)

Mangere des Angeles (ricotta whipped with honey and rosewater)
Zabaglione (sweet wine custard)

Original sources


Anon, Libre de Totes Maneres de Confits, Spain c1450

Anon, Libro de Sent Sovi, Catalan 1324

Anon, Muestrario de la Mesa Del Arzbispo, Valencia 1568

Ruperto de Nola, Libro de Cozina (aka Libro de Guisados), Logrono 1529

Ruperto de Nola aka Mestre Robert Libra del Coch, Barcelona 1520


Anon, Cuoco Napoletano, Naples c1500

Bartolomeo Scappi, Opera dell’arte Cucinare, Rome 1570

Domenico Romoli, The Singular Doctrine, Venice 1593

Giovanni de Rosselli, Epulario or the Italian Banquet, Italy 1525 & London 1598

Platina, De Honeste Voluptate, Italy 1474


Austin T ed, Harleian Ms 279, England c1430

John Murrell, A Daily Exercise for Ladies and Gentlewomen, London 1617

Margaret Savile’s Recipe Book 1683

Thomas Dawson, The Good Huswifes Jewell, London 1596

Robert May, The Accomplisht Cook, London 1660

William Rabisha, The Whole Body of Cookery Dissected, London 1661

Research Bibliography

Carroll-Mann, Robin (writing as Brighid ni Chiarain). An English Translation of Ruperto de Nola’s 1529 “Libre del Coch”, 2001.

Cuenca, Vincent. A Menu for Cheiftans, 2002.

Denny, Roz. The Tudor Kitchen Cookery Book, Hampton Court Press 1991.

Lorwin, Madge. Dining With William Shakespeare, Atheneum New York 1976.

Rafella d’Allemtejo (pseud.) A Dinner of 16th Century Spain, 2002.

Redon, Odile, et al, The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy, University of Chicago Press 1998.

Santich, Barbara. The Original Mediterranean Cuisine, Wakefield Press 1995.

Scully, Terrence. The Neapolitan Recipe Collection, Ann Arbor/ University of Michigan Press 2000.

Smithson, Louise (writing as Helewyse de Birkestad). Feast for Yule and Baronial Investiture in the Barony of Red Spears, 2002.

Spurling, Hilary. Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book, Penguin.

Willan, Anne. Great Cooks and Their Recipes From Taillevent To Escoffier, Pavilion 1995 reprinted 2000.

Wilson, C Anne. Banquetting Stuffe, Edinburgh University Press 1991.

Zyvatkauskas, Betty & Sonia. Eating Shakespeare, Prentice Hall Toronto, 2000.


As the Barony is in need of some new resources to replace those missing, damaged or in bad repair, Yule feast represents a timely opportunity.

New tablecloths and runners are needed; Lady Judith of Eastwycke has volunteered to make these.

New floor-standing candelabra are needed to replace the existing items, which are either dangerously unstable or missing support sections. Sir Corin Anderson has agreed to make these.

European Yuletide greenery will be sourced from members’ private gardens and appropriately affected public land, and costs for purchased flowers have been factored into the event budget.

Separate College teams for set up and cleaning are being organised by the steward.

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