When Stephan told me he was making some research on old traditions, myths and legends related to the Convent of Saudação in Montemor-o-Novo (Portugal), I decided to look up for a very old book of recipes I found a couple of years ago when I was participating in an artistic residency at that same place. At the time, I got curious about the book and I remember reading some parts of it, without paying much attention to its historical value. I also remember sharing the experience with my colleagues and having decided to try some recipes out collectively, but we never did that — too much work to do! This time I went to the production team office and asked if the book was still there; it wasn't! Some Archaeology students took it away and donated it to the City Museum. It was really hard to convince the Museum director to let us have access to the book again, but we did it! I spent one afternoon reading it again and I took some notes, although the book is written in Ancient Portuguese, which is very hard to understand. But with the help of a nice archaeologist I met in the Convent (excavation works are still going on there...), I got to learn some interesting tips on how to translate Ancient to Modern Portuguese. I decided then to choose one particular recipe, which took my attention because I never thought it could be so old: meatballs! I found this all really tricky as the recipe itself is very mysterious (nobody knows who the real author of the book is): just perfect for Stephan's project, don't you think? And so I cooked it, following exactly the same recipe as in the book, step by step. I also included it in my cooking show (the episode is just coming out of Bruno's editing desk!). Here are some samples of the recipe, that I copied to my notebook:
"This is the meatballs recipe, the recipe number XXVII from the Infant Mary's cookbook, found in the Saudação Convent in Montemor-o-Novo in the holy year of 1353."
Mix the minced meat (pork and lamb) with some fresh goat cheese, chopped bacon, garlic, onions, egg yolks, wheat flour, grated bread, salt and pepper, saffron, cumin, powdered red peppers, whole-fat milk, parsley, coriander, dried figs (smashed) and some drizzles of a very good wine spirit. Use more flour when working the meat in order to get a smooth and mouldable dough. Use your fingers to mould little balls. Put some garlic and onions in a pan with olive oil and butter, dried laurel, some cloves and herbs. Let it cook for some minutes and then put the meatballs inside until they become slightly brown. Refresh it with a glass of spirit until it evaporates completely. In a saucepan, blend some whole-fat milk with corn flour, salt, black pepper and nutmeg and add it to the meatballs. Stir carefully and let it cook for 15 minutes. Put the meatballs and their sauce in a serving plate. Sprinkle with some chopped parsley and coriander and it's ready to eat! A good side dish to accompany these meatballs would be white rice and some boiled vegetables, but this is not part of the original recipe...