Renaissance Cherry Pie

When cherries are in season, there are a few historical cherry dishes that I make every year, including the cherry pie from De Verstandige kock (Dutch, 1683) and the cherry and rose pie from Maestro Martino (late 15th century). This cherry pie shows that Martino was a true master in the kitchen.

Maestro Martino

A handwritten cookbook by Maestro Martino was published around 1465. We know very little about him, but it is certain that he was employed by Cardinal Ludovico Trevisan, one of the greatest foodies of his time. In Trevisan’s kitchens, Martino experimented with flavours from the late Middle Ages and with new ingredients from the Arab world, such as sugar, oranges and eggplant. He wrote some 240 recipes and compiled a cookbook, Liber de arte coquinaria. In his manuscript he developed a new taste and new dishes. He wrote some of the oldest pasta recipes and a lot of vegetable dishes in his cookbook. And he was one of the first to use sugar as an ingredient and not just as a seasoning.

Four Lord’s Prayers

Martino’s cookbook was also the first to describe a dish step by step. Before his cookbook, recipes were more like shopping lists. He indicated how many people a dish was intended for, gave quantities of the ingredients, details about the cooking method (stewing or baking, fine or coarse grinding) and even the preparation time. However, that was not done in minutes (there were no clocks in the kitchen), but in prayers. For example “cook the pasta as long as four Lord Prayers” or “cook as long as psalm X or Y”.

Martino’s Legacy

Martino’s handwritten cookbook was not widely distributed, because there were only a few copies. His work has become much better known through Bartolomeo Sacchi (also called Platina), who published De honesta voluptate ac valetudine (About honest pleasures and good health) around 1470, containing 240 (out of a total of 250!) of Martino recipes.

Around 1570 the world-famous work of Bartolomeo Scappi Opera dell’arte del cucinare appeared, again with recipes by Martino. Even in the Low Countries we recognize the hand of the Maestro in a cookbook. Recipes were copied in Koock-boeck oft Familieren Keuken-boeck by Antonius Magirus, which was published in Leuven in 1612. Martino’s fame may not have survived over the centuries, for me he is the real maestro.

Cherry and rose pie from Maestro Martino

The cherry pie is made with dark red cherries and roses that are both chopped up. In the recipe below I leave the cherries whole and I use rose water in stead of roses. The pie was sprinkled at the end with rose water by the way. Martino’s cherry pie is a bit like a clafoutis, the classic French dessert with fruits in a kind of custard. Buon appetito!

Take the blackest cherries you can find, and after you have removed the pits, grind well in a mortar, and take some red roses that have been finely chopped with a knife, with a little fresh cheese and a bit of good aged cheese, adding some spices, that is, cinnamon, ginger, and a little pepper, and some sugar; and mix all these things together very well, adding also three or four eggs as needed; and cook slowly in a pan with a crust on the bottom. As soon as it is done, top with some sugar and some rose water.*

*Translation by Jeremy Parzen.

250 grams of flour
2 tablespoons of sugar
100 grams of cold butter
pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons of cold water

1 teaspoon fresh ginger
2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese
300 grams of cherries
300 grams of ricotta
2 eggs
150 grams of sugar
1 level teaspoon of cinnamon
½ teaspoon of black pepper
2 teaspoons of rose water

Chop the butter into small pieces. Put flour, sugar, butter and salt in a bowl and knead into a crumbly dough. Beat the egg yolk with the water and add it. Knead until you have a smooth dough. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin on a floured board. Grease a baking tin with oil and line it with the dough. Prick a few holes in the bottom. Put it in the fridge while you make the filling.

Clean and grate the ginger. Grate the Parmesan cheese. Deseed the cherries if necessary. Put the ricotta in a bowl and stir it well until smooth. Add the eggs and stir well. Add sugar, cinnamon, ginger, pepper and rose water and stir well. Finally add the cherries. Put the filling in your baking tin and bake the pie in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Let the pie cool completely before serving.