Honey Crispels

If you thought deep-fried sweets like funnel cakes, elephant ears/beaver tails and doughnuts were modern inventions for the county fair, think again. Fried pastries have been around since ancient Egypt and China. The Romans ate something called scriblita, a fried pastry dough. Fried doughs were common throughout Asia, the Middle East and Europe in various forms during the Middle Ages. The Youtiao (a Chinese cruller) originated in China during the 10th century Song dynasty. A recipe for Awameh is found in a Middle Eastern recipe book from 1226. Fritter recipes are plentiful in medieval European manuscripts and were extremely popular street treats just before Lent.

European colonization spread some familiar forms of fried pastries even further across the globe. Beignets were introduced to Canada by French settlers in the 1600’s and gradually made their way down to Louisiana to ultimately become a staple of Cajun cuisine. A century later, the Pennsylvania Dutch (German) immigrants brought funnel cakes to the United States. Fried fair foods became especially popular in the U.S. during the 19th century. It was then that the term “doughnuts” became common for a certain type of fried dough, likely coined by Washington Irving in reference to Dutch oliebollen (fried pastry balls).  Meanwhile, the Navajo Indians developed their own tasty version of fried bread, Puff Puffs became a traditional treat in Nigeria and the popularity of Sopapillas began to spread throughout South America. Needless to say, there is a wide variety of fried dough pastries worldwide, many with histories going back hundreds or even thousands of years.


The Recipe

One type of ancient fried dough is the crispel. This was a popular treat in medieval Europe during the 14th century. It was basically pastry fried in olive oil and glazed with warm honey.

This recipe was composed by King Richard II’s master cooks around 1390 and compiled in what is now called the British Library ms 5016. A duplicate manuscript called the Rylands English ms 7 was created in 1420 (see image below). This collection of recipes is better known as the “Forme of Cury,” which was published by Samuel Pegge in 1780.

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Forme of Cury, 1420 English MS 7 f.76r

Cryspels. Take and make a foile of gode past as thynne as paper; kerue it out wyt a saucer & frye it in oile; oþer in grece; and þe remnaunt, take hony clarified and flamme (flaunne) þerwith. Alye hem vp and serue hem forth. 

Crispels. Take and make a sheet of good pastry as thin as paper; carve it out with a saucer & fry it in oil; or in grease; and the remnant, take clarified honey and baste there-with. Allay them up and serve them forth.

Pastry Dough

1 3/4 c. flour
½ c. butter
1 egg
2 tbsp cold water
Pinch of salt

You will also need

Honey
Olive oil or lard


Step ONE: The Dough

Take and make a sheet of good pastry as thin as paper…

After attempting this recipe with a variety of dough types, I discovered that the absolute best result (and most authentic) comes from basic homemade shortcrust pastry dough.   While it would be nice to use pre-packaged frozen pastry dough sold in grocery stores, it just doesn’t work. Any preferred dough could possibly give you good results, but be sure to avoid puff or extra-flakey pastry. I will explain why in Step Three.

Cut butter into cubes and rub it into flour until the dough is crumbly. Add the salt, egg and cold water to bind into a dough. Add more water if necessary.  

Optional: steep a couple strands of saffron in the cold water prior to adding to the dough. This was common practice in royal kitchens. 

Step TWO: Roll and Fry

Carve it out with a saucer & fry it in oil

Roll the dough out very thin and use a mug to cut into small circles. Fry (not sear) in olive oil or lard. Be sure to fill your pan with enough oil to cover the dough. When one side is golden and crispy (this takes about 30 seconds), flip over to fry the other side. Let your crispel cool on a paper towel.

Note: While you can certainly deep fry in olive oil with no problems, the less refined Extra Virgin oil does have a lower smoke point than other cooking oils. If you are worried about EVOO’s low smoke point, use light or pure olive oil instead.

Step THREE: Baste

Take clarified honey and baste there-with. Do them up and serve them forth.

Meanwhile, bring your honey to a boil and stir often. This is especially important if your honey is raw, hard or crystallized. This process is meant to clarify your honey or simply liquify it a bit, making it easier to baste.

Baste your crispels with the honey using a basting brush. If you prefer, dip your entire crispel in the honey but be aware that basting really is the best way to go. King Richard’s cooks direct us to “baste” for a reason. Serve them warm.

If your dough is too flakey this step will be very frustrating. The result might be a crispel with a gaping hole in the top or a pastry that dissolves in your mouth like cotton candy, but not in a good way. I recommend following the directions above and start with a homemade dough. Do not be afraid to make your own dough! It really isn’t difficult.

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The great thing about working with pastry is that you can roll the whole thing out and cut it all into circles immediately after you make it. Fry what you need and freeze the rest for later. Just wrap the circles in plastic wrap, stack them in a ziplock and put them in the freezer. When you’re ready to wow your friends and family with a quick medieval treat, fry them up frozen or thawed (your choice) and drizzle some honey or even agave over the top. Easy!

If you are interested in trying a similar period recipe, check out cryppys (crisps). This is more of a fritter since it uses a batter instead of a pastry dough.

Additional medieval pastry dough recipes:
“Game of Thrones” shortcrust recipe
Medieval pie crust using lard and hot water
Further reading on medieval era pie crusts


Sources

 

Italian Blackberry Sauce, c. 1464

There is no shortage of 15th century Italian recipes thanks to Maestro Martino de Rossi, a well known and influential “celebrity” chef who worked in some of the greatest kitchens of late Medieval/Renaissance Italy. In 1464/65 he wrote Libro de Arte Coquinaria (The Art of Cooking), which is widely considered to be the first modern cookbook and possibly the best historical record of Italian cuisine.

There are a lot of sauce recipes in Libro de Arte Coquinaria but I was especially intrigued by what is commonly known as “Heavenly Blue Summer Sauce” or “Summertime Cerulean Blue Sauce” thanks to an English translation found in the book The Medieval Kitchen (1998) by Edward Schneider.

This particular recipe is made with blackberries, which are harvested during the summer.  According to Medieval folklore blackberries are never to be eaten after Michaelmas (a very old Catholic holiday) on September 29th. They are poison! Story goes, the Archangel Michael and Lucifer had a big fight in Heaven. Lucifer lost and plunged to Hell, landing in a blackberry bush. He cursed the berries, but not before spitting and possibly urinating on the bush.


The Recipe

Sapor celeste de estate. Piglia de li moroni salvatiche che nascono in le fratte, et un poche de amondole ben piste, con un pocho de zenzevero. Et queste cose distemperarai con agresto et passarale per la stamegnia.

The following translation is a blend of two separate translations by Jeremy Parzen and Edward Schneider:

Heavenly Summertime Sauce. Take blackberries that grow in the thickets/shrubs, and a small amount of almonds, well grounded, with a little ginger. Thin these things with verjuice and pass through a stamine/sieve

**Note on the translation

Every modernized redaction of this recipe I found calls it “Heavenly Blue Summer Sauce.” The blackberry sauce did not turn out blue for me or for anyone else, it seems, who has tried making it. This prompted a good look at the original Italian-Latin text, which I noticed doesn’t contain a word for blue (blu or caeruleus). I am an amateur at best when it comes to Latin, but Sapor celeste de estate could be loosely translated to mean “Heavenly taste of Summer.” My initial theory that this recipe may have been mistranslated was backed up by a 2005 English Edition of The Art of Cooking by Luigi Ballerini and Jeremy Parzen.  I decided to go with Parzen’s recipe title: “Heavenly Summertime Sauce.”


Heavenly Summertime Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 package (1.5-2 cups) blackberries
  • 2 tbsp. blanched almonds, finely ground
  • 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1-2 tbsp. verjuice (apple cider vinegar is an appropriate substitute)
  • 1 tsp. sugar, additional sugar to taste

Step ONE

Take blackberries that grow in the thickets/shrubs, and a small amount of almonds, well grounded, with a little ginger.

Crush blackberries in a mortar or puree in a food processor or blender. If you’re happy with a thick puree, stir in your almonds and ginger. Otherwise, strain the blackberries to remove seeds and simply use the juice before adding the other ingredients.

Step TWO

Thin these things with verjuice and pass through a stamine/sieve

Add the verjuice or cider vinegar to your mixture. 15th-century purees were made by forcing the mixture through a sieve, but you’ll save some time and energy using a blender or food processor. If desired, run your sauce through a strainer but be aware that it will take some work to push it all through. I divided my mixture into two parts to try both methods. I started with the strainer but ended up transferring most of it to the blender. The point is to turn your puree into a sauce, so at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter which method you use. The sauce will be thick.

Step THREE

Adjust flavors and serve over meat.

The resulting sauce will be slightly sour and slightly sweet. I thought the sauce was a bit dull and it needed to favor either sour or sweet. So I added a touch more sugar, but only a pinch at a time until I was satisfied with the balance of flavors.

Sauces like this one would have been paired with a white meat like veal or chicken. Birds were a favorite meat source during the summer months so your most authentic dish served with blackberry sauce would likely be poached chicken.


I enjoyed this sauce. It was unique and certainly different from modern sauces but it went well with some shredded chicken and, surprisingly, with pork. It also tasted pretty good on a homemade roll. Of all the family members who tried it, the biggest fan was my 12 year-old nephew!

Working with blackberries can be very messy but this sauce is easy to make. I encourage even the beginner cooks out there to give it a try and let me know what you think!


Sources

Featured Image photo by Photofarmer.

Apple Muse: an Ancient Applesauce

Apple Muse was an extremely popular medieval dessert, likely enjoyed in some form at every level of society due to the availability of the three core ingredients.

There are many versions of this recipe found in a variety of manuscripts but often under different names: Appylmoes, apulmos, appillinose, etc. All versions I’ve found call for apples, almond milk and honey and are to be thickened with bread crumbs or egg yolks. Some versions add spices for sweetness and flavor, others simply for color. Depending on the recipe and personal taste, Apple Muse (or perhaps “Mousse”) could be thin like applesauce or thick and mushy like a bread pudding. There is a lot of room here for interpretation.

As always I like to provide some basic history about certain ingredients, especially when presenting a dish so common to the the Medieval world.


Apples

Apples were probably the most accessible fruit in medieval Europe. Every culinary manuscript contains a large percentage of apple-based recipes. Desserts, mostly.

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I am the type of person who will get derailed by a tiny detail such as which kind of modern apple might be considered most authentic to the Middle Ages. After much research and deliberation I’ve found that there aren’t any. No modern varieties of apples existed back then. A few period varieties can be found but are grown in specialty antiquity/heirloom or research orchards in Europe. Like today, there were many types of apples, some better for eating raw and others used only for baking. Generally speaking, medieval apples were smaller than ours and not quite as sweet.

Some of the most popular varieties in the 13th through 15th centuries were the Copstard, Queene, Pippin (an ancient variety, not just any Pippin) and Old Pearmain. There are thousands of varieties of modern apples but only a handful are available to me locally. Among those that are most common in U.S. grocery stores the varieties I believe are best to use are the Golden Delicious, McIntosh and Granny Smith (a descendent of an ancient French crab-apple). Many popular apples like Pink Lady, Jonagold and Gala are actually descendants of the Golden Delicious. At the end of the day, any apple you want to use will probably do.

If you’re interested in reading up on apple varieties, Orange Pippin is a fantastic place to start!

Honey

Until sugar became more accessible and affordable, honey was the sweetener everyone relied on. It was highly valued in medieval society, not only for its flavor but also for its medicinal properties. Honey has been an important worldwide agricultural product pretty much since the beginning of time.

Further reading on the history of honey:
Medieval Beekeeping
The Honey Association

Almond Milk

Almond milk is one of the most common ingredients in medieval cooking and is a must for any period culinary enthusiast. Due to the large number of days when animal products like cow’s milk and meat broth were off-limits, almond milk was often the go-to substitute.

You can read up on the history of almond milk and even learn how to make it at home by reading my previous posts:
Almond Milk the Medieval Way
Almond Milk the Medieval Way: Pt. 2


The Recipe

This recipe is from Harleian ms 279, a manuscript written in approximately 1430. It was transcribed by Thomas Austin and combined with another Harleian manuscript and 3 extracts. Austin’s collection was published in 1848 under the title Two Fifteenth-Century Cookbooks.

Apple Muse. Take Appelys an sethe hem, an Serge hem þorwe a Sefe in-to a potte; þanne take Almaunde Mylke & Hony, an caste þer-to, an gratid Brede, Safroun, Saunderys, & Salt a lytil, & caste all in þe potte & lete hem sethe; & loke þat þou stere it wyl, & serue it forth.

My translation:

Apple Muse (Mousse)- Take apples and boil them, and force them through a sieve into a pot; then take Almond milk and honey, and add, and grated bread, saffron, sandalwood, & a little salt, & put all in the pot & let them boil; & see that you stir it well, & serve it forth.

Ingredients

The measurements below are a result of more than one attempt at this recipe to find a pleasant texture somewhere between runny and congealed.

  • 2 apples
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (2 slices of toast)
  • Pinch of saffron
  • Pinch of salt
  • Red sandalwood powder for color (optional)

Step ONE

“Take apples and boil them, and force them through a sieve into a pot;”

Core and peel your apples and boil them in water until they are nice and soft, easy to mash. Depending on how many apples you use this could take about 10 minutes. Drain the water.

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Without the use of modern blenders, purees were made by mashing and pushing the food through a sieve, a type of strainer. While you’re welcome to sieve your boiled apples by hand, it will save a lot of time and energy if you use a blender or food processor. You could even mash with a mortar and pestle. It doesn’t matter much which tool you use as long as your puree is relatively smooth. No need to be a hero.

Step TWO

“…take Almond milk and honey, and cast thereto, and grated bread, saffron, sandalwood, & a little salt, & cast all in the pot & let them boil; & see that you stir it well”

Add the remaining ingredients and simmer long enough to heat it through and thicken. This takes around 5-7 minutes.

A few notes:

  • Adjust the honey according to taste. Three tablespoons is perfect, in my opinion, if using a sweeter variety of apple.
  • Commercial bread crumbs aDSC_0017nd Panko should be avoided at all costs when making this recipe. These products aren’t generally advised for authenticity purposes anyway, but while they are acceptable in other recipes, the texture is what will make or break this dish. Experience taught me that using the ultra-fine breadcrumbs results in an apple muse that is extremely thick and unpleasant. Instead, toast a couple pieces of bread and dry them out before crushing (or sieving) into crumbs.
  • Saffron does add a bit to the flavor. However, as was typical in medieval cooking, it was intended to be used as a food colorant. You could throw a pinch right into the pot or steep it in the almond milk ahead of time. Saffron is pricey so if you want to omit this ingredient you certainly may, or you could even replace it with a little yellow food coloring.
  • Sandalwood powder can be difficult to find in its edible form. During the Middle Ages it was commonly added to food to color it red, not enhance the flavor. By all accounts the sandalwood is either unpleasant or not even noticeable so its use is entirely optional here. If you still desire that red color, use food coloring. But you’ll need enough to turn it red, not pink!

Step THREE

Serve it forth!

Apple Muse is great served right out of the warm pot, but I personally prefer eating it cold. There is no indication in the recipe of any spice toppings to dress the Apple Muse for serving. I suppose you could sprinkle some Ceylon cinnamon or nutmeg on top, but I left mine plain.

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Photos by Nathan Berry


This is a pretty simple and tasty dish, but it is a bit…odd. It is not quite an applesauce, not quite a pudding, not quite an oatmeal. The flavor is wonderful regardless of texture. The super-thick version I made was just awful, but that might just be my texture preference. I don’t believe Apple Muse was intended to be runny, but you could easily adjust the measurements to suit your personal taste. Have fun with it and don’t be afraid to experiment!

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Sources

Almond Milk the Medieval Way: Pt. 2

This is part two of a three-part series of medieval almond milk recipes. Part One includes some background information about the important role that almond milk played in medieval cooking. If you haven’t done so already, I highly suggest reading  Almond Milk the Medieval Way.

 

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Today’s almond milk recipe comes from a medieval cookbook called Du Fait de Cuisine (On Cookery), written in 1420 by Maistre Chiquart.

Here is a digital version of the original manuscript: Du Fait de Cuisine, Médiathèque du Valais

Lucky for us there are English translations! I relied on this translation by Elizabeth Cook.


The Recipe

“And again, flans of almond milk: according to the quantity of flans which you are making take the quantity of almonds, have them well and cleanly blanched and washed and then have them very well brayed; and take very clean fair water and let him strain his almond milk into a bowl or a cornue which is fair and clean according to the quantity of flans which he should make….” – Du Fait de Cuisine (E. Cook translation).

Don’t be fooled by Maistre Chiquart’s wording here. This method of making almond milk is almost exactly the same as the one found in Le Viandier de Taillevent (1300). This is actually an excerpt from a flan recipe that calls for almond milk, not a stand-alone recipe.

You will need:

  • Almonds (blanched)
  • Water
  • Strainer or sieve 

Step ONE: Prep the Almonds

“And again, flans of almond milk: according to the quantity of flans which you are making take the quantity of almonds, have them well and cleanly blanched and washed and then have them very well brayed;”

This time around I used blanched almonds as suggested. If you have never blanched almonds before and would like to learn how, click here.  Because Maistre Chiquart told me to use measurements calculated according to the “quantity of flans” I am making (I am making 0 flans), I just used the same ratios as last time. 1 cup of almonds to 2 cups of water.

I ground/crushed (“brayed“) them up into a floury paste. You can do this by hand with a mortar and pestle like a true medieval food enthusiast or save time by using a blender or a spice grinder.

 

Step TWO: Boil and Steep

“…and take very clean fair water…”

The directions regarding the steeping process are vague. It is likely that Chiquart would have assumed that any cooks reading his book would have had a basic understanding of almond milking. So I drew on my experience with my recreation from Le Viandier de Taillevent and the redaction by Medieval Cookery to determine exactly how I should complete this step.

I boiled two cups of water and poured it over the almond paste. I then let the almond water steep for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. It is worth noting here the use of the word fair in medieval recipes, which could mean clean, fresh or even the quantity. If referring to quantity, “fair” would be a moderate amount. In this context, “fair” probably means “fresh.”

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Step THREE: Strain

“…and let him strain his almond milk into a bowl or a cornue which is fair and clean according to the quantity of flans which he should make….”

Once my almond milk was good and steeped, I poured it through a fine strainer into a bowl. Medieval kitchens did have sieves and strainers, so we know they didn’t just use cheesecloth to strain out the almond pulp. And if you were curious, I did some research and discovered that a cornue is a small bowl with handles.

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If you are the resourceful type, you can keep the almond pulp and use it in other recipes, like marzipan or almond flour. The options are endless, really.

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Don’t throw away your almond pulp!


This almond milk was very similar to the last one, but I definitely prefer the flavor of blanched almonds over the natural. I also much prefer using a strainer instead of cheesecloth, though the cheesecloth is probably more effective. I suspect that letting the ground almond steep a few extra minutes helped infuse the flavors a bit more.

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Overall, the milk is thin (closer to water than cow’s milk in consistency) and has a stronger almond flavor than the commercial products. The texture is still a touch chalky, but I really didn’t mind it at all. If you want to sweeten it up feel free to add some sugar, vanilla or agave, whatever your preferences are.

Stay tuned for Part Three, which will be a recreation of a sweetened almond milk recipe from the 15th century.

 

 

 

Hallowe’en Salad, a Retro Gelatin Treat

To celebrate Halloween, I thought I’d do something a bit more modern. This recipe is most likely from the 1930’s or 1940’s, though the image source (chronicallyvintage.com) suggests the possibility of it being even later. There are a few clues that indicate 1940’s or earlier: the font, ingredients, and the spelling of the word Hallowe’en.

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Fun fact: Spelling Halloween with the apostrophe is actually grammatically correct and was how children learned how to spell it in school. It is a shortened version of Hallows Eve. Over time, a grammatical error actually became the norm and now it is rare (and a little strange) to see it spelled with an apostrophe.

Before we get started with this molded monstrosity, let’s briefly talk history.

Gelatin and the Rise of Convenience Foods

Gelatin and jellied foods have existed for centuries, long before Jell-O patented its instant formula in 1897. Because of its convenience and the added bonus of offering pre-sweetened flavors, Jell-O was a major hit and it quickly (and radically) changed American cuisine.

By the 1930’s and 1940’s, many women were actually working outside the home and their numbers were increasing. They needed to feed their families but no longer had hours to spend at the stove preparing meals. With the new availability of large, electric home refrigerators, leftovers could be stretched to last even longer than before. And due to the Depression and rationing during the war, sugar could be difficult to come by for the average housewife.

To get around the rationing, save time and money and use leftovers in creative ways, women created “molded salads” that could contain anything from fruits and vegetables to shredded cheese and tuna fish. Women were still expected to entertain, and they discovered that foods set in sweet flavored gelatin could be molded and presented in beautiful ways. Plus it gave their husbands and guests the impression that they were spending much more time on meal preparation than they actually were. This justified the use of convenience/instant foods, which were still frowned upon by people who weren’t “lazy.”

To learn more about gelatin and the history of molded salads, check out the following links:

The Social History of Jell-O Salad: The Rise and Fall of an American Icon
The Molding of America


The Recipe

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These are all the ingredients you’ll need to make Hallowe’en Salad. Just add water and salt!

Step ONE

“Soak gelatin in cold water for 5 minutes. Add heated orange juice. Stir to dissolve”

Start by soaking your unflavored gelatin in a pot with a 1/2 cup of cold water. Next, heat the orange juice.

It is very important to follow this recipe exactly! The first time I heated the orange juice I accidentally let it boil and my jello did not set. So heat it up to the point where it begins to bubble but not boil. Then add it to the gelatin and stir until the granules have dissolved.

Step TWO

“Add unheated orange juice, lemon juice, sugar and salt. When beginning to stiffen, add orange pieces, carrot and walnut.”

Once everything had dissolved, I added the juices, sugar and salt. I stirred until I couldn’t scrape sugar off the bottom of the pot.

I stirred and stirred before adding the remaining ingredients, but both times I made this recipe the liquid didn’t “stiffen” the way I thought it was supposed to. On my second try it was a little thicker and only slightly less runny than the juice, but it wasn’t stiff. Regardless, I added the oranges (I used drained mandarin oranges), shredded carrots and chopped walnuts and stirred it until everything seemed to be evenly distributed.

Step THREE

“Chill in individual molds until firm.”

I then poured the mixture into a bendable silicone cupcake/muffin pan and put it in the fridge to set. It probably took 2-3 hours for it to set completely, but by the time I served them they had been chilling for around 5 hours.

If you don’t have individual molds, I’m sure a gelatin mold ring or other shape would do just as well.

Step FOUR

“Unmold on lettuce. Press seedless raisins into tops of molds to make faces.”

I made little beds of lettuce on the plates and plopped my little gelatin muffins on top of them. The mini salads kept their shape really well, but I suspect an actual gelatin-specific mold would have had prettier results.

I attempted to make a face with raisins, but I just did not have enough space to create anything that didn’t look terrible…and a little gross.

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Hallowe’en Salad is not my favorite thing. Flavor-wise it was actually surprisingly good! My only major issue with it was the texture, which is a common complaint amongst people who experiment with vintage molded salad recipes.

This mid-century recipe is incredibly easy to make and is about as authentic as it gets. The only things Hallowe’en-y about it are the orange color and the raisin faces, so there is no reason you can’t give it a try any time of the year!

Salat, an Aromatic Medieval Salad

It may or may not surprise you to learn that people in the Middle Ages ate salad. And they ate it often.

Unlike today, salads weren’t for calorie-conscious women on diets. Salads were very common meal starters and were loaded full of herbs and aromatic vegetables found in every household garden.

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Alsace Gardens, Jardin medieval. Photo by daniel70mi

Salads were not only genuinely enjoyed by people of all social classes, but were also considered important dishes that served a very functional medicinal purpose. A typical salad included leafy greens, a variety of herbs, loads of allium vegetables (leeks, onions, garlic, etc.), an occasional fruit like wild strawberries, and edible flowers.

Today’s recipe comes from a manuscript called The Forme of Cury, which is a collection of recipes written by King Richard II’s Master chef in 1390. Most of the ingredients will be familiar to you, but others will probably only be accessible if you grow them yourself.


The Recipe

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The Forme of Curye. Recipe begins at the bottom left.

Salat

Take parsel, sawge, garlec, chybollus, oynons, lek, borage, myntes, porrettes, fenels and towne cressis, rewe, rosmarye, purslary, lauen and waische hem clene pyke hem  pluk hem small with thyne hond and mynge hem wel with rawe oyle. lay on vyneger and salt and surve hem forth.

Translation:

Take parsley, sage, garlic, chives, onions, leek, borage, mint, scallions, fennel, garden cress, rue, rosemary, purslane, rinse and wash them clean, pick them pluck them small with thine hand and mix them well with raw oil. Lay on vinegar and salt and serve them forth.

As is usually the case with 14th century recipes, there are no measurements. Because these ingredients will be eaten raw we can safely assume that “garlic” means garlic greens and “fennel” is referring to the bulb and not the seeds. It is also worth mentioning that there is another version of this same recipe in the manuscript that also calls for spinoches, violettes, and prymos (spinach, violets and primrose). My replication of this recipe will be a combination of the two.

Ingredients

  • Arugula or Spring Mix
  • Parsley
  • 1 small onion or 2-3 shallots
  • 1 scallion/green onion
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 leek
  • Garden cress or watercress
  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Chives
  • Mint
  • Edible flowers
  • Vinegar or verjuice
  • Olive oil
  • Salt to taste

*Additional ingredients for the avid gardener/advanced forager:

  • Borage
  • Rue
  • Garlic scapes
  • Purslane

*These ingredients are difficult, perhaps even impossible, to find in U.S. grocery stores. Out of necessity I substituted arugula for purslane (a similar leafy green) and chose shallots over onions to make up for the missing garlic scapes. Borage and rue were left out, which most likely had little to no effect on the flavor.

Step ONE: Rinse and Prep

“Take parsley, sage, garlic, chives, onions, leek, borage, mint, scallions, fennel, garden cress, rue, rosemary, purslane, rinse and wash them clean…”

I started by rinsing all of the ingredients and patting them dry. If you’re like me and you have never worked with leek or fennel before now, check out the following links: 

How to Clean and Slice Leeks
How to Cut Fennel

I thinly sliced all of the alliums- leek, shallots, scallions and fennel- and set them aside.

 

“Pick them pluck them small with thine hand…”

I then chopped up a few sprigs of the rosemary and chives and a generous bunch of parsley. As for the sage and mint, I just plucked a handful of leaves and removed the stems. I strongly suggest chopping these up as well. Only use fresh herbs.

  • If you have managed to find borage (also sometimes called Bugloss or Starflower) or you grow it in your garden, you can use the leaves or the flowers. Borage was used medicinally as an anti-inflammatory, among other things. Its seeds are still used to make borage oil, which is found in health food stores.
  • Rue is probably better left out even if you do know where to find it. It was used medicinally for stomach problems, flatulence and coughs. Rue is actually a very effective bug repellant and has also been known to induce labor so it is probably best to avoid ingesting it entirely.

For the greens I used a package of arugula and a bag of “Cress,” which is a combination of garden cress and watercress or other closely related plant. “Towne Cressis” in the recipe is likely referring specifically to garden cress, but watercress is so similar that it won’t make much of a difference flavor-wise. Spinach would also be an acceptable addition.

 

Step TWO: Mix

I started by mixing the arugula, watercress and parsley in a big bowl. Once thoroughly combined, I added the vegetables and herbs. Mix them well to distribute the flavors evenly.

Finally, I topped the salad with some beautiful little edible flowers.

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Flowers were a very common salad ingredient in the Middle Ages. The flowers suggested by the Master chefs for this particular salad are primrose and violets. Many grocery stores do sell packs of edible flowers alongside packs of fresh herbs. The box I found was a blend of nasturtium, pansies, marigolds and hibiscus. Nasturtiums and marigolds were actually very popular salad flowers.

 

Step THREE: The Dressing

“Mix them well with raw oil. Lay on vinegar and salt and serve them forth.”

Once everything seemed pretty evenly distributed, I drizzled some olive oil over the top and tossed it all together. “Raw oil” refers to an oil that hasn’t yet been used for cooking. It was common practice to save and re-use cooking oil, especially for those without extra money to burn.

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For the dressing I poured some verjuice into the bowl, being very mindful of just how much I was using. It took tossing and tasting the salad to get the right amount of acidity without making the flavor too strong. Wine vinegar is also acceptable here; verjuice and vinegar were used pretty interchangeably back in the 14th century.

Finally, season with salt to bring out all those flavors!


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This salad was surprisingly refreshing and would have paired perfectly with Egredouncye! The pot-herbs and vegetables really blended well with the peppery flavor of the greens. The fennel, in my opinion, was the highlight of the dish. I will definitely be eating more raw fennel! My biggest regret was not chopping everything into smaller pieces, particularly the sage and mint. It is a necessary step to ensure all those strong herbs are distributed evenly.

If you want to make your own simplified, medieval-inspired salad at home, don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients written above! All you really need at the end of the day is a peppery green, some vegetables from the allium family, some chopped fresh herbs, an optional fruit (apple or strawberry) and/or edible flowers. Never use Iceburg lettuce, sweet peppers, potatoes or tomatoes- they did not exist in Europe until after the 16th century. Top it with salt, oil and vinegar and…voila!

Enjoy!


Photography by Nathan Berry

Egredouncye, a Medieval Sweet and Sour Dish

Sometime around the year 1420, a Master chef (or chefs- nobody seems to know exactly who) compiled a bunch of recipes in a manuscript now known as the Harleian MS 279. This manuscript, combined with a few others, was later published as Two Fifteenth Century Cookery Books by Thomas Austin in 1888.  Today’s recipe is from Volume One!

Egredouncye, or Egredouce (pronounced egg-ruh-duce), is a medieval sweet and sour sauce inspired by a French dish called aigredoux. This particular recipe is made with meat, almost like a stew. Before we get started let’s take a minute and talk about some of the recipe’s key ingredients.

  • Cinnamon: Called “pouder of canel” in recipes from this era, cinnamon had been imported from Ceylon and Sri Lanka for quite some time by 1420. It was widely available for purchase at the market but was probably still a bit pricey for the lower classes. After the Portuguese began importing cinnamon and other spices in the
    16th century, the price went down and it became more affordable and widespread.
  • Saffron: By the Tudor period saffron was being produced locally in
    England, specifically in Cornwall and Essex. Regardless, it was still a very expensive spice just as it is today.DSC_0059
  • Rosemary, Oregano, Sage: Herbs were used in cooking not only for enhancing flavor but also for their medicinal properties. These herbs would have been quite common in any medieval home and were likely grown in the garden.
  • Verjuice/Verjus: Also called Eysel wine, verjuice was commonplace in medieval cooking. Vinegar was also regularly used to add acidity to most dishes, and the two were often used interchangeably. Verjuice is a sour/tart, unripened and unfermented grape or crabapple juice that heightens the flavor of the dish. It provides a slight fruitiness and is milder than vinegar and lemon juice.
  • Pork: Everyone ate pork in 15th century England! Pigs were inexpensive animals to own and to feed, so even the poorest folks had them. For those in the city who did not own and/or slaughter their own pigs, pork was still one of the most inexpensive meats to buy at the market.

 


The Recipe

Egredouncye

Take Porke or Beef, whezer ze lykey, and leche it zinne zwerte; zen broyle it broun a litel, and zen mynce it lyke Venyson; choppe it in sewe, en caste it in a potte and do zer-to Freyssh brothe; take Erbis, Oynonys, Percely and Sawge, and ozer gode erbis, zen lye it vppe with Brede; take Pepir and Safroun, pouder Canel, Vynegre, or Eysel Wyne, Broze an Salt, and let yet boyle to-gederys, tylle zey ben y-now, and zan serue it forth renny[n]g.

Isn’t this fun? Here is my translation:

Take pork or beef, whichever you like, and cut it thin against the grain, then broil it brown a little, and then mince it like venison; dice it, and put it in a pot of fresh broth; take herbs, onions, parsley and sage, and other good herbs, then layer it up with bread; take pepper and saffron, cinnamon, vinegar, or Eysel Wyne, broth and salt and let it boil together, till they are done, and then serve it with the broth.

You’ll notice that there are no measurements or cook times at all. This was for a few reasons, the most notable being that cook books weren’t readily available to anyone who wasn’t already a trained chef or in an apprenticeship under a Master. Anyone with access to the written version of this recipe would already have a pretty good handle on how much of each ingredient to use.

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Measurements:

Since I am far from a trained chef I based my measurements on those suggested in Cariadoc’s Miscellany by David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook (1988).

  • 1/2 lb. pork or beef
    I used pork. I figured it was more authentic, given the popularity of pork in the 15th century.
  • 1 1/2 c. broth (I used beef broth)
  • 1 small onion
  • Parsley
    Cariadoc suggested 1 oz.  I threw in a big handful of finely chopped parsley without measuring.
  • 5 leaves fresh sage
  • 1/4 c. bread crumbs
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • Saffron
    Cariadoc suggested 6 strands. I probably used closer to 8 or 9 because the strands were of varying lengths.
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp. oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. wine vinegar. (I used verjuice)

Step ONE: The Meat

“Take pork or beef, whichever you like, and cut it thin against the grain, then broil it brown a little, and then mince it like venison; dice it, put it in a pot of fresh broth;”

I sliced up a 1/2 lb. center-cut boneless pork loin into thin (but not too thin!) pieces. I placed all the pieces in one layer in a frying pan with a tbsp or so of olive oil. Once they were browned on one side I flipped them over. The pieces were cut thin enough that they didn’t take long at all to cook.

 

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I then diced the browned strips into squares and put them in a medium-sized pot containing broth (1 1/2 c.).

Step TWO: Boil and Thicken

“…take herbs, onions, parsley and sage, and other good herbs, then layer it up with bread;”

I then added my chopped onions, parsley (probably somewhere around 2 tbsp is my guess) and sage and brought it to a boil. Just as it started to boil I added the bread crumbs.

*Note: Bread crumbs were commonly used as a thickening agent in medieval cooking. You could certainly use flour instead but bread crumbs are more authentic.

Step THREE: Simmer

“take pepper and saffron, cinnamon, vinegar, or Eysel Wyne, broth and salt and let it boil together till they are done”

At this point I added all of the spices and the additional herbs and let them boil together for a minute or so.

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The recipe mentions “other good herbs,” which would have been up to the discretion and taste of the cook. Rosemary and oregano were very common household herbs so it makes the most sense to use those. I would imagine thyme would also have been a common “good herb” that tasted great with the pork.

*Note: Cinnamon powder as we know it (Cassia Cinnamon) is not the same cinnamon that would have been used in the Middle Ages. I highly suggest using Ceylon Cinnamon in this recipe if you can find it.

Once the flavors had been infused a bit I added the verjuice (Eysel wine) and let it simmer for 5 minutes or so. If you can’t find verjuice/verjus you can use wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar. I really like the verjuice because it adds the sour acidity without the vinegary flavor. Plus it is strangely satisfying to use a product almost nobody uses today that was a common kitchen ingredient when this recipe was written.

Step FOUR: Serve!

“…and then serve it with the broth.”

When the egredouncye has had a chance to simmer for a bit (5 minutes seemed to be adequate), I poured it in two bowls to serve because I didn’t know what else to do with it. There is no information about how it would have been served or what other foods would have been paired with it. The measurements I used would probably only serve 2 people. 

*Note: Cariadoc suggests adding more broth but I didn’t find it necessary. I suppose if you like your stew on the runnier side then I see no reason not to use more broth than I did. The original recipe doesn’t specify how thick it should be, but I was very happy with how it turned out. If you do follow my instructions and measurements I bet it would taste fantastic over some rice!

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This recipe is DELICIOUS! It smells heavenly and all of the sweet and sour flavors blend together perfectly. Everyone in my household (visitors included) genuinely enjoyed it and my husband thought it was good enough to make it a dinner staple. Not only does egredouncye taste great, it is SO easy to make. From start to finish, it only took about 30 minutes with prep.

If you think that medieval cooking is just for trained chefs or medieval food historians, think again. Give it a try and tell me how it goes!