Pumpes (Pork meatballs in almond sauce)

Pumpes. Take an sethe a gode gobet of Porke, & not to lene, as tendyr as thou may; than take hem vppe & choppe hem as smal as thou may; than take clowes & Maces, & choppe forth with-alle, & Also choppe forth with Roysonys of coraunce; than take hem & rolle hem as round as thou may, lyke to smale pelettys, a inches a-bowte, than ley hem on a dysshe be hem selue; than make a gode almaunde mylke, & a lye it with floure of Rys, & lat it boyle wyl, but loke that it be clene rennyng; & at the dressoure, ley v pompys in a dysshe, & pore thin potage ther-on. An if thou wolt, sette on euery pompe a flos campy flour, & a-boue straw on Sugre y-now, & Maces: & serue hem forth. And sum men make the pellettys of vele or Beeff, but porke ys beste & fayrest. MS.Harl.279.31

Take and boil a good piece of pork, not too lean, as tender you like; then take it up and chop as small as you can; then take cloves and mace, and chop and mix with the pork; and also add currants; then take them ant roll them as round as you like, like small pellets, about an inch, then lay them on a dish by themselves; then make a good almond milk, and add rice flour, and let it boil a while, but look that it be clean running; and at the dresser, lay the meatballs on a dish, and pour the pottage (sauce) thereon. And if you would, set on every meatball a field flower, and strew about sugar and mace, and serve them forth. And some men make the pellets of veal or beef, but pork is best and fairest.

This is an odd recipe. The only cooking instruction for the pork, that is boiling, occurs before it is minced and made into meatballs. The problem with this is, once you boil the pork, you start to render out the fat; and as this recipe has no other binding agent, the meatballs are very fragile and fall apart very easily, especially if you cook them again. Cindy Renfrow (2003, 153) considers the cooking is written incorrectly and the pork should be boiled after it is minced and made into meatballs. Maggie Black (2003, 106) par-cooks the pork before mincing it and making the meatballs, then frying them; but this is not suggested by the recipe.

I was sure I had made this dish before, with no problems, and where the meat was minced and then cooked. And when I went back and looked through my notes on old feasts, I realised I had cooked this dish before… but I’d used a different recipe. Note, this recipe is also in MS.Harl.279, and I would love to be able to see the original manuscript, to see if there is any clear indication as to whether the recipe below was written later than the one above, or was written by another person.

Pompys. Take Beef, Porke, or Vele, on of hem, & raw, alle to-choppe it atte the dressoure, than grynd hem in a morter as smal as thou may, than caste ther-to Raw olkys of Eyroun, wyn, an a lytil whyte sugre: caste also ther-to pouder Pepyr, & Macys, Clowes, Quybibys, pouder Canelle, Synamoun, & Salt, & a lytil Safroun; & also choppe forth with Roysonys of coraunce; then take & make smale Pelettys round y-now, & loke that thou haue a fayre potte of Freysshe brothe of bef or of Capoun, & euer throw hem ther-on & lete hem sethe tyl that they ben y-now; then take & draw vppe a thryfty Mylke of Almaundys, with cold freysshe brothe of Bef, Vele, Moton, other Capoun, & a-lye it with floure of Rys & with Spycerye; & atte the dressoure ley thes pelettys .v. or .vj. in a dysshe, & then pore thin sewe aneward, & serue in, or ellys make a gode thryfty Syryppe & ley thin pelettys atte the dressoure ther-on, & that is gode seruyse.MS.Harl.279.153

Take beef, pork or veal, one of them, raw, and chop it then grin them in a mortar as small as you may, then cast thereto egg yolks, wine, and a little white sugar; cast also thereto pepper, and mace, cloves, cubebs, cinnamon and salt and a little saffron; and also add chopped currants; then make small pellets round enough, and look that you have a fair pot of fresh beef or chicken broth, and throw them thereon and let them simmer til they be cooked enough, then take and draw up almond milk, with cold fresh broth of beef, veal, mutton or chicken, and mix it with flour or rice and with spicery, and at the dresser lay these pellets 5 or 6 in a dish, pour the sauce onward, and serve in, or else make a good syrup and lay these pellets at the dresser thereon, and that is good service.


1 kg pork mince 1 tsp salt
2 egg yolks ½ tsp pepper
1 L beef stock ¼ tsp cloves
½ cup wine ¼ tsp cubebs
1 cup currants ¼ tsp mace
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups almond milk ¼ tsp cloves
3 tbs rice flour ¼ tsp mace


  1. Mix pork mince, wine, egg yolks, currants and spices.
  2. Form into small balls, about an inch in diameter.
  3. Place in boiling broth and cook until done – they will rise to the surface of the boiling broth (about 10 – 15 minutes).
  4. Remove from broth and place in serving dish.
  5. In a separate pan mix almond milk, rice flour, cloves and mace. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer over medium heat until thick.
  6. Pour just enough sauce over the meatballs to thoroughly coat them and serve.



  • Cubeb is a type of pepper. They look like a normal black peppercorn, but they have a little tail. They have a strong menthol taste, and it is important not to overuse them or they will overpower the dish.
  • As noted in the recipe, this works equally well with beef.


Further Reading

Black, Maggie. The Medieval Cookbook. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013.
Renfrow, Cindy. Take a Thousand Eggs or More Volume One. Unionville: Royal Fireworks Press, 2003.

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