Mortis (Chicken Pate)

To make a mortis.
Take almondes and blanche them, and beate them in  a morter, and boyle a Chickin, and take al the flesh of him, and beate it, and streine them together, with milke and water, and so put them into a pot, and put in Suger, and stirre them still, and when it hath boyled a good while, take it of, and set it a cooling in a payle of water, and straine it againe with Rose water into a dish.
Thomas Dawson, The Good Huswife’s Jewell, 1596.

To make a mortis.
Take almonds and blanche them, and beat them in  a mortar, and boil a chicken, and take all the flesh from  him, and beat it (in the mortar), and strain them together, with milk and water, and so put them into a pot, and put in sugar, and stir them well, and when it has boiled a good while, take it off, and set it to cool in a pail of water, and strain it again with Rose water into a dish.


“Mortrews” were extremely popular in medieval times. Some recipes are more of a soup, or like this one, a pate. It is one of those recipes where you look at it and go “Huh?? That looks awful!” However, it is extremely delicious – I once made over 10kg of it for an event and there was none left (yes, I used a food processor…)


1 chicken, OR 1.5kg chicken pieces 150g blanched almonds
300mL milk 30mL rosewater
100g sugar  


  1. If using a chicken, break it into joints.
  2. Put your chicken pieces into a pot and cover with water, and boil until the chicken flesh is completely opaque.
  3. Drain the chicken and when cooled slightly, pick the flesh from the bones. Reserve the cooking liquid.
  4. Meanwhile, grind the almonds to powder in a mortar and pestle. Add the milk and mix to form a smooth paste.
  5. Add the chicken to the almond paste and mash everything well together.
  6. If you like, you can cheat and grind the almonds, then mix the chicken and milk, in a food processor.
  7. Return the chicken and almond paste to the water the chicken was cooked in, and add the sugar. Simmer the mixture and stir continuously until the mixture has thickened.
  8. Strain the mortis to remove excess liquid, then add the rosewater and stir well again.
  9. Leave the mortis to cool, and serve cold.


  • It is definitely better to use blanched almonds and grind them, rather than almond meal. The almonds release oil as they are ground which improves the flavour and helps to bind the mix.
  • Similarly, it is better to use chicken on the bone rather than fillets. When the chicken is boiled, it releases gelatin which again improves the flavor and helps the mix set.
  • You can mould this into interesting shapes if you like.



Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Black, Maggie (1996). The Good Housewife’s Jewel
Brears, Peter (2011) All the King’s Cooks

4 comments on “Mortis (Chicken Pate)

  1. Rather like Mamuniyya from _Description of Familiar Foods_

    Boil chickens and cut their meat into strips. Wash rice, dry it, pick it over and then mill it fine and cook it with fresh milk, syrup and tail fat, moistening with each liquid [as needed] until it is nearly done. Its completion is that the chicken breasts are thrown on it after their meat is pounded fine. Resume cooking it, and scent it with rose-water and musk and sprinkle it with three ounces of pounded pistachios, and take it up. The measurements: rice, a pound, syrup, three ounces, tail fat, three ounces, milk, two pounds, pistachios, three ounces, fat chickens, four.

    Chicken, sugar (syrup) and rose water. Rice flour instead of almonds as the thickening.


    • It looks like there was certainly some cross-cultural influence! The Concordance of English Recipes lists over a page of Mortrews recipes from England alone, and there are Lenten versions as well, so it was clearly a popular dish. There is a similar class of dishes called mawmenny which look closer to the above (and not just the name) – a brief look through some of the recipes show mawmenny contains rice as a standard, but some don’t contain any meat.

      Looks like another topic to investigate!


  2. leebakers says:

    This looks delicous!


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