Blawmanger

Tak þe two del of rys, þe thridde pert of almoundes; | wash clene þe rys in leuk water & turne & seth hem til þey breke & lat it kele, & tak þe melk & do it to þe rys & boyle hem togedere. & do þerto whit gres & braun of hennes grounde smale, & stere it wel, & salte it & dresch it in disches.  & frye almaundes in fresch gres til þey be browne, & set hem in þe dissches, & strawe þeron sugre & serue it forth. Utilis Coquinario 28, (MS Sloane 468, in Curye on Inglysch, ed. Constance Hieatt and Sharon Butler).

Take two portions of rice, and a third part of almonds. Wash the rice in lukewarm water and cook it until (the grains) break, then let it cool. Take the milk (of the almonds) and add it to the rice, then boil them together. Add white grease and minced chicken meat, then salt it and put in dishes. Fry almonds in fresh grease until they are brown, and set them in the dishes (on the rice and chicken), then sprinkle on sugar, and serve it forth.

Blawmanger, or “white food,” was extremely popular throughout medieval Europe; the Concordance of English Recipes lists over 20 recipes from the 14th to the 15th century in England alone. It consisted of rice and ground chicken, sometimes with added pork, and there were Lenten versions with fish in place of the chicken. The dish continued to be served beyond the medieval period. Gradually, however, the meat disappeared and extra sugar was added, until the modern “blancmange” emerged. It would have been an expensive dish – rice was an imported luxury, as were almonds and sugar. The existence of Lenten versions also indicates its popularity and importance as a medieval dish.

Ingredients

200g white rice (see notes) 100g almond meal
500g cooked chicken meat (see notes) 100g flaked or whole blanched almonds
Lard or chicken fat 20g sugar

Method

  1. Rinse the rice in cool running water until it runs clear. If you catch the rinsing water in a bucket, it goes well on the garden.
  2. Cook the rice in boiling water until it is very soft and mushy. Remove from the heat, drain off any excess water, and allow to cool.
  3. While the rice is cooking, make the almond milk. Steep the almond meal in boiling water for approximately 15 minutes, stirring regularly, then pour it through a cloth lined strainer. You need about 300mL for the finished blawmanger.
  4. Mince the cooked chicken, and set aside.
  5. Add the almond milk and some of the lard or chicken fat to the rice until the rice is just moistened. Return to the heat and stir well, until the rice is completely warmed through.
  6. Add the minced chicken to the rice, and stir well. Remove from the heat – the residual heat in the rice will warm the chicken.
  7. Melt the rest of the lard or chicken fat in a pan, then add the whole or flaked almonds. Fry until they are golden.
  8. Pour the blawmanger onto a serving dish, then sprinkle the fried almonds and sugar on top before serving. It can be eaten hot or cold.

Notes

  • When making this dish, I use 500g of chicken thigh, which I poach. I then cook the rice in the poaching water to boost the chicken flavour. I prefer chicken thigh to chicken breast, as chicken breast can dry out too much, and does not mince as well.
  • Don’t try making this dish with raw chicken mince which you then cook – the mince clumps together while it is cooking and is difficult to distribute through the rice.
  • I use an electric mincer to mince the chicken. You could also use a food processor, but be careful not to process the chicken to mush. However, meat can also be finely minced with a cleaver, as demonstrated in this YouTube video.
  • I have assumed white rice is preferred in the dish, as the dish name translates to “white food.”
  • Rinsing the rice before you cook it washes excess starch from the rice, and the final result won’t be gluggy. It also tends not to stick to the pan while it is cooking.
  • I have seen other modern versions of this dish where the rice is cooked to a modern preference, that is, still slightly firm, or “al dente.” However, the recipe specifies that the rice should be cooked until the grains break, which I have interpreted as cooking the rice until it is completely soft and mushy.

Blawmanger

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Hieatt, Constance, Nutter, Terry and Holloway, Johnna. (2006). Concordance of English Recipes
Hieatt, Constance and Butler, Sharon (1985). Curye on Inglysch

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2 comments on “Blawmanger

  1. Johnna Holloway says:

    The Concordance is co-authored by Jane Terry Nutter and Johnna Holloway. Copies are available through the MRTS distribution at The University of Chicago Press.

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