Bowres (Duck Braised in Beer and Sage)

xv. Bowres.
Take Pypis, Hertys, Nerys, Myltys, an Rybbys of the Swyne; or ellys take Mawlard, or Gees, an chop hem smal, and thanne parboyle hem in fayre water; an þan take it vp, and pyke it clene in-to a fayre potte, an caste þer-to ale y-now, & sawge an salt, and þan boyle it ry?th wel; and þanne serue it forthe for a goode potage.
 MS. Harleian 279, Leche Vyaundez, xxxi.

Take lungs, hearts, ears, spleen and ribs of the pig; or else take mallard or goose, and chop them small, and then parboil them in fair water; and then take it up, and pick it clean into a fair pot, an caste thereto ale enough, and sage and salt, and than boil it right well; and then serve it forth for a good pottage.

When I first saw this recipe, I was struck by the simplicity. However, I decided I would not be using the innards of the pig; aside from the extreme difficulty of obtaining some of the bits, I was worried I’d be stuffed head first into the pot if I tried to serve it to anyone (I discovered this would probably be true when I mentioned the possibility of lung in a dish). I decided to use duck, as goose is expensive.

However, in writing up the recipe, I was suddenly struck with a thought – was the cook meant to use the innards of duck or goose, not the flesh? I decided to look for other recipes in other manuscripts. Fortunately, a quick search revealed Daniel Myers’ excellent site Medieval Cookery had already gathered all fifteenth century recipes similar to Bowres. These recipes used a variety of meats, with varying herbs and spices; the common thread was the braising in ale.

The version of Bowres in MS Harleian 279 is very plain, and uses everyday ingredients; if using the suggested pig innards, this would likely be the sort of dish cooked by a peasant or lower class urban family.

Ingredients

1.5 kg duck pieces bunch sage leaves
600mL beer or ale 1 tsp salt

Method

  1. Joint the duck, and put in a pot.
  2. Cover the duck with water, and bring the pot to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook the duck until the skin and meat are opaque and much of the fat has been rendered from the duck.
  3. Allow the duck to cool slightly, and then pick the meat from the bones.
  4. Transfer the duck to a clean pot, and add the beer or ale, salt and shredded sage leaves.
  5. Simmer the duck until the liquid is considerably reduced, and the meat is falling apart.
  6. Serve the duck either in its cooking liquid, or strained.

Notes

  • If you are lucky enough to find true ale (that is, brewed without hops), it will give you a more authentic result.
  • You may find this recipe works better with duck legs and thighs. Though the breast has a thick covering of fat, the meat itself is quite lean, and not well suited to long, slow cooking (it turns rubbery and is unpleasant to eat).
  • Parboiling the duck before braising it renders the fat from the duck. Modern braises would suggest frying the duck first to achieve the same purpose; you may find this easier.

Bowres

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Austin, Thomas (ed.). Two Fifteenth Century Cookbooks

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Pikkyll Pour le Mallard (Spiced Onion Relish)

Pikkyll pour le Mallard. Take oynons, and hewe hem small, and fry hem in fress grece, and caste hem into a potte, And fress brot of beef, Wyne, & powder of peper, canel, and dropping of the mallard And lete hem boile togidur awhile; And take hit fro the fyre, and caste thereto mustard a litul, And pouder of ginger, And lete hit boile no more, and salt hit, And serue it forthe with the Mallard. MS. Harleian 4016, f7.

Pickle for the Mallard. Take onions, and cut them small, and fry them in fresh grease, and cast them into a pot, And fresh broth of beef, wine, & powder of pepper, cinnamon, and the dripping from the mallard. And let them boil together a while; And take it from the fire, and cast thereto mustard a little, And powder of ginger, And let it boil no more, and salt it, And serve it forth with the Mallard.

Ingredients

3 medium onions 3 tbs duck fat 1 tsp dry mustard
250mL beef stock  ½ tsp pepper  ½ tsp ginger
125mL red wine  ½ tsp cinnamon  salt

Method

  1. Finely dice the onions, and in a steep sided pan, fry in oil or duck fat until they are translucent.
  2. Add the beef stock, wine, pepper, cinnamon and duck fat.
  3. Boil the onion mix until most of the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove from the heat, and add the mustard powder, ginger and salt, and stir to mix through.
  5. Serve by itself as an onion relish, or with your favourite duck recipe.

Notes

  • This recipe can easily be made vegetarian/vegan friendly by omitting the duck fat and replacing the beef stock with vegetable stock.
  • It’s often difficult to determine whether a recipe specifying mustard means ground mustard seed or mustard condiment.  This recipe works well with either.

Pikkyl Pour le Mallard

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Austin, Thomas (ed.). Two Fifteenth Century Cookbooks

Stewed Stekes of Venson or Motoun (Venison Braised in Beer)

Stewed Stekes of Venson or Motoun
Cut venson or moton smale lytell thynne leshys & put them in a fryyng panne with ale by wese & boyle them welle tylle they be ny tendour. Then take them & fry them in butter tylle they be tendur; than make a syryp for them. Take rede wyne, vynegyr ynouh, and butter & put them in a put them in a pote to stew tylle they be halfe consumed; and then fors them up with synamom, ginger, & suger, and coloure hit with saforne.
Bodleian Library, MS. Rawlinson D 1222, 281.

Cut venison or mutton in small little slices and put them in a frying pan with ale and boil them until they are nearly tender. Then take them and fry them in butter until they are nearly tender; then make a sauce for them. Take red wine, enough vinegar, and butter, and put them in a pot to stew until they are half evaporated; then season them with cinnamon, ginger and sugar, and colour it with saffron.

The text of this recipe can be found in Constance Hieatt’s A Gathering of Medieval English Recipes, a wonderful collection of lesser known manuscripts and recipes of medieval English cookery. She mentions that this particular recipe is recorded in a different hand to the rest of the manuscript, and appears to be a later addition (Hieatt, 2007, 90).

Venison was the status meat of medieval Europe. It was associated with the noble pastime of hunting; to serve venison was an indication of status, as it meant a lord had been granted exclusive rights to the hunting in a particular area (Wilson, 1973, 92). It might also be given as a gift, and to avoid waste, venison was also sold in towns for the luxury market (Hammond, 1993, 39).

Venison would have been the high point of any feast; it was traditionally served with frumenty (Hieatt et al, 1996, 47), a porridge-like dish made from grains, which would have soaked up the meat juices.

Ingredients

500g venison 350mL wheat ale or beer 100g butter (for frying)

The Sauce:

250mL red wine 1/2 tsp cinnamon
60mL vinegar 1/2 tsp ginger
100g butter 40g sugar
1/4 tsp saffron

Method

  1. Soak the saffron in some boiling water until it turns a deep orange.
  2. Put the wine, vinegar, butter and saffron water into a saucepan and bring to the boil, while stirring gently. Leave the sauce to gently boil until it has reduced by half.
  3. Meanwhile, slice the venison into thin strips.
  4. Put the venison in a frypan, then add the ale or beer and bring it to the boil. Cook until the venison has changed colour, and most of the ale or beer has either evaporated off or been absorbed by the venison.
  5. Remove the venison from the pan and drain it, then put the butter for frying into the pan. When it has melted, return the venison to the pan.
  6. Stir the cinnamon, ginger and sugar into the sauce, then pour over the venison in the pan.
  7. Transfer the venison to a serving plate, and serve with frumenty (recipe here).

Notes

  • Venison is a very lean meat, and tends to be better suited to roasting or quick frying. Stewed venison is rather unusual; however, this venison is not stewed for long, and as the alcohol is slightly acidic, it breaks down the fibres in the meat and helps to keep it tender.
  • If possible, try and get whole dried ginger that you have to grate yourself, rather than the ready powdered stuff. It smells and tastes much stronger.

Venison braised in beer

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Hammond, Peter (1993). Food and Feast in Medieval England.
Hieatt, Constance (2007). A Gathering of Medieval English Recipes.
Hieatt, Constance, Hosington, Brenda and Butler, Sharon (1996). Pleyn Delit.
Wilson, C. Anne (1992). Food and Drink in Britain.

Stekys of Venson (Venison Steaks)

xxxj. To make Stekys of venson? or bef – Take Venyson or Bef, & leche & gredyl it vp broun; þen take Vynegre & a litel verious, & a lytil Wyne, & putte pouder perpir þer-on y-now, and pouder Gyngere; & atte þe dressoure straw on pouder Canelle y-now, þat þe stekys be al y-helid þer-wyth, & but a litel Sawce; & þan serue it forth. MS. Harleian 279, Leche Vyaundez, xxxi.

To make steaks of venison or beef – take venison or beef, and slice it and fry it brown; then take vinegar and a little verjuice, and a little wine, and put powdered pepper thereon enough, and powdered ginger; and at the dresser strew on powdered cinnamon enough, that the steaks be all covered therewith, and but a little sauce; and then serve it forth.

Venison was the status meat of medieval Europe. It was associated with the noble pastime of hunting; to serve venison was an indication of status, as it meant a lord had been granted exclusive rights to the hunting in a particular area (Wilson, 1973, 92). It might also be given as a gift, and to avoid waste, venison was also sold in towns for the luxury market (Hammond, 1993, 39).

Venison would have been the high point of any feast; it was traditionally served with frumenty (Hieatt et al, 1996, 47), a porridge-like dish made from grains, which would have soaked up the meat juices.

Ingredients

500g venison 40mL wine vinegar 1/4 tsp pepper
20mL verjuice 30mL wine 1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon Salt to taste

Method

  1. Separately grind or grate the spices
  2. Slice the venison into fine strips.
  3. Heat some oil or fat in a pan, and quickly fry the venison strips until they are browned. Transfer to a serving plate.
  4. Mix together the vinegar, verjuice, wine, pepper and ginger. If desired, heat the sauce briefly.
  5. Sprinkle the venison with the cinnamon, then drizzle the sauce over the top.
  6. Serve with frumenty (recipe here.

Notes

  • Venison is a very lean meat, and although there are recipes for venison pottages (stews), I find venison is better suited to quick frying recipes such as this, or roasting, where the meat can be constantly basted to keep it moist.
  • The cinnamon that is sprinkled over the steaks was the recommended accompaniment for slices of venison (Brears, 2008, 454).
  • If possible, try and get whole dried ginger that you have to grate yourself, rather than the ready powdered stuff. It smells and tastes much stronger.

Stir fried venison

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Austin, Thomas (ed.). Two Fifteenth Century Cookbooks
Brears, Peter (2008). Cooking and Dining in Medieval England.
Hammond, Peter (1993). Food and Feast in Medieval England.
Hieatt, Constance, Hosington, Brenda and Butler, Sharon (1996). Pleyn Delit.
Wilson, C. Anne (1992). Food and Drink in Britain.

Brawne in Peuard

Brawne in peuard.
Take wyn, pouder of Canell, drawe hit thorgh a Streynour, set hit ouer the fire, lete hit boile, caste there-to Maces, cloues, powder of Peper; take smale onyons hole, parboyle hem, caste there-to; lete hem boile togider; then take Brawne, leche hit, but not to thin; And if hit be saused, let stepe in Hote water til hit be tender, then cast hit into þe siripe; take Saundres, Vynegre, and caste there-to, And lete boile al togidre til hit be ynowe; then take powder of ginger, caste thereto; lete hit not be thik ne to thyn, butte as potage shulde be; And serve hit forthe.
MS Harleian 4016, 14.

Pork in Pepper.
Take wine and powdered cinnamon and pass it through a strainer. Set it on the fire and let it boil. Add mace, cloves and pepper. Take small whole onions, parboil them, and add them to the pot. Let them boil together then take pork, slice it, but not too thin. And if it be salted and pickled, let it steep in hot water until it is tender, then cast it into the syrup. Take sandalwood and vinegar and add it to the pot, and let it simmer together until it is (cooked) enough. Then take powdered ginger and add it to the pot. Let it not be too thick or thin, but as pottage should be, and serve it forth.

“Brawn” typically refers to any sort of meat, though in this case it most likely means wild boar, which is more likely to be salted and pickled (Hieatt, 2013, 50); but you could make this dish with chicken if you want. It is a typical meat pottage, and variations on this dish are found in most medieval cooking manuscripts. However, because this one specifies pepper in the name, the sauce should be particularly peppery.

Ingredients

2 kg pork meat 1 tsp powdered cinnamon 1/4 tsp crushed cloves
1kg small onions, peeled 1 tsp crushed black pepper 45 mL wine vinegar
1L red wine 1/2 tsp crushed mace 1/4 tsp sandalwood
1 tsp powdered ginger Salt to taste

Method

  1. Remove any skin and excess fat from the pork, and cut it into bite sized pieces. Set aside.
  2. Add the powdered cinnamon to the wine and pass through a strainer, to remove any sediment from the wine and clumps from the cinnamon. Put into a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan and bring to the boil.
  3. When the wine is boiling, add the cloves, mace and pepper, and stir well.
  4. Meanwhile, add the onions to a pan of boiling water and cook until they are slightly tender. Add them to the spiced wine and return it to the boil.
  5. Add the pork to the pot, and return it to the boil. When it is boiling, add the sandalwood and vinegar, then reduce the heat to a simmer (there should be slight bubbles rising to the surface, but it should not be still).
  6. Cook the pottage, stirring regularly, until the wine is reduced and the pork is tender. Generally, the longer it cooks, the more tender the pork will be, though cooking times will vary depending on the cut.
  7. Just before serving, add the ginger and salt to taste and stir well.
  8. Serve immediately.

Notes

  • The cooking time will depend on the cut of pork. I like to use shoulder, which is quite fatty and has lots of connective tissue (it also tends to be a quite cheap cut). It is a cut that needs at least 2-3 hours cooking.
  • Onions contain an enzyme called synthase, which is what makes you cry when you cut them up, and gives them their distinctive flavour. Parboiling the onions breaks down this enzyme, so it doesn’t release into the stew and change the flavour. The onions will also be quite sweet.
  • Sandalwood was added to dishes for its rich colour and lovely scent. When buying it today, make sure you get it from a reputable seller, as there are many synthetic sandalwood replacements which can be toxic. In general, the more expensive the sandalwood, the better the quality. I get mine from an Indian grocer where the sandalwood is kept in a locked display case.

Pork in Pepper Sauce

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.

Two Fifteenth Century Cookbooks
Hieatt, Constance (2013). The Culinary Recipes of Medieval England

A Roast Pig’s Head (named Bernàrd)

At a recent feast I ran, I decided to serve a pig’s head breathing fire as a spectacle at a feast. I had never cooked a pig’s head before; and I wasn’t sure how it would be received. However when I mentioned it to people they got very excited so I decided I had to go ahead with it.

The first issue I had was obtaining a pig’s head. They aren’t commonly asked for, after all. However the butcher I go to for events was able to source one, and didn’t give me too weird a look; it’s not the strangest thing I’ve asked him to get for me.

The word got around the event that there would be a pig’s head and a few people came to meet it, which is how the head acquired the name Bernàrd.

I’ve never cooked a pig’s head before, and in the end I decided roasting was my best option. I knew how to roast pork, and I figured a head would roast pretty much the same. But I honestly didn’t think anyone would want to eat it – I just thought people would simply look at it, enjoy it, and that would be it. So I didn’t pay too much attention to the preparation. I simply gave Bernàrd a wash and patted him dry, then rubbed him with a commercial barbeque sauce to give him some colour.

Bernard from the oven

Unfortunately the spill I had prepared to stick in his mouth and light, so he appeared to be breathing fire, became too damp and simply smouldered. So he was sent out nibbling on some parsley.

And he came back with no meat left on his bones – virtually everyone at the feast wanted to try a piece of Bernàrd, and the queue went out of the hall. There were even fights about who got the last of the cheek.

I will certainly be serving a roast pig’s head once again. However next time I will be using a more period appropriate glaze, such as a Lumbard Mustard.

If you want to cook a pig’s head, you will probably need to order one specially from the butcher (be prepared for some strange looks). Make sure you specify you want it whole, with the ears, cheeks and snout attached. They roast just like normal pork, but take longer than a boned, rolled joint, as the bone acts as a heat barrier. I would also wrap the ears and nose with foil during the cooking, because as you can see Bernàrd’s wound up getting a little too crispy.

And probably get someone else to carve, because a pig’s head ain’t the easiest thing to carve.

Bernard

Sauce Persley

Sauce percely. Take perceley, and grynde hit wiþ vynegre & a litel brede and salt, and strayne it þurgh a straynour, and serue it forþe. Ashmole MS. 1439, Sauces, Recipe 14.

Parsley Sauce. Take parsley, and grind it with vinegar and a little bread and salt, and strain it through a strainer, and serve it forth.

This is an excellent recipe to have around for those terrifying occasions when you are running a feast, extra people show up, and you realise the food you’re preparing won’t serve everybody. Parsley is easy to get hold of, and you will probably have the other ingredients to hand. Purchase some ready roasted chickens (like the one in the photograph below), and you should be OK.

It’s also really tasty, so it’s a great one to include in any feast anyway.

Ingredients

1 cup/bunch parsley leaves approx. 150mL wine vinegar
approx. 20g breadcrumbs Salt to taste

Method

  1. Using a mortar and pestle or blender, pulverise the parsley, salt and vinegar to form a paste. Add more vinegar as necessary.
  2. Add the breadcrumbs and continue to pulverise to mix everything together.
  3. If you used the mortar and pestle, push through a rigid, fine mesh strainer to ensure the sauce is smooth.
  4. Serve at room temperature. It goes well with any poultry or fish.

Notes

  • This is a recipe where using a mortar and pestle can actually be easier than a blender, and the end paste is generally mushy enough that passing it through a strainer is relatively easy (and results in a much smoother sauce). If you prefer to use power tools, I would recommend a stab mixer – the parsley tends to spin away from the blades of a blender too quickly.
  • If you find the taste of the sauce too sour from the vinegar, you can add more breadcrumbs, or honey or lemon juice. Honey is sweet and will counteract the sourness. Lemon juice is also sour, but has a different flavour profile which also counters the vinegar. Don’t add water, which will just make the sauce runny without doing a thing about the vinegar. However, remember it’s going to be served with meat, and the extra tartness from the vinegar pairs well with most meats.

Sauce Persley

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.

Austin, Thomas. Two Fifteenth Century Cookery Books.