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.


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


  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.


  • 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.


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.


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


  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.


  • 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.

Custard Lumbarde (Fruit and Custard Tart)

Custard lumbarde.

Take good creme, and ffoiles of (Note: The MS. has “parcelly crossed through.”) and yolkes And white of egges, and breke hem thereto, and streyne hem all thorgh a straynour till hit be so thik that it woll bere him self; And take faire Mary, And Dates, cutte in ij. or iij. and prunes, and put hem in faire coffyns of paast; And then put the coffyn in an oven, And lete hem bake till thei be hard, And then drawe hem oute, and putte the licoure into the Coffyns, And put hem into the oven ayen, And lete hem bake till they be ynogh MS. Harleian 4016 27.

Custard lumbarde.
Take good cream, and yolks and white of eggs, and break them thereto, and strain them all through a strainer until it be so thick that it will bear itself; and take fair bone marrow, and dates, cut in 2 or 3 (pieces) and prunes, and put hem in fair coffins of pastry; and then put the coffin in an oven, and let them bake until they be hard, And then draw them out, and put the liquor (custard) into the coffins, And put them into the oven again, and let them bake until they be (cooked) enough.

The Lombardy region in northwest Italy was an important trading and agricultural region in medieval Europe.  Its major cities, particularly Milan, had a great impact on culture, and there are a number of English recipes of this period that feature “Lumbard” in the name.  Presumably this gave them an extra exotic cachet.


1 quantity shortcrust pastry
100g pitted prunes 300mL cream
60g dates 2 eggs, well beaten
50g bone marrow 30g sugar


  1. Chop the dates and the prunes into small pieces. Chop the bone marrow into small pieces too.
  2. Roll out the pastry to approx. 4mm thickness and line a greased pie plate with it.
  3. Prick the bottom of the tart shell. Sprinkle the bottom of the shell with the chopped fruit, then dot with the bone marrow.  Bake the tart shell for approx. 12 minutes in a 200° oven. Remove and leave to cool.
  4. Whip the cream until it becomes stiff. Add the beaten eggs and mix well to combine.
  5. Pour the custard into the tart, over the fruit. Sprinkle the custard with the sugar.
  6. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°, and bake the tart for approximately 40 minutes, or until the custard has set.
  7. Serve cool.


  • Bone marrow is obtained from the inside of leg bones of cows, and in my opinion is THE BEST part of the cow (I really love beef). Many butchers sell these bones cheaply for pets (lucky pets!); ask if they will saw the bones up for you, as they are quite a pain to split without power tools.

Lumbarde custarde

Further Reading

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

Two Fifteenth Century Cookbooks


Take a quart of hony, & sethe it, & skeme it clene; take Safroun, pouder Pepir, & throw ther-on; take grayted Bred, & make it so chargeaunt that it wol be y-lechyd; then take pouder Canelle, & straw ther-on y-now; then make yt square, lyke as thou wolt leche yt; take when thou lechyst hyt, an caste Box leves a-bouyn, y-stykyd ther-on, on clowys. And if thou wolt haue it Red, coloure it with Saunderys y-now.
MS. Harleian 279, Leche Vyandez, 35.

Ginger Bread.
Take a quart of honey and seethe it and skim it clean. Take saffron, powdered pepper, and throw thereon. Take grated bread and make it so stiff that it will be cut in slices. Then take cinnamon powder and strew thereon enough. Then make it square as though thou wouldst slice it. Take, when thou have sliced it, and cast box leaves above, stuck thereon in cloves. And if thou will have it red, colour it with sandalwood enough.

Gyngerbrede is a very well known recipe from medieval times; it was regarded as a luxurious treat to give to honoured guests, being packed with expensive spices. However, as with the recipe above, some recipes don’t actually contain ginger! It may be implied by the name, or this recipe may be a variant on others that contain ginger. I have chosen to add the ginger.


500 ml honey ½ tbs cinnamon
500 g bread crumbs (approx) ¼ tsp white pepper
1 tbs fresh or powdered ginger (optional) Pinch saffron
½ tsp sandalwood (optional)

To garnish:

Branches from a box tree Whole cloves


  1. Bring the honey to a boil and skim off any scum.
  2. Keeping the pan over very low heat, add the spices except the cinnamon, and sandalwood if using, adjusting the quantities to suit your taste.
  3. Slowly beat in the bread crumbs. Add just enough bread crumbs to achieve a thick, stiff, well-blended mass You will know you have enough bread crumbs when the mix becomes hard to stir; this may take more or less bread crumbs than the amount specified.
  4. Remove from the heat and turn the mixture onto a lightly greased shallow baking tray. Press the gingerbread evenly out into the pan.
  5. Leave to cool in the fridge. When cool, sprinkle with cinnamon.
  6. Gently ease the ginger bread out of the tray, and cut into small squares.
  7. To serve, garnish with sprigs of box, and whole cloves.


  • “Box tree” refers to plants of the Buxus genus. The wood of this genus is very dense, and can be used in woodturning. Other Gingerbread recipes suggest to serve it in boxes made from box wood. (Renfrow, 2003, 264).


Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from Amazon.

Austin, Thomas (1856). Two Fifteenth Century Cookbooks.
This contains two complete fifteenth century cooking manuscripts, including Harleian 279, and excerpts from others.
Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books: Harleian Ms. 279 (Ab. 1430), & Harl. Ms. 4016 (Ab. 1450), with Extracts from Ashmole Ms. 1429, Laud Ms. 553, & Douce Ms. 55
Renfrow, Cindy (2003). Take a Thousand Eggs or More.
This contains easy to follow recipes taken directly from the manuscripts above, and also has an excellent glossary.
Take a Thousand Eggs or More

Hennys in Gauncelye (Garlic Chicken)

Hennys in Gauncelye.
Take Hennys, an roste hem; take Mylke an Garleke, an grynde it, an do it in a panne, an hewe  þin hennys þeron with ßolkys of eyron, an coloure it with Safroun an Mylke, an serue forth.
MS. Harleian 279, Potage Dyvers lxxxx.

Take hens, and roast them; take milk and garlic, and grind it, and put it in a pan, an hew  the hens thereon with yolks of eggs, and colour it with saffron an milk, and serve forth.

One thing that struck me about this recipe was that it specified “hennys” – specifically, female chickens. Normally you see chicken, or more likely capon (a castrated rooster); hens were generally kept alive and as layers. Presumably this recipe was used specifically for old hens that were no longer useful as egg layers. Such birds would be quite tough, but very strongly flavoured, and thus could stand up to strong garlic flavours.

The other thing that struck me was that this recipe appears in the Pottage section of the recipe collection. Thus, although the chicken needs to be roasted, it should also be cooked in the sauce in a pot. The sauce is basically a garlic infused custard.

I should confess the first time I tried this, I under-cooked the chicken so not all the fat rendered out, and I had the heat up too high and the custard curdled and split. This meant the end dish was basically inedible. However, when I took my time and actually paid attention to what I was doing, the end result was absolutely delicious. (And yes I have made custard many times.)


1 chicken, or 1.5kg chicken pieces 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
500mL milk Pinch of saffron, finely ground
4 egg yolks Salt to taste


  1. Roast the chicken until fully cooked – a skewer inserted into the breast or thickest part of the leg will cause clear juices to run from the chicken. Allow to cool completely.
  2. Remove the meat from the bones and also remove the skin, tendons and gristle from the meat. This will be much easier when the chicken is cold.
  3. Beat the egg yolks.
  4. Over a very low heat, heat the milk, garlic and saffron. Stir regularly to fully infuse the garlic and saffron in the milk, and to stop a skin from forming. Do not let it boil – about 70° is an ideal temperature.
  5. Put a small amount of milk into the egg yolks and stir well.  Gradually add the milk to the egg yolks, a little at a time, stirring well between each addition.  What you are doing here is gradually increasing the temperature of the egg yolks so they don’t curdle and split.
  6. Return the custard to a very low heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, until the custard “ribbons” (you can drag your finger through the custard on the back of the spoon and the custard does not immediately flow back into the mark left by your finger).  This actually takes about 5 minutes.

    A spoon showing ribboning. The lumpy bits are garlic.

  7.   DO NOT TURN THE HEAT UP AND BOIL THE CUSTARD – it will curdle and split and taste awful.
  8. Add the chicken to the pot and continue stirring until the chicken is heated through.
  9. Serve warm, with bread to soak up any leftover sauce.


  • I can not stress enough that you need to keep the heat DOWN while heating the milk and making the custard. However, all you need to do is keep the heat as low as possible. Some instructions for making custard say to use a double boiler, or to use a bowl suspended over a pan of boiling water, but I don’t think this is necessary. Just keep the heat low.

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Two Fifteenth Century Cookbooks

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.