Mounchelet (Veal and Onion Pottage)

MOUNCHELET.
Take Veel oþer Moton and smite it to gobettes seeþ it in gode broth. cast þerto erbes yhewe [2] gode wyne. and a quantite of Oynouns mynced. Powdour fort and Safroun. and alye it with ayren and verious. but lat not seeþ after.
The Forme of Cury 18.

MOUNCHELET.
Take veal or mutton and smite it into gobbets. Seethe it in good broth. Cast thereto chopped herbs and good wine, and a quantity of minced onions, powder fort and saffron, and thicken it with eggs and verjuice. But let it not seethe after.

The text of the original recipe comes from Curye on Inglysch, edited by Constance Hieatt and Sharon Butler.

Veal was eaten most commonly in the spring, as part of the end of Lent (Wilson, 2003, 88); households with the means and inclination would slaughter at least one male calf in the spring to obtain rennet for cheese (Wilson, 2003, 151). Mutton could be obtained at any time of the year, but is quite hard to find today. If using veal, remember it is quite lean and in general will not need much cooking.

Ingredients

500g veal 250mL red wine
500mL beef stock 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 onions (around 400g) 1/4 tsp ground cloves
5 tbs minced herbs 1/4 tsp ground saffron
2 eggs 60mL verjuice

Method

  1. Shred the veal, and finely slice the onions.
  2. Put the stock, wine, meat, onions, herbs and spices into a pot and bring to the boil. Simmer until the meat is cooked.
  3. Whisk together the eggs and the verjuice. Add a ladleful of the pottage liquid to the egg mixture, and whisk in.
  4. Remove the pottage from the heat, and add the egg mixture. Stir well to completely incorporate the egg and cook it.

Notes

  • “Powder fort” is a spice mix that translates to “strong powder.” Hieatt and Butler suggest pepper and cloves (Hieatt and Butler, 1985, 208-209).
  • I used a mix of sage, oregano and thyme in the pottage. These are all herbs that can stand being cooked without losing their flavour, go well with beef and were available in period.
  • Adding a ladleful of stock to the eggs before adding the eggs to the pottage brings the temperature of the eggs up and ensures they won’t curdle when added to the pottage.
  • As the recipe specifies, DO NOT LET THE POTTAGE REBOIL AFTER THE EGGS ARE ADDED. This would cause the eggs to curdle and split rather than incorporating into the pottage broth.
  • If you are lucky enough to find mutton, it will probably need to be cooked a lot longer to make the meat tender, as mutton comes from older sheep.

Mounchelet - C14 English veal stew.

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Hieatt, Constance and Butler, Sharon (1985). Curye on Inglysch.
Wilson, C. Anne (2003). Food and Drink in Britain.

Advertisements

Powdered Beef (Salted Beef)

A good way to powder or barréll beefe.
TAke the beefe and lay it in mere sawce a day & a night. Then take out the beefe and lay it vpon a hirdle, and couer it close with a sheete, and let the hurdle be laid vpon a peuerell or couer to saue the mere sauce that commeth from it: then seeth the brine, and lay in your Beefe againe, see the brine be colde so let it lye two dayes and one night: then take it out, & lay it againe on a hurdel two or three dayes. Then wype it euerie peece with linnen cloth, dry them and couch it with salt, a laying of Beefe and another of salt: and ye must lay a stick crosse each way, so that the brine may run from the salt.
The good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin, 1594

Take the beef and lay it in mere sauce a day & a night. Then take out the beef and lay it upon a rack, and cover it close with a sheet, and let the rack be laid upon a bowl to save the mere sauce that comes from it: then bring the brine to the boil, and lay in your beef again, see the brine be cold so let it lie two days and one night: then take it out, & lay it again on a rack two or three days. Then wipe it every piece with linen cloth, dry them and cover it with salt, a laying of beef and another of salt: and you must lay a stick across each way, so that the brine may run from the salt.

The text of the original recipe comes from the transcript by Sam Wallace, available here.

“Powdered Beef” is listed as a suggested dish to serve in the first course of a feast in A Proper New Booke of Cokerye, A Book of Cookrye and The Good Huswifes Jewell part 1. However, none of these books contain a recipe for this dish. This indicated to me that a household manager would receive the Powdered Beef readily prepared (perhaps from the butcher who sold the meat) – it wasn’t made by the kitchen staff.

However, given it was clearly an important part of most feasts, I set out to find out what it was, and whether I could make it. I found the recipe above, from which I concluded Powdered Beef was clearly preserved beef, similar to modern corned beef; the beef is soaked for several days in a brine solution, then packed in salt.

However, this method did not contain a recipe for the brine solution, or “mere sauce.” What was a mere sauce, precisely? In the glossary of the printed, annotated edition of The English Housewife, I discovered a “mere sauce” was a marinade (Markham and Best, 1994, 305). I also discovered a recipe for baked red deer, where the deer is soaked in a mere sauce for a night; this mere sauce consisted of vinegar, beer and salt (Markham and Best, 1994, 98).

Even though this recipe uses red deer, I wasn’t sure about the mere sauce using beer; it did not seem “refined” enough. I remembered a recipe for a wet brine Australian chef Adrian Richardson suggests for beef which is based on red wine (Richardson, 2009,246), which was very easy to adapt into an Elizabethan recipe; I just needed to substitute appropriate spices for allspice. Richardson uses this recipe for bresaola (p251), or air dried beef, and the process of soaking the beef is very similar to the method described in the Good Huswife’s Handmaide.

I made this for a Lochac cooking competition, and I had no idea how it was going to turn out until I opened the container to set up for the competition. We discovered you could actually eat the meat without cooking it – the long soak in the mere sauce and then the salting basically “cooks” the meat, similar to bresaola.

I intend to try this again, using the beer and vinegar mere sauce, and seeing how the beef goes in a pottage. This would also be a great way of preserving meat for camping if you don’t want to use an esky/fridge/cooler.

Ingredients

1.5 kg boned beef joint, such as topside, rump or silverside

For the mere sauce:

1.25L red wine 1 tbs black peppercorns 1/2 tsp mace
500mL water 1 tsp cinnamon bark 2 bay leaves
150g salt 1/2 tsp cloves

Method

  1. Combine the mere sauce ingredients in a pan, and bring to a simmer, stirring until the salt is dissolved.
  2. Bring the mere sauce mix to the boil and boil for 2 minutes. Then remove from the heat and leave overnight to cool.
  3. Remove any excess fat and sinew from the meat. At this stage, it will be a vibrant red and quite soft to the touch (as typical meat is).

    raw_meat

  4. Pour the mere sauce into a non reactive bowl, such as glass or plastic, and then put the meat into the mere sauce, making sure it is submerged. Cover very loosely with plastic wrap, and then put a weighted plate on the plastic, ensuring it submerges the beef.
  5. After a day, turn the meat over within the mere sauce, then re-cover and re-weight. You will see the meat has taken on a deep purple colour from the red wine, and is now slightly hard to the touch.

    one_day_meat

  6. After another day, remove the meat from the mere sauce, and place on a rack over a plate to allow any excess liquid to drain off. It should be slightly harder to the touch.
  7. Put the mere sauce in a pan over heat, and bring to the boil. Boil for at least 2 minutes, then leave to cool completely.
  8. Return the mere sauce to a clean non-reactive bowl, then return the meat, and re-cover and re-weight. Discard any liquid that drained from the meat.
  9. Soak the meat for another four days, turning the meat in the mere sauce once every day.
  10. After a week, remove the meat from the mere sauce and discard the mere sauce. The meat will now be very firm to the touch. Put the meat on a rack over a plate and leave in a cool place for at least a day, to drain off any excess liquid (which should be discarded).
  11. Dry the surface of the meat completely, and cut into chunks that will fit into your storage container. Cut some wooden skewers so they will fit inside the storage container. Put salt in the bottom of the container, then liberally rub each chunk of meat with the salt. Layer the meat inside your container, with a layer of the wooden skewers between each layer of meat. Store in a cool, dark place.
  12. When you want to use this, after brushing off the excess salt, you can eat the meat from the middle right away – the long soak in the mere sauce and packing in salt has effectively “cooked” the meat. However, it is quite salty and some may find it too salty.
  13. If you want to use the beef in a pottage, soak the meat for at least 4-6 hours in water to remove some of the excess salt, then add to the pottage as normal. You probably won’t need to salt it.

Notes

  • It is unusual to find a dish like this in feast menus. Preserved meat such as this was the primary meat of the lower classes, not the sort of thing you’d expect to find in a feast intended to show off. It may have been intended for lower tables where lesser guests were seated, or it may have been served to the high table, with the mere sauce as I have made it here, using expensive ingredients like wine and spices, to serve “poor man’s food” that poor men couldn’t afford to eat; or to contrast with the more luxurious dishes to highlight the divide between rich and poor.
  • I have largely followed the method from the Good Huswife’s Handmaide, but I soaked the meat for a longer period, which was suggested by Adrian Richardson’s recipe for bresaola, where he specifies soaking the meat for a week and turning it every day. The longer the meat is soaked, the further the mere sauce penetrates.
  • Finding the right salt for preserving can be tricky. Modern table salt has anti-caking agents added to stop it from clumping; you also find salt sometimes has extra iodine added. Both will interfere with the preserving. Iodine actually destroys the enzymes in the meat that help to break down the fibres. If you can’t find salt that doesn’t have additives, get some rock salt and crush it.
  • The spices have very little to do with the preservation process – they simply add flavour (and would have enhanced the luxury factor). However, oily spices such as cloves and cinnamon do have antiseptic properties which help can stop the growth of bacteria.
  • When you’re preserving, you’re attempting to prevent food spoilage from starting – once food has started to spoil, pretty much all you can do is throw it out. Food spoilage is caused by harmful bacteria. Like most organisms, bacteria require certain essentials to grow – a food supply, and a comfortable environment; most also prefer a moist environment. Some harmful bacteria also require oxygen, but one of the most dangerous organisms, botulism, prefers an anaerobic, or oxygen-poor, environment. Essentially, when you’re preserving, you are creating an environment that’s hostile to bacteria (McGee, 2004, 173).
  • Salting is one of the oldest food preservation methods, and is still used today in the production of gourmet meats such as bresaola (beef), prosciutto (ham) and gravlax (salmon). It works by drawing out the moisture from food, which sees off most bacteria, and prevents the growth of botulism, which doesn’t like a highly saline environment. When used with meat, salt also reacts with enzymes in the meat to change its chemical structure, breaking down the fibres and tenderising the meat. (McGee, 2004, 174).
  • In medieval times, food spoilage was considered to be caused by an excess of cold, wet humours. So to preserve food, you had to drastically increase the hot, dry humours. According to Platina, “the virtue of salt is fiery so that it contracts, dries and binds whatever bodies it touches. If dead flesh is salted in time, it is very well preserved.” (Scully, 1995, 55).
  • You will lose some volume from the meat during the soak in the mere sauce. The soak in the salty liquid drives the water from the meat, which results in the meat becoming harder and denser, and aids in the preservation(McGee, 2004, 174).

Powdred beef

Further Reading

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

Markharm, Gervase, and Best, Michael, 1994. The English Housewife
McGee, Harold, 2004. On Food and Cooking
Richardson, Adrian, 2009. Meat
Scully, Terence, 1995. The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages

Apicius 8.5.4 – Apician Boiled Beef


aliter in utulina elixa: piper ligusticum feniculi semen origanum nucleos careotam mel acetum liquamen, sinapi et oleo.
Apicius – De re coquinaria

Another recipe for boiled veal
Pepper, lovage, fennel seed, oregano, pine nuts, dates, honey, vinegar, liquamen, mustard and oil.

This text and translation are taken from Sally Grainger and Christopher Grocock’s Apicius (2006).

Beef was not a common ingredient on the tables of wealthy Romans; cows were primarily working animals (Dalby, 2003, 244), and thus were generally slaughtered when old and very tough.  There are only four recipes for beef in Apicius, and all specify veal – young animals.

Like many recipes in Apicius, this recipe is just a list of ingredients, and it doesn’t even list the beef. However, because the title specifies boiled beef, I have interpreted this as a stew.

Ingredients

500g beef such as chuck, shin or cheek 25mL wine vinegar
80g dates 15mL fish sauce
20g pine nuts 1/2 tsp pepper
25mL honey 1 tbs chopped lovage leaves
1/2 tsp fennel seed 1 tbs oregano leaves
1 tbs mustard

Method

  1. Cut the beef into small chunks.
  2. Over a low heat, dry fry the spices until they are aromatic, taking care not to burn. Crush in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
  3. In a low heated oven, toast the pine nuts until they are golden.
  4. Combine all the ingredients except the beef in a food processor and process to a paste, or grind to a paste in a mortar and pestle.
  5. Put the beef into a pan and just cover with water.
  6. Bring to the boil and add the paste.
  7. Combine everything well, then reduce the heat and cook until the beef is tender. It will take several hours. Add more water if necessary, otherwise the stew will burn and stick.

Notes

  • I have specified the cuts I have because these are cuts with a lot of connective tissue and are particularly suited for stewing – the longer you cook them the better they get. You can use other cuts, but they will not require as much cooking.
  • Lovage is a herb with a very similar taste to celery leaf. Sally Grainger (2006, 23) believes the seeds were more likely to be used than the leaves, as lovage is generally listed among the spices rather than the herbs, but the leaves and seeds have a similar flavour, so if you can’t find the seeds, use the leaves. You will probably have to grow it yourself, but it is easy to grow from seeds, and you can generally find plants at nurseries.
  • Liquamen is a fish sauce, probably thinner in texture than the better known garum. (Grainger, 2005).

Appician_Boiled_Beef

Further Reading

Click on the links below to order directly from The Book Depository.
 
Dalby, Andrew. Food in the Ancient World.
Grainger, Sally. “Towards an Authentic Roman Sauce.” 2005 Oxford Food Symposium
Grainger, Sally. Cooking Apicius.
Grocock, Christopher and Grainger, Sally. Apicius.

Alloes of Beef

To make Alloes of beef
Take lene beef and cut hym in thyn pecys and lay hit on A borde then take sewet of motton or of beef and herbys and onyons hackyd small to gether then straw thy leshes of beef with powder of pepur and a lytell salt and strew on thy sewet and the herbys. And rolle them up ther yn put them on a broche and roste them and serue them up hote.
Gentyll manly Cokere (MS Pepys 1047, c.1500)

To make rolls of beef.
Take lean beef and cut him in thin pieces and lay it on a board. Then take suet of mutton or of beef and herbs and onions hacked small together. Then strew thy slices of beef with powder of pepper and a little salt and strew on your suet and the herbs. And roll them up there in, put them on a spit and roast them and serve them up hot.

Alloes, or “olives”, are tasty morsels of rolled, stuffed meat, similar to Italian Saltimbocca, except they are generally roasted. I am aware of recipes going back to the 14th century in England – a long lived recipe. When you taste them, you’ll see why!
 

Ingredients

500g thin sliced steak 1 tbs thyme leaves
60g suet 2 tbs parsley
1 medium white onion ½ tsp pepper
1 tbs sage leaves 1tsp salt
Optional: 60g dates Optional: 60g currants

Method

  1. Finely grate the suet and onion. This is best done with a food processor as the suet will melt if you try to do it by hand.
  2. Finely chop the herbs, and mix with the suet, onion, salt and pepper to form a paste.
  3. If using, add the finely chopped dates and currants to the mix as well.
  4. Smear each steak with the paste and roll lengthways. Tie the roll with string, or secure the roll with toothpicks, and place on a skewer.
  5. Balance the skewer over a roasting tray to imitate a spit roast, then roast in a 180° oven until they are cooked through(approx. 15-20min).
  6. While the alloes are roasting, baste them with the pan juices and if possible turn them. Baste them again when they are finished cooking.
  7. To serve, untie each beef roll, and cut into 3 pieces.

Notes

  • Suet is the hard fat that surrounds the internal organs of animals. It is possible to buy “suet mix” in supermarkets, but this is a mix of flour, other fats and preservatives as well as suet (not much). You can generally pick up suet really cheaply from butchers – sometimes even for free. It can be a pain to work with as it melts quickly, but the end result is worth it.
  • The original recipe, as you will see, contains no dried fruit. When we tested these, I was reading another recipe and added the dried fruit by mistake. By the time we discovered the mistake it was too late to get the dried fruit out of the mix, so we left it. It was one of the most fortuitous cooking mistakes I’ve ever made, as they tasted really good, and dried fruit was often added to meat recipes, so alloes containing dried fruit are conjecturally period.
  • It may seem odd to spit roast something so small. However household inventories of the period did include spits of varying thicknesses, to roast different foods. (Brears, 2015, 327-333).
  • Tootpicks are easier to use to secure the rolls of beef. However, tying the rolls with string was probably the period practice, as toothpicks were expensive luxuries, often imported. (Goodman, 2016, 35).

Alloes_of_Beef

Further Reading

Brears, Peter. Cooking and Dining in Tudor and Early Stuart England. Totnes, 2015.
Goodman, Ruth. How to Be a Tudor. Harmondsworth, 2016.

Lumbard Mustard (Honey Mustard Sauce)

Take mustard seed and waisshe it, & drye it in an ovene. Grynde it drye; sarse it thurgh a sarse. Clarifie hony with wyne & vyneger& stere it wel togedre and make it thikke ynowgh; & whan thou wilt spende therof make it thynne with wyne. The Forme of Curye 150

Take mustard seed and wash it and dry it in an oven. Grind it dry and sieve it. Clarify honey with wine and vinegar and stir it well together and make it thick enough; and when you would use it make it thin with wine.

Ingredients

150 mL honey 2 tbs mustard powder
2 tbs wine vinegar 50 mL red wine

Method

Mix all ingredients, and heat just before serving.

Notes

  • This sauce could be served with any roast meat. It is particularly good with chicken and beef.
  • I would not recommend preparing this sauce ahead of time. The longer it’s left, the stronger the mustard gets, and that can be unpleasant (though it will clear the sinuses!)

Roast_Beef_with_Aliper_and_Mustard

Lumbard Mustard Sauce, foreground, with roast beef and Sauce Alepeure – recipe here

Sauce Alepeure (Garlic-Pepper Sauce)

Sauce alepeuere. Take fayre broun brede, toste hit, and stepe it in vinegre, and drawe it thurwe a straynour; and put ther-to garleke smal y-stampyd, poudre piper, salt, and serue forth. (MS. Ashmole 1439.2)

Sauce alepuere. Take fair brown bread, toast it, and steep it in vinegar, and draw it through a strainer, and put thereto garlic small stamped, pepper powder, salt and serve it forth.

Ingredients

4 slices toasted brown bread 4 cloves crushed garlic
½ cup wine vinegar 2 tsp pepper
1 cup beef stock Salt

Method

  1. Soak bread in vinegar for around 5 minutes.
  2. Add bread and vinegar to a blender with the beef stock, garlic and pepper, and process to a smooth paste. Add more beef stock if you want it thinner.
  3. Put the sauce in a pot and bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Blend again, then serve. It can be served hot or cold.

Notes

  • This is ideal made ahead of time, as it improves the longer the flavours are allowed to meld.

Roast_Beef_with_Aliper_and_Mustard

Sauce Alepeure, background, with roast beef and Lumbard Mustard Sauce – recipe here

Tabahaja (beef with pistachios)

This recipe is from the Kanz al-Fawa-id fi tanwi al-mawa’id (“The Treasure of Useful Advice for the Composition of a Varied Table.”) It can be found on p. 79-80 of Lilia Zaouali’s Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World.

You need meat and mint. Blanch the meat, brown it in a little oil, then pour its broth over it. Mix honey, pistachios, atraf tib, some starch, saffron, and pepper in a little vinegar. Add this mixture to the meat and cook until it thickens.

Ingredients

1 kg stewing beef, such as chuck steak or beef shin 1 tsp atarif tib
½ cup pistachios, crushed ¼ tsp saffron
2 tbs honey Salt and pepper to taste
1tbs arrowroot/cornflour Generous handful roughly torn mint
2 tbs virgin sesame oil

Method

  • Cover the beef with water, and simmer for about 1.5 – 2 hours until the meat is very soft. Strain and reserve the cooking liquid. Remove any scum from the surface of the cooking liquid.
  • Soak the saffron threads in boiling water until the water is a deep orange.
  • In a pan, heat the sesame oil, then add the beef and fry briefly.
  • Add the honey, the reserved and de-scummed beef broth, the arrowroot, the spices and saffron water, and stir to thicken.
  • Add the pistachios and stir to warm through.
  • Sprinkle with the mint to serve.
  • Notes

    • This dish would have been served as part of the second or third course, after the cold dishes and pickles.
    • It is possible the blanching refers to the practice of boiling the meat to clean it and balance the humours. However, the double cooking actually results in a very tasty dish – the meat is soft from the stewing, and then develops a lovely crust from the frying.
    • Atarif tib is a medieval spice mix of around 10 different spices: pepper, long pepper, rose petals, cardamom, nutmeg, mace, spikenard, cloves, ginger, bay leaf and oregano.
    • Virgin sesame oil is very different to the Chinese sesame oil – it’s made from unroasted seeds and has a much milder flavour. You will need to visit specialty shops, such as delicatessens or Middle Eastern or Indian grocers, to find it.