Black Barida (Chicken in Raisin Sauce)

Pound black raisins very well. Stir and mash it with a small amount of vinegar. Strain the liquid and add a small amount of cassia, galangal as needed, and a little ginger. Pour over it some olive oil and add a small amount of chopped rue. Pour sauce over [roasted] pullets.
Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq, Kitab al’Tabikh Chapter XXXI (The Book of Dishes, trans. Nawal Nasrallah)

Baridas are cold dishes served at the start of the feast, after fresh fruit was served (Zouali, 2007, 56). They are generally composed of light foods – fish, chicken or vegetables, though there is an occasional recipe for red meat (Zouali, 2007, 63). It was believed the stomach took a while to “warm up,” and putting heavy food into an unwarmed stomach would cause indigestion (Zouali, 2007, 64).

Ingredients

1 roasted chicken, or 1.5kg roasted chicken pieces
375g raisins 2 tsp powdered ginger
80mL wine vinegar 3 tbs olive oil
1 tsp cassia or cinnamon 2 tbs finely chopped feverfew
½ tsp powdered galangal 1 tsp salt (optional)

Method

  1. To make the sauce, grind the raisins and vinegar to a pulp in a mortar and pestle, or pulverise in a food processor.
  2. If the sauce is too dry, add more vinegar.
  3. Pass the mix through a sieve, add the rest of the ingredients and stir well.
  4. Combine the sauce and the chicken and serve cold.

Notes

  • I have followed Nasrallah’s lead in using roast chicken with this dish (Nasrallah, 2009, 167) – most chicken barida recipes in the same book specify roast chicken. However, it also works well with sliced poached chicken breast.
  • When using roast chicken in feasts, I like to use chicken wings chopped in half and roasted. They don’t take long to cook, and are very easy to portion (and they’re cheap!).
  • Cassia and cinnamon are spices obtained from the bark of related trees, and are often both identified simply as cinnamon. When powdered, cassia has a stronger smell, and is reddish in colour. You will probably need to go to a specialised spice store to find them differentiated (Hemphill, 2006, 156-163).
  • If using ginger, try to track down whole dried ginger which has to be grated before use. This is the way ginger would have been purchased in the medieval period, and it has a far more powerful flavour and scent.
  • I have replaced the rue with feverfew.  It has a regrettable tendency to cause allergic reactions (and miscarriages), plus is very bitter.  If you can’t find feverfew, you could also use rocket (arugula), in greater quantities. Both feverfew and rocket are also bitter, without the severe allergen problems.
  • I recommend using powdered galangal rather than fresh – fresh galangal can be tough, so it’s difficult to peel and cut.

Black Barida

Further Reading

Click on the links below to order books directly from the Book Depository.
Hemphill, Ian (2006) Spice Notes and Recipes
Nasrallah, Nawal (2009) Annals of the Caliphs’ Kitchens
Zaouali, Lilia (2007). Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World.

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

Chicken Dumplings

193 Wie man kaponerkrapfen machen soll
Nempt das bret von 2 hennen, wens gesoten jst, hackt es fein, nempt ain barmisankesß geriben darúnder vnnd gilbts
vnnd rierts dúrchainander/ jr solt aúch múscatblie vnnd pfeffer dareinthon, macht darnach ain taig an/ macht ain
tinnen blatz vnnd thiet die obgeschribne fille daraúff vnnd formierts zú ainem krapfen vnnd dient die 2 zipffel zúsamen/ siedts jn ainer fleschbrie wie hert gesottne air vnnd gebts warm.
Das Kuchbuch der Sabina Welserin’

193 How to make chicken dumplings
Take the meat from two chickens. After it is cooked chop it finely, mix grated Parmesan cheese in with it and color it yellow and stir it together. You should also put mace and pepper into it. After that prepare a dough. Make a thin flat cake and put the above described filling on it and form it into a dumpling and join the two ends together. Cook it in broth as long as for hard- boiled eggs and serve it warm.

The text of the original recipe can be found here.

The translation is by Valoise Armstrong, and can be found here.

Chicken was the most commonly consumed poultry in Germany, and there are many recipes for it in German cooking manuscripts (Bach, 2016, 139). These delicate morsels are rather like chicken and cheese ravioli. I’ve also eaten them as a soup, with the dumplings served in the cooking broth.

Ingredients

500g chicken meat, raw or cooked (see notes) 1/2 tsp pepper
250g parmesan cheese 1/4 tsp mace
1 packet of wonton wrappers (see notes) 1/4 tsp saffron threads
1.5L chicken stock 1/2 tsp salt

Method

  1. Shred the chicken finely with a fork or a food processor, and finely grate the parmesan.
  2. Soak the saffron threads in boiling water, which should turn deep orange.
  3. in a bowl, combine the chicken, cheese, salt, spices and saffron water and mix well. This is easiest done with the hands.
  4. Place a spoonful of the mix into the middle of a wonton wrapper. Rub the edges of the pastry with water, then fold the wrapper into a dumpling shape and press to seal. Use more water as necessary.
  5. Bring the stock to a boil, then add the dumplings to cook through. They are cooked when they rise to the surface of the stock (which will take around 5 minutes).
  6. If you are serving the dumplings as dumplings, cook and serve immediately, otherwise they will stick together before they can be eaten.
  7. Serve warm.

Notes

  • Although the recipe specifies cooked chicken meat, we found making the dumplings with cooked chicken made the end result rather dry and tough – the raw chicken which then cooked in the wrapper was much more flavoursome.
  • If you want to try and make your own dumpling wrappers, the fair paste recipe made into a thin pasta would be a good basis. I’ve just never gotten a flour and water pasta that eats as well as a commercially made wonton wrapper.
  • The dumplings can be made ahead of time and then frozen. They will cook from frozen, but will take longer to cook.

Chicken dumplings
Served as dumplings….

Chicken dumpling soup
… or served as soup!

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Bach, Volker (2016). The Kitchen, Food and Cooking in Reformation Germany.

Chicken Buns

97 Wiltú hennenkiechlen bachenn/
So nim das hennenflesch vnnd lasß vor sieden, darnach hacks klain vnnd thú ain geriben semel daran vnnd air daran,
bis dú mainst/ das es ain feins dicks taiglin seý, darnach mach feine rúnde kigellen/ vnnd lasß bachen gar lancksam
vnnd saltzs.
Das Kuchbuch der Sabrina Welserin’

97 If you would make chicken buns
Then take the meat from hens and let it cook beforehand, after that chop it small and put grated a Semmel thereon and eggs thereon, until you think that it is a good thick dough. Afterwards make fine round little balls and let them fry very slowly and roast them.

The text of the original recipe can be found here.

The translation is by Valoise Armstrong, and can be found here.

I know very little about German cooking. However, this is one of a number of recipes in Sabrina Welserin’s cookbook for bachen, which has been translated as “buns.” They appear to be balls which can be fried or roasted, so buns is as good a translation as any; a bachen containing meat, like this one, could be called a meatball.

We decided to add parmesan cheese, as recipe 193 combines cooked chicken, Parmesan cheese and spices in a dough wrapper, to be boiled (rather like ravioli or tortellini). They are equally delicious with or without the cheese.

Ingredients

500g cooked chicken meat 2 eggs
100g bread crumbs Salt
Optional: 125g grated Parmesan cheese  

Method

  1. Shred the chicken finely with a fork or a food processor.
  2. in a bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix well. This is easiest done with the hands.
  3. Form the mix into small balls about the size of walnuts, and flatten slightly.
  4. Heat some oil in a frypan, then fry the balls until the outsides are golden.
  5. If you have access to an open fire, thread the chicken balls onto a skewer and expose them to the flame and smoke briefly, so they take on the smoky flavour from the flames. I assume this is why they were to be roasted as well as fried.
  6. They can be served hot or cold.

Notes

  • Semmel is a bread roll baked from a fine wheat flour. You can either grate the roll on a fine grater to produce breadcrumbs, or use a food processor. It is far better to make your own breadcrumbs rather than use bought ones – the texture of freshly made crumbs is far better.

Buns of Chicken

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

Boiled Capon (Chicken in a rich fruit sauce)

To boile a capon.
Put the Capon into the pouder beefe pot, and when you thinke it almost tender, take a little potte and put therein halfe water and halfe wine, marie, currants, dates, whole mace, vergice, pepper, & a litle time.
Thomas Dawson, The Good Huswife’s Jewell, 1596.

To boil a capon.
Put the capon into the heavy stock pot, and when you think it almost tender, take a little pot and put therein half water and half wine, bone marrow, currants, dates, whole mace, verjuice, pepper, and a little thyme.

 

Ingredients

1 chicken, OR 1.5kg chicken pieces
125mL white wine 100g bone marrow ½ tsp mace
125mL water 60g currants 1 tsp ground black pepper
40mL verjuice 60g dates 2 tbs thyme leaves

Method

  1. Put your chicken or chicken pieces into a pot and cover with water, and boil until the chicken flesh is completely opaque.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the bone marrow and dates finely.
  3. Combine the sauce ingredients in a pot and bring to the boil. Stir occasionally and cook until the sauce is well reduced.
  4. Drain the chicken, and carve it into joints.
  5. Pour the sauce over it to serve.

Notes

  • “Marie” is another name for bone marrow – the substance in the middle of bones (and in the case of cows, the best part of the cow, and I love beef). You will often find butchers sell leg bones cheaply for dogs (lucky dogs) – get the butcher to saw it into pieces for you as they generally have electric saws.
  • Verjuice is the juice squeezed from unripe grapes, and has a sour flavour, but not as strong as vinegar. It was a popular flavouring in medieval and Tudor times.

 

IMAG0349

Further Reading

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

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…)

Ingredients

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

Method

  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.

Notes

  • 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.

 

IMAG0093

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

Apicius 6.2.6 – “Another Recipe for Boiled Crane or Duck” (Green Sauce for Duck)


aliter in grue uel anate elixa: piper ligusticum apii semen erucam et coriandrum mentam careotam; mel acetum liquamen defritum et sinape. idem faciet et [si] in [caccabo] assas.
Apicius – De re coquinaria

Another recipe for boiled crane or duck
Pepper, lovage, celery seed, rocket and coriander, mint, date, honey, vinegar, liquamen, defrutum and mustard. It is equally suitable for roast [or grilled] (birds).

This text and translation are taken from Sally Grainger and Christopher Grocock’s Apicius (2006) (p224-225).

Like many recipes in Apicius, this recipe is just a list of ingredients. Because this can be served with roasted or grilled birds (Grocock and Grainger, 2006, 225), I have interpreted it as a sauce.

Ingredients

3 tbs rocket 15mL wine vinegar 1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbs coriander 15mL fish sauce 1/2 tsp celery seed
2 tbs mint 15mL vino cotto 30mL honey
40g dates 15mL mustard 1 tbs lovage

Method

  1. Finely chop all the herbs.
  2. Finely grind all the
  3. In a mortar and pestle, pound the dates to a paste.
  4. Combine all the other ingredients in the mortar and pestle and combine well into a sauce.
  5. You can also combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulverise.
  6. Serve at room temperature.

Notes

  • 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).
  • Careonum is thought to be a syrupy sauce made from boiling down the must left over from wine making (Grainger 2006, 30). This is similar to the modern vino cotto, which I use as a substitute.

Green Sauce for Duck

Further Reading

Click on the links below to order directly from The Book Depository.

Grainger, Sally. “Towards an Authentic Roman Sauce.” 2005 Oxford Food Symposium
Grainger, Sally. Cooking Apicius.
Grocock, Christopher and Grainger, Sally. Apicius.

Apicius 2.1.7 and 2.2.4 – Chicken Faggots with Sauce

esicia omentata
pulpam concisam teres cum medulla siliginei in uino infusa; piper, liquamen; si uelis, et bacam mirta extenteratam simul conteres, pusilla esicia formabis intus nucleis et pipere positis; inoluta omento subassabis cum caroeno.
Apicius 2.1.7 (Grocott and Grainger, 2006, 148)

Forcemeat Faggots
You pound chopped meat with fresh white breadcrumbs soaked in wine, with pepper and liquamen; if you wish, you pound crushed myrtle berries with them. You shape the faggots with pine nuts and pepper placed inside. Wrap them in caul fat and grill or roast them with caroenum.

2.2.4 aliter de pullo
piperis grana XXX conteres, mittis liquaminis optimi calicem, careni tantundem, aquae undecim mittes et ad uaporem ignis pones.
Apicius 2.1.7 (Grocott and Grainger, 2006, 150)

Another Sauce for Chicken Forcemeat
pound 30 grains of pepper, add a cup of best quality liquamen, the same amount of caroenum and 11 cups of water and put it over the fire.

Although the faggot recipe does not specify a meat, the chicken goes well with the recipe and has the sauce recipe. I tried the recipe with the myrtle berries but I and my taste testers found the taste far too bitter even though we only added a very small amount. We tried the currants instead and found them an excellent addition.

Ingredients – Chicken Faggots

500g chicken mince 30mL fish sauce 1/2 tsp pepper, finely ground.
120g bread crumbs 30mL vino cotto 60g pine nuts, toasted
60mL white wine Optional: 60g currants Caul fat

Ingredients – Sauce

30mL vino cotto 30mL fish sauce
100mL water 1/2 tsp pepper

Method

  1. To make the sauce, grind the pepper finely and combine all the ingredients in a saucepan. Heat to just boiling, then remove from the heat and keep warm.
  2. To make the faggots, combine the bread crumbs and the wine and soak for at least an hour.
  3. Roughly crush the pine nuts in a mortar and pestle, and combine with the pepper.
  4. Combine the chicken mince, wine soaked bread crumbs and fish sauce and currants if using.
  5. Separate the chicken mixture into six portions and shape each into patties. Put a small amount of the pine nut and pepper mix into the middle of each and fold the mince over so the pine nuts and pepper are concealed in the middle.
  6. Wrap each chicken patty in a small piece of caul fat, making sure the fold in the caul fat is not too thick.
  7. Grill the chicken patties, brushing them with the vino cotto as they cook.
  8. Serve immediately with the sauce.

Notes

  • Caul fat is a lacy membrane that surrounds the internal organs of animals such as pigs and cows. It helps to bind the chicken mix together and keep it moist while cooking. You should be able to order it from most butchers – look for one that makes their own sausages and charcuterie.

    Caul fat

  • Liquamen is a fish sauce, probably thinner in texture than the better known garum. (Grainger, 2005).
  • Careonum is thought to be a syrupy sauce made from boiling down the must left over from wine making (Grainger 2006, 31). This is similar to the modern vino cotto, which I use as a substitute.
  • The unit of measure used in the sauce, the calix indicates a wine cup but it is unknown how big this was (Grocock and Grainger, 2006, 84).

P5020029

Further Reading

Click on the links below to order directly from The Book Depository.
 
Grainger, Sally (2005). “Towards an Authentic Roman Sauce.” 2005 Oxford Food Symposium
Grainger, Sally (2006). Cooking Apicius.
Grocock, Christopher and Grainger, Sally (2006). Apicius.

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.)

Ingredients

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

Method

  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.

Notes

  • 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

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Two Fifteenth Century Cookbooks