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Harliean MS 279 (about 1430) Smale Byrdys y-stwyde - Small Birds Stewed

Harliean MS 279 (about 1430) Smale Byrdys y-stwyde - Small Birds Stewed

The people of the middle ages enjoyed a much wider variety of foods then we do today.  Some of the items that they enjoyed were particularly exotic or have fallen out of favor.  In addition to chicken, duck and goose, the following birds found their way to the medieval table including; Blackbirds, Bustards, Cormorant, Crane, Crow, Cuckoo, Curlews, Dove, Finches, Gannets, Godwits, Guillemots, Gulls, Heron, Lark. Oystercatchers, Partridges, Peacock, Pheasants, Plovers (including dotterels and lapwings), Puffins, Quail, Razor-billed auks, Rock Dove, Sandpipers (including knots, snipes, ruffs and woodcocks), Sparrows, Spoonbills, Starlings, Stork, Swan, Terns, Thrushes, Turtle Dove and Wood Pigeon.

The recipe below is very practical given the wide variety of birds that were enjoyed in the Middle Ages.  I used chicken to make it and tested it using my regular body of non-sca teens and my brother-in-law.  The wine based broth was delicious and this has fallen into the category of "must be served at a future feast.  Commentary ran from unintelligible mumbling around of bites of chicken and groans of pleasure to an excited "You have GOT to get this recipe to my mom".  There were even suggestions on how to improve the dish, for example "If you add noodles this would be *the best* chicken noodle soup...ever!"

.xix. Smale Byrdys y-stwyde. — Take smale byrdys, an pulle hem an drawe hem clene, an washe hem fayre, an schoppe of ]>e leggys, and frye hem in a panne of freysshe grece ryjt wyl ; ]?an ley hem on a fayre lynen clothe, an lette ]>e grece renne owt ; J' an take oynonys, an mynce hem smale, an frye hem on fayre freysshe grece, an caste hem on an erj^en potte ; ]7an take a gode porcyon of canel, an wyne, an draw ]7orw a straynoure, an caste in-to J^e potte •with j^e oynonys ; ]>an caste ]>e bryddys J^er-to, an clowys, an maces, an a lytil quantyte of powder pepir ]iev-to, an lete hem boyle to-gederys y-now ; ]>an. caste J^er-to whyte sugre, an powder gyngere, salt, safron, an serue it forth.

19. Small Birds Stewed - Take small birds, and pull them and draw them clean, and wash them fair, and chop off the legs, and fry them in a pan of fresh grease right well: then lay them on a fair linen cloth, and let the grease run out; than take onions, and mince them small, and fry them on fair fresh grease, and cast them on an earthen pot: than take a good portion of cinnamon and wine, and draw through a strainer, and cast into the pot with the onions; than cast the birds there-to, and cloves, and mace, and a little quantity of powder pepper there-to, and let them boil together enough; than cast thereto white sugar, and powder ginger, salt, saffron and serve it forth.

Interpreted Recipe                                              Serves 1 as a main, 2 as a side--must be friendly with each other ;-P

1 chicken breast - cut into bite sized chunks - I used skinless boneless, but if I were going to fix this for a large event I would prefer a mix of bone in, skin on chicken parts, or several whole birds broken down
1-2 tbsp. oil, lard or "grease" or more as needed
1/4 C. onion minced
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 C. wine (I used a dry white) *Note: You could sub 50/50 chicken stock and wine or 25/75 wine to stock depending on your preference
2-3 cloves
Pinch of saffron
1/8 tsp. pepper and mace
Pinch of white sugar and ginger
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in the pan until it is hot.  Add your chicken (or other bird of choice) and fry till it has become nicely browned.  Remove the chicken from the pan and let the oil drain.  While the oil is draining, cook your onions until they become translucent.  Once the onions are cooked, place them in a pot along with the cooked chicken.  Add the wine, or the wine and stock mixture (I used a 50/50 mix), cinnamon, cloves, saffron, pepper and mace and bring to a simmer.  Cook until the chicken has become completely cooked through.  Add salt to taste.  Before serving, strew a pinch of sugar and ginger.

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