Saturday, June 10, 2017

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .xliiij. Mortrewys de Fleyssh and xliij. Mortrewes of Fysshe - Mortrews of Flesh and Motrews of Fish

.xliiij. Mortrewys de Fleyssh and xliij. Mortrewes of Fysshe


Today's blog post will feature both the Mortrews of Flesh and the Mortrews of Fish. Mortrews is best described as a meat paste which has been fortified with eggs, breadcrumbs and spices and then cooked to the consistency of thick custard. The word "Mortrews" comes from Latin "mortarium" referring to a mortar or bowl where things were pounded or ground.  This is one of the more unusual dishes that can be found in Two fifteenth-century cookery-books : Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430), & Harl. MS. 4016 (ab. 1450), with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1439, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS. 55 Thomas Austin, and it was one of the more popular dishes.  In an era where dentistry was primitive at best and bad teeth was common, this soft mixture of foods would have been a perfect dish.  Nowadays we may want to use it similar to a pate, spreading it on bread and serving it with a sharp accompaniment of something pickled.  However, our ancestors most likely ate this with their fingers or spoon, or even off of their knives.

Mortrews, also known as mortis, mortrose, mortress or mortruys is most likely the ancestor of modern day Pâté, Terrines, and or Potted Meats. One of the earliest recipes can be found in "The Forme of Cury" (~1390).  The Romans had similar dishes which they called "patina's".  One such recipe taken from De Re Coquinaria is below:

aliter patina de asparagis -frigida:accipies asparagos purgatos, in mortario fricabis; aqua suffundes, perfricabis; per colum colabis, et mittes fecitulas curatas; teres in mortario piperis scrupulos sex, adicies liquamen; fricabis; uini ciatum I, passi ciatum I; mittes in caccabum olei uncias tres; illic ferueant. perungues patinam; in ea oua VI cum enogaro misces; cum suco asparagi inpones cineri calido. [mittes inpensam super scriptam]* tunc ficetulas conpones, coques; piper asparges et inferes.
Another cold asparagus patina.-Take cleaned asparagus, pound in the mortar, add water, beat thoroughly and pass through a sieve. Next put in a saucepan fig-peckers which you have prepared for cooking. Pound in the portar 6 scruples of pepper, moisten with liquamen, grind well, add one cyathus of wine and one cyathus passum. Put in a saucepan 3 oz. oil. Bring the mixture to the boil. Grease a patina pan, and mix in it 6 eggs with oenogarum, put it with the sparagus purée in the hot ashes, pour on the mixture described above, and arrange the birds on top. Cook it, [let it cool], sprinkle with pepper, and serve.
.xliiij. Mortrewys de Fleyssh.—Take Porke, an seþe it wyl; þanne take it vppe and pulle a-way þe Swerde,*. [Rind, skin. ] an pyke owt þe bonys, an hakke it and grynd it smal; þenne take þe sylf brothe, & temper it with ale; þen take fayre gratyd brede, & do þer-to, an seþe it, an coloure it with Saffroun, & lye it with ȝolkys of eyroun, & make it euen Salt, & caste pouder Gyngere, a-bouyn on þe dysshe.

The "Medieval Cookery" website offers this excellent interpretation of the recipe. 

xliiij - Mortrewys de Fleyssh. Take Porke, an sethe it wyl; thanne take it vppe and pulle a-way the Swerde, (Note: Rind, skin) an pyke owt the bonys, an hakke it and grynd it smal; thenne take the sylf brothe, and temper it with ale; then take fayre gratyd brede, and do ther-to, an sethe it, an coloure it with Saffroun, and lye it with 3olkys of eyroun, and make it euen Salt, and caste pouder Gyngere, a-bouyn on the dysshe.

44. Mortrews of Flesh - Take pork, and cook it well; then take it up and pull away the skin, and pick out the bones and hack it and grind it small; then take the self broth (the same broth you cooked it in, and temper it with ale; then take fair grated bread, and do thereto, and cook it, and color it with saffron, and mix it with yolks of eggs, and make it even salt, and caste powder ginger, above on the dish.

Interpreted Recipe                                                                   Serves 1 as a Main, 2 as a side

1/4 pound pork (I used two fresh pork hocks and a bit of country spare ribs)
1 cup water
1/4 cup ale
pinch of saffron
2 egg yolks or one whole egg
1-2 tbsp. bread crumbs
1 tsp. salt
Pepper to taste
Ginger to garnish

If I make this in the future I might add some bacon to it, which is a pork product and everything is better with bacon! I digress--place the pork, saffron and salt in a pot and cover with the water, cook until the pork begins to fall apart.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool till you can easily handle it.  Remove all fat, gristle, bones from the meat and place it in a blender with the ale and the water. Pulse for a few seconds until the meat becomes a puree (but not to baby food!) and return it to the pot.  Add your eggs and your breadcrumbs and cook stirring constantly.  Remember, you want your mortrews to have the consistency of a very thick custard or flan capable of standing on its own, but not so thick that you cannot spread it onto a piece of toasty bread.  Taste for seasoning, garnish with ginger, and then serve.

I have a confession to make--I grabbed the wrong bottle and didn't pay any attention to the fact that I had added garlic salt to the dish.  This was a happy mistake though and one worth repeating in the future ;-P The taste testers have tried this dish piping hot, room temperature and cold, it was delicious all three ways, but my preference was room temperature.

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Forme of Cury (England, 1390)

Mortrews. XX.II. V. Take hennes and Pork and seeþ hem togyder. take the lyre of Hennes and of the Pork, and hewe it small and grinde it all to doust. take brede ygrated and do þerto, and temper it with the self broth and alye it with zolkes of ayrenn, and cast þeron powdour fort, boile it and do þerin powdour of gyngur sugur. safroun and salt. and loke þer it be stondyng, and flour it with powdour gynger.

Mortrews Blank. XX.II. VI. Take Pork and Hennes and seeþ hem as to fore. bray almandes blaunched, and temper hem up with the self broth. and alye the fleissh with the mylke and white flour of Rys. and boile it. & do þerin powdour of gyngur sugar and look þat it be stondyng.


Blaunche mortrewes. Take gode cowe mylke, and rawe egges the zolkes wel beten togedur, and sothen (boiled) porke, braye it, and do hit in a panne withouten herbes, and let hit boyle, and stere (stir) hit wel tyl hit crudde; then take hit up ande presse hit well, and then take almondemylke or gode creme of cowe mylke, and do hit in a panne, and do therto sugur or honey, and let hit boyle; and do the crudde therto, and colour hit depe with saffron, and then dresse hit forthe, iii. leches (stices) in a dysshe or v. and poure the sothen creme above, and cast theron sugur and saunders, and maces medelet togedur, and serve hit forthe.

Mortrewes of flesh. Take fylettes of porke, and seth hom wel, and qwhen they ben fothen brayc hom in a morter, and take bred steped in broth, and bray hit up with al in the morter, and then seth hit up with sasfrone : and if thow wol make hit more stondyng, qwhen hit is boylet take yolkes of eyren, and bete hom, and putte hom therto, and cast theron pouder of gynger.


Mortrews de chare. Take hennes and fresshe porke, y þe kenne, Sethe hom togedur alwayes þenne. Take hem up, pyke out þe bonys, Enbande þe porke, Syr, for þo nonys. Hew hit smalle and grynde hit wele, Cast it agayne, so have þou cele, In to þe brothe, and charge hit þenne With myed wastelle, as I þe kenne. Colour hit with safron, at þat tyde. Boyle hit and set hit doune be syde. Lye hit with 3olkes of eren ry3t, And florysshe þy dysshe with pouder þou my3t.


Maretrel de le Char. Tak hennes flesch & pork & sethz to gidre tak it up & pyk outh the bonys hewe it smale grynd wel kast it ageyn in to the brothz charge it with myed wastel bred colour it with saffron boylle it & gwan it is boylled set it of the fyr lye it with yelkys eyren florysch the dysch with poudre.


.xliij. Mortrewes of Fysshe.—Take Gornard or Congere, a-fore þe navel wyth þe grece (for be-hynde þe navel he is hery*. [Hairy. ] of bonys), or Codlyng, þe lyuer an þe Spaune, an sethe it y-now in fayre Water, and pyke owt þe bonys, and grynde þe fysshe in a Morter, an temper it vp wyth Almaunde Mylke, an caste þer-to gratyd brede; þan take yt vp, an put it on a fayre potte, an let boyle; þan caste þer-to Sugre and Salt, an serue it forth as other Mortrewys. And loke þat þow caste Gyngere y-now a-boue.

xliij - Mortrewes of Fysshe. Take Gornard or Congere, a-fore the navel wyth the grece (for be-hynde the navel he is hery (Note: Hairy) of bonys), or Codlyng, the lyuer an the Spaune, an sethe it y-now in fayre Water, and pyke owt the bonys, and grynde the fysshe in a Morter, an temper it vp wyth Almaunde Mylke, an caste ther-to gratyd brede; than take yt vp, an put it on a fayre potte, an let boyle; than caste ther-to Sugre and Salt, an serue it forth as other Mortrewys. And loke that thow caste Gyngere y-now a-boue.

43 - Mortrews of Fish - Take gurnard, or conger (eel), before the navel with the grease (for behind the navel he is hairy of bones), or codling (an inferior for of cod), the liver and the eggs, and cook it enough in fair water, and pick out the bones, and grind the fish in a mortar, and temper it up with almond milk, and cast there-to grated bread; then take it up and put it on a fair pot, and let boil; then cast thereto sugar and salt, and serve it fort as other motrews.  And look that you caste ginger enough above.

Interpreted Recipe                                                   Serves 1 as a main, 2 as a side

1/4 pound fish (I used cod loin but any lean flaky fish could be used, pollock, halibut, sole, flounder, orange roughy, haddock, whiting, hake, ocean perch and tilapia)
1 cup water
1/4 cup almond meal
1-2 tbsp. bread crumbs
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
Ginger to garnish

I used frozen cod for this dish so did not have to worry about cleaning out the bones after the fish was cooked.  I placed the fish into a pot with the water and salt and cooked till the fish was cooked through.  I then put the fish, water and almond meal into the food processor, gave thanks to the Kitchen Gods for the creation of such a marvelous machine, and pulsed the mixture for about 20 seconds. I then returned the mixture to the pot, added the breadcrumbs and the sugar and cooked until it had thickened to a thick paste.  Before serving I garnished with ginger. 

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Mortrews of fysshe. Take þo kelkes of fysshe anon, And þo lyver of þo fysshe, sethe hom alon. Þen take brede and peper and ale, And temper þo brothe fulle welle þou schalle, And welle hit togeder and serve hit þenne, And set in sale before good mene.


To mak mortins of fyshe tak codlinge haddok whiting or thornbak and sethe it and pik out the bones and pull of the skyne then bet the fishe in a mortair with the lever of the same fysche and temper it up with almond mylk or cow creme and put it in a clene pot and let it boile and put ther to sugur and hony and alay thy potage with fleur of rise draw with milk through a strein and stirr it well and mak it stondinge then drese v or vi lesks in a dyshe and cast on pouder guingyur mellid with sugur and serue it.

Gentyll manly Cokere (MS Pepys 1047) (England, ca. 1500)

To make mortrose of Fyshe. Take hownde fyshe haddock or codlyng seth hit and pyke hit clene fro the bonys take a way the skyn and grynde the lyver ther with blanched almounds And temper thy mylke with the broth of the fresh Fyshe and make a gode mylke of do ther to myad of white brede and sugure set hit to the fyre when hit boylys loke hit be stondyng mese serue hit furth strow on Blawnche powdyr.


Mortrows on Fysh Dayes. Recipe codlyng & hadoc with þe lyver, & seth þam wele in water, & pike oute þe bones & grind þe fysh small. Draw a lyre of almondes & brede with þe fysh broth, & do þerto þe gronden fysh, strewing powdyr, saferon & salt, & make it standyng & serof.

The taste testers and I enjoyed both of these dishes.  They are unusual but very tasty.  As you can see we served it with lemon wedges, capers, olives, pickles and crusty homemade bread. The fish is very mild in flavor, and creamy in texture, unlike the pork, which is a bit more hearty and flavorful. Either of these dishes would be a flavorful alternative to butter either on the table or served with bread in a first course.  Since we believe that this kind of a dish was the precursor to modern day "potted meats" the discussion turned to whether or not this would be appropriate to take to a camping event.  My suggestion would be seal it with clarified butter, grease, and eat it early on should you do so.  I would have no hesitation serving this at a royalty or tavern luncheon or a feast.





Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .xxxviij. Storion in brothe - Sturgeon in Broth

Add captionHarleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .xxxviij. Storion in brothe - Sturgeon in Broth

The Two fifteenth-century cookery-books : Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430), & Harl. MS. 4016 (ab. 1450), with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1439, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS. 55 Thomas Austin feature quite a number of recipes that include various kinds of fish. This comes as no surprise though with the number of days meat was forbidden. Prior to the 15th century, the church had declared Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays as 'fysshe" days. During Lent and Advent all animal products such as eggs, butter, cheese and meat were forbidden. With fish days, fasting, advent and lent, fully one third or 140-160 days of the year, fish was the only meat you were allowed to eat.

Because of the prohibition on eating meat or meat products, it was necessary for our ancestors to find alternative foods to eat.  Vegetables and fish were often substituted, and on days that butter, cheese and eggs were allowed those were also eaten.  Fish eventually became symbolic of a "monastic" diet, and of purification and renunciation. It was considered a food of the nobles and the rich, even though it was a common food found in any river or the sea.  Part of the paradox surrounding fish is that it is not easily transportable and needed to be preserved in some way.  Sturgeon was one of the favored fishes and in England was reserved for the King.

.xxxviij. Storion in brothe. —Take fayre Freysshe Storgeoun, an choppe it in fayre water; þanne take it fro þe fyre, an strayne þe brothe þorw a straynoure in-to a potte, an pyke clene þe Fysshe, an caste þer to powder Pepir, Clowes, Maces, Canel; & þanne take fayre Brede, and stepe it in þe same lycowre, & caste þer-to, an let boyle to-gederys, & caste þen Safroun þer-to, Gyngere, an Salt, & Vynegre, & þanne serue it forth ynne.*. [i.e. into the dining-room. ]

xxxviij - Storion in brothe. Take fayre Freysshe Storgeoun, an choppe it in fayre water; thanne take it fro the fyre, an strayne the brothe thorw a straynoure in-to a potte, an pyke clene the Fysshe, an caste ther to powder Pepir, Clowes, Maces, Canel; and thanne take fayre Brede, and stepe it in the same lycowre, and caste ther-to, an let boyle to-gederys, and caste then Safroun ther-to, Gyngere, an Salt, and Vynegre, and thanne serue it forth ynne. (Note: i.e. into the dining-room)

38 Sturgeon in Broth - Take fair fresh sturgeon, and chop it in fair water; then take it from the fire, and strain the broth through a strainer into a pot, and pick clean the fish and caste there to powder pepper, cloves, mace, cinnamon; and then take fair bread, and steep it in the same liquor, and cast there-to, and let boil together, and cast then saffron there-to, ginger, and salt, and vinegar, and then serve it forth in.

Interpreted Recipe                                                                                    Serves 1 as a main, 2 as a side

1/4 pound fish per person -Sturgeon is a fatty, firm textured fish; if you cannot find it you can easily substitute salmon, swordfish, halibut, tuna, whitefish, or any combination of these fish
1 cup water
1/8 tsp. each pepper, mace, cinnamon
1 tbsp. (or to taste) bread crumbs
pinch of saffron
1/8 tsp. ginger
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 tsp. vinegar

This is perhaps one of the easiest recipes I have come across.  With the exception of cleaning the fish the most difficult part of it was waiting for it to finish cooking.  Most fish comes already cleaned and prepared, however, if you choose to use whole fish, please clean properly before adding to your water then make sure you strain the broth as you clean your fish once it has been cooked.  I used a combination of Tuna and Swordfish for this recipe as sturgeon is a darker colored fish. I was unable to locate sturgeon when I had decided to interpret this dish.   I added the (frozen) fish to the water along with the pepper, mace and cinnamon and allowed to simmer gently until the fish was cooked thoroughly through.  At this point I used a fork to break up the fish into chunks, added the remaining ingredients and cooked until I was satisfied with the color of the broth. 

The taste testers really enjoyed this dish.  I believe this would be a very suitable dish for any feast as it is a fix and forget it dish, the longer it cooks the more flavorful it becomes--I would just caution against overcooking. This was a very meaty dish and I imagine if you were serving at an event you could easily stretch this out with the addition of fish stock to the soup. Do not be put off by the cloves, mace, cinnamon or ginger that is added to the dish. I realize they are unusual ingredients to be paired with fish, but the flavors were well balanced and complimented each other.  If I had one complaint, it was that I was not as assertive with the vinegar.  That was a personal choice on my part, so I have added an additional teaspoon to the interpretation.

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Recipes from the Wagstaff Miscellany (England, 1460)

Storgeon. Take a storgeon cut the vyn from the tayle to the hedde & cleve hym as a samon & cut the sydys yn fayre pecys & make the same of watyr & salt when it boyleth scome hit clene & cast the pecys ther yn & let hem boyle y nowghe then take hem up & serve hem forth with levys of percelley wete hem yn venygger cast hem in disches & the sauce ther to ys venygger.

Gentyll manly Cokere (MS Pepys 1047) (England, ca. 1500)

Sturgeon. Take and lay hym in Water over nyght seth hym and let hym kele and lay hym in vyneAger or yn Aysell that sauce is kyndely ther to serue hit furth.

Thomas Awkbarow's Recipes (MS Harley 5401) (England, 15th century)

Storgeon in Broth. Recipe fresh storgeon; perboyle it in fayr water & chop it small, & strene þe broth with a streneзour in to a pot, & pyke clene þat fysh, & cast þerto small mynced onзons, peper & clows, macis & canell; & take fayr brede & stepe it in þe same licoure, & draw it with a streneзour, & let it boyle to gydere, & cast þerto powdyr of gynger, vinagre, & saferon & salt, & serof.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - Roseye - Chicken or Fish in Rose Sauce

 Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - Roseye - Chicken or Fish in Rose Sauce


Roseye is one of the more unusal dishes that I have made from the Two fifteenth-century cookery-books : Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430), & Harl. MS. 4016 (ab. 1450), with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1439, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS. 55 Thomas Austin. On the surface this looks like a very simple dish, however, it contains a surprisingly "modern" set of instructions - " than take Loches, an toyle (Note: Rub, cover) hem with Flowre, an frye hem". Roughly interpreted "then take loaches and cover them with flour, and fry them." This was the first time since I have started cooking from these books that I had seen instructions to flour and then fry an ingredient. This is a pretty significant finding. At the very least, it gives us a time table for pan frying--in this case fish, but chicken can be easily substituted. Secondly, we are instructed to use roses, not as a flavoring, but as a coloring agent for the sauce of almond milk that accompanies the fish.  The sauce that came from my red roses became a very soft pink color that I wish the picture could have caught.

You are probably more familiar with the loach as one of the fishes you would find in your local pet store. Loaches have been described as being mild tasting and similar to catfish in flavor. If I were to serve this dish at an event I would use catfish as my substitute, or another similarly textured or flavored fish such as bass, cod, troug, salmon, perch, whiting or whitefish.

.C. Roseye.—Take Almaunde Mylke an flowre of Rys, & Sugre, an Safroun, an boyle hem y-fere; þan take Red Rosys, an grynd fayre in a morter with Almaunde mylke; þan take Loches, an toyle*. [Rub, cover. ] hem with [supplied by ed.] Flowre, an frye hem, & ley hem in dysshys; þan take gode pouder, and do in þe Sewe, & caste þe Sewe a-bouyn þe lochys, & serue forth.

Dan Myers offers this interpretation at his site Medieval Cookery.

C - Roseye. Take Almaunde Mylke an flowre of Rys, and Sugre, an Safroun, an boyle hem y-fere; than take Red Rosys, an grynd fayre in a morter with Almaunde mylke; than take Loches, an toyle (Note: Rub, cover) hem with Flowre, an frye hem, and ley hem in dysshys; than take gode pouder, and do in the Sewe, and caste the Sewe a-bouyn the lochys, and serue forth.

100 - Roseye - Take almond milk and flour of rice, and sugar and saffron, and boil them together; then take red roses, and grind fair in a mortar with almond milk; then take loaches, and cover them with flour, and fry them, and lay them in dishes; then take good powder and do in the sauce, and caste the sauce above the loaches, and serve forth. 

Interpreted Recipe                                                                    Serves 1 as a main, 2 as a side

1/4 pound firm textured, mild flavored fish cut into finger width strips
flour to dredge the fish in
oil to fry the fish

For the sauce: 

1 cup almond milk (I used the quick almond milk recipe)
1 tbsp. rice flour
1 tsp. sugar
pinch of saffron
1/4 tsp. good powder or to taste (I used the Le Menagier's recipe for fine spice powder )
Salt and pepper to taste

Place almond milk, rice flour, sugar and saffron into a pot and simmer until it thickens to the desired consistency.  Meanwhile, cut the fish into finger width strips, lightly dredge in flour and pan fry in the oil until done.  To serve, place the fish on a plate and cover with the sauce, add good powder to taste.

I am saddened to report though, that while this is very pretty to look at, the dish itself was a bit bland and was not favored by the taste testers or myself. One of them described (and I agreed) that it resembled fish cooked in porridge.  

It hurt for something acidic--wine, lemon, ale or beer. I do strongly recommend that you create the sauce with almond milk that has been created with something acidic (like wine) or that you serve something acidic on the side (maybe even lemon slices).  Several other recipes from the manuscript prescribe making the almond milk with ale or wine, and I believe that would have gone a very long way towards creating a more favorable experience.

Similar Recipes are listed below. 

Forme of Cury (England, 1390)

XLI - For to make Rosee. Tak the flowris of Rosys and wasch hem wel in water and after bray hem wel in a morter and than tak Almondys and temper hem and seth hem and after tak flesch of capons or of hennys and hac yt smale and than bray hem wel in a morter and than do yt in the Rose so that the flesch acorde wyth themylk and so that the mete be charchaunt and after do yt to the fyre to boyle and do thereto sugur and safroun that yt be wel ycolowrd and rosy of levys and of the forseyde flowrys and serve yt forth.

Liber cure cocorum [Sloane MS 1986] (England, 1430)

Rose. Take flour of ryse, as whyte as sylke, And hit welle, with almond mylke. Boyle hit tyl hit be chargyd, þenne Take braune of capone or elle of henne. Loke þou grynd hit wondur smalle, And sithen þou charge hit with alle. Coloure with alkenet, sawnder, or ellys with blode, Fors hit with clowes or macys gode. Seson hit withsugur grete plenté, Þis is a rose, as kokes telle me.

A Noble Boke off Cookry (England, 1468)

To mak rose, tak flour of ryse and temper it with almond mylk and mak it chaungynge then tak the braun of capon or of henne sodyn and grind it and charge it ther with and colour it with sanders and blod and fors it with clowes and maces and sesson it with sugur and serue it.