Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .Cj. Eyron en poche. - Eggs Poached

.Cj. Eyron en poche. - Eggs Poached


This is one of the first recipes that I have run across 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 by Thomas Austin that specifies to "poach" the food.  I love poached eggs and I have been holding on to this recipe as a "reward" for making a couple of dishes that I was not sure I would enjoy.  Poaching is a cooking method where moist heat is used to gently cook the food. This method of cooking food can trace it's origins back to ancient times, one of the oldest cookbooks, Apicius's "De re Coquinaria" the cook is instructed to cook several dishes in liquid.  Le viandier de Taillevent one of the earliest printed  cookery books introduced poaching to a larger audience, however, poaching became more prevalant in the 17th century.

I learned how to poach eggs from my grandmother.  She would faithfully bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a little bit of vinegar "to set the whites" to the water and then using a spoon would create a whirlpool in the pot before gently cracking the egg into it. That is the method that I used with this recipe.  For more information on how to poach an egg, click here.

The taste testers and I agreed this was a very pretty dish, savory and sweet at the same time, the poached egg floating in the middle of a thickened sauce was a playful illusion of an egg cooked over easy.  I would serve this at a luncheon with some crispy toasts to act as sops, and thin slices of ham. Yummmsss!!

Opinions varied on the dish; one taste tester declared "it wasn't for them". They liked how it looked but they would have preferred a more savory dish.  Another tester wanted it to be a lot sweeter. I was happy with the balanced taste.

.Cj. Eyron en poche.—Take Eyroun, breke hem, an sethe hem in hot Water; þan take hem Vppe as hole as þou may; þan take flowre, an melle with Mylke, & caste þer-to Sugre or Hony, & a lytel pouder Gyngere, an boyle alle y-fere, & coloure with Safroun; an ley þin Eyroun in dysshys, & caste þe Sewe a-boue, & caste on pouder y-now. Blawnche pouder ys best.

Cj - Eyron en poche. Take Eyroun, breke hem, an sethe hem in hot Water; than take hem Vppe as hole as thou may; than take flowre, an melle with Mylke, and caste ther-to Sugre or Hony, and a lytel pouder Gyngere, an boyle alle y-fere, and coloure with Safroun; an ley thin Eyroun in dysshys, and caste the Sewe a-boue, and caste on pouder y-now. Blawnche pouder ys best.

101. Eggs in Poach - take eggs, break them, and cook them in hot water; then take them up as whole as you may; then take flour and mix with milk, and caste there-to sugar or honey, and a little powder ginger, an boil all together, and color with saffron; and lay your eggs in dishes and case the sauce above, and cast on powder enough.  White powder is best. 

Interpreted Recipe                                                     1-2 eggs per person


For the Egg

1or more eggs
Water 
1 tbsp. white vinegar

For the Sauce

1 tbsp. flour
1 cup milk 
1 tsp. sugar or honey
1/8 tsp. ginger
Pinch of saffron
Salt and pepper to taste

Use your best method to poach the egg.  I use a 2 quart pan and fill the pan to about an inch from the top and bring the water to a boil. Add the vinegar and then heat to simmer.  While I wait for the water to come to a quick simmer/boil I crack the egg into a cup.  When the water comes to a boil I swirl the water around until I can see a whirlpool and then I drop the egg into the center of the whirlpool.  Turn off the heat, cover the pan and let sit for about five minutes.  DO NOT--no matter how tempted you are--peek, poke, prod, or stir the egg again. Trust me on this.

While you are waiting for the egg to complete cooking, make a slurry from the flour and milk (I usually do a 1:2 ratio of starch to liquid to begin with). Because starches, like flour, tend to clump when they come into contact with liquid, make sure that you have mixed the flour and milk until it is smooth. Add remaining ingredients to the pan and then slowly bring to a simmer. As the liquid simmers the sauce will begin to thicken.  When it has thickened to your desire (I thickened mine to a "medium" sauce consistency) remove it from the heat.  

To serve, take the egg from the poaching liquid, place it in a dish and then sauce around the egg. Finish with a pinch of white powder.  

This was good as a sweet dish, I urge you to try it. I want to experiment around with this dish.  I would like to try it with more savory flavorings, for example, mustard, cumin, or even garlic-cream sauce similar to the flavorings found in lxxxx. Hennys in Gauncelye.   

Similar Recipes

Fourme of Curye [Rylands MS 7] (England, 1390)

.lxxxviij. Pochee. Tak ayroun & breke hem in scaldyng hote water, & whanne they ben soden ynowgh, take hem up, & tak yolkes of ayroun & rawe mylke & swyng hem to gyder, & do therto poudour ginger, safroun & salt, set it over the fyre & lat it not boyle, take the ayroun y sode & cast the sewe onoward, & cet.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - lvij - Charlet a-forcyd ryally - Pork cooked in milk Reinforced Royally

lvij - Charlet a-forcyd ryally - Pork cooked in milk Reinforced Royally
This is the second of the "charlette" dishes 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 by Thomas Austin, and the one that was least preferred of the taste testers.  

The almond milk created a finer curd then the regular milk when it was tempered with the wine, resulting in a much finer "grain" to the sliced product. This would have been a very costly dish to make with the addition of ginger, galingale, sugar and the large quantity of saffron used.  It is my belief that this was a dish to show off the wealth of the host, and not necessarily a dish that would have been eaten "every day".

This dish was the least favorite of all of the dishes that I have attempted to reinterpret and that says a lot considering the doozy's I have found; Cxxxj - A potage colde, .Cvj. Rapeye of Fleysshe and lxxj - Murrey to name a few.  This is on my "too period to be enjoyed by modern tastes list" and I do not have plans at this time to attempt to introduce the modern medieval palette to it.

.lvij. Charlet a-forcyd ryally.—Take gode Mylke of Almaunde; take tender Porke, an hew it smal, an bray it on a morter; take eyroun, an draw þorw a cloþe; temper vppe þin flesshe þer-with, an caste on þe potte; take þe mylke, an sette it ouer þe fyre; sesyn it wyth Salt an Safroun caste þer-on; boyle it, an when yt komyth on hy, a-lye it with wyne, an sette it a-doun; take vppe an ley it on a cloþe, an presse it a lytil; ondo it a-ȝen, & caste þer-on pouder Gyngere, Galyngale, Sugre y-now; menge it to-gederys, presse it a-aȝen, seþe þe broþe wyl; take styf Almaunde mylke y-temperyd with Freysshe brothe, & caste þer-on Saffroun an Sugre y-now, an a lytil Salt, & boyle it, þan take and set it owt; leche now þin mete, & ley þer-of in a dysshe; take þe sewe, & ley a-boue; take Maces & Sugre, & caste þer-on, & serue forth.

lvij - Charlet a-forcyd ryally. Take gode Mylke of Almaunde; take tender Porke, an hew it smal, an bray it on a morter; take eyroun, an draw thorw a clothe; temper vppe thin flesshe ther-with, an caste on the potte; take the mylke, an sette it ouer the fyre; sesyn it wyth Salt an Safroun caste ther-on; boyle it, an when yt komyth on hy, a-lye it with wyne, an sette it a-doun; take vppe an ley it on a clothe, an presse it a lytil; ondo it a-3en, and caste ther-on pouder Gyngere, Galyngale, Sugre y-now; menge it to-gederys, presse it a-a3en, sethe [correction; sic = MS. seye .] the brothe wyl; take styf Almaunde mylke y-temperyd with Freysshe brothe, and caste ther-on Saffroun an Sugre y-now, an a lytil Salt, and boyle it, than take and set it owt; leche now thin mete, and ley ther-of in a dysshe; take the sewe, and ley a-boue; take Maces and Sugre, and caste ther-on, and serue forth [correction; sic = f].

57. Charlette Reinforced Royally - Take good milk of almond; take tender pork, and cut it small and grind it in a mortar; take eggs, and draw through a cloth; temper up the flesh there-with, and caste on a pot; take the milk, and set it over the fire; season it with salt and saffron caste there on; boil it and when it cometh on high, mix it with wine, and set it down; take up an lay it on a cloth, and press it a little, and do it again, and caste there-on powder ginger, galingale, sugar enough; mix it together, press it again, cook the broth well: take stiff almond milk mixed with fresh broth, and caste there-on saffron and sugar enough, and a little salt, and boil it, then take and set it out; slice now your meat, and lay there-of in a dish; take the sauce and lay above; take mace and sugar and caste there-on and serve forth.

Interpreted Recipe                                                          Makes approximately six 1" slices 

For the Charlette:

1/4 pound pork or veal (I used ground pork)
2 eggs
Salt to taste
Pinch of saffron
2 tbsp. wine
1/8 tsp. each ginger and galingale
1/4 tsp. sugar

For the Sauce: 

1/4 cup almond milk
Salt to taste
Pinch of Saffron 

Pinch each of mace and sugar to be dusted over the dish before serving.

Heat the pork, salt and saffron in the almond milk until it is cooked through.  In the meantime, beat the eggs with the wine and add the ginger, galingale and sugar. When the pork is cooked through, turn the heat up on the mixture and when it comes to boil add in the egg and wine mixture.  Stir constantly for approximately five minutes.  You will notice that the curds and whey will begin to separate almost immediately and the egg will begin to curd as well.  After five minutes or so, turn off the heat and allow to cool a little bit.  

Put cheesecloth into a strainer and pour the mixture into it.  Press with a plate and weights as you would for cheese (I used two 28 ounce cans).  Once the whey stops dripping from the "cheese" set it on a tray and let it cool.  Once cool slice into 1" slices and place into a shallow bowl. 

To make the sauce, heat the almond milk, salt and saffron until the desired colored is reach, stirring constantly to prevent scorching of your almond milk.  Pour the heated broth over the cheese and dust with a pinch of mace and sugar before serving. 

This made six 1" slices. I believe that two slices would make an adequate main course as the cheese is very dense in texture; so approximately three servings from 1 cup of milk, or six side servings.  You could even be creative with the cutting of your slices, making them just slightly smaller or cutting into cubes and this could serve a single table at an event. 

Similar Recipes


.xl. Charlet forsed. Tak mylke & seeth hit & swenge therwith yolkes of ayroun & do therto & poudour of ginger, & sugur & safroun & cast therto, tak the charlet out of the broth & messe hyt in dysches, lay the sewe o noward, floures hit with poudour douce and sugur.

A Noble Boke off Cookry (England, 1468)

To mak charlet forced tak cowe mylk and yolks of eggs draw throughe a stren and bet it to gedur then tak freshe pork smalle hewene and cast all to gedure in a pan and colour it with saffrone and let it boile till it be on a crud then take it up and lay it on a clothe upon a bord and presse out the whey then tak the mylk of almondes or cow creme and sett it on the fyere put ther to sugur and colour it depe with saffrone then leshe out the crud and couche it in dishes and pour out the ceripe and cast on sugur and canelle and serve it.


Charlet Enforesyd. Recipe swete mylk and egges зolkes & ale, & seth pork withoute erbis, brayed, & lat it boyle tyll it do crud; and colour it with saferon, & þan take it vp & press it. Þan take creme of almondes or of kow mylk & boyle itt, & put þerto ginger & colour it depe with saferon, & lay þerof .iij. lechis or .v. in a dysh of þe charlet & poure þe [c]reme apon it; and medyl sugure, sawndyrs, & masz togydere & strew it þeron & serof it forth.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) -.lvj. Charlette - Pork Custard

.lvj. Charlette - Pork Custard
Todays culinary adventure from 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 by Thomas Austin was a pair of related dishes consisting of meat cooked in milk.  The name itself means meat-milk --char - for flesh and lette for milk.  The first dish was a bit more favorably received then the second dish. There are recipes for dishes called "milk meats" similar to  Milke Rostys.
This might make a good breakfast dish, but it is thoroughly unappetizing to look at and I'm afraid the modern diner might have to be "talked into" giving it a try. In fact, we did place this on our list of least favorite dishes that we have tried and on the "too period for modern tastes" list.

That being said, you should try this recipe if for nothing else, the experience of putting this dish together. I'm sure additional seasonings would improve the taste, if not the look. What the dish turns out to be is a kind of "cheese" with bits of egg and meat, held together by the cheese which is created when the acid, ale, in this case comes to a boil. Be sure to chill this before attempting to slice it, otherwise it crumbles. The broth then should be piping hot when you pour it over the slices to reheat them.  

I couldn't imagine trying to create this the day of an event.  I would recommend if you are going to try this dish you create the charlette the day before the event so it has a chance to drain and cool completely. You may want to prepare extra, in case the slices fall apart.  

.lvj. Charlette.—Take Mylke, an caste on a potte, with Salt and Safroun y-now; þan hewe fayre buttys of Calf or of Porke, noȝt to fatte, alle smal, an kaste þer-to; þan take Eyroun, þe whyte an the ȝolke, & draw þorw a straynoure; an whan þe lycoure ys in boyling, caste þer-to þin Eyroun and Ale, & styre it tylle it Crodde; þan presse it a lytil with a platere, an serue forth; saue, caste þer-on broþe of Beeff or of Capoun.

lvj - Charlette. Take Mylke, an caste on a potte, with Salt and Safroun y-now; than hewe fayre buttys of Calf or of Porke, no3t to fatte, alle smal, an kaste ther-to; than take Eyroun, the whyte an the 3olke, and draw thorw a straynoure; an whan the lycoure ys in boyling, caste ther-to thin Eyroun and Ale, and styre it tylle it Crodde; than presse it a lytil with a platere, an serue forth; saue, caste ther-on brothe of Beeff or of Capoun.

56 - Charlette - Take milk and cast on a pot, with salt and saffron enough; then hew fair butts of calf or pork, not to fat, all small, and caste there-to; then take eggs, the white and the yolks and draw through a strainer: and when the liquor is boiling, caste there-to your eggs and ale, and stir it till it curd; then press it a little with a platter, and serve forth; save, caste there-on broth of beef or of capon.

Interpreted Recipe                                                          Makes approximately six 1" slices 

1 cup milk
1/4 pound pork or veal (I used ground pork)
Salt to taste
Pinch of saffron
2 eggs
2 tbsp. ale
1/4 cup chicken stock 

Simmer the meat in the milk with the salt and saffron until it has cooked through.  In the meantime, beat the eggs with the ale.  When the meat has cooked completely bring the milk to a boil and throw in the egg and ale mixture.  Stir constantly to prevent burning and sticking.  After a minute you will see the milk and eggs beginning to form curds.  Continue to stir for about five more minutes and remove from heat.  Let sit for five more minutes. 

Line a sieve with cheesecloth and pour the meat and egg mixture into it.  Fold the cheesecloth over and weight with a plate. I used a couple of 28 ounce cans to continue to press the mixture and strain out the whey, just like you would do if you were making cheese.  Remove from the sieve and place on a tray and into a fridge to allow to cool completely.  

Once the charlette is cooled completely, slice it into slices and set the slices in a bowl. I used "two" slices for a main dish, so this recipe would serve three as a main. They are very substantial.  Cover with chicken or beef stock that has been brought to a rolling boil, and serve. 

Similar Recipes


.xxxix. Charlet. Tak pork & seeth it wel, hewe hit smal, cast it in a panne, breke ayroun & do therto & swynge hit wel to geder, do therto cow mylk & safroun & boyle it to gyder, salt hit and messe hit forth.


Charlet. Take sweete cowe mylk, and put into a panne, and cast in therto zolkes of eyren and the white also, and fothen porke brayed, and sage; and let hit boyle tyl hit crudde, and colour it with saffron, and dresse hit up, and serve hit forthe.

A Noble Boke off Cookry (England, 1468)


To mak charlet tak freche porke and sethe it and swing eggs ther withe then hewe the pork smalle and boile it in swet mylk and serue it.



Friday, January 13, 2017

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .xxiiij. Drawyn grwel - Tempered Gruel

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .xxiiij. Drawyn grwel - Tempered Gruel
The picture does not do the dish justice. It was much browner in the bowl.
Earlier this week I posted the recipe for .vij. Gruelle a-forsydde, or Gruel Reinforced, meaning that the gruel had been fortified with meat. That was the first of two recipes for gruel 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 by Thomas Austin". This is the second that I reinterpreted. The same caveats apply, I did not go through the process of straining the dish, and the dish as I have created it is much meatier then what would probably expect in period. 

Of the two recipes that I tried this one was the favorite. The commentary from the taste testers as this was cooking was "it smells like biscuits and gravy in here!" When it came time to testing we engaged in spoon war's to eat the last of it! I have also been made to promise to make this again. I will.

The basis of any gruel is meal. In this case, that meal is specified as oatmeal. Oatmeal has a very long history of cultivation. Remains of oat grains have been found in Egypt dating back to the 12th Dynasty approximately 2000 BC. Wild oats are similar to cultivated oats and it is believed that oats were a "weed" plant that made themselves at home among the older cultivated grains of wheat and barley. Oats themselves were cultivated much later than its counterparts wheat or barley. Cultivation of oats most likely began around the time of Christ and it is argued that it began in the Caucasian plains.

Greeks and Romans disdained oats. The Romans described them as "the barbaric bread grain of the Germans" . Pliny described oats as "a weed among cereals that could only lead to the degeneration of barley." Despite this, oats were a common food staple used in gruel, and the straw used for farm animals. Wild oats were used as pasturage and as a forage crop.

Fortunately by the late 1500's the health benefits of oats were recognized. Italian herbalist Pietro Andrea Mathioli (1519-1603) writes “The effect of oats: the broth from the steeping of oats is good against coughs. Boiled and eaten, the gruel plugs stool. Against gall stones the common man is wont to heat oats or juniper berries and to place them in a poultice. Oats may be used on swollen or dislocated limbs, just as barley flour. Mixed with white lead and used to wash the countenance it makes a clear, attractive complexion. Against the mange and scabs of small children there is nothing better than to bathe them in steeped oats.”

German botanist Adam Lonitzer (1528-1586) also praises oats as useful "Oats are a useful grain for both cattle and man. Cooked and eaten it is an excellent medication encouraging one’s daily stool; it fills the belly and is a fortifying source of nutrition. Its particular virtue lies in penetrating the damp and consuming hardened ulcers; the flour of oats may be used as a poultice. It is exceedingly good for fistula. It may be consumed warm as a meal but used as a medication externally it should be cool and dry. Oats are good when used for all manner of swellings and pustules on the body that occur from heat. Wild oats, the stem, seeds and leaves steeped in red wine and drunk soothes both red and white effluvia from the belly and increases the function of the urethra, taking with it all refuse which hath collected in the bladder and womb."

.xxiiij. Drawyn grwel.—Take fayre water an lene Bef, an let hem boyle; an whan þe beef hath y-boylid, take it vp an pyke it, an lete it blede in-to a vessel, an þenne caste þe blode an þe Fleysshe in-to a potte; an þanne caste þer-to Otemele, Percely, & Sawge, an make þer-of an gode grwele; þen draw it þorw a straynowre, an putte it on a fayre potte, an let it boyle; þanne caste þer-to Salt; An ȝif it be nowt brown y-now, take a litil blode an caste þer-to or it be y-draw, an make it broun y-now, an serue it forth.

xxiiij - Drawyn grwel. Take fayre water an lene Bef, an let hem boyle; an whan the beef hath y-boylid, take it vp an pyke it, an lete it blede in-to [correction; sic = MS. blede in-to , repeated.] a vessel, an thenne caste the blode an the Fleysshe in-to a potte; an thanne caste ther-to Otemele, Percely, and Sawge, an make ther-of an gode grwele; then draw it thorw a straynowre, an putte it on a fayre potte, an let it boyle; thanne caste ther-to Salt; An 3if it be nowt brown y-now, take a litil blode an caste ther-to or it be y-draw, an make it broun y-now, an serue it forth.

24 Drawen Gruel - Take fair water and lean beef, and let them boil; and when the beef hath boiled, take it up and pick it, and let it bleed into a vessel, and then caste the blood and the flesh into a pot, and then caste there-to oatmeal, parsley and sage, and make thereof a good gruel; then draw it through a strainer, and put it in a fair pot, and let it boil; then caste there-to salt; and if it be not brown enough, take a little blood and caste there-to or it be draw, and make it brown enough, and serve it forth.

Interpreted Recipe                                                                            Serves 2 as a main, 3-4 as a side

1 cup water
1/4 pound of ground beef
1/2 cup beef stock
2 tbsp. oats ( I used a mix of Scottish ground and Steel Cut)
1 tsp. parsley
1/2 tsp. sage
salt and pepper to taste
*optional* 1 beef bouillon cube

This was another recipe where I threw all the ingredients into the pot and let them cook until the oatmeal had cooked through. Because I used a mixture of oats, I cooked for the longest cooking of the grain (steel cut). The gruel was ready to eat in approximately 25 minutes. This cooking time would have taken longer had I used whole oats. I do not recommend that you use rolled oats for these recipes. The information on why is below.

So often we see in period recipes the notation to "boil your meat" before cooking it. I finally decided to do a little bit of research into this. I'm sure someone who hunts or butchers their own food would be aware of this practice, but I am not and was curious. The practice of soaking the meat before boiling is done to remove any blood that might have congealed on the meats surface, as well as to remove any dirt, dust or insects that may have infected the meat. The initial boiling of the meat before cooking is done for similar reasons; it is done to remove the impurities (dirt, dust, bone fragments, insects) that might have embedded themselves into the meat during processing. The point is to have a "cleaner" piece of meat to work with. Additionally boiling the meat prior to cooking removes any acrid, bitter, irony taste of old blood that might be present in your meat and to remove any initial "scum" that might surface.

Therefore, the second set of instructions you normally see in these kinds of recipes makes perfect sense; using the initial boiling liquid to create your broth. I am making an assumption that straining the liquid was commonplace and therefore not an instruction that was written down. After the removal of initial impurities and then straining of those impurities, the actual cooking process should, in theory, result in a flavorful, clear broth or stock.

I also used a mix of two different kinds of oatmeal's in an attempt to emulate the kind of oats that might have been used in period. There are many varieties of oats available in today's markets; our medieval ancestors were probably only familiar with oat groats and oats that had been ground. The processes for making rolled oats came into existence in the 18th Century, when mills would heat or kiln-dry oats to remove the hulls from the kernel and then steam it (in some productions) and then roll it to produce a flat flake. Using a rolled oat for any recipe that calls for it in period is not recommended.

Raw newly harvested oats have a hull and a hairy stem and before they can be eaten the hulls must be removed and the grains need to be separated from the stalks. Oat groats are the whole grain that is unbroken, cleaned of the hull and stalks before it has been processed. Unprocessed oats contain a enzyme that makes them go rancid very quickly, but toasting them deactivates that enzyme and makes them stable for storage. Steel cut oats are oats that have been cut with a blade into several pieces. Sometimes these are referred to as "Scottish" oats. However true "Scottish" oats have been stone ground to produce bits of oat in varying sizes.

As stated previously, this recipe was amazing and has changed my (and the taste testers) opinions on what gruel should be. Despite rumors to the contrary, gruel is not a flavorless, thin watery soup of unknown origin. The oats add a subtle nutty flavor, the meat is tender and the water and broth thicken considerably once cooked. The end result is an unctuous soup that would be worthy to be served to kings and nobles alike. This would be a dish that I would not be ashamed to serve at any event, lunch tavern, camp breakfast, or to throw together in a pinch if I had unexpected company. I know this is meatier than expected, so you could easily stretch this out so that one pound of meat feeds 16 people (two tables of 8 if you are meal planning), and nobody should feel that they were not getting their money's worth. I urge you to try it.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .vij. Gruelle a-forsydde - Gruel Reinforced

vij. Gruelle a-forsydde - Gruel Reinforced
Much to my shame, I am hesitant to admit that I have been avoiding interpreting this dish because the thought of a savory oatmeal soup like dish was not appealing to me. I as a diner would probably turn up my nose should such a dish be served to me. Somehow, what I had pictured in my head and what eventually ended up in the bowl were two entirely different things. I have been humbled and have learned a lesson.

Two recipes of note appear early 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 by Thomas Austin" for "gruel".  The thought of a thin porridge of soup consisting of a meal of grains, specifically oatmeal, in this case doesn't sound very appetizing, does it? Gruel can be made with any kind of meal; rye, oats, wheat or rice which has been boiled in water, milk or almond milk.  The difference between gruel and porridge is one of consistency.  I had porridge almost every day when was I growing up and I love it. My memories of a good hearty breakfast are broken only because there were a few times when money was tight that my oatmeal, cream of wheat or malt-o-meal was too thin, resulting in trying to choke down a flavorless food because "it was good for me".

I thought I would try to write a little bit on the history of gruel, its origins etc.  I'm sure the information is out there but it seems to be a history that is as old as the art of cooking itself. What I discovered is that that cereal preparations like congee (a rice based porridge) can trace its beginnings to Asia approximately 2500BC.

There is further archeological evidence that suggests that a hot, mush like cereal, similar to our modern day porridge, was eaten either at the end of the Stone Age or the beginning of the Neolithic period. Swiss archeological digs suggest that Stone Age settlements were mashing grains and mixing them water and then cooking upon a heated rock hardening the porridge into the earliest breads and cakes.

Of course, whenever you have water and grain mixed together and allowed to sour or ferment you have the beginnings of alcohol! The earliest documentable evidence of alcohol being brewed can be documented to Iran's Central Zagros Mountains approximately 3400 - 3000 BC. The oldest documented cocktail (mixed drink) can be traced to China, approximately 7000 BC and it is described as a mixture of "rice, honey, hawthorn fruit and/or grape".

My research proved to be fruitful in many ways.  When you eat your morning porridge, or gruel, remember this; in that spoonful of cereal and liquid, most likely flavored with butter, sugar or other spices, lies the beginning of civilization as we know it--beer and bread, the ability to farm, to move from a hunter/gatherer lifestyle to a farming lifestyle. More importantly, it allowed our population to grow, as children could be fed a nutritious meal while teething and women were able to birth more children in half the time.  I didn't find the answers I wanted, but the information I did find has made me appreciate more the humble origins of this dish.

.vij. Gruelle a-forsydde.—Take otemele, an grynd it smal, an sethe it [leaf 7.] wyl,*. [(wyl = well).] an porke þer-ynne, an pulle of þe swerde*. [sward, rind, skin.] an pyke owt þe bonys, an þan hewe it, an grynd it smal in a morter; þan neme þin*. [thine. ] grwel an do þer-to, þan strayne it þorw a straynour, an put it in a potte an sethe it a lytel, an salt it euene*. [equally. ]; an colour it wyth safroun, an serue forth rennyng.

vij - Gruelle a-forsydde. Take otemele, an grynd it smal, an sethe it wyl, (Note: (wyl = well).) an porke ther-ynne, an pulle of the swerde (Note: sward, rind, skin.) an pyke owt the bonys, an than hewe it, an grynd it smal in a morter; than neme thin (Note: thine) grwel an do ther-to, than strayne it thorw a straynour, an put it in a potte an sethe it a lytel, an salt it euene (Note: equally); an colour it wyth safroun, an serue forth rennyng.

7. Gruel Reinforced - Take oatmeal and grind it small, and cook it well and pork there-in, and pull off the skin and pick out the bones and then cut it, and grind it small in a morat; then take your gruel and do there-to, than strain it through a strainer, and put it in a pot and cook it a little, and sat it equally; and color it with saffron, and serve forth running.

Interpreted Recipe                                                      Serves 2 as main, 3-4 as side

1 cup water
1/2 cup stock (pork, chicken, vegetable, beef 50/50 chicken and beef)
2 tbsp. oats -- I used a mixture of steel cut and Scottish ground oats
1/4 pound of ground pork
pinch of saffron
salt and pepper to taste

I was fully prepared to dislike this dish--savory oatmeal?? ICKS! I was very pleasantly surprised with this dish. Not only how easy it was to prepare but how taste it truly was.  A few caveats, if you will.

First, this dish is most likely a lot meatier then what was eaten in period.  In fact, I would say that you could easily use one pound of meat for 16 diners and easily replicate what was found in period.

Secondly, I did not follow the instructions completely when I prepared this dish, I didn't strain this dish at all.  I probably should have, but it is my guess that the reason for the instruction to "strayne it thorw a straynour, an put it in a potte" had a lot more to do with the processing of the food, oats specifically, then it did with anything else.  I think it would have been very difficult to remove all of the hulls of the oats and then to store them without insects getting into the grain.  It is my belief that straining this dish was for the purpose of removal of those items that should not be present in the end product, including insect, hulls, bones, gristle etc.

To prepare the dish I simply threw all the ingredients together in a pot and let them boil together until the oats were completely cooked.  I used a mixture of steel cut and Scottish oats for this dish.  One cooks much quicker then the other and together they thickened the water and stock into a delicious broth. I was surprised at how much like rice the oats ended up tasting in the finished product.  As one of the taste testers pointed out "it isn't dazzling to look at" but it was delicious when served and I do urge you to consider using this dish as a pottage for any medieval meal, camp dinner or for a simple and relatively quick soup for every day.

Similar Recipes

Fourme of Curye [Rylands MS 7] (England, 1390)

.iij. For to make grewel eforced. Take grewel & do to the fyer withe gode flesch & seeth hit wele. Take the lyre of pork & grynd hit smal and drawe the grewel thorow a straynoure & colour hyt with safroun.
Liber cure cocorum [Sloane MS 1986] (England, 1430)

For gruel of fors. Fyrst take porke, wele þou hit sethe With otene grotes, þat ben so smethe. Whenne hit begynnes wele to alye, þou save of þe þynnest brothe þer by To streyne þy gruel, alle and summe. But furst take oute þy porke þou mun And hak hit smal and grynde hit clene. Cast hit to þo gruel þat streyned bene, Colour hit with safroune and sethe hit wele. For gruel of force serve hom at mele.

A Noble Boke off Cookry (England, 1468)

To mak grewelle enforced tak mary bones and freche brothe and mak grewelle and draw them throughe a strener then tak pork sodene tender and pick out the bones and the senewes and pille of the skyn and hew it and grind it smale in a mortair and temper it with the same gruelle that is drawen and mak it smothe and let it stond myche by freche pork and salt it and serue it.


To make grewell of forse. Take mary bones of Fresh beef And make goode grewell ther of then draw hit throwgh a streynner Take fayre porke tender sodyn take A way the skynne and the bonys and the senose Then grynde hit yn A morter small And tempyr hit vp with the same grewell that ys drawne make hit smoth let hit stand resonayll by þe flesh seson hit vp with salte and saferon then set hit to the fyre and let hit boyle And serue hit furth.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Harleain MS 279 (ab. 1430) - xlviij. Tayloures - Rice porridge with currants and dates

 xlviij. Tayloures - Rice porridge with currants and dates

I was very eager to try out this recipe from 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 by Thomas Austin" for Tayloures, which is another pottage based on the almond milk and rice flour base.  Previously published interpretations which contain this base include; Cxxxvj. A potage of Roysons (Rice Porridge with Apples and Raisins), .Ixxxv. Gaylede (Rice Porridge with Figs & Honey), .Cxxv. Vyolette - Violet. and .lxviij. Bruet of Almaynne in lente (Rice Porridge with Dates).  The taste testers and I had an interesting conversation about where in a feast you would find dishes like these served.  The consensus is that for the modern day pallet you serve them at breakfast--barring that, they should most likely be served either as a sweet side dish as part of a course, or at the end of the meal for a warm pudding.

This dish did not disappoint.  It differs from the other pottages with the use of the wine to create (or in my case) flavor the almond milk, and the spicing. I would consider this a "Lordly" dish-the instructions include an unusual amount of spices (cloves, mace, pepper, cinnamon, saffron and salt) but also includes sugar, making this a rather costly if humble dish. It is also unusual as it is the second set of instructions for cooking these kinds of dishes that can interchange both bread and rice as the thickener.

xlviij. Tayloures. — Take a gode mylke of Almaundys y-draw with Wyne an Water, an caste hym in-to a potte, and caste gret Roysouns of corauns. Also mencyd Datys, Clowes, Maces, Pouder Pepir, Canel, Safroun, & a gode dele Salt, & let boyle a whyle ; }an take it and ly^ it wyth Flowre of Rys, or ellys w/tA Brede y-gratyd, & caste |7er-to Sugre, & serue forth lyke Mortrewys, & caste pouder of Gyngere a-boue y-now.

xlviij - Tayloures. Take a gode mylke of Almaundys y-draw with Wyne an Water, an caste hym in-to a potte, and caste gret Roysouns of corauns, Also mencyd Datys, Clowes, Maces, Pouder Pepir, Canel, Safroun, and a gode dele Salt, and let boyle a whyle; than take it and ly (Note: Lye; allay.) it wyth Flowre of Rys, or ellys with Brede y-gratyd, and caste ther-to Sugre, and serue forth lyke Mortrewys, and caste pouder of Gyngere a-boue y-now.

48. Taylours - Take good milk of almonds drawn with wine and water, and caste them in a pot, and caste great raisins of corauns (currents). Also minced dates, cloves, maces, powder pepper, cinnamon, saffron and a good deal of salt, and let boil awhile; Than take it and lie it with flour of rice, or else with bread grated and caste there-to sugar, and serve forth like mortrews, and cast powder of ginger above enough.

Interpreted Recipe

3/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup wine (I used wine)
1 tbsp each currants (or raisins)
2 dates chopped as small as currants (or raisins)
2 cloves
1/8 tsp. each mace, pepper, cinnamon (or to taste)
pinch of saffron
salt to taste
2-3 tbsp. rice flour or bread crumbs
1 tbsp or to taste sugar (or to taste)
Pinch of ginger

I used commercially prepared almond milk and added white wine to it because I wanted to keep the pottage as white as possible.  I much prefer the taste of homemade almond milk to the commercially prepared almond, and a easy recipe using almond flour can be found here: Quick Homemade Almond Milk. I heated the almond milk with the currants and the raisins and added the spices, a pinch of saffron and sugar to it.  Once it had obtained the color I wanted, I added the rice flour and stirred till it was thick.  Before serving I sprinkled the dish with a pinch of ginger and a pinch of currants.

This dish had very balanced flavors and the taste testers and I did appreciate the addition of spices.  This led to another discussion on the preogative of the cook; Is it ok to follow the example of this recipe and add additional spices to the other similar instructions?  We concluded that what was written was a set of instructions, most likely written by someone watching the cook prepare the food, who may have only seen it prepared the one time.  Therefore, it is likely that just as modern day cooks will substitute one item for another, the medieval cook most likely did the same.

We also discussed the feasibility of creating dishes like this for camping events, specifically for camp breakfast. It was noted that with the exception of almond milk, all of the ingredients are dried.  It would be quite feasible to make almond milk from almond flour at the site.  What would you do with the almond meal once the milk was made? With a can of pie filling, or fresh fruit of your choice, you could make a quick crumbly topping for a camp pie.  Simply mix 1/4 cup of the (used) almond flour with 1 cup dry oats, up to a teaspoon of spices (cinnamon), 1/4 cup maple syrup or honey and add the juice of half an orange. Yum!

Similar Recipes

Le Viandier de Taillevent (France, ca. 1380 - James Prescott, trans.)

Lenten slices. Take peeled almonds, crush very well in a mortar, steep in water boiled and cooled to lukewarm, strain through cheesecloth, and boil your almondmilk on a few coals for an instant or two. Take some cooked hot water pastries a day or two old and cut them into bits as small as large dice. Take figs, dates and Digne raisins, and slice the figs and dates like the hot water pastries. Throw everything into it, leave it to thicken like Frumenty, and boil some sugar with it. To give it colour, have some saffron for colouring it like Frumenty. It should be gently salted.

Recipes from the Wagstaff Miscellany (England, 1460)

Tayle. Take a lytyll milke of almonds drawyn up with wyn & do hit in a pott do ther to figes reysens & datys cut and sygure & good pondys boyle hit up colour hit with safron & messe hit forth.