Thursday, March 23, 2017

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .lxxxvj. Rys - Rice

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .lxxxvj. Rys - Rice


Because of its difficulty to grow and the cost to import, rice was considered a luxury product throughout the Middle Ages. Today rice is one of the most common cereal grains in use.  This recipe found in n 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 for medieval rice creates a sweet, creamy and delicious dish that reflects the simplicity of medieval cooking and its ability to create complex flavors with a few ingredients.

Where rice originated is hotly debated. One theory states that rice is a descendent of a wild grass which was cultivated in the Himalayas.  Another theory suggests that rice originated in India and spread to Thailand and China.  Rice spread from this region into the Middle East, where some of the oldest grains have been found in a grave dated to the first century A.D.

Alexander the Great introduced rice to Mesopotamia in the late 4th Century.  It was Alexander who is credited with introducing the Greeks to rice sometime around 320BC.  It was considered an exotic species and was used for medicine but not as a source of food.  The Romans became acquainted with this grain through the Greeks, but chose to import their rice from Syria and Egypt.  Apicius mentions that rice flour (fecula) could be used to thicken sauces.

Rice reached England in the late 13th, early 14th Century.  Records indicate that Portuguese and Spanish ships included rice as one of its imports along with figs, raisins, almonds, pepper, sugar, saffron, wax, leather and Pomegranates. There is some debate on how and when this grain was introduced to Spain.  One theory suggests that Moors invading from Africa brought rice with them in the eleventh century. Another theory suggests that rice was known in the Valencia region as early as the first century.  It is known that Portugal had established and thriving fields of rice in the twelfth century. It is believed that both France and Italy were growing rice in the thirteenth centuries.

.lxxxvj. Rys.—Take a porcyoun of Rys, & pyke hem clene, & sethe hem welle, & late hem kele; þen take gode Mylke of Almaundys & do þer-to, & seþe & stere hem wyl; & do þer-to Sugre an hony, & serue forth.

Daniel Myers offers this interpretation on his website.

lxxxvj - Rys. Take a porcyoun of Rys, and pyke hem clene, and sethe hem welle, and late hem kele; then take gode Mylke of Almaundys and do ther-to, and sethe and stere hem wyl; and do ther-to Sugre an hony, and serue forth [correction; sic = f].

Interpreted Recipe                                                                                    Serves 1 as main, 2 as side

1/2 cup rice
1 cup water
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 tsp each (or to taste) sugar and honey

What kind of rice should one use for this dish? I used a long grained white rice because it is what I had, but, if I were to cook this dish for an event I would choose a short  or medium grained rice  (Arborio or Valencia). I believe that the shorter grained rice was the one that was imported from Portugal and Spain into Europe.  Bomba Rice which is used for paella might also be a good choice. 

Follow the package directions to precook your rice.  Once the rice is cooked, allow it to cool and then add your almond milk, sugar and honey and cook until the almond milk is absorbed.  Serve--it could not be simpler.

I have in the past cheated at events by using the bagged, frozen rice, putting it into a pan, adding almond milk and popping it into the oven to thaw and heat. You can stir it occasionally while it is heating.  The almond milk absorbs and the dish tastes similar. Using long grain rice that is frozen and adding the flavors nets a similar taste but, you miss the creamy consistency. However if you are cooking for a larger crowd, purchasing the frozen rice, means not having to fret cooking in quantity for a large crowd and possibly serving undercooked rice.  

The taste testers and I "argued" over who got to eat the rest of the dish. This is definitely one of the times I wished I had made more instead of a "tasting sample. 

Similar Recipes

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

Decorated rice for a meat day. Pick over the rice, wash it very well in hot water, dry it near the fire, and cook it in simmering cow's milk. Crush some saffron (for reddening it), steep it in your milk, and add stock from the pot.

Le Menagier de Paris (France, 1393 - Janet Hinson, trans.)

RICE, Another Way. Pick it over and wash in two or three changes of hot water until the water is clear, then do as above until half cooked, then puree it and put on trenchers in dishes to drain and dry in front of the fire: then cook it thick with the fatty liquid from beef and with saffron, if this is a meat day: and if it is a fish day, do not add meat juice, but in its place add almonds well-ground and not sieved; then sweeten and do not use saffron.
 A Noble Boke off Cookry (England, 1468)

To mak ryse pik them clene and then wesshe them in two or thre waters and let the water be warm and sethe them in clene water till they begyn to boile and at the first boile put out the water and sethe them with brothe of fleshe or with the brothe of freche flesshe or of freche fisshe and put ther to sugur saffron and salt and serue it.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .Liij. Rapeye. Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .Liij. Rapeye Fig and Raisin Paste with Pine Nuts and Currants

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .Liij. Rapeye - fig and raisin paste with pine nuts and currants


Last year I published my interpretation of Cvj. Rapeye of Fleysshe which was a very interesting dish that created a kind of meat "sauce" made from pork, egg yolks, honey and spices. It was good to eat but not pleasant to look at. At the time I had made note of two futher recipes for "rapeye" made with fruit.  Here is my interpretation 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 of one of the two fruit sauces.

This is the first recipe that I have come across in my meanderings across this manuscript which specifically calls for "flour of Amidons" to be used as a means of thickening agent. What is Amidon?  Amidon (amydone, amidum, amylum, amydon, amidon, amelunck, amydon, amidum) is starch extracted from wheat which has been soaked for several days in water.  During the soaking process the water is changed out several times. After the soaking period is up, the wheat is pounded into a meal and then allowed to dry in the sun.  The instructions for this method of making wheat starch can also be found in the Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books (England, 1430) as part of the section for Laud MS. 553 (BODLEIAN LIBRARY).

For to make amydon. Nym whete at midsomer / and salt, and do it in a faire vessel / do water therto, that thy whete be yheled / let it stonde ix days and ix ny3t, and eueryeday whess wel thy whete / and at ye ix days ende bray hit wel in a morter / and drie hit to3enst ye sonne / do it in a faire vessel / and kouere hit fort, thou wil it note.
Interpretation: For to make amydon. Take wheat at midsummer/ and salt, and do it in a fair vessel / do water thereto, that the wheat be well covered / let it stand 9 days and 9 nights, and everyday, wash well the wheat / and at the nine days end grind it well in a mortar / and dry it  against the sun / do it in a fair vessel / and cover it forth, you will it not.


.Liij. Rapeye.—Take half Fygys & halfe Roysonys, and boyle hem in Wyne; þan bray hem in a morter, an draw wyth the same lycoure þorw a straynoure so þikke þat it be stondynge; þanne take Roysons of Corauns, Pynys, Clowys, Maces, Sugre of Siprys, an caste þer-to: þan putte it on a potte; þan take Saunderys a fewe, Pepir, Canel, an a litel Safroun; an ȝif it be noȝt stondyng, take a [supplied by ed.] lytil flowre of Amidons, an draw it þorw a straynwoure, an caste þer-to Salt, & serue forth stondyng.

Daniel Myers offers this interpreteation on his website Medieval Cookery:

Liij - Rapeye. Take half Fygys and halfe Roysonys, and boyle hem in Wyne; than bray hem in a morter, an draw wyth the same lycoure thorw a straynoure so thikke that it be stondynge; thanne take Roysons of Corauns, Pynys, Clowys, Maces, Sugre of Siprys, an caste ther-to: than putte it on a potte; than take Saunderys a fewe, Pepir, Canel, an a litel Safroun; an 3if it be no3t stondyng, take a lytil flowre of Amidons, an draw it thorw a straynwoure, an caste ther-to Salt, and serue forth stondyng.

53. Rapeye - Take figs and raisins and boil them in wine; then pound them in a mortar, and draw with the same liquor through a strainer so thick that it be standing; then take currants, pine nuts, cloves, mace, sugar, and caste there-to: then put it on a pot; then take sandalwood a few, pepper, cinnamon, and a little saffron; and if it be not standing, take a starch (flowre of Amidons - most likely wheat), and draw it through a strainer, and caste there-to salt, and serve forth standing.

Interpreted Recipe

1/2 cup dried figs, diced small
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup wine
1/4 cup currants
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 tsp. each ground clove and mace
1/2 cup sugar
pinch each of saffron and sandalwood
1/4 tsp. or more pepper and cinnamon (to taste)

This was very simple to make.  I cleaned and cut the figs into small dice, and placed them and the raisins into a sauce pan. As the figs and the raisins cooked the wine thickened into syrup.  Once the raisins had plumped up and the figs began to fall apart I put them into the blender and pureed them (thank you kitchen Gods!).  I attempted to strain through a strainer, I really, did, and all I did was end up with a mess....so this will be one of the very few times I will say...don't do it.  My guess is that our modern blender has the ability to make a much smoother paste then its medieval counterpart.  Save yourself extra dishes and just pour the sauce into the pan.  Add the spices, sugar, currants and pine nuts to the sauce and cook until it becomes thick.  I may have taken this a step too far, because I cooked it like I would any fruit paste-until the fruit remained parted in the pan.  At this point I poured it onto a sheet pan and let it sit until cool.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that I did mention to the house mates that there was an item sitting in the stove, one of them preheated the oven to 400 degree's with the rapeye in it.  This resulted in the thick sauce drying out a bit more then intended. Instead of having a spoonable treat, I have something that I can cut into squares and serve like fudge.  This is delicious!! The taste testers and I have been pecking away at it.  I highly recommend that it find its way into your bag of tricks.  I imagine it would make a terrific sauce if kept thin to go with a roast.  I know it was very good hot, and when allowed to cool to room temperature was equally delicious. If you dry it to a paste, it would make a very welcome candy.

Similar Recipes

Forme of Cury (England, 1390)

Rape. XX.IIII. III. Take half fyges and half raisouns pike hem and waisshe hem in water skalde hem in wyne. bray hem in a morter, and drawe hem thurgh a straynour. cast hem in a pot and þerwiþ powdour of peper and ooþer good powdours. alay it up with flour of Rys. and colour it with saundres. salt it. & messe it forth.


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

For to make a rape. Take raysyns of corauns þerto, And wyte wynne þou take also. Sethe þenne oþer raysyns grete In rede wyne, and boyle a lytul with hete. Do opon a broche, rost hom bydene A lytel, and take hom fayre and clene And bray hom in a morter smalle, A crust of brede þou bray with alle. Put alle in þe pot with grythe, Þo raysyns of corauns, þo swete wyne with, A lytul vengur, and pouder take þo Of clowes, maces and quibibis to. Boyle alle to geder, and serve hit þenne, And sett hit forthe before goode men.

A Noble Boke off Cookry (England, 1468)

To mak rape, tak raissins of corans and other raissins and sethe them with wyne and boile them a litille then rost them on a spit and tak it of and bray it in a mortair with crustes of bred and put them in a possuet put ther to raissins swet wyne venygar poudur of peppur clowes maces pynesquibibes and boile them and serue them.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .xviij. Pertrich stewyde. - Partridge Stewed

 Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .xviij. Pertrich stewyde. - Partridge Stewed


This is the second of two recipes I interpreted from Two fifteenth-century cookery-books. Harleian ms. 279 (ab. 1430), & Harl. ms. 4016 (ab. 1450), with extracts from Ashmole ms. 1429, Laud ms. 553, & Douce ms. 55" Thomas Austin . My mistake was making them on the same day. Of the two, this was the least preferred and I had to agree with my taste testers. It was good, and if I had prepared it on another day would have been well received but compared to the Hen in Cyuey it was "just another dish of stewed fowl of some kind in a broth." On the plus side, made with boneless skinless chicken thighs (because boiled chicken skin is not pretty to look at), it was a very pretty dish, and not that fussy to put together.  On looks and ease of preparation alone, you should try this dish.  

I would suggest that you thicken the broth a little bit with either rice flour or bread crumbs to make it into more a thicker gravy and claim cooks prerogative. A thicker broth might have made the difference between "just another dish of stewed fowl in some kind of broth" and a knock it out of the park dish.  

The people of the medieval period enjoyed a greater variety of food then we do today.   As discussed in my previous blog post, smale byrdys y-stwyde, a wide range of domestic and wild fowl made its way into medieval dishes. 

Partridges are medium sized (10-12 ounces) game birds that were widely distributed throughout Europe, Africa and Asia.  Medieval Physicians recommended partridges as one of the healthiest of games birds, being of moderate heat and moisture and generating good blood. Consumption of partridges is at least as old as Apicius who has several recipes in his book "De Re Coquinaria". The two most common partridge species is the red-legged partridge and the gray-legged partridge.  

An interesting tidbit, the "red-legged" partridge originates in Spain, and nests in tree's. This may be the bird referenced in the popular Christmas Carol "The Twelve Day's of Christmas".  The song that we know dates back to 1909 and there is some evidence to suggest that it was of a much older origin.  The partridge may be symbolic of two becoming one, based on evidence that in the winter months, partridges tend to leave their flocks to break into monogomous pairs. However, there is also a school of thought that believes that the song may be misinterpreted from the French.  The lyrics might have originally been "a partridge, une perdrix", perdrix being French for Partridge. 

According to Greek Legend, the first partridge appears when the Goddess Athena turned Daedalus' nephew Perdix into a partridge after Daedalus' throws him in a fit of jealous rage from the Acropolis. Pliny the Elder (1st century) writes in his Natural History, Book 10, 51, "Partridges protect their nests with thorns and twigs so that they are safe from animals. After the eggs are laid the partridge moves them somewhere else, so that the laying place does not become known, and covers them with soft dust. The hens hide their eggs even from their mates, because the males break the eggs so that the females remain available to them. The cocks fight duels with each other over their desire for the hens; it is said that the loser in the fight has to submit sexually to the winner. The hens can become pregnant by merely standing facing the cock, and if they open their beak and put out their tongue at that time, they are sexually excited. Even the air blown from a cock flying overhead, or the sound of a cock crowing, is enough to cause pregnancy. If a fowler approaches the nest, the hen will lure him away by running away while pretending to be injured. If the hen has no eggs to protect, she does not run but lies on her back in a furrow and holds a clod of earth in her claws to cover herself."

.xviij. Pertrich stewyde.—Take fayre mary,*. [Marrow. No. 28, in Douce MS., has myȝty brothe. ] brothe of Beef or of Motoun, an whan it is wyl sothyn, take þe brothe owt of þe potte, an strayne it thorw a straynour, an put it on an erþen potte; þan take a gode quantyte of wyne, as þow it were half, an put þer-to; þan take þe pertryche, an stuffe hym wyth hole pepir, an merw,*. [Marrow. ] an than sewe þe ventys of þe pertriche, an take clowys an maces, & hole pepir, an caste it in-to þe potte, an let it boyle to-gederys; an whan þe pertryche is boylid y-now, take þe potte of þe fyre, an whan thou schalt serue hym forth, caste in-to þe potte powder gyngere, salt, safron, an serue forth.

xviij - Pertrich stewyde. Take fayre mary, (Note: Marrow. No. 28, in Douce MS., has my3ty brothe) brothe of Beef or of Motoun, an whan it is wyl sothyn, take the brothe owt of the potte, an strayne it thorw a straynour, an put it on an erthen potte; than take a gode quantyte of wyne, as thow it were half, an put ther-to; than take the pertryche, an stuffe hym wyth hole pepir, an merw, (Note: Marrow) an than sewe the ventys of the pertriche, an take clowys an maces, and hole pepir, an caste it in-to the potte, an let it boyle to-gederys; an whan the pertryche is boylid y-now, take the potte of the fyre, an whan thou schalt serue hym forth, caste in-to the potte powder gyngere, salt, safron, an serue forth.

18. Partridge Stewed - Take fair marrow, broth of beef or of mutton, and when it is well cooked, take the broth out of the pot, and strain it through a strainer, and put it on an earthen pot; then take a good quantity of wine, as though it were half, and put there-to; then take the partridge, and stuff him with whole pepper, and marrow, and then sew the vents of the partridge, and take cloves and maces, and whole pepper, and caste it into the pot, and let it boil together; and when the partridge is boiled enough, take the pot off the fire, and when you shall serve him forth, caste into the pot, powder ginger, salt, saffron, and serve forth.

Interpreted Recipe                                                                             Serves 1 as main, 2 as Side

1 skin on, bone in chicken thigh
1 cup beef broth
1/2 cup wine
1/4 tsp. crushed pepper (because whole peppers are not pleasant to bite into)
Skewers or Twine
3-4 whole cloves
1/8 tsp. mace
1/4 tsp. whole pepper
1/4 tsp. ginger
Pinch of saffron
Salt to taste

Please note, that partridge is a very lean game bird while chicken is not.  If you are lucky enough to get partridge (which is prohibitively expensive in my area) you will want to include marrow in your recipe. I removed the skin, the excess fat and the bone from the chicken thigh, cracked the bone and placed it in the beef broth and wine and simmered it to create a fattier broth.  While the broth, wine, skin, fat and bones were cooking, I peppered the inside of the thigh. I used a mix of peppers including black pepper, cubebs and long pepper, and liberally sprinkled it on.  I then rolled the thigh up, and skewered it (you can see the "heart like" shape in the photo above).  At this point I strained the broth, and then added the thigh and broth back into the pot, added cloves and whole pepper, and cooked until the thigh was cooked through. If the broth does not cover the thigh, you will want to flip it over at some point to cook the other side.

Before serving add a pinch of saffron and ginger to the broth, cook a few more minutes to extract the color and flavor of the saffron, taste for salt (modern diners will thank you).

Similar Recipes

 A Noble Boke off Cookry (England, 1468)

To stewe a pertuche or a wod cok and draw them and wesshe them clene and chope them with hole clowes and peper and couche them in an erthen pot put ther to dates mynced gret raisins of corans wyne and swet brothe salt it and cover the pot and set it on the fyer when it is enoughe sesson it with pouder of guinger and venygar and colour it with saffron and serue it.