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Showing posts from December, 2015

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - Soupes Dorroy- Onion Soup II

Onions are one of the oldest cultivated plants, along with leeks and garlic.  Evidence of cultivation is almost 5000 years old.  They are a member of the Lily family, genus Allium,  and it includes garlic, leek, chives, onions and shallot, as well as many wild species.  Like the brassica's, alliums are very diverse with over 500 species.

It is believed that onions originated in central Asia.  Evidence exists of onions being cultivated in Chinese gardens 5000 years ago.  They were known in Egypt, where they were an object of worship.  Onions symbolized eternity, and paintings of onions can be found in tombs and the inner walls of the pyramids. What is known is that onions are easy to store, can grow in almost any kind of soil, are easily stored and transported.

It was the Romans that introduced onions to Europe. Onions were used as medicine as well as for food.  Pliny the Elder wrote that onions could cure vision, induce sleep, dog bites, lumbago, and dysentery, heal mouth sores…

Harleian MS 279 Oyle Soppys - Oil Sops - Onion Soup

Two recipes caught my eye when researching pottages, Soupes Dorroy, and Oyle Soppys.  Both recipes start with onions, but each produces a very different dish.  The recipes for both of these items can be found at "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

One of the differences between Soupes Dorroy and Oyle Soppys is the broth.  Soupes dorroy uses wine and almond milk to create the broth. However, Oyle soppys uses a broth made from beer, specifically "stale ale" or, in my assumption, ale that has lost its fizz, not necessarily ale that has gone bad...ewww!

Beer is one of the oldest beverages, and it is believed that with the invention of beer and bread, came the building blocks of civilization.  Yay yeast! One of the oldest beer recipes is "The Hymn to Ninkasi", a Sumerian recipe for how to make beer from the 19th …

Harleian MS 279 Whyte wortes (~1430) White Wortes- Greens Creamed with Almond Milk

Whyte Wortes is the last in the series of vegetable pottages that do not include additional meat. I did not use the plethora of herbs for iij. Joutes which the recipe refers to, but instead chose to use the common greens referred to in .j. Lange Wortys de chare. Once again, we are instructed to boil the greens before adding them to the broth component, in this case, almond milk thickened with rice. Boiling the greens before adding them to the broth removes the bitter properties and makes it very easy for the pottage to come together after they have been drained.

My teen age non SCA taste testers were unsure if they wanted to try this dish. Many of them expressed a dislike of cabbage and kale.  However, after coaxing them into taste testing a spoonful I received comments such as "This is GOOD!" and "I wish my mom would cook cabbage like this". When asked if they would eat it again, there was a resounding "yes". This definitely goes to my list of &quo…

Harleian MS 279 Lange Wortes de pesoun (~1430) Braised Greens with Peas

The first recipe found in Harleian MS 279 is for a simple dish of greens cooked in broth called Lange Wortys de chare. The second recipe includes the addition of green peas that have been cooked till they turn to mush and onions. This recipe was the most favored of the green recipes that have been cooked by my non-SCA teen guinea pigs. I have to admit, the broth is a very odd shade of muddy olive green, which is a little bit off-putting, let's be honest...mud colored anything is scary when you are putting it in your mouth (anybody else remember being force fed mud pies as a youth?).

Peas are among the oldest cultivated crops that we have.  Apicius published no less than nine recipes for dried peas in his cookbook. It is estimated that peas were known in France around 800 and that Charlemagne had them planted throughout his domain.  By the 1200's this member of the legume family was such a popular item vendors would call out in the streets "I have fresh peas in the pod!&…

Harleian MS 279 Lange Wortys de chare (~1430) Braised Greens in Beef Broth

Much like the Caboges recipe, this dish of mixed greens braised in beef stock, fortified with marrow, thickened with bread and scented with saffron is much better than you would think upon first reading the recipe.

A simple dish of greens? No. Once again you are instructed to cook your greens twice.  Members of the brassica family are treasures because of the inherent bitterness that they have. There are some individuals who would prefer not to eat bitter food and don't care for them.

Medieval cooks cooked the greens twice. Once to remove the bitterness, and secondly to bring them flavor. This is another humble dish and one that is still eaten today.  I used a mixed of kale and collards to make the green dishes. These green leafy vegetables were both known to the Greeks and the Romans and at the time, no distinction between the two plants was made.  Can you imagine?

Recipes may refer to "coles" or "coleworts". Once again, I refer you to the Greeks and the Rom…

Harleian MS 279 Caboges (~1430) Braised Cabbage

A humble dish of cabbage.  I was surprised by this recipe for "caboges"--who could have expected tender bits of cabbage, braised in flavorful gravy thickened with breadcrumbs and scented with saffron to be noble. The method of first boiling the cabbage to remove it's bitter properties, and then cooking it again in the broth made with marrowbones may seem to a bit redundant, but I urge you to try it.  Sworn cabbage haters tried it, and wanted more.  Success!

This is one of the first several recipes from Harleian MS 279, all of which feature "wortys" I tried this recipe first.  It is inexpensive to make.  I did take the extra step of making my own stock using roasted marrow bones. The well written and easy to follow instructions can be found at "The Cooking Geek" blog. I have to confess, I had my doubts when I smelled the bones cooking. It is not the most pleasant scent to me.  I almost wimped out when it came to eating a bit of the boiled marrow once …

Harleian MS 279 Joutes (~1430) Braised Spring Greens with Bacon

The recipe for Joutes takes into account the many, many different kinds of greens that were known to be eaten in period. I have labeled this recipe as "Braised Spring Greens with Bacon" because the greens that are called for all bloom very early in spring. I imagine that while we may wrinkle our nose at similar dishes, this dish was very welcome after a long winter. I have included this recipe and its interpretation here, but I will not be cooking it until early spring. I will add an updated picture when I do. I will be including as part of my greens, my favorite weed "Dent-de-lion" aka Dandelion..

Recipe retreived 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

.iij. Joutes.—Take Borage, Vyolet, Malwys, Percely, Yong Wortys, Bete, Auence, Longebeff, wyth Orage an o├żer, pyke hem clene, and caste hem on a vessel…

Medieval Wortys

Harleian MS 279 has a varied selection of recipes which include vegetable based pottages. I will be working with these recipes over the next few weeks as part of my ongoing research into this manuscript. To understand these recipes better it is important to understand the meaning of the word “Wortys” In general, “Wortys” refers to any member of the Brassica family. This family consists of annual and biennial herbs including kale, cabbage, and mustards. Brassica Oleracea, seems to be the “parent” plant and is a wild cultivar native to Europe. It is a perennial plant, and it is believed that from this original plant all forms of cabbage, cauliflower, collards, brussel sprouts, turnips and kale derive.

Kale and cabbage are descended from the same common ancestor, but kale was the more common of the two vegetables during the middle ages. It was known as cole, or colewort and was one of the most widely eaten vegetables in our period. In fact, kale most likely resembles some of the ve…