Harleian MS 279 (ab 1430) Lange Wortys de chare - 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 Romans who referred to the entire family of cabbage related plants as "Koles" or "Caulis".  Another interesting tidbit of information I came across while researching--the first mention of coleworts in use in America, referred to Kale in approximately 1669.

The weed-like herb pictured below can be found growing on the limestone cliffs of the Mediterrenean region. It is the parent of one of the widest varieties of domesticated plants today.  Weeds are our friends! Through the process of artificial, not natural selection, farmers have been able to breed for specific traits, changing the weedy looking parent plant into the variety of plants that we know today.

Image taken from The magical Brassica oleracea plant  SEP 11

 The recipe below is  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

.j. Lange Wortys de chare.—Take beeff and merybonys, and boyle yt in fayre water; þan take fayre wortys and wassche hem clene in water, and parboyle hem in clene water; þan take hem vp of þe water after þe fyrst boylyng, an cut þe leuys a-to or a-þre, and caste hem in-to þe beff, and boyle to gederys: þan take a lof of whyte brede and grate yt, an caste it on þe pot, an safron & salt, & let it boyle y-now, and serue forth.

1. Long Wortys of Flesh--Take beef and marrowbones, and boil it in fair water, than take fayre wortys and wash them clean in water, and parboil them in clean water; then take them up of the water after the first boiling, an cut the leaves in two or three, and caste them into the beef and boil together; then take a loaf of white bread and grate it, an caste it on the pot, an saffron & salt, and let it boil enough, and serve forth.

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

1-2 handfuls of greens (I used collards and kales), cleaned and chopped
1 cup homemade beef stock
2-3 tbsp. breadcrumbs
Pinch of Saffron
salt to taste
Marrow (opt.)

Following the directions above boil your greens in water until they become tender. This took approximately ten minutes.  Strain your greens  and dry them in a towel.  You will notice that the large handful of greens that you have cooked have wilted into a little bit of nothing.  That's what greens do. You will also be surprised how much water they hold!

Meanwhile slowly heat your broth with the saffron.  When the broth has heated and colored to your desire, return your greens to it, and let it cook until desired tenderness.  This time will vary because it depends on how you like your greens. I like a bit of a bite, so I only boiled it for about five more minutes.

Once the greens have reached your desired tenderness preference, slowly add the breadcrumbs a tablespoon at a time.  Allow the crumbs to dissolve into the broth before adding the next bit. Otherwise the crumbs clump together and instead of smooth gravy it will be chunky--ewww!

The broth will thicken as the bread crumbs dissolve into gravy.  Once it has thickened you can remove it and place it into a bowl.  If you are using the marrow, you can add it at this time, the broth is boiling hot, so the marrow will heat through.  You want to see it on the top of the dish.

What I like most about this recipe is that it can be as broth-y or as stew-y as the person cooking it will like. It can also be light or heavy on the greens as well.  Greens are very inexpensive, along with homemade stock.  This would be an excellent dish to add to any SCA feast.  I paid $4.00 for the marrowbones, $2.00 for the beef (it was marked down), used garden grown onions, carrots and celery to flavor the stock.  The stock made approximately 2 liters.  I then paid $.89 for the collards and the Kale, and if I *had* to buy bread crumbs (I made my own Rastons, which cost about $.25 per loaf to make), that might cost $2.00 for 15 ounces. This is a very budget friendly dish.

Remember, that there are a lot of wild greens growing that can be foraged to supplement any of the greens that you would buy.  Keep in mind the rules for foraging wild food-know what you are picking, make sure it is in an area that has not been sprayed by herbicides or other poisons, and forage responsibly. Please click this link for more information: Foraging Wild Edible Guidelines.

Related Recipe: .ij Lange Wortes de Pesoun  —Take grene pesyn, an washe hem clene an caste hem on a potte, an boyle hem tyl þey breste, an þanne take hem vppe of þe potte, an put hem with brothe yn a-noþer potte, and lete hem kele; þan draw hem þorw a straynowre in-to a fayre potte, an þan take oynonys, and screde hem in to or þre, an take hole wortys and boyle hem in fayre water: and take hem vppe, an ley hem on a fayre bord, an cytte on .iij. or iiij., an ley hem to þe oynonys in þe potte, to þe drawyd pesyn; an let hem boyle tyl þey ben tendyr; an þanne tak fayre oyle and frye hem, or ellys sum fresche broþe of sum maner fresche fysshe, an caste þer-to, an Safron, an salt a quantyte, and serue it forth.