Harleain MS 279 (ab. 1430) Henne in Bokenade - Stewed Chicken in Sauce

Hen in Bukenade

The people of the middle ages enjoyed a much wider variety of foods then we do today.  Some of the items that they enjoyed were particularly exotic, for example, peacocks, that would be cooked and then re-dressed in their own skin.  Other food sources that they enjoyed are more familiar for example, chicken and chicken eggs.

Domestication of chickens has a very long history. Bones possibly belonging to chickens have been dated to 5400 B.C. in China and there is some speculation that the chicken may have been the very first domesticated animal.  Chickens were traded from China to the Indus Valley and around the Arab peninsula. It is also believed that their ancestors, the red jungle fowl migrated the same path.  An interesting fact of note, there are more chickens then any other domesticated bird or animal in the world today.Chickens also are the most common and wide spread too!

It was the Romans that brought the chicken to England. Chickens were bred for two purposes; meat and eggs, and cockfighting. The oldest recognized breed of chicken is the Dorking. They were bred for meat and eggs and are believed to have originated in Italy. Columella described this bird in his Rei Rusticae Libri as "square-framed, large and broad breasted with big heads and small upright cobs...the rest of the breed being five clawed".

Another breed of chicken that may have been known in period is the Old English Game.  It is believed that they were used for the purpose of cockfighting in period.  They are small birds weighing in at about four pounds and are not very good egg layers.  This breed of chicken was specifically bred for cockfighting by nobility.

Roman cooks discovered when they castrated a rooster, they would fatten on their own. Romans are responsible for  "Capons".  Farmers were also developing ways to fatten chickens; bread soaked in wine, cumin seeds, barley even lizard fat were used!

There are several pottages which include chicken, eggs or both found in 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. The first of the recipes that I interpreted was "Henne in Bokenade" which produces chunks of chicken in a very flavorful broth, thickened with eggs.  I had to fight the taste testers! It was that good.  It is also a very versatile dish as the instructions include veal and goat in addition to chicken.

.xxxvj. Vele, kede, or henne in Bokenade. — Take Tele, Kyde, or Henne, an boyle hem in fayre Water, or ellys in freysshe brothe, an smyte hem in pecys, an pyke hem clene ; an )7an draw ]>e same brothe J^orwe a straynoure, an caste J'er-to Percely, Sawge, Tsope, Maces, Clowys, an let boyle tyl J-e flesshe be y-now; j^an sette it from j^e fyre, & a-lye it vp vritk raw jolkys of eyroun, & caste J^er-to ponder Gyngere, Teriows, Safroun, & Salt, & Jeanne seme it forth for a gode mete.

For more information on this, or similar recipes, please vist Dan Myers' "Medieval Cookery".

xxxvj - Vele, kede, or henne in Bokenade. Take Vele, Kyde, or Henne, an boyle hem in fayre Water, or ellys in freysshe brothe, an smyte hem in pecys, an pyke hem clene; an than draw the same brothe thorwe a straynoure, an caste ther-to Percely, Sawge, Ysope, Maces, Clowys, an let boyle tyl the flesshe be y-now; than sette it from the fyre, and a-lye it vp with raw 3olkys of eyroun, and caste ther-to pouder Gyngere, Veriows, Safroun, and Salt, and thanne serue it forth for a gode mete.
36. Veal, Kid, or Hen in Bukenade -Take Veal, Kid, or Hen, and boil them in fair water, or else in fresh broth, and smite them in pieces, and pick them clean; and then draw the same broth through a strainer, and cast there-to parsley, sage, hyssop, mace, cloves, and let boil till the flesh be enough; then set it from the fire, and allay it up with raw yolks of egg, and caste there-to powder ginger, verjuice, saffron and salt, and then send it forth for a good meat.

Interpreted Recipe                                            Serves 1 as a main dish, 2 as a side if they are friendly!

1 bone in, skin on chicken breast
1 C. water + 1 chicken bouillon cube -or-  alternatively 1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp. parsley
1/8 tsp. each sage, hyssop, mace
2 cloves
1 whole egg or 2 egg yolks
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
1/8 tsp. ginger
pinch of saffron
salt to taste (note:if you use a bouillon cube, you probably won't need salt)

Cook the chicken breast in the broth, or the water with bouillon cube until completely cooked.  Remove the chicken from the broth and set aside to cool.  Strain the broth through a strainer and add parsley, sage, hyssop, mace and cloves. Heat on low heat.  Remove the skin and bones from the chicken and cut into bite sized pieces.  When the broth has cooked five minutes, remove the cloves. Temper the egg or the egg yolks with the broth.  Add the tempered eggs to the broth along with the vinegar, saffron, ginger and salt and stir constantly until the broth has thickened. If the heat is too high the eggs may curdle.  Strain the broth into a dish, and add the chicken.  Serve.

As I said, this dish caused a bit of an uproar amongst the taste tenders. After a heated game of rock, paper, scissors, the victor got to eat the spoils.  This is a very comforting and filling dish, which could be made as saucy or as brothy as the cook desires.  This dish is on my "must serve at a future feast" list. It would also be nice for a luncheon or lunch tavern.