Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - lxxiiij - Arbolettys - Cheese Soup

lxxiiij - Arbolettys - Cheese Soup
It was snowing out today, grey and dreary, but a perfect day to cook up comfort food and what could be more comforting than something cheesy and warm? Again I veered off course from the planned dishes I had posted I was going to make to try another one that caught my interest 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.  This dish is usually interpreted as a kind of a scrambled egg dish, and there are numerous interpretations posted online.  However, I chose to use the same interpretation as I did for Papyns, and instead created a luxuriously velvety cheese soup worthy to be served to any king. 

.lxxiiij. Arbolettys.—Take Milke, Boter an Chese, & boyle in fere; þen take eyroun, & cast þer-to; þan take Percely & Sawge & hacke it smal, & take pouder Gyngere & Galyngale, and caste it þer-to, and þan serue it forth.

lxxiiij - Arbolettys. Take Milke, Boter an Chese, and boyle in fere; then take eyroun, and cast ther-to; than take Percely and Sawge and hacke it smal, and take pouder Gyngere and Galyngale, and caste it ther-to, and than serue it forth.

74 - Arbolettys. - Take milk, butter and cheese, and boil in together: then take eggs, and caste there-to; than take parsley and sage and hack it small, and take powder ginger and galingale, and caste it there-to, and then serve it forth. 

Interpreted Recipe                                                         Serves 1 as main, 2 as side

1 cup milk
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup or to taste cheese (I used a mixture of sharp and mild cheddar. Other period appropriate cheeses include; brie, camembert, cottage, emmenthal, gruyére, mozzarella; parmesan and ricotta)
2 eggs
1 tsp. each parsley and sage
1/8 tsp. ginger and galingale
**Salt and Pepper to taste - while not called for in the original instructions, modern tastes will appreciate the addition

As I have learned when cooking with milk based dishes it is always best to use a double broiler to prevent the milk from burning.  Add milk and butter to a double broiler and heat until the milk begins to simmer, add the cheese and stir constantly while the cheese melts into the milk and butter mixture.  Beat the eggs with the herbs and spices, temper with a little bit of the cheese mixture and return to the pan.  Cook until the soup has thickened to your desired consistency. 

One of my taste testers is a friend who very seldom says "This is delicious!" when it comes to testing food from this era.  Not only did I get that high praise, I also received instructions that this *MUST* be served at an event in the future. No fears there, I will be serving this again.  It was easy to put together and delicious.  Another taste tester has promised not to include this in the book he plans on writing on "How I Survived Being a Taste Tester". None of my teens were available--nobody complained it meant more soup for the adults.

I know that my interpretation is very different then what you will find if you research other interpretations.  Why? Because of the instructions themselves-we are told to boil together milk, butter and cheese and then to add eggs.  It does NOT specify how the eggs are to be added.  However, looking at similar recipes for papyns and cream boiled from the same manuscript led me to conclude that the end dish should resemble custard and not scrambled eggs. 

Papyns, which creates a sweet custard instructs us to "take the yolks of eggs drawn through a strainer and caste thereto" into a mixture of milk and flour that had been brought to a boil, and then allowed to cool. Similar instructions are found in the boiled cream recipe.  My conclusion then is that these three recipes should all yield similar consistencies with different flavors.  
20. Papyns - Take fair milk and flour, an draw through a strainer, an set it over the fire, an let it boil awhile: than take it out an let it cool: then take yolks of eggs drawn through a strainer and caste thereto; than take sugar a good quantity, an cast there-to, an a little salt an set it on the fire till it be somewhat thick, but let it not boil fully, an stir it well, an put it on a dish all broad, and serve forth running. 
13. Cream Boiled - Take cream or milk and bread of pandemain, or else of tender bread, an break it on the cream, or else in the milk, an set it on the fire till it be warm hot; and through a strainer throw it, and put into a fair pot, an set it on the fire, an stir evermore: an when it is almost boiled, take fair yolks of eggs, and draw them through a strainer, and cast them there-to, and let them stand over the fire till it boil almost, an till it be skillfully (reasonably) thick; than cast a ladle full, or more or less, of butter there-to, and a good quantity of white sugar, and a little salt, and then dress it on a dish in manner of mortrews.