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).

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 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.