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Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .xliiij. Mortrewys de Fleyssh and xliij. Mortrewes of Fysshe - Mortrews of Flesh and Motrews of Fish

Today's blog post will feature both the Mortrews of Flesh and the Mortrews of Fish. Mortrews is best described as a meat paste which has been fortified with eggs, breadcrumbs and spices and then cooked to the consistency of thick custard. The word "Mortrews" comes from Latin "mortarium" referring to a mortar or bowl where things were pounded or ground.  This is one of the more unusual dishes that can be found in 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 Thomas Austin, and it was one of the more popular dishes.  In an era where dentistry was primitive at best and bad teeth was common, this soft mixture of foods would have been a perfect dish.  Nowadays we may want to use it similar to a pate, spreading it on bread and serving it with a sharp accompaniment of something pickled.  However, our ancestors most likely ate this with their fin…

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .xxxviij. Storion in brothe - Sturgeon in Broth

The 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 Thomas Austin feature quite a number of recipes that include various kinds of fish. This comes as no surprise though with the number of days meat was forbidden. Prior to the 15th century, the church had declared Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays as 'fysshe" days. During Lent and Advent all animal products such as eggs, butter, cheese and meat were forbidden. With fish days, fasting, advent and lent, fully one third or 140-160 days of the year, fish was the only meat you were allowed to eat.

Because of the prohibition on eating meat or meat products, it was necessary for our ancestors to find alternative foods to eat.  Vegetables and fish were often substituted, and on days that butter, cheese and eggs were allowed those were also eaten.  Fish eventually became symbolic of a "monastic" diet, a…

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - Roseye - Chicken or Fish in Rose Sauce

Roseye is one of the more unusal dishes that I have made from the 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 Thomas Austin. On the surface this looks like a very simple dish, however, it contains a surprisingly "modern" set of instructions - " than take Loches, an toyle (Note: Rub, cover) hem with Flowre, an frye hem". Roughly interpreted "then take loaches and cover them with flour, and fry them." This was the first time since I have started cooking from these books that I had seen instructions to flour and then fry an ingredient. This is a pretty significant finding. At the very least, it gives us a time table for pan frying--in this case fish, but chicken can be easily substituted. Secondly, we are instructed to use roses, not as a flavoring, but as a coloring agent for the sauce of almond milk that accompanies the fish.  T…