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

 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.  The sauce that came from my red roses became a very soft pink color that I wish the picture could have caught.

You are probably more familiar with the loach as one of the fishes you would find in your local pet store. Loaches have been described as being mild tasting and similar to catfish in flavor. If I were to serve this dish at an event I would use catfish as my substitute, or another similarly textured or flavored fish such as bass, cod, troug, salmon, perch, whiting or whitefish.

.C. Roseye.—Take Almaunde Mylke an flowre of Rys, & Sugre, an Safroun, an boyle hem y-fere; þan take Red Rosys, an grynd fayre in a morter with Almaunde mylke; þan take Loches, an toyle*. [Rub, cover. ] hem with [supplied by ed.] Flowre, an frye hem, & ley hem in dysshys; þan take gode pouder, and do in þe Sewe, & caste þe Sewe a-bouyn þe lochys, & serue forth.

Dan Myers offers this interpretation at his site Medieval Cookery.

C - Roseye. Take Almaunde Mylke an flowre of Rys, and Sugre, an Safroun, an boyle hem y-fere; than take Red Rosys, an grynd fayre in a morter with Almaunde mylke; than take Loches, an toyle (Note: Rub, cover) hem with Flowre, an frye hem, and ley hem in dysshys; than take gode pouder, and do in the Sewe, and caste the Sewe a-bouyn the lochys, and serue forth.

100 - Roseye - Take almond milk and flour of rice, and sugar and saffron, and boil them together; then take red roses, and grind fair in a mortar with almond milk; then take loaches, and cover them with flour, and fry them, and lay them in dishes; then take good powder and do in the sauce, and caste the sauce above the loaches, and serve forth. 

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

1/4 pound firm textured, mild flavored fish cut into finger width strips
flour to dredge the fish in
oil to fry the fish

For the sauce: 

1 cup almond milk (I used the quick almond milk recipe)
1 tbsp. rice flour
1 tsp. sugar
pinch of saffron
1/4 tsp. good powder or to taste (I used the Le Menagier's recipe for fine spice powder )
Salt and pepper to taste

Place almond milk, rice flour, sugar and saffron into a pot and simmer until it thickens to the desired consistency.  Meanwhile, cut the fish into finger width strips, lightly dredge in flour and pan fry in the oil until done.  To serve, place the fish on a plate and cover with the sauce, add good powder to taste.

I am saddened to report though, that while this is very pretty to look at, the dish itself was a bit bland and was not favored by the taste testers or myself. One of them described (and I agreed) that it resembled fish cooked in porridge.  

It hurt for something acidic--wine, lemon, ale or beer. I do strongly recommend that you create the sauce with almond milk that has been created with something acidic (like wine) or that you serve something acidic on the side (maybe even lemon slices).  Several other recipes from the manuscript prescribe making the almond milk with ale or wine, and I believe that would have gone a very long way towards creating a more favorable experience.

Similar Recipes are listed below. 

Forme of Cury (England, 1390)

XLI - For to make Rosee. Tak the flowris of Rosys and wasch hem wel in water and after bray hem wel in a morter and than tak Almondys and temper hem and seth hem and after tak flesch of capons or of hennys and hac yt smale and than bray hem wel in a morter and than do yt in the Rose so that the flesch acorde wyth themylk and so that the mete be charchaunt and after do yt to the fyre to boyle and do thereto sugur and safroun that yt be wel ycolowrd and rosy of levys and of the forseyde flowrys and serve yt forth.

Liber cure cocorum [Sloane MS 1986] (England, 1430)

Rose. Take flour of ryse, as whyte as sylke, And hit welle, with almond mylke. Boyle hit tyl hit be chargyd, þenne Take braune of capone or elle of henne. Loke þou grynd hit wondur smalle, And sithen þou charge hit with alle. Coloure with alkenet, sawnder, or ellys with blode, Fors hit with clowes or macys gode. Seson hit withsugur grete plenté, Þis is a rose, as kokes telle me.

A Noble Boke off Cookry (England, 1468)

To mak rose, tak flour of ryse and temper it with almond mylk and mak it chaungynge then tak the braun of capon or of henne sodyn and grind it and charge it ther with and colour it with sanders and blod and fors it with clowes and maces and sesson it with sugur and serue it.