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Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - Revised -Mortrewes - Sweetened Pate of Fish, Pork or Chicken -xliij - Mortrewes of Fysshe. , .xliiij. Mortrewys de Fleyssh, .lxix. Whyte Mortrewes, .Cxx. Whyte Mortrewys of Porke,

.xliiij. Mortrewys de Fleyssh and xliij. Mortrewes of Fysshe

Baronial 12th Night Variations can be found here. Includes instructions on how to brine and smoke 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 fingers or spoon, or even off of their knives.

Mortrews, also known as mortis, mortrose, mortress or mortruys is most likely the ancestor of modern day Pâté, Terrines, and or Potted Meats. One of the earliest recipes can be found in "The Forme of Cury" (~1390). The Romans had similar dishes which they called "patina's". One such recipe taken from De Re Coquinaria is below:
aliter patina de asparagis -frigida:accipies asparagos purgatos, in mortario fricabis; aqua suffundes, perfricabis; per colum colabis, et mittes fecitulas curatas; teres in mortario piperis scrupulos sex, adicies liquamen; fricabis; uini ciatum I, passi ciatum I; mittes in caccabum olei uncias tres; illic ferueant. perungues patinam; in ea oua VI cum enogaro misces; cum suco asparagi inpones cineri calido. [mittes inpensam super scriptam]* tunc ficetulas conpones, coques; piper asparges et inferes. 

Another cold asparagus patina.-Take cleaned asparagus, pound in the mortar, add water, beat thoroughly and pass through a sieve. Next put in a saucepan fig-peckers which you have prepared for cooking. Pound in the portar 6 scruples of pepper, moisten with liquamen, grind well, add one cyathus of wine and one cyathus passum. Put in a saucepan 3 oz. oil. Bring the mixture to the boil. Grease a patina pan, and mix in it 6 eggs with oenogarum, put it with the sparagus purée in the hot ashes, pour on the mixture described above, and arrange the birds on top. Cook it, [let it cool], sprinkle with pepper, and serve.

.xliiij. Mortrewys de Fleyssh.—Take Porke, an seþe it wyl; þanne take it vppe and pulle a-way þe Swerde,*. [Rind, skin. ] an pyke owt þe bonys, an hakke it and grynd it smal; þenne take þe sylf brothe, & temper it with ale; þen take fayre gratyd brede, & do þer-to, an seþe it, an coloure it with Saffroun, & lye it with ȝolkys of eyroun, & make it euen Salt, & caste pouder Gyngere, a-bouyn on þe dysshe.

The "Medieval Cookery" website offers this excellent interpretation of the recipe.

.xliij. Mortrewes of Fysshe.—Take Gornard or Congere, a-fore þe navel wyth þe grece (for be-hynde þe navel he is hery*. [Hairy. ] of bonys), or Codlyng, þe lyuer an þe Spaune, an sethe it y-now in fayre Water, and pyke owt þe bonys, and grynde þe fysshe in a Morter, an temper it vp wyth Almaunde Mylke, an caste þer-to gratyd brede; þan take yt vp, an put it on a fayre potte, an let boyle; þan caste þer-to Sugre and Salt, an serue it forth as other Mortrewys. And loke þat þow caste Gyngere y-now a-boue.

xliij - Mortrewes of Fysshe. Take Gornard or Congere, a-fore the navel wyth the grece (for be-hynde the navel he is hery (Note: Hairy) of bonys), or Codlyng, the lyuer an the Spaune, an sethe it y-now in fayre Water, and pyke owt the bonys, and grynde the fysshe in a Morter, an temper it vp wyth Almaunde Mylke, an caste ther-to gratyd brede; than take yt vp, an put it on a fayre potte, an let boyle; than caste ther-to Sugre and Salt, an serue it forth as other Mortrewys. And loke that thow caste Gyngere y-now a-boue.

43 - Mortrews of Fish - Take gurnard, or conger (eel), before the navel with the grease (for behind the navel he is hairy of bones), or codling (an inferior for of cod), the liver and the eggs, and cook it enough in fair water, and pick out the bones, and grind the fish in a mortar, and temper it up with almond milk, and cast there-to grated bread; then take it up and put it on a fair pot, and let boil; then cast thereto sugar and salt, and serve it fort as other motrews. And look that you caste ginger enough above.

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

1/4 pound fish (I used cod loin but any lean flaky fish could be used, pollock, halibut, sole, flounder, orange roughy, haddock, whiting, hake, ocean perch and tilapia)
1 cup water
1/4 cup almond meal
1-2 tbsp. bread crumbs
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
Ginger to garnish

I used frozen cod for this dish so did not have to worry about cleaning out the bones after the fish was cooked. I placed the fish into a pot with the water and salt and cooked till the fish was cooked through. I then put the fish, water and almond meal into the food processor, gave thanks to the Kitchen Gods for the creation of such a marvelous machine, and pulsed the mixture for about 20 seconds. I then returned the mixture to the pot, added the breadcrumbs and the sugar and cooked until it had thickened to a thick paste. Before serving I garnished with ginger.
xliiij - Mortrewys de Fleyssh. Take Porke, an sethe it wyl; thanne take it vppe and pulle a-way the Swerde, (Note: Rind, skin) an pyke owt the bonys, an hakke it and grynd it smal; thenne take the sylf brothe, and temper it with ale; then take fayre gratyd brede, and do ther-to, an sethe it, an coloure it with Saffroun, and lye it with 3olkys of eyroun, and make it euen Salt, and caste pouder Gyngere, a-bouyn on the dysshe.

44. Mortrews of Flesh - Take pork, and cook it well; then take it up and pull away the skin, and pick out the bones and hack it and grind it small; then take the self broth (the same broth you cooked it in, and temper it with ale; then take fair grated bread, and do thereto, and cook it, and color it with saffron, and mix it with yolks of eggs, and make it even salt, and caste powder ginger, above on the dish.

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

1/4 pound pork (I used two fresh pork hocks and a bit of country spare ribs)
1 cup water
1/4 cup ale
pinch of saffron
2 egg yolks or one whole egg
1-2 tbsp. bread crumbs
1 tsp. salt
Pepper to taste
Ginger to garnish

If I make this in the future I might add some bacon to it, which is a pork product and everything is better with bacon! I digress--place the pork, saffron and salt in a pot and cover with the water, cook until the pork begins to fall apart. Remove from the heat and allow to cool till you can easily handle it. Remove all fat, gristle, bones from the meat and place it in a blender with the ale and the water. Pulse for a few seconds until the meat becomes a puree (but not to baby food!) and return it to the pot. Add your eggs and your breadcrumbs and cook stirring constantly. Remember, you want your mortrews to have the consistency of a very thick custard or flan capable of standing on its own, but not so thick that you cannot spread it onto a piece of toasty bread. Taste for seasoning, garnish with ginger, and then serve.

.lxix. Whyte Mortrewes.—Take Almaunde Mylke & Floure of Rys, & boyle it y-fere; þenne take Capoun & Hennys, & sethe hem and bray hem as smal as þou may, & ly*. [Allay; mix. ] it with an Ey*. [Egg. ] or to, & also a-lye it vppe with þe mylke of Almaundys, & make hem chargeaunt as Mortrewes schuld be, & dresse hem forth, & caste Canel a-boue, or Gyngere. Blanke pouder is best.

69. White Mortrewes - Take almond milk and flour of rice and boil it fair, then take capon and hens, and cook them and grind them as small as you may, and mix it with an egg or two, and also mix it up with the almond milk, and make them thick as mortrews should be, and dress them forth, and cast cinnamon above, or ginger.  White powder is best. 

.Cxx. Whyte Mortrewys of Porke.—Take lene Porke, & boyle it; blaunche Almandys, & grynd hem, & temper vppe with þe brothe of þe porke, & lye hem vppe with þe Flowre of Rys, an lete boyle to-gederys, but loke þat þe porke be smal grounde y-now; caste þer-to Myncyd Almaundys y-fryid in freysshe grece; þen sesyn hem vppe alle flatte in a dysshe; þrow þer-to Sugre y-now & Salt; & atte þe dressoure, strawe þer-on pouder Gyngere y-mellyd with Almaundys.

120. White Mortrews of Pork -  Take lean pork and boil it; blanch almonds and grind them, and temper up with the broth of the pork, and lay them up with flour of rice, and let boil together, but look that the pork be small ground enough; cast there-to minced almonds fried in fresh grease, then season them up all flat in a dish; throw there-to sugar enough & salt, & at the dresser, strew there-on ginger mixed with almonds.

The taste testers and I enjoyed both of these dishes. They are unusual but very tasty. As you can see we served it with lemon wedges, capers, olives, pickles and crusty homemade bread. The fish is very mild in flavor, and creamy in texture, unlike the pork, which is a bit more hearty and flavorful. Either of these dishes would be a flavorful alternative to butter with bread in a first course. The taste testers have tried this dish piping hot, room temperature and cold, it was delicious all three ways, but my preference was room temperature.

Since we believe that this kind of a dish was the precursor to modern day "potted meats" the discussion turned to whether or not this would be appropriate to take to a camping event. My suggestion would be seal it with clarified butter, grease, and eat it early on should you do so. I would have no hesitation serving this at a royalty or tavern luncheon or a feast.

Similar Recipes

Forme of Cury (England, 1390)
Mortrews. XX.II. V. Take hennes and Pork and seeþ hem togyder. take the lyre of Hennes and of the Pork, and hewe it small and grinde it all to doust. take brede ygrated and do þerto, and temper it with the self broth and alye it with zolkes of ayrenn, and cast þeron powdour fort, boile it and do þerin powdour of gyngur sugur. safroun and salt. and loke þer it be stondyng, and flour it with powdour gynger.

Mortrews Blank. XX.II. VI. Take Pork and Hennes and seeþ hem as to fore. bray almandes blaunched, and temper hem up with the self broth. and alye the fleissh with the mylke and white flour of Rys. and boile it. & do þerin powdour of gyngur sugar and look þat it be stondyng.

Ancient Cookery [Arundel 334] (England, 1425)
Blaunche mortrewes. Take gode cowe mylke, and rawe egges the zolkes wel beten togedur, and sothen (boiled) porke, braye it, and do hit in a panne withouten herbes, and let hit boyle, and stere (stir) hit wel tyl hit crudde; then take hit up ande presse hit well, and then take almondemylke or gode creme of cowe mylke, and do hit in a panne, and do therto sugur or honey, and let hit boyle; and do the crudde therto, and colour hit depe with saffron, and then dresse hit forthe, iii. leches (stices) in a dysshe or v. and poure the sothen creme above, and cast theron sugur and saunders, and maces medelet togedur, and serve hit forthe.

Mortrewes of flesh. Take fylettes of porke, and seth hom wel, and qwhen they ben fothen brayc hom in a morter, and take bred steped in broth, and bray hit up with al in the morter, and then seth hit up with sasfrone : and if thow wol make hit more stondyng, qwhen hit is boylet take yolkes of eyren, and bete hom, and putte hom therto, and cast theron pouder of gynger.

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

Mortrews de chare. Take hennes and fresshe porke, y þe kenne, Sethe hom togedur alwayes þenne. Take hem up, pyke out þe bonys, Enbande þe porke, Syr, for þo nonys. Hew hit smalle and grynde hit wele, Cast it agayne, so have þou cele, In to þe brothe, and charge hit þenne With myed wastelle, as I þe kenne. Colour hit with safron, at þat tyde. Boyle hit and set hit doune be syde. Lye hit with 3olkes of eren ry3t, And florysshe þy dysshe with pouder þou my3t.

Recipes from John Crophill's Commonplace Book (England, 1485)

Maretrel de le Char. Tak hennes flesch & pork & sethz to gidre tak it up & pyk outh the bonys hewe it smale grynd wel kast it ageyn in to the brothz charge it with myed wastel bred colour it with saffron boylle it & gwan it is boylled set it of the fyr lye it with yelkys eyren florysch the dysch with poudre.

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

Mortrews of fysshe. Take þo kelkes of fysshe anon, And þo lyver of þo fysshe, sethe hom alon. Þen take brede and peper and ale, And temper þo brothe fulle welle þou schalle, And welle hit togeder and serve hit þenne, And set in sale before good mene.

A Noble Boke off Cookry (England, 1468)
To mak mortins of fyshe tak codlinge haddok whiting or thornbak and sethe it and pik out the bones and pull of the skyne then bet the fishe in a mortair with the lever of the same fysche and temper it up with almond mylk or cow creme and put it in a clene pot and let it boile and put ther to sugur and hony and alay thy potage with fleur of rise draw with milk through a strein and stirr it well and mak it stondinge then drese v or vi lesks in a dyshe and cast on pouder guingyur mellid with sugur and serue it.

Gentyll manly Cokere (MS Pepys 1047) (England, ca. 1500)

To make mortrose of Fyshe. Take hownde fyshe haddock or codlyng seth hit and pyke hit clene fro the bonys take a way the skyn and grynde the lyver ther with blanched almounds And temper thy mylke with the broth of the fresh Fyshe and make a gode mylke of do ther to myad of white brede and sugure set hit to the fyre when hit boylys loke hit be stondyng mese serue hit furth strow on Blawnche powdyr.

Thomas Awkbarow's Recipes (MS Harley 5401) (England, 15th century)

Mortrows on Fysh Dayes. Recipe codlyng & hadoc with þe lyver, & seth þam wele in water, & pike oute þe bones & grind þe fysh small. Draw a lyre of almondes & brede with þe fysh broth, & do þerto þe gronden fysh, strewing powdyr, saferon & salt, & make it standyng & serof.


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