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Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) -.Cxliiij. Schyconys with þe bruesse - Chicken with the Broth Bonus Recipe: Strong Spice Powder

Schyconys with þe bruesse, Rys & Lange Wortes de pesoun

"I want no peasant in my kingdom to be so poor that he cannot have a poule au pot on Sundays." 
King Henry IV

Oftentimes when you are attempting to interpret older manuscripts you find yourself  going down a rabbit hole attempting to find the meaning of a word.  Bruesse is one such word. After extensive searching I was able to locate the many different ways this word has been spelled in the various manuscripts.  

Brewis, broys, brouwys, browis, brewes, brus, brewish, brewys, brues, brewes, bruesse, brows, breawis, brewis-from the ME Browes, browys, brewes and Old French brouets, meaning a pottage (soup) made with the broth of meat.  Formally defined as broth, liquor in which beef and vegetables have been boiled;sometimes also thickened with bread or meal.  The oldest usage of a form of this word can be traced back to the 13th century. (Murray)

My first thought when I ran across this set of instructions in 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. 55Thomas Austin, was that it bore a very strong resemblence to a classic dish "Poule Au Pot" only lacking in the vegetables that you would normally see in that dish.  Additionally, the form of the receipt appeared to contain instructions for two separate dishes. 

The first dish was made with "a gode gobet of freysshe beef" and "a dosyn chykonys", the second "stuffe þin chekons" with "hard Eyroun, & take þe ȝolkys & choppe hem smal, & choppe þer-to Clowys, Maces, Hole Pepir, & Stuffe þin chekonys with-al; Also put hole gobettys & marye with ynne" and "Moutoun" if you do not have beef. 

BUT--I was wrong.  There is a third recipe contained in this receipt. "Also þen dresse hem as a pertryche, & fayre coloure hem, & ley vppe-on þis browes, & serue in with Bakoun." Fortunately, I had previously interpreted the recipe for "Petrich Stewyde" which is remarkably similar to this one. The difference being the addition of wine to a basic broth made of beef.  To dress the chicken, in the third interpretation, you would stuff the bird with marrow, clove, mace and pepper. It would then be served with the basic broth made from beef and  marrow, and served with bacon (BakounBacounn. bacon, VIII a 279, 304. [OFr. bacun.]).  

.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.

When it comes to partridges we are given this instruction on how to cook them: 

Pecokkes and Parteriches schalle be parboyled, and larded, and rosted and eten with pouder of gynger. (Warner) 
For more information on medieval bacon, I highly recommend Tomas de Courcy's very well researched and interpreted article "Medieval Bacon".  I have used his methods to make my own, and can attest it is delicious!

The instructions in the manuscript are written below:
.Cxliiij. Schyconys with þe bruesse.—Take halfe a dosyn Chykonys, & putte hem in-to a potte; þen putte þer-to a gode gobet of freysshe Beef, & lat hem boyle wyl; putte þer-to Percely, Sawge leuys, Sauerey, noȝt to smal hakkyd; putte þer-to Safroun y-now; þen kytte þin Brewes, & skalde hem with þe same broþe; Salt it wyl; & but þou haue Beef, take Motoun, but fyrste Stuffe þin chekons in þis wyse: take & seþe hard Eyroun, & take þe ȝolkys & choppe hem smal, & choppe þer-to Clowys, Maces, Hole Pepir, & Stuffe þin chekonys with-al; Also put hole gobettys & marye with ynne; Also þen dresse hem as a pertryche, & fayre coloure hem, & ley vppe-on þis browes, & serue in with Bakoun.
My interpretation of this receipt are below: 

Cxliiij - Schyconys with the bruesse. Take halfe a dosyn Chykonys, and putte hem in-to a potte; then putte ther-to a gode gobet of freysshe Beef, and lat hem boyle wyl; putte ther-to Percely, Sawge leuys, Sauerey, no3t to smal hakkyd; putte ther-to Safroun y-now; then kytte thin Brewes, and skalde hem with the same brothe; Salt it wyl; and but thou haue Beef, take Motoun, but fyrste Stuffe thin chekons in this wyse: take and sethe hard Eyroun, and take the 3olkys and choppe hem smal, and choppe ther-to Clowys, Maces, Hole Pepir, and Stuffe thin chekonys with-al; Also put hole gobettys and marye with ynne; Also then dresse hem as a pertryche, and fayre coloure hem, and ley vppe-on this browes, and serue in with Bakoun.

143 -  Chicken with the broth.  Take half a dozen chickens, and put them into a pot; then put there-to a good piece of fresh beef, and let them boil well; put there-to parsley, sage leaves, savory, not to small cut; put there-to saffron enough; then cut your broth (I wonder if this is supposed to be chickens and beef?), and scald them with the same broth; salt it well; and if you do not have beef, take mutton, but first stuff your chickens in this way: take and cook hard eggs, and take the yolks, and chop them small, and chop there-to cloves, mace, whole pepper, and stuff your chicken with-al; also put hole pieces and marrow within. Also, then dress them as a partridge, and fair color them, and lay upon this broth, and serve it with bacon. 

Interpreted Recipes                                               Serves 6-8 

Version 1:  Chicken cooked in Savory Beef Broth

1 chicken (4-5 pound) cut into parts, skin on, bone in
1 -2 beef marrow bone(s), split 
1 - 2 pound beef chuck
1 tsp each parsley, sage, savory (or one bouquet garni of fresh herbs)
Pinch Saffron
1 tsp salt
2-3 quarts beef broth

Version 2:

1- 2 pounds lamb for stew 
1 chicken (4-5 pound) skin on, bone in
2-3 hardboiled eggs, yolks removed and finely chopped
1-2 tsp. "strong spice" blend
1/2 - 1 tsp. ginger
1 -2 beef marrow bone(s), split (opt. salt pork or bacon)
2-3 quarts beef broth

Version 3: 

1 chicken (4-5 pound), cut into parts, skin on, bone in
6 ounces bacon or salt pork
1-2 tsp. Strong Spices
1/2 to 1 tsp. ginger
Pinch of saffron (opt)
2-3 quarts beef broth

Heat your broth in your pot.  

Version 1: Add chicken, beef and spices and cook till meat is tender.  

Version 2: Finely chop egg yolks and mix with strong spices. Add marrow (in lieu of marrow you could use salt pork or bacon which will change the flavor but give the necessary fat component) and stuff this mixture into the chicken.  Alternatively, you could put the yolk back into the egg white, and push the egg whites together to resemble a whole egg, and place the egg and marrow into the cavity of the chicken along with remaining dressing.  

Add whole chicken to a pot along with the lamb and cook until the meat is tender. 

Version 3: Add chicken pieces and bacon to a pot along with the spices and cook until the meat is tender. 

Note: I made the third version of this dish using a cornish game hen which I had cut in half instead of a chicken. The broth was seasoned with the strong spices and the salted pork. It is pictured with Rys (rice) and Lange Wortes de pesoun (braised greens with peas).  The sweetness of the Rys (Rice) was a perfect counterpoint to the broth.  I ladeled off some of the excess broth to the final cook on the peas.  Also pictured is Robert May's French Bread

To Serve: This is a very brothy dish and should be served in a first course  as a pottage or "meat cooked in broth".  I personally would cook this dish ahead of time, allow to cool overnight, remove excessive fat, and pick out the bones leaving the meat in chunks. Reheating the broth, I would pour the broth over sops of bread and arrange the meat in chunks on top. Serve with boiled turnips, cabbage, carrots, etc. to round out the meal.  

Alternatively, you could brown the meat and simmer it in the broth until it is cooked through, strain the broth and thicken it with a bit of bread (to appease modern palates) and serve the thickened broth on the side as a "dish with sauce" in the second course. 

Or, you could take a modern spin, and strain the broth, serving it as the pottage, with the boiled meats (picked clean) on the side along with a selection of boiled vegetables. 

Bonus Recipe 

Strong Spice Blend (Powder Forte) - The recipe I use has it's basis in Robert May's "The accomplisht cook or, The art & mystery of cookery (1684) " Bolonia Sausages recipe.  
....then add to it three ounces of whole pepper, two ounces of pepper more
grosly cracked or beaten, whole cloves an ounce, nutmegs an ounce
finely beaten, salt, spanish, or peter-salt, an ounce of
coriander-seed finely beaten, or carraway-seed, cinamon an ounce
fine beaten...
*Note: A dry ounce is approximately two tablespoons.  

6 tablespoons whole pepper
4 tablespoons cracked pepper
2 tbsp. whole cloves, nutmegs, coriander or caraway and cinnamon
Salt to taste

1/4th Recipe - A little more manageable

1 1/2 tbsp. whole black peppercorn
1 tbsp. cracked pepper
1 1/2  tsp. each clove, nutmeg, coriander (or fennel) and cinnamon
Salt to taste

Combine all spices together in a spice grinder and grind till fine.  If you do not have a spice grinder a morter and pestle will do and barring that, the trusty rolling pin and a plastic bag work (don't ask).  Store and use as needed

Sources Used

Medieval Cookery - Medieval Cookbook Search. (2020). Retrieved 31 October 2020, from

Murray, J. A. H., Bradley, H., Craigie, W. A., Onions, C. T. (1888). A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles: Founded Mainly on the Materials Collected by the Philological Society. United Kingdom: Clarendon Press.

Warner, R. (1791). Antiquitates Culinariæ: Or, Curious Tracts Relating to the Culinary Affairs of the Old English, with a Preliminary Discourse, Notes, and Illustrations. United Kingdom: R. Blamire.


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