Ah the middle ages. A lovely time in our world's history, wrought with disease, war, and an iron-clad caste system. Life was hard for most of the population. Unfortunately, life was only a little less hard for the lucky few born into privilege. The world was virtually undiscovered and limited. Food was no exception to this fact, and as a result, the food of antiquity looks a lot different than the modern food we eat today. Many tools that the modern world views as irreplaceable were yet to be invented. Many of the foods we eat today were yet to be discovered. Peoples of the middle ages ate what they could find, and used most the animals they ate. The results are some strange foods, and bizarre recipes. Lucky for us, if you want to try one or two of these recipes, it's entirely your choice.
These recipes are from the "Boke of Gode Cury," which translates to the Book of Good Cookery, and they were only made for the English Nobility. Peasants ate a diet of coarse-grained bread (rye and barley), porridge, almond milk, and beer, while the nobility had the full range of known foods at their "disposal." Meats were expensive and hard to preserve, so they were reserved for the wealthy.
Strangely, breakfast was rarely eaten, and if it was, people ate later in the morning. It was considered improper to "break the fast" too early. Several small snacks were eaten throughout the day, with a large meal in the evening. Holding large feasts and featuring extravagant meals was the way to flaunt one's wealth. No expense was spared when Lords and Ladies held an event. If you can believe it, being overweight was attractive, because it was a sign of wealth.
1. Hares in Hare-Blood Sauce (HARES IN TALBOTES)
"Wait, what kind of sauce?"
Hares are cut into pieces and boiled in their own blood. The cooked hares are then blanched in cold water. The blood is strained and boiled in water. Ground almonds are then mixed with the blood broth. Parboiled onions are also added to the pot. The dish is seasoned with salt and vinegar.
This quite possibly may be a dish for vampires-in-training.
2. Entrails with Leeks (BURSEN)
Given the name, this seemed the better picture.
The entrails of a calf, swine, or sheep are boiled in broth and wine. The leeks are shredded and added to the broth. The entrails are then added to make a mixture of blood and vinegar broth.
A leek happens to be a very delightful onion-like vegetable-root. However, when paired with the word "entrails," the word "leek" takes on a whole new meaning. Too soon?
3. Caudell (CAWDEL FERRY)
Keeps you full, and gets you drunk!
This is a drink of ale or wine mixed with raw eggs to create a frothy effect. Caudell Ferry is a version of Caudell where white flour is mixed with wine. Sugar or honey is then added with Saffron, and boiled. When it is boiled, the eggs are added and stirred to make it frothy. Sugar and powdered ginger are then added to the drink.
Perhaps this recipe is a precursor to eggnog. Why else would you add an egg to a perfectly good cup of booze? Unless protein somehow speeds up the inebriation process...
4. Lombardy Cream (LECHE LUMBARD)
Pig fish sticks!
Raw pork is skinned and cleaned, and then ground with a mortar and pestle. The raw meat is then mixed with a variety of spices, including sugar, salt, raisins, currants, minced dates, and pepper. The mixture is then added to a bladder, most likely the pork's bladder, and boiled. When it is cooked, the mixture is cut into fish shapes. A sauce is made by boiling ground raisins, red wine, almond milk, saffron, black pepper, and cloves, which is then poured over the fish shapes.
Some anonymous cook, in his or her infinite wisdom, thought it would be a good idea to add food to a pig's bladder. No wonder it was called the dark ages. People ate food that was cooked in a vehicle that once held pig's urine.
5. Cockatrice (COTAGRES)
First make a monster - then eat it!
This recipe starts with a roasted pig and a roasted cock. They are both cut in half. The meat from the pig's feet and the cock's head are both taken off the cavities. The half-cavities are discarded, and the meat is placed inside of the cleaned cock's feet and pig's head. The stuffed cavities are then sewn together, and placed on a spit, where the newly created animal is then boiled, and finally roasted. A sauce of eggs yolks and saffron is basted on the "Cockatrice" as it's roasted on the spit.
Now here's a unique one. This takes playing with your food to the extreme. These cook's must have had quite the sense of humor to think that sewing a pigs head to a cock's end was a good idea. I'm fairly certain that our sense of humor is too far removed to understand medieval humor - in the sense that stating this fact is like saying the sky is blue.
6. Geese in Hodge-Podge (GEES IN HOGGEPOT)
Don't worry, he had it coming.
Geese are cut into pieces, and added to a broth of half water and half wine in a pot. Herbs and onions are added to the pot, and the broth is cooked over a fire. A thickening liquid of blood and bread is then added to the pot. It is served with powder fort (a medieval spice mix) when it is cooked.
Geese are probably pretty tasty. I've never eaten one personally. But picture this image: You're at a birthday party, eating cake and ice cream. You suddenly remember the days of yore when you were young--when you used to mix ice cream and cake to get that amazing ice cream-cake soup. It was delicious. Well, this blood-bread mixture is touching on the same idea. But don't let that stop you from eating cake and ice cream soup.
7. Milk and Lard (Lete Lardes)
Eggs, cow milk, and lard are mixed together, and separated into five different bowls. Color is added to each bowl. Ground parsley creates green, boiled blood creates black, turmeric creates orange, sandalwood creates red, and saffron creates yellow. Once the colors have been mixed into each bowl, the mixtures are transferred into 5 small pans, and baked. Once baked, the custard "cakes" are placed, one on top of the other. The custard sandwich is pressed to release extra water. The custard is then sliced thinly, and fried.
Mixing milk with paste-like fat sounds like a great idea. They are the same color, after-all. What's the worst that can happen, besides clogged arteries?
8. Pottage with Dolphin (FURMENTE WITH PORPAYS)
Pictured: not tuna.
This recipe consists of a pottage (porridge) made of wheat and almond milk, and mixed with cooked porpoise, or dolphin.
I imagine the back story to this recipe went something like this: Once upon a time there was a gentle and kind race of talking dolphins that lived in the sea. They befriended the people of England, and the two species lived in harmony for a few years. One day, there was a fight between the dolphins and the humans. There was a long, drawn out war, but the humans were victorious. They took the phrase "to the victor goes the spoils" to another level, and ate the dolphins. And this is why talking dolphins don't exist.
9. Jelly of Fish (GELE OF FYSSH)
Still not as gross as lutefisk.
In this dish, fish is served in a vinegar-jelly sauce. The fish is quickly "scalded," or blanched, and then cleaned. The fish is then added to a pan with vinegar and wine, and boiled until it is cooked. The fat is skimmed off the top of the liquid. The liquid is then strained, and served on top of the fish.
Vinegar-jelly sauce. Let that sink in for a minute. Just take a moment and really think about what that means. I wonder if this is something Andrew Zimmern would eat?
10. Jelly of Meat (GELE OF FLESSH)
It's like a "medieval" hot dog!
Pig's feet, pig's ears, a pig's nose, a whole chicken, and cow's feet are all added to this delightful dish. They are washed and boiled in a solution of one-third vinegar to two-thirds water, until they are cooked. The fat is skimmed off the top of the liquid. The liquid is strained, and then served on top of the meat.
This is like the Chuck Norris of head cheese - bad ass and intense!
Even Taco Bell wouldn't serve this.
Corate is a dish of animal intestines boiled until soft, and flavored with herbs and spices and thickened with eggs. The intestines are typically from a cow, pig, or sheep. The intestines are cut into pieces and boiled in a broth with onions and herbs, until they are tender. Eggs are then added to the broth to thicken it.
As if herbs and spices could really mask the taste and smell of boiled intestines. Nice try.
12. Small Birds in Almond Milk (DREPEE)
And so ended the reign of Woody Woodpecker
Ground almonds and a large number of parboiled onions are added to a broth. "Small Birds," such as partridges or woodcocks, are then added to the broth and boiled with salt and herbs.
It seems like catching all of the small birds necessary to make a meal would be a tremendous amount of work. I imagine a serf with a funny hat and a sling shot running through a clearing filled with flowers.
13. Eels in Bruet (ELES IN BREWET)
Breadcrumbs and wine are mixed together to create a thick sauce. Onions are minced and cooked in a broth of wine and water. Eels are sliced and boiled in the sauce, and served when they are cooked.
When I read this recipe...I picture Ursula crying.
14. Swan with Entrail Sauce (CHAWDOUN FOR SWANNES)
"Wait, what kind of sauce?"
The entrails and liver of a swan are cleaned, sliced, and cooked in a broth. The swan is de-boned, and the meat is cut and added to the broth. Bread crumbs and blood are mixed together with cloves, pepper, salt, water, and wine. The ingredients are all mixed together and then served.
...and then the ugly duckling grew up to be a beautiful swan. The most majestic of the birds flies gracefully and nimbly. Upon becoming a swan, he was killed by a hunter, gutted, and then cooked in his guts. The end.
15. Milk Fritters (FRYTOUR OF MYLKE)
Whey is pressed out of curds, and the curds are placed in a bowl. Egg whites are mixed with the curds. Portions of the "batter" are fried with butter, topped with sugar, and eaten as a snack.
Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet, eating her Frytour of Mylke.
16. Pigeon Custard (CRUSTARDES OF FLESSH)
Four and twenty pigeons baked in a pie.
Pigeons, chickens, and small birds and boiled in broth. The meat is separated from the bone and added to a pie crust with spices, raisins, currants, and eggs. A pie crust is placed on top of the mixture, and is then baked until done.
I wonder what a pigeon tastes like. Could it be possible that pigeons taste amazing, and somehow, this recipe of gold was lost over the ages? Could this be the makings of a next great Nick Cage movie?
17. Fish Custard (CRUSTARDES OF FYSSHE)
Lochs, lamprons, and eels are mixed with almond milk and fried. The fish is then mixed with currants, raisins, prunes, and eggs, and baked in a crust.
If the first thing that pops into your head after hearing custard isn't fish...I'm not sure we can be friends.
18. Fish Tartes (TARTES OF FYSSHE)
Don't be shellfish, there's enough for everyone.
Eel and Salmon are cut into pieces and mixed with almond milk and boiled. The fish is de-boned. The eel pieces are kept whole while the rest of the fish is ground small. Sugar, salt, and bread crumbs are added to the mixture. The mixture is then poured into a crust, colored with sandal wood, and baked.
This is exactly what I imagined when I bought my tart pan from Bed, Bath, and Beyond.
19. Hart Row (HERT ROWEE)
The name "edible pin cushion" didn't make it past market research.
A pig's stomach is filled with ground pork, eggs, cloves, saffron, salt, and currents. The stomach is sewn together. A thin strip of pastry dough is placed on top of the stomach, to resemble the back of a hedgehog. It's then parboiled, and placed on a spit to roast. and colored with saffron.
Had they known about Sonic, they would have used blueberries.
20. Little Castles (CHASTLETES)
Much better than gingerbread houses.
Chastletes are pastries that are baked in the shape of castles. This dish was a dish reserved for special occasions. These pastries came in many flavors, including pork, eggs, and saffron; almond cream; cow's cream, eggs, and sandalwood; and figs, raisins, and apples.
I can only assume this recipe is a relative of the modern "molded" birthday cake. A pork and egg cake may be a new concept, however.
21. Elecampane Root Jelly with Eggs (CLAT)
This recipe was typically eaten in the spring to clean the digestive system. Elecampane root, which is a natural antiseptic, is boiled in water. The root is then ground and mixed with eggs, salt, and saffron. It's left to simmer over the fire for quite a few hours.
It's kind of a wonder that the nobility actually considered a "spring cleaning" of their digestive system, yet ate all of the above-mentioned dishes. Or maybe they knew that if they ate the above-mentioned dishes, they would need a "spring cleaning;" however the latter may be a bit over-reaching.
I am so glad that our modern cuisine has expanded and been "fleshed out" so well to include all manners of the known world. There are many foods that I love to eat, and I feel bad for those long-gone who did not get to experience the ecstasy of artisan breads or Panda Express. I just hope that wherever they are, they don't have to suffer any of the above dishes, ever again!
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