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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: Lindsay Townsend

Medieval Recipes

I like to cook, when I have time. I also like to experiment with food and with recipes.

It’s often said that food in the Middle Ages was boring - all salted meat and fish and no fresh vegetables - or over-spiced and over-produced. (Smothered in gilt or sculptured into fantastic shapes: mock-castles in pastry, sugar cast in molds and so on.) Yet in the summer months, the food would be fresh and trying some of the recipes, some taken from the early English cookbook, ’The Forme of Cury,’ I’ve found them to be interesting in their blend of textures and flavours. Terms such as 'Egurdouce' means sweet-and-sour, and meat such as rabbit or goat was cooked in this way.

Spices and sugar in medieval times were both costly (sugar was kept as a spice and was so rare it was often kept locked away). Unless the recipe states a ‘great deal’ of either, it seems that cooks then, as now, used them sparingly.

Almonds were used a lot in medieval dishes, and almond milk. Ground almonds were often used as a thickening agent and almond milk could be used to give a creamy taste to dishes during Lent, when dairy products were forbidden.

There's a recipe for a chutney I'm keen to try. It has a lovely name in the 'Forme of Cury' - Compost. I also have my eye on a sauce of roasted chicken, made with red wine, sugar, currants, cinnamon and ginger.

If you are interested in trying out some recipes, I recommend 'Pleyn Delit' Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks by Constance B Hieatt, Brenda Hosington and Sharon Butler.


Linda Banche said...

I thought almonds were expensive. I guess not.

And "compost"? If you use it, you'd better not tell the people who are eating the dish!

Danielle Thorne said...

This is so interesting. I haven't heard much said about cuisine in this time period--I love almonds, and I sometimes crave simpler food without all the fuss. I wonder what they would think of all our complicated menus these days!

Savanna Kougar said...

"I also have my eye on a sauce of roasted chicken, made with red wine, sugar, currants, cinnamon and ginger."

Oh, I'd love to try this one, also.

When I took a Medieval history class in college, we had an event where we cooked up some of the recipes and played some of the games... it was fantastic fun. I made an herbal bread from that time that was utterly delicious.

Almonds are yummy and so good for you. Too bad they are now being ruined by being nuked, so to speak, which ruins their nutritional value... what I wouldn't give for my own trees.

Rebecca J Vickery said...

I am sooo into food. LOL This was very interesting to me. The sauce for the chicken sounds anything but bland and I'm afraid I'm with Linda about "compost." LOL

Kristabel Reed said...

I'm curious about almond milk. At first I thought it was milk sweetened with almonds, but I can see I'm mistaken if it was usd during Lent. Was it like whey/flour as a thickening agent/gravy?

Lindsay Townsend said...

Thanks Linda, Danielle, Savanna, Rebecca and Kristabel. Almonds were pricey, but could be ground, soaked and strained through a cloth to make a liquid for thickening - and the ground almonds could be used again for another recipe. The poor used oatmeal in the same way. By the way, Savanna, we're having roast chicken tomorrow, so we'll try that fancy sauce and report back. Yum!