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.