Tag Archives: English History

Kanz – Egyptian Flair for the medieval kitchen

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Every year I try to do one major luncheon or large “meal” as it forces me to redact a bunch of new historical recipes. This year, I am doing a luncheon for the local “chapter” of the Society for Creative Anachronism (www.sca.org). My “Barony” is doing an Egyptian/Roman themed event, so I decided to try to find some Egyptian recipes since I hadn’t really done any Middle Eastern cooking myself. I figured this would make a really good change and challenge.
Urtatim Al-Qurtubiyya has been very kind to point me in the correct direction of where to look. I own a number of Middle Eastern cookbooks, but I wasn’t sure which ones would be closer to Egypt rather than more of what is typical to Middle Eastern cuisine.
The book I used for these recipes is Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World by Lilia Zaouali (ISBN: 978-0-520-26174-7). I looked over all the recipes with the donation of K, for Kanz (the original Kanz al-Fawaid fi tanwi al-mawaid which was “The Treasure of Useful Advice for the Composition of a Varied Table”).
First recipe is Fried Meatballs, which was from page 87 of the text. The original said to boil until halfway cooked, and then fry. We tried frying all the way and boiling, and really there wasn’t much of a flavor difference. Probably best to bake these if you are doing a large batch of them at 350 degrees for 20 minutes (or until done, depending on the size of the meatball and your oven.

The original just says “meat” and not the type of meat. I chose ground beef as this was one of the cheaper meats that were ground up. Also, the original recipe calls for the onion to be roasted. Because of time limits, we sautéed the onions in a pan of olive oil, but if you wanted to roast the onion, feel free to do so.

Fried Meatballs

1 lbs. Ground Beef, 15-20% fat is good
1/8 tsp Long Pepper, ground fine
1 tsp Salt
½ tsp. Dry Coriander, ground fine
½ cup Fresh Cilantro leaves, chopped fine
1 large Brown Onion, chopped fine
Olive oil to cook

Take chopped onions and sauté in a hot pan with olive oil. Cook those until they caramelize. Once completed allow to cool, then put in a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix until all the ingredients are evenly mixed together. Roll into balls. I made them smaller (maybe an inch in diameter) for faster cook times. Place olive oil in a pan to heat up until hot. Add meatballs into pan to brown and cook thru, rotating them for even browning. Serve.

Feeds about 6.

The Kitchens of Hampton Court

A very good friend of mine posted a lovely video about the Kitchens at Hampton Court. Over the years, I knew that when you visited the site in the UK, that there were demos and people using the kitchens. However, I never thought to look at You Tube to see if there were any videos on the subject.

Here are a few videos about Tudor cooking (Henry the VIII) and life in Hampton Court, showing how the recreate the past first hand.

Henry the VIII Kitchens at Hampton Court

King's Confectionary

Show and Tell with Spices

The English Housewife: Going Fishing?

Summer can include camping, and sometimes, fishing for some. The English Housewife from 1615 had a few ideas to make fish. Here they are from the lovely website over here which you should check out the details.

Here are a few of the translated recipes:

“Additions For dressing Fish: How to souse any fresh fish. Take any fresh fish what soever (as Pike, Bream, Carp, Barbel, Cheam, and such like) and draw it, but scale it not; then take out the Liver and the refuse, and having opened it, wash it: then take a pottle of fair water, a pretty quantity of white Wine, good store of Salt and some Vinegar with a little bunch of sweet herbs, and set it on the fire: as soon as it begins to boyl, put in your fish, and having boyled a little, take it up into a fair vessel, then put into the liquor some gross Pepper and Ginger, and when it is boyled well together with more salt, set it by to cool, and then put your Fish into it, and when you serve it up, lay Fennel thereupon.

To boyl a Gurnet or Roch: First draw your Fish, and either spint it open in the back, or joynt it in the back, and trusse it round; then wash it clean and boyl it in water and Salt, with a bunch of sweet Herbs then take it up into a large dish, and pour unto it Verjuice, Nutmeg, Butter and Pepper, and letting it stew a little, thicken it with the yelks of Eggs: then hot remove it into another dish, and garnish it with slices of Oranges and Lemons, Barberries, Prunes, and Sugar and so serve it up.

How to stew a Trout: Take a large Trout fair trimm’d, and wash it, and put it into a deep pewter dish, then take half a pint of sweet Wine, with a lump of butter, & a little whole Mace, Parsley, Savory, & Thyme, mince them all small, and put them into the Trouts belly, and so let it stew a quarter of an hour, then mince the yelk of a hard Egg, and strew it on the Trout, and laying the herbs about it, and scraping on Sugar, serve it up.”

History of Britain as seen by Samuel Pegge

Some interesting points, made as far as I can tell about History, by Samuel Pegge in the 18th Century (which was published in the forward of “The Forme of Cury” cookbook):

The Aborigines of Britain, to come nearer home, could have no great expertness in Cookery, as they had no oil, and we hear nothing of their butter, they used only sheep and oxen, eating neither hares, though so greatly esteemed at Rome, nor hens, nor geese, from a notion of superstition. Nor did they eat fish. There was little corn in the interior part of the island, but they lived on milk and flesh; though it is expressly asserted by Strabo that they had no cheese. The later Britons, however, well knew how to make the best use of the cow, since, as appears from the laws of Hoel Dda, A.D. 943, this animal was a creature so essential, so common and useful in Wales, as to be the standard in rating fines.

Hengist, leader of the Saxons, made grand entertainments for king
Vortigern, but no particulars have come down to us; and
certainly little exquisite can be expected from a people then so
extremely barbarous as not to be able either to read or write.
‘Barbari homines a septentrione, (they are the words of Dr. Lister)
caseo et ferina subcruda victitantes, omnia condimenta adjectiva
respuerunt’.

Some have fancied, that as the Danes imported the custom of hard and deep drinking, so they likewise introduced the practice of
gormandizing, and that this word itself is derived from Gormund,
the name of that Danish king whom Ãlfred the Great persuaded to be christened, and called Ãthelstane, Now ’tis certain that
Hardicnut stands on record as an egregious glutton, but he is
not particularly famous for being a curious Viander; ’tis true
again, that the Danes in general indulged excessively in feasts and
entertainments, but we have no reason to imagine any elegance
of Cookery to have flourished amongst them. And though Guthrum, the Danish prince, is in some authors named Gormundus; yet this is not the right etymology of our English word Gormandize, since it is rather the French Gourmand, or the British Gormod.

So that we have little to say as to the Danes.

I shall take the later English and the Normans together, on account of the intermixture of the two nations after the Conquest, since, as lord Lyttelton observes, the English accommodated them elves to the Norman manners, except in point of temperance in eating and drinking, and communicated to them their own habits of drunkenness and immoderate feasting. Erasmus also remarks, that the English in his time were attached to plentiful and splendid tables; and the same is observed by Harrison. As to the Normans, both William I and Rufus made grand entertainments; the former was remarkable for an immense paunch, and withal was so exact, so nice and curious
in his repasts, that when his prime favourite William Fitz-
Osberne, who as steward of the household had the charge of the Cury, served him with the flesh of a crane scarcely half-roasted, he was so highly exasperated, that he lifted up his fist, and would have strucken him, had not Eudo, appointed Dapiser immediately after, warded off the blow.

For more of Samuel Pegge’s opinion/history and all the references that I edited out (as well as the recipes), download a Form of Cury here for free.

Name of the Cook

How did cooks socially rank in the 14th century England? How about in BC Rome? “The Forme of Cury” (from 1390) has some ideas for you to chew on. Some interesting points, made as far as I can tell, by Samuel Pegge in the 18th Century (which was published in the forward of the cookbook):

Though the cooks at Rome, as has been already noted, were amongst the lowest slaves, yet it was not so more anciently; Sarah and Rebecca cook, and so do Patroclus and Automedon in the “Ninth Iliad.”

It were to be wished indeed, that the Reader could be made acquainted with the names of our “master-cooks,” but it is not in the power of the Editor to gratify him in that; this, however, he may be assured of, that as the Art was of consequence in the reign of Richard, a prince renowned and celebrated in the Roll, for the splendor and elegance of his table, they must have been persons of no inconsiderable rank: the king’s first and second cooks are now esquires by their office, and there is all the reason in the world to believe they were of equal dignity heretofore. To say a word of king Richard: he is said in the proeme to have been ‘acounted the best and ryallest vyaund [curioso in eating] of all esten kynges.’ This, however, must rest upon the testimony of our cooks, since it does not appear otherwise by the suffrage of history, that he was particularly remarkable for his niceness and delicacy in eating, like Heliogabalus, whose favourite dishes are said to have been the tongues of peacocks and nightingales, and the brains of parrots and pheasants; or like Sept. Geta, who, according to Jul. Capitolinus, was so curious, so whimsical, as to order the dishes at his dinners to consist of things which all began with the same letters.

Sardanapalus again as we have it in Athenæus, gave
a præmium to any one that invented and served him with some novel cate; and Sergius Orata built a house at the entrance of the Lucrine lake, purposely for the pleasure and convenience of eating the oysters perfectly fresh. Richard II is certainly not represented in story as resembling any such epicures, or capriccioso’s, as these. It may, however, be fairly presumed, that good living was not wanting among the luxuries of that effeminate and dissipated reign.

[Addenda: after “Ninth Iliad,” add, ‘And Dr. Shaw writes, p. 301,
that even now in the East, the greatest prince is not ashamed to
fetch a lamb from his herd and kill it, whilst the princess is
impatient till she hath prepared her fire and her kettle to dress
it.’]

[Addenda: after heretofore add, ‘we have some good families in
England of the name of Cook or Coke. I know not what they may think; but we may depend upon it, they all originally sprang from real and professional cooks; and they need not be ashamed of their extraction, any more than the Butlers, Parkers, Spencers, etc.]

Thanksgiving Turkey

By Patricia Lammerts

Unlike many new world foods, the turkey was accepted readily by the 16th century cook and diner. Why? Because the turkey is a very large bird, and, while its appearance would have been somewhat unusual for the 16th century person to behold, the concept of eating large birds was not foreign to them. Many people confused them with Guinea Fowl. They also were confused as to where turkeys came from. The common misconception was that they came from Turkey, hence the name.

References can be found concerning turkeys from England in 1541, where they were listed in sumptuary laws, along with other large birds. The price of purchasing a turkey was fixed in England in the mid-1550’s for the London markets and Thomas Tusser wrote in 1557 in his book entitled, “ A Hundreth Good Pointes of Husbandrie” of feeding turkeys on runcivall peas, and of eating them for Christmas.

Turkeys were not only accepted in England, but also in Italy and France. Liliane Plouvier wrote a learned paper on the history of turkeys in Europe. She found accounts of Queen Margueritte of Navarre raising turkeys in 1534, while 66 turkeys were served at a feast for Catherine de Medici in 1549. In Belgium, turkey was served three different ways [boiled with oysters, roasted and served cold, and baked in a pastry] for a banquet held in Liege in 1557.

Recipes for turkey can be found in Bartolomeo Scappi’s cookbook “Opera dell’arte del Cucinare”, printed in 1570. Recipes and a drawing of a turkey can be found in Marxen Rumpolt’s cookbook “Ein Neu Kochbuch” printed in 1581.

Here is the first recipe given by Rumpolt and the only one that talks about roasting and not grinding the meat for a terrine or a pie.

I.
Warm abgebraten mit einem Pobrat/ oder trucken gegeben/ Oder
kalt lassen werden/ denn es ist ein gut Essen/ wen{n}s kalt ist.
I.
Warm roasted off with a sauce/ or served dry/ Or
let it (get) cold/ because it is a good meal/ when it is cold.

This is a good sauce recipe from Robert May’s “The Accomplished Cook”:

_Sauces for all manner of roast Land-Fowl, as Turkey, Bustard, Peacock, Pheasant, Partridge_, &c.

4. Onions slic’t and boil’d in fair water, and a little salt, a few bread crumbs beaten, pepper, nutmeg, three spoonful of white wine, and some lemon-peel finely minced, and boil’d all together: being almost boil’d put in the juyce of an orange, beaten butter, and the gravy of the fowl.

Here is a stuffing recipe from Scappi:

To make various stuffings, of those one can stuff various joints of four legged animals, and many flying animals, the which one has to boil with water and salt. Cap CXVI

Take for every pound of old cheese grated, six ounces of fat cheese that is not too salty, & three ounces of nutmeg ground in the mortar and peeled, two ounces of crumb of bread soaked in [turkey] broth, & pounded in the mortar, three ounces of … fresh butter, three ounces of currants (dried grapes) peeled, half an ounce between pepper and cinnamon & saffron enough, mix everything together with eight eggs in the way that the stuffing is neither too liquid nor too firm.

Unfortunately, due to my mother’s recent death, I have been unable to redact these recipes into modern form. This will give a chance to those wishing to experiment.