[ This article is written in personna. ]
Praised be ALLAH,
Creator of days and appointer of times,
Who hath brought every creature to life
and provided all manner of sustenance;
beasts has He fashioned, and made herbs to grow;
and he encompasseth all mankind with His manifest blessings.
For them sent He down water from heaven, whereby He brought forth every kind of fruit;
and He hath made it lawful for man to taste of wholesome things,
and hath permitted him to enjoy such foods and potions as be not unlawful.
ALLAH bless His chosen prophet our lord Mohammad and his family.
Verily, he heareth prayers.
But it is known that the Franks (cursed be they for unbelievers) go against the law of Allah; unclean meats they eat, and they are great drunkards. Therefore, that all men may see and know these things, in writing receyptes of the Franks I shall not refrain from putting down those that make use of unclean meats or drinks forbidden by the law. For it is my purpose in these writings to show a little of the cookery of many peoples, those of the East and the West, and also the Franks, and if any who read this know concerning the cookery of the Romans, I pray that they write it down and send it to me, for I know it not.
And since the receyptes of the Franks, who are ignorant of learning, are less clear than those of al-Islam, I shall write a little concerning their meaning, and with one or two show how I have found they may best be done, and what quantities are to be used. But Allah alone knoweth all.
Take fayre caboges, and cutte hem, an pike hem clene and clene washe him, and parboyle hem in fayre water, an + anne presse hem on a fayre bord; an + an choppe hem, and caste hem in a faire pot with goode freysshe broth, an wyth mery-bonys, and let it boyle: + anne grate fayre brede and caste + er-to, and caste + er-to Safron and salt; or ellys take gode grwel y-mad of freys flesshe, y-draw + orw a straynor, and caste + er-to. An whan thou seruyst yt inne, knock owt the marw of the bonys, an ley the marwe ii gobettys or iii in a dysshe, as + e semyth best, & serve forth.
Take fayre porke, + e fore quarter, and take of + e skyne; an put + e porke on a fayre spete, and rost it half y-now; + an take it of, an smyte it in fayre pecys, & caste it on a fayre potte; + an take oynonys, and schrede hem, and pele hem (an pyle hem nowt to smale), an frye in a panne of fayre grece; + an caste hem in + e potte to + e porke; + an take gode broth of moton or of beef, an caste + er-to, an + an caste + er-to pouder pepyr, canel, clowys, an macys, an let hem boyle wyl to gederys; + an tak fayre brede, an vynegre, an stepe + e brede with + e same brothe, an strayne it on blode, with ale, or ellys sawnderys, and salt, and lat hym boyle y-now, and serve it forth.
Take a porcyoun of Rys, & pyke hem clene, & sethe hem welle, & late hem kele; + en take gode Mylke of Almaundys & do + er-to, & sethe & stere hem wyl; & do + er-to sugre an hony, & serue f.
Take Porke, and sethe it wyl; thanne take it uppe and pulle a-way the Swerde, an pyk owt the bonys, an hakke it and grynd it small; thenne take the sylf brothe, & temper it with ale; than take fayre gratyd brede, & do there-to, and sethe it, an coloure it with Saffroun, & lye it with yolkys of eyroun, & make it even salt, & caste pouder gyngere, a-bouyn on the dysshe.
Take almaunde Mylke, & Suge, an powdere Gyngere, & of Galyngale, & of Canelle, and Rede Wyne, & boyle y-fere: & + at is gode tannye.
Take Whyte of Eyroun, Mylke, & Floure, & a lytel Berme, & bete it to-gederys, & draw it + orw a straynore, so + at it be renneng, & not to styf, & caste sugre + er-to, & salt; + anne take a chafer ful of freysshe grese boyling, & put + in hond in the Bature, & lat + in bature renne dowun by + in fyngerys in-to + e chafere; & whan it is ronne to-gedere on + e chafere, & is y-now, take & nym a skymer, & take it up, & lat al + e grece renne owt, & put it on a fayre dyssche, & cast + er-on Sugre y-now, & serue forth.
Now those who are accustomed to the receyptes of al-Islam will at first find these of the Franks strange, that they say not how much of each thing goes into the dish, and for that reason I will give the quantities that I use with two of the dishes. But for those who are accustomed to cooking it will not seem difficult to try the receyptes with such quantities as they think right, and whether in the East or the West or among the Franks I have not found much in a dish to be the same when two different cooks have made it, save the name only. It happened once to me that I travelled in the land of al-Baran, I and my brothers and our ladies together, and we were guested by the folk of that land. And after the dinner I spoke to the cook, saying "Noble Ivan, master of your craft, what is this most excellent dish you have set before me, for all of this feast of yours is such as I hope for when I feast with the blessed in paradise, but this dish is the crown of all." And he answered "Oh my lord, what have I accomplished save with your aid; this is your own receypte that I had from the hand of one for whom you wrote it." And I tell you it was true; it was my receypte but my dish it was not.
But before I began that tale I had promised to tell the quantities I use with certain of the Frankish dishes. And one is the dish Caboges, and for that I use one head of Caboge, neither very large nor very small, and 2 ratl of beef broth and 4 ratl of marrow bones. The Caboge head I cut in four pieces, and put it into boiling water, and when the water boils again, or a little later, I take the cabbage out and let it cool until I can touch it with my hands, then press the water out of it (and with it goes some of the flavor that might be too strong) and chop it, and then boil it with the broth and bones until it is soft, a third of an hour it might be, and then add salt to taste and a very little saffron and half a ratl or so of bread crumbs, enough to make it thick, and simmer a little longer before I serve it.
And as for the crispes, if you use the whites of four eggs, one quarter ratl (that is three uqiya) of milk, three or four uqiya of flour, something less than one uqiya of berme, about one uqiya of sugar and a dirham of salt, and after frying your crispes in hot oil you turn them over, drain away the oil when they are done, and sprinkle them with more sugar, you will find no better dish for a meal's end, not even the sweets of the East and the West, concerning which I will write another day.
The recipes given above are all from Two Fifteenth Century Cookery-Books, Thomas Austin Ed., EETS. The edition was first published in 1888 and reprinted in 1964; it was still in print when I last checked and is also included in Volume I of the collection of source material we sell. Since the purpose of this article is to give readers who do not have access to primary sources on period cookery a chance to try working from the original recipes, I have reproduced them without modernizing the spelling. Understanding fifteenth century recipes is not as hard as it seems; the main trick is to sound the words out instead of trying to recognize them by how they are spelled. The spelling is not only very different from modern spelling, but inconsistent from one recipe to another. It is also useful to know that "u" is often used where we would use "v" (serue it forth) and that "+ " is pronounced "th." As a further aid, you may find the following sample translation useful, as well as the glossary at the end of this note.
Take egg whites, milk, and flour and a little yeast and beat them all together, and put it through a strainer so that it is running and not too stiff, and cast sugar therto, and salt; then take a frying pan full of fresh oil boiling, and put your hand in the batter, and let your batter run down by your fingers into the pan; and when it has run together on the pan and is done, take a pancake turner and take it up and let all the oil run out and put it on a clean dish and cast thereon sugar enough and serve it.
For those who find the article's measurements somewhat obscure, a ratl is sixteen ounces or a pint, an uqiya is a twelfth of a ratl, and a dirham (which is a silver coin as well as a weight) is a tenth of an uqiya (about 1 tsp.).
Anyone with information to offer on Roman cookery should realize that to a medieval Moor "Roman" means Byzantine; I already have Apicius. Anyone who wishes to correspond on period cookery or who is interested in translating period cookbooks (from medieval French, medieval German, medieval Portuguese, medieval Dutch, or modern Spanish) should write to me.
Berme: Yeast. In this recipe you could use nutritional yeast, since it is not being used to raise anything.
Canel or Canelle: Cinnamon
Galyngale: Galingale, a root which breaks spice grinders. Get it (ground) from oriental grocery stores ("Galingas").
Lye: Mix or combine.
Mary Bonys: Marrow bones
Mylke of Almoundys: The simplest form is made by dissolving finely ground almonds in water and straining off the residue. The result looks like milk and is used in many medieval recipes.
Ratl: 16 ounces = 1 pint = 12 Uqiya = 120 Dirham
Sawnderys: Saunders, a condiment used for its red coloring.
Temper: Mix with
[Originally published in Tournaments Illuminated no. 69, Winter 1983]
Webbed by Gregory Blount of Isenfir