I’ve had a keen interest in English Medieval history for the last 10 years or so, and during the last three years of reenacting battles and medieval life in general, I’ve been learning more interesting nuggets of information than ever. Today, I had a flick through a cookery book and noticed several things that would surprise a lot of people.
- The range of spices that were available in the 1400s is pretty surprising, given that most people think of this period as being the ‘Dark Ages’, i.e. uncultured and a little bit backwards. Whilst it’s true that Medieval food can’t match the grandeur of those infamous feasts held in the Tudor courts, spices like ginger, cinnamon, saffron, cumin, mace and cardamom are mentioned in the recipes used to feed the nobility.
- Currents/raisins were present in a lot of dishes, including beef stews, meatballs, and savory tarts.
- Savory custard was a thing. Hennys in Gaucelye (Chicken in garlic sauce), involves pouring garlic and saffron flavoured milk over hot eggs to make garlic custard.
- There is a medieval stew that combines lamb, wine, eggs and lemon and it is absolutely delicious.
- A popular dessert was apple fritters. However, instead of adding milk to flour to make the batter, they used beer.
- All kinds of weird and wonderful sauces were eaten. Sauce Alepeuere is made by mashing bread, vinegar and raw garlic, and was eaten as a common accompaniment to beef. Sauce Galentyne is similar in terms of bread and vinegar, but this time, cinnamon is the spice that is added and the accompanying meat was veal, chicken or lamb.
I’d say that English Medieval Cuisine may not always appeal to our 21st century taste palettes, but there are certainly some hidden gems worth trying. Personally, I find it fascinating to see the dishes that are the base of much of the food we eat today, and even more interesting to see just how many accurate food related sources we have access too.
Most of my knowledge come from two cookery books. One is The Wholesome Cookery Book, and the other is The Medieval Cookbook, both by Maggie Black. They are well worth looking at if you’re interested and want to find out more.