Dragonfire Feast

8 August XXXVIII

An English Medieval Feast
mostly of the 14th and 15th centuries

cooked by Jehanne de Huguenin and divers assistants

Dragonfire is the annual tournament of CLAWs, the University of Cape Town's role-playing society. On several occasions the Shire has co-operated with CLAWs in running a medieval feast as the opening salvo in the weekend. This is rather fun for us, in that it gives us a much bigger feast than we're used to (I think this one was about 50); our Shire is rife with role-players anyway, and even those feast attendees who are not into the SCA are quite okay with medieval costume. It's usually a very good party, and is spreading far and wide the local SCA's reputation for Good Food, TM.

First Course

Porrey Chapelyn

White onion soup with almond milk
For to make a porrey chapeleyn, tak an hundred onyons oþer an half, & tak oyle de olyf & boyle togedere in a pot; & tak almande mylk & boyle yt & do þereto. | Tak & make a þynne paast of dow, & make þ erof as it were ryngis. Tak & fry hem in oyle de olyue or in wyte grees & boil al togedere.
Curye on Inglysch, Book II (14th century English)

Both these soups were simple, not too filling, and vegetarian. The onion soup has a surprisingly complex flavour: I fried finely-chopped onions in olive oil and added almond milk made from ground almonds and boiling water with a little white wine for flavour. We ran out of time to do the garnish of faux onion rings made from fried pastry, alas.


Green pea soup with onions, parsley and spices
Take grene pesyn, and boile hem in a potte; And whan they ben y-broke, drawe the broth a good quantite thorgh a streynour into a potte, And sitte hit on the fire; and take oynons and parcelly, and hewe hem small togidre, And caste hem thereto; And take pouder of Canell and peper, and caste thereto, and lete boile; And take vynegur and pouder of ginger, and caste thereto; And then take Saffron and salte, a litull quantite, and caste thereto; And take faire peces of paynmain, or elles of such tendur brede, and kutte hit yn fere mosselles, and caste there-to; And then serue hit so forth.
Harlein MS (15th century English, in Renfrow)

I used frozen peas, which were the only ones I had available. Because of this, I boiled up the onions and parsley before adding the peas, since they don't take much cooking. This is good pureed; the spices complement the flavour of the peas very well.


in the likeness of a Camelopard, a wondrous strange beast.

Second Course


Lamb stew with red wine and dried fruit
Take connynges or kydde, and smyte hem on pecys rawe, and fry hem in white grece. Take raysouns of couraunce and fry hem. Take oynouns, perboile hem and hewe hem small and fry hem. Take rede wyne and a lytel vynegur, sugur with powdour of peper, of gynger, of canel, salt; and cast therto, and lat it seeth with a gode quantite of white grece, & serve it forth.
Form of Curye (14th century English)

A wonderful sweet-and-sour dish; I used lamb, diced small, browned in oil, and then cooked gently in red wine and vinegar, with the onions, currants and spices.

Ladling Egredouce into bowls for service (me and Robyn). Cassandra is slicing Icelandic Chicken.

Chicken in Paste

Chicken in pastry with bacon and sage
One shall cut a young chicken in two and wrap about it whole leaves of salvia, and cut up in it bacon and add salt to suit the taste. Then cover that with dough and bake like bread in the oven.
(13th century Northern European cookbook, in Cariadoc's Miscellany)

The famous Icelandic Chicken! I used a standard shortcrust pastry (see here for recipe) rather than a bread dough, since I find the bread version rather... well, doughy. We laid the bacon and sage leaves on the pastry, added three skinned, deboned chicken breasts, and then rolled it up into a parcel. To serve, we cut the parcels in slices with a cross-section through the three breasts, which gives a good distribution of bacon and sage. It's worth turning these over half way through the baking process, as this allows all the juices to permeate both sides of the pastry.


Pasta layered with cheese and spices
Take good broth and do in an erthen pot. Take flour of payndemayne and make therof past with water, and make therof thynne foyles as paper with a roller; drye it harde and seeth it in broth. Take chese ruayn grated and lay it in disshes with powdour douce, and lay theron loseynes isolde as hoole as thou myst, and above powdour and ches; and so twyse or thryse, & serve it forth.
Form of Curye (14th century English)

A simple pasta dish; I used commercial wide ribbon noodles, and layered them with sharp cheddar and ginger, cinnamon and pepper. The secret is to have a team to layer these very fast once the pasta is cooked, as there is no re-heating and the heat from the cooked pasta needs to melt the cheese.

Llewellyn and Ginevra madly layering pasta and cheese, in a cloud of steam...

Tarts for Ember Day

Herb and onion quiche with currants
Take and perboile oynoun & erbis & presse out the water & hewe her smale. Take grene chese & bray it in a morter, and temper it up with ayren. Do therto butter, safroun & salt, & raisouns corouns, & a litel sugur with powdour douce, and bake it in a trap, & serue it forth.
Form of Curye (14th century English)

My version:

250g smooth cottage cheese or ricotta
3 eggs
1/2 cup grated cheddar
1 small onion
handful of fresh herbs (parsely, sage, thyme, savoury, chives, whatever)
1/2 cup currants
salt, cinnamon, cloves, a pinch of sugar
Chop the onion and herbs finely and boil in vegetable broth until soft (5-10 mins). Mix eggs, cheeses and spices well; stir in onions and herbs with currants. Pour into a pre-baked shortcrust pastry case (see here for recipe), and cook at 180o for about 30 minutes.

Tarts for Ember Day all over the kitchen table. Cassandra is still slicing Icelandic Chicken.

Skirrets and Pasternacks

Carrots and parsnips in a spiced onion broth.
Take rapus and make hem clene, and waissh hem clene; quarter hem; perboile hem, take hem vp. Cast hem in a gode broth and see+ hem; mynce oynouns and cast + erto safroun and salt, and messe it forth with powdour douce. In the self wise make of pastunakes and skyrwittes.
Forme of Curye (14th century English)

A simple side dish: although the recipe calls for turnips, I chose to do carrots and parsnips instead, as they're less starchy. The dish ends up as vegetables and onions in a spiced broth, rather tasty.

Third Course

The Jumbals and Fine Cakes were presented as a sotletie, in the shape of a dragon, with marzipan head and feet, and paper wings - see here for details of his construction. He was made by Lady Cassandra Tantifer.

Fine Cakes

Shortbread biscuits spiced with mace
To make fine cakes Take a quantity of fine wheate Flower, and put it in an earthen pot. Stop it close and set it in an Oven, and bake it as long as you would a pasty of Venison, and when it baked it will be full of clods. Then searce your flower through a fine sercer. Then take clouted Creame or sweet butter, but Creame is best: then take sugar, cloves, mace, saffron and yolks of eggs, so much as wil seeme to season your flower. Then put these things into the Creame, temper all together. Then put thereto your flower. So make your cakes. The paste will be very short; therefore make them very little. Lay paper under them.
John Partridge, The widowes Treasure, 17th century

My version:

600g flour
200g sugar
400g butter
100g cream (clotted or beaten until stiff)
3 egg yolks
pinch saffron, 2 tsp mace, 1 tsp cloves
Pre-bake the flour in a sealed metal pot at about 180 degrees C (350 degrees F) for about half an hour; it'll smell all nutty and start to form clumps. Mix the butter, cream, sugar, spices and egg yolks. Sieve the lumpy flour well (it works better if you allow it to cool first) and mix it into the butter mix to form a dough. You could roll these out, but I like making them into balls and squishing them flat on a cookie tray with something that makes a design in the top (I use an old metal ear-ring in the shape of a daisy, or a heraldic rose stamp). Bake at 160 degrees C (300 degrees F) for 20-30 minutes, but watch them to make sure they don't get too brown. I have never tried this with proper clotted cream; you could use all butter, but I like the added richness from using mostly butter but some normal cream.


Almond biscuits flavoured with rose water and coriander
To make Jumbals more fine and curious than the former, and neerer to the taste of the Macaroon, take a pound of Sugar, beat it fine. Then take as much fine wheat flowre, and mixe them together. Then take two whites and one yolk of and Egge, half a quarter of a pound of blanched Almonds: then beat them very fine altogether, with half a dish of sweet butter and a spoonfull of Rose water, and so work it with a little Cream till it come to a very stiff paste. Then roul them forth as you please: and hereto you shall also, if you please, adde a few dryed Anniseeds finely rubbed, and strewed into the paste, and also Coriander seeds.
Gervase Markham, The English Hous-wife, 1615

My version:

500g sugar
500g flour
1 egg + 1 egg white
60 g ground almonds
250g butter
1 tblsp rose water
1 tsp ground coriander
Mix the flour and sugar in a large bowl; in a separate bowl, beat the eggs, almonds, butter and rose water, and then mix/rub these into the dry ingredients. (You could cheat with this recipe and cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs and work in the dry ingredients, as you would with a modern biscuit recipe). You may need to add a couple of spoons of cream if the mix is too dry, but I generally don't find that to be necessary. The mixture can be rolled out and cut into shapes; make it fairly thin, no more than a few millimetres thick. Bake at 180 degrees for 20-30 minutes.


Custard tart with eggs, cream and saffron.
Take creme of cowe mylke, other of almaundes; do therto ayren with sugur, safroun and salt. Medle it yfere. Do it in a coffyn of ii ynche depe; bake it wel and serue it forth.
Form of Curye (14th century English)

My version:

250ml cream
2 eggs
2 tblsp sugar
pinch saffron soaked in 1 tblsp hot water
Mix cream, eggs, sugar and saffron water and pour into
pre-baked pie shell. Cook at 180o for 30-40 mins, or until custard has set.


Constance B. Hieatt and Sharon Butler, eds (1985). Curye on Inglysch: English culinary manuscripts of the fourteenth century (including the Form of Cury). London: Oxford UP.

Madge Lorwin (1976) Dining with William Shakespeare. New York: Atheneum.

Gervase Markham (1683) The English Housewife. Transcribed by Kirrily Robert, http://infotrope.net.sca/texts/english-housewife

Cindy Renfrow (1993) Take a Thousand Eggs or More, Vol. 1 & 2. Published privately.

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