6 November XXXIX

This was one of those Challenging Feasts. The site was the Round Table hall in Rondebosch, a nice hall with a horrible, horrible kitchen. Itís tiny, and has no work surfaces, and the stove is dodgy as hell. Halfway through the last feast we cooked there (the Andalusian Cowshed event), it died completely, and the work of three electrical engineers could not, in fact, resurrect it. Halfway through this feast we did actually lose the stove again, but this time someone worked out what was happening: if you use all the plates at once, it trips the switch, but the switch itself is faulty so that it looks untripped while itís actually tripped. Anyway, I was Prepared this time; Iíd pre-cooked anything that needed an oven, and had a 3-plate gas hob as back-up. Half this feast was prepared and cooked in the hallway outside the kitchen, since it was the only place where there was room.

Lunch and feast were both cooked from medieval English recipes, mostly from the 14th and 15th centuries. Italicised recipes are the original Middle English form. For sources for these recipes, see the biblography, below.



Take Pork y-sode, & mencyd Datys, and grynd hem smal to-gederys; take yolkys of Eyroun, & putte þer-to a gode hepe, & grene chese putte þe-to; & whan it ys smal y-now, take Gyngere, Canelle, & melle wyl þi commade þer-with, & put in þin cofyns; þan take yolkys of Eyroun hard y-sothe, an kerue hem in two, & ley a-boue, & bake hem; & so nogt y-closyd, serue forth. (Harleian MS 279, 15th century)

Chawettys are a Shire favourite; these pork, egg and cheese tarts are flavoured with spices and minced dates, and are very rich. The recipe specifies leaving the tarts open, and decorating with hard-boiled egg yolks. I tend to cheat with these and use pork sausage meat; the cheese is Cheddar, which gives a good, sharp flavour to the mix.

1 packet English pork sausages (usually 8 sausages)
1 cup grated cheddar
75g dates, minced
2 egg yolks + 6 hard-boiled eggs
1 tsp each of ginger, cinnamon, salt
shortcrust pastry (300g flour)

Remove sausage meat from casings and mix with cheddar, dates, egg yolks and spices. Roll out pastry, cut into circles to fit tart pans. Spoon pork mixture into pans, packing it down so itís level with the top of the cases. Remove yolks from boiled eggs and slice; place a slice of yolk onto each tart, pressing slightly into the filling. Bake at 180 degrees for about 45 mins, or until filling is cooked and slightly browned on top.

Tart on Ember Day

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. (Ancient Cookery, 15th century)

Medieval quiche! Ember Days were religious semi-fast days, in which meat was forbidden but dairy products were okay. (The proliferation of church-enforced fast days in 14th- and 15th-century England actually had a lot to do with the need to encourage the fishing industry, but hey. ) These tarts use eggs and cottage cheese, and are enriched with butter and currants. The parboiled onions and herbs add sweetness, brought out by spicing with sugar.

1 small onion
handful mixed herbs Ė sage, thyme, chives work well
1 200g smooth cottage cheese
3 eggs
2 tblsp butter, softened
pinch saffron
1 tsp salt
handful of currants
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
shortcrust pastry (200g flour)

Roll out pastry and line quiche pan. Prick pastry base with a fork, fill with baking beans on a sheet of baking paper, and bake at 200 degrees for 5-10 minutes, until set. Remove paper and beans and put back in the oven for a few minutes to crisp the base.
Dice onion and simmer in water for 10-15 minutes, until soft. Add the chopped herbs for the last 5 mins of cooking. Drain, and add the butter to melt it.
Mix cheese, eggs, onions, herbs and seasoning. Stir in currants. Pour mixture into baked pastry case and bake at 180 degrees for about half an hour, or until the top is browned and set. This may puff up a little during cooking.

Chike Endored

Take a chike, and drawe him, and roste him, And lete the fete be on, and take awey the hede; then make batur of yolkes of eyroun and floure, and caste there-to pouder of ginger, and peper, saffron and salt, and pouder hit faire til hit be rosted ynogh. (Harlein MS. 4016, 15th century)

"Endoring" is gilding; these roasted chicken pieces are given a wash of a spiced batter made golden with egg-yolks and saffron. The batter also seals the chicken and keeps the juices in.

Batter: 3 egg yolks, 1 tblsp flour, pinch saffron, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp pepper, a little water.
Steep saffron strands in 1 tblsp boiling water; allow to cool. Mix flour into yolks and add saffron water, salt and enough additional water to make a fairly thin batter. Donít make this too thick; a thick batter clumps and tends to fall off. Youíre aiming for something you can paint on with a pastry brush.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and put chicken pieces into an oiled pan. (Drumsticks work well for finger food, here, or you can do whole chickens). Roast for 15 mins or so, until the chicken is starting to heat up. Remove from the oven and paint the upper side of the chicken pieces with the batter, using a pastry brush and making sure the whole surface is coated. Return to the oven and cook for 10 mins. Remove, turn the chicken pieces and coat the underside with batter. Repeat the whole procedure until youíve put on a couple of coats of batter, and the chicken is cooked and looking golden.


Take persel, sawge, grene garlec, chibolles, oynouns, leek, borage, myntes, porrettes, fennel, and toun cressis, rew, rosemarye, purslarye: laue and waische hem clene. Pike hem. Pluk hem small wiþ þyn honde, and myng hem wel with rawe oile; lay on vyneger and salt, and serue it forth. (Form of Cury, 14th century)

This green salad specifies all sorts of herbs, including things like borage and purslane which are not available to us in Cape Town. I cheated and used lettuce in combination with various herbs (parsley, sage, spring onions, mint, watercress and rosemary) and a basic oil/vinegar dressing.

Saturday Night Feast

Broth Saake

Bruette saake. Take Capoun, skalde hem, draw hem, smyte hem to gobettys. Waysshe hem, do hem in a potte; þenne caste owt þe potte, waysshe hem a-gen on þe potte, & caste þer-to half wyne half Broþe; take Percely, Isope, Waysshe hem, & hew hem smal, & putte on þe potte þer þe Fleysshe is; caste þer-to Clowys, quybibes, Maces, Datys y-tallyd, hol Safroune; do it ouer þe fyre; take Canelle, Gyngere, tempere þin powajes with wyne; caste in-to þe potte Salt þer-to, hele it, & whan it is y-now, serue it forth. (Harleian MS 279 - 15th century)

This is a delicious chicken stew, cooked in wine with herbs, dates and spices.

6 chicken breasts, skin and bone included
500 ml white wine
500 ml chicken stock
3/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp ground cubebs
1 tsp mace
15-20 pitted dates, finely chopped
pinch of saffron
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger

Simmer chicken breasts in a large pot with the wine, stock, half the parsley, the cloves, cubebs and mace. This should take an hour or so. Add the dates and saffron and cook for a further 20 mins or so. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Take chicken pieces out of the pot and chop into bite-sized pieces, discarding bones and skin. Return to the pot and re-heat. Mix cinnamon and ginger with a little white wine and add to the broth. Cook for 10-15 mins, adding salt to taste. Add the rest of the parsley just before serving and allow to heat slightly.

Ryse of Flessh

Take ryse and waisshe hem clene, and do hem in an erthen pot with gode broth and lat hem seeþ wel. Aftirward take almaund mylke and do þerto, and colour it wiþ safroun & salt, & messe forth.
Ryse of fische daye. Blaunche almaundes & grynde hem, & drawe hem vp wyt watur. Wesche þi ryse clene, & do þerto sugur roche and salt: let hyt be stondyng. Frye almaundes browne, & floriche hyt þerwyt, or wyt sugur.
(Form of Curye - 14th century)

Almond milk (an infusion of ground almonds and water) is a common ingredient in the recipes of this period, and was a fast-day alternative to rice cooked in meat broth. I have quoted two separate recipes; the one allows me to colour the rice with saffron, and the other to garnish it with fried almonds.

Chewettes of Beef

To make chewettes of beef tak beef and cutt it smalle and do ther to pouder of guinger clowes and other good poudurs grapes vergius saffron and salt and toile them welle to gedure put chekins chopped in coffins and yolks of eggs broke smale and bak them and serue them. (A Proper New Boke of Cookery, 15th century)

A slightly confusing recipe which seems to be part of the "Great Pie" tradition Ė huge pastry cases filled with a mixture of meats, including whole small birds. This is a more refined version, with all the meat chopped small, designed as "chewettes", i.e. small tartlettes. Iíve chosen to give you layered pies with beef and chicken layers. The "yolks of eggs broke smale" seems to mean hard-boiled eggs rather than an egg binding. The beef layer is spiced and flavoured with verjuice (the sour juice of unripened grapes) and whole grapes.

Grene Pese Unstreyned with Herbes

Take grene pese, and let hem sethe with moton or with brothe of beef; and take berbes, parsel, ysope, and saveray, and cast in therto, and let hit sethe tyl it slay hitself; ande colour hit with saffron, and serve hit forthe. (Ancient Cookery, 15th century)

Most medieval English recipes for peas require you to boil them until they burst, and strain them into a paste. This one seems to allow for whole peas, which is far more to the modern taste than pea-mush. The fresh herbs and saffron here lend flavour and interest.


A Bake Mete

Take an make fayre lytel cofyns; þan take Perys, & gif þey ben lytelle, put .iij. in a cofynne, & pare clene, & te-twyne euery pere, ley a gobet of Marow; & yf þou haue no lytel Perys, take grete, & gobet ham, & so put hem in þe ovyn a whyle; þan taek þin commade lyke as þou takyst to Dowcetys, & pore þer-on; but lat þe Marow & þe Pecys ben sene; & whan it is y-now, serue f[orth].
Doucetes: take Cream a gode cupfulle, & put it on a straynour; þanne take yolkys of Eyroun & put þer-to, & a lytel mylke; þen strayne it þorw a straynour in-to a bolle; þen take Sugre y-now, & put þerto, or ellys hony forde faute of Sugre, þan coloure it with Safroun; Þan tak þin cofuns, & put in þe ovynne lere, & lat hem ben hardyd; þan take a dysshe y-fastenyd on þe pelys ende; & pore þin comade in-to þe dyssche, & fro þe dyssche in-to þe cofuns; & when þey don a-ryse wel, take hem out, & serue hem forth.
(Harleian 279 , 15th century)

This dish, a baked custard over whole pears, is known in the Shire as "Pear Thing", and is a popular dessert. The original calls for marrow, probably beef marrow, which would lend richness to the dish; Iíve bowed to modern sensibilities in using butter instead. Iíve also used whole eggs rather than yolks, mostly for reasons of economy.

4 pears
3 tblsp butter
500 ml cream
4 eggs
3 tblsp sugar
pinch saffron
shortcrust pastry (200g flour)

Roll out pastry and use to line a pie plate; line with baking paper, fill with baking beans and bake blind at 200 degrees for 10 mins or so. Remove paper and beans and cook a few more minutes to crisp the base.
Peel pears and cut into eighths. Heat butter in a saucepan and fry the pears until they start to soften. Arrange pears in the pastry case and pour the remaining butter over them. Mix cream, eggs and sugar with saffron and pour mixture over the pears. Cook at 160 degrees for 30-45 minutes, or until the custard has set.


Take Hony, & caste it in a potte til it wexe chargeaunt y-now; take & skeme it clene. Take Gyngere, Canel & Galyngale, & caste þer-to; take whyte Brede, & kytte to trenchours, & toste ham; take þyn paste whyle it is hot, & sprede it Vppe-on þin trenchourys with a spone, & plante it with Pynes, & serue forth. (Harlein MS. 279 Ė 15th century)

Toast with spiced honey and pine nuts; I used raisin bread because itís a sweetened, enriched bread that makes good toast. Heat honey with the spices; toast the bread and spoon honey onto it while both honey and bread are still hot; spread with a knife. Sprinkle with pine nuts.

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