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Medieval cuisine, although different from our current cuisine and contrary to what one might think, is very finesse, slightly tart, colorful, spicy and non-greasy. Most sauces accompanying poultry and fish are rather acidic (wine, vinegar, verjuice), and sweet and sour is very popular with the addition of sugar, honey or fruit ...
The spices used in large quantities are mainly cinnamon and ginger, then appear powdered clove, nutmeg, mace, maniguette or seed of paradise, pepper, cardamom, galangal (garingal) and finally saffron to color. The visual aspect of food in the Middle Ages is almost as important as the taste. As a result, the dishes obtained have beautiful green, yellow, orange colors, etc.
Reference books on cooking in the Middle Ages
There are two reference books on medieval cuisine in the 14th century:
Le Mesnagier de Paris was written in 1393 by a Parisian magistrate. This book was to be used by his 15-year-old young wife in order for her to become an excellent hostess. Principles and precepts for running his house and his household. Advice so that she is docile and fully submissive to her husband.
Le Viandier would have been written by Guillaume Tirel, dit Taillevent. He would have been born in 1320/1326 and died around 1395. Thanks to his beginnings as a cook in the kitchens of Queen Joan of Evreux, he became a "vegetable gardener" (specialist in stews and stews), he climbed the ranks. His colleagues nicknamed him "Taillevent". In 1346, he became master chef of King Philippe VI, then entered the service of the Dauphin, Duke of Normandy, and continued to run his kitchens, when he was crowned king. Under Charles VI, he reached the height of glory, being appointed kitchen squire and master of the king's garrisons. In 60 years, he will have served 5 kings. He will die showered with money and honors, with a coat of arms that will recall his function as a kitchen. For the record: the Saint Germain en Laye museum has a tombstone from the sacristy of the Priory of Hanemont church.
Taillevent, is in a way the ancestor of generations of artists who have forever marked the history of gastronomy, and even history itself. During his lifetime he wrote a cookbook, known today as Meatman from Taillevent.
Some medieval recipes
For 4 people: 750 ml of beef or chicken broth, 1 tsp. tablespoon of vinegar, 3 tbsp. tablespoon verjuice, 2 eggs, 80g breadcrumbs, 1 pinch of ginger, 1 pinch of nutmeg, 1 pinch of saffron, 1 pinch of cloves, 3g of salt
Heat the broth, beat the eggs, mix them with the hot broth, off the heat, beating with a whisk. Add the breadcrumbs, then the spices diluted in the verjuice and vinegar. Cook for a few minutes while stirring and serve.
Omelet with herbs
6 tansy leaves, 1 rue leaf, 4 ache leaves (wild celery), 4 mint leaves, 4 sage leaves, 6 marjoram or oregano leaves, 1 handful of fennel, 1 large handful of parsley, 2 handfuls of a mixture of violet leaves, spinach, lettuce, chard greens, 16 eggs, 1 tsp. of ginger, salt.
Wash the herbs, chop them and put them in a bowl. Add the eggs, ginger, and beat. Make 2 equal parts, for 2 omelets. Cook in a very hot pan with a knob of butter. Serve hot. You can add a little cream cheese when cooking. Le Ménagier de Paris recommends putting the grated cheese on the omelet during cooking and not before, in the beaten eggs, so that the cheese does not stick to the bottom of the pan. It indicates to eat the omelet neither too hot nor too cold
The Jaunet Soup
For 4 people: 400g of salmon, 150g of whole peeled almonds, 25cl of verjuice, 25cl of white wine, 75cl of water, 20g of fresh ginger (1 piece of 4cm), 1 clove, 1 tsp. coffee of seeds of paradise, 10 filaments of saffron, 1 tsp. tablespoons of oil, salt.
Remove the skin and bones from the salmon. In a casserole dish, brown the fish for 5 min. in oil. Crumble finely with a fork. Pass the almonds in a blender. Combine the verjuice, wine and water. Add the crushed almonds and the crumbled fish. Grind the ginger in a blender, crush the cloves, add these 2 spices to the fish, as well as the salt, saffron and the seed of paradise. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 min.
Almond milk soup
For 4 people: 250g of almonds, 300g of onions, 1.5 liters of water, 3 slices of white bread, 25g of butter.
Peel the onions and cook them in water for 20 min. Boil the almonds, peel them and put them in a blender. Add them to the cooking water of the onions. Filter to Chinese. Chop the cooked onions, brown them in the butter. Add to almond milk. Heat and pour over the slices of sandwich bread.
White pore, creamy puree of white leeks
For 4 people: 1kg and a half of leeks, 200g of onions, 200g of whole peeled almonds, 10g of fresh ginger (1 piece of 2cm), 30cl of water, 50g of butter. A mixture of spices: 1 pinch of cardamom, ½ tsp. of cinnamon, 1 pinch of nutmeg.
Peel the leeks and keep only the whites. Slice them and the onions. Brown them in butter for 10 min. Grind the almonds in a blender. Mix with water to make thick milk. Filter. Combine the vegetables and the almond milk. Add the crushed ginger. Boil 10 min. Serve sprinkled with the spice blend.
For 4 people: 1 hen, 2 tbsp. tablespoons of wine vinegar, 8 slices of sandwich bread, 2 hard-boiled egg yolks, 2 crushed cloves, 10 saffron strands, 1 tsp. tablespoons of powdered ginger, 8 pods of cardamom, shelled and crushed, 1 tsp. teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 tsp. of chopped sage, 2 tsp. tablespoons of chopped parsley, salt and pepper.
Put the hen in a court-bouillon. Boil it for an hour. Cut it into pieces. Drizzle the bread with broth. Go to a blender. Add the hard-boiled eggs. Grind again. Add a little broth to obtain a fairly liquid cream, then the spices, herbs, vinegar, salt and pepper. Beat with a fork. Pour over the chicken pieces and serve very cold.
The cream of peas: the ancestor of 18th century veloutés.
For 4 people: 400g of peas, 1 heart of lettuce, 1 onion, 100g of heavy cream, 25g of butter, 4 sprigs of chervil, salt and pepper.
Shell the peas, peel the onion and chop it. Wash the heart of the salad and cut into thin strips. Melt the butter in a 4l casserole dish and add the onion. Brown for 3 min over low heat, stirring constantly. Add the salad and mix for 2 min. Pour in the chicken broth and as soon as it boils, add the peas. Cook for 20 minutes until tender. Season with salt and pepper. Reserve 4 tbsp. Pass the rest in a blender. Sift the resulting cream then pour it back into the casserole dish. Heat to a boil, add the sour cream, mix and remove from the heat. Serve garnished with the reserved peas and chervil.
Rabbit stew with spices
For 4 people: 1 rabbit (approximately 1.4 kg), 30g of oil, 70g of toasted country bread, 150g of wine, 80g of a good red wine vinegar, 500g of beef or chicken broth, 60g of verjuice, 250g of onions, 2 tbsp. of ginger, 1/2 tsp. teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 pinch of ground cloves, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1/4 tsp. teaspoon pepper, 1/4 tsp. teaspoon of maniguette, 2 g of salt
Roast a rabbit on the grill or on a spit, cut it into pieces. Brown the onions. Sauté the rabbit pieces and onions. Deglaze with the vinegar and reduce a little.
Toast the bread, then soak it with the broth and wine. Mix, add the powdered spices that have been diluted in a spoonful of verjuice, add the rest of verjuice. Mix with the rabbit. Cook together for 3 / 4h. The Civé must be "brown, seasoned with vinegar and moderate in salt and spices".
Roast lamb with menu salt
For 4 people: 1 shoulder of lamb of 1.5kg, 30 heads of parsley, verjuice, vinegar, fleur de sel.
Cook the shoulder in a hot oven (230 °) for 20 minutes. Take it out of the oven. Make notches deep enough to accommodate the parsley branches. Return to the oven for 20 min. Serve with "jance, camelina and green" sauces, as well as with small cups of fine salt, vinegar and verjuice that each guest can use as a seasoning.
A thick slice of white bread, 25cl of white wine, 5g of fresh ginger (1 piece of 1cm), ½ tsp. of cinnamon, ¼ tsp. coffee nutmeg, 2 filaments of saffron, 1 tsp. brown sugar.
Soak the bread in a bowl of water. Mix the spices with the wine. Add the soaked ground bread to the blender. Bring to a boil. Add the sugar. The mixture should be smooth. Give a turn of broth.
4 tbsp. tablespoon verjuice, 4 tbsp. of finely chopped parsley, 3 sage leaves, 5 g of ginger (1 piece of 1cm), 1 tip of clove, 1 tip of cinnamon.
Grind the parsley, sage and salt in a blender. Add the spices and mix. Dissolve with the verjuice.
2 cloves of garlic, 100 g of whole peeled almonds, 1 thick slice of white bread, 5 g of fresh ginger (1 piece of 1 cm), 1 glass of verjuice, 1 glass of white wine.
Soak the bread in white wine. Drain the bread. Then blend the ginger, garlic and bread in a blender. Add the almonds, verjuice and white wine. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 min.
Rissolles with fish day (nothing to do with fish, we call a fish day: a lean day)
These are in fact stuffed donuts, the dough recipe of which is not given.
Cook the chestnuts over low heat; peel them as well as hard-boiled eggs that you will chop finely with cheese. Then pour egg whites over it and add fine powdered spices and a little fine salt, and make your rissoles; fry them in lots of oil and sweeten them. Normally we make rissoles with figs, grapes, roasted apples and peeled walnuts to counterfeit the pignolat, and fine powdered spices. The dough must be well colored with saffron. The rissoles are then fried in oil. If necessary add starch and rice to bind.
1l of sweet white wine, 25g of sage leaves, 1 clove, 1 tsp. of ginger, 1 bay leaf, 1 pinch of pepper, 120g of honey.
Put the wine in a salad bowl. Chop the sage leaves. Add all the ingredients to the wine. Mix well and let macerate for 24 hours. Filter and bottle, then in the fridge, leaving to stand for a week before tasting.
Green egg and cheese broth
Take parsley, a little cheese and sage and very little saffron, some soaked bread, and mix with pea broth or boiled water, crush and strain; add crushed ginger, dilute with wine and boil, then put cheese in it and poached eggs in water; and let it be cheerful (tender) green.
Item, some do not put bread there; instead of bread, bacon goes well
For 4 people: 150g small pieces of lean bacon, 50 cl of milk, 6 egg yolks, 100g of butter, 1 crushed clove, 25g of sugar.
In a saucepan, bring the milk and bacon to the boil. Let cool. Beat the egg yolks, add the milk and whisk. Cook in a double boiler until the mixture sets. Leave to cool and drain through a fine cloth for 3 hours. Cut into thin slices, sprinkle with crushed cloves and sugar, brown in a pan in butter.
For 4 people: 1 boiling hen of which only the whites are kept, 250g of ground almonds, 25cl of chicken broth, 12 whole almonds, 50g of sugar, 1 pomegranate (optional).
Grind the whites in a blender. Add the ground almonds and the broth. Heat over low heat until the mixture thickens. Pour into a deep dish. Brown the whole almonds in a pan in a little butter. Sprinkle the blancmange with the almonds and pomegranate seeds. Sprinkle with sugar.
Garlic, cheese, raisin and spice pie
For a pie: shortcrust pastry (500g flour, 1 egg, 180g of butter, 10g of salt, water), 600g of fresh cheese, 200g of peeled garlic, 200g of bacon, 100g of raisins, 3 eggs, saffron, 1 tbsp. of ginger, 1 tsp. of cinnamon, ½ tsp. nutmeg, ¼ tsp. teaspoon of cloves, 1/8 tsp. of pepper.
Make the shortcrust pastry. Cook the peeled garlic in boiling water 10 to 15 minutes and soak in cold water. Mix in the drained garlic and continue adding the cheese and spices. Mix with the diced bacon, then the eggs and the grapes. Line a mold with part of the dough, pour the appliance and cover with the rest of the dough (weld the edges).
Bake in a hot oven (230 ° C) for about 1 hour.
The crayfish engraved
For 4 people: Court bouillon (1 onion, 10 branches of parsley, 1 clove of garlic, ½ a branch of celery, 1 branch of basil, 1 branch of thyme, 1 bay leaf), 2 kg of crayfish, 50g of 'powdered almonds, 50g toast, ½ tsp. of cinnamon, 10 seeds of paradise, 10g of chopped ginger, 1 clove, 1 pinch of saffron, ½ lemon juice or 1 dash of vinegar.
Cook the court bouillon for about 10 min. Immerse the crayfish for 4 to 5 minutes. Separate the heads and tails after cooking. Shell the tails, removing all the flesh. Dry the shells in the oven for 1 hour. Grind the spices and toast together, add the ground almonds and a little cooking stock, lemon juice or vinegar, add another 1l of stock. Reduce the crayfish carcasses to a fine powder, pass through a sieve, add 2 fine teaspoons of this powder to the gravy, boil again, the broth should turn yellow. Place the crayfish tails in a lightly greasy pan. Divide the crayfish among the plates and pour the hot broth up to the point and serve immediately.
For 4 people: 1 crusty tart shell, 300g of ricotta, 250g of crème fraîche, 3 eggs, 125g of sugar, the juice and zest of 1 orange.
Bake the base of the white tart, garnished with dried beans, for 15 minutes in a hot oven. Mash the cheese with a fork, add the cream, eggs, sugar, orange juice and zest. Whisk vigorously. Pour over the pie shell. Bake for 30 minutes in a hot oven. It shouldn't get too colorful.
The Apple turnover
The proportions are not mentioned, but it is necessary to base oneself on a good pie for 4 people.
Cut the apples into pieces, add figs, grapes well cleaned. Mix well together. Add fried onion in butter or oil, wine, and also crushed apples diluted in wine. Mix with saffron and a little spices: cinnamon and white ginger, anise and pygurlac (impossible to find anything on this plant!), If you have any. Make two large rolls of dough, and put on the dough a good thickness of all the mixture, well crushed by hand, and then cover with the dough and brown with saffron, and put in the oven and bake.
For 4 people: 1 pork loin of 1 kg and a half, 25cl of good red wine, 15cl of meat broth, 4 crushed garlic cloves, 1 tsp. crushed coriander seeds, 1 tsp. coffee crushed cumin seeds, 3 pinches of pepper, salt.
Combine the wine, garlic and spices. Marinate the meat in this mixture for a few hours to overnight. Roast in a medium oven for 1 hour. Arrange the pork on a serving platter. In a saucepan, bring the mixed cooking juices and broth to a boil. Serve with the meat.
Rabbit in syrup
For 4 people: 1 rabbit, 25cl of meat broth, 25cl of Samos wine, 2 tsp. tablespoon of vinegar, 2 tbsp. tablespoon of oil, 50g of currant, 1 crushed clove, ½ tsp. coffee ground cinnamon, ½ tsp. of seeds of paradise, 1 tsp. powdered ginger, salt.
In a casserole dish, brown the pieces of rabbit in butter for 10 minutes. Add the broth and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Add the vinegar, wine, raisins, spices and salt. Cook over low heat for 30 minutes. Remove the pieces, reduce the sauce and coat the rabbit pieces with this syrup.
1 pound of arugula (kind of salad), 2 tbsp. tablespoons of Banyuls vinegar, 12 walnuts, 1 tsp. of sugar, pepper, 1 pinch of saffron threads, 4 capsules of cardamom, 1 / 2l of olive oil.
Blanch the arugula for 5 min in boiling water. Puree it in a blender with the nuts. Add the sugar and spices as well as the vinegar. Mix well. Whisk into mayonnaise with olive oil. This sauce is perfect for fish or cold meat.
The Sienese flan
For 4 people: 15 blanched almonds, 80g of sugar, 6 eggs, 25cl of milk, 2 tbsp. tablespoon ricotta, 5cl rose water, ½ tsp. of cinnamon powder.
Pass the almonds in a blender. In a bowl, beat the eggs, milk, ground almonds, sugar and cinnamon. Add rose water and crushed cheese with a fork. Pour into a mold with high edges, previously buttered. Bake 45 minutes in a low oven (150 °).
To make beef or chicken broth, you need meat, water, leek, carrot, onion.
Verjuice is simply a juice of green grapes, picked before maturity, therefore acidic. There are all kinds of acidic juices: green grape juice (the most common), juice of sour herbs like sorrel, lemon juice, bitter orange juice, sour pomegranate juice (mostly used in Mediterranean countries) , apple or sour pear juice, wild fruit juices such as sloes, cherries, dogwoods or barberry. All these green juices could be designated, in medieval cuisine, by the word verjus (or vertjus).
A binding of sauces with bread and almonds: medieval cuisine preferred to use bread to bind sauces. It was roasted, soaked in broth, pounded in a mortar and usually passed through cheesecloth. This binding to bread was sometimes replaced by binding to almond powder. Advantages: the binding to the bread colors the sauces, it gives, like the binding to the almond, a different velvety under the tongue and develops the tangy and fragrant flavors (whereas the flour suffocates them).
The main spices used: in priority, ginger and cinnamon, then clove (powder), nutmeg, mace, saffron (to color), maniguette (or seed of paradise), pepper , but also cardamom, galangal (garingal resembling ginger), long pepper. Most of the time, they are diluted in wine, vinegar, verjuice, or broth (sometimes passed through cheesecloth) before being mixed with the rest of the dish towards the end of cooking (to keep the flavors) .
The maniguette or seed of paradise would originate from the west coast of Africa, the Malaguette coast, bordering the Gulf of Guinea. She was unknown to the Greeks and Romans as far as we know. It was in the 13th century that it left a trace of its passage in Europe: in 1214, it appeared in the description of a festival in Treviso. But the use that is made of it suggests that it had been known there for a long time and in fairly common use ...
In 1245, it is in Lyon that we find it in a list in the middle of many other spices. Thanks to a surge in the price of black pepper, the maniguette replaces it and becomes a spice of choice. As its origin is mysterious at the time, as its taste delighted, it takes the name of seed of paradise. In reality, it was transported to Europe thanks to Arab merchants who took it across the Sahara to Tripoli thanks to caravans, from where the Portuguese imported it ...
Thus, it quickly becomes a "common" spice. It perfumes wine, beer… .. And quickly, the Portuguese go in search of it along Africa towards India. Many clashes with Arab merchants initiated this epic. But the Portuguese end up reaching the coast of Guinea and then the road to India! In the 16th century, Elizabeth I had a weakness for the maniguette, Ambroise Paré invites us to put it in pastries with ginger and pepper…. In short, the 16th century was the height of the maniguette in Europe. But it ended up giving way to more “noble” spices such as pepper which began to flow through new direct trade routes with India.
In 1694, -in his book General history of drugs, P. Pomet (Parisian druggist, 1658-99) describes it for its virtues against gout and poisonous animals. Widely used in African cuisine, it is still used in some European blends and to flavor hot wines (such as hypocras) and beers.
An example of a medieval meal
It was on June 24, 1425 that the bishop of Lisieux, Zanon de Castiglione, gave this splendid feast to all the clergy of the cathedral of Rouen, as well as to all the officers attached to this church, including lawyers, notaries , attorneys and appearances of officiality. It took place in the manor of the bishops of Lisieux, in Rouen, depending on their exemption from Saint Cande.
Here is this menu:
In front of the Archbishop of Rouen were served two covered dishes, in one of which there were cherries; the other contained three small veal patties. As much was served to all who were in the same room, and each was poured white wine.
After that, two more dishes, also covered, were placed before the archbishop. In one, there was venison, with black sauce; in the other, a fatty capon, with white sauce; on the capon were sown almonds and sugared almonds.
Two dishes, which contained similar dishes, were served before the Bishop of Lisieux, but they were discovered; the same dishes were given to all the members of the Chapter, but always one dish for two canons.
At each service, we served other, better wines.
Then came the turn of roasted meats:
In the dish intended for the Archbishop were a suckling pig, two plovers, a heron, half a deer, four chickens, four young pigeons and a rabbit, with the proper seasonings. The same was served to the Bishop of Lisieux, the Grand Cantor, and the Archdeacon of Eu. In each dish, intended for two canons, there was only a plover, a suckling pig, a bittern, a piece of veal, a piece of deer, a rabbit, two chickens and two young birds, with honest dishes of jelly. These various dishes were also served to the chaplains and to all the other officers or subordinates of the church, but in a dish for four guests.
Soon were brought, with great pomp, four roasted peacocks, whose tails had been carefully preserved, resplendent with their rich colors. Then, after a few moments of waiting, was served an abundance of wild boar venison, and wheat cakes kneaded with almond milk.
At the end came the cheeses, pies and fruit. There was one for all the rooms and for all the tables. Even those absent were not wrong: valets brought two canons, held back by their infirmities, two dishes similar to those they would have had at the banquet.
After the pardons, said by the archbishop, were brought to the guests jams and spices in silver bezels.
- Mortal supper in the ovens by Michèle Barrière. Pocket, 2009.
- Le Mesnagier de Paris: Medieval cuisine at the end of the 14th century by Josy Marty-Dufau. Heimdal, 2009.
- Le Viandier: Medieval cuisine in the 14th century, Recipes after Taillevent by Josy Marty-Dufaut. Heimdal, 2007.
- Cuisine of the Middle Ages, by Brigitte Racine. Editions Ouest-France, April 2012.