Thursday, April 07, 2011

Fit for a King.

There was a sudden large spike in visits to this blog a couple of weeks ago. When I looked to see what had triggered it, most of the searches were for ‘Eggs Drumkilbo.’ This puzzled me for a while. Then I remembered a rumour that those of you in The Old Country are in for a royal wedding pretty soon. Thankfully we are somewhat protected from the hype over here in the old colony. Eggs Drumkilbo is apparently a dish popular with the royals - especially for wedding breakfasts - on account of it having being a favourite with the dear old Queen Mum. I put this and that together and came up with the theory that perhaps the menu details for the wedding breakfast of the Future King and his bride were being discussed in the press, and the egg dish was named, and, it not being a dish readily available in the caffs and pubs of England, more members of the public than usual Googled it and my story came up. Any truth in that theory? Someone out there must be an avid reader of all things relating to the royal wedding, surely.

All of this led me to the idea that I must give you a right royal menu. The bill of fare (the ‘purveyance’) for a feast for King Richard II (1377-1399) is given in Constance Hieatt’s indispensible book Curye on Inglysch . I have adapted the translation from the old English to make it a little more accessible to food enthusiasts who are not medieval food scholars, and hope that not too many inaccuracies have been introduced in the doing.

This is the purveyance (bill of fare) for the feast for the king at home for his own table. Venison with frumenty in potage, boars' heads, boiled large joints of meat, roasted swan, roasted fat capons, peas, pike, and two subtleties. White pudding, a jellied dish, roast pork, roasted cranes, roasted pheasants, roasted herons, roasted peacocks, bream (fish), tarts, meat served in pieces, roasted rabbit, and one subtlety. German broth, a ‘lombard’(a ‘solid’ spiced dish with pork, dried fruits and eggs in a sauce of almond milk or wine), roasted venison, roasted egret, roasted peacocks, roasted perch, roasted pigeons, roasted rabbits, roasted quails, roasted larks, a puff pastry dish (probably containing fruit – ‘mete’ in this sense referring to ‘food’, not specifically flesh meat), perch, a rice dish, fritters, and two subtleties.

Many of the dishes mentioned have previously appeared in this blog, but as time is short for me today to provide links to earlier posts (there are almost a million words to search now), I invite you to search for the terms yourself, should you be interested. If time permits later today I will return and do the links for you.

The Master Cooks of King Richard II left us their ‘cookery book’, and I have referred to it and given many recipes from it in the past. It is called The Forme of Cury. There are no instructions in it for boiling or roasting the vast amounts of meat on this menu – no cook would have needed these. The manuscript is more like an aide-memoire for the made-dishes, for cooks who did not need detailed instructions on actual methods.

I give you the recipe from the manuscript for the ‘German broth’ (bruet of almayne’, or ‘brewet of almony’ as it is called here.) It is a dish of pieces of rabbit (or kid), cooked with almond milk and sweet spices and thickened with rice flour – and sounds delicious.

Brewet Of Almony
Take Conynges or kiddes and hewe hem small on moscels other on pecys. parboile hem with the same broth, drawe an almaunde mylke and do the fleissh therwith, cast therto powdour galyngale & of gynger with flour of Rys. and colour it with alkenet. boile it, salt it. & messe
it forth with sugur and powdour douce.

Quotation for the Day.

When we decode a cookbook, every one of us is a practicing chemist. Cooking is really the oldest, most basic application of physical and chemical forces to natural materials.
Arthur E. Grosser (Professor of Chemistry at McGill University) 1984


KT said...

How interesting! But what is a subtlety?

The Old Foodie said...

Hi KT - I did a post a long time ago in which I mentioned subtetlies: you can read it here