Monday, July 15, 2013

Eggs and Saffron, Old and New.

It seems a long time since I played with old food words, so I recently dipped into A dictionary of archaic & provincial words, obsolete phrases … (1852), by James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps, to see if it held anything for us. My first find was:

Dishel: a compound of eggs, grated bread, saffron and sage, boiled together.

It turns out that this is none other than our old medieval friend iusselle (or jusshel, jushel, dyshelle, and several other spelling variations,) which the Middle English Dictionary describes this as “a thick soup of eggs and grated bread.”

Recipe brede gratyd, & eggis; & swyng þam to-gydere, & do þerto sawge, & saferon, & salt; þan take gode brothe, & cast it þer-to, & bole it enforesayd, & do þer-to as to charlete &c.
From the Harleian MS. 5401, ab. 1480-1500.

This dish highlighted for me how enduring are some particular combinations of ingredients: pork and apples, lamb and mint, eggs and bacon – and eggs and saffron. 

Here is another nice expression of the mix of eggs with saffron, from almost five hundred years later:

Eggs a l’Espagnole.
Crack the shells of some new-laid eggs, and carefully separate the yolks from the whites, observing to keep each yolk entire; sprinkle the latter with a little Spanish pimento (which is merely the skin of the capsicum beaten fine), heat some olive oil in a frying-pan that you have previously rubbed with a clove of garlic; beat the whites of the eggs to a froth, poach spoonfuls of them in the oil together with the whole yolks; when tolerably firm, serve upon a saffron sauce, made by stewing come crushed vermicelli in gravy or milk well-seasoned and colored with saffron; squeeze lemon juice over, and serve.

How to Cook Potatoes, Apples, Eggs and Fish: Four Hundred Different Ways (1869)

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