Saturday, 21 May 2011

Medieval Cookery

Forme of Cury Recipes and Translations

I love cooking and I love the history of cookery. The problem is, that for early cooking we are left with a small number of sources... Apicius being the earliest (about 400 AD) then we have the beginnings of medieval cookery writing in the 14th Century.

One of the earliest of these cookery books is the Forme of Cury, a cookery book, written at the behest of Richard II of England, about 1390. This is notable for being the first cookery book written in English and for being one of the first books written in the newly emergent language of English itself.

For the first time, the Celtnet website has made the entire text of The Forme of Cury freely available on the web. If you navigate to the Forme of Cury Contents Page you will see the entire recipe list from the book with links to each recipe. Click on these links and you will be taken through to a facsimile version of that recipe with a side-by-side version in English.

The recipes are rendered with a special font so that, in modern browsers they appear as close to the original handwritten manuscript as it's possible using modern Web technology.

This is the first time that a modern version of the text has been made available and it's the first time that the text has been presented in its entirety with an update/translation to modern English.

On the Forme of Cury Recipes pages you will also find a number of links through to modern redactions of the recipes so that you can cook versions of these 700 year old dishes for yourself.

Below is an example of a recipe from the Forme of Cury, that for: Egredouce Recipe from the Forme of Cury:


Take co̅nyngꝰ or kyꝺꝺe +̅ smyꞇe he̅ on pecys rawe +̅ fry he̅ in white grece · ꞇake rayſons of corance +̅ fry he̅. ꞇake oynons ꝑboyle he̅ +̅ hewe he̅ smal +̅ fry he̅ · ꞇake reꝺe wynne · sug᷑ w poudor of peꝑ · of ꝫ̅ꝫ̅ · anꝺ canel salꞇ +̅ caſt þꝰꞇo · +̅ lat hiꞇ ſeeþ w a goꝺe quatite of whiꞇe grece +̅ sꝰue hiꞇ forꞇh·

Meat in Sweet and Sour Sauce

Take rabbits or kid goat and chop into raw pieces and fry them in lard and take currants and fry them and take onions and boil them and chop them finely and fry them and take red wine, sugar with powdered pepper and powdered ginger and cinnamon [and] salt and sprinkle over [the dish]. Let it boil with a good quantity of larde and serve it forth.

Modern Redaction

1kg rabbit or kid goat, chopped
lard or butter for frying
200g currants
2 onions
500ml red wine
100g golden caster sugar
1/2 tsp powdered black pepper
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
50g breadcrumbs, for thickening


Melt the lard or butter in a pan. Add the meat and fry until browned then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the currants to the pan and fry, stirring frequently, until just plump then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

In the meantime, bring a pan of lightly-salted water to a boil. Add the onions and boil for 10 minutes. Chop the onions, add to the frying pan and cook for about 8 minutes, or until golden brown.

Place the meat in a saucepan, add the currants and onion then pour in the wine. Bring to a simmer, and season with the sugar, black pepper, ginger and cinamon.

Return to a simmer, cover the pan and cook for about 40 minutes, or until the meat is tender (top-up the liquid with water, as needed). About 15 minutes before the dish is due to be served mix in the breadcrumbs to thicken. Serve hot
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