Bosworth Field: a King's Recipes
This year (2022) Tastes Of History was delighted to return to the Bosworth Medieval Festival at the brilliant Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre. For those unfamiliar with the history, the Battle of Bosworth Field (or Battle of Bosworth) was the last significant battle of the Wars of the Roses. Otherwise known as the 'Cousins' War' this was the civil war between the Houses of Lancaster and York that extended across England in the latter half of the 15th-century. The Battle of Bosworth Field was fought on August 22nd, 1485 and resulted in the death of King Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England. Won by the Lancastrian forces of Henry Tudor (Henry VII, father of the future King Henry VIII) the battle marks a pivotal transition in British history from the Late Mediæval Period to the Early Modern Period.
Our brief was to produce period recipes for visitors to sample at the Festival, which given such a specific date was a challenge to say the least. Nevertheless we set about recreating dishes that we hoped would not have been out of place on such a historic day. The following dishes, therefore, are mostly derived from 'The Forme of Cury', a collection of recipes believed to have been written down around 1390 by the chefs of King Richard II. In fact 'The Forme of cury' was so named by Samuel Pegge who first published an edition of the collected manuscripts in 1780 for the then curator of the British Museum, Gustavus Brander.
Braised Spring Greens
It is probably fair to say that spring greens are closer to Mediæval spinach than the modern vegetable. Fortunately this recipe can be made using either. As to the oil used for frying, this was most likely rape oil imported from Flanders, although King Richard II's cooks certainly would have been able to buy in expensive nut oil or olive oil.
Spynoches yfryed. Take Spynoches; perboile hem in sethying water. Take hem up and presse out the water and hew hem in two. Frye hem in oile & do therto powdour douce, & serve forth.
Cury on Inglysch, IV. 88
This recipe will serve as a main course soup with the addition of small strips of fried bacon and sippets, small piece of bread or toast used to dip into soup or a sauce or as a garnish.
Caboches in potage. Take caboches and quarter hem, and seeth hem in gode broth with oynions ymynced and the whyte of lekes yslyt and ycorue smale. And do therto safron & salt, and force it with powdour douce.
Cury on Inglysch, IV. 6
Pomme dorryse (Meatballs)
'Pomme dorryse' means 'golden apples', although by using parsley ('persel') as given below results in green rather than a golden apples. Of course, the first line also refers to 'othere thyngs' in the 'farsur', the 'farce' or forcemeat mixture so the colour could be made golden.
Farsur to make pomme dorryse or othere thynges. Take the lire of pork rawe, and grynde it smale. Medle it up with eyren & powdre fort, safroun and salt; and do therto raisouns of coraunce. Make balles therof, and wete it wele in white of ayren, & do it to seeth in boilyng water. Take hem up and put hem on a spyt. Roast hem wel, and take persel ygrounde and wryng it up with ayren & a perty of floure, and lat erne aboute the spyt. And if thou wilt, take for persel, safroun; and serve it forth.
The Forme of Cury, 182
Henys in Bruet (Chicken in Cumin Sauce)
This is an English version of a dish popular in western Europe. In France it is called a 'Cominée' indicating the characteristic cumin seasoning.
Henys in bruet schullyn be schaldyd & sodyn wyth porke; & grynd pepyr & comyn, bred & ale, & temper it wyth the selve broth & boyle it, & colowre it wyth safroun & salt it, & mes it forthe.
Diversa Servicia, 7
Champignons en pasté (Mushroom Pasties)
Pies, pasties and tarts were popular dishes served at mealtimes and feasts. Mediæval 'pasties' were essentially turnovers where the filling is place on top of thinly rolled pastry which is then doubled over and crimped round the edge to seal it. This version uses open pastry cases instead.
Earlier recipes for ginger bread used stale bread rather than discarding and it being wasted. Long pepper can be found in specialist outlets, but best of luck finding the food colouring saundres. Both cinnamon and ordinary pepper are perfectly acceptable alternatives as they are mentioned in another Mediæval recipe. Before serving you can, yf it plece you ('if it pleases you') sprinkle with sugar before slicing and serving.
Take goode honye & clarefie it on the fere, & take fayre paynemayn or wastel brede & grate it, & cast it into the boylenge hony & stere it well togyder faste with a sklyse that it bren not to the vessell. & thanne tale it doun and put therin ginger, long pepere & saundres, & tempere it up with the handes; & than put hem to flatt boyste & strawe theron sugar, & pick therin clowes rounde boute by the egge and the mydes, yf it plece you.
God Kokery, 19
Known by this name since the Mediæval period, posset is a milk drink curdled by the action of an acid such as wine, ale or citrus fruit juice. Although posset's origins are obscure, it is a very ancient concept with links to the curdling processes used in the earliest forms of cheese making. In its consistency there are Mediæval and Tudor references to posset being drunk in much the way we would consume a milkshake today, However, if the whey was separated from the curds as it was being made, the result was known as a 'posset curd' which was eaten rather than drunk. Either way the lemon posset recipe below produces a rich, creamy and very sweet dessert treat.
If you wish to recreate a Mediæval feast, you might like our earlier posts where additional recipes may be found: 'A Mediæval Banquet', 'Bosworth Mediæval Festival: The Recipes', 'Celebrating St George's Day', and 'Bosworth: Food Fit for a King'.