What they ate!

So I'm starting my experimental history of food posts, and I have to say, I have not enjoyed cooking so much since I was in school taking Domestic Science.  I decided to go all the way back to the time of Henry the Eighth for my first venture, and the dish was so unfamiliar, it really reminded me why my love of cooking started all the way back in my teens. The relationship between ingredients is so wonderful, and I was amused and intrigued by the ban on garlic - which did not make an appearance until the late 1600s (and then was never eaten by ladies!!) - and I was astonished by the amount of Saffron in every dish! I would have presumed that Saffron was a fairly recent spice, for the British Isles, but in medieval cooking it is everywhere! In the medieval times apparently, they loved their food very colourful and used Saffron and cochineal left right and centre! 

So I looked through the recipes I have here, and settled on a main course called Meat Custard. Sounds horrific doesn't it? Well, it was really lovely, and everyone commented on how different it was to our modern food, how the tastes were unusual yet not of any world cuisine they could think of.  

What did I think? I really liked Meat Custard.  I absolutely loved making it, I felt close to my ancestors (me granny was english!), I could picture them in their bright airy kitchens, rolling up their sleeves and chatting away in the lovely poetic 'olde' english language... and it tasted great too! The sauce was delicious, the meat custard delicious, and everything just worked so well.  These dishes would have had to have been popular to have been recorded, so it would seem Meat Custard was a days of olde Lasagne!! 

Should you try it? Sure! Its not difficult to make, it is good hot or cold and Bill tells me its great in a sandwich - so why not! 

Meat Custard and Saffron Sauce

Soupes of Salomere : Take boylid beef & boylid pork & hew yt an grynd it; then take cowe mylke, & Eyround y-swonge, & Safroun & mynce Percyly bladys, & grynd mace an pepir in, & caste there to & let boyle alle y-fere ; & dresse uppe-on a clothe...

You'll need
500gms Beef mince
100 gms Pork mince
Handful fresh parsley, chopped
Pinch saffron
Ground pepper 
2 cups of breadcrumbs
5 eggs
1 cup of milk
Half a cup of walnuts
1 tsp Ground nutmeg

Fry the beef and pork together with the spices until brown.  Strain any water or oil away, and place in a bowl with the breadcrumbs, and nuts and mix.  Beat the eggs and milk together and add to the mix.  Pour into a lasagne tray, loosely cover with foil and bake for 40-50 minutes until a knife comes out clean.  Allow to cool slightly before slicing.

For the Sauce

Pinch of saffron
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp butter
125mls double cream

Melt the butter in the pan and add the flour (this is not strictly 1300s method, but I didn't have the thickening agent they used, rice flour, and so I made a rue...!). Stir in the cream and add the saffron.  Stir until the sauce is a nice shade of yellow and thick.  

Serve the meat custard with new potatoes and haricot beans, fried in oil.  Top with plenty of sauce.  


Beth said...

wow, that does sound good. I reminds me of a fancy meatloaf. And the saffron sauce much better than the ketchup we use here on meatloaf. I'll give this a try very soon. I liked the food history post. Hope to see more of them

Lisa Conmara said...

Thanks Beth, its all so interesting! It is quite like meatloaf but the taste is very different, taking garlic out of the picture really changes things!

Stephanie said...

What a fun idea! I've always loved the idea of making and eating historical foods - cuisine from times past just fascinates me. I look forward to seeing more of "what they ate" in the future!

Michelle said...

Meatloaf without garlic?!?!?

I love the idea of saffron sauce. That's one of the most expensive spices I own... and it is totally worth it! And I miss being able to get double cream, it really is a little different than our "heavy cream". I miss the yogurt too. And the cheese, bacon, bread... (I think we are going to have to move back to England...) :-)

Is that language they actually wrote the book in? Can't wait until the next one!

(Your menu suggestion sounds intriguing. I am going to have to do some research and make these. Which I'll post of course!)

Lisa Conmara said...

Thanks Stephanie! It was so enjoyable to research and then put into practice!

Michelle, the meat custard was much more eggy than a meatloaf, a different texture completely! Not to put anyone off it, as it was really nice, but it was actually like a custard with meat in!

Emma said...

I love this idea. Did you hew an grynd your own meat? Hard to believe that all those things we think of as staples hadn't made to the wee isles by then--tomatoes, potatoes, garlic. And in Ireland we didn't even have much wheat--just porridge...

Lisa Conmara said...

Jeepers Emma, I never even thought about the potato issue! Darn that anyway! Just looking now and there are two side dishes, Onion tart and Beans in oil. I wish I'd left out the spuds now!

Nicole said...

What a fun idea going back in history. Looks like sort of a funky meatloaf or something?

A ban on garlic... I would die!