An anti-miserabilist approach to historical cooking

Tag: Side-dishes (page 1 of 1)

Two Medieval Fruit Purees

In May, in between lockdowns I was able to attend my first medieval event in about four years, and it has inspired me to finally post some of the medieval recipes I’ve been working on. When we camp at events in the fourteenth-century ‘village’ breakfast is always a problem. Evidence for breakfast is patchy during the medieval period.

Woman in medieval clothing stirring a pot over the fire, in a medieval encampment

We know that some people certainly ate in the mornings but with ‘dinner’ the main meal of the day eaten mid-morning it can be difficult to know if references to breaking the fast refer to a separate meal or simply the first time people ate during the day i.e. at dinnertime. The first reference to breakfast in English recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary in 1463, when Sir John Howard recorded “exspensys in breffast” on a trip around Suffolk and Norfolk.[1] By 1478 the draft ordinance for the king’s household allowed for “a large breakfast” for the king, queen and anyone waiting upon them.[2]


Even for hard-core re-enactors, getting up at 5am to start cooking in order to serve the main meal of the day at 9 or 10am is a hard ask on a weekend. At public events, when one of the main goals is to show people medieval cooking techniques, it is also counter-intuitive to finish most of the cooking before the public have arrived on site. As a result, we normally eat our main meal later in the day, and our hungry peasants definitely require something to keep them going until then.


Then there is the issue of what foods to serve. I have searched high and low for breakfast in the late 14th and early 15th centuries but with limited success. The Franklin in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (written c. 1387-1400) loves a “sop in wyn” in the morning – this is bread soaked in wine, possibly sweetened and spiced. The edition of household accounts of Dame Alice de Bryene from 1412-1413 translated by Marian Dale lists breakfast as a separate meal every day[3]. The accounts for breakfast are not separated from the other meals, but daily lists of ingredients suggest it would have been made up of bread, fish (fresh and preserved), meat, and ale/wine.


Across the 14th and 15th centuries, the most commonly mentioned foods for breakfast include salt fish, bread, beer and cheese. Fish and beer might work for some people but it is a hard sell for modern tastebuds, and difficult to make work for the range of modern dietary requirements we have on site.


One of the ways we deal with this is to make 14th century recipes that are more familiar as breakfast to people today, even though they were not necessarily eaten as breakfast in the past. This can include things like tostees dorees (often interpreted as an early version of French toast), pancakes, gruel or porridge.


Pour faire Tostees dorees, prenez du pain blanc dur et le trenchiez par tostees quarrees et les rostir ung pou sur le grail; et avoir moyeulx d’oeufz batuz et les envelopez tres bien dedans iceulx moyeulx; et avoir de bon sain chault et les dorer dedans sur le feu tant qu’elles soient belles et bien dorees et puis les oster de dedans la paelle et mettez es platz, et du succre dessus.[4] – Le Viandier de Taillevant (from a 15th century version, but the original was written c. 1300)


To make golden toasts, take hard white bread and slice it into squares and toast it a bit on a grill, and have beaten egg yolks and coat the toasts well. And have good fat hot and cook them in it on the fire until they are beautiful and golden, and then take them out of the pan and put them on plates, with sugar on top.


All of these dishes can also be livened up a bit with accompaniments. I’ve been playing around with some different fruit dishes to make breakfasts more interesting and to give some variation. Below you can see medieval crespes (crispy pancakes) with the chardewardon.


pancakes with pear puree on a shallow plate with a spoon

The Recipes


I’ve picked two recipes for stewed fruit to play around with. The nice thing about these is that they are very easy, but also scalable and pretty flexible when it comes to the type of sweetener, thickener and spices.


The first recipe for chardewardon, comes from a mid-fifteenth-century cookbook but appears in a number of versions in different texts. I have made it as a kind of applesauce, but with pears, so it is still quite runny. Some of the other versions mention cooking it in a coffin (pastry crust) to make a kind of pie, or making it like chardequince which is commonly understood to be more like quince paste, so there are lots of different ways you could make this. I made this a little too sweet, so have reduced the amount of sugar and honey here but sweeten it to taste.


Chardewardon – Take Pere Wardonys, an sethe hem in Wyne or in fayre water; þan take an grynd in a morter, an drawe hem þorwe a straynoure wyth-owte ony lycoure, an put hem in a potte with Sugre and clarifiyd hony, an Canel y-now, an lete hem boyle; þan take it fro þe fyre, an let kele, an caste þer-to ȝolkys of Raw eyroun, tylle it be þikke; & caste þer-to pouder Gyngere y-now, an serue it in manere of Fysshe;*. [For Rys; see Douce MS. No. 53, and the end of this recipe. A. also reads fische.] an ȝif if it be in lente, lef þe ȝolkys of Eyroun, & lat þe remenaunt boyle so longe tylle it be þikke, as þow it had be temperyd wyth þe ȝolkys, in þe maner of charde quynce; an so serue hem in maner of Rys.[5]


Take warden pears, and boil them in wine or in fair water; then take and grind them in a mortar, and strain them through a sieve without any liquid, and put them in a pot with sugar and clarified honey and enough cinnamon, and let them boil. Then take it from the fire and let it cool, then add raw egg yolks, till it be thick, and cast thereto powdered ginger, and serve it in the manner of fish [this seems to be a mistake, because the recipe continues with how to make it during lent and instructs you to serve it in the manner of rice]. And if it be in Lent, leave out the egg yolks, and let the remaining boil so long that it it is thick, as though it had been tempered with the egg yolks, in the manner of chardequince, and so serve it in the manner of rice.

chardewardon (spiced pear puree) in a wooden bowl with a spoon.

For the second recipe, I chose a potage of prunes from Harley MS 5401 which is another fifteenth century manuscript with copies of fourteenth century recipes. Even though it is called potage of prunes, the instruction to rub/squeeze them well to wring out the juice makes it clear that we are dealing with plums and not prunes (dried plums) in the modern sense of the word. This came out beautifully, and had a lovely tartness to it in addition to the gorgeous colour. I will definitely be making this again.


Potage of Prunes. Recipe prunes & wesh þam clene & frote þem wele in a cop tyll þe juyse be wele wrong oute; þan do it in a pot & put þerto whyte grece & hony or sugure, & boyle it togyder, & þyk it with þe floure of rise or of wastylls. And when it is sothen dress it up in dyshys, & cast þeron powdyr of galingal, & serof it forth.[6]


Stewed Prunes. Take plums and wash them clean, and rub them well in a cup until the juice is well wrung out; then put it in a pot and put thereto white grease and honey or sugar, and boil it together, and thicken it with rice flour or breadcrumbs. And when it is softened put it into dishes, and cast thereon powdered galangal, and serve in forth.

bowl of stewed plums with a spoon

[1] “Breakfast, n.,” in OED Online (Oxford University Press), accessed June 28, 2021,

[2] Alec Reginald Myers, The Household of Edward IV (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1959), 204.

[3] Vincent B. Redstone, ed., The Household Book of Dame Alice de Bryene of Acton Hall, Suffolk : September 1412 to September 1413, with Appendices, trans. Marian Dale (Bungay: Paradigm, 1984),

[4] Thomas Gloning, “Taillevent, Viandier (Manuscrit du Vatican),” Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen, August 20, 2000,

[5] Thomas Austin, Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books : Harleian MS. 279 (Ab 1430), & Harl. MS. 4016 (Ab. 1450), with Extracts from Ashmole MS. 1439, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS. 55 (London: Published for the Early English Text Society by N.T. Trubner & Co, 1888), 12,

[6] Sam Wallace, “MS Harley 5401,” Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen, September 4, 2011,

The Redactions


1 pear

Enough white wine to simmer

1 tsp honey

1 tsp sugar

1/4-1/2 tsp cinnamon, or to taste

1 egg yolk

1/4 tsp ground ginger, or to taste


Peel, core and chop the pear then simmer it in just enough white wine to cover it. When it is very soft, mash it in a mortar then push it through a sieve (or use a food mill). Put back in the saucepan with honey and sugar to taste (I would start with about 1 tsp of each and go from there), and ground cinnamon, bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool (you don’t want to scramble the egg), then whisk in the egg yolk. Return it to the heat and cook gently until it is as thick as applesauce, then stir in the ground ginger.



Stewed Plums

5 plums, ripe but still tart

A large knob of butter

1 tbsp honey (ish) (or sugar)

2 tsp riceflour (ish) (or breadcrumbs)

Ground galangal and/or cinnamon/cloves/ginger


Wash the plums, then cut them in half and remove the stones. Mash the plums as best you can, then put them with their juice into a pot and add the butter and honey. Boil it together until the plums are very soft and falling apart (continue mashing as you go). Take a little bit of the liquid and whisk it into the rice flour, then stir this mixture into the rest of the plums. Bring to the boil and allow to thicken slightly. Season to taste with the spices you are using.






Recipes from Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery

Like many others, baking is providing a lot of comfort for me and my family as the world has been upended around us. But, now that I’ve run the usual gamut of quarantine baking from banana bread to sourdough, I’ve been taking a deep-dive into some historical cookbooks.

This week, that means taking a closer look at recipes from one of my favourite historical cookbooks: Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery. Even though the book is now named after Martha Washington (1731-1802), Karen Hess’ masterful research shows that like many Early Modern recipe books, the manuscript was passed down through several generations with new recipes being added over time. The majority of the recipes were probably copied in the first half of the seventeenth century, and the source they were copied from must have been even older.

The recipes in the book reflect this span of time, during which English cooking was going through considerable changes. Some recipes, like the one for green pease porrage (green pea porridge or purée) hark back to the medieval period in their ingredients and techniques, while others such as a series of gingerbread recipes show an evolution over time (to find out more about gingerbread’s development from candy to biscuit see these posts).

The Recipes

To Make Green Pease, Porrage

Take of ye youngest pease you can get, what quantety you please, & put ym in a little more faire water than will cover them. Boyle ym till they be tender. yn take new milke & make them of what thickness you please. let ym boyle wel together, yn take a little flower and wet it with milke enough to thicken it, & put it in with some spearmint & marrigoulds shread small. when it is boyled enough, put in a good piece of fresh butter, a little salt, & some pepper, If you please, & soe dish [it] up.

Green Peas Porridge

Cook 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas with 1/2 cup water until very soft. Mash the peas, add 1/2 cup milk and bring back to a simmer. Whisk 1/4 cup milk with 3/4 tbsp flour and add to the peas. Stir in finely chopped mint leaves and marigold petals. Add a knob of butter, season with salt and pepper and serve hot.

To Dress a Dish of [Mushrumps]

Take yr firm mushrumps & pill ye scin from them & scrape away all ye red yt grows on ye insyde of them, & pill yr stalks likewise. If you finde them firm, throw them as you doe them into faire water & let them ly 3 or 4 hours, then take them out of ye water & set them on ye fire in a pan. theyr own liquor will stew them. put in an ounion cut in halves and often shake them. As ye water rises, cast it still away till you finde them allmoste dry. Then take out the ounion & put in a little sweet cream yt is thick & shread in some time & parsley, & put in some grated nutmeg, & a little grose pepper, & a little salt, & soe let them boyle, shakeing them well together. & put in A piece of fresh butter, giveing them another shake, & soe dish them up. This is approved, but ye yolks of too Eggs with a [?] cold Creem and thick ym wth it.

To Dress a Dish of Mushrooms

Peel the outer skin off 8 portobello mushrooms, cook in a tiny bit of water in a pan with 1/2 an onion until soft and the pan is nearly dry. Remove the onion, add 1/2 cup of thick cream, some fresh parsley and thyme (or dried), freshly grated nutmeg, salt and pepper.

To Stew Wardens

Boyle them first in faire water, then pare & stew them between 2 dishes with cinnamon, suger, and rosewater; or wth ye same seasoning you may put them in a pie & bake them

Stewed Pears

Simmer 4 firm pears (wardens if you can get them) in water until soft. Remove from liquid keeping 1 1/2 cups liquid.  Combine the reserved liquid with 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cinnamon stick and 2 tbsp rosewater, bring to the boil. When the pears have cooled, use a sharp knife to peel them, then add them back to the liquid and boil for 5-10 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

Notes – this was still too sweet for my taste, I would reduce the amount of sugar next time

To Make Cheesecakes

Take 6 quarts of stroakings or new milke & whey it with runnet as for an ordinary cheese, yn put it in a streyner & hang it on a pin or else press it with 2 pound weight. yn break it very small with yr hands or run it thorough a sive, then put to it 7 or 8 eggs well beaten, 3 quarters of a pound of currans, halfe a pound of sugar, a nutmegg grated or some cloves & mace beaten, 2 or 3 spoonfuls of rosewater, a little salt. yn take a quart of cream, & when it boyl thicken it with grated bread & boyle it very well as thick as for a hasty pudding. then take if from ye fire & stir therein halfe a pound of fresh butter, then let it stand till it be allmoste cold, & yn mingle it with your curd very well; yn fill yr coffins of paste & when they are ready to set into ye oven scrape on them some sugar & sprinkle on some rosewater with a feather. If you love good store of currans in them, you may put in a whole pound, & a little sack If you please. & soe bake ym.

To Make Cheesecakes

Mix together 250g fresh cheese (ricotta would do, or you can make your own) with 2 eggs, 170g currants, 110g sugar, some grated cloves, nutmeg and mace, a pinch of salt and 1 tbsp rosewater. Bring 500ml cream to the boil, then stir in 3 handfuls of fresh breadcrumbs and cook until it thickens. Stir 115g butter into the cream and bread mixture and allow to cool before adding to the rest of the filling. Place in a pie case, or make individual small pies, and sprinkle with sugar and rosewater. Bake in a medium oven until the filling is just set.

To Make a Tart of Parsneps & Scyrrets

Seeth yr roots in water & wine, then pill them & beat them in a morter, with raw eggs & grated bread. bedew them often with rose water & wine, then streyne them & put suger to them & some juice of leamons, & put it into ye crust; & when yr tart is baked, cut it up & butter it hot, or you may put some putter into it, when you set it into ye oven, & eat it cold. ye Juice of leamon you may eyether put in or leave out at yr pleasure.

Parnsip Tart

Boil 3 parsnips in 1 cup water and 1/2 cup white wine until they are soft. Peel them and mash or blend them. Add 3 handfuls of breadcrumbs, 1 egg, 1 tbsp rosewater and 1 tbsp white wine, 3 tbsp sugar and the juice of half a lemon. Pour into a par-baked tart case, top with some small pieces of butter and bake in a medium oven.

Notes – skirrets are a white root vegetable, and hard to find now, but you could add them in if you had them. It’s possible to get seed to try growing your own if you have a garden. If you want, you can make a decorative top as well by cutting shapes out of a piece of puff pastry the size of your tart. This is baked separately and then laid on top of the tart.

14th Century Quick Pickled Eggs

Quick pickled cinnamon eggs, recipe from the 14th century

Ages ago I wrote about making pickled eggs for my cousin and I promised you another recipe. Well, it’s taken me nearly two years, but here it is. During my research the earliest English recipe I could find was from the 18th century, but I came across a much earlier recipe in Arabic. This recipe was from The Description of Familiar Foods, which was probably written in Cairo in the 14th century.

“Baid Mukhallal – Take boiled eggs and peel and sprinkle with a little ground salt and Chinese cinnamon [cassia] and dry coriander. Then arrange them in a glass jar and pour wine vinegar on them, and put it up.”[1]

What you notice, is that this souse or pickle (the vinegar solution) appears to be cold when it is put on the eggs. Most modern recipes call for the pickle to be hot, and it made me wonder how using a cold solution would affect the eggs, both from a taste perspective and for food safety.

SAFETY NOTE: The following is meant to be a discussion primarily about how this recipe might have functioned in the 14th century, and why it was possible to eat pickled eggs in the past in the absence of refrigeration. For modern home cooks, you should follow the most recent guidelines and procedures which are put out by the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

In terms of texture, the evidence is mixed. One early study of pickled eggs suggested that using a boiling pickle would increase tenderness, but more recently Acosta et al. found that the manner of pickling made no noticeable difference to texture.[2] Overall, it seems that if cold pickling makes any difference to the toughness of the egg, it is probably quite small, but it would be interesting to try doing hot and cold brine versions of the same recipe to compare them.

The bigger question is, how does it affect food safety? The current guidelines recommend a hot pickling solution and say that pickled eggs should be refrigerated after bottling and only removed for serving (for a period of no more than 2 hours).[3] Obviously, refrigeration wasn’t an option in 14th century Egypt, so what does that mean for the people eating these eggs?

Whenever you read about food safety and home pickled eggs, you come across a reference to the one known case of botulism caused by home pickled eggs.[4] One case isn’t very many, in light of the estimated 2,600 deaths a year caused by foodborne illnesses in the USA alone, even if there are other unreported cases.[5] Still, in the interest of not poisoning our loved ones, I thought I’d take a closer look at what the science says.

With pickled eggs, there are two food safety issues to contend with. The first is botulism, but botulinum spores can’t survive in an environment with a pH of more than 4.6. The US food regulations say that you must be able to reduce the pH to 4.6 within 24 hours, otherwise the food should be refrigerated until the correct pH is reached.[6] The rate at which acidification occurs depends on the ratio of eggs to pickle, the ingredients of the pickling solution, the amount of acetic acid in the vinegar, and the pickling technique (hot fill/cold fill etc.).

Dripping 1

Acosta et al. found that with a brine concentration of acetic acid of 4.9% or 7.5% (normal table vinegar is 4-8%) they could get the total yolk pH to 4.6 or below in less than 24 hours with a cold fill, a hot fill, or a hot fill followed by a water bath treatment.[7] So far so good, except that a total yolk pH means that the yolk is made into a paste and tested to get a kind of average. None of these methods was able to produce a pH of less than 4.6 in the very heart of the yolk in less than 24 hours.[8]

So what does that mean? Well, to be safe you’re still better refrigerating your eggs, because a) it’s difficult for the home cook to manage and measure all the different factors and b)it hasn’t been proved safe for the yolk to take longer than 24 hours to reach acidification. But, for our 14th century Egyptians, it was probably reasonably safe because the brine was almost pure vinegar and the total yolk (note that this measure is endorsed by American food safety regulators[9]) would reach 4.6 even at room temperature. The biggest thing is not to pierce the yolk of the egg, which some people do in the hopes of increasing acid/flavour penetration of the egg, because it can inadvertently introduce botulism spores into the yolk.[10]

However, botulism is not the only thing we have to worry about. A whole host of other things can contaminate your eggs if you’re not careful, including salmonella, E coli and listeria. The easiest way for the home cook to avoid contamination is good hygiene: use sterilised jars, and wash your hands before peeling the eggs.

What’s interesting is that Sullivan et al. showed that the safety requirements for dealing with botulism (refrigeration of eggs) might actually prevent pathogen die-off, if your eggs do get contaminated. They say that “Pickled eggs should be held under refrigeration for the length of time needed to acidify them to ≤4.6, and then held at ambient temperatures to ensure pathogen inaction.”[11] This precaution isn’t reflected in current guidelines for home cooks, and it’s difficult to know from their study what the take away message should be, other than that we should flip the filled jars upside down now and then to make sure that the vinegar touches all parts of the jar. And for the medieval Egyptians? Well, this raises the interesting question of whether, by keeping the eggs at room temperature, they were actually helping to make pathogen die-off faster.


[1] Perry, “Kitab Wasf Al-At’ima Al-Mu’tada [The Description of Familiar Foods],” 397.

[2] Acosta et al., “Pickled Egg Production,” 791.

[3] Washington State University Extension, “Pickled Eggs”; Andress, “Pickled Eggs.”

[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Foodborne Botulism From Eating Home-Pickled Eggs — Illinois, 1997.”

[5] Scallan et al., “Foodborne Illness Acquired in the United States – Major Pathogens,” 10.

[6] U.S. Government Printing Office, “Title 9, Chap. II, Subchap. A, Part 381 – Poultry Products Inspection Regulations,” 9 CFR 381.300.

[7] Acosta et al., “Pickled Egg Production,” 794.

[8] Ibid.

[9] U.S. Government Printing Office, “Title 21, Chap. 1, Subchap. B, Part 114 – Acidified Foods.,” 21 CFR 114.90.

[10] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Foodborne Botulism From Eating Home-Pickled Eggs — Illinois, 1997.”

[11] Sullivan et al., “Pickled Egg Production,” 1846.

Quick pickled cinnamon eggs, recipe from the 14th century

The Redaction


Given that there is so little detail in the recipe, it doesn’t seem worth giving a redaction. I followed the same basic steps as in any pickled egg recipe, I boiled and peeled the eggs, packed them into sterilised jars, added some cassia (you could use either ground cassia or add a stick which would look prettier) and some coriander seeds (it’s also possible that the recipe is calling for dried coriander leaves) and then covered them with white wine vinegar. The quantities will depend entirely on the size of your jars, how many eggs you are using and how much spice you want to add. Make sure that you invert the jars at the end, and then refrigerate them. Leave them for a few days to allow the flavours to develop before eating.


The Round-Up

The Recipe: Baid Mukhallal from Kitab Wasf Al-At’ima Al-Mu’tada [The Description of Familiar Foods]

The Date: 14th century

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 20 mins.

How successful was it?: Tasty, with a pleasant but not overpowering cinnamon flavour.

How accurate?: The biggest difficulty is knowing what amount of spice to use, because there really isn’t any indication. I also wasn’t entirely sure what type of coriander to use, and whether the spices would be ground or whole. I went with what I had to hand, which was ground cassia and whole coriander seeds, but I think that whole cassia would probably be prettier. The other big question is what kind of vinegar to use, and whether modern wine vinegar is similar to historical wine vinegar. It might also be interesting to try this recipe with red wine vinegar and see whether it colours the eggs like beetroot pickled eggs.

Open Jar 1


Acosta, Oscar, Xiaofan Gao, Elizabeth K. Sullivan, and Olga I. Padilla-Zakour. “Pickled Egg Production: Effect of Brine Acetic Acid Concentration and Packing Conditions on Acidification Rate.” Journal of Food Protection; Des Moines 77, no. 5 (May 2014): 788–95.

Andress, Elizabeth L. “Pickled Eggs.” National Center for Home Food Preservation, April 2014.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Foodborne Botulism From Eating Home-Pickled Eggs — Illinois, 1997.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2000.

Perry, Charles. “Kitab Wasf Al-At’ima Al-Mu’tada [The Description of Familiar Foods].” In Medieval Arab Cookery, by Maxime Rodinson, A.J Arberry, and Charles Perry, 373–450. Totnes, U.K.: Prospect Books, 2001.

Scallan, Elaine, Robert M. Hoekstra, Frederick J. Angulo, Robert V. Tauxe, Marc-Alain Widdowson, Sharon L. Roy, Jeffrey L. Jones, and Patricia M. Griffin. “Foodborne Illness Acquired in the United States – Major Pathogens.” Emerging Infectious Diseases 17, no. 1 (2011): 7–15.

Sullivan, Elizabeth K., David C. Manns, John J. Churey, Randy W. Worobo, and Olga I. Padilla-Zakour. “Pickled Egg Production: Inactivation Rate of Salmonella, Escherichia Coli O157:H7, Listeria Monocytogenes, and Staphylococcus Aureus during Acidification Step.” Journal of Food Protection; Des Moines 76, no. 11 (November 2013): 1846–53.

U.S. Government Printing Office. “Title 9, Chap. II, Subchap. A, Part 381 – Poultry Products Inspection Regulations.” In Code of Federal Regulations, 2011.

———. “Title 21, Chap. 1, Subchap. B, Part 114 – Acidified Foods.” In Code of Federal Regulations, 2011.

Washington State University Extension. “Pickled Eggs,” 2002.


Two Historical Recipes for Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons, one from a 12th century recipe and one from a 13th century recipe

The February Mastery challenge from Food in Jars is all about salt preserving. Probably the most common foods that were salted historically were meat and fish, but these are specifically excluded from the challenge. Instead, I’ve gone with classic preserved lemons.


Although now something of a favourite with hipster cafes, preserved lemons have a very long history. The 14th century traveller Ibn Battuta described eating them at a meal in Mogadishu, as well as in Kerala, India later in his travels[1]. Talking about the meal he ate in Mogadishu sometime between 1327 and 1330, he wrote:


Their meat is generally rice roasted with oil, and placed in a large wooden dish. Over this they place a large dish of elkūshān, which consists of flesh, fish, fowl, and vegetables. They also roast the fruit of the plantain, and afterwards boil it in new milk: they then put it on a dish, and the curdled milk on another. They also put on dishes, some of preserved lemon, bunches of preserved pepper-pods salted and pickled, as also grapes which are not unlike apples, except that they have stones. These, when boiled, become sweet like fruit in general, but are crude before this: they are preserved by being salted and pickled. In the same manner they use the green ginger. When, therefore, they eat the rice, they eat after it these salts and pickles.[2]


Preserved lemons from a 12th century recipe

The Recipe

There are two recipes for making these preserved lemons that I’ve been able to find. One was written down by Ibn Jumay, Saladin’s doctor. This 12th century recipe is the one that I used, and very similar to modern recipes:


Take lemons that are fully ripe and of bright yellow color; cut them open without severing the two halves and introduce plenty of fine salt into the split; place the fruits thus prepared in a glass vessel having  a wide opening and pour over them more lemon juice until they are completely submerged; now close the vessel and seal it with wax and let it stand for a fortnight in the sun, after which store it away in a cool place for at least forty days; but if you wait still longer than this before eating them, their taste and fragrance will be still more delicious and their action in stimulating the appetite will be stronger.[3]


There is also a recipe in the 13th century cookbook ‘Kitab al-Wusla ila al-Habib’ or ‘The Link to the Beloved’.


Take lemons, slice them crosswise and fill them with crushed salt. Then press them into a bowl and leave for two nights for them to soften. Then press them very strongly into a glass jar, squeeze lemon juice to cover and pour it over them, and seal with oil. Their flavor keeps well.[4]


The process of making either of these recipes is very simple, and it’s definitely worth having a jar in your fridge (keep them refrigerated after opening) to add a fresh lemony flavour to tagines or salads. I don’t know how mine have turned out yet, because I’ve got to wait another 40 days, but I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.

Preserved lemons from a 13th century recipe

What To Do With Preserved Lemons?

If you’re looking for something historical to do with your preserved lemons, why not try this recipe for Madira from ‘A Baghdad Cookery Book’?


Cut fat meat into middling pieces with the tail; if chickens are used, quarter them. Put in the saucepan with a little salt, and cover with water: boil, removing the scum. When almost cooked take large onions and leeks, peel, cut off the tails, wash in salt and water, dry and put into the pot. Add dry coriander, cummin, mastic and cinnamon, ground fine. When cooked and the juices are dried up, so that only the oil remains, ladle out into a large bowl. Take Persian milk, put in the saucepan, add salted lemon and fresh mint. Leave to boil: then take off the fire, stirring. When the boiling has subsided, put back the meat and herbs. Cover the saucepan, wipe its sides, and leave to settle over the fire, then remove.[5]


Alternatively there are lots of recipes (many are translated on the Medieval Cookery site) in Lancelot de Casteau’s ‘Ouverture de Cuisine’ from 1604 which call for ‘limon salé’ such as this recipe for sturgeon:

Prennez vne piece d’esturgion bien nettoyée, rostie & fricassée dedans le beurre ou huyle d’oliue, puis vous prendrez vinaigre, & vin autant d’vn que d’autre, & le mettez boullir, vn limon salé par tranches, du saffran, du poiure, fueilles de laurier, rosmarin, mariolaine, racine de rafanus stampee, vne petite poignee de coriandre: estant boully iettez tout chaud sur l’esturgion, & le gardez ainsi bien couuert.[6]

[Take a piece of sturgeon well cleaned, roasted and fricasseed in butter or olive oil, then take equal amounts of wine and vinegar and set them to boil with a sliced, salted lemon, some saffron, some pepper, bay leaves, rosemary, marjoram, pounded radish root, a little handful of coriander: when it is boiling, pour it over the sturgeon and keep it well covered.]


Max Rumpolt’s ‘Ein New Kuchbuch’ has a recipe for stewed beef which requires ‘gesalzene limonen’, while ‘The Complete Cook’ contains this recipe for Capon Larded with Lemons


To boyle a Capon larded with Lemons.

Take a fair Capon and truss him, boyl him by himselfe in faire water with a little small Oat-meal, then take Mutton Broath, and half a pint of White-wine, a bundle of Herbs, whole Mace, season it with Verjuyce, put Marrow, Dates, season it with Sugar, then take preserved Lemons and cut them like Lard, and with a larding pin, lard in it, then put the capon in a deep dish, thicken your broth with Almonds, and poure it on the Capon.[7]


[1] Czarra, Spices.

[2] Batuta, The Travels of Ibn Batūta, 56–57.

[3] Quoted in Tolkowsky, Hesperides: A History of the Culture and Use of Citrus Fruits, 132–134.

[4] Quoted in Perry, “Sleeping Beauties.”

[5] Arberry, “Al-Baghdadi, A Baghdad Cookery Book (1226 A.D./623 A.H.),” 41.

[6] Gloning, “Lancelot de Casteau, Ouverture de Cuisine, 1604.”

[7] W.M., The Queens Closet Opened. Incomparable Secrets in Physick, Chyrugregy, Preserving, Candying and Cookery.


The Recipe

Preserved Lemons


Sea salt

Olive oil (for sliced lemons)

(Note that these are not exact measurements and will depend on how big your jar is and how big the lemons are)


Instructions for whole preserved lemons

  1. Wash the lemons well. Slice down into halves without cutting through the bottom. Repeat at 90 degrees to make quarters.
  2. Put salt in the bottom of a sterilised jar. Layer the lemons in the jar with salt in between the layers. Squash salt down into the cuts of the lemons. Once the jar is full, add another layer of salt on top.
  3. Fill the jar with the juice of extra lemons so that the lemons are totally covered. Put the lid on tightly and leave on a sunny windowsill for 2 weeks, shaking the jar gently every few days to distribute the salt. After the fortnight is up, place the jar in a cupboard and wait for 40 days before using. Refrigerate after opening


Instructions for sliced preserved lemons

  1. Wash the lemons well. Slice the lemons thinly.
  2. Put salt in the bottom of a sterilised jar. Layer the lemons in the jar with salt in between the layers. Once the jar is full, add another layer of salt on top. Cover and leave for two days.
  3. Fill the jar with the juice of extra lemons so that the lemons are totally covered. Cover with a layer of oil.




Arberry, A.J, trans. “Al-Baghdadi, A Baghdad Cookery Book (1226 A.D./623 A.H.).” Islamic Culture 13 (1939): 21–47 and 189–216.

Batuta, Ibn. The Travels of Ibn Batūta: With Notes, Illustrative of the History, Geography, Botany, Antiquities, Etc. Occurring Throughout the Work. Translated by Samuel Lee. Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Czarra, Fred. Spices: A Global History. Reaktion Books, 2009.

Gloning, Thomas. “Lancelot de Casteau, Ouverture de Cuisine, 1604.” Corpus of Culinary & Dietetic Texts of Europe from the Middle Ages to 1800, May 14, 2006.

Perry, Charles. “Sleeping Beauties.” LA Times. March 30, 1995.

Tolkowsky, Samuel. Hesperides: A History of the Culture and Use of Citrus Fruits. London: J. Bale, Sons & Curnow, Limited, 1938.

W.M., The Queens Closet Opened. Incomparable Secrets in Physick, Chyrugregy, Preserving, Candying and Cookery. London: printed for Nathaniel Brooke, 1655.



To Stew Carrets


Purple carrots have been undergoing something of a renaissance in the last couple of years, and you may well have seen them at your local farmer’s market or even in the supermarket. If you have, then you’ve probably also heard that purple carrots are the original colour. It’s true that the earliest domesticated carrots were probably purple or yellow in colour, but purple was one of just several colours available until the 17th century[1]. The rise of the sweeter, orange carrot in the 17th century meant that the white, yellow, red and purple varieties fell out of favour until their hipster return in the 2000s.

With their deep and unusual colouring, these stewed purple carrots seemed like the perfect candidate for the HFF ‘Pretty as a Picture’ challenge! The recipe comes from a receipt book held by the Wellcome Library (I originally found the recipe on It is signed Elizabeth Jacob and has a date of 1654, but there are lots of different handwritings evident, so some of the recipes are later, probably up to about 1685[2].


The Recipe

Stewed Carrots

“To Stew Carrets” – recipe from Jacob, “Physicall and Chyrurgicall Receipts. Cookery and Preserves.,” 103.  Via the Wellcome Library, used under Creative Commons, Public Domain Mark 1.0 


To Stew Carrets

Take your carrets and cute them in long little pieces, and take a pretty many onions and cut them small. A bunch of sweet hearbes, a little whole peper and a little nutmegg, and put as much water as will cover your sauce pan. A good piece of butter cover them close and sett them on a slow fire Stire them some times, and when they are enough serve them.[3]


Given the date of this recipe, they may not have been using purple carrots, because they were already losing out to the more popular orange carrots. That being said, you do get depictions of purple carrots well into the 17th century (see Nicholaes Maes’ market scene below).


[1] Stolarczyk and Janick, “Carrot: History and Iconography.”

[2] Wellcome Library, “Jacob, Elizabeth (& Others).”

[3] Jacob, “Phyiscall and Chyrurgicall Receipts. Cookery and Preserves.,” 103.



Vegetable Market, Nicholaes Maes, 1655-1665. [Public Domain] via Rijksmuseum.

The Redaction

Stewed Carrots


1 small bunch of carrots, sliced into long pieces (julienned perhaps?)

1/2 onion, chopped small

A knob of butter, around 15g

Sprinkle of nutmeg

Black pepper

Thyme or other herbs to taste


  1. Place all the ingredients into a saucepan. Add enough water to just cover them, put a lid on the saucepan and cook over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until just soft. Serve hot.


The Round-Up

The Recipe: To Stew Carrets from Physicall and chyrurgicall receipts. Cookery and preserves.  (available at pg. 103).

The Date: 1654-1685

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 20 mins.

How successful was it?:  The carrots looked really pretty but I added too much thyme and they had a very savoury, meaty smell which put me off a bit although they actually tasted OK.

How accurate?: I think it’s maybe unlikely at this date that they would have been using purple carrots, although it’s hard to know because the exact process and timeline for the takeover by the orange carrot is unclear. That was something that only became clearer after I had actually made the dish. Other than that, it’s mostly a matter of which herbs they would have used and I imagine that depended very much on what was fresh and available whenever you were making them.



Jacob, Elizabeth and others. “Phyiscall and Chyrurgicall Receipts. Cookery and Preserves.,” c.1654-1685. Wellcome Library.

Stolarczyk, John, and Jules Janick. “Carrot: History and Iconography.” Chronica Horticulturae 51, no. 2 (2011): 13–18.

Wellcome Library. “Jacob, Elizabeth (& Others).” Wellcome Library. Accessed April 5, 2016.


A Dish of Earth Apples


IMG_5721.JPGIt’s a new year, and a new round of Historical Food Fortnightly Challenges (and of course I’m already running late!). If you missed the last one, the HFF is a series of themed challenges where you choose a historical recipe (from before 1960) and follow it as closely as you can. Of course it’s not possible to be completely accurate, modern cooks have budget constraints, modern (for the most part) kitchens, and some ingredients are impossible to find, but we do our best. If you want to find out more about the challenge, the challengers or the different themes then head to the HFF blog to read all about it.


The first challenge of the year is ‘Meat and Potatoes’, and I’ve interpreted this quite literally with a recipe for bacon and potatoes. I feel a bit bad doing this recipe after Betsy’s impassioned plea to primary sources, so Betsy I apologise in advance. The impetus for this post came from a good friend of mine who gave me William Sitwell’s A History of Food in 100 Recipes for Christmas. At number 26, tucked in between zabaglione and trifle, is a recipe for earth apples from Marx Rumpolt’s Ein new Kochbuch (1581).


“Peel and cut them small, simmer them in water and press it well out through a fine cloth; chop them small and fry them in bacon that is cut small; take a little milk there under and let it simmer therewith so it is good and well tasting.”[1]

Sitwell translates earth apples, or erdäpfel/erdtepffel in German, as potatoes and calls this recipe the earliest surviving recipe using potatoes. However, this is a very controversial claim, although maybe not for the reason you think. On blogs and message boards across the internet there is a powerful undercurrent that this recipe refers not to potatoes, but to some type of squash. The closest that I’ve come to an explanation for this comes from The Potato: A Global History when Andrew Smith claims that the German folklorist and historian Günter Wiegelmann maintains that the earth apples are a type of round squash.[2] Unfortunately, since there’s no reference for this claim and since I can’t read German I haven’t been able to follow it up any more. Dr Thomas Gloning form the University of Giessen has also cast doubt upon the potato identification when posting on message-boards, seemingly on linguistic grounds.[3] Similar references in Anna Wecker’s Ein Kostlich New Kochbuch have also been refuted.[4]


Frontispiece from Ein New Kochbuch, 1581, [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Without a clearer understanding of why these historians think that the earth apples are squash rather than potatoes it is difficult to come down on one side or the other. Yet potatoes were certainly circulating through Europe in this period, as exotic gifts and curiosities. The white potato or Solanum tuberosum were seen in the Andes by the Spaniards in 1532 and introduced to Canary Islands prior to 1567.[5] Archival research by Hawke and Francisco-Ortego has shown that potatoes were being exported from the Canary Islands to Antwerp in 1567 and Rouen in France in 1574.[6] By the 1570s and 1580s potatoes were being grown in Spain, and by late 1581 they were being grown in Germany.[7]

According to Smith, Wiegelmann describes the earliest recipe as boiled potatoes cooked simply in butter.[8] The recipe came from a letter sent in 1581 by Wilhelm IV von Hessen to the Elector of Saxony, Christian I. Gloning also quotes Wiegelmann and gives a rough translation for what seems to be the same recipe but gives the date as 1591.

“We also send to your Highness among other things a plant that we got from Italy some years ago, called Taratouphli (…) Below, at the root, there hang many tubers. If they are cooked these tubers are very good to eat. But you must first boil them in water, so that the outer shell (peeling?) gets off, then pour the cooking water away, and cook them to the point in butter.”[9]


A potato plant in flower, watercolour sent by Philippe de Sivry to Clusius in 1588. There is a better, but copyrighted, version of this picture available on the website of the Museum Plantin-Moretus. See page for author [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons


These potatoes were probably the type of potato that was described by Clusius in 1601: small and smooth, with beetroot red skin, white flesh and deep eyes.[10] There appears to have been a second introduction of potatoes to England in around 1590 and a different type was described by the John Gerard in 1597, these potatoes were white, irregularly shaped with yellow flesh and deep eyes.[11] Gerard explained that the potatoes could be roasted or boiled and suggested serving them with oil, salt and pepper.[12]

Gerard_potatoes (1)

Potatoes from Gerard’s Herball – By McLeod [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons

So, does Rumpolt’s recipe suggest the use of potatoes or not? I don’t think that I’ve seen enough evidence to make a clear judgement either way. Potatoes and recipes for them, or at least descriptions of how to cook them, were certainly circling through the elite circles of Europe at the time. As chef to the Elector of Mainz, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Rumpolt would have come into contact with these exotic tubers. The recipe itself is certainly more advanced than contemporary potato recipes, but uses ingredients and techniques which make sense when dealing with potatoes.


The Redaction

A Dish of Earth Apples

4 medium sized potatoes

160g bacon

Butter and oil to fry

1/2 cup of milk

Salt and pepper (optional, not listed in the original)


  1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Peel the potatoes and cut them into quarters. Place the potatoes in the boiling water and cook until just tender. Drain the potatoes and leave to cool a little.
  2. Heat a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and add some butter and oil. Chop the bacon into 1 cm cubes and fry until golden. Meanwhile, chop the potatoes into 1 cm cubes. Add to the bacon and fry until golden and crunchy.
  3. Lower the heat and add the milk. Simmer gently for 5 mins. Add salt and pepper if using. Serve hot.



The Round-Up

The Recipe: Erdäpfel from Marx Rumpolt’s Ein new Kochbuch (translation found in William Sitwell’s A History of Food in 100 Recipes)

The Date: 1581

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 40 mins.

How successful was it?:  A little bland, but very comforting. Warm and stodgy in the best possible way.

How accurate?: Well, potato/gourd issue aside, there are no quantities or times given so everything was a bit of guesswork. The quantity of milk in particular was hard to know. Should the potatoes be swimming in it?

[1] William Sitwell, A History of Food in 100 Recipes (New York: Little, Brown & Company, 2013), 85.

[2] Andrew Smith, Potato: A Global History (London: Reaktion Books, 2011), 53–54.

[3] Thomas Gloning, “SC – Re: 16th Century Potato Soup Recipe?,” Stefan’s Florigelium, March 27, 1999,

[4] Smith, Potato: A Global History, 54.

[5] J. G. Hawkes and J. Francisco-Ortega, “The Early History of the Potato in Europe,” Euphytica 70, no. 1–2 (January 1993): 1–7, doi:10.1007/BF00029633; J. G. Hawkes and J. Francisco-Ortega, “The Potato in Spain during the Late 16th Century,” Economic Botany 46, no. 1 (1992): 86–97.

[6] Hawkes and Francisco-Ortega, “The Early History of the Potato in Europe,” 3–5.

[7] Smith, Potato: A Global History, 24.

[8] Ibid., 53.

[9] Thomas Gloning, “SC – Help with 1650s+ Info: Potatoes (long),” Stefan’s Florigelium, February 5, 2000,

[10] Redcliffe N. Salaman, Potato Varieties (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1926), 4.

[11] Ibid., 3–5.

[12] Smith, Potato: A Global History, 54.



Gloning, Thomas. “SC – Help with 1650s+ Info: Potatoes (long).” Stefan’s Florigelium, February 5, 2000.

———. “SC – Re: 16th Century Potato Soup Recipe?” Stefan’s Florigelium, March 27, 1999.

Hawkes, J. G., and J. Francisco-Ortega. “The Early History of the Potato in Europe.” Euphytica 70, no. 1–2 (January 1993): 1–7. doi:10.1007/BF00029633.

———. “The Potato in Spain during the Late 16th Century.” Economic Botany 46, no. 1 (1992): 86–97.

Salaman, Redcliffe N. Potato Varieties. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1926.

Sitwell, William. A History of Food in 100 Recipes. New York: Little, Brown & Company, 2013.

Smith, Andrew. Potato: A Global History. London: Reaktion Books, 2011.


Pass the Pickled Eggs

So a couple of months ago, just before my birthday, I was talking about birthday presents with my cousin Ryan and his girlfriend. While my request for a penguin seemed perfectly reasonable, I was a bit surprised when he said that all he wanted for his birthday was some pickled eggs. When The Old Foodie posted a selection of historical pickled egg recipes a week later, it just seemed like the universe was sending me a message.
Fast forward several months and the week of his birthday I was not only ridiculously busy but also quite sick. I suppose I could have changed my mind and used a modern recipe with, you know, quantities and real instructions, but where is the fun in that? Oh and why just make one historical recipe when you can do two?

Girl with a Basket of Eggs by Joachim Beuckelaer (circa 1533–1575) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Girl with a Basket of Eggs by Joachim Beuckelaer (circa 1533–1575) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Recipes

And so, although the process was not without hiccups, the eggs were pickled and enjoyed and I sat down to write this post. Actually I’ve tried a number of times, but each time I got side-tracked into doing more research. In spite of scouring dozens of cookbooks, I cannot find an older English recipe than the sage recipe which was posted by The Old Foodie and dates from 1725.

“Boil New laid Eggs in Vinegar, Cloves, Pepper, and a Handful of Sage-leaves, till hard, then peel them and put them into Glasses; when your Pickle is cold, put it to them, and cover them down close.”[1]

Sage Pickled Eggs, recipe from 1725

Since the pickled egg is a favourite among re-enactment groups I had just assumed that they were much older, and so apparently do lots of modern cookbook writers. These led me back to Dorothy Hartley’s book Food in England which says that, “When eggs are plentiful, farmers’ wives take four or six dozen newly laid, and boil them hard; then, taking off the shells, they place them in earthenware jars and pour upon them scalding vinegar well seasoned with pepper, allspice, ginger, and garlic. The eggs are fit to use after a month.”[2] She says this recipe comes from 1700 or thereabouts, although nearly identical recipes appear throughout the 19th century, the earliest version I can find is from 1844 in The Mechanic’s Magazine[3].

In fact pickled eggs are much older, just not in England. Going back further, there is a reference to pickled eggs in Andrew Boorde’s A Dyetary of Helth from about 1542 which says that:

“In Turkey, and other hyghe chrystyan landes anexed to it, they use to seth two or thre busshels of egges togither harde, and pull of the shels, & sowse them, and kepe them to eate at all tymes; but hard egges be slow and slack of dygestyon and doth nutryfye the body grosly.”[4]

Sousing is the process of preserving meat or animal parts in a pickle, so these are definitely pickled eggs. Boorde’s comment that these eggs come from Turkey and surrounding lands is interesting in light of a recipe from Kitab Wasf al-At’ima al-Mu’tada or The Description of Familiar Foods. A 14th century cookbook written in Arabic, possibly from Cairo, The Description of Familiar Foods includes the following recipe:

“Baid Mukhallal – Take boiled eggs and peel and sprinkle with a little ground salt and Chinese cinnamon [cassia] and dry coriander. Then arrange them in a glass jar and pour wine vinegar on them, and put it up.”[5]

That’s definitely going to be the next pickled egg recipe I try, but I doubt that it will be as pretty as the second recipe that I made. Dyed pink with beetroot juice, this recipe comes from The Practical American Cook Book, Or, Practical and Scientific Cookery. The Old Foodie quoted an 1855 edition, but I have only been able to find an 1863 edition. Today these pink eggs are particularly associated with the Pennsylvania Dutch and they make a lovely addition to salads with their variegated colours.

Pickled Eggs. Boil them until hard; throw them hot into cold water, which will make the shell slip off smoothly after the eggs have remained in it about ten minutes; boil some red beets till very soft; peel and mash them fine, and put enough of the liquor into cold vinegar to color it pink; add a little salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cloves; put the eggs into a jar and pour the beets, vinegar &c., over them. This makes a pretty garnish for fish or corned meats. Cut the eggs in slices when used.[6]

Pink Pickled Eggs, Recipe from 1863

The Redactions

Safety Note: These are the quantities and processes that I used to make these recipes, but because the liquids are cold when poured over the boiled eggs there is a higher chance of bacterial growth than in modern pickled egg recipes. If you decide to try these recipes you should keep the eggs refrigerated and consume them within days of making them. You can also increase the safety heating the pickling liquid to boiling point and pouring it over the eggs. 

Sage Pickled Eggs

12 eggs

2 1/2 cups vinegar

3 cloves

1 tsp peppercorns

Small handful of sage

  1. Hard boil eggs, then allow to cool and shell them. Place into a sterilised jar.
  2. Mix the vinegar, spices and sage in a saucepan and just bring to the boil. Allow the liquid to cool and pour over the eggs.

Beet Pickled Eggs

12 eggs

1 beetroot, or use the whole, pre-boiled beetroots that you can sometimes find vacuum sealed

1tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup normal vinegar

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup juice from beetroot

3 cloves

  1. Quarter the beetroot, place in a saucepan and cover in boiling water. Bring the pot to the boil and cook until the beetroot is soft, this takes longer than you would think, about 30 mins. When soft, remove the beetroot and allow the pieces to cool enough to handle. Peel the beetroot, then dice it and roughly mash the cubes.

2. Put the eggs into a saucepan, cover with water, bring to a rolling boil and simmer for 8 minutes. Allow to cool and peel.

  1. Place the eggs in a sterilised jar, then add the beetroot over the top. Mix the rest of the ingredients and pour over.

Pickled eggs, recipes from 1725 and 1863

The Round-Up

The Recipe: Pickled Eggs from Robert Smith’s Court Cookery: Or, The Compleat English Cook 128.(available here) and from The Practical American Cook Book by A Housekeeper (preview available here).

The Date:1725 and 1865

How did you make it?: See above.

Time to complete?: The beetroot took a very long time to cook, so those ones took over an hour and a half, but the sage ones were faster; including cooling time they probably took about an hour.

How successful was it?: I only tried the beetroot ones which were a beautiful colour, slightly rubbery but very pleasant. Ryan preferred the sage eggs, but that may be because he isn’t the biggest fan of beetroot.

How accurate?: I ended up changing the process of the sage eggs somewhat, because the first time that I made them I diluted the vinegar with water which would have changed the eggs preservative properties. The sage also through off a nasty scum when boiled like that. In the end I started again, boiling the eggs in water and then heating the other ingredients separately. The biggest difference in terms of ingredients is probably the type of vinegar used, but there was no indication of the type of vinegar in the recipes and I haven’t done enough research to really know what would have been used.

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[1] Robert Smith, Court Cookery: Or, The Compleat English Cook (London: Printed for T. Wotton, at the Three-Daggers in Fleet-Street, 1725), 128.

[2] Dorothy Hartley, Food in England (London: Little, Brown & Company, 1999), 345.

[3] Robertson, ed., Mechanics Magazine (London: James Bounsall, 1844), 352.

[4] Andrew Boorde, The Fyrst Boke of the Introduction of Knowledge Made by Andrew Borde, of Physycke Doctor. A Compendyous Regyment; Or, A Dyetary of Helth Made in Mountpyllier, ed. Frederick James Furnivall (London: Published for the Early English Text Society by N.T. Trubner & Co, 1870), 265.

[5] Charles Perry, “Kitab Wasf Al-At’ima Al-Mu’tada [The Description of Familiar Foods],” in Medieval Arab Cookery, by Maxime Rodinson, A.J Arberry, and Charles Perry (Totnes, U.K.: Prospect Books, 2001), 397.

[6] A Housekeeper, The Practical American Cook Book (New York: D Appleton and Company, 1863), 91.

And my penguin? He's already making friends.

And my penguin? He’s already making friends.


A Housekeeper. The Practical American Cook Book. New York: D Appleton and Company, 1863.

Boorde, Andrew. The Fyrst Boke of the Introduction of Knowledge Made by Andrew Borde, of Physycke Doctor. A Compendyous Regyment; Or, A Dyetary of Helth Made in Mountpyllier. Edited by Frederick James Furnivall. London: Published for the Early English Text Society by N.T. Trubner & Co, 1870.

Hartley, Dorothy. Food in England. London: Little, Brown & Company, 1999.

Perry, Charles. “Kitab Wasf Al-At’ima Al-Mu’tada [The Description of Familiar Foods].” In Medieval Arab Cookery, by Maxime Rodinson, A.J Arberry, and Charles Perry, 373–450. Totnes, U.K.: Prospect Books, 2001.

Robertson, ed. Mechanics Magazine. London: James Bounsall, 1844.

Smith, Robert. Court Cookery: Or, The Compleat English Cook. London: Printed for T. Wotton, at the Three-Daggers in Fleet-Street, 1725.

An Excellent Family Pudding of Cold Potatoes, with Eggs etc.

Potato pudding, recipe from 1861

Last year when I first started looking at recipes for the Historical Food Fortnightly I came across a recipe for Potato Cheesecake in The Antipodean Cookbook. This recipe, which has no cheese, no flour and doesn’t have instructions for baking, was unlike any other recipe I had come across. Having looked at a lot more cookbooks since then, I’ve found that there are actually quite a few similar potato recipes.

Potato Cheese Cake Ingredients: 3 or 4 boiled potatoes, 1 tablespoonful butter, 1 tablespoonful sugar, 2 eggs, grated peel and juice of 1 lemon, 2 teaspoonfuls brandy, and a few currants. Mode: Mash the 3 or 4 potatoes quite smooth. Melt the butter in a saucepan, and stir in the potato, the sugar, and eggs well beaten. Stir over the fire till it thickens, then add the grated peel and the lemon juice, the brandy, and lastly a few well-washed currants.[1]

These recipes were both sweet and savoury, sometimes baked in a pie case and sometimes without, and they lasted from at least the mid-18th century to the end of the 19th. It’s not hard to understand why these puddings would have been popular, they are basically all cheap starch, flavoured with relatively small amounts of more expensive ingredients – brandy, citrus fruits, currants, sugar, or a little spice. They are also quite an appetising way of using up left over boiled potatoes, The Family Save-All specifically recommends saving up the potatoes left from two or three days meals. I also quite like that it is recommended for children, “children of larger growth”, invalids and the elderly, i.e. everyone.

Potato pudding recipes from The House-Keeper’s Pocket-Book; And Compleat Family Cook pg. 115.

Potato pudding recipes from The House-Keeper’s Pocket-Book; And Compleat Family Cook pg. 115.

I was a bit suspicious of adding marmalade though, so in the end I went with the savoury version of the pudding and served it with gravy. I’ll have to come back when I’m feeling more adventurous and try one of the sweet recipes.

Potato pudding recipe form The Family Save-All, 1861, pg. 90.

Potato pudding recipe form The Family Save-All, 1861, pg. 90.

The Redaction

An Excellent Potato Pudding

6 large potatoes

4 eggs

568ml milk

Salt and pepper

  1. Heat the oven to 200˚C. Peel, chop and boil the potatoes if you aren’t using left over potatoes. Mash them well and stir in the beaten eggs and milk. Season well.
  2. Pour the mixture into a greased casserole dish and smooth the top or make patterns in it with a fork. Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until the top has formed a golden crust. Serve hot with gravy.

Potato pudding, recipe from 1861

The Round-Up

The Recipe: An Excellent Family Pudding of Cold Potatoes, with Eggs etc. from The Family Save-All by Robert Kemp Philp (available here, pg. 90)

The Date: 1861

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: About an hour.

How successful was it?: It was hot, starchy and quite plain. It was a bit like eating very smooth mashed potatoes. It definitely needed more seasoning.

How accurate?: Pretty good, but I wasn’t sure if the instruction to add sugar was for both versions, or just the sweet version. In the end I didn’t add it, but that may have been the wrong choice.

[1] Mrs. Lance Rawson, Antipodean Cookery Book and Kitchen Companion, Facsimile of 2nd ed. (Kenthurst, NSW: Kangaroo Press Pty.Ltd, 1992), 34–35.


Harrison, Sarah. The House-Keeper’s Pocket-Book; And Compleat Family Cook. 4th ed. London: Printed for R. Ware, at the Bible and Sun on Ludgate-Hill, 1748.

Philp, Robert Kemp. The Family Save-All, a System of Secondary Cookery. By the Editor of “Enquire Within”. 2nd ed. London: W. Kent and co., 1861.

Rawson, Mrs. Lance. Antipodean Cookery Book and Kitchen Companion. Facsimile of 2nd ed. Kenthurst, NSW: Kangaroo Press Pty.Ltd, 1992.

Mashed Potato, Mashed Potato


Potato Corks


First up a thanks to Betsy and Melissa over at the Historical Food Fortnightly who were kind enough to feature me in last week’s round-up. You can check out the Transparent Marmalade post here, or  click through to the Historical Food Fortnightly page to see some of the food made by the other bloggers participating in each challenge.

Distance view of The Hollow Mackay ca. 1872. Mina's first home after her wedding in 1872. Image from the State Library of Queensland.

Distance view of The Hollow, Mackay ca. 1872. Mina’s first home after her wedding in 1872. Image from the State Library of Queensland.

Back to business now, and this week’s challenge “The Frugal Housewife”. One of my favourite frugal housewives has got to be Mrs. Lance Rawson aka. Wilhelmina (Mina) Frances Cahill. In 1872 Mina married Lancelot Bernard Rawson and she began her married life on ‘The Hollow’, an isolated cattle-station outside of Mackay in northern Queensland. In 1877 the family (by now they had 3 children) moved to ‘Kircubbin’, a sugar plantation near Maryborough, but the plantation went bankrupt just three years later and so the family moved to a fishing station called ‘Boonooroo’. This too failed and by the late 1880’s they were living at ‘Rocklands’ near Rockhampton where Mina became a social correspondent and swimming teacher.

Due to the family’s financial difficulties Mina had a variety of hobbies and crafts which she used to supplement the family income. She made mattresses and pillows (stuffed with seaweed or pelican feathers), kept poultry, gardened, smoked fish and made pelican muffs and necklets. Like Mary Hannay Foot, she also turned to writing; Mina’s first cookbook The Queensland Cookery and Poultry Book was published in 1878 while the family were living at Kircubbin. This was followed by The Australian Poultry Book (second ed. 1894), The Australian Enquiry Book of Household and General Information (1894), and finally The Antipodean Cookery Book and Kitchen Companion (1895). She also wrote fairy tales for the local newspaper, ‘The Wide Bay News’, and her memoirs were published in a series of articles in ‘The Queenslander’ from 1919 to 1923.
Wilhelmina and Winifred Rawson with the goats at The Hollow c.1880 Courtesy of the State Library of Queensland

Mina and Winnie milking goats, undated. Image from the State Library of Queensland

Mina and Winnie milking goats, undated. Image from the State Library of Queensland


Although life on the station must have been incredibly difficult, Mina approached it with a grace, resourcefulness and sense of humour that you can really feel in her writings. The preface to her book The Antipodean Cookery Book and Kitchen Companion explins why young women should learn to cook, for “The husband is a creature of appetite, believe me, and not to be approached upon any important matter, such as a new bonnet or a silk dress, on an empty stomach.”[1] As well as providing useful advice for young married women, Mina also staunchly advocated the use of native Australian ingredients and remedies, whether dugong bacon, wallaby soup, roasted iguana, parched grasshopper or rosella pickle. She used native vegetables to ward off scurvy and eucalyptus and tea tree leaves to treat various ailments.



The Recipe


Rock Wallaby in Rocks. By Bilby (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Rock Wallaby in Rocks. By Bilby (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.  No wallabies were injured in the making of this recipe!


In spite of the sometimes exotic ingredients, the majority of Mina’s recipes are simple and quick, using only the most basic ingredients. Many also make use of left-overs, perfect for any frugal housewife, and I was struck by several of her recipes which use up mashed potato. Whilst I would like to try her recipe for Potato Cheese Cake which contains mashed potato, butter, eggs, lemon juice, brandy, currants and sugar I have yet to figure out exactly what it is supposed to be. It has no flour nor any type of cheese and it doesn’t seem to be shaped or baked (there are no instructions after heating it all up and adding the flavourings) so I am quite stumped as to why it is called a cheese cake.


Instead I chose the recipe for Potato Corks because I thought “Hey! I can eat potato gems and claim that they are Victorian!”. Sadly it was not to be. Instead of the mouthfuls of crispy, fried, potato-y goodness they were more like Irish potato bread in terms of texture, and quite plain in flavour. I also really struggled to shape them as corks, I added flour to the mixture and rolled the corks in even more flour to try and get them to hold a shape but it was very fiddly and not all that successful.



Potato Corks – Ingredients: 1 pound of mashed potato, 1 ounce butter, 5 eggs, salt, nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoonful sugar, 2 tablespoonfuls cream, flour to roll in. Mode: Rub the potato through a sieve into a basin, stir in the butter, the seasoning, the yolks of the 5 eggs, and lastly the cream. Turn this mixture out on to the floured board and roll it into cork-shaped pieces about three inches long and half as thick. Let them stand for a little while, then fry in butter or good dripping, browning them on all sides.[2]


All in all, although I think that the use of leftover mashed potato is frugal, the time it takes to shape the corks and fry them in batches and the amount of mess it made makes me think that this was less simple that it initially appeared. Nonetheless, it is certainly possible in even the most basic of kitchen shacks.



The Redaction


Potato Corks


450g mashed potato

30g butter

5 egg yolks

Salt and pepper

A pinch of nutmeg

1/2 tsp sugar

2 tbsp cream


Butter or dripping to fry


  1. Take the mashed potato and push it through a coarse sieve into a bowl.
  2. Stir in the butter (melted if the potato is cold), egg yolks, seasoning, sugar and cream. Stir well. If the mixture is too wet add some flour until it becomes just thick enough to shape (about 1/3 of a cup).
  3. Take small spoonfuls of the mixture and roll into rough cork shapes. Fry in butter or dripping, turning until browned on all sides.
  4. Serve hot.


The Recipe: Potato Corks from The Antipodean Cookery Book and Kitchen Companion by Mrs. Lance Rawson

The Date: 1895

How did you make it?: See above

Time to complete?: About 40 mins, not including boiling the potato.

Total cost: I already had all the ingredients.

How successful was it?: A bit soft and floury, rather plain. Somewhat similar to homemade potato bread.

How accurate?: I had to change the recipe a bit just to be able to shape the dough, and I also added some pepper which wasn’t listed in the original ingredients, but even with that it was quite plain tasting. Mine were also significantly smaller than the 3 inches by 1.5 inches suggested in the recipe, just because I was struggling to shape them. Other than that reasonably similar, I even used dripping to fry them in.


Mrs. Rawson Links

Read more about Mrs. Lance Rawson here or about the Rawsons and other early pioneer families in Queensland here

You can read most of Mrs. Rawson’s memoirs on Trove, try here or here to start. She also wrote two series on keeping poultry called Poultry Notes and the Poultry Yard , the first installment of which you can read here.


Potato Corks

[1] Mrs. Lance Rawson, Antipodean Cookery Book and Kitchen Companion, Facsimile of 2 Revised ed edition (Kenthurst, NSW: Kangaroo Press Pty.Ltd, 1992), 3.

[2] Ibid., 52.



Rawson, Mrs. Lance. Antipodean Cookery Book and Kitchen Companion. Facsimile of 2 Revised ed edition. Kenthurst, NSW: Kangaroo Press Pty.Ltd, 1992.

Pumpkins and Pompions

Its winter in Australia, and that means one thing. Pumpkin! I have to admit that pumpkin is one of my favourite ingredients because it is just so versatile. It can be used in sweet or savoury dishes, from curry to cake and let’s face it, at less than $1 per kilo during the season its great value too. This week for the Seasonal Fruit and Vegetable challenge (you can read more about the Historical Food Fortnightly challenges here) I’m offering a selection of pumpkin recipes for your delectation.


Pumpkins at Bathurst. Image courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales.

Pumpkins at Bathurst. Image courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales.

But first, a quick history of the pumpkin. Native to the Americas they had been a staple food for centuries before the arrival of the colonists (who called them ‘pompions’). Thanks to the ease of cultivation and high yields they quickly became an essential part of the colonists’ diet in a variety of guises: stewed, baked, turned into soups, added to stews or baked into pies. Nonetheless, in spite of its role in early American myth, pumpkin remained a food primarily for the poor, celebrated in times of dearth[1].


Pumpkins were also stigmatised in Europe where they were grown primarily as animal fodder or food for the impoverished. The pumpkin seeds transported on the First Fleet in 1788 may have simply been intended as animal feed, or perhaps cheap, abundant food. Nonetheless, the plants thrived in the Australian climate and Marine officer Watkin Tench described them growing “with unbounded luxuriancy”[2] even in Sydney where the soil had generally proved a disappointment. Once again, a variety of dishes were made, even baked whole in the fire as depicted in Richard Wingfield Stuart’s paintings of bush camps which you can see here and here.


It wasn’t really until the 19th century though that cooks popularised some of the more iconic pumpkin recipes including pumpkin scones, pumpkin jam and boiled pumpkin fruit cake (the mashed pumpkin adds tenderness and moisture)[3].


So next time you see pumpkin on sale, why not try one of these three Australian historical recipes? I haven’t provided redactions because once again they seem very straight forward.



Stewed Pumpkin Dark Corners


To Cook Pumpkin – Cut a pumpkin into several pieces, pare it, and take out the seed: cut it equally into small squares one inch in size, blanch them in boiling water, drain, put into a stew-pan with enough butter, parsley, sliced onions, pepper and salt to taste. Toss it over the fire till tender, then serve with rich melted butter, or a thick brown gravy.[4]


This recipe made a nice side dish, very simple and tasty!


A recipe for pumpkin scones:- One cup of boiled pumpkin (any left over from the day previous can be used), two cups of flour, two teaspoonfuls of baking powder, a little salt and sugar, and a piece of butter the size of a walnut. Rub the butter and pumpkin into the flour, and add the other ingredients: then mix with milk, and bake in a quick oven.[5]


Pumpkin Scones

These made lovely, airy scones with a delicate orange blush. Perfect with butter, or pumpkin jam (see below)! In terms of proportions I used 1 cup of mashed pumpkin, 2 cups of flour, 30g butter, about 1/2 cup of milk, 2 tsp baking powder, 2 tbsp. sugar and 1/2 tsp. salt. I rubbed the butter into the flour, then mixed in the pumpkin followed by the remaining dry ingredients. I then added enough milk to make a soft, pliable dough. I rolled it out quite thick, cut into circles, brushed with milk and baked at 180˚C for about 15 mins.


The final recipe for this fortnight is a rather unusual one. It is a recipe for pumpkin jam, but instead of being slowly cooked on the stove the ingredients are put in a casserole dish and baked in the oven. This is a technique that I have only seen a couple of times (as a non-historical side note, this technique is used in this recipe for the most amazing plum butter you have ever tasted) and never for pumpkin. The inclusion of vinegar is also a bit odd, so I just had to try it.

Pumpkin Jam

A Pumpkin “Jam” – Just Pumpkin, Vinegar and Sugar

A country woman wrote me the other day that she was almost ashamed to contribute her pet recipe to our columns, but it is so good that if my friends will but make some, they will bless the contributor, who says :- “We call it pumpkin butter, and the sweet or pie pumpkins are the best for it, although almost any pumpkin will do. Stew it, and when it is tender, add to each gallon of pulp a cupful of vinegar and six cupfuls of sugar. Instead of baking your face stirring this over a fire, put it in a stone crock, or if that is too small a granite iron dishpan, and let it cook in the oven, while you are washing or ironing, or otherwise using the fire. It will save an extra fire and the flavour of the pumpkin butter will be better. It should cook till thick enough to stand in a saucer without being juicy, and then it is good enough to make any time. The baking gives it a distinctive flavour, and if you will recall the difference between stewed and baked apples you will be more ready to try this labour and fire-saving way of making pumpkin butter.[6]


The country contributor was right, this is definitely a very easy way of making pumpkin butter, although it is perhaps a bit plain for modern tastes. I would have like to have added something to spice it up a little: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and maybe even a little lime juice. Nonetheless, I was surprised at how successful it was, I have to admit that I wasn’t sure it would work at all. Again, for the proportions I used about a kilo of pumpkin which gave me 2 cups of pulp. I mixed that with 1/6 cup of plain, white vinegar and 1 cup of sugar and baked at 180˚C for about an hour. You need to keep an eye on it to make sure that the bottom doesn’t burn, and you know that it is ready when a little spoonful on a plate doesn’t seep water. Serve hot or cold with scones or fruit bread.

The Recipe: Stewed Pumpkin (available here); Pumpkin Scones (available here); Pumpkin Jam (available here)

The Date: 1907; 1902; 1912

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 30 mins; 30 mins; 1 1/2 hrs

How successful was it?: All three were very tasty. The stewed pumpkin looked somewhat unappetizing but tasted very good while the pumpkin jam could have used some spices. The scones, however, were pretty much perfect.

How accurate?: I think they were pretty accurate, it’s certainly a lot easier using more modern recipes!


Pumpkin Scones


[1] Cindy Ott, Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon (University of Washington Press, 2012), 6.

[2] Watkin Tench, A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson in New South Wales (London: G. Nicol and J. Sewell, 1793), chap. XVII.

[3] Barbara Santich, Bold Palates: Australia’s Gastronomic Heritage (South Australia: Wakefield Press, 2012), 10–11.

[4] “SELECTED RECIPES.,” The Corowa Chronicle, July 6, 1907.

[5] “MORE USES FOR PUMPKIN.,” The Sydney Morning Herald, June 15, 1920.

[6] “A PUMPKIN ‘JAM.’ Just Pumpkin, Vinegar and Sugar.,” The Farmer and Settler, July 9, 1912.



“A PUMPKIN ‘JAM.’ Just Pumpkin, Vinegar and Sugar.” The Farmer and Settler. July 9, 1912.

“MORE USES FOR PUMPKIN.” The Sydney Morning Herald. June 15, 1920.

Ott, Cindy. Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon. University of Washington Press, 2012.

Santich, Barbara. Bold Palates: Australia’s Gastronomic Heritage. South Australia: Wakefield Press, 2012.

“SELECTED RECIPES.” The Corowa Chronicle. July 6, 1907.

Tench, Watkin. A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson in New South Wales. London: G. Nicol and J. Sewell, 1793.