The Medieval Cookbook

   Posted by: Julia Redlich   in Bookworm

The Medieval Cookbook

Book Review:  The Medieval Cookbook

Maggie Black, The Medieval Cookbook:  50 authentic recipes translated and adapted for the modern cook.  British Museum Press.  ISBN 978 0 7141 2829 0 (PB)

(Available from the Book Depository)

The title says it all. The authentic recipes are given at the top of the page, but let’s give thanks to the late Maggie Black who has converted them to modern English for easy reading and adapted them for up-to date means of preparation and cooking.

So there is no need to “first catch your hare”, as suggested by the redoubtable Mrs Beeton, before tackling “Civey of Hare”. In fact you may prefer to catch a couple of rabbits at the butcher instead if, like me, you have coped with a hare proudly brought back by ardent game shooters in the family. There is so much meat on a full grown hare – and delicious it is too – but using all of it is a challenge. Forget the struggle with variations on turkey and ham leftovers after Christmas;the hare wins paws down.

Hare is also an ingredient of the “Grete Pye” which was a essential at Christmas time. Many other meats were involved, as well as spices and dried fruits. The version here would be fabulous for a large family gathering in cooler months, and the ideas for soups are delicious.

Need a dessert? “Fig and raisin ‘crème’” is truly scrumptious thanks to the addition of wine and spices and can be used hot or cold. Add ice-cream as a bonus.

Afterwards though, you might like to refer to the latter pages with their herbal remedies and cures. This is the advice from a Leechbook, or Collection of Medieval Recipes of the Fifteenth Century, for cleaning your teeth:

To cleanse and make them white. Take the root of mallows and rub thy teeth and thy gums therewith. And after that take a rough cloth, and rub thy teeth therewith. If thou washest thy mouth once a month with water or with wine that titemall, that is spurge, is seethed in, the teeth shall never fall. Knotgrass kneaded and laid to the teeth is a good medicine.

You don’t find this kind of advice in every cookbook, so relish the help and happiness this one offers. The illustrations of life in medieval times showing the enjoyment of great cooking are delightful.

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