Medieval Ingredients

For Medieval recipes the following native ingredients were commonly used (the closest modern equivalent is also given).

Amydoun     A common Medieval ingredient, Amydoun is simply white flour soaked in water, allowed to settle then drained and dried. This eliminates any husks and other materials that might be left over in the flour.

Clary     Clary is the plant Silvia sclarea, also known as Clary Sage, clear eye, eyebright, clarywort, and musoatel sage. This herb is a biennial and relatively easy to grow if you want an authentic taste. However, just about any fresh sage leaves can be substituted. This was used commonly in Elizabethan cooking as it cuts the grease of fatty meats and fish

Galingale     Galingale is the plant Cyperus longus, also known as Sweet Galingale is a member of the sedge family. The roots are edible and highly-aromatic. These formed the main constituent of galyntyne, a pungent sauce. Though it will only give a hint of the true flavour 4:1 mix of galangal and ginger can be substituted. Alternatively it may be bought from oriental supermarkets where it is sold as ‘galingas’.

Cubeb     Cubeb is fruit of the plant Piper cubeba, also known as Cubeb Pepper. A native of Java, it is related to cardamom and has a similar flavour to allspice. This spice can be obtained from many specialist spice stores.

Verjuice     Verjuice is the acidic juice pressed from unripe fruit, primarily grapes, but also other sour fruit such as green apples, crab apples, cooking apples and even plums. The name derives from the Old French ‘vertjus‘ meaning ‘green juice’ and was common in Medieval and Elizabethan cookery. These days verjuice can be bought commercially, but one part cider vinegar, one part water with a dash of lemon and lime juice also makes an acceptable substitute.

Almond Milk     Almond Milk is a common Medieval thickening agent It is a cloudy liquid prepared by steeping ground almonds in water, broth, or wine. Almond milk acted as the liquid base and/or thickening agent in a wide variety of medieval and Elizabethan dessert dishes.

Alkanet     Alkanet is the plant Alkanna tinctoria, also known as Anchusa, Dyer’s Bugloss, Spanish Bugloss and Orchanet. The roots of the plant, which were generally boiled in spirit of vinegar to extract the deep red colour, were used in Medieval times. Or the roots were added directly to oily stews. This plant was primarily used for its colourant properties and sweet paprika could be used instead.

Saunders     Saunders, also known as Sandalwood is the plant Santalum album, and is a tree, originally native to india. During the Middle Ages the wood of this tree was pulverized to produce a compound that would colour their food a dark red. Again, sweet paprika can be used as an alternative.

Saffron     Saffron is a common Medieval spice, and represents one of the few spices that seems as expensive to us as it did half a millennium ago. To gain the most from this spice grind the spice in a small quantity of water and add the resulting mixture to your dish.

Powder Fort  is the Medieval ‘strong’ spice mix and can be generated by mixing a tablespoon each of cloves, mace, cubeb pepper, grains of paradise along with 4 teaspoons of ground ginger and 4 tbsp cinnamon and 3 tbsp black pepper. Grind in a pestle and mortar and store in an air-tight jar.

Powder Douce  is the Medieval ‘sweet’ spice mix and can be generated by mixing a tablespoon each of aniseed, fennel seeds, and ground hyssop along with 4 teaspoons of sugar. Grind in a pestle and mortar and store in an air-tight jar.

Blanche Powder is the Medieval spice used in both sweet and savory dishes. It is a simple mixture of equal quantities of ground ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix in a pestle and mortar and store in an air-tight jar.

Spikenard     Spikenard is the plant, Nardostachys jatamansi, an aromatic plant with small leaves and red-purple flowers. This is used frequently in aromatherapy oils. Must be obtained from a specialized supplier. An alternate is to use equal portions of fennel and lavender a fifth of the final quantity of valerian root (note, valerian is a sedative and some people are very sensitive, use sparingly. Lavender should not be consumed by pregnant women).

Zeodary Root, also known as djedwar, zedoar, zeduale, citoval, setwall, cetewale and citouart. It is derived from the dried roots of either Curcuma zedoaria or Curcuma zerumbet and is related to turmeric. Its smell is similar to a cross between turmeric and mango. As a result it has been used in cordials and wines as well as being a culinary ingredient.

Beans. Many recipes of the Middle Ages refer to a bean that needs to be hulled. Apart from chickpeas and lentils the only other commonly-available bean in the Middle ages was he broad (or fava) bean and I think that when the recipes name beans they refer to this.

Gourd. Many Medieval recipes refer to an ingredient that is variously translated as ‘Gourd’ or ‘pumpkin’. As many squashes originated in the New World, the only authentic ingredinet would seem to be a green Chinese squash. However, green butternut squash is more common these days and makes an acceptable alternative.

Text from CeltNet

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