We tend to think of medieval food as bland or boring. After all, there were no chocolates, potatoes, or tomatoes. (They all came from America.) But some medieval foods were so strongly flavored that we would find them unpalatable today, especially because people back then loved to mix fragrances like rose water or lavender with their dinners.In medieval times, the very best food was eaten by the king and his court. And no king was more lavish than Richard II, who was known across Europe for his opulence.So we are lucky that a recipe book written by his best chefs has survived to the modern day, containing no fewer than 196 recipes. It is called The Forme of Cury, and you can read it for free at Project Gutenberg
This recipe in The Forme of Cury—simply calls for funges (the medieval word for “mushrooms“) and leeks to be cut up small and added to a broth, with saffron for coloring. Easy.However, it also asks us to add “powder fort.” This was a well-known spice mixture in medieval times, much like garam masala is today. Powder fort was usually made from pepper and either ginger or cinnamon.However, as this food was made for the king, they probably used a more complex mix, likely including cloves or saffron. Pepper was the most common spice in medieval Europe, followed by cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Mushrooms were cheap and widespread in medieval England.
Richard II’s personal cookbook contains a recipe for a toastie—or tostee, as they called it. If someone served us this in a cafe nowadays, however, we might wonder if they’d made a mistake.This recipe, which is No. 93 in The Forme of Cury, is more like jam on toast than a modern-day toastie. Mix together red wine and honey in a saucepan. Add ground ginger, salt, and pepper. Cook it until it’s thick, and then spoon it over toasted bread. Chop up some fresh ginger and sprinkle it over the top.
If you’ve ever wondered what medieval candy tasted like, this is it. Payn ragoun is essentially a medieval-style fudge, though they would have served it alongside meat or fish rather than as a snack or dessert.You can find a modern version of the recipe here. Mix some honey, sugar, and water together, and simmer over a low heat. Then add ground ginger.The recipe actually calls for the cook to dip his finger in it. If it hangs when it drips back down, it’s ready. Add pine nuts, and stir until it thickens. Then leave the mixture to harden, and cool in a bread or cupcake mold.
The medieval method of cooking poached eggs—or pochee, as they called them—was almost exactly the same as it is today. “Take Ayrenn and breke hem in scaldyng hoot water.” Translation: Take eggs and break them into scalding hot water.These medieval poached eggs wouldn’t have been served on toast for breakfast, though. They were much more likely to have been cooked en masse and served at a banquet on a plate alongside a specially prepared sauce.This No. 90 recipe in The Forme of Cury has an accompanying sauce, though it is unlike any we’d make today. Whisk together two egg yolks, sugar, saffron, ginger, and salt. Add milk, and cook until it thickens, not letting it boil. Then serve. Find a modern translation of the recipe here.