For the most part, these recipes come from the late Mediaeval
period (after the Norman conquest of England). Hence there
is a considerable continental influence on the food. We also
see for the first time recipes incorporating rabbits rather
than hares. [Normans having brought rabbits into Britain as
a rare delicacy.] As with the Roman period many of these recipes
were expensive to prepare and come from the highest courts
in the land. Indeed, the earliest recipes almost all originate
from the tables of Henry II, which represents some of the
earliest British culinary writings we have. Though most of
the recipes presented here come late in the mediaeval period.
The food here is quite different from that seen in the Roman
period and not quite as highly-spiced as the food of the Elizabethan
Medieval recipes the following native ingredients were commonly
used (the closest modern equivalent is also given).
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 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'.
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 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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Spikenard is the plant, Nardostachys jatamansi, an aromatic
plant with small leaves and red-purple flowers. This is used
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.
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 ingredient would seem
to be a green Chinese squash. However, green butternut squash
is more common these days and makes an acceptable alternative.
all the main period sections on this site the recipes in this
'Medieval Foods' section are broken down into meal components.
Simply click on the meal component on the left-hand column
(eg 'Main Courses') to be taken to a page that lists all the
recipes for that particular element of a meal.