Winter Broths and Stews

With the inclement weather currently upon us, I point the Shire’s cooks in the general direction of suitably warming medieval soups, stews and broths. These are easy to make and there are some amazing flavour combinations in the medieval recipes.

Galinha Mourisca (Moorish Chicken)
(this is specially for Sister Mairi Jean, who likes this stew…)

Take a raw chicken and cut into pieces. Then make a sauce with 2 spoons of butter and a small slice of bacon. Put in the chicken and let it brown. Cover the chicken with enough water to cook it, so no more has to be added. When the chicken is almost cooked, take a green onion, parsley, coriander and mint, all chopped fine, and add to pan with a little lemon juice. Then cook chicken till done. Then take slices of bread and put in bottom of a tureen and pour the chicken over it. Cover with poached egg yolks and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Um Tratado Da Cozinha Portuguesa Do Seculo XV
(A Text on Portuguese Cooking from the Fifteenth Century), translated by Jane L. Crowley from a modern Portuguese text by Professor Antonio Gomes Filho.

This is one of the few Portuguese sources we have, and it’s a bit iffy – we only have a translation of a translation, and it’s sometimes difficult to see where the translator has added bits. Bear in mind that this would be a 15th century Portuguese cook’s idea of what a Moor would eat, and is consequently a bit inaccurate – a Moslem wouldn’t eat bacon, for a start. However, the cilantro (green coriander) is very common in Moorish recipes.

This is a perfectly straightforward chicken casserole. Fry the bacon in the butter, add the chicken and brown it. (The flavour is better with whole chicken pieces, but you could use breast fillets.) Add water and simmer. When it’s almost cooked, add finely chopped onion, parsely, coriander and mint (all these herbs should preferably be fresh). Continue simmering until the chicken is cooked. I’d personally debone the chicken at this point if I’d used whole pieces. The serving on slices of bread bit is very characteristic of English and French medieval cooking, as is the hardboiled egg yolk garnish.

Porrey chapeleyn (Onion soup)

For to make a porrey chapeleyn, tak an hundred onyons o(th)er an half, & tak oyle de olyf & boyle togedere in a pot; & tak almande mylk & boyle yt & do (th)ereto. Tak & mak a (th)ynne paast of dow, & make (th)ereof as it were ryngis. Tak & fry hem in oyle de olyue or in wyte grees & boil al togedere.
From Curye On Inglysch, Book II, Diversa Servicia (MS D, ff.86r-96v.)

My very rough translation:

To make a pory chapelyn, take a hundred onions, and take olive oil, and boil them together in a pot; and take almond milk, and boil it, and add it (to the onions). Take and make a thin paste of dough, and make it into rings (as though it were onion rings). Take them and fry them in oil or lard, and boil it all together.

This is a cream of onion soup. It doesn’t say how small to chop the onions, but I’d tend to think pretty small. These are fried in olive oil, but it should be a creamy (white) soup rather than a brown, so I’d incline not to brown them too much. Almond milk is a standard ingredient, often a substitute for meat broth on fast days; it’s basically almonds ground fine and made into a milky suspension by adding hot water, broth or wine. I’d use a light meat or vegetable broth here, depending on the preferences of the people I’m feeding. The onions and almond milk are cooked up together. The soup is then garnished with fake “onion rings” made from a thin dough (pastry of water and flour) which is cut into rings and then fried. Voila! Cream of onion soup, with garnish.

Jehanne de Huguenin