Cooking up a Castle Feast

I’ve been out in my garden again with my medieval cooking kit, and this time I felt a bit more ambitious. I wanted to experience some of the rich flavours and aromas that revelers would have enjoyed at a castle feast. So I spent a long time trawling through my medieval recipe books and found plenty of inspiration, and the results were a revelation that I truly wish I could have shared with you all.

Cauldron

The cauldron all primed and ready to go…

The key to dining in a castle was variety and excess, and the host would flaunt his wealth and status with the numerous and diverse dishes that were served at each course. But as much as I’d have loved to produce a splendid full banquet, I don’t have a household of 200 retainers, staff and guests, so I had to scale it down a bit. I chose four recipes, some of which were surprisingly familiar, and put together a menu for my mini medieval feast:

Egurdouce

Erbolat

Makerouns

Wardonys in Syryp

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

So a little while later, with all the ingredients and equipment assembled and the fire raring to go, I delved back into the distant past for dinner…

To start off with, I made Egurdouce, meaning sweet-and-sour, which I was surprised to find in a medieval cookery book. Apparently, most recipes left out one or other of the essential elements, so I was keen to try this version that includes spices, vinegar, red wine and dried fruit and is thickened with breadcrumbs. First you melt some butter and fry whatever meat you’re going to use, or you can use meatballs (in our case really good veggie ones), before adding parboiled onions and all the other ingredients, then give it a good stir and simmer for 45 minutes. Then I mixed the breadcrumbs with some of the amazing-smelling sauce, added this thickener to the cauldron, and voila! Job done. Time to move on to Wardonys (or pears) in Syryp

Sweet & Sour

Egurdouce – a posh medieval sweet and sour dish

For this, I poached some pears quite gently so they didn’t fall apart, and then made what amounted to a mulled wine syrup, with cinnamon, ginger, sugar and cloves in red wine. Then the pears were finished off, poaching nicely in the syrup and then left to cool while I moved onto the next dish.

Poached pears

A treat from the orchard: Wardonys in Syryp

Erbolat is described as a Herb Custard, but in fact it’s a kind of herby green omelette baked in butter. It’s pretty straightforward, consisting of a handful of herbs and/or some leafy greens such as spinach, all blended together and mixed into six beaten eggs with a good dose of seasoning. Then you’re supposed to bake it in butter, but I couldn’t resist trying a bit of the mixture out in my special iron fying pan over the fire. Luckily it worked a treat, so with that done, there was only one more dish to prepare…

Erbolat

Experimenting with a bit of Erbolat over the flames

Makerouns is, in fact, an early macaroni cheese, which I was surprised to learn has a long history in England, with recipes dating from as far back as Anglo-Norman times. Of course, it wasn’t made then as we know it today; it was a much simpler affair of pasta cooked with cheese and butter (I’ve come to the conclusion that they liked their butter in the Middle Ages). Neither was the macaroni the modern tubular pasta we use today. Back then it was more like flat noodles, the word being derived from the Greek makrón, meaning a long, straight line. So I found the nearest-shaped pasta I had to medieval macaroni and tried cooking it in the cauldron. Even though it cooked differently in the iron pot, mostly simmering around the edges, it worked well enough, and when it was ready I drained the pasta and layered it in a dish with cheese and butter to be served nice and hot. With everything prepared and smelling wonderful, it was finally time to assemble the whole spread and try a real taste of a medieval feast.

Pasta

Cooking the Makerouns

Spread 2

The full feast: Wardonys in Syryp, Egurdouce, Makerouns and Erbolat

And this is where I must say I wish you could all have joined us, because I really wasn’t prepared for such a sensationally scrumptious meal. The Erugdouce was different from our modern sweet and sour, but in such a way that it’s soared to the top of my favourites list. It went beautifully with the vibrant and tasty Erbolat, and I’m a real convert to medieval macaroni cheese. Their version, the Makerouns, is much quicker and easier to make and it’s simply delicious. And as for the Wardonys in Syryp, they were a trip to medieval heaven. The pears were tender and sweet, and they even looked the part, sitting pretty in what was essentially a glossy mulled wine syrup that I could happily have drunk from a glass.

If this was a taste of medieval castle food, it’s not surprising they made such a meal of their feasts. All we need now is for someone to invent ‘scratch, sniff and taste-o-vision’, then everyone will know what I mean. So until then, we’ll have to make do with raising our glasses and drinking a toast to the hitherto largely forgotten genius of medieval castle cooks, and their creations that can tantalise the taste buds across so many centuries.

Cheers!

47 thoughts on “Cooking up a Castle Feast

  1. Wow. What a fabulous way to pass the time and make a delicious feast as well. I really enjoyed reading this post. I always though medieval food was all about venison. I had no idea they used cinnamon and other herbs or that their food would taste so good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Suzanne! Glad you enjoyed it, and that you learned something too. When I first started looking into medieval food I was both surprised and impressed to discover the variety of ingredients and flavourings they had – and it shows in the recipes! Hope all’s well with you, and thanks for reading. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. What a fabulous way to pass the time and make a delicious feast as well. I really enjoyed reading this post. I always though medieval food was all about venison. I had no idea they used cinnamon and other herbs or that their food would taste so good.

    Like

  3. No chucking a chicken leg over your shoulder in the Templeton household, this is much more civilized, and even though I’m not vegetarian, it does sound delicious, and the way it’s all cooked sounds better than a barbecue. Very adventurous and very tempting and much more enticing than the slice of toast I’ll be having for breakfast. Now where’s that butter?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That looks and sounds delicious. Interesting spellings, too. You can see that both Egurdouce and Erbolat originate from the French… ‘aigre-douce’ and ‘herbes au lait’… which probably makes them Norman imports and therefore the recipes are at least a thousand years old. That is the kind of living archaeology that I love 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh my, when I saw the cauldron I knew you were going to make my taste buds water! Everything looks so delicious. You took such care to make everything perfect. That must have been a fantastic meal!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Robyn! It really was fantastic, although I admit I wasn’t expecting it to be quite as good! It was great fun recreating these medieval dishes, and I reckon they may end up some of my top favourites. They really knew how to eat in style! Glad you enjoyed reading about my mini feast, and thanks for reading, as always. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t need a ‘scratch ‘n’ sniff’ – I can TASTE it all from your descriptions and photos. Sounds sensational! Where did you say you got your book from? Wouldn’t mind a copy of it myself.

    You do have a talent for adaptation of the recipes to suit your chosen cooking style which I’m not sure I’d have.

    Oh, and as for a liking of butter with everything, that’s exactly my tastes. I used to even make what we called a ‘heart attack sandwich’. It was two slices of buttered bread put together into a sandwich. It was then toasted both sides. It was then buttered while hot to let lots of butter soak in. I then buttered it again when it was cooler so that butter sat on top as well! Has to be a quality and well-salted butter though…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Carol! IF you can already taste it, I’m a happy blogger indeed! I had you in mind while I was writing about how it all turned out. If you fancied trying out any of the recipes, to save you some adaptation work, yet to give you the same real medieval flavours I’d be happy to send you a recipe for anything you fancy.

      I LOVE the idea of a ‘heart attack sandwich’! Sounds absolutely wonderful. I reckon medieval macaroni cheese would qualify for a similar title – but wow – it’s worth it! 🙂

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s