Tak flour of payndemayn and gode wyne & drawe it togyder; do þerto a grete quantite of sugur cypre or hony clarified, & do per to safroun; boyle hit & whan it is yboyled alye it up with ȝolkes of ayroun & do þerto salt & messe hit forth, and lay þeron sugur and poudour gynger.
Take flour of pandemain [fine white flour] and good wine and blend it together; add thereto a great quantity of Cyprus sugar or clarified honey and add thereto saffron; boil it and when it is boiled mix it with egg yolks and add thereto salt, and serve it forth, and sprinkle on sugar and powder of ginger.
Forme of Cury (c.1390). Text edited and translated by Christopher Monk © 2019
This experiment is of the moment, we might say, inspired by a post I read this morning in a Facebook medieval history group to which I belong. A tutor, teaching Chaucer to 15/16-year-old students, wanted some advice on contemporaneous cookery; she was looking for a ‘medieval dessert’ for the students to try.
I had a quick think about it and, notwithstanding the need to substitute grape juice for the wine, came up with Caudel ferry from Richard II’s cookery book, Forme of Cury, which, having been written about 1390 is spot on for Chaucer enthusiasts.
I’m not sure whether this will end up being suitable for the teacher; but, hey, I fancy Caudel ferry for breakfast! I got together my ingredients and my mobile phone and shot a few pics and shaky, one-handed videos to record the experiment.
Let me know what you think…
The ingredients used were:
white wine, small bottle, 187ml. (I used sauvignon blanc, you could use something sweeter; substitute the same amount of white grape juice if you don’t want alcohol.)
2 level tablespoons of fine wheat flour (I used gluten free, which is great for blending into liquid as it’s largely rice flour; rice flour was used in fourteenth century England!)
3 tablespoons of clear honey (you could substitute sugar)
few strands of saffron
2 large egg yolks, preferably free-range organic
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon sugar (I used golden granulated)
¼ to ½ teaspoon of ginger powder (½ teaspoon is very gingery, so beware; you could substitute cinnamon if you prefer it)
Stage 1: Blend the wine and flour in a pan; mix in the honey and saffron.
Stage 2: Gradually bring the pan to a gentle bubble, stirring constantly. To cook out the floury taste you need to simmer it for about 6 or 7 minutes; again, keep stirring throughout. This cooking will also remove the alcohol.
In the video I point out that a ‘caudel’ (usually spelled ‘caudle’ in modern English) is essentially a drink, but in some medieval recipes, caudles are thickened. In a slightly later recipe, the method for this same recipe makes it clear that it should be ‘stondynge’, that is very thick, thick enough in fact to serve it in ‘leches’ – slices. My version is not as thick as that; it’s essentially like a thick custard.
Stage 3: Remove the pan from the heat, allow to cool for a couple of minutes, then add the egg yolks, fully blending them in. Return to the heat and gently cook for a further two minutes, stirring constantly. Add a small pinch of salt and stir in; this creates a counterpoint to the sweetness, something commonly done in medieval cookery.
Stage 4: Place the mixture into a bowl, sprinkle with the sugar and ginger powder. And eat! It’s quite rich and spicy, so you could always share this with someone you love.
All videos by Christopher Monk © 2019.