by THFool Dagonell the Juggler
“Forme of Cury” is a manuscript “Compiled, about 1390, by the Master Cooks of King Richard II” The title translates into modern English as “Method of Cooking”. These are two complementary recipes from the manuscript.
Original: http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/foc/FoC132small.html (scan of original manuscript)
FOR TO MAKE FURMENTY. Nym clene Wete and bray it in a morter wel that the holys gon al of and seyt yt til it breste and nym yt up. and lat it kele and nym fayre fresch broth and swete mylk of Almandys or swete mylk of kyne and temper yt al. and nym the yolkys of eyryn. boyle it a lityl and set yt adoun and messe yt forthe wyth fat venyson and fresh moton.
For to Make Frumenty. Take clean wheat and break it in a mortar well, that the hulls gone all off, and seeth it till it bursts and take it up, and let it cool and take fair fresh broth and sweet milk of almonds or sweet milk of cows and temper it all, and take yolks of eggs, boil it a little and set it down and serve it forth with fat venison and fresh mutton.
2 cups Bulgar wheat
4 cups beef stock (1 quart)
2 cups cow’s milk
2 egg yolks
Comments: If you want to be a purist, you can get wheat berries from the bulk food section of a good neighborhood co-op and either mortar them or run it thru a blender then boil it in water. Bulgar wheat is already hulled and parboiled, so I simply bought a package and skipped all those steps. The beef broth was a store-bought package. Cow’s milk is a rarity in medieval recipes due to the lack of refrigeration. Usually, they simply made it into cheese and butter for a longer shelf life. Almond milk is common in medieval recipes because it has a long shelf life and since it isn’t a dairy product, can be used during Lenten fast days. You can buy almond pieces and pound them in a mortar or run them in a blender with a little water. You can buy almond milk in most co-ops, and in a pinch, you can just add some almond extract to cow’s milk. I buy my dairy products from the farmer down the road, so I used fresh cow’s milk.
Method: Combine the beef stock and milk in a pot, stir well and bring to a boil. Add the wheat, mix well, bring it back to a boil again, cover and reduce heat to a simmer for about twenty minutes. Beat the egg yolks and add them to the mixture. Stir it occasionally to keep it from scorching on the bottom of the pot. Remove from heat and let cool. The original recipe says to serve it with venison. The following recipe was originally made from deer liver, I made it to accompany the frumenty, but I used beef liver because I had it to hand.
Original: http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/foc/FoC057small.html (scan of original manuscript)
Roo Broth. Take the lire of the Deer oþ of the Roo pboile it on smale peces. seeþ it wel half in wat and half in wyne. take brede and bray it wiþ the self broth and drawe blode þ to and lat it seeth to gedre w powdo fort of gynger oþ of canell. and macys. with a grete porcion of vineg with Raysons of Corante.
Translation: Roe Broth. Take the liver of the Deer other (meat) of the Roe parboil it in small pieces, seeth it well half in water and half in wine, take bread and break it with the same broth and draw blood thereto and let it seeth together with strong powder of ginger, other of cinnamon, and mace, and a great portion of vinegar with raisins of currants.
1.5 lbs. beef liver
2 cups water
2 cups red wine
3 slices bread
1 t. ground ginger
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground mace
¼ cup vinegar
½ cup currants
2 oz. olive oil
Comments: While I can occasionally get venison from my hunting friends, I buy my beef by the half cow from the farmer down the road that I buy my milk from. I have lots of frozen beef liver to hand. I also own a few shares of stock in a local vineyard, so when they have a sale on cheap wines, I use my 10% shareholder’s discount to pick up a few bottles. The bread is multi-grain from the organic section of the grocer. “Raisins of currants” are currants. Raisins are “Raisins of the sun” in medieval recipes. I know there’s no oil mentioned in the recipe, but I’m working on the idea that ‘obvious’ steps are not written down. Liver can be tough done wrong, so I’m going to marinade it overnight and then pan seer it before continuing with the recipe.
Method: Make a marinade of the water, wine, vinegar and spices. Marinate the beef overnight in the fridge. In the morning, brown the beef pieces in a frying pan with the oil. DO NOT THROW OUT THE MARINADE! Set on paper towels to drain. While the beef is draining, shred the bread into a bowl, pour in the rest of the marinade and mash everything into a paste. Dice the beef. In a stew pot, dump the beef, mash, and frying pan scrapings. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the currents. Simmer on a low heat for about an hour and a half. Add more water/wine if it looks like it’s going dry, but you want something thick. It’s not really a broth or even a stew, it’s a paste. Serve it forth over frumenty.
Evaluation: Frumenty is a medieval side-dish, much like rice or potatoes would be used today. It’s supposed to be bland. It was a near staple in Rhydderich Hael feasts years ago. As for the Roo, it’s lightly spiced liver. If you like liver, you might like this dish, if you don’t like liver, you’ll hate it. My wife likes liver, but she didn’t care for this dish. I could take it or leave it. Serves 4.
Henry of Maldon (Alex Clark) said:
Unfortunately, both of these recipes have seen their main ingredients altered by translation.
To bray wheat means to pound it, not necessarily to break it. When the wheat is pounded, the part that needs to break is the hull, because it is not fit for cooking. At least one recipe for frumenty calls for the wheat to be rinsed after winnowing out the hulls, to float off the last of the hulls. I don’t know of modern American stores selling wheat in the hull, and many varieties (especially in modern times) grow without a hull. So whole wheat grains (AKA “berries”) should be just right for this recipe — the fresher the better, as storage in hulls prolongs freshness. They should be cooked for a few hours in water or broth, and may have been intended to sit in their cooking liquid after the first cooking, to soften more while increasing the viscosity.
Lire means flesh, not liver. I’ve seen it mistranslated as liver at least a time or two before. The deer’s liver was used in cookery as a numble. The venison for frumenty seems to have been prepared simply with water and salt (not all recipes get that specific), and may be served sliced in a little of its broth (defatted) to keep it moist. I understand that parked-raised venison was preferred, and the deer were given extra food to fatten them; wild venison tends to be lean.
In surviving menus, frumenty was often served along with another potage, typically something spicy such as mawmene or viand riale.