Medieval Leeks and Mushrooms
The spices used are not those we usually associate with vegetables, but they are quite yummy! If you are in doubt, just use a pinch of each and see how it tastes.
The original is from an actual medieval recipe called "Funges" from the 1390 CE cookbook, ~Forme of Curye,~. I have included it at the bottom of the cooking instructions below, along with my translation (such as it is) of the medieval English and some notes.
1 lbmushrooms, washed and sliced
2leeks, washed and sliced
1/2 cchicken or vegetable broth
1/8 tspginger, ground
1/8 tspcardamom, ground
1/8 tspallspice, ground
1/8 tspblack pepper, ground
How to Make Medieval Leeks and Mushrooms
- Use the whole leek (but trim roots & any withered ends, of course). Because of the way leeks are grown, it often happens that sand gets into the crevices, so be diligent when washing, as well as observant while slicing since the sand will sometimes reveal itself during this process. Rinse again as needed. (A technique I read about suggests cutting off the roots, then slicing the leek lengthwise - from the bottom up about 4", depending on the length of the leek - then rinsing and slicing. This keeps the leek together for ease of chopping because it's still connected by the green tops, but reveals the hidden places sand might reside.)
If leeks are too expensive for your budget, you can substitute green onions and/or plain ol' yellow onions. But leeks really are tastier (as well as milder), and were quite commonly used in Medieval times, so do give them a try if you can.
- Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes. Serve hot.
- PREPARATION NOTE: If you like your mushroom slices on the thick side, you can use an egg slicer to speed up the task - just be sure your slicer is very sturdy as some of the cheaper ones can't tolerate the stress of slicing mushrooms. This technique also good for slicing olives, strawberries, kiwis, and any other soft food that will fit in the egg space.
- ACTUAL MEDIEVAL RECIPE:
Taken from ~Forme of Curye,~ ab. 1390 A.D. (Page 15r)
Take Funges & pare he clene & dyce he. take leke & shred hi smal & do hi to seeþ in gode broth. color yt wȝt safron and do þer inne pouder fort. and serve hit forth.
Take funguses and cut them clean and dice them. Take leek and shred them small and do them to seeth (boil) in good broth. Color it with saffron and do therein powder fort. And serve it forth.
NOTES of Interest
Notice there is no standard spelling, even within the same paragraph, nor capitalization at the beginning of a sentence.
Also, in addition to using a kind of shorthand for commonly used words (like "&" - not the same as ours, but there is a resemblance), medieval writers also had a few other letters we no longer use (my favorite being þ which is the voiced th sound in "this").
And, of course, there are no measurements. It was assumed if you could read, you knew enough about cooking to use as much as you needed. Medieval cookbooks weren't written for housewives! Some may have been written just for posterity's sake, but it is believed most were written for cooks of the nobility.
(Actually, it's possible many cooks couldn't read. They would likely have needed someone to read the recipe to them while they were cooking a dish the first time; hopefully they would remember it well enough to make it again later!)