Monday, September 9, 2019

Starting Points: Rosee

I haven't had a lot of time to work on medieval recipes lately, but I realized that the issue is more one of kitchen time than the actual research. So I've decided to try at least once a week to post something that is essentially the mental prep work I go through when trying out a recipe for the first time. This would serve me (and possibly now others) as a sort of starting point. The next step would be trial and error - sometimes I get it right after the first try and sometimes it takes more.

To make things a bit more challenging, I'll be using the "Random Medieval Recipe of the Day" which shows up at the bottom of the main page of With that restriction there's no telling what I'll have to work with.

Today's recipe is Rosee

XLI - For to make Rosee. Tak the flowris of Rosys and wasch hem wel in water and after bray hem wel in a morter and than tak Almondys and temper hem and seth hem and after tak flesch of capons or of hennys and hac yt smale and than bray hem wel in a morter and than do yt in the Rose so that the flesch acorde wyth the mylk and so that the mete be charchaunt and after do yt to the fyre to boyle and do thereto sugur and safroun that yt be wel ycolowrd and rosy of levys and of the forseyde flowrys and serve yt forth. [Forme of Cury (England, 1390)]

I know there are modern interpretations of this one out there but I'm not going to peek.

On my first read through, this sounds like a sort of thick mash of chicken in rose-flavored almond milk. Grind rose petals, boiled almonds, and chopped and ground chicken. Mix it together so that it's very thick (charchaunt) and cook with some sugar and saffron.

There's the usual vagueness in the recipe though. Are the rose petals fresh or dried? Are the almonds ground? Fortunately this is a fairly common recipe so I have other versions to look at to help figure out what the original intent was.

[1] Rose. Take flour of ryse, as whyte as sylke, And hit welle, with almond mylke. Boyle hit tyl hit be chargyd, þenne Take braune of capone or elle of henne. Loke þou grynd hit wondur smalle, And sithen þou charge hit with alle. Coloure with alkenet, sawnder, or ellys with blode, Fors hit with clowes or macys gode. Seson hit with sugur grete plenté, Þis is a rose, as kokes telle me. [Liber cure cocorum]
[2] C - Roseye. Take Almaunde Mylke an flowre of Rys, and Sugre, an Safroun, an boyle hem y-fere; than take Red Rosys, an grynd fayre in a morter with Almaunde mylke; than take Loches, an toyle (Note: Rub, cover) hem withFlowre, an frye hem, and ley hem in dysshys; than take gode pouder, and do in the Sewe, and caste the Sewe a-bouyn the lochys, and serue forth. [Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books]
[3] To mak rose, tak flour of ryse and temper it with almond mylk and mak it chaungynge then tak the braun of capon or of henne sodyn and grind it and charge it ther with and colour it with sanders and blod and fors it with clowes and maces and sesson it with sugur and serue it. [A Noble Boke off Cookry]
[4] Rosee. XX.II. XII. Take thyk mylke as to fore welled. cast þerto sugur a gode porcioun pynes. Dates ymynced. canel. & powdour gynger and seeþ it, and alye it with flores of white Rosis, and flour of rys, cole it, salt it & messe it forth. If þou wilt in stede of Almaunde mylke, take swete cremes of kyne. [Forme of Cury]
[5] .lj. Rosee. Tak thicke mylke as to fore wellid, cast therto suger a gode porcioun, pynes, dates, y mynced, canel & poudour ginger, & seeth hit & alye it with floures of roses white & flour of rys. cole hit, salt it, & messe hyt forth, yf thou wolt in stede of almaund mylk: tak swete cremes of kyne. [Fourme of Curye - Rylands MS 7]

Wow! That's a lot to work through. Right of the top I see that none of the other versions start with grinding rose flowers, but instead they call for rice flower.  That suggests to me a copyist error somewhere along the line.

The first three recipes also call for almond milk, which changes our recipe a bit.  The last two recipes call for pynes (pine nuts) and milk rather than almond milk, so I'm going to ignore them as being too different (either distinct recipes or odd variations).

We also seem to have a bit of a discrepancy with the meat. Recipe [1] says to grind the chicken and then boil it. Recipe [3] says to boil it and then grind it. Recipe [2] calls for a kind of fish (loches). We'll ignore the fish. My first inclination is to go with cooking the chicken first.

That leaves our recipe looking more like it starts with rice flour and a slightly jumbled set of instructions for almond milk. Then add well ground chicken, some sugar and saffron, cook until thick, and garnish with rose petals.

Now comes a tricky part - guessing at the proportions.

Let's start with one pound of chicken in the form of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. We can try dark meat and such later. Boil that in water, let it cool, then chop it finely.

Both almond milk and rice flour have a thickening effect during cooking. I'd start with a tablespoon of the rice four mixed in with the chicken (mix it first to keep it from forming lumps when liquids are added). Then I'd make up a batch of almond milk and pour it in until the chicken looks soupy.

The next thing to add is sugar and saffron. I'd grind a pinch of saffron with about a quarter teaspoon of salt - I know salt isn't called for but unsalted food can taste bland and sometimes you have to break the rules. I'd stir that into the sugar and then mix it in with the chicken goo.

Bring all this to a low boil. I'd be looking for it to act like cooking oatmeal ... blup, blup, blup. If it seems too thin I'd add more rice flour.  When it's thick then garnish with rose petals and serve.

Sweet chicken pudding with rose petals ... well, it could be good. There are some options to try out, like not boiling the chicken first or using fish, but I'd save those for later attempts.

If you make this (or have already made it) let me know what you did and how it came out!


Meabh said...

Thank you so much for this! I've been trying to figure out how to work out a medieval recipe without the help of modern renditions. This gives me hope that I'm going in the right direction.

Christopher Monk said...

I love what you're doing here. Just a point on the Forme of Cury recipe(s): this, too, is almond milk based; the direction is to 'take thick milk as mentioned above', and is pointing back to the previous recipe, Pynnonade, which uses a thick almond milk. That's why using cow's milk cream is given at the end as an alternative to almond milk. Also, this dish is overtly sweet -- throw in a good portion of sugar, it stipulates -- whereas the poultry (and probably the fish) based Rosee recipes are only using sugar as a spice, or seasoning, and so are not intended to be sweet dishes as such. If it is of help to you, I discuss the use of sugar as a spice in an experiment blog post about Pynnonade (link after my name). Very good luck. I'm very interested to see how you get on with the chicken-based Rosee.