The Sweeter Side of Life

Most food that is referred to in medieval literature is savoury, hence the focus on fish, meat and pies in my previous posts.  However, in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, when Gawain is introduced to the ladies at Sir Bertilak’s court, they take him to sit by the fire in their chamber where they call for wine and “Spyce3” (l. 979, defined in the Middle English Dictionary as spices, sugar, spiced cake or sweetmeat).  With no indication of what exactly Sir Gawain is being fed by the courtly ladies, I turned to the medieval cookery book The Forme of Cury – referred to here – which contains a number of recipes for sweet dishes, including “Crispels” (fried pastry rounds basted in honey), “Rysshews of fruit” (fried fruit rissoles) and “Daryols” (custard tart flavoured with saffron).  Honey is, not surprisingly a key sweetener in many of these recipes, but in some cases reference is also made to sugar.   Continue reading “The Sweeter Side of Life”

King Alfred Comes To Tea

Anglo-Saxon kings probably didn’t do much cooking and one of the best-known stories about Alfred the Great (849 – 899AD) recounts a disaster in the kitchen.  Never mind the fact that he successfully defended his kingdom, Wessex, against Viking invasion, that he united the English and that he is the only English monarch to have ever been given the epithet, “the Great”; no, what everyone knows about Alfred is that he burnt the cakes!  Continue reading “King Alfred Comes To Tea”