King Richard II’s Banquet
Provisions, Bill of Fare and Recipes for Richard II’s Feast with John of Gaunt, held at Durham House, London, 23 September, 1387 (as printed in A Collection of Ordinances and Regulations for the Government of the Royal Household. London Society of Antiquaries, 1790, p. 427)
List of Provisions for the Feast (in modernized spelling)
First beginning for catering:
- 14 oxen butchered and preserved in salt
- 2 freshly butchered oxen
- 120 sheep’s heads, fresh
- 120 freshly butchered sheep
- 12 wild boars
- 14 veal calves
- 140 pigs
- 300 marrow bones
- Of lard and grease, enough
- 84 lb. of salted venison
- Three freshly butchered does
- 50 swans
- 210 geese
- 50 fat capons
- 8 dozen other capons
- 60 dozen hens
- 200 pairs of young rabbits
- Four pheasants
- Five herons and bitterns
- Six kids (young goats)
- Five dozen poultry for jelly, i.e. gelatin
- 12 dozen poultry to roast
- 100 dozen pigeons
- 12 dozen partridges
- Eight dozen rabbits
- 10 dozen curlews
- 12 dozen whimbrels or small curlews (?)
- 12 cranes
- Other wild fowl enough
- Six score  gallons of milk
- 12 gallons of cream
- 40 gallons of curds
- Three bushels of apples
- 11 thousand eggs
Bill of Fare (in modernized spelling)
- Venison with Frumenty
- A Potage called “Viaundbruse”
- Heads of Boar
- “Grete” Flesh [A Great/Large Roast or Grated Meat]
- Swans Roasted
- Pigs Roasted
- “Crustade Lumbard” in Paste
- And a Subtlety [A decorative confection, made for display, see below]
- A Potage called Jelly
- A Potage “de Blandesore”
- Pigs Roasted
- Cranes Roasted
- Pheasants Roasted
- Herons Roasted.
- Chickens “Endored”
- Broke Brawn
- Coneys [young rabbits] Roasted.
- And a Subtlety
- Potage, “Bruete of Almondes”
- Stew “Lumbarde”
- Venison Roasted
- Chickens Roasted
- Rabbits Roasted
- Partridge Roasted
- Pigeons Roasted
- Quails Roasted
- Larks Roasted
- “Pan” puff
- A Dish of Jelly
- Long Fritters
- And a Subtlety.
Subtleties were decorated or disguised foods. They might be ingredients made to look like quite another food, or be a display piece like live birds in a pie. Often, they were elaborate figural “sculptures” made out of eatables, frequently sugar.
One example of the latter is a subtlety described in Two Fifteenth-Century Cookbooks as having been served at the installation of the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1443 [in modernized language]:
The Trinity sitting in a sunburst of gold, with a crucifix in his hand. Saint Thomas a Becket on that side, Saint Augustine on the other, my lord [John Stafford, the new Archbishop of Canterbury] kneeling in pontificalibus [the vestments of his office] afore him, his crosier covered with the arms of Rochester. Behind him, on one side, a Benedictine monk, the prior of Christ Church; on the other side the Abbot of Saint Augustine’s [Abbey, Canterbury].
Recipes (in modernized spelling)
The following recipes are taken from Two Fifteenth-Century Cookbooks (Thomas Austin, ed. London: Early English Text Society, 1888). Richard II’s own contemporary cookbook, “The Forme of Cury [Cookery],” still exists. The recipes given here, however, more clearly correspond to the dishes listed in the bill of fare from the banquet given by Richard II and his uncle, John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, in 1387. For those readers who would like to experiment with medieval court cookery and need more exact directions than the rough version given here, many medieval recipes (with modern proportions) may be found online.
Please note: These recipes have not been modernized for contemporary tastes or sensibilities!
Venison with Frumenty
Take whole wheat and clean away the chaff, and pound it in a mortar, then add a little water thereto. Pound the wheat until the hulls come off, and fan away the hulls, put it into a pot and let it simmer until it softens, and soon after put it over the fire, stirring constantly, and when you have cooked it smooth, put therein fresh milk and simmer it over the fire, continually stirring. When it is cooked, color it with saffron, add salt and serve in a bowl. Serve with (sliced) boiled venison.
Note: Frumenty was a very popular rice-pudding-like dish, associated particularly with holiday festivities.
“Brus” Potage [Stew]
Take the “humbles” (innards such as heart, liver &c.) of a pig and parboil them and then cut them in small pieces, put them in a pot and add good stock. Take the whites of leeks, slit them and chop them well. Add the leeks and some minced onions and boil them together with the meat, then take bread crumbs and soak them in the pig’s blood and vinegar as a thickener, put that in the pot and season with pepper and cloves. Let boil and then serve. You can do the same with the humbles of a porpoise (porpoises were considered to be a fish, so this was an elegant dish for a fast day meal).
Kill a live swan by cutting it in the roof of its mouth up to the brain to avoid damaging the body, and let it bleed to death. Reserve the blood to thicken a mulled wine sauce. Alternately, prepare the bird for cooking by tying its neck in a knot, then scald and gut the carcass. Roast it as you would roast a goose and serve with mulled wine sauce.
Kill the crane in the same way one does a swan (q.v.), fold up the legs, cut the wings at the shoulder joint (not off) to allow them to be bound to the body, gut the carcass, fasten the neck around the spit, and pierce the breast with the bird’s bill to hold it in place and roast. Crane’s sauce is made with ginger, vinegar and mustard powder.
Pheasant [“ffesaunte”] Roasted
Kill the pheasant in the same way one does a swan (q.v.), gut the bird dry, cut off the head and the drumsticks, putting the latter in the cavity, and roast it. Pheasant “sauce” is mixed sugar and mustard.
Parboil the fish and gut it through the gills to keep it whole; make two or three vertical cuts through the flesh to the bones but do not cut straight through (to make it cook evenly and quickly). Boil it in a mixture of water, ale and salt, and serve it forth. The sauce can be made with verjuice – an acid liquid made from pressing unripe grapes or crab apples, used before lemon juice became common – or in a ginger sauce.
Note: Bream and Roach are fresh-water fish and could be raised in private fish ponds or moats as long as there was running water flowing.
Roast Coney (Young Rabbit)
Take a coney, skin and gut and parboil it, then insert lardons or strips of fat into the meat to make it more flavorful and roast it, leaving the skinned head on. Serve with “sauce ginger,” or verjuice and powdered ginger.
“Bruet of Almaynne” or Almond Broth
Make almond milk. If you choose to use capons, [or kids, – young goats] or chickens, or young rabbits, cut up the meat; if using partridges, leave them whole. Blanch the meat, add the almond milk, minced lard and minced onions. Season with cloves, small raisins and saffron and put over the fire to cook, stirring continually. When the meat is tender, add sugar. Then take ginger, galangal, and cinnamon, mix with vinegar, and add the mixture to the pot. Season with salt to taste, and serve it forth.
Take a partridge and slay him at the nape of the neck with a feather (?). Wipe the carcass, lard it and roast it as you do with a pheasant, and serve it forth. Serve with a sauce made with wine, ginger and salt; set the bird in a dish over the fire until bird and sauce boil together, and then add ginger and cinnamon. Carve the partridge as it comes from the fire, or eat with sugar and mustard.
Take filets of venison, removing the skin and bones and parboil them before roasting on a spit. Add the appropriate sauce, and serve it forth.
Slaughter a rabbit, gut and skin it and, leaving the head on, roast in the same manner as a coney, and serve it forth.
Take the fillings of stock fritters and for the batter, use some ale, a little yeast, and season with sugar, mace and saffron, then heat the mixture in a chafing dish, adding flour and an egg yolk.
Note: the batter was then cooked with some filling such as fruit, cheese or almonds, to make small risen fritters.
A Jelly of Meat
Take calves’ feet and scald them in clean water until they turn white. Also take the hocks of two veal, soak them in water to remove the blood, then put them on a clean linen cloth to drain, then scour out a pot and put the feet and the hocks in it. Take white wine that will hold color and put in a portion but no other liquid, so that the bones are covered, and set in on the fire. Boil and skim it and when the flesh is tender and boiled enough, put it into a clean bowl and reserve the cooking water. Be sure that you have good sides or flitches of pork and good small chickens well and clean scalded and gutted, and then take the hocks and feet, wash them in clean water, then put them into the reserved broth, boil them again over the fire, and skim it clean. Let a servant keep watch over it and blow on the gravy. In case the liquid boils away, add more wine thereto, and put your hand on it [presumably when cooled] and if your hand becomes sticky, it is a good sign. Don’t let the meat be so boiled that it cannot be cut, then take it up and put it on a cloth, take the liquid from the fire, putting a few coals under the vessel to keep it warm. Add a good quantity of pepper and saffron, that the liquid have a good amber color, and a good quantity of vinegar, and make sure it is savory with salt and vinegar and of a good saffron color, and, setting a pewter dish beneath it, strain the liquid through a good linen cloth until it becomes clear. Cut the pork ribs and place on a dish, then dismember the chickens, remove the skin and arrange the pieces nicely on the dish, then pour the jellied broth over them and [after it has solidified], decorate with almonds, cloves and sliced preserved ginger, and serve it forth.
Take whole milk and make curds (with rennet as in making cottage cheese), drain all the whey and put the curds in a clean bowl. Take yolks and whites of eggs and mix in flour, add it to the curds and put the mixture through a strainer into a clean vessel. Put it into a clean pan and fry it a little in good fat (or butter), but be careful not to let it come to a boil. Take the mixture out on to a cutting board and cut into good small pieces of your choice, then fry these until they brown. Strew with sugar and serve them forth.