The Medieval Kitchen – Review

The Medieval Kitchen, Recipes from France and Italy

Odile Redon, Franciose Sabban & Silvano Serventi

T he Medieval Kitchen is a collection of recipes from 14th and 15th French and Italian sources. It separates the recipes into the various categories – Soups, pasta, meats cooked in sauce, pies etc. This makes it a lot easier for a cook who knows what kind of food they want to cook, but not what exactly they want to cook.

Each recipe has a modern English translation and the original source text. There is often a brief explanation to put the dish in context and explanation of any unusual words that don’t have a straight translation..

The redactions are quite good and Redon et al take care to provide the most typical version of recipes when more than one source has a version.
They have also made things a bit easier on themselves by choosing not to show some recipes which are particularly jarring to modern sensibilities (like a sweet creamy dessert made with fish broth – ick!) but the redactions that they have provided are all simple and straightforward and they work reliably. I would still recommend Pleyn Delight over The Medieval Kitchen for a beginning cook but The Medieval Kitchen is a good one for cooks looking to try dishes slightly more exotic. Like Pleyn Delight, The Medieval Kitchen provides easy alternatives to ingredients that the modern supermarket is unlikely to stock.

My all time favourite recipe is one I first found in this book. Haricot of Lamb. Originally from Le Ménagier de Paris, this is a fairly simple lamb recipe (well, mutton.  You can’t really buy mutton any more though,  only lamb. Delicious, tender lamb.) with only a few other ingredients. That makes it an easier dish to cook on a campfire and the simplicity can be a very welcome change to some of the other more involved recipes.

NB:
There are some colour pages in the middle showing various cooks in manuscripts miniatures. I use my copy a lot and these colour pages have now fallen out as the glue couldn’t keep up with my use. So some care should be taken here.

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The Medieval Kitchen is a delightful work in which historians Odile Redone, Françoise Sabbon and Silvano Serventi rescue from dark obscurity the glorious cuisine of the Middle Ages. Medieval gastronomy turns out to have been superb- a wonderful mélange of flavour, aroma, and colour. The recipes are expertly reconstructed from 14th and century sources and carefully adapted to suit the modern kitchen. The Medieval Kitchen vividly depicts the context and tradition of authentic medieval cookery

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