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Three Basic Beginner Medieval Cooking Books For Just Starting Out

It’s not as easy to be confident with medieval recipes as modern cooking. Even English medieval food is a foreign cuisine, translated from a foreign language and calling for strange ingredients. Here’s three great cooking books for those just get starting in medieval cooking.

Medieval Cookery by Maggie Black

One of the first medieval cookbooks, this book has been simplified for the modern tastebuds and is designed around a very simple shopping centre so it’s easy to get all the ingredients listed. Mostly uses 14th and 15th century english recipes.



Pleyn Delight

Constance Hiatt, Brenda Hosington, Sharon Butler?

One of my favourites, this one branches about a bit further with some roman and middle eastern recipes used as well. It has the initial translation of the recipes and then a modern interpretation of that recipe. I’ve found some of these recipes to be a bit simplified compared to the original text but it’s pleasing to modern tastebuds and the recipes do work.


The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy?by Odile Redon, Fran?oise Sabban, & Silvano Serventi?

Medieval Kitchen is a lot more specialised than the other two, focusing on 14th and 15th French and Italian recipes. I personally find the italian recipes to be a little more weird than the French ones, but again, these have been slightly simplified for modern tastebuds and the authors provide good substitutes for when ingredients are harder to find.



Bonus Recommendation

For some history in cooking and dining, plus a little bit on table manners, I’d recommend Cooking and Dining in Medieval England by Peter Brears. Although it hasn’t got a lot of recipes in it, it’s a great place to get an understanding of how the rooms were set out and how and why they cooked and dined they way they did.


Featured image is from Livre du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio, a 14th century French manuscript, currently located in Bilblioth?que national de France. It depicts a scence of peasants breaking bread together.

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Dress Accessories 1150-1450 – Review

Dress Accessories 1150-1450
Geoff Egan
Fran?es Pritchard

Dress Accessories is one of the Museum of London Collections. And like all MoL books, it is faaaaaboulous.

I mean, the text is dry, this is very much an academic book. But for proper details regarding the found artifacts, with proper dates and context for the finds, MoL does it best.

Dress Accessories is about the accessories which people worn upon their persons. It contains finds found in London (and everything is English because it’s Museum of London so no need to worry about, would my persona have this) and this includes
girdles, buckles, strap ends (for belts), mounts, brooches, buttons, lace chapes, hair accessories, pins, beads, chains, pendants, finger rings, bells, purses, cased mirrors, combs, cosmetic sets, and needle cases.

Because it’s an academic text, each illustration of the finds has a scale on the page, which is very handy for anyone who intends to make the items discovered.

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Carving Spatchcock and Standing beef roast

Carving animals was an important part of medieval life. At feasts, the animal would be presented to the table, and then taken and carved into bit sized bits. For the most part, a meal could be eaten with just a spoon.

Here are some videos in which Elden is taught to carve a standing rib beef roast and a spatchcock.

Standing Rib Beef Roast

For more information to learning to carve in a fifteenth century manner, we also have the below pamphlets available.

Book of Carvery Vol 1

Book of Carvery Vol 2

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Featured Product – Carved Lady with Hawke Knife

Carved Lady with Hawke is one of Adam McKay’s finer pieces of work.?Carved in the round, it portrays a young lady with a tame bird of prey. The form is modelled from a popular theme found across Europe and Scandinavia from c. 1200-1400 of young women with birds, dogs and musical instruments. Because extant examples are invariably from ivory, this reproduction is olive wood;?a fine carving wood and fitting substitute.

Beyond the sculpted handle, this is a fully functional carving knife, with a queen ebony bolster and high carbon tool steel blade. High carbon steels take and retain a razor edge, should you decide to put this artwork into service.

The accompanying vegetable tan leather?sheath is a suitable match for the carved handle. It?has been molded directly to the knife, hand stitched and decorated with hand-tooled panels, and finished with a beeswax polish for sheen and durability. The decoration is based on examples in the Museum of London.

More examples of carved handles can be seen at?Gothic Ivories Projects

Carved Lady with Hawke

While this knife is a unique work, Adam can be commissioned for similar knives via Mainly Medieval.

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Review – In Service to the Duke

In Service of the Duke

by?Christian Henry Tobler


To state the obvious, this is a magnificent facsimile of a German 15th Century fighting treatise (with translation). It?s visually and texturally stunning. For anyone with an interest in understanding the fighting techniques of this period, I?m assured it?s a must have. But – I?m definitely not a fighter and not qualified to discuss its finer points regards technique; others far better qualified will handle that later.

So why am I doing a review? – because this tome also contains a wealth of information on other aspects of medieval life. Everything from clothing to horse accessories, head wear, different ways hose and purpoints can be joined together, seam lines for the middle layers of clothes, men?s and ladies underwear? Wait, Ladies? Yes, the tome also contains a section on legal resolutions for common problems such as domestic disputes.

Seriously, this book has a wider audience than the original author could ever have imagined. Plain and simple, this is a beautiful book with a great deal of information for all aspects of 15th Century living history.


Buy from Mainly Medieval

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Military Surgery 1300-1600 -Review

Military Surgery: 1300-1600
Caution, surgery operations are of two kinds, those which benefit the patient and those which usually kill him

By Jonathon Davies & Michael Harbinson

There are some excellent in-depth medieval surgery titles out there, such as
The Major Surgery of Guy De Chauliac, but for those who just want a quick, painless overview of the subject, there’s Davies and Harbinson’s Military Surgery: 1300-1600. At under $15, this punchy little pamphlet from Stuart Press, of Green Valley fame, weighs in at just 25 pages from title to bibliography.

What is there is excellent. It’s too short to go into great detail but that also means that there’s little waffle. Every sentence is an economical and useful slice through the topic.

There are brief descriptions of the various tools used by medieval surgeons, the various types of surgery that were performed, and the various types of wounds that a military surgeon might see. Burns, bruising and fractures are all covered.

Being focused on military surgery particularly, the kind of medical services available to soldiers is considered, and the type of wounds they sustained from the evolving weapons of the medieval battlefield. We follow the development of diagnosis and treatment as armour piercing infantry weapons, then firearms became commonplace.

This pamphlet is too basic for anyone already well studied in surgery or medieval military wounds, but it is an excellent primer. There’s no shortage of blood-curdling detail and grim realities of the horrors of medieval warfare for the curious, without gratuity.
Buy From Mainly Medieval

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Hildegard Von Bingen’s Physica – Review

Hildegard Von Bingen’s Physica
Translated from the Latin by Priscialla Throop.

It can be hard, as a re-enactor interested in cosmetics and herbal medicine to find texts on how people in past healed themselves and adorned themselves with cosmetics. We know that they did. Wanting to appear beautiful is an old human concept. But some traditions appear to have been verbal, passed down in stories from parent to child. And more are written either in the medieval language or in Latin – even then known as the scientific language.

Hildegard Von Bingen’s Physica, is one written in Latin. It was written in the 15th Century and describes in great detail what plants were good for healing. There’s not much actual cosmetic use within the book, it’s about healing. While the plants uses could still be applied today, it also uses the medieval concept of the humors in the description (For instance, Calendular is referred to as cold and moist. It’s used as a way to heal scabies and calendular today is known for it’s properties in healing skin issues.)We sell a calendula ointment, based on a different medieval text, that’s quite good for skin issues. Calendula Ointment

For anyone interested in Medieval herbs and healing, this is a must have book to add to the collection.

[tabs] [tab title=”Publishers Blurb”] Saint, mystic, healer, visionary, fighter, Hildegard von Bingen stands as one of the great figures in the history of women in me. At a time when few women could write and most were denied a formal education, Hildegard von Bingen became a legendary healer, visionary, musician, artist, poet, and saint. Her works include twenty-seven symphonic compositions; Scivias, a compilation of her visions; and her two major medical works, Causae et Curae, a medical compendium, and Physica, published here in English in its entirety for the first time. Physicahas a strong affinity with the Eastern medical approaches gaining great respect today. The modern reader interested in natural healing will recognize the enormous truth in the theories of this 12th-century physician, which remind us that our cures for illness depend on our natural world and our place in it. [/tab] [/tabs]

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Pleyn Delit – Review

Pleyn Delit: medieval cookery for modern cooks (second edition) Constance B. Hieat, Brenda hosington and Sharon Butler.

[dropcap style=”no-background”] W [/dropcap]hen I decided to start reviewing books in order to help people decide on the right book for them, my immediate first choice was Pleyn Delit. It is the book I recommend the most when asked about what sources I use myself and at A5 and 173 pages including the bibliography, is slim enough to carry around without being overly cumbersome.

Pros: recipes are divided up into categories (pastries, stews/pottages, desserts etc) and all recipes are simple enough for a beginning cook. The original (translated) recipe is at the start of the redaction, allowing more experienced cooks to tweak the recipe based on their personal tastes and desires,while less confident cooks can follow the recipe, assured that the end result will be tasty. Any ingredient which is not easily found in the local supermarket has an appropriate substitution (although as the book was written 20 years ago, some of the ingredient such as almond milk as now easily found) and so the shop can be done fully in a supermarket run if so desired.

Cons: the recipes are all fairly straightforward and the recipes, while containing the same ingredients, I believe have been redacted to appeal to modern tastes more often than not. This book is not for very experienced cooks or those looking to challenge their palette.

The first reason that I recommend Pleyn Delit over other sources is the receipts are very straightforward. Each recipe has the original recipe translated as the first item, along with where the recipe is originally from, then a redaction of that recipe. Every recipe that I have tried from Pleyn Delit turns out well and when I give the book to other less experienced medieval cooks, everyone has been able to turn out an excellent end result as well. while measurements are given in ounces for a North American audience, translations of the measurements can be found in the introduction and the simple

Many favourites can be found in Pleyn Delit, including Tart on Ember Day, Fennel in soppes, frumenty, pepper sauce and chicken in cumin sauce.

Almost all receipts are taken from 14-15th century manuscripts, with the majority being English or French.

In short, I highly recommend this book for everyone who wants to do more period cooking but doesn’t want to work out a redaction themselves, who lacks confidence in their skills?or who just wants to eat some delicious and different foods.


On my re-enactment blog, I make the castle subtlety from this book and it turned out fairly well.

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The Book of Sent Sovi – Review

The Book Of Sent Sovi – Medieval Recipes from Catalonia
Edited by Joan Santanach
Translated by Robin Veogelzang

[dropcap style=”no-background”] N [/dropcap]ormally, when I recommend a cooking book, it’s for the redactions. Someone has translated a medieval manuscript, and then given a redaction of that recipe in an easy to understand modern format. There’s an ingredient list, and a step by step method – in the order the steps have to be done in. Sometimes the original recipe (Translated to english is given), sometimes just the source of where the recipe was taken from.

The Book Of Sent Sovi is a little bit different. On the left, the original text in Catalonia. On the right, the English translation. So it’s up to the reader to determine quantities of each of the ingredients listed. Fortunately, aside from the quantities, it is quite specific, listing the various herbs and spices to be used in the dish. (It even specifies to use white carrots for carrot puree which is a very important distinction speaking as someone who tried to make orange carrot puree. No. Just no.)

But for the inexperienced, there are plenty of ways to mess up these recipes up. Too much spices to one dish will cause it to be inedible, not enough, and it’s too bland.

The recipes are not in any particular order. Some things are loosely together – various sauces for instance are found one after the other. But mostly it’s in the order that the meals came to the original author and were jotted down.

Various foot notes are sprinkled through the text from the editor/translator, explaining various aspects which may have been obvious to a 14th Century Catalonian but not necessarily to the modern reader.

Who this book is for

  • Experienced cooks who are looking to branch out a little
  • people who like experimenting with recipes
  • people interested in Catalonian recipes

Who Shouldn’t Buy this book

  • People just learning to cook
  • People who like following known recipes

[tabs] [tab title=”Editor’s Blurb”] Indeed, The Book of Sent Sovi, like any other gastronomic treatise, was seen as a practical text, a working tool at the service of cooks, and, as they used it, they added to it, cut out some of the recipes, and added refinements and futher details on specific aspects of the dishes. Far then, from being the work of a single authour, we a dealing with a text that reflects a great swathe of the culinary tradition and the tastes of a whole period of history that we might describe as the dawn of Catalan Cusine. [/tab] [/tabs]

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The Medieval Kitchen – Review

The Medieval Kitchen, Recipes from France and Italy

Odile Redon, Franciose Sabban & Silvano Serventi

[dropcap style=”no-background”] T [/dropcap]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 M?nagier 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.

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.

[tabs] [tab title=”Publishers Blurb”] The Medieval Kitchen is a delightful work in which historians Odile Redone, Fran?oise 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 m?lange 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 [/tab] [/tabs]