The Hitchhiker's Guide to Ancient Cookery

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Alexandre Lerot d'Avigné
Jeff Berry
(Number 28 in the Series, August 2004)


I was looking for something easy and medieval to make for dinner one night, preferably with lamb so I could write it up for the Seahorse's special ovine issue. What I found was this, from Kenelme Digbie's "Closet Opened:"

"Take a piece of Brisket-beef; a piece of Mutton; a knuckle of Veal; a good Colander of pot-herbs; half minced Carrots, Onions and Cabbage a little broken. Boil all thse together until they be very thick."

Pretty basic stuff here. I used maybe a pound of beef brisket, and 1/2 pound each of lamb for stew (they didn't have actual mutton) and veal for stew (no knuckles). For pot herbs I used some parsley, sage and thyme, skipping the rosemary so we wouldn't have to sing. Then a pound of carrots, maybe, a few onions and a head of cabbage. I tossed 'em all in with some water and let 'em simmer.

I had to restrain myself from browning the meat first, since that's fairly standard in modern cooking. The instructions didn't say so, though, so I didn't do it. Note also the lack of salt and pepper in the recipe. That could be by intent or by oversight. However, once again, it was mentioned so I didn't do it.

After an hour or two, it was cooked, although not quite what I would call thick. After serving, it was clear that it did need salt and pepper. Still, that could be added at table, so if I do it again I might well leave the s&p out anyway.

There were leftovers, of course. The next day, I found, it was thick! The veggies had broken down some more and pulled in some more of the water and the whole thing was, well, thick.

As an aside, the modern usage of hotchpot seems to be mostly legal - it comes up in estate law, where you throw a bunch if mismatched assets together to try to achieve equal distribution to the beneficiaries.

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Comments are welcome.
Alexandre Lerot d'Avigné, Jeff Berry,

Copyright Jeff Berry
Originally webbed 23 August 2004
Last modified 23 August 2004