Saturday, 8 October 2011

Henry VIII's favourite food

This post comes from my love of food and fascination with early modern recipes. I have sampled a few delicious and some not so wonderful flavours from the period, and have attempted cooking one or two things, which were not cooked in faithful adherence to the recipe. Our modern pallet in addition to availability of a vareity of ingredients today, makes it very difficult for me to cook these recipes without the temptation to experiment with different ingredients. I found this list of recipes, allegedly favoured by Henry VIII. See what you think. 
1. Spit-Roasted Meat 

Spit-roasted meat -- usually a pig or boar -- was eaten at every meal. It was an expression of extreme wealth because only the rich could afford fresh meat year-round; only the very rich could afford to roast it, since this required much more fuel than boiling; and only the super wealthy could pay a "spit boy" to turn the spit all day. In a typical year, the royal kitchen served 1,240 oxen, 8,200 sheep, 2,330 deer, 760 calves, 1,870 pigs, and 53 wild boar. That's more than 14,000 large animals, meaning each member of the court was consuming about 23 animals every year.
2. Grilled Beavers' TailsThese tasty morsels were particularly popular on Fridays, when according to Christian tradition, it was forbidden to eat meat. Rather conveniently, medieval people classified beavers as fish.
3. Whale MeatAnother popular dish for Fridays, whale meat was fairly common and cheap, due to the plentiful supply of whales in the North Sea, each of which could feed hundreds of people. It was typically served boiled or very well roasted.
4. Whole Roasted PeacockThis delicacy was served dressed in its own iridescent blue feathers (which were plucked, then replaced after the bird had been cooked), with its beak gilded in gold leaf.
5. Internal OrgansIf you're squeamish, stop reading now. Medieval cooks didn't believe in wasting any part of an animal, and in fact, internal organs were often regarded as delicacies. Beef lungs, spleen, and even udders were considered fit for a king and were usually preserved in brine or vinegar.
6. Black PuddingAnother popular dish -- still served in parts of England -- was black pudding. This sausage is made by filling a length of pig's intestine with the animal's boiled, congealed blood.
7. Boar's HeadA boar's head, garnished with bay and rosemary, served as the centerpiece of Christmas feasts. It certainly outdoes a floral display.
8. Roasted SwanRoasted swan was another treat reserved for special occasions, largely because swans were regarded as too noble and dignified for everyday consumption. The bird was often presented to the table with a gold crown upon its head. To this day, English law stipulates that all mute swans are owned by the Crown and may not be eaten without permission from the Queen.
9. Vegetables

Perhaps the only type of food Henry and his court didn't consume to excess was vegetables, which were viewed as the food of the poor and made up less than 20 percent of the royal diet.

10. Marzipan 
A paste made from ground almonds, sugar, and egg whites and flavored with cinnamon and pepper, marzipan was occasionally served at the end of a meal, although desserts weren't common in England until the 18th century when incredibly elaborate sugar sculptures became popular among the aristocracy.

11. Spiced Fruitcake 
The exception to the no dessert rule was during the Twelfth Night banquet on January 6, when a special spiced fruitcake containing a dried pea (or bean) was served. Whoever found the pea would be king or queen of the pea (or bean) and was treated as a guest of honor for the remainder of the evening.

12. Wine and Ale 
All this food was washed down with enormous quantities of wine and ale. Historians estimate that 600,000 gallons of ale (enough to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool) and around 75,000 gallons of wine (enough to fill 1,500 bathtubs) were drunk every year at Hampton Court Palace.

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