Thursday, October 17, 2013

Tarte de Brymlent, c1300

Since today is fairly nasty and grey and cold* we're going to talk about something I did over the summer when it was lovely and warm.

Sometime during August I was doing research** for my WIP regarding cooking meat over an open fire. Specifically bacon. There is an important scene that involves some lovely bacon cooked over a wonderful open fire and given to my heroine.

Incidentally, and in case someone else is suffering from the same question, what I discovered was that you need a little cooking-stand thing with a flat top to put over your open fire that you can set your frying pan on.


Anyway, during my search I discovered Gode Cookery,*** a website dedicated to spreading knowledge about Medieval cooking. They explicate important techniques, inform you what food people in the Middle Ages would most definitely not have had, and provide recipes in their original Middle English as well as translated into Modern English. I discovered that, because we had read several texts in their original ME in Medieval Lit., I could make out a lot of the recipes.

Needless to say I was struck with the absolute necessity of cooking something from the website for my family. As old followers may know, I love pies. I love to cook pies. I love to eat pies. My family loves to eat the pies I cook for them. It follows naturally that the recipe I would pick would be Tarte de Brymlent.

Salmon and fruit pie.

Let me pause for a second to say that I don't know what was wrong with me. For some inexplicable reason, second thoughts didn't strike until I was actually about to taste the pie and I suddenly realized that I was going to put stewed salmon and fruit simultaneously in my mouth, but whatever. Moving on.

Here is the original+ recipe:

175. Tart de brymlent. Take fyges & raysouns, & waisshe hem in wyne, and grinde hem smale with apples & peres clene ypiked. Take hem vp and cast hem in a pot wiþ wyne and sugur. Take calwer samoun ysode, oþer codlyng oþer haddok, & bray hem smal, & do þerto white powdours & hoole spices & salt, & seeþ it. And whanne it is sode ynowgh, take it vp and do it in a vessel, and lat it kele. Make a ciffyn an ynche depe & do þe fars þerin. Plaunt it above with prunes damysyns: take þe stones out; and wiþ dates quartered and piked clene. And couere the coffyn, and bake it wel, and serue it forth.

If you aren't bothering to try to read that, the pie contains: boiled salmon, wine, figs, raisins, apples, pears, sugar, white pepper, whole spices (I used the 'cinnamon, ginger, cloves, peppercorns' combination recommended in the translation), dates, and prunes.

I learned to skin salmon for this recipe, guys.

All the various fruits after an eternity of chopping.

My well-skinned salmon fillets. I kept all my fingers.

The spice sachet and salmon about to be boiled in wine.

. . . After much boiling.

Finished product.

And the inside of the finished product.

And there you have a salmon pie a la the Fourteenth Century. I was able to get my family to try it even after I told them what was in it. They have such faith in me.

No doubt you're dying to know what this bizarre concoction tasted like.

Tyler-Rose's flavor analysis:

It tasted salty and sweet and weirdly of Christmas (Thank you, whole spices). However, the texture was unattractively grainy, due mostly, I think, to the salmon and the figs. It wasn't repulsive, exactly, but it wasn't really something I wanted another piece of either++. My pie-crust was good enough I sort of wished I could scrape the salmon out and fill it with something else more desert-like and less mind-bending.

And thus was my writerly curiosity successfully assuaged.


* The doughnut and cup of hot cider I just had are helping, but the lovely warm glow is wearing off quickly. I'm down in Purgatory^ and our college keeps the library at nearly arctic temperatures. The only reason inside is better than outside is that, if you manage not to sit under a vent, you can be reasonably sure of the absence of frigid wind. Are they trying to preserve the books? Trying to save money?^^ Trying to kill us all by a slow, creeping, hypothermia? We don't know.

^ Our library is divided into the levels of Dante's Divide Comedy. We are a school of literature nerds. Even the math majors know what we're talking about. Here's a link to an earlier post in which I describe this further.

^^ It's not this one because it is just as fricking cold here in the summer when it's blazingly hot and sticky outside.

** I like to try and stay as accurate as I can despite the fantastical elements in my work. If guns and broadswords didn't coexist^, I don't want them together in my novel. Never mind the fact that the roads lay flat because of magic. That's not what we're discussing here.

^ Except they did. YAY!

*** An excellent resource for anyone looking to go a little Medieval on their manuscript. Or who just want to cook something kinda weird that your ancestors might have eaten. That is also perfectly legit.

+ If you desire a translation so you too can trick your family into eating salmon pie, you can find it here.

++ No doubt I would have felt differently about this if I were a protein-starved soul in the 1300s.


  1. Yay, I could sorta-kinda understand some of the old recipe before my eyes started to cross! :D A way-cool cooking experiment, Tyler-Rose. ...Um, no thanks, I think I'll pass on the fish-and-fruit pie. Still cool, though.

    1. Are you sure you don't want some? It tastes like Christmas . . .

  2. I love that you get right into researching like this...I, too, have made era-specific recipes just to get familiar with recipes of the day and get into the spirit of the story (although, mine were not from the middle ages!)

    But that website is awesome, and you are awesome for making something from it! Even if it did involve salmon and fruit in a pie...

  3. Okay then, I won't be making that salmon pie for myself! We've cooked over a fireplace (more colonial than medieval) several times, including pies, breads, stews, and roasted meats. It's a ton of fun.

  4. You are a brave woman; I'm not sure I could eat Salmon and Fruit Pie and I know I could never get my family to try it.

  5. I love all the research. It makes me happy to know there are people out there who are that fascinated with medieval cookery. Think I'll skip the salmon pie, however.

  6. You are very brave, and I love that your family was willing to give it a try. They must be very supportive!

  7. How interesting - so glad I found you via Beth Fish Reads. Cheers

  8. How courageous you are! I find nothing about medieval days 'appetizing' though.

  9. Wow. You are brave! I think I can imagine a good salmon pie, but it wouldn't contain fruit - there'd be eggs, cream, dill and potatoes... Mmm. Maybe I need to experiment!

    1. While I was trying to work out the proportions for this recipe (you may notice they aren't included), I saw a lot of really amazing looking modern salmon pie recipes online. I definitely plan to try one in the near future. Whether I can get my family to taste another salmon pie is another question . . .

  10. You are braver than me :) but I am really picky about fish. I mainly like it grilled or panfried with out much more accompaniment than a squeeze of lemon. I don't know why but I don't like combined with other things too much.