Medieval Almond Cream


Sweets, in the modern sense of the term, are quite rare in the 14th-century Italian cookbooks. The following recipe is one of the few examples survived thanks to a medieval manuscript conventionally called Anonimo Veneziano, an interesting source for late-medieval cuisine. Starting from the 15th century and in particular from the 16th century, sweets become more and more common, as we can see reading the cookbook of these periods.
Today we prepare a sweet cream made with almonds and milk called amidono from the word amido that means starch, an ingredient widely used in historical cooking starting from ancient Rome.
The outcome is a delicate and flavorful cream, whose color is meant to be white. The color of foods is a basic concept in medieval cuisine. We find dishes colored in many way: green, yellow, blue, for example. But the white is one of the colors favorite by medieval cooks. For this reason, we are using here white cane sugar, considered healthier and more prized than the brown quality.
Below, you will find a note about the ingredients and the original text with the translation into English. Enjoy!

pine nuts
wheat starch
white cane sugar

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Grind the almonds in the mortar and dilute them with a little water. Pour the milk in a pan adding the almonds. Bring the mix to boil stirring from time to time, letting it reduce. Dilute the starch in a bit of milk and add it to the cream. When it thickens, it is ready to plate.
Now, grind sugar and a few cloves in the mortar. Sprinkle the cream with a generous amount of sugar and cloves, garnish with pine nuts, and serve.

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Note about the ingredients
Almonds are widely used in medieval cuisine, often as a thickener but also to prepare almond milk, the common substitute for milk in the lean days.
It is rare finding just one spice in the cooking of this period: usually the cooks prefer a mix of spices. In this case, it is clear that the cook is willing to unbalance the flavor of the cream toward the sweetness. This trend will become common during the Renaissance and later periods.
The author doesn’t specify what kind of milk to use, so you can choose among cow, sheep, and goat milk, the most common types according to the cookbooks and medical handbooks.
The doses of the original recipe are for twelve dishes of cream. We adjusted the quantity keeping the ratio of the ingredients the author suggests.

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Original text
Se tu vuo’ fare amiduni per XII persone, tuoi do libre de mandole e una libra de amido, e meza de zucharo, e toi 1/2 de pignoli mondi e mezo quarta de garofali, e toi le mandole bene monde e bene maxenate, e distempera con aqua chiara bene bolita e toy tre parte de lacte e mitilo a bolire; di quello che te romane crudo meti a molo l’amidon. Quando lo lacte à bolito asay, distempera l’amido e mitil dentro e meschola spesso e trailo in suso per menestrare, e mitigo zucharo asay, e poni per sopra le scutelle zucharo e garofalli e pignoli mondi. E se tu vuo’ fare per più persone o per men, toy le chosse a questa medesima raxone e ene perfecta vivanda.

If you want to prepare amiduni for 12 people, take two pounds almonds, one pound starch, one half pound sugar, one half pound shelled pine nuts, one eight pound cloves. Dilute the peeled and ground almonds with clear and well-boiled water. Take the two thirds of milk and boil it [with the almonds]; dilute the starch in the remaining part of raw milk.
When the milk has boiled for a long time, add the starch stirring frequently. Plate the cream dusting it with a lot of sugar, cloves, and shelled pine nuts. If you want to prepare more or fewer portions, keep this ratio, and you will obtain a perfect course.

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