Medieval Fried Chicken Soup


Johannes Bockenheim’s Registrum Coquine is a fascinating cookbook written in the 15th century that collects more than 80 easy recipes for various social classes and nationalities following a habit typical of medieval cuisine and medicine. Bockenheim is more creative than other authors since his recipes are dedicated to plenty of different people: pimps and prostitutes, actors, priests, laics, princes, peasants, mercenaries, and more.
Despite the colorful diversity shown by the author, however, his ideas root in dietetic principles, according to which food difficult to digest and nourishing is more suitable for manual workers and people who make great physical efforts, whereas delicate food should be eaten by nobles, a concept that originates from Greek medical handbooks, such as Galen’s De Facultatibus Alimentorum. Rosewater and chicken (or pigeon, the alternative suggested by Bockenheim) are generally considered delicate foods, and as such, suitable for the rich and nobles, whereas others, for example beef, mutton, and rye or barley bread, are better for the lower classes, as we read in the Tractatus de Modo Preparandi et Condiendi Omnia Cibaria et Potus.
The recipe we are preparing today is simple, with a few, chosen ingredients. Verjuice may be substituted with other acidic juices, as we read in Mainus de Maineris’ Opusculum de Saporibus, for example lemon, orange, or the juice obtained by pounding vine tops or green sorrel in the mortar, adding a bit of water, and sifting the liquid. Another possible substitute is vinegar, recommended by some authors in winter instead of verjuice. Rosewater is a fundamental ingredient in this soup. You may find it in a Middle-Eastern grocery store or prepare it at home by distilling roses infused in water.
There is a wide range of possibilities to prepare the mixture with eggs that must be poured on the fried chicken. You may choose a thicker or a thinner consistency, according to your taste, using the ratio among the ingredients we recommend or something completely different. In any case, in the original recipe, there are no directions about the ratio or quantities. We opted for a mixture not excessively thick, being this dish called by the author a ministra, a term that could be interpreted, generically, as dish, but in the case of this author, it refers to a series of soups, made with meat, vegetables, or other ingredients.

To know more about the source of this recipe, check out our book Registrum Coquine. A medieval cookbook. In addition, it is available our translation, commentary, and glossary of a beautiful 6th-century source, De Observatione Ciborum, written by the physician Anthimus to the king of the Franks Theuderic. This book contains some of the earliest medieval recipes, in addition to information about the diet of the Franks and the differences between their food habits and the alimentation of the Mediterranean populations, showing the passage between ancient and late-medieval cooking.
For more information about ancient food, we recommend reading Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Recipes, Sources and checking out our Patreon page, in which you find several articles about historical food and the translations of ancient and medieval sources.
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50 grams peeled almonds
150 grams cured pork fatback
2 eggs
1/2 cup verjuice
1/2 cup rosewater

Mince the pork fatback and cut the chicken into pieces. Melt the pork fatback in a pan, then add the chicken and fry it for 40 or 50 minutes.
In the meantime, mince the almonds and beat the eggs, adding verjuice and rosewater. Remove the chicken from the pan and add the mixture to the melted pork fatback, cooking it for a few minutes. Plate the chicken pouring the thickened mixture on top.

Original text
Aliud ministram pro principibus et nobilibus. Recipe pipiones et pone in patellam in pinguedine lardi et cooperi bene et verte eas aliquando, quibus decoctis. Recipe amigdala. Et pista cum cultello et ova cruda temperata cum agresto postea eice pinguedinem et intus mitte aquam roseaceam. Ita quod illa temperata fiat aliquantulum spissa et totum mitte super pipiones aut pullos, et erit bonum pro Italicis.

Another soup for the princes and nobles. Cook pigeons in a pan with lardo. Cover well the pan [with a lid] and turn the pigeons once in a while until they are cooked. Pound almonds with a knife, then mix raw eggs with verjuice and add [the melted] lardo and rose water. Cook the mixture until it thickens and pour it on the pigeons or chickens. It will be good for the Italics.

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Early Italian Recipes. Vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers
De Observatione Ciborum by Anthimus. Early-medieval recipes at the court of the Franks.
Registrum Coquine by Johannes Bockenheim. A medieval cookbook
Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Sources, Recipes

Translations of Historical Sources
De Re Coquinaria by Apicius – books 1-6
De Observatione Ciborum by Anthimus (6th century)
Appendicula de Condituris Variis by Johannes Damascenus (8th-9th century)
De Flore Dietarum (11th century)
Tractatus de Modo Preparandi et Condiendi Omnia Cibaria (13th-14th century)
Opusculum de Saporibus by Mainus de Maineris (14th century)
Anonimo Toscano – first and second part (14th century)
Anonimo Veneziano (14th century)
Registrum Coquine by Johannes von Bockenheim (15th century)

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