Two fish dishes from the Kuchenmaistrey

1.iii Item if you would make sausages out of fish. Scale them and chop them small. Pound them in a mortar, add salt and spices, and fill the guts. Boil them like a fish with wine. Make a yellow pepper sauce (to pour) over it.

1.iiii Item to make small cakes of fish, whichever kind they be. Prepare them well, catch the blood, loosen (i.e. remove) the bones. Keep the heads, tails, and innards, throw out the gall. Then take the fish and chop them small unboiled, that is raw. Pound them well in a mortar. Add flour, raisins and good spices, salt and fat. Fry that well. And serve it in a saucer (ziseünlein) of grated gingerbread (leckchen), that is how it is made. The other (thing) of fish (is made) of the heads, bones and innards. You make a starter dish (vor essen) from that, nicely boiled in wine and seasoned like other fish, yellowed (with saffron) and spiced. Try it for salt(-iness) and serve it. These are two very courtly dishes made from fish.

These are interesting recipes illustrating the lengths to which cooks could go to process foods in the interest of showiness. The amount of labour and spices required elevated already expensive fresh fish to ‘courtly’ level.

The last part is hard to parse, presumably because every cook was expected to know how to make a vor essen. These dishes, often known as a fürhess, typically combined smaller, fiddlier parts of meat with a blood-bound, spicy sauce. That made them ideal to get another serving out of a small animal. The process must have been more complex than merely boiling fish heads.

My next (temporary) project are recipes from the Nuremberg Kuchenmaistrey produced around 1490. This was the earliest printed cookbook in German (and only missed being the earliest printed cookbook in any language by a few years). The Kuchenmaistrey (mastery of the kitchen) gave rise to a vibrant culture of amended and expanded manuscript copies as well as reprints spanning almost a century. The recipes seem designed to appeal to a wealthy, literate and cosmopolitan clientele.

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