In the year 1593
The history of food is interesting for a number of reasons. Following old recipes provides you with the opportunity to discover new combinations, techniques and new flavors, or better said, forgotten combinations, techniques and flavors.
The University of Amsterdam is home to the Special Collections, the material heritage of the University. One of the collections is related to recipes, cookbooks, books on etiquette, nutrition, food et cetera. The oldest cookbook is Eenen seer schoonen ende excelenten Cocboeck, inhoudende alderley wel geexperimenteerde cokagien, van ghebraet, ghesoden, Pasteyen, Taerten, toerten, Vlaeijen, Saussen, Soppen, ende dier-gelijcke: Oock diversche Confeyturen ende Drancken, etc. by Carel Baten (Carolus Battus) published in 1593. The book contains some 300 recipes for a range of food and drink. It was published as an annex to his Medecijn Boec, after all he was a medical doctor.
In 2018 Onno and Charlotte Kleyn published Luilekkerland; a great book on 400 years of cooking in the Netherlands. They must have spent months at the Special Collections going through various cookbooks and manuscripts with recipes. Many thanks for creating ‘a magical mystery tour’ through the kitchens of the past.
In the book they describe one of the recipes of Carolus Battus: een sause op eenen gesoden capoen. Or in English: poached Capon with sauce.
The short version: make a poaching liquid with carrot, leek, celeriac and onion. Add the capon and poach it until it’s done. In parallel combine old breadcrumbs with white almonds, white wine, ginger powder and sugar. Create a sauce by gently warming the mixture with some of the cooking liquid and serve.
Capon is very expensive, so like Onno and Charlotte we go for chicken. Our recipe is for 2 chicken thighs, but we could also imagine making a roulade and then serving a slice of chicken roulade with the sauce as a starter.
The surprise is in the sauce: the combination of bread, ginger and almonds is tasty and complex. The sauce may appear to be filming and fat, but actually it’s not. The texture of the sauce is interesting as well: the bread will make the sauce a bit porridge like and the crushed almonds prevent the sauce from being smooth.
Our version of the recipe is a bit closer to 2018: we’re not the biggest fans of poaching and we don’t see the need for sugar. Plus why use powder if you can get fresh ginger?
Best is to go for a white wine with a touch of sweetness, for instance a Gewurztraminer. This will combine very well with the somewhat unusual flavors in the dish. If you go for a glass of red wine, then we would suggest a pinot noir, nice and earthy.
What you need
- 2 chicken thighs
- Chicken stock and optional
- Olive oil
- 15 grams of white Almonds
- 1 – 2 cm of Fresh ginger
- 1 dl of Dry white wine
- Slice of toasted Bread
What you do
If your chicken stock needs a boost, then add the vegetables and let simmer for 15 minutes or so. In a small skillet heat the butter and olive oil. Fry the chicken until nearly done. In parallel blender the almonds and the toasted bread. Grate the ginger. Add the white wine and the ginger to the mixture and blender. Add some stock and blender for a few seconds. Transfer the mixture to a pan and warm over medium heat. It requires attention, so keep an eye on the sauce and stir every minute or so. The sauce will thicken so you will probably need to add more stock. Transfer the chicken to a warm oven and let rest. Deglaze the pan with some stock and add this liquid to the sauce. Stir well. Now it’s time to taste. Remember the taste is new, so take your time. Almonds? Bread? Hint of acidity? Ginger? Chicken? Overall? Serve the chicken with the sauce.
We enjoyed the chicken as a main course with some Brussels sprouts, olive oil and nutmeg.
Medicyn Boeck van Carolus Battus
Chicken a la Battus © cadwu