Proceedings 119       8 June 2013        Oxford

Late Medieval and Early Modern Banqueting, Food and Music: a daylong seminar of papers, including:

“Arab influences on use of sugar and honey in the late medieval kitchen”: a talk and demonstration by Caroline Yeldham:  specialist  in medieval and Tudor cookery. In her talk she provided for tasting samples made from the following recipes (they are for large quantities and people might like to reduce them for domestic use).



Medieval Gingerbread:

Take goode honey & clarefie it on the fere & take fayre paynemay or wastel brede & grate it, & caste it into the boylenge hony, & stere it well togyder faste with a sklyse that it bren not to the essell. & thanne take it doun and put therein ginger, long pepere & saundres, & tempere it up with thin handes; & than put hem to a flatt boyste & strawe theron suger, & pick therein clowes rounde aboute by the egge and in the mydes, yf it piece you.

lib honey

½ Ib stale fine white bread, grated

1 teaspoon each ginger and cinnamon

½  teaspoon pepper or long pepper, Cloves and bay leaves (optional)

Bring the honey to a boil and skim (not necessary with modern honey). Take off the fire and add the breadcrumbs and ground spices. The amount of breadcrumbs the honey will absorb will vary, you want a thick mass. Stir until well mixed and press into a cake tin and allow to cool. If storing for some time, layer with bayleaves and stick with cloves.

Payn Ragoun

Take hony and sugur cipre and clarifie it togydre and boile it with esy fyre, and kepe it wel fro brennyng. And whan it hath yboiled a while, take up a drope therof with thy fynhur and do it in a litel water, and loke if it hong togydre; and take it fro the fyre and do thereto pynes the thriddendele & powdour gyngever, and stere it togyder til it bygynne to thik and cast it on a wete table; lesh it and serve forthe with fryed mete, on flessh dayes or on fysshe dayes.

1lb sugar

1 tablespoon honey

Sufficient water to dissolve sugar

100 grams pine nuts

1 teaspoon ginger

Cook sugar, honey and water together, stirring frequently over a low heat, until syrup reaches soft-ball stage (~235°C). Test by dropping a little in some water. Take it off the heat and cool a little. Beat until it begins to thicken. Add the pine nuts and ginger, stir together and pour out on waxed paper. When hardened, slice and serve.

Arabic cooked marzipan

The following recipe is taken from Medieval Arab Cookery, A 13th century Baghdad Cookery Book. 2001, Charles Perry et al

Khabis al-lauz take 1 ratl of peeled, ground sweet almonds, and 3 ratls of sugar. Put the sugar into a dish and dissolve, with two uqiya of rose-water. When the sugar is dissolved and has begun to set, add the ground almonds and stir until done. Serve out, coating under and over with fine-ground sugar.

115 grams ground almonds

455 grams granulated sugar


Icing sugar to mould

Mix the sugar with rosewater and warm until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture begins to thicken. Then add the ground almonds and stir until the mixture thickens and is mouldable. Turn out onto a board sprinkled with icing sugar and cool until handable. Mould into shapes as desired and set aside to dry.

NB: 1 ratl= 12 uqiya = 16 ounces = 1 pint. I uqiya = 10 dirham

Elizabethan Iced Marzipan, decorated with sugarwork and gold (Banqueting stuff)

Marchpane paste:

lib ground almonds

8 oz caster sugar

1-2 tablspoons rose water

Mix to a stiff paste. Roll out on greaseproof paper in a circle, about 3/8" in thickness. Turn up the edge and impress with a fork, like an edge of a pie. Bake in a cool oven (gas mark 3) for 15 minutes, then allow to cool in the oven turned off. Repeat until firm and dry but only lightly coloured.


1 tablespoon rosewater

3 tablespoons icing sugar

Mix to a thin paste, brush over marchpane and bake at gas mark 3 for 5 -10 minutes. Take from the oven when dry and glossy, do not allow to froth.