Another slice of magpie tart, please

From the Times Online: Another slice of magpie tart, please.

When the culinary arts began to flourish across Europe in the Middle Ages, British courts were as self-consciously enthusiastic as their Italian and French counterparts. Instead of wasting money on foreign wars, Richard II’s court was conspicuously lavish when it came to food and drink. In fact, the earliest extensive British culinary manuscript to survive was penned by his master cooks back in 1390.

The 196 recipes in this rare scroll include instructions for hearty soups, slow-cooked stews and complex dishes of boiled and roasted meats. They use a wide variety of fresh and saltwater fish, a dizzying array of herbs, and promote dishes rich in root vegetables and pulses — just as the Italians do now.

Among King Richard’s recipes is even our earliest one for salad. It uses only the smallest leaves of parsley, sage, borage, mint, fennel, cresses, rosemary, rue and purslane mixed with minced garlic, small onions and leeks, decorated with slivered, toasted nuts and pomegranate seeds. [continue]