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On Dutch Cookery

In the Tournaments Illuminated of Fall 1995, we read a review of the book "Daily life in Holland in the year 1566, and The Story of My Ancestor's Treasure Chest" by the Dutch artist and author Rien Poortvliet, in which the reviewer complained of the l ack of documentation. We are disappointed on that point as well, but on closer inspection recognised at least one of his sources. The recipes Poortvliet uses in the Dutch version of the book are not hand-written, like the rest of the text, but printed (we have not seen the English book). It would seem that what he used are photocopies of recipes from a modern transcription of a 16th century cookery book we have been working from for several years. Since we had been planning for a while to share our cooking sources with the Known World, we decided to take this opportunity to make a start. We have taken the recipes as Poortvliet gives them in the Dutch version of his book, and added translations and notes to the recipes. As an introduction we will give an o verview of the period Dutch cookery books that we know of.

To our knowledge there are two Dutch manuscripts on cookery and two printed cookbooks, all from before 1600, and one cookbook printed in 1601 in Dordrecht . The first manuscript is "Een vijftiende eeuws Zuid Nederlands kookboek", written in 1473, the s econd manuscript, a collection of recipes from Gent, has no name and is estimated to have been written between 1490 and 1525. The first printed book is "Een notabel boexcken van cokeryen" by Thomas van der Noot, printed in 1510 and the second is "Eenen N yeuwen coock boeck" by Willem Vorsterman, printed in 1560. There is some overlap between these sources, and with other European cookbooks, but the relationships are too complicated to cover in detail here. The recipes that Poortvliet used in his book came from the nameless Gent manuscript. A transcription of this manuscript can be found in "De keuken van de late middeleeuwen" (The kitchen of the late middle ages) compiled by R. Jansen-Sieben and Johanna Maria van Winter. The manuscript is a collection c onsisting of 67 papers, using two types of paper, in the University library of Gent (Belgium). It was bound in the 19th century.

The different watermarks in the two types of paper can give an indication of the date the manuscript was written. The first is a stylised gauntlet with a flower with four leaves appearing from the middle finger. The authors could not find an exact matc h, but the best matches were paper from Troyes 1522-Brugge 1523 and Troyes 1496-Utrecht 1493. The other watermark appearing in the manuscript is a gothic P with a split foot, on top of which is the same four leafed flower. The paper found most alike was D amme 1494+Utrecht 1495-97 and Douai 1486+Brussel 1490. Based on these results, it would seem that the manuscript was written in the first half of the 16th century. It was written by eight different hands, but most of it was done by only two. On the last p age there are a number of notes, with names of owners and a number of sayings. One of the owners had written "Rien sans peine (nothing without difficulty) Vander Strinck 1584". This family could not be found, but one of the names of later owners could be traced to a person living in Gent (Robert Borluut march 2, 1673 - october 26, 1741).

Following are the original texts of the recipes with our translation, and we have added our interpretation of those recipes we have tried out. In the translation we have kept the original word order as much as possible, to help you to understand the mi ddle Dutch. We have used the European measurements, since we did not have cup-measures available.

Nr 9 Omme te maicken cloetkens van vleys

Men sal nemen verckensvleijs, die hammen van verckensvleijs, ende siedense in scoen water al morwe ende dan dat vleijs mitten vette al cleijn gewreven in een mortier, daer in gedaen vier of vijf doeyeren van rauwen eyeren, caneel, ghenebaer ende luttel naghelpoer, dat meest galigaen ende soffraen, dit samen gemenget ende aen cloetkens gemaict als doeijeren van eyeren ende suker daer in gedaen ende dan genomen witte wijn ende wittebroot, die korsten af gedaen ende in die wijn geleijt, op dat vier geset h dat broot vucken mach, daer in gedaen genebaer, caneel, soffraen, galigaen ende suijcker, dit tsamen doergeslegen dattet the pas dick is ende opgesoden ende die cloetkens daer in gedaen ende mede op gesoden ende soe werm gedient, vijf of zes in een pate el.

Translation and notes

To make balls of meat

Take pork, hams of pig and boil them in clean water until they are done, and the meat with the fat ground in a mortar, and add four or five egg yolks, cinnamon, ginger and clove powder, the most galingale and saffron, mixed together and made into balls like egg yolks and sugar put into it, and then take white wine and white bread, the crusts taken off and put in the wine, on the fire so that the bread can soak, put in ginger, cinnamon, saffron, galingale and sugar, put it through a sieve so that it is thick enough, let it come to boil, put the meatballs in and let them boil, and serve it warm, five or six on a plate.

Ingredients we used (for about 15 meatballs with enough sauce):

500 g ground pork 5 egg yolks

lots of spices and a little bread crumb to make the meatballs more consistent

For the sauce:

4 or 5 slices of white bread

sweet white wine, a little more than the bread absorbed, no more than 0.5 l.

again lots of spices

2 tablespoons of sugar

The recipe has undergone some evolution since it has been cooked at several events. We decided early on that balls of cooked meat, such as the recipe prescribes, would not stay together when cooked in mass, so we make them of raw meat and then fry them . We don't warm them in the sauce because the sauce tends to be rather thick and likely to burn if it is on the fire for a long time.

Nr. 120 een sonderlijnge taerte

Om een sonderlijnge taerte te maken neempt quee-appelen gesoden in schoon watere ofte peeren gebraden 6 of 7, amandelen gepelt een vierendeel pond, versche wrongel een vierendeel pont, een hantvol rosijnen sonder steenen, stootet tsamen wel cleyne ende soetet met suycker ende caneele ende ander cruyt tot uwer belieften, 6 of 7 doren van eyeren ende een vierendeel pont versche botere.

Translation and notes

To make a special pie

To make a special pie, take quinces boiled in clean water, or pears fried six or seven, almonds peeled a quarter pound, fresh curds a quarter pound, a handful of raisins without stones, make it small together and sweeten it with sugar and cinnamon and other spices as you wish, 6 or 7 egg yolks and a quarter pound of fresh butter.

Ingredients we used (for one pie):

4 elstar apples 90 g ground almonds

225 g kwark (curds) 250 g raisins

150 g sugar cinnamon and cloves

4 egg yolks 100 g butter

Dough: 150 g flour, 100 g butter, 60 g sugar, half an egg and a little salt.

Boil the apples and mix the ingredients. Dress a pie form with dough and put the mixture into it. Bake for 45-60 min on low heat so it can dry, otherwise it will remain soggy.

This is one of the dishes that you can safely serve to those unacquainted with the medieval kitchen, while being unusual enough to be interesting. We have made some adaptations: instead of quinces we use apples, originally because we didn't realise how different "appelen" (apples) taste from "quee-appelen" (quinces). Now that we realise our mistake, it's still easier to use apples, because quinces remain hard to come by and the apples work. The pear variation remains to be tried. We're not sure under what name "kwark" would be sold in the States; use whatever you would normally use for curds.

The pound in the original recipe would have been 430 g (a little less than the modern Dutch pound); this means we use relatively more "kwark" than the recipe does. Since the mixture becomes rather fat to modern taste we leave out some of the butter and egg yolk. You can leave the almonds and raisins whole for variation.

Nr. 22 Te maicken soppijn Jacopijn

Neemt een gebraden hoen ende doet al die beenen uuijt ende nemen vleckier of anderen goeden kaes ende snijtes al dun ende in een pateel geleit dat die bodem gedect is ende vanden hoen dair op geleijt ende daer zuker op gestroeyt ende dan weder kaes dae r op geleijt ende dan hoenre vleijs daer op gelet ende kaes daer op geleijt ende dan neemt nat van verschen runtvleijs ende doet daer in ende op tvier geseth ende gesoden ende soe heet ter tafele gedient, mer eer ghij alle dese substantie in die pateel l egt soe suldy nemen wittebroot ende snijdent viercant ende legget op die bodem vander pateel ende dat dese substantie niet aenbarnen en sal.

Translation and notes

To make stew Jacobijn

Take a roast chicken and take all the bones out, and take "vleckier" or other good cheese, and cut it thin and put in a bowl so that the bottom is covered and put on there of the chicken and sprinkle sugar on it and then put cheese on it again, and then chicken meat and cheese on it and then take stock of fresh beef and put that in and put it on the fire and let it boil and serve it hot, but before you put all these things in the bowl you should take white bread and cut it square and put it on t he bottom of the bowl so that it will not burn.

Ingredients (for about 4 people):

1 chicken (about 1 kg) white bread

500 g cheese 4 tablespoons of sugar

beef stock (optional) salt and pepper

Our economy version of this recipe, which has become one of our success recipes, has diverged quite far from its original. We boil the chicken instead of roasting it (adding pepper salt and other spur of the moment seasonings to the broth) and use its stock instead of separately made beef stock. We also use about twice as much bread as described above, thus cutting the cost per person considerably and making the recipe into a good filler.

The cheese we use is usually medium ripened Gouda, which is a reasonably affordable item in Dutch supermarkets. We don't know what the "vleckier" mentioned in the recipe is, or how likely it is that Gouda resembles it. A younger cheese with lighter ta ste might be more correct. From what I know of the cheeses available in the States I would probably use some kind of cheddar which is not pre-cut.

Our experience is that the cheese will become rubbery unless you serve it with the stock still almost boiling. This might be a property of the kind of cheese we use. When making the dish for a feast we leave the stock boiling on the fire until all the servers stand ready, and then pour it on and serve it immediately.

Nr. 132 Om vlaijen te maken

Melckspijse, ende een lepel blommen, ende 20 eijeren inde pot, dat wil sijn een vierendeel, ende een luttel boters ende suker ende saudt.

Translation and notes

To make vlayen

Milkfare, and a spoon of flour, and 20 eggs in the pot, that will be a "vierendeel", and a little bit of butter and sugar and salt.

We have never tried this one--it seems a bit vague, but comparing it with a modern pudding recipe might make things clearer. "Vla" (cf. vlaijen) is more fluid than pudding, and still a popular dessert in Holland, available in all sorts of tastes and co lours. A "vierendeel" is a quarter of a "croes" (literally: mug). A croes contains 1.4 litre.

Nr 146 Tegen den hoost

Nempt een croesken ongepijnden honichs, ende sueven werf soo veel stroemwaters, ende laet dat opsieden teghent vier, tot dat wel suempt, ende doet dat suem wel schoen af, ende daer neempt dan smorghens ende savonts een lutsken af.

Translation and notes

Against coughing

Take a croesken of unpressed honey, and seven times as much water from a stream and let it boil on the fire, until it forms scum, and take the scum off until it is clean, and take in the morning and the evening a little of this.

This one is on the list to be tried out. There are a few other medical recipes like it in the book, most of which add herbs. "Ongepijnden honich" is honey that came out of the comb without pressing, which is clearer than pressed honey.

Nr 91 Sijve op verckenshutspot

Neemt u vleijsch ende braden op den roester wel swart ende neemt aieun, snitet met grote stucken mit uwen hutspot ende neemt peper ende caneel mi nagelen ende wat roden wijns ende sault, eeck ende water ende latet al te samen stoven.

Translation and notes

About pork stew

Take your meat and cook it on the grill well black, and take onions, cut in large pieces in your stew, and take pepper and cinnamon with cloves and a little red wine and salt, vinegar and water and let it stew all together.

Ingredients we used (for about 2 people)

400 g long cooking pork 4 onions

0.5 l red wine pepper, cinnamon, cloves

salt a little water and vinegar

We did pre-roast the meat, though not quite until it was black. The dish improves if it stays on the fire for a long time.

Nr. 15 Op gesoden snoek

Men sal die snoeck sieden in water ende pellen die snoeck ende dan neemt amandelen ende stoetse cleijn mit witte wijn ende crumen van wittebroot en suijcker en slaet dit samen doer een stromijn mit witte wijn ende latent opsieden ende soe oever die sno eck gegoten ende soe werm gedient.

Translation and notes>

About boiled pike

One should cook the pike in water and peel the fish and then take almonds and pound them small with white wine and crumbs of white bread and sugar and do it together through a sieve with white wine and let it boil and so pour it over the pike and so se rve it warm.

Our ingredients (2 pp):

300 g freshwater fish 2 slices of white bread

0.3 l white wine 45 g crushed almonds

We used a different kind of fresh water fish to try this dish, because pike comes in sizes of 1 kg and larger, and we didn't think the two of us would eat that much.

Nr. 89 Om te maicken dicke wafelen diemen niet en spaut

Men sal nemen 6 of 8 eyeren ende slaense wel cleijn ende doet daer in een lepel gest mit warm bier met alsoe veel botere gemenget alsoe dicke datter die lepel in recht op staet, ende laet staen rijsen, dan met gaet eeten ende dan backse ende ghieter bo ter over ende dientse so.

Translation and notes

To make thick waffles that you don't cut through

You shall take 6 or 8 eggs and beat them well small and put in a spoonful of yeast with warm beer, with so much butter mixed, so thick that the spoon stands straight up, and let it rise until you are going to eat and bake them and pour butter over and serve them thus.


6 eggs yeast

0.1 litre (sweet) old brown beer 125 g butter

When we tried this one, we ended up with a very fluid substance that did not look as if the concept "rise" meant anything to it, so we added flour until it looked like a reasonable batter, which did rise rather splendidly indeed. We let it do so for ab out 4 hours; frying it in a frying pan produced something like an American pancake, and in a waffle iron it made nice golden brown waffles. On the same page as the recipe Poortvliet used are several other recipes for waffles, of which two use flour. We're not sure if it was left out of this one by accident, or if the recipe didn't work as it should because of the kind of butter we used.

1.Eenen seer schoonen / ende excellenten Coc-boek / [from] Medecyn Boec translated from German to Dutch by C. Battus Dordrecht 1601.
2.Transciption of Ms. 15 (University of Gent, Library of Dutch language), Een nieuw Zuid Nederlands kookboek uit de vijftiende eeuw, W.L Braekman
3.Transcription of Ms. 476 (University library of Gent), De Keuken van de late middeleeuwen, Ria Jansen-Sieben & Johanna Maria van Winter, Amsterdam 1989
4.Een notabel boecxken van cokeryen (by Thomas van der Noot ca. 1510), the first printed dutch cookbook, various facsimiles, the latest by Ria Jansen-Sieben & Marleen van der Molen-Willebrands, Amsterdam 1994, ISBN 90 - 8012 01 - 6 - 2
5.Eenen Nyeuwen Coock Boeck, samengesteld door Gheeraert Vorsterman en gedrukt in Antwerpen in 1560. Fascimille by Elle de Cockx-Indestege, Wiesbaden 1970
6.Professor J.M. van Winter is an authority in the field of medieval cooking; she has probably published in English as well.
7.We heartily thank Lady Emma of Hambledon who supplied us with some quinces that travelled from France, by way of England and Germany to our kitchen.

Copyright © notice!
This article appeared in Tournaments Illuminated # 125 Winter 1998, AS. XXXII.
It was written by Lord Floris van Montfort, mka. Gérard van Heusden and Lady Hannah of Hanecnolle, mka. Esther Beukenhorst, who can be reached at or