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anchovies-msg - 7/23/18


Medieval anchovies. Recipes.


NOTE: See also the files: fish-msg, fishing-msg, fish-pies-msg, pizza-msg, eels-msg, stockfish-msg, garum-msg, pickled-meats-msg, snails-msg, caviar-msg, exotic-meats-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



Date: Wed, 6 Sep 2000 22:13:17 -0400

From: "Robin Carroll-Mann" <harper at idt.net>

Subject: Re: SC - Weird fish names


And it came to pass on 6 Sep 00,, that Nanna Rognvaldardottir wrote:

> Vicente wrote:

> >bisol: no idea whatsoever.


> "Bisso" and "bis" are Catalan names of the chub mackarel (Scomber

> japonicus colias), according to Mediterranean Seafood by Alan Davidson - I

> wonder if that could be it.


I think so.  Grewe (in the footnotes to _Libre de Sent Sovi_) says that

bisol is the plural of bis, and he identifies it as Scomber japonicus


> >saiton: described as a bitter fish, best eaten with the head and entrails

> >removed.


> Don't know - will see what I can find.


This one is more of a stretch, but... Grewe lists "seito" (also spelled

"xeyto" as a synonym of "aladroc", which is Catalan for anchovy

(Engraulis encrasicholus).  This is confirmed by the second website

listed below.  However, I do not know fish well enough to know if the

anchovy matches Nola's description.


Here are the websites I mentioned, which have some lists of Catalan

food terminology.  They are modern, but may still be of help:





Lady Brighid ni Chiarain

Settmour Swamp, East (NJ)



Date: Sat, 30 Jan 2010 11:28:06 -0500

From: Johnna Holloway <johnnae at mac.com>

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Anchovies - what to do?


On Jan 30, 2010, at 3:24 AM, Volker Bach wrote:

<<< Salvete all.  It's great to have Turkish communities in your city! I  

just got a kilo of deep-frozen Black Sea anchovies very cheap. Not  

salted, not filleted, not even gutted. My question is - what do I do  

with them? I know that I can just fry them up whole and crunch them  

like sardines, but is there anything else?


Garum, maybe? My neighbours would probably lynch me.  Any advice  



Giano >>>


A quick search using the handy search feature through Doc's website  

medievalcookery.com reveals:


This is an excerpt from Libre del Coch

(Spain, 1520 - Robin Carroll-Mann, trans.)

The original source can be found at Mark S. Harris' Florilegium


219. ANCHOVY in casserole. The anchovy is commonly bitter, and because  

of this you must remove the head together with the intestines and wash  

it, and clean it well, and then take all common spices, and also put  

in raisins, and almonds, and pine_nuts; and the almonds must be  

scalded and blanched; and then mix them with the raisins, and almonds,  

and pine_nuts, and with all the good herbs, and with the fish. And let  

everything be mixed in the casserole with a little oil. These  

casseroles are better to cook in the house than in the oven; and for  

the most part, they should be eaten in the month of April.


You could treat them like sardines-


This is an excerpt from Le Menagier de Paris

(France, 1393 - Janet Hinson, trans.)

The original source can be found at David Friedman's website


Sardines, gutted, cooked in water, and eaten with mustard sauce.


I suppose the search would broaden out if done under fish and then you  

looked for small fish.





Date: Sat, 30 Jan 2010 11:59:22 -0500

From: "Daniel & Elizabeth Phelps" <dephelps at embarqmail.com>

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Anchovies - what to do?


les anchoyes au percy, oygnions et vin aigre, et la poudre par dessus

Du fait de cuisine, f. 56v


The above simple list/recipe translates loosely into English as:


anchovies with parsley, onions, vinegar and powdered over with what is

probably "fine powder".  "Fine powder" per the Menagier de Paris is:


"prenez gingembre 1.3, canelle triece 3, giroffle et graaine de chascum demy

quart d'once, et de sucre en pierre 3, et faictes pouldre"


It should be noted that in various versions of Menagier the proportions of

these spices vary.  That being said this, translated into the modern, works

out, per Scully and Scully, as:


3 tbs. ground ginger

1.5 tbs. cinnamon

1 tsp. grain of paradise

1 tsp. ground cloves

2 tbs. sugar


The recipe as worked out makes some assumptions.  The onions and anchovies

need to be cooked for one thing, presumably sauted in olive oil, and the

mixture combined with vinegar, the parsley and the spice powder.


Having reviewed Scully and Scully's recipe the following is my redaction:


Take three parts chopped onion to one part olive oil and saute the onions in

the oil.  Take 3 parts red wine vinegar add it to the onions.   Lacking

fresh anchovies add 3 to 4 parts anchovies canned in oil  and a equal amount

of parsley, both of which you have chopped fine, to the mixture.  Add the

spice powder to taste.  Serve the result as a spread on toast points.



Scully, D.E. & Scully, T., 1995, Early French Cookery, University of

Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA


Caridoc, Duke & Diana Alena, Duchesa, 1987, A Collection of Medieval and

Renaissance Cookbooks, Privately Printed


There is also the example of Mike's lunch menus, which featured anchovies,

that was sent to me some time back.  Here is the passage of interest sent to

me by Christianna some time back.  Hope it is of use and she doesn't mind.

I've thought to do a reproduction of the lunch as an A/S entry but not

gotten around to it.


"The one real find for me was when I turned a corner to see a small piece of

paper in a frame on the wall, with pictures of food items on it. When I got a

closer look, I was amazed! It was an envelope that Michalangelo received in

1518, that he had then outlined menus on for illiterate servants. Here is the

text from the blurb on the wall next to it: "Always frugal and often dealing

with illiterate assistants, Michalangelo sketched these three menus (for two,

four, and six people) on the back of a letter he received in 1518. His

annotations read "Two rolls, a pitcher of wine, a herring, tortelli; four

rolls, a pitcher of wine, a small quarter of a rough wine, a plate of

spinach, four anchovies, tortelli; six rolls, two fennel soups, a herring, a

pitcher of wine. "Each item has a picture of it drawn next to it. I sketched

the whole thing, and I wish I could post it, but don't have the technology

right now to do it. (Yes, I stood there a really long time, came to within 6

inches of it but no closer, my lord got close enough for the guard to inhale

sharply  ;)The rolls are just circles, 2,4, and 6 of them. The pitcher of

wine has a handle, the quarter of a rough wine ('en quartucco di bruscio') is

a small pitcher approximately a quarter of the size of the big one. There are

a couple of fish outlined (herring = 'una aringa'), and a couple of bowls

of what must be salad, also a flatter plate that might be the spinach or

the tortelli. The soup ('duo minestro di finochio') is shown in a large

tureen(footed), with something coming out of the bowl and hanging over the

sides (3 of them), I'm guessing it is fennel stalks used for decoration,

and possibly to be served with the soup. The last reference to wine reads

'ubochal di tondo', which the book states was probably a reference to

wine from the Calle Tondo, a local regional wine. It is supposed that this

lastone was added by one of Michalangelo's sculptural collaborators,

Pietro Unella (? I'm not sure of his last name), because his writing is all

over other daily expense account records, and Michalangelo himself was so

frugal that the finer wine might not have been his idea. As usual, he is

presumably talking to cooks, so he gives no preparation instructions. I am

guessing that the spinach would be a plate of raw leaves, perhaps dressed

with olive oil and salt. Maybe cooked lightly? My lord conjectures that as

herring is a cold water fish, it might be a preserved item, bought in

barrels, while the anchovies might be a fresh 'catch of the day' from the

Mediterranean. The bread ('pain dua', 'quatroparni', and 'sie parni'), look

like simple round rolls. Christianna


A photo of the 1517 letter is reproduced

in Gillian Riley's _Painters and Food: Rennaissance Recipes_, p. 36.Ms. Riley

selected 3 recipes from period sources (eg Platina) for Stewed Fennel,

marinated anchovies and aromatic spinach (cooked). Unfortunately, Ms Riley

does not provide the original recipe texts, nor the period cookery






From the fb "SCA Cooks" group:


Laura Klaassen Minnick


So, what do we know about anchovies? Could I make a case for Frankish diet, 8th c?


Phil T Roy

I don't have handy access to a copy of Anthimus' book, but I seem to recall no mention of anchovies or little fish, or even garum. Am I recollecting that properly? Anchovies are, I think, more of a Mediterranean thing (where there is sea salt in abundance, and warm, dry, sunny breezes. On the other hand, there are Northern pickled anchovies in Scandinavia. and a tradition of eating tiny little whole fried fish, like an inch long, in Britain, basically popcorn smelts. Surprisingly tasty, and surprising how quickly one loses one's squeamishness when faced with the reality of those little heads. Of course I don't know how old this tradition is or where it comes from. If I had to guess I'd say it was a Spanish thing. But to get back to topic, they do have, if not exactly anchovies, they do have little fish in places like the Baltic and North Seas, not to mention various rivers.


Eileen Steinhardt

Anthimus references "gudgeon" which are not anchovies. The list of fish in Anthimus: trout, perch, pike, salmon, plaice/sole, eels, gudgeon, parr (fry of salmon).


Phil T Roy

Yes: gudgeon are lake and river fish, small and with a large head, and not something you'd catch in sufficient numbers at anyone time to warrant having a really good preservation method. I mean, anchovies, in season, are netted by the thousands and immediately salted. Gudgeons, not so much, I suspect.


Noah Arney

The Romans did like anchovies. Flower and Rosenbaum discuss it a little in The Roman Cookery Book: a critical translation of The Art of Cooking by Apicius. And I believe they're mentioned in the 10th century Byzantine book The Geoponica.


As for Frankish, I don't know. Charlemagne didn't exactly have the best impression of the Eastern Roman Empire, he thought they were effete.


Daniel Myers

I found four references to anchovies:


219. ANCHOVY in casserole. The anchovy is commonly bitter, and because of this you must remove the head together with the intestines and wash it, and clean it well, and then take all common spices, and also put in raisins, and almonds, and pine_nuts; and the almonds must be scalded and blanched; and then mix them with the raisins, and almonds, and pine_nuts, and with all the good herbs, and with the fish. And let everything be mixed in the casserole with a little oil. These casseroles are better to cook in the house than in the oven; and for the most part, they should be eaten in the month of April. [Libre del Coch (Spain, 1520)]


For marine fish: for the turbot should be given green sauce, salmon with cameline, ray with garlic cameline which is made with almonds and with its liver; sea-crayfish with vinegar, sturgeons with parsley, onions, and vinegar, fried sardines with mustard, fried sole with sorrel verjuice and oranges, eels roasted on the grill with verjuice, anchovies with parsley, onions, and vinegar and powder on top. [Du fait de cuisine (France, 1420)]


Eggplants. Get eggplants and wash and peel them well, then set a little water on the fire and bring them to a boil; cut them into quarters and add a little salt to the water; do not let them boil more than two Our Father's; then take them out onto a cutting board and let them drain; coat them in flour and fry them; when they have fried, drain off almost all of the oil; get a clove of garlic, grind it up with a quarter-piece of the eggplants; then get a little oregano, of the sort that is put on anchovies, grind it up with the garlic and a little bread, pepper, saffron and salt; then distemper all of this together with verjuice and a little vinegar and throw everything together into the pan to fry a little; then dish it out and serve it with mild spices. [The Neapolitan recipe collection (Italy, 15th c)]


Anchovies are also listed among the items served in Ouverture de Cuisine (France, 1604).


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org