minced-meat-art - 2/13/98
"Paste en Pot de Mouton" by Anne-Marie Rousseau. A medieval dish of minced onions and meat.
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Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
Date: Wed, 21 Jan 1998 23:29:09 -0800
From: "Anne-Marie Rousseau" <acrouss at gte.net>
Subject: Re: SC - french cooking or is Ham mousse just a fancy sausage?
Hi all from Anne-Marie
Due to popular request, here's the recipe for the mince of meat and onions
I mentioned earlier. I've given you the whole article I wrote for _Serve it
Forth_ a while ago. Please, if you use this recipe, all I ask is that you
let me know.
PASTE EN POT DE MOUTON
Prenez de la cuisse, et gresse our mouelle de beuf ou de veel hach* menu
et oignons menus hachi*s, et faictes boulir et cuire en un pot bien
couvert a bien petit de boulon de char ou autre eaue, puis mettez boulir
dedans espices, et un petit de vinaigre pour aiguiser, et dr*ciez en un
plat. (from le Menagier de Paris, c. 1395)
According to Randall Cotgrave's A Dictionarie of the French and English
Tongues, printed in 1611, past* en pot is "minced meat Boiled in a pot
with a little broath, and hard yolkes of eggs until it be half consumed".
With Cotgrave's help, the original French text can be translated to read:
Past* en pot de Mouton. Take the thigh, and fat/grease [Cotgrave gives both
as definitions] or beef marrow or of veal, finely minced [literally "hashed
small"] and onions finely minced, and make to boil and seethe in a pot well
covered with a good bit of meat broth or other water then put to boil
within spices, and little vinegar for sharpening ["to put an edge on it']
and serve in a platter.
Interestingly, the hard boiled egg yolks that Cotgrave calls for in the
dish are missing in the Menagier version, but that may have something to do
with the intervening 300 years. There are similar recipes for meat and
onion stews flavored with spices and sharpened with vinegar scattered
throughout the contemporary sources. Taillevent's Civ*e de Veau (Prescott,
1989), Forme of Curye's "Mounchelet" (which, by the way, is indeed
thickened with egg yolks) (Hieatt et al, 1996), and the very nearly
identical 15th century "Stwed Mutton" from the Harlein MS 4061 (Renfrow,
1990). "Stwed Mutton" gives the variation of ale, mustard and verjuice as
spicing, which promises to be tasty as well, like a piquant carbonnade.
My reconstruction resulted in a stew with a tender meat morsel that
practically melts in the mouth, with a slight sharp vinegar bite, and the
familiar medieval spicing. The onions disappeared, and the resulting gravy
was thick and flavorful. The modern version of the recipe is as follows:
2 T olive oil
1/2 cup minced onion
1 lb minced "thigh o' lamb", fat and all (see note below)
1 cup beef broth (I used the bottled concentrated stuff, diluted 2 tsp/1c
4-5 threads saffron
1 tsp poudre forte (see note below)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
In a pot with a tight lid, heat the oil on medium high heat. Mince the
onion and add to the hot oil. Mince the meat, and add to the onions and
oil. Add the broth and clap the lid on. Let simmer for 25 minutes. Moosh
the saffron threads in a little of the hot broth, and add to the pot. Add
the poudre forte and vinegar, and simmer a few more minutes more to
evaporate some of the liquid "until it be half consumed" as in the words of
Randle Cotgrave. Serve on a platter.
I chose olive oils as the fat and white wine vinegar as the vinegar because
Chiquart mentions them by name in his shopping lists (Scully, 1986). The
meat I chose to use here was actually several lamb tip steaks. The original
recipe calls for thigh of mutton. Tip steaks come from the hip area of the
sheep, the closest I could get to the thigh without having to buy a whole
leg of lamb. Also, the grocery store version of lamb is actually fairly
mutton-like, being close to a year old when butchered.
As no specific spicing was specified in the original recipe, I used a
combination that seemed likely, creating a poudre forte based on the spices
called for in other contemporary French recipes sources, as well as
saffron, which is called for in many of the other similar dishes and
The version of poudre forte used here is:
1 1/2 T ground ginger
1/2 tsp. grains of paradise, ground with a mortar and pestle
1 T ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper.
Combine ingredients and store in an airtight container.
Please be aware that every source has it's own combination of spices and
proportions for their poudre fortes and poudre douces. Some include cubebs,
some include nutmeg and/or galingale, some include herbs. The version above
is a seemly compromise, and uses the spices most specific to the source the
original recipe is from, le Menagier a Paris.
In short, Past* en pot de Mouton is very characteristic of medieval French
and English food: a piquant mince of meat and onions, stewed in it's own
juices and seasoned according to the tastes of the time.
Scully, Terence, ed. and transl. Chiquart's 'On Cookery': A Fifteenth
Century Savoyard Culinary Treatise. American University Series, Series IX,
vol 22, 1986. Peter Lang Publishing
Cotgrave, Randle. A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues.
Reproduced from the first edition, London, 1611 (University of South
Carolina Press, Columbia. 2nd printing, 1968).
Prescott, James. Le Viandier de Taillevent. (Alfarhaugr Publishing Society.2nd Edition, 1989).
Renfrow, Cindy. Take a Thousand Eggs or More. (1990, Privately Published).
Spices mentioned can all be obtained in person or by mail order from Tony
Hill at WorldSpice, 1509 Western Avenue, Seattle, WA 98101. Phone:
206.682.7274. Email: hill at worldspice.com.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in
the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also
appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being
reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.