Summer-Salad-art - 11/28/00
"A Summer Salad" by Lady Jehanne de Huguenin.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set
of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
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Mark S. Harris
AKA: Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
Originally published in November, AS 33 in "Storm Tidings", the newsletter for the Shire of Adamastor in Cape Town, South Africa.
A Summer Salad
by Lady Jehanne de Huguenin
As our fair Shire moves into the heat of summer, perhaps you may like to
consider a dish which is simple, tasty and authentic to bring to pot-luck
meals: the salad. This may seem like an obviously modern dish, but raw
vegetables have been eaten since the time of the ancient Romans, with many
writers extolling the healthful virtues of salad. Recipes for salads are
found throughout the cookbooks of our historical period and beyond, from
Apicius to the Elizabethans. Ingredients, preparation and dressings in many
ways resemble the modern salad, and recipes are often unspecific, allowing
the use of a wide range of ingredients. Below are some guidelines for
constructing a salad which will not be jarringly out of place at a medieval
feast, together with some original recipes with which you may like to
Things to avoid
For a start, you can make your salads appear more authentic simply by
leaving out certain ingredients which were not eaten in our period. Most of
these are New World species which, while they may have been brought back to
Europe during the Elizabethan era, were not commonly eaten until much
later. A period salad should NOT include the following:
á Any of the peppers - green pepper, red pepper, chilli, etc.
á Iceberg lettuce (this is a recent species).
á I have found no evidence to suggest that any kind of cold rice salad or
pasta salad was eaten either, so perhaps it's safest to avoid these.
Things to include
Lettuce is perfectly period, although iceburg is not, as I suggested above;
however, several varieties were known, including the loose-leaved cos
lettuce. Platina, the author of a 16th century Italian treatise on cooking,
says of lettuce that "... There are several varieties of this vegetable.
Lacticaulis, sessilis, and crispa are praised above all others..... There
is serralia lettuce, which is wild, named from the saw, because on its back
it is serrated." (De Honesta Voluptua, 1475). John Gerard's Herball or
General Historie of Plantes (1633) tells us that "Lettuce maketh a pleasant
sallad, being eaten raw with vineger, oyle, and a little salt: ... for
being taken before meat it doth many times stir vp appetite: and eaten
after supper it keepeth away drunkennesse which commeth by the wine; and
that is by reason that it stayeth the vapors from rising vp into the head."
You could, therefore, provide a perfectly period salad consisting simply of
lettuce in a basic oil and vinegar dressing.
Herbs are a common medieval salad ingredient; they are often described as
"potherbs" or "greens", and the term includes a wide range of possible
types. To his discussion of lettuce, above, Platina adds a recommendation
that lettuce can be eaten alone, with a simple oil and vinegar dressing,
but that "There are those who add a little mint and parsley to this
preparation, so that it does not seem too bland" (De Honesta Voluptua,
1475). Several medieval recipes give a suggestion as to the possible herbs
to include, and I have given a few examples below.
Dressings for salad seem to be universally simple. The typical mayonnaise
dressing, with an egg and oil base whipped to a creamy consistency, is
unknown to medieval cookery. Both medieval and Elizabethan salads are
served with a standard dressing of oil, vinegar, salt and, in later period,
sugar. You could use the standard 3:1 oil to vinegar ratio of the basic
French dressing, or vary to taste.
It may be worth noting Castelvetro's comments on dressing: after careful
washing and drying between linen cloths, the herbs are placed into a bowl
which has some salt in it. The herbs and salt are then thoroughly stirred
together and oil is added "with a generous hand" and again stirred "so that
each leaf is properly coated with oil". Then vinegar is added last of all,
but just a bit to provide a good flavor. "The secret to a good salad is
plenty of salt, generous oil and little vinegar". He also states that his
experiences in other countries show that Germans take poorly washed leaves
and without draining or drying will put on just a little salt, too much oil
and far too much vinegar, generally producing a more decorative effect to
the detriment of the flavor of the salad.
Note that medieval cookbook writers seldom, if ever, give quantities for
their ingredients; it's up to you to experiment, perhaps using a modern
salad recipe as a guideline, and adjusting according to taste.
The classical salad: the Romans and Apicius
Simple herb salads, according to Edwards, were generally eaten during the
"gustatio", the light first course of the formal Roman meal; more elaborate
recipes are also available. I have included several salad recipes from De
Re Coquinaria (On Cookery), a Roman cookbook from two manuscripts of the
late 4th and early 5th centuries A.D., attributed to Apicius, who could
have been one of several figures of that name in Roman history.
The Roman recipes often include garum, or fish-pickle, a strong fermented
sauce, with their salad dressings. I don't think there is any readily
available modern equivalent to a sauce made from the entrails of fish left
in the sun to ferment and liquefy - perhaps it's wiser not to try to
HERBAE RUSTICAE Country Herbs. Country herbs should be eaten as they come
to hand as a salad in a dressing of fish-pickle, olive oil and vinegar...
(Edwards gives a modernised version of this recipe which uses water-cress,
but I should think a mixture of green leafy herbs would also be
Endive is served with a dressing of fish-pickle, a little oil, and chopped
onion. Endive may be used in place of lettuce in winter, in a dressing or
with honey and sharp vinegar.
Lettuce. Serve lettuce in a dressing of "oxyporum," vinegar and a little
(I have no idea what "oxyporum" may be - Edwards declines to gloss it.)
Apicius gives several recipes for "Potted Salad", complex confections of
layered bread, vegetables and herbs which are served chilled. I've included
one example of this; Edwards suggests that you may wish to omit the soaked,
pressed bread and serve the rest of the salad on rolls, but the effect will
naturally be fairly different to the intention of the original.
ALITER SALA CATTABIA APICIANA Potted Salad Apicius. In a mortar, mix celery
seed, dried pennyroyal, dried mint, ginger, green coriander, seedless
raisins, honey, vinegar, olive oil and wine. In the salad bowl, strew
pieces of Picentian bread. Arrange the bread in alternate layers with
pieces of chicken, goat-kid's glandules (Edwards translates these as
sweetbreads), Vestinian cheese, pine nuts, cucumbers and dried onions
chopped very finely. Pour the dressing made above over the potted salad.
Strew snow around it until the dinner hour and serve.
Plain green salads: the medieval period
Salads in the earlier medieval period seem to have been quite simple:
mixtures of herbs served with a dressing. Bear in mind that these recipes
obviously call for fresh herbs; dried herbs will not give the desired
Take persel, sawge, grene garlec, chibolles, oynouns, leek, borage, myntes,
porrettes, fennel, and toun cressis, rew, rosemarye, purslarye: laue and
waische hem clene. Pike hem. Pluk hem small wi* *yn honde, and myng hem wel
with rawe oile; lay on vyneger and salt, and serue it forth.
Form of Cury (14th century English manuscript, Middle English)
Translation: take parsley, sage, green garlic, spring onions, onions, leek,
borage, mint, young leeks or green onions, fennel, garden cress, rue,
rosemary, purslane; wash them clean (in water). Pick them (I think this
means to pick over them to remove large pieces of stem, foreign matter,
etc). Pluck them small with your hand, and mix them well with raw oil; add
vinegar and salt, and serve it forth.
In her commentary on this recipe in her book Pleyn Delit, Constance Hieatt
warns that "grene garlic" would be wild garlic, much milder than the modern
variety, and she also suggests that some versions of this recipe in other
manuscripts also call for the leaves of spinach (I'd suggest baby spinach,
On preparing a salad of several greens.
A preparation of several greens is made with lettuce, bugloss, mint,
catmint, fennel, parsley, sisymbrium, origan, chervil, cicerbita which
doctors call teraxicon, plantain, morella, and several other fragrant
greens, well washed and pressed and put in a large dish. Sprinkle them with
a good deal of salt and blend with oil, then pour vinegar over it all when
it has sat a little; it should be eaten and well chewed because wild greens
are tough. This sort of salad needs a little more oil than vinegar. It is
more suitable in winter than in summer, because it requires much digestion
and this is stronger in winter. Platina, De Honesta Volupta, 1475 (original
Fancy salads: the Elizabethans
In the 16th and 17th centuries, medieval cooking underwent a change in
character. Cooking methods were simplified - early medieval recipes tended
to boil, then fry meat, where Elizabethan cooking simply roasts it - but at
the same time, presentation became more elaborate. In the preparation of
salads, the changes can be seen mostly in the choice of ingredients, with a
far wider range of vegetables and other ingredients being used in salads,
in a more innovative mixture of flavours. Of course, the simple green salad
continues to be made, as is seen in the Castelvetro recipe below; but often
additional ingredients are added, such as Dawson's salad of herbs and
periwinkles. Compare the simplicity of arrangement of the green salads
above, with the elaborate presentation of some of the later medieval
salads. In many ways, Elizabethan salads are very similar to salads we are
used to eating today.
Of all the salads we eat in the spring, the mixed salad is the best and
most wonderful of all. Take young leaves of mint, those of garden cress,
basil, lemon balm, the tips of salad burnet, tarragon, the flowers and
tenderest leaves of borage, the flowers of swine cress, the young shoots of
fennel, leaves of rocket, of sorrel, rosemary flowers, some sweet violets,
and the tenderest leaves or the hearts of lettuce. When these precious
herbs have been picked clean and washed in several waters, and dried a
little with a clean linen cloth, they are dressed as usual, with oil, salt
The Fruit, Herbs & Vegetables of Italy. An offering to Lucy, Countess of
Bedford, by Giacomo Castelvetro. The original is in Italian and written in
The other sources I have for later salads are all English. The first few
recipes are from Thomas Dawson's The Good Huswife's Jewel (1597).
Sallet for Fish Daies. First a sallet of green fine hearbs, putting
Perriwincles among them with oyle and vinegar.
Another. Olives and Capers in one dish, with vinegar and oyle.
Another. Carret roots being minced, and then made in the dish, after the
proportion of a Flowerdeluce, then picke shrimps and lay upon it with oyle
(I would interpret this to mean arranging the minced carrot in the shape of
a flower (a lily).
Another. Onion in flakes laid round about the dishe, with minced carrets
laid in the middle of the dish, with boyled Hippes in five partes like an
Oken leafe, made and garnished with tawney long cut with oile and vinegar.
(Hippes are presumably cooked rose hips; Beebe, the editor of a book on
Elizabethan cookery, suggests that "tawney" is the herb tansy, cut
Another. Salmon cut long waies, with slices of onion laid upon it, and upon
that to cast violets, oyle and vinegar.
From Robert May's The Accomplisht Cook (1660):
A grand sallet of beets, currants and greens.
Take the youngest and smallest leaves of spinage, the smalest also of
sorrel, well washed currans, and red beets round thecentre being finely
carved, oyl and vinegar, and the dish garnished with lemon and beets.
(Madge Lorwin's version of this recipe uses boiled, peeled beets, sliced
The next few recipes are from Gervase Markham's The English Huswife (1615);
the latter of these is a grand and complicated show-piece.
Your simple sallets are Chibols pilled, washt clean, and halfe of the green
tops cut away, so served on a fruit dishe, or Chines, Scallions,
radish-roots, boyled Carrots, skirrets, and Turneps, with such like served
up simply; also, all young Lettice, Cabage lettice, Purslan, and divers
other hearbes which may bee served simply without anything, but a little
Vinegar, Sallet oyle, and Suger.
(Chibols are a kind of spring onion, a cross between an onion and a leek.
Skirrets are a kind of water-parsnip, no longer grown, as is the problem
with purslan, a kind of herb).
To compound an excellent Sallet, and which indeed is usuall at great
Feasts, and upon Princes Tables.
Take a good quantity of blaunch't Almonds, and with your Shredding knife
cut them grosly; then take as manie Raisyns of the sunne cleane washt, and
the stones pick'tout, as many Figges shred like the Almonds, as many
Capers, twice so many Olives, and as many Currants as of all the rest clene
washt: a good handful of the small tender leaves of red Sage and Spinage;
mix all these well together with a good store of Sugar and lay them in the
bottome of a great dish, then put unto them Vinegar and Oyle, then scrape
more Sugar over all; then take Orenges and Lemmons, and paring away the
outward pills, cut them into thinne slices, then with those slices cover
the sallet all over; which done, take the thin leafe of the red Coleflowre,
and with them cover the Orenges and Lemmons all over, then over those red
leaves lay another course of old Olives, and the slices of wel pickled
Coucumbers, together with the very inward hart of your Cabbage lettice cut
into slices, then adorne the sides of the dish and the top of the Sallet
with more slices of Lemons and Orenges and so serve it up.
Ruth Anne Beebe. Sallet, Humbles and Shrewsbury Cakes. 1976. Boston: David R. Godine.
John Edwards. The Roman Cookery of Apicius, Translated and Adapted for the
Modern Kitchen. 1984. London: Rider and Company
Constance B. Hieatt and Sharon Butler. Curye on Inglysch.1985. London:
Oxford University Press.
Constance B. Hieatt, Brenda Hosington, and Sharon Butler. Pleyn Delit:
Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks. 1996. Toronto: University of Toronto
Madge Lorwin. Dining with William Shakespeare. 1996. New York: Athaneum.
I am also indebted to the SCA Cooks mailing list for the Platina and
Castelvetro recipes, for help with identification of some recipes, and for
general background information.
Copyright 1998 by Lady Jehanne de Huguenin, jessica at beattie.uct.ac.za, P O Box 443, Rondebosch 7701, Cape Town, South Africa.. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and receives a copy.
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.