Beef y-Stywyd

Beef Stew

The following recipe is a fairly simple to cook and is quite nice served by itself as a simple dish or served in a bread bowl.

Source: Harleian MS. 279, ab. 1420 A.D (from Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books)

Original Recipe:

Beef y-Stywyd. Take fayre beef of þe rybbys of þe fore quarterys, an smyte in fayre pecys, an wasche þe beef in-to a fayre potte; þan take þe water þat þe beef was soþin yn, an strayne it þorw a straynowr, an sethe þe same water and beef in a potte, an let hem boyle to-gederys; þan take canel, clowes, maces, graynys of parise, quibibes, and oynons y-mynced, perceli, an sawge, an caste þer-to, an let hem boyle togederys; an þan draw it þorw a straynoure, and let it be stylle; an whan it is nere y-now, caste þe lycour þer-to, but nowt to moche, and þan let boyle onys, an caste safroun þer-to a quantyte; þan take salt an venegre, and cast þer-to, an loke þat it be poynaunt y-now, & serue forth.

My Translation:

Beef Stewed. Take fair beef of the ribs of the fore-quarters, and smite in fair pieces, and wash the beef into a fair pot; then take the water that the beef was seethed in, and strain it through a strainer, and seethe the same water and beef in a pot, and let them boil together; then take cinnamon, cloves, mace, grains of paradise, cubebs, and onions minced, parsley, and sage, and cast thereto, and let them boil together; and then take a loaf of bread, and steep it with broth and vinegar, and then draw it through a strainer, and let it be still; and when it is near enough, cast the liquor thereto, but not too much, and then let boil once, and cast saffron thereto a quantity; then take salt and vinegar, and cast thereto, and look that it be poignant enough, and serve forth.

My Interpretation:

Place beef, water, parsley, onion and all spices into a pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer until the beef is cooked and tender, approximately 1 – 1/2 hours. Remove meat from broth. Add breadcrumbs to broth and stir regularly until sauce is thickened to desired consistency. Add vinegar and cooked meat into pot. Let cook for 5 minutes, then serve.


One of the changes I do from the original recipe and this one is using breadcrumbs instead of steeping the bread with vinegar and broth, then mashing it through a strainer. My reasons for this change are as follows: Using breadcrumbs does not in anyway change the nature of this dish. The same property of the bread (the cooked starch) is being used for thickening the broth. This is also a more frugal method. In my opinion, you are not using more dishes (a strainer and a bowl to sleep the bread in) to get the same desired result. It is also a simpler means to achiever the desired result, especially since thus dish was cooked on site. I found the above proportions of ingredients to give this soup a nice balance of flavors. In addition I add the breadcrumbs as a final step rather than in the beginning so that the pot does not have to be stirred while the chicken is cooking and minimizing any scorching that might occur.

Works Referenced:

Austin, Thomas, comp. Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books. N.p.: Early English Text Society, 1888. Google Books. Web. 21 June 2012. <>

Friedman, David D., ed. A Collection of Medieval and Renaissance Cookbooks. S.l.: S.n., 1991. Print.compiled by Duke Cariadoc of the Bow and Duchessa Diana Alena

Renfrow, Cindy. Take a Thousand Eggs or More: A Translation of Medieval Recipes from Harleian MS. 279, Harleian MS. 4016, and Extracts of Ashmole MS. 1439, Laud MS. 553, and Douce MS. 55, with More than 100 Recipes Adapted for Modern Cookery. Unionville, NY: Royal Fireworks, 1997. Print.