in cumin sauce

As anyone who’s had the misfortune to walk through a town centre with me will confirm, I can’t resist a charity shop. I have to go in and inspect the cookery books, looking for original, interesting or just plain sticky, well-used tomes.

One of my latest buys (£2.50, thank you Peckham Scope) was Seven Hundred Years of English Cooking by Maxime McKendry. With a joint of pink beef glistening on the cover, it romps through the history of food, giving the original recipe and a modern interpretation of dishes such as 14th century roast peacock (tricky to recreate unless you have an ornamental garden near you and a bag big enough to hold an angry peacock), 17th century Bartelmas beef, Victorian whim-whams and 20th century tomato soufflés.

Encouraged to bring history to life, I hunted down a copy of Pleyn Delit for more inspiration and consequently I’ve popped on a cap and veil, strewn my kitchen with hay and stopped brushing my teeth. That’s right, I’m cooking like it’s 1499 and I’ve started with Chicken in cumin sauce.

The recipe has been given a little tweaking, with honey added in at the end to round out the flavours and I fried the bacon in duck fat because I have some in my fridge (just fry the bacon in its own fat if you’re short on poultry lard, adding oil to fry the chicken if necessary). It’s a hearty, savoury dish that’s good with buttered winter greens and slabs of bread for dipping.

Chicken in cumin sauce
Serves 6–8

500ml bottle beer (I used Pedigree)
100g day old wholemeal bead, torn into small pieces
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp duck fat
2 rashers good quality back bacon, chopped
1 (1.7–2kg) chicken, jointed into 8 pieces
1 tbsp honey

1 Place the beer, bread, spices and salt in a bowl and stir to mix. Set aside.

2 Melt the duck fat in a large casserole dish over a medium high heat. Add the bacon and fry, stirring, until golden. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon or tongs, shaking off the fat. Add the chicken pieces and fry, turning once, for about 15–20 minutes, until golden brown on both sides – you’ll probably need to do this in 2 batches.

3 Blitz the beer and bread with a hand-held blender to combine into a smooth sauce. Return the chicken to the casserole. Add the beer sauce with the bacon and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for about 1 hour, until the chicken is tender.

4 Lift the chicken out of the pan with tongs and arrange on a warm serving platter. Stir the honey into the sauce, taste and season. Serve with buttered green vegetables and bread.

Tagged with: ChickenEnglishMedieval

0 Responses to Chicken in cumin sauce

  1. Su-Lin says:

    Not served in a trencher? 😀 This is brilliant – I was given a medieval Catalan cookbook for Christmas and I’ve now got to cook from it!

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      It’s quite a big meal and my bread wasn’t huge enough to hold a serving (or my idea of a serving). You’ve definitely got to cook from the Catalan book – I’m going to be waiting to hear what it’s like!

  2. shayma says:

    wow, beer and cumin, what a wonderful combo. and duck fat, too? it looks lovely. i also love going into antique shops- and ones with cookbooks, well, my husband had better call it a day and make his way home while his wife becomes limpet to the antiquarian.

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      The duck fat gives it an extra glossy feel on the lips. It’s perhaps a bit much but I do love that sensation. And the problem with looking through books is that they distort time, so five minutes browsing suddenly turns into 40. If they didn’t do that no one would mind us having a quick look at the book section, but it’s just never that quick.

  3. Lizzie says:

    I really need to explore my local charity shops more thoroughly – it sounds like you’ve picked up some right gems. It sounds weirdly delicious.

  4. Sounds like the perfect recipe for a Sunday lunch! I have always been very interested in the food that our ancestors used to eat. I will try it soon

  5. The Grubworm says:

    They had blenders in 1499! 😉 Really interesting recipe – like Shayma says, mixing beer and cumin sounds like one of those why-didn’t-I-think-of-that? combos. Delicious.

    And as for “a quick look at the book section” – isn’t that an oxymoron?

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      You’re right, there is no such thing as “a quick look at books”. Just like there’s never “just the one pint”.

  6. […] Gin and Crumpets If you can't drink it, eat it « Chicken in cumin sauce […]

  7. Kerri says:

    I was expecting this to be more Indian in style from the title but it sounds like a really interesting mix of flavours. I love old cookery books for unusual combinations.

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      The flavours seem to make sense when they’re all together. Thinking of doing some sort of beer and cumin cake now. I normally think about all flavour combinations in terms of what kind of cake they’ll make.

  8. Maninas says:

    I’m enjoying your medieval series! (Yes, I’m reading it in the opposite chronological order…)

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