Armoured Food


I found three recipes with the names in common: armored hen, armored capon, and armored turnip. Only the armoured capon is dressed to look like it is wearing armor, which is really fun.

The turnips are layered with cheese and spices, somewhat like a “paleo diet” lasagna. Remember to use the smaller “Brassica rapa subsp. rapa” not the larger rutabaga “Brassica napobrassica”.

The armoured hen is a spit roast, where you make a crust on the outside of the roasted meat by sprinkling it with flour. The translation from Spanish by Robin Carroll-Mann can add to confusion if you are unfamiliar with this technique. “And when it is nearly half-roasted, baste it with bacon.” might imply that the spitted and half cooked hen is wrapped with strips of bacon before the flour crust is applied. This would result in an over cooked hen, or rubbery undercooked bacon. Putting a French translation “Fais rôtir une belle poule et, près de la mi-cuisson, frotte-la avec du lard.” into google translate gets “Do a nice roast chicken and nearly halfway through cooking , rub it with bacon.” This bacon fat addition, along with egg yolks, would allow the flour to stick to the less fatty hen. Translating with google from the original Catalan didn’t translate well.

Armored Capon
(Spain, 1520 – Robin Carroll-Mann, trans.)
Bard a capon, and roast it; and when it is half-roasted remove the barding fat. And take egg yolks beaten with parsley and sugar, and let them be very well-beaten, and put these eggs all over the capon; and take pine nuts and peeled almonds, and while you put on the egg yolks, put on the pine nuts and almonds bit by bit in such a way that they will adhere to the sauce. And then put the barding fat back on over the eggs and the capon. And it shall be upon the fire until it is completely roasted. Libre del Coch

* 1 capon (~6lbs)
* 6 strips of bacon
* 4 egg yolks
* 1 cup whole almonds, blanched
* 3/4 cup pine nuts

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Cover the capon with the strips of bacon. Roast capon for 45 minutes (while bacon is still rubbery, not crispy), then remove from heat.
3. Remove the bacon strips and set aside. Working from one end of the bird to the other, drop a little bit of egg yolk on the bird, smooth it out and use it to glue on almonds and pine nuts in neat rows, with the sides of the almonds touching and the pine nuts filling the voids near the points of the almonds. Place bacon stips back over the capon and return bird to oven. Roast for an additional hour or until it reaches 165°, and the limbs twist easily from the body.
4. Serve capon whole to guests, so they can enjoy the whole affect.

Armored Hen
(Spain, 1520 – Robin Carroll-Mann, trans.)
33. Armored Hen. Roast a good hen. And when it is nearly half-roasted, baste it with bacon. Then take well-beaten egg yolks, then with a spoon or with the tip of a large wooden spoon rub the hen with these yolks, little by little. And then sprinkle wheat flour well-sifted with ground salt over the eggs, turning the hen constantly and swiftly; and the crust is worth more than the hen. Libre del Coch

* 1 whole chicken, (~5lbs)
* 1/2 cup bacon fat
* 2 egg yolks, beaten with a fork
* 1 cup flour
* 2 tsp salt

1. Mix flour and salt together.
2. Build up a cooking fire, and tie your hen to a spit using food safe twine.
3. Slowly roast the hen, turning often, until it starts to sweat all over and juices start to run (approximately 30 minutes).
4. Baste the bird with the bacon fat all over. It will drip off quickly but also will add flavour. Then baste the bird with the egg yolks, evenly coating all over. Quickly, before the egg dries fully, start sprinkling flour over bird. The moisture from the bird, fat and eggs should make the flour adhere, although there will be loss. Keep sprinkling flour on bird, over and over, as your turn the spit, until all the moisture is absorbed and the flour has formed a crust of sorts. Continue to roast bird turning often, until flour is golden, and until it reaches 165°, and the limbs twist easily from the body.
5. Removed from spit to serve.

Armored Turnips
(Italian, 1421)
Cut up turnips that have been either boiled or cooked under the ashes. Likewise do the same with rich cheese, not too ripe. These should be smaller morsels than the turnips, though. In a pan greased with butter or liquamen, make a layer of cheese first, then a layer of turnips, and so on, all the while pouring in spice and some butter, from time to time. This dish is quickly cooked and should be eaten quickly, too. Platina, Book 8

* 6 turnips, boiled, sliced into 1 cm thick rounds
* 8 oz gouda, sliced into pieces half as thick as the turnips, or smaller
* 1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground
* 1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
* 1/2 tsp ginger, ground
* 1/4 tsp mace, ground
* 1/4 tsp cloves, ground
* 3 tbsp butter


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix spices together. Butter a baking dish. Lay down a loose layer of cheese, then a layer of turnips, sprinkle some of the spice mix on top of the turnips. Repeat until you run out of cheese and turnips.
  3. Sprinkle any leftover butter and spices on top of the layers.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes, or until cheese is melted and the top of the turnip pie is browning.



Cock, Capon, Hen, & Chicken


Chicken, Capons, Cocks, Roosters, and Hens, are all the same creature to the modern cook. Mature chickens will be treated as ‘boilers’ or ‘roasters’ but otherwise not all cooks will differentiate when cooking with them in a modern recipe. Not all cooks differentiate between the fowl when trying medieval recipes either. Medieval cooks did.

Capons are castrated roosters. They were served to the upper class almost exclusively.  They were desirable for their large size, fattening quickly after their ‘little cut’. They are also valued for their balanced humours, which meant that they were an excellent meat for anybody–who could afford it.

Roosters in contrast are warm and dry in the second degree. Hens and chickens are cold. Young hens were less expensive, with mature chickens, past their egg laying prime, even more affordable and were a food source common for the lower classes.

Modernly prices still seem to reflect these medieval values still. With capons, when a shopper can find them, still being expensive today.

Spinach, fennel and parsley are also suitable for all humours as well so I’ve selected two capon recipes with this in mind.

To Boil A Capon With A Syrup
This is an excerpt from The Good Housewife’s Jewell
(England, 1596) The original source can be found at

To boil a capon with a syrup. Boyle your capon in sweet broth, and put in grosse pepper and whole mace into the capons bellie, and make your syrup with spinach, white wine, and currants, sugar, cinnamon and ginger, and sweet butter, and so let them boyle, and when your capon is ready to serve put the syrup on the capon, and boyle your spinach before you make your syrup.

* a whole capon (~6lbs)
* 10 peppercorns
* 1 mace flake
* 10 cups broth

* 4 cups baby spinach, no stems, chopped fine
* 2 cup of white cooking wine
* 2 tbsp currants
* 1/2 cup raw sugar
* 1 cinnamon stick
* 2 slices of ginger
* 1/4 cup of unsalted butter

1) Pour broth into a pot large enough for the capon you’ve chosen. Insert the pepper and mace into the cavity of the capon, then submerge the capon into the broth, making sure capon is covered. Bring pot to boil and then reduce to simmer. Simmer capon for 1 hour or until it reaches 165°, and the limbs twist easily from the body.

2)  In a smaller sauce pan add the chopped spinach and 3 cups of water, bring pot to boil and then drain off water. Add wine, currants, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and butter to the hot spinach, simmer on low to medium low while capon is cooking, stirring often.

3) Removed cooked capon from broth and carve normally.

4) Remove cinnamon stick and ginger slices from spinach sauce. Pour sauce into a serving dish.

5) Serve capon slices with spinach syrup.

Capons with Herbs
From Le Viandier de Taillevent
(France, ca. 1380 – James Prescott, trans.)

 Cook them in water, pork fat, parsley, sage, hyssop, rosemary, wine, verjuice, saffron and ginger, as you wish.

* 1 Capon (~6lbs)
* 1/2 cup bacon fat, pork fat back, or lard
* 2 cups parsley, stems removed, chopped fine
* 1 branch sage, stem removed
* 1 branch hyssop or marjoram, stem removed
* 1 branch rosemary, stem removed
* 1 cup white cooking wine
* 1/4 cup crab apple verjuice (or cranberry wine)
* 1 pinch saffron
* 1 slice ginger, grated

In a large pot place capon and other ingredients. Add water to cover. Bring pot to boil and then reduce heat to medium-low to simmer. Simmer capon for 1 hour or until it reaches 165°, and the limbs twist easily from the body. Remove Capon from pot and carve. Serve with cooking broth if you desire.

Codlin or Codling


Fruit Tarts This is an excerpt from The Good Housewife’s Jewell
(England, 1596) The original source can be found at
To make all maner of fruit Tarte. You must boyle your fruite, whether it be apple, cherrie, peach, damson, peare, Mulberie, or codling, in faire water, and when they be boyled inough, put them into a bowle, and bruse them with a Ladle, and when they be colde, straine them, and put in red wine or Claret wine, and so season it with suger, sinamon and ginger.

This recipe is interesting for several reasons. At first blush the incongruous ‘codling’ jumps out. Although small cods are called ‘codling’  this is obviously not a fish pie.

A codling, or codlin, is “a large green-skinned apple with white juicy flesh and a delicate perfumed flavour that quickly turns light and fluffy when cooked.” A modern substitution would be a light cooking apple, the softer the better, like pippins

The second interesting point is the direction to strain the fruit once it is cooked. This step not only makes a smooth and even fruit slurry, but it takes the unwanted skins off the fruit too.

This ‘tart’ doesn’t actually say to place in a tart shell and bake. If you stop after mixing wine and sugar with the fruit you get a sauce where the sugar doesn’t quite fully dissolve. It tastes delicious, but the pie is the superior product.


* 3 cups cooking apples, roughly chopped into large pieces
* 2 tablespoons dry red cooking wine
* 1/2 cup of raw cane sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, freshly ground
* 1/2 teaspoon ginger, freshly grated
* 1 pie shell (optional)

1) Place apple chunks into a sauce pan and cover with water. Bring water to boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer fruit for approximately  10 minutes, until fruit is easily broken with a fork.

2) Strain fruit through a colander. Place colander, with fruit still inside over a mixing bowl. Break-up fruit with ladle then let cool.

3) Once fruit is cold enough to touch, press fruit through colander with wooden spoon, or your fingers. This will break up the fruit, and remove the skin.

4) Mix fruit slurry, wine, sugar and spices together. This concludes the recipe as written. The following is optional, but tastier.

5) Preheat oven to 350C.

6) Once oven is hot, pour fruit mixture into pie shell and place in oven. Bake for 45 minutes, or until mixture is bubbling and crust is brown. Let tart cool before slicing.