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For to Make Benes Yfryed: Historic Fava Bean Recipe

Our translation of a medieval recipe for whole fava beans, from The Forme of Cury, the earliest collection of recipes in English.

The Forme of Cury - Grounden Benes

Here at Great British Beans we’ve all been reading Ken Albala’s fascinating book Beans: A History. Albala tells the story of our 10,000 year relationship with beans, how we’ve shaped them and how they have shaped social and cultural history. The book also includes a few recipes, of which one in particular seems well worth reproducing here.

The following recipe for benes yfryed first appeared in The Forme of Cury, the earliest collection of recipes in the English language. It was written by master cooks in the court of Richard II in about 1390 and rediscovered by Samuel Pegge in the 18th century. Here’s the recipe for fried beans in all its Middle English glory:

Benes yfryed. Take benes and seeþ hem almost til þey bersten. Take and wryng out þe water clene. Do þerto oynouns ysode and ymynced, and garlec þerwith; frye hem in oile oþer in grece, and do þereto powdour douce, and serue it forth.

14th century recipes are, perhaps unsurprisingly, thin on detail – precise cooking temperatures and exact weights would have to wait a few hundred years – even the exact nature of some of the ingredients are vague. Here the master cooks call for powdour douce, this was a sweet spice mix usually made with ginger, nutmeg, cloves and sugar – the exact mix would have varied according wealth (these were expensive ingredients) and taste… which has changed significantly over the last six or seven hundred years; you might want to substitute the douce with your own preferred spices!

Here's our translation of the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 250g Whole Fava Beans, soaked overnight (or use 1 can of Whole Fava Beans in Water and skip step 1)
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Oil to fry
  • Your version of douce – garam masala with a bit of extra cumin would work well
  • A pinch of salt

Method

  1. Boil the fava beans until they’re very soft – almost to the point where they burst.
  2. Rinse and drain thoroughly.
  3. Finely chop the onion and garlic and saute, add the beans and fry for a few minutes stirring in the douce, add salt to taste and serve immediately.

There are a couple of other bean recipes in The Forme of Cury – both are for soups, one is similar to our bean and rosemary soup.

The image used to illustrate this recipe is taken from the ‘B’ version of The Forme of Cury (copied from the original in around 1420 and held at Manchester University), it features a recipe for a bean soup, "Grounden Benes".




Josiah Meldrum
Josiah Meldrum

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