Elizabethan food had little if any resemblance to contemporary English dishes. Recipes of the day added sugar, honey and fruit like oranges, prunes and dates to meat. A rabbit for example was stuffed with pepper and currants and then boiled in mutton broth. A recipe for capon (castrated rooster) included sugar, nutmeg and almonds and was served with prunes. One could also boil a capon in a broth of eight oranges, sugar, cloves, mace, cinnamon and nutmeg. The brains of capons were also utilised to make brain pies. Sheep’s head was a delicacy.
Instead of a baking tin, Elizabethan cooks used a tray made of hard pastry, which was unnervingly called a ‘coffin’. Coffins were not made to be eaten of course.
Fish was either poached or fried in butter, while the poor ate dried salted cod. Salmon, turbot and eel were all poached in ale.
Strawberries were soaked in red wine with sugar, cinnamon and ginger and cherries would be served with mustard.
A recipe for pie goes like this:
“To make a pie of humbles [‘umbles were deer’s entrails, hence the phrase ‘humble pie’], take your humbles being parboiled, and chop them very small with a good quantity of mutton suet and half a handful of herbs following: thyme, marjoram, borage, parsley, and a little rosemary and season the same, being chopped with pepper, cloves and mace. And so close your pie and bake him.”