A Boke of Gode Cookery Presents

A pecoke

PERIOD: England, late 15th c. | SOURCE: MS Pepys 1047 | CLASS: Authentic

DESCRIPTION: Roasted peacock with ginger sauce.

Facsimile of receipt from the original manuscript:

Transcription of original receipt:

A pecoke

Cut hym yn necke and skald hym cut of þe fete & hede cast hym on a spete bake hym well the sauce ys gynger.

Modern translation:

A peacock.

Cut him in (the) neck and scald him. Cut off the feet & head. Cast him on a spit. Bake him well. The sauce is ginger.

Modern recipe:

  • 1 whole peacock (substitute with a large duck or a goose)
For the most part, the peacock was used in medieval feasts for its symbolic reputation and beauty and was not served as a delectable treat; the meat itself was considered tough and stringy. Peacocks are still available today for the kitchen from peacock farms and other sources; however, large duck or geese are appropriate substitutes due to their size, with meat far more pleasing. Place whichever bird you choose to use in a large roasting pan; place in a pre-heated 425º F oven and reduce the heat to 375º F. Roast 20 minutes for each pound - be sure the internal temperature reaches 190º F. Serve with ginger sauce.

Ginger Sauce: This original medieval recipe comes from the 14th century Le Viandier de Taillevent.

164. Poivre jaunet: Yellow Pepper Sauce. Grind ginger, long pepper, saffron -- and some people add in cloves with (var.: a little) verjuice -- and toast; infuse this in vinegar (var.: verjuice), and boil it when you are about to serve your meat.

Source: Scully, Terence, ed. Le Viandier de Taillevent. An Edition of all Extant Manuscripts. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1988.

Modern recipe:

  • 2 cups red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. ginger (see note)
  • 1 Tbs. pepper (see note)
  • 1 Tbs. ground saffron OR 1 Tbs. yellow food coloring
  • ½ tsp cloves (see note)
  • 1-2 cups toasted bread crumbs (unseasoned) - the amount depends on the thickness of the sauce
Bring the vinegar to a boil; reduce the heat slightly, and with a wire whisk, beat in the spices and food coloring. With the whisk slowly begin to beat in the bread crumbs until you reach the thickness of sauce that you desire. Continue beating until you have a smooth consistency and the mixture has again returned to the boil. Remove from heat and serve as an accompaniment to roasts or fish.

This very tart sauce may startle a few people, but many love its sharp and unique taste. Feel free to adjust the spices to your personal taste - some may enjoy using less pepper and more ginger, etc. The sauce can be as thin as a gravy or as thick as a dip.

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