Benes y fryed (c. 1390) ★★★

Today's recipe comes from The Forme of Cury, one of Europe's earliest English cookbooks. Unfortunately, this is not a Medieval tome of curry recipes - "cury" is actually the Middle English word for "cookery".

Modern recipes would specify what type of bean is called for in the ingredients, however this Medieval recipe neglects to do so. Luckily, history can help us here. Green (string) beans were not originally native to Europe and didn't arrive there until the Conquistadors brought them to France in the late 1590s. Even so, green beans, much like green peas, weren't commonly eaten until the 19th century. We can also deduce that this recipe is likely calling for fava beans, because that is the Old World variety (New World varieties include kidney, pinto, black, etc.).

Original Recipe: 

Modern Transcription:
Take beans and boil them until they are almost burst. Drain them and wring out the excess liquid. Add to them boiled and minced onions and garlic. Fry them in oil or in grease and mix in powder douce and serve it forth.

The Verdict:
So I've seen some versions of this recipe that are just, well, fried beans, but the Celtnet version calls for mashing the beans. I decided to go the frying route. The taste was different, but actually not as bad as I thought it would be. However, I don't like beans unless they are cooked IN something, like chili or casseroles. Mr. Man thought it was gross and was very unimpressed. I wouldn't make this again, but for someone who likes beans on their own and who likes cinnamon and those spices in savory dishes, this would probably be a nice dish.

Modernized Recipe: 

2 ONIONS, diced
2 cloves GARLIC, diced
2 tabelspoons POWDER DOUCE*

1. Soak the beans overnight in cold water. This will soften them and reduce their...flatulent properties.
2. After soaking, drain the beans. To fry beans, simmer the beans, garlic, and onion in beef stock until soft and then drain and fry in butter. To make mashed beans, cook the beans in the stock, fry the onions and garlic separately, and then combine everything to simmer for 30 minutes before mashing.
3. Mix in the powder douce.

*Powder douce is a Medieval spice mix, which varied by region and taste, but consisted of sugar and sweet spices. Find a recipe here, or simply sprinkle on a little of this and that. After all, there was no specific formula.

Anje graduated with a Honours Bachelors degree in History with a minor in Museum Studies. She currently lives and works in Japan's least populous prefecture as an assistant English teacher.


  1. I like the sound of this enough to try it, I think, but then I like beans and I think the poudre douce could be quite Middle Eastern.

    I read recently that runner beans (the British gardeners traditional string bean of choice) were grown initially for their flowers and like you said it was much later that people agreed it would be a good idea to eat the pods. Seems odd now that they wouldn't!

    1. That's interesting! The flowers are kind of pretty though, aren't they?

  2. We can also deduce that this recipe is likely calling for fava beans.
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