I haven’t done a historical recipe for a while, so I thought that my first recipe in this new country should be an old English one. It comes from the French pain perdu, which means lost bread, in other words smothered bread. It’s a French recipe but it obviously goes very far back in English history as this recipe proves. It’s from 1420 and is transcribed straight from the source, although Griggers doesn’t say what the source is! To put this into historical context, Henry V is the King of England and so he will have indulged himself on these in banquets; indeed, the inclusion of sugar in the recipe made it very regal. In the fifteenth century, honey would have been used as a sweetener. Eventually this dessert morphed into Poor Knight’s of Windsor – of which there are two recipes in English Food and I will try and do them soon so we can compare and contrast. Anyways, here is the recipe:
‘Take fair yolks of eggs, and separate them from the white, and drawn them through a strainer, and take salt [a pinch] and cast thereto; then take fair bread, and cut in round slices; then take fair butter that is clarified, or else fresh grease, and put in a pot, and make hot; then take and wet well the slices in the yolks, and put them in a pan, and so fry them up; but be ware of them cleaving to the pan; and when it is fried, lay them on a dish, and lay plenty of sugar thereon, and then serve forth.’
I used clarified butter – not sure what is meant by grease, I suppose the author meant lard or dripping. It is important to clarify the butter, otherwise it and the bread will burn. The word fair in the recipe means fresh; so the quality of ingredients was important in medieval times just as nowadays. Griggers suggests using brioche should you have it. I didn’t.
FYI: Payn per-dew is also called French toast sometimes, but in the north of England I know it as ‘eggy bread’ and it is not just the yolks but the whole egg plus some milk is used. Slices are fried in a little oil and eaten with a scraping of tomato sauce or brown sauce and is certainly not a pudding!
#253 Payn Pur-Dew (1420). A simple and historical recipe that is a wee bit bland by our modern tastes. I think that in the 1420s it would have been an exciting dish, but I prefer it made with the whole egg and some milk to make it less rich and serve as a savoury rather than a sweet. It might have been better with syrup or honey on it instead; something with a bit of heady flavour. So, all-in-all it was okay, but not amazing. 4/10.