There isn’t much history associated with this dish, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to make something called milke mete. Though the title sounds unappetizing, it’s really just a thick custard-pudding.
For fun, I looked up the word milkemete in the Catholicon Anglicum, an English-Latin dictionary from 1483. I was curious to see if this was an actual medieval food term or if it was something made up by this particular chef, since I know of no other versions of this recipe. Surprisingly, milkmete is actually in the dictionary with its Latin equivalent: lacticinium. In modern English, this literally means milk food or milky food.
This recipe is from the circa 1450 Harleian Manuscript 4016, which later became part of Two Fifteenth Century Cookbooks.(1848). What I find particularly odd is its location in the manuscript. This custard, as well as a possible marmalade recipe, are not included with the desserts, but with the fish and shellfish recipes. Milkemete clearly isn’t seafood, so the only explanation I can think of is it was intended to be eaten on a “Fish day,” during Lent or some other mandatory meatless day. Either that or it was just an afterthought.
Milkemete. Take faire mylke and floure, and draue hem thorgh a streynour, and sette hem ouer the fire, and lete hem boyle awhile; And then take hem vppe, and lete hem kele awhile/ And then take rawe yolkes of eyren and drawe hem thorgh a streynour, and caste thereto a litull salt, And set it ouer the fire til hit be som-what thik, And lete hit not fully boyle, and stere it right well euermore. And put it in a dissh al abrode, And serue it forth fore a gode potage in one maner; And then take Sugur a good quantite, And caste there-to, and serue it forth.
Milk Food. Take fresh milk and flour, and push them through a strainer, and set them over the fire, and let them boil a while; And then take them up and let them cool a while/ And then take raw yolks of eggs and push them through a strainer, and add a little salt, And set it over the fire until it is somewhat thick, And let it not fully boil, and stir it constantly. And put in a dish all over the surface, And serve it forth for a good pottage in one manner; And then take a good quantity of sugar, and cast thereto, and serve it forth.
- 2 cups milk
- 1/3 cup flour
- 2 egg yolks
- Pinch salt
- 5 Tbsp. sugar (or approximately 1/3 cup)
Step ONE: Milk and Flour
Take fresh milk and flour, and push them through a strainer, and set them over the fire, and let them boil a while. And then take them up and let them cool a while/
Combine milk and flour and whisk it the best you can to eliminate lumps. Strain the mixture with a fine sieve, pushing it through to further break up the clumps. Do this as many times as it takes until all lumps are gone.
Put the milk/flour mixture in a pot and bring it to a boil over low to medium-low heat. Make sure you stir often so the flour doesn’t settle to the bottom and the milk doesn’t scald. Take the pot off the heat and set it aside to cool.
Step TWO: Thicken
And then take raw yolks of eggs and push them through a strainer, and add a little salt, And set it over the fire until it is somewhat thick, And let it not fully boil, and stir it constantly.
Beat the egg yolks and add a pinch or two of salt. When the milk/flour mixture is completely cool, add the eggs. Mix well. You can do this with or without straining.
Heat the pudding over low heat, stirring constantly until it is thickened and cooked through. This should take around 10 minutes. If you leave it on the heat too long, it will get too thick. If this happens, simply whisk in more milk.
I made two batches and one was significantly thicker than the other. I get a bit over-cautious around raw eggs so I may have cooked it a bit too long. However, the texture was nice and smooth. The thinner version was much better overall, but ended up a bit lumpier than I would have liked. Don’t let it boil and make sure you stir constantly to avoid making the same mistake.
Step THREE: Sweeten
And put in a dish all over the surface, And serve it forth for a good pottage in one manner; And then take a good quantity of sugar, and cast thereto, and serve it forth.
Add sugar and serve. You may sweeten individual portions to taste, if desired. I prefer mine to be on the sweeter end to taste more pudding-like, but you can adjust the amount of sugar according to personal preference. For a modern twist, add a bit of vanilla extract.
This is clearly a thick custard pudding and it’s pretty simple to make, as long as you don’t let it sit unattended on the burner and accept that custard-making is a delicate process. The presence of flour might challenge your idea of what constitutes a “pure” custard, but I think this is an accurate term in this case.
My custard pudding version is quite thick, but if you desire a thinner consistency, just add a little bit more milk. It can be saved in the refrigerator and reheated later. It is much better cold anyway.