Cocboeck: Introduction

The book Eenen seer schoonen ende excellenten Cocboeck ('An exquisite and excellent cookbook') by Carel Baten, who according to the fashion at the time converted his name into Latin Carolus Battus, was published in 1593.
Battus came from Ghent and had taken flight to Dordrecht after the fall of Antwerp in 1585. 
There he was the town’s medical doctor from 1588 till 1601. The Cocboeck has been added to the Med’cijnboec, the second edition of the translated version of the Artzney-Buch, written by Christopher Wirsung. In that format the combination of the Cocboeck was printed eight times till 1628. 
Battus was one of the first who printed medical publications in Dutch. Among them are translations of medical editions by Jacques Guillemeau and Ambroise Paré. We also come across kitchen recipes in the Secreetboeck (1600), an original publication by Battus, which was published nine times until 1694. It contains many recipes from the Cocboeck. 

Nearly 400 years later, in December 1991, the 'Academie voor Streekgebonden Gastronomie',  ASG (Academy for Regional Gastronomies) published a transcription of the Cocboeck by Carel Baten. The ASG used for this the 6th edition of 1624. 
That edition has an introduction by Jaques Collen, a diplomatic transcription by Raf van Laere and a list of explanatory notes as an ending. The introduction contains a lot of information about Baten and his publications. 

The 298 recipes from the Cocboeck are late Medieval and of an international standard. The styles in which they’re written are, Spanish German, French and Italian (Lombardy). But also Wallonian and Bourbon, giving evidence of its origins: the southern Netherlands, or contemporary Belgium. 
It’s also clearly indicated by the names of the recipes. Just consider the pie made from Tiense cheese, a pie from Doornik ('Dornijpe taert') and a cream-custard from Moerbeke. Many Belgian specialties today originated a very long time ago.
Only six recipes mention the word 'Lent'. 

It’s hard to find a pattern in the Cocboek. The recipes have been inserted haphazardly, no divisions of chapters or whatsoever, such as e.g. meat dishes and fish dishes.
For this reason I’ve applied a structure in categories, following the lead of Elly Cockx-Indestege (1971), while adding a few more chapters. This resulted into a compilation of 14 categories:
1) pottages, porridges and gravies, 2) meat dishes, 3) fish, 4) sauces, 5) brewet, 6) stuffing, 7) pastries, 8) pies and tarts, 9) baked and boiled dishes, 10) beverages, 11) confectionery, 12) vegetables, 13) dishes for the sick, 14) miscellaneous.

A rough inventory of the Cocboeck shows:

  1. About 16 porridges and gravies. Porridge consisting of wine or milk, thickened with flour and/or eggs; gravy or sop is a solid ladle food that requires odorous liquid, sprinkled over roasted bread. The book also contains a 'Spanish porridge' and a 'Spanish sop'. Only one recipe of  pottage, carp! The 'Creym van Moerbeke' is a froth of sweet creamy custard.

  2. 47 meat recipes: poultry, including a lot of capon and chicken, partridge, duck and pigeon, a lot of veal, (breast of veal, shank, liver), legs of oxen, sheep and pork, wild boar, sucking-pig, wether-leg Lombard way, hare, stews (four recipes of four different stewed meats). We come across meat recipes including some six slaughtering recipes for sausages, blood-sausage, small sausages and other dishes of slaughter-garbage, one recipe for potted pastry of oxen-meat. All very expensive and as such only for the privileged!

  3. 25 fish recipes: plenty of salmon, carp, haddock and sturgeon, continuing with eel, lobster and crab, lamprey,  carp Spanish way or 'Duytsch',  a hotch-potch of sturgeon or salmon, potted pastry with pickled herring.

  4. 62 recipes of sauces: sauces in many shades for meat, fish, jelly and galantine (comparable with an aspic, either clear or not), 'blaumengier' (blancmanger= white dish of almonds and chicken), green sauce, peppersauces, the classical 'saupiquet sauce' for roast rabbit and cameline (cinnamon) sauce. Abundant use of orange-peel in sauces. 
    Sauces were not only meant for enjoyment. They could also correct the quality of foodstuff, according to the theory of humour. Certain liquids in the body, said to determine a person’s mental and physical qualities.

  5. Only one recipe of 'bruwet' (brewet), 'bruet fuleet': a ragout bound with breadcrumbs and coloured with saffron.

  6. Stuffing: two recipes for poultry stuffing, but also a couple of recipes for meat stuffing.

  7. 39 pastry recipes: capon, venison (meat of wild game animals), salmon, carp, barbell, mutton and lamb, quail, goose, conger eel and pike; furthermore a recipe for a quince pasty. Elaborate instructions for the finishing touch of pastry!

  8. 27 pie recipes: apple pie from Doornik, cheese pie made from Tiense cheese or creamy curd, cream pies, chervil and dates pies, many almond and quince pies, a hearty sweet 'Jacopijne' pie (a pie containing oxen-marrow, but during the fasting period salmon and eel). 
    Fruit-tarts from gooseberries, strawberries, cherries and red currants and in addition a marzipan recipe. In tarts and pies profuse use of raisins, cinnamon and ginger and a great deal of sugar.

  9. 58 recipes for baked and boiled dishes: side dishes with fruits, like stewed pears (quinces) and medlars, all of it cooked in wine and flavoured with cloves, cinnamon and sugar, various egg dishes, including many custards or flans (with apple, quince or cream), 'struiven' (egg-omelet), eggs 'Lombaert way', stuffed little eggs (cleft nuns!), a sort of cobbler’s cake ('timmermanstasey'), a lot of waffle recipes, 'roffioelen' (filled little pasties), flat cheese dishes (curdled milk), an English cake with green herbs (spinach and tansy). 
    No pancakes, instead a ‘droogen coeck’ = a dry cake, that might pass for it. A blend of gooseberries and cherries (side dish), continuing with a sort of pulpy rice milk dish 'Antwerp way', i.e. rice boiled in milk and a chunk of butter added, flavoured with cinnamon and sugar, coloured with saffron.

  10. Beverages: one hippocras drink, a spiced wine.

  11. 6 candied fruit recipes: such as almond butter, candied orange peel, candied allant-root, candied cherries and a recipe to clarify sugar.

  12. 3 vegetable recipes: spinach, cauliflower and Savoy (cabbage), very luxurious at the time. Cauliflower and Savoy had only recently been introduced from Italy and were becoming increasingly popular among the rich.

  13. 7 dishes for the sick, the very last recipes in the Cocboeck: drinks ('suypen') for 'malicious' dry coughs, drinks and dishes as appetizers, barley-porridge to convalesce and even a reinforcing beverage for women in childbed. Broth with egg-yolk, sugar and spices, such as mace, nutmeg, and saffron, all of this mixed with breadcrumbs.

  14. 4 miscellaneous recipes: a recipe to make red dying colour (turnsole), a recipe for scent-bags for the linen cupboard. Suggestions to preserve quinces and grapes for at least one year (in wood ashes).

The taste of the dishes is characteristic for medieval times: a hearty, sweet mixture, 'tempered' by a dash of verjus (juice from unripe grapes), lemon or (sour) Rhine wine. The use of spices is profuse and very prestigious among the rich. 'Peperduur' is a saying in Dutch, meaning, 'as costly as pepper'. 
The sweet component required the use of sugar and tropical fruits. It’s an indication for the presence of the Arabic cuisine that came about at the time of the Crusades, which inevitably resulted into commercial activities.

In earlier days, cooking was not considered a revolutionary thing to do. More often than not, recipes were merely compilations. They simply combined older sources to one piece. In the Cocboeck we can clearly distinguish the influence of three cookbooks at least.

  • Ms 476, a late 16th century manuscript from Ghent (ed. R. Jansen-Sieben and J.M. van Winter, De keuken van de late Middeleeuwen. 1989),

  • Een notabel boecxken van cockeryen, Brussels about 1514 (ed. R. Jansen-Sieben and M.E. van der Molen-Willebrands 1994),

  • Eenen nyeuwen Coockboeck, compiled by medical doctor Gheeraert Vorselman, Antwerp 1560 (ed. E. Cockx-Indestege 1971)

The Cocboeck in its turn was an important source for the 17th century cookbook that had its first publication in 1667: De verstandige kock.

More glossaries on cookery terms

Thanks to J.B. Hendrix for translating this introduction into English.

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