Eat like it’s 1440: ‘Checkins in Brothe’

May’s recipe of the month is ‘Chickens in Broth’ – a 15th century recipe brought back to life courtesy of our Visitor Engagement Manager-cum-medieval cook, Tessa. Packed with timeless flavours, it’s sure to delight even the most discerning of today’s palates. 

Published by Richard Pynson in 1500, the Boke of Cokery is thought to be the first cookery book printed in English. It is believed to have been written c.1440, so its contents may seem unfamiliar to modern readers, largely providing guidance for popular dishes of the time and menus for elaborate feasts, rather than the step-by-step recipes we’re accustomed to today. Only one copy remains, which is in the private collection of the Marquess of Bath at Longleat House.

As we are celebrating all things ‘print’ this month, we really wanted to share something that could translate into today’s kitchens. Having looked at the ingredients for ‘garbage’ (chicken heads and feet), and other delights on the menu, including larks and peacocks, we opted for something a little more in keeping with modern palates! ‘Chekins in Brothe’, or ‘Chickens in Broth’ should your medieval English not be up to scratch, is written below in its original form, with a suggested modern-day translation.

‘To mak chekins in brothe tak and ƒkald your checkins then tak parƒly ƒage and other erbes and grapes and put it in the checkins and ƒethe them in good brothe and colour the brothe with ƒaffron caft on pouder douce and ƒalt it and ƒerue it’.


For the meat:

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 3 pints chicken stock (or enough to almost cover the bird)
  • A handful of flat leaf parsley
  • A small handful of sage
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 10 grapes (approx.)
  • Pinch of saffron (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the powder douce (sweet powder):

  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar (or sweetener)
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg


  1. Stuff the chicken with the herbs and grapes before placing in a deep casserole dish
  2. Add the stock to almost cover the bird and a pinch of saffron if using. Season with salt and black pepper. Bring to the boil then reduce to a low simmer
  3. Cover with a lid and cook on the hob for one to one and a half hours, or until the chicken is cooked. If you have a probe, it should read 75C (minimum) in the thickest part of the chicken
  4. Remove the chicken from the stock, cover, and rest for ten minutes
  5. Add the powder douce to the stock and stir well before straining. Use some for gravy – the rest can be used to make a risotto
  6. Carve the chicken and serve with the gravy, the grapes from the stuffing, rice, and some broccoli or nice seasonal asparagus
  7. Lightly sprinkle some of the leftover powder douce upon the meat and enjoy!

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