A great variety of different dishes were eaten by royalty and nobility. Spices were very popular in this era, and meat or fish were often served with rich, spicy sauces. Ginger, pepper, cloves, and cinnamon were all popular flavourings, as were mustard, vinegar, and verjuice (the juice of unripe grapes). Meat and fish might be boiled, baked or roasted, or made into stews, pies, fritters, etc. There were also other dishes that were popular.
One such dish was a blankmanger, consisting of a paste of chicken blended with rice boiled in almond milk, seasoned with sugar, cooked until very thick, and garnished with fried almonds and anise. Another was a mortrews, of fish or meat that was pounded, mixed with breadcrumbs, stock, and eggs, and poached, producing a kind of quenelle, or dumpling.
Another popular dish was frumenty, made of boiled hulled wheat and milk of almonds, rather like a porridge, to which was added a meat, and saffron and other spices.
A popular dish at feasts for royalty and nobility was a swan, peacock or pheasant that had been carefully removed from its skin, roasted, and then had the skin repalced, so it would be carried into the dining room in its plumage.
Exotic game birds were a popular item at feasts, like rail, bittern, crane , egret and young heron. Other less exotic items might include roast suckling rabbits, and pigeons, beef and mutton (possibly stewed or roasted). Roast meats were nearly always served with a sauce, although some birds, such as curlews, were served only with salt. Sauces were regarded as an important part of a dish and were served seperately.
Exotic colouring was often used in feasts, and one dish was described as 'purpil'. This was probably a red colouring, perhaps from 'saunders' a variety of sandalwood much used for colouring, or dragon's blood (a bright red dye obtained from various plants). The appearance of food was very important, and probably most dishes were coloured in some way, often with saundres, or with saffron to give a bright yellow, as in frumenty and mawmenny. Another practice, similar to colouring,w as to cover a dish with silver or gold foil. In one case a pig was stuffed with a ****, which was itself stuffed with a mixture of pine nuts and sugar, and the whole roasted. It was then coloured with saffron,a nd gold and silver foil.
An important feature of medieval feast were the 'subtleties', elaborate table decorations introduced at the end of every course. Sometimes a subtlety was an ornament made of sugar or marzipan that was eaten. Anything could be represented. In great feasts it was frequently something relevent to the occasion. For example, at the banquet for the corionation of Katherine, wife of Henry V of England, there were subtleties showing scenes from the life of Saint Katherine.
All medieval feasts took the same general pattern of two, three or four courses, each consisting of several dishes. The more eminent the occasion, the more dishes per course. The order of the dishes within the courses varied. Soup might come first, then eggs, fish and meat, then the entremets such as swans, peacocks or pheasants dressed in their plumage, and finally the dessert. But this was not always the pattern. The fifteenth century Modus Cenandi suggests soup first, then flesh dishes (both animals and birds) followed by pies and pasties, then fried dishes, and finally the dessert, wafers, fruits, light cakes and spiced wine. On fast days soup was to be followed by fish dishes, then 'soft' dishes, and lastly fried puddings. Another fifteenth century manuscript gives an elaborate order for a fish course, with salted fish followed by fried fish, then sea fish, fresh-water fish, roas fish and so on.
Life in a Medieval Castle by Frances and Joseph Gies
food and Feast in Medieval England by Peter Hammond