Medieval White Beans and Bacon

“Then came lamprey pie, honeyed ham, buttered carrots, white beans and bacon, and roast swan stuffed with mushrooms and oysters.” (A Clash of Kings)

Modern White Beans and Bacon

Our thoughts:

Both of these recipes are absolutely wonderful. The medieval recipe really soaks up the bacon taste in the beans. Roughly chopped lardons paired with the buttery beans make for a lovely mouthful. The onions offer a bit of caramelized sweetness at the end of every bite.

The modern recipe is incredible. Curly endive is reminiscent of the broccoli rabe when wilted, balanced out phenomenally by the sweetness of the bacon and onions. We could eat this as a meal in itself! These dishes take about 10 minutes to make, and can easily be scaled up for more people.

Beans are indeed the magical fruit.

Medieval White Beans and Bacon

Original Recipe:

189. Benes yfryed. Take benes and seeþ hem almost til þey bersten. Take and wryng out þe water clene. Do þerto oynouns ysode and ymynced, and garlec þerwith; frye hem in oile oþer in grece, & do þereto powdour douce, & serue it forth.

-Curye on Inglish: English Culinary Manuscripts of the Fourteenth-Century (Including the Forme of Cury)

Our changes:  The Westerosi menu calls for white beans and bacon, so we replaced the butter in the medieval recipe with bacon and bacon fat. We’ve also chosen not to boil the onions, but saute them till tender to preserve their flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups white beans, canned or fully cooked (about 1 can)
  • 4 pieces of bacon, roughly chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • pepper and poudre douce to taste

Fry bacon in a saucepan until mostly cooked to taste. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, and saute the onions and garlic till the onions are translucent and tender.  Add beans and bacon to the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until beans are hot. Add pepper or powder douce to taste and serve warm.

Modern White Beans and Bacon

Ingredients:

  • 4 pieces bacon, roughly chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 head curly endive, leaves rinsed and torn
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups white beans

Cook bacon over medium to high heat in a large saucepan until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and set on paper towel to drain. Add onion to drippings, and saute till tender. Add half the endive leaves and cover pot, cooking till endive is wilted. Add remaining endive and garlic, cover and cooked till endive is wilted. Add beans and bacon, cooking until the beans are heated through, stirring often.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.

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28 Responses to White Beans and Bacon

  1. Jonathan Hounsell says:

    As a long-time fan of the books and a chef it’s wonderful to see someone else excited about all the delicious meals he has described so lovingly. You have a wonderful site! As someone who has cooked from the arctic circle to Antarctica I can almost imagine cooking on the Wall(plenty of snow crab but no auroch though!). Keep up the amazing work! Sincerely, Chef “Irish” Jon Hounsell

  2. Owen says:

    One comment on the medieval (actually two). First, how do you find the ancient recipes – just internet search?

    Second – I think that last instruction might mean to mash the beans up at the end?

    • Needs Mead says:

      Hi Owen! We have a collection of cookbooks that we check first, then a few websites that list medieval recipes. If those routes fail, we do a basic Google search. When possible, we try to include the citation for each, along with the date.

      As for mashing the beans, if you are referring to the bit with “do þereto powdour douce”, it actually refers to a spice mixture. There were several different medieval mixtures of spices, including fine powder, strong powder, and the above sweet powder.

  3. Andy Hall says:

    Great blog! Keep up the good work. I’m looking forward to you tackling Lamprey Pie, as that is one disturbing fish to look at normally.

  4. Kali says:

    Great idea! I look forward to seeing what you come up with. Endive is a particular favorite of mine. I’ll have to try this out sometime. It’s always fun to see what new cooking blogs come out.

  5. Adam says:

    This is all so wonderful! My friends and I were stumbling through trying to find things for our premier party and could have just come here! The site is beautiful and the food looks delicious. I can’t wait to try some of the recipes!

  6. Luke says:

    Love the site! My girlfriend and I made the modern version of this last night and it was wonderful! We used Belgium endive as we couldn’t find curly endive at the local supermarket. It didn’t have the same appealing color as curly would have but it was still delicious. Thank you for recipe!

    • ChoppedGinger says:

      So glad you liked it! This is one of my favorite recipes that we’ve done so far, I think it’s awesome!

  7. Eric says:

    Last night, for our GoT viewing party, I made this, the honeyed chicken, and the Old Bear’s spiced wine for our guests. They were all AMAZING, and I am not a good cook. Something about the simplicity and heartiness of the ingredients made this the best thing I’ve ever made!

    I couldn’t find endive on short notice (most of our groceries were closed on Easter Sunday, d’oh) so I substituted kale in this dish. My beans started getting dry- of course, I had doubled the recipe- so I added just a little chicken broth while cooking to keep it moist.

    Thank you so much for the care and effort you’ve put into this site.

  8. John says:

    I love the recipe, but question whether it might not be anachronistic. The white bean is a member of the Phaseolus family. That family was strictly New World until they were brought back to Europe.

    If Game of Thrones is a retelling of the War of the Roses, it pre-dates this transfer. Historically accurate alternatives might be chick peas or even green peas. The green pea and bacon combination does have a long record in Europe.

    • ChoppedGinger says:

      Hi John, Thanks for checking out the site! I think fava beans would be the most historically accurate beans to use, taking into account what we’ve seen in old cookbooks when researching this dish. However, we chose the cannelloni bean when we made the dish because of its creamy texture and how it soaks up that bacon taste. On this one it was more of taste thing than historical accuracy. That’s the great thing about cooking from a work of fiction!

    • Needs Mead says:

      A fair point. However, The Man’s descriptions are anachronistic to begin with. In a previous post we had a recipe that included green beans, a legume imported from the Americas. Consider also the mention of apples, or spun sugar. Our goal hasn’t been to find exact recipes for every dish that Martin mentions; doing so would have long since driven us mad. We are instead taking his descriptions and finding historical recipes that can be made to work in conjunction with them. That’s why our recipes range from Ancient Rome to the Elizabethan era.

      That said, peas and bacon ARE delicious together, and could be a feasible alternative to this dish!

      • Ellie says:

        A Song of Ice and Fire is a work of fiction. Aside from that, the two continents had engaged in trade for centuries, unlike Europe/The New World… so I don’t really see the point of anachronism.

  9. John says:

    Definitely like the recipe! What could be wrong about white beans and bacon, in just about any form?!

  10. Sebert says:

    First of all: Great Website !

    I tried my own version of the modern variant, I replaced endive with savoy. I know, it is rather early modern age than medieval, but delicious nevertheless :-)
    Beans, lentils and all their relatives are just wonderful !!

  11. Emily says:

    Made this as a main dish for dinner last night, and it was great! Really hearty tasting, and I love how simple it is; the flavour of each ingredient really comes through as a result.

    Keep up the good work, guys, though I’ll be holding you responsible when I turn into a bloated, gout-ridden mess ;)

  12. Do you think dried Great Northern beans, once soaked, would work for this? I’m trying to use these as a last-second third side dish to really round out the dinner.

    • Paschendale says:

      I’ll bet they would be fine. I plan on trying this recipe this weekend and that’s what I’m going to use. I find that Great Northerns have a nice mild flavor, so they shouldn’t be too overwhelming.

      • Paschendale says:

        Tried this earlier in the week and I ended up using spinach, since that was what I had on hand. I’m not sure that was the best of ideas, since the spinach had a bit strong a taste compared to the rest of it, but on the whole I enjoyed it. The next time I make it I’m going to try a milder-tasting green, though.

  13. Had an Inn at the Crossroads party with friends last night. Brought the medieval version of this dish. I ended up using canned butter beans which worked really well. This dish was so easy to make but tastes like I put in so much effort. Thanks!

  14. I did find that making it with two cans of ready to eat beans worked amazingly. Using a 16oz. bag of dried beans left me with so many beans that they completely destroyed the bacon. I’m considering making this dish for family thanksgiving and will definitely use canned beans.

  15. Skipjack says:

    Put me down for another hearty endorsement of this dish. I went outside my envelope a little bit by even trying the beans, but when Sariann put them down as her favorite so far I figured I’d give it a whirl. I’m hugely glad I did, as are the people who ate it. I’m looking forward to the full cookbook.

    • dan says:

      As soon as we finish one pot of beans that we soaked and used for a 3 or 4 days we put another pot on, 2 cups of cheap fresh dried goes a long ways!
      Enjoy
      Dan

  16. Janet says:

    MMM…came to your site after googling white beans and bacon. A restaurant prepared them (sans greens) (smoky thickcut organic bacon) for breakfast and topped with two poached eggs. I had a little leftover (about 1/2 cup) and stirred them into a pasta dish I made with haricote green beans, penne pasta, pinenuts and shaved parm. MMMM…

  17. This was a big hit. I substituted kale for curly endive and it still turned out delicious. Very hearty and flavorful.

  18. Icart says:

    Found the site by accident today- OMG – love it, love it, love it!
    Well done and keep up the fantastic work!
    Going to try this dish tomorrow, can’t wait, as I love white beans and love bacon- heaven!

  19. Alex Cockell says:

    I haven’t read the books – but was this also a common military rations dish as well? Seems as though a lot of cultures had their version of Ham And M-F’ers… Ham and lima beans was a Meal Combat Individual menu item for the whole of that ration’s lifetime (Korea/vietnam)

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