A Tudor Olive and Caper Salad

Did you know the Tudors ate olives? I didn't. 

A Tudor and Caper Salad, for Fish Daies - 1597. Photo: Jo Romero

But here they are, plump and juicy, in an English cookbook called The Good Hus-wives Jewell, by Thomas Dawson, from the year 1597. 

And it's probably the shortest recipe I've ever seen. 

Here it is:
'Olives and capers in one dish, with vineger and oyle.'
That's it. 

But first, some historical context. 

The year is 1597. Elizabeth I, daughter of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, is sixty-four years old, resplendent in her glittering, embroidered gowns and ever-expanding ruffs around her neck. Her face still had a youthful glow, dusted with white powder and pink for rosy, blushing cheeks. But the wrinkles of her middle aged eyes still crackled under the powder as she smiled. Her dark brown eyes contrasted with the paleness of her skin, and she wore a red-gold wig with tumbling, copper curls that fell around her shoulders. The jewels around her neck and on her fingers glinted in the sun as she gazed out of her paned glass window at the scene beyond. She had restored Protestantism to her country, seen off the Spanish invasion and made her mark as a reigning queen in her own right. She may be sixty-four, but she could ride her horse out hunting and dance with the energy of ladies half her age.

There were olives and capers in Elizabethan larders, but not tomatoes or potatoes. Bananas were a curious fruit, often brought out to entertain and provide a giggle. There was no tea, coffee or chocolate. 

Can we maybe stretch our imagination to see Elizabeth absent-mindedly gazing out of her red-bricked palace window, and then reaching down with jewelled fingers towards a golden spoon to serve some of these olive and capers? 

It's not unlikely. 

This salad is in part of the book titled 'Sallets for Fish Daies'. The olives and capers are mixed in a small bowl with a splash of olive oil and vinegar and they're really good with roasted meats as well as fish - try serving them up at your next barbecue and just drop in the fact that it's a four-hundred year old recipe. 

A Tudor Olive and Caper Salad
Serves 2
half a cup of pitted olives (I used green Queen olives) 
2 tbsp capers, drained from their liquid
2 tbsp good, fruity extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp white wine vinegar

Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl. If your capers and olives come from the fridge, allow them to come to room temperature before serving. It makes a big difference to the flavour. 

Enjoyed this? You might like my other historical recipes. 

Let me know what you think in the comments below! If you make it, tag me on Instagram @lovebritishhistorypics - I'd love to see. 

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Source: Dawson, Thomas. The Good Huswife's Jewell. 1597. Text Creation Partnership, accessed 7 Apr. 2020.