Medieval people considered October a very generous month with a wide range of seafood. Contrary to today, shellfish was ordinary food in the late Middle Ages. The rich natural mussel and oyster beds off the Flemish coast were not yet exhausted and ensured a stable supply of affordable food.

Did You know? Medieval fishmongers not only sold oysters and mussels, but also other shellfish such as cockles, periwinkles, prawns, shrimps, crabs and even lobsters.

From garnish to luxury dish

Mussels and oysters were rarely served on their own at the tables of the medieval elite, although it is their salty essence that sets these foods apart. However, mussels and oysters were frequently used in soups and stews. What’s more, it is hard to find simple recipes in which mussels are merely stewed. Of course, the famous Belgian dish of mussels and chips did not yet exist as potatoes were still unknown in Europe. Oysters were also on the menu in the 15th century, but they were invariably cooked and gratinated instead of consumed raw. Shellfish recipes also existed, but what is striking is the sweet touch: lobster meat was covered in sugar after frying. To balance the flavour, it was served with some maslin bread.

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Shellfish stew with verjuice and parsley


  • 500 g mussels
  • 500 g shellfish (cockles, periwinkles)
  • 10 cl verjuice
  • 2 cloves of garlic (crushed)
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 sprig of parsley (finely chopped)
  • 1 onion (finely chopped)
  • a knob of butter
  1. Sauté the chopped onion and crushed cloves of garlic in butter. Add the thyme and rosemary and let everything fry gently.
  2. Increase the heat and add the mussels and shellfish. Boil for about 5 minutes under a lid and regularly give it a shake.
  3. Add the verjuice at the end and allow to boil down.
  4. Finish with a generous amount of finely chopped parsley. Enjoy!

Oysters au gratin with saffron butter sauce


  • 4 oysters 000
  • 60 g shallot (finely chopped)
  • 2 dl white wine
  • 1 dl white wine vinegar
  • 170 g butter
  • oyster liquid
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 10 cl cream
  • 3 saffron threads
  • 20 g almond flakes
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  1. Open the oysters and sieve the liquid, put the oysters aside for a moment and rinse the shells. Check the oysters for bits of shell.
  2. Sauté the shallot with the bay leaf in butter (20 g) and deglaze with white wine, oyster liquid and white wine vinegar.
  3. Reduce to 1/4 and bind with 150 g of (cold) butter and cream.
  4. Season with saffron, pepper and salt and put the oysters back in the shells.
  5. Sprinkle with saffron butter sauce and almond flakes and gratinate.