Viking Pie and Collaboration

The joy of passion is being able to share it with others. A recent collaboration with Darren Wiseman and his team at The York Pie Company has finally reached its conclusion. The Viking Pie lives!


When I heard that Darren wanted to add a Viking Pie to his repertoire  it seemed a perfect opportunity for The History Girls to share their knowledge. The chance to see a product reproduced in a commercial context was too good to miss. Evidence from archaeological finds here in York, an understanding of the meat, foraged goods and farming methods utilised by Vikings here in York in the 9th/10th centuries all influenced the recipe developed for this exciting project.The pie can be purchased from The York Pie Company and will have its first outing with the public at our upcoming tasting event, Taste Yorvik. (Tickets still available.)


As pastry was yet to be invented in Viking era York, it is true to say that this is a pie influenced by 10th century flavours as opposed to an actual Viking pie. The first step in developing a filling must surely be the choice of meat and we felt that options such as venison and wild boar were rather cliché. The most commonly farmed animal was the pig – as through much of history – followed by sheep which were valued for their wool. Once an animal outlived its usefulness, or became difficult to feed due to times of hardship, then it would be slaughtered.


There was the decision of flavourings. Archaeological evidence shows that Vikings in York ate both coriander and dill, perfect companions to mutton. This provided us with sound building blocks to a recipe. To supplement the mutton we investigated vegetable sources. The Vikings are thought to have consumed wild leeks picked on foraging trips, and were known to grow peas and broad beans. As both peas and leeks are an excellent match to dill they were added to list. To complete the aim for authenticity, and round off the flavour profile, we also included a combination of rye and barley flour in the pastry mix – common grains for the period.

So if you are in York and fancy a Viking influenced pie, keep an eye out for The York Pie Company. Or if you are a business and wish to collaborate with The History Girls on a similar project do give us a shout, we can help you put a little bit of history on your plate.


Collop Monday


Today – the day preceding Shrove Tuesday – is traditionally Collop Monday. It derives from an old Norse word Kollop meaning meat stew. This came to mean slices of meat and finally and more specifically, slices of bacon and eggs. Collop Monday is the day allocated to eating up any meat before the fasting of Lent begins. Any fat from the meat should then be utilised when frying pancakes the following day.

Spelt and Honey Rock Cakes

I have been preoccupied with ancient grains since writing our post on Ethiopian grain Teff last November. Our healthy eating series in the new year included Noah’s Pudding and today we revisit that recipe’s main ingredient, spelt.


A member of the farro family and descendent of ancient wheat Emmer, Spelt has formed a staple part of the human diet since the Bronze Age when it spread through central Europe. In the Iron Age spelt became the main wheat species in southern Germany and Switzerland, finally landing in Southern Britain around 500 BC. It continued to be popular until 1786 when Scottish engineer Andrew Meikle invented the threshing machine. Sadly the tougher husk of the spelt could not be removed by this new work saving device and it gradually fell out of favour.

200 years on and spelt was adopted by the organic food movement as it requires fewer fertilizers, although lower yield and a lengthier preparation process make it a pricier alternative for consumers. With a lower G.I. rating, higher levels of phenolic compounds and decent amounts of sulphur, potassium, niacin, B6 and beta-carotene – it is now being hailed as the latest ‘superfood’ and takes centre stage in a recent trend for heritage ingredients.

Spelt has a flavour reminiscent of peanut butter and a wonderfully crumbly texture. Classically matched with honey it sits perfectly alongside oranges, walnuts, hazelnuts and the darkest of dark chocolate. I have combined it with a standard white flour to lend a lighter quality. This recipe makes around 12 rock cakes ideal for an afternoon tea break.



  • 220g white self raising flour
  • 110g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 150g butter
  • 120g chopped dates
  • 1 orange
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 egg
  • 3-4 tbsp milk


  1. Preheat oven to 200C. Grease/line a baking tray.
  2. Combine the two flours and baking powder. Rub in the butter to fine breadcrumb texture. Stir in dates and the zest of your orange.
  3. In a large jug whisk 1tbsp of juice from the orange with the honey, egg and 3 tbsp of milk. Add to the dry ingredients and mix to a stiff dough. Use a little more milk if necessary.
  4. Pull of small, golf ball size pieces and space out on the tray. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Will keep for up to a week in a tin.


Ginger and A Grateful Pudding

May I with an apology. It has been a while since my last post and I promise to resume the momentum once again. Here in York we have been experiencing a harsh drop in temperatures, though thankfully not much snow. Such weather always throws me in to the kitchen in search of satisfying puddings, dried fruit and warm spices. So, in a break from the Healthy Eating series throughout January, I am going to share with you my favourite spice and a wonderfully named baked pudding.

Ginger is initially believed to have been imported for use in Ancient Rome from India ( via its native China) until the fall of the Roman empire in the 5th century. Arab traders then took control of the spice routes from the East and planted the rhizome in Africa and Zanzibar, trading with Greeks and Romans and introducing the spice to Europe along the way. Marco Polo  also obtained ginger on his travels around Central Asia and China, and so began our worldwide love affair with Zingiber officinale.

First utilised as a medicinal plant, Ginger can be found in the anglo saxon manuscript Balds Leechbook alongside silk, frankincense, blood letting and buck’s liver as possible treatments for poor health. In the later medieval period, as diet and health is inexorably linked to the four humors, the spicy heat of ginger gave it a dangerous quality. It has often been included in aphrodisiac consumables such as gingerbread, or the fabulous sounding cordial Rosa Solis. In addition to cinnamon, ginger, clove and grains of paradise, this Italian cordial water held a suspension of coral, ground pearl and tiny flecks of pure gold. A more humble, delicious recipe for rhubarb and ginger cordial can be found in the Jamie Oliver Magazine. As regular readers know, my own passion for food history was sparked by medieval recipes for gingerbread, and in Gingerbread spice and all things nice I provide you with a spice mix for adding medieval flavour to any favourite baking recipe. Ginger also held great value great value as a digestif, to calm the system after eating and ‘close off’ the stomach a belief still in evidence today.

The recipe I have chosen this week makes very good use of ground ginger and is perfect for the chilly damp days of February. It is taken from the Victorian cookbook Everybody’s Pudding Book (1862) by Georgiana Hill. It was, I confess, the name which first drew me in to this dish, and the inclusion of ginger meant that I was always bound to have a go. The end result is reminiscent of a traditional suet dessert but lighter in texture and with the warmth of ground ginger running through.


A Grateful Pudding

Take half a pound each of breadcrumbs and dry flour, then beat the yolks of four eggs and the whites of two; mix them with half a pint of new milk; stir in the bread and flour; add half a pound of stoned raisins, half a pound of washed currants, a quarter of a pound of sugar, and a large spoonful of ground ginger. Mix thoroughly together and either bake it for three-quarters of an hour, or boil it for an hour and a half.

Please note: I whisked the eggs till light and frothy and reduced the dried fruit slightly. I then spooned the mixture into a baking tin and baked, sat in a bain-marie, for 45 minutes at 175C until lightly browned and cooked through.