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!

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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A very British stoup

One of the things I love about winter is the endless bowls of warming soup. Solid, honest food that wraps you in a fleece blanket and puts the fire on as you eat. Dried pulses, root veg and aliums seem to be grown for this form of cookery and you can almost feel it doing you good whilst you slurp out of a big heavy mug.

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The next choice for the Healthy Eating from History series is not so much a recipe as a flavour profile from a particular time and place. The 9th century to be exact, the Anglo Saxon / Viking era and the place is Yorvik. Archaeological finds have discovered small amounts of evidence regarding our diet and there is much documentation as to farming methods, in addition to knowledge regarding edible native plants.

Beans and peas have formed an important part of our diets for centuries, and it is believed to be the broad bean which was most commonly seen in Anglo Saxon England. Grown as a field crop they would be dried on the plant and stored throughout the year. Out of necessity, meals were meat free and beans provided an excellent source of protein in addition to complex carbohydrates. There is something ancient and nutritious about eating dried beans and other pulses and I am inevitably drawn to throwing them in my stoup. Mine were recently picked up from a Newcastle deli and are British grown by Hodmedods in the south.

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The second main ingredient for today is leeks. Anglo Saxons are thought to have eaten a lot of wild aliums, the family including leeks, garlic and chive. They would also have access to carrots and parsnips, both would be thin, woody and white in colour as orange carrots had not reached the shores of England. My recent vegetable bag from Goodness contained a combination of white and yellow carrots so I chop them up and toss them in too.

Last but not least I look to archaeological evidence from the dig sites in York’s Coppergate area for inspiration with flavourings. Samples of plant finds confirm the use of both coriander and dill in seed and probably leaf form. As dill is excellent with leeks and carrots I take this gently aniseed route. I also cheat with a vegetable stock cube, bay leaf and seasoning.

NB: In the photographs below you will have noticed a lamb bone peeking out of the top of the stoup. It was left over from a roast the day before and any viking cook would never let such a flavourful addition go to waste so neither did I. It was an added bonus and obviously should not stop you from having a go in the absence of a juicy bone!

Ingredients

250g dried broad beans or split peas
4 medium leeks
2 tsp dill seeds
2 carrots
Vegetable stock cube
2 small bay leaves
Optional: random left over bone

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Method

Place the beans in a large pot and cover with plenty of water. Soak overnight.

The next day wash and slice the leeks. Fry gently in a large pan. Do not brown.

Whilst the leeks are cooking, chop the carrots and add to the pan along with the dill seed.

Cover the contents of the pan with one litre of water and stir in the vegetable stock cube and bay leaves. Bring to the boil then simmer for about an hour.

Towards the end of cooking time use a spoon to press and break up the broad beans. This releases the starch and thickens the stoup as you stir. Serve in whatever vessel you prefer.

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