This Turkie-Berry

wpid-wp-1433776548149.jpegRecently commissioned to provide content for a local project exploring the history of the coffee house in England, I embarked on a period of study to refresh my knowledge on the origins of the bean and how it made its way onto our shores. This research brought me time and time again to the Bedouin, a semi nomadic tribal people living in an area that spans from North Africa to the Middle East. I was thrilled to see that these tribes drink their coffee with cardamom and other spices such as saffron and cinnamon. The Bedouin people also seem to drink their coffee strong – as did Restoration England – with very little milk and in the same quantities as I may drink an espresso.

Cardamom is one of my favourite spices and I couldn’t wait to taste it combined with coffee. Today I am sharing the instructions for a traditional preparation – adapted from The Book of Threes website.

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Combine 1 lb. of a robust ground fresh coffee  ( I used Java Jampit from local York Coffee Emporium) with 4-5 tbsp of ground cardamom and mix well.

To make the coffee take 30ml water, 1 tbsp of the coffee blend and 1 tsp sugar per serving.

  • Combine the water and coffee blend in a pan (or a traditional Ibrik as pictured below) and bring to a rolling ball. Take off the heat and leave to settle for 3-4 minutes.
  • Return the pan to the heat and and simmer the coffee for 10 minutes, adding extra spices such as cinnamon sticks or a pinch of saffron at this point.
  • Bring back to a rolling ball, sweeten with sugar and serve.

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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.

Collop Monday

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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.

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.

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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.

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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Healthy Eating from History – Erbolate

Welcome to the second instalment of the Healthy Histories series. We kicked off 2015 with the toothsome pudding from Turkey called Asure. Today I share with you a dish of baked egg and herbs. A simple supper made for Richard II, Erbolate appeared in one of the earliest cookery books in England, A Forme of Cury from 1390.

Duck, Old Blue Cotswold and modern speckled brown chicken egg.

Duck, Old Blue Cotswold and modern speckled brown chicken egg.

From peahen to the much prized turtle, mankind has eaten eggs throughout culinary history. Extraordinary Roman chef Apicius, thriving in 25Bc, is thought to have invented many familiar egg recipes. He is the first to document a sweet baked egg custard. By the Middle ages eggs accompanied fish and almond milk as suitable alternatives to meat during fasting.

Many herbs from this period are no longer easily available and when they are found it is often in the context of herbal therapies. Indeed, many of the plants noted in this ‘receipt’ were likely included for their medicinal qualities.

Take and grind parsel, mynthe, sauery, sauge, tansey, veruain, clarey, rewe, ditaiyn, fenel and southernewood and grinde hem fyne.

Rue, Dittany and Southernwood are all extremely bitter tasting leaves which are toxic and should be used with extreme care. They were all believed to be beneficial to the digestive system as many bitter herbs were. In actual fact, Southernwood is the Mediterranean relative of Wormwood, infamous ingredient of absinthe and containing neuro-toxins. Tansy is another which should be used sparingly but will impart a unique aromatic flavour not dissimilar to nutmeg or clove. Tansy can be found growing wild across England if you are a confident forager.

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Tansy – photographed on a guided foraging trip last year.

Clary, otherwise known as Clary Sage, was utilised by the Romans to make an eyewash and is believed to be good for easing muscle spasms. This is still in modern culinary and herbal use as is Vervain. Better known as Verbena, Vervain is thought to be one of the 38 plants used to make the tincture for Bach flower remedy.

The challenge when recreating Erbolate is matching the flavour profile with ingredients which are both flavoursome and easy to source. We are not as accustomed to bitter leaves here in Britain, though other parts of Europe still value them as part of a wide ranging diet. Frisee and dandelion leaves were excellent possibilities, along with the chicory and rocket I eventually decided upon. Parsley, Mint and Sage were obvious enough and I chose to add a little thyme to echo the qualities of the Dittany and Savoury. Finely, a little nutmeg grated sparingly over the top will do in the absence of Tansy.

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Erbolate

or Baked Herb Omelette

Ingredients

  • 1 handful of rocket leaves
  • 1 chicory head
  • small amount of each fresh – thyme, parsley, mint, sage, fennel or tarrogan
  • 3 duck eggs
  • salt and nutmeg for seasoning

Method

Serves two with salad

  • Preheat the oven to 175C.
  • Take a small baking dish and grease lightly with butter.
  • Gently tear the rocket leaves up and place them in the bottom. Break 2-3 blades from the bulb of chicory and lay them on top as seen in the picture below.

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  • Finely chop the herbs and scatter on top of the chicory. Start with around about a loose teaspoon of each once finally chopped. You can then adjust according to personal taste if you wish.

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  • Whisk the eggs and pour them over the herbs. Press everything down so that the chicory is coated and is less likely to catch in the oven. Chicken eggs could also be used, but I went with the more robust nature of duck eggs to stand up to the strong flavour of the other ingredients. Grate a little nutmeg over the top before placing in the oven. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes depending on how you like your eggs and the depth of your dish. Remove and serve. Leftovers can be eaten at room temperature the next day.

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Healthy Eating from History – Noah’s Pudding

NOAH’S PUDDING

Asure (ash-oo-ray)

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There are times when a new recipe develops through hours of research. Others flash into life from a simple word, smell or taste whilst I’m thinking of something completely unrelated. Then, like this one, inspiration visits me via someone else. Noah’s Pudding appeared in a novel my husband was reading, the main character prepared and served the dessert for dinner guests. The description included grains, pulses and dried fruits combined in a sweet, porridge like consistency. John thought it sounded tasty and the name itself had me hooked. It also served as the prompt for this new series of posts as we begin 2015. Healthy Eating from History aims to share a number of recipes which should help in the age old New Year quest of resetting our constitutions.

The story behind the dish makes Asure one of the oldest desserts in history. Legend tells that, in the last few days of life on the Ark, with waters receding and food stocks running low Noah himself threw everything in a pot and hoped for the best. Every cook has at some point found themselves in a similar situation and will understand the trepidation that comes with impromptu cooking. As it happens the Asure was a hit and provided tasty sustenance until the Ark found dry land on Mount Ararat.

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Back in the 21st century, Asure is now a sweet dessert eaten on the day of Ashura during Muharram. Ashura is a day to remind Shia Muslims of the sacrifices the Prophet’s family made for the sake of mankind. In Turkey it has come to represent diversity, peace and friendship and it is customary to make a large pot and share it amongst neighbours and friends.

There is no standard recipe for Asure, although there are a number of ingredients which form the initial building blocks. These include wheat, pulses, dried fruit, nuts, sugar or honey to sweeten and aromatics such as rose, orange blossom or lemon peel. It is a perfect way of satisfying the sweet cravings of a cold day and uses up many of the store cupboard leftovers from Christmas. The following recipe is The History Girls version of Noah’s Pudding.

Noah’s Pudding

Ingredients

  • 130g pearled spelt
  • 100g tinned chickpeas
  • 70g pudding rice
  • 250ml skimmed milk
  • 350ml water
  • 1tbsp honey
  • 11/2 orange blossom water
  • small pinch ground cinnamon
  • 60g of a mixture of walnuts, pistachios and hazelnuts
  • 5 dried dates
  • 3 ready to eat figs
  • 20g sultanas

Almond slices, pomegranate seeds and pomegranate molasses to serve

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Method

  • Pour the spelt into a large container with just enough water to cover. Leave to soak overnight.
  • The following day combine the spelt, chickpeas and pudding rice in a medium sized pan with the milk and water. Stir well and bring to the boil. Simmer carefully for 10 minutes, covered, stirring regularly to help release the starches.
  • Whilst the grains are cooking, finely chop the nuts, dates and figs.
  • After 10 minutes check the pan and stir in the honey, orange blossom water and cinnamon. Simmer for another ten minutes stirring regularly until the spelt and rice is cooked through. Add a little more water if you wish the texture to be thinner.
  • Take everything off the heat and fold in the dried fruit and nuts. Taste for sweetness, using a little more honey if desired.
  • Serve at room temperature in small bowls. Scatter with almond slices and the tart pomegranate seeds and molasses

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