While most medieval peasantry were not feasting on meat every meal, they probably didn’t cater for vegans either. Along with vegetables, a typical medieval diet in south Wales would have included a lot of cheese, eggs and fish.
However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t dishes we can create now to cater for vegan diets using ingredients available to people living in the 14th Century.
Over the August Bank Holiday we set up camp at the magnificent Caerphilly Castle.
One of the dishes I prepared on the Sunday was a lovely mushroom and lentil main. It’s very simple, tasty and easy to recreate at home.
What you’ll need:
Half a kilo of mushrooms – I used traditional closed cap mushrooms but you can mix this up dependant on the strength of flavour you want
Two cans of green lentils (you can soak lentils from a bag, but I’m a bit of a cheat)
Quarter of a cup of olive oil
A pinch of black pepper
Mixed herbs (I used a combo of basil, rosemary and thyme)
These amounts serve 4-6 people. Halve the amounts for a good portion for two.
For the second day of Melee at Cardiff Castle I wanted to cook something quick and simple. I was inspired by “To the King’s Taste” (Lorna J. Sass 1975). Fresh summer vegetables are a frequent item in 14th century menus but there aren’t often recipes involving them as these dishes were too simple to be worth recording.
I used fresh carrots (found in the market by another member). These beautiful colours would have been usual to medieval people; orange carrots only became popular in the last couple of hundred years.
I chopped the carrots and put them to boil in a big pot over a fire of split logs with a little flame and a lot of embers to boil gently. I added salt to the water as with the group working outside all day a little extra salt is necessary.
While the carrots were cooking I started the meat. The sources suggest trimmings from preparing larger joints and offal be chopped very finely . As I was short of time I cheated (this may be a recurring theme) and used 1.6kg of beef mince. I seasoned it with salt, pepper, herbs and about two level tsp of Poudre Douce, a mild spice mix. Every good chef would have their own version of this popular seasoning but it often contained cinnamon, ginger, grains of paradise, nutmeg, sugar and galangal.
The meat was kneaded and shaped into sausages to put on the skewers. I soaked mine overnight so they didn’t catch fire. To cook the meat I put the bakestone over a fire of hot embers to heat up and used a little butter to grease it and check the temperature. When it was sizzling I put the first batch of skewers on to cook.
I added 1kg of frozen peas to the carrots and simmered them while I prepared the second batch of skewers. Once the first batch were browned all over I swapped the second batch on to cook, drained the veg and added spinach, rocket, butter and pepper to it. I put a lid over the veg and knocked the fire down to let it steam in the heat from the pan until the meat was done.
I served it up as fairly as possible to the twelve we had in camp on Sunday and everyone said they enjoyed it very much.
Jayne Lutwyche sometimes produces authentic medieval meals at our events, cooked over our fire. This recipe, and the stewed lambs’ hearts one which will follow it, were served at Joust! in June 2016.
As Medieval cooks it’s often difficult to find interesting, veggie friendly meals which aren’t pottage-based. Last season we were experimenting with a great dish, which was simple, quick to cook, and delicious.