‘A Taste of the Past’

Medieval food was one of the great cuisines of the world. More popular images of bone-flinging feasts, dirty water, and foul-smelling food covered inadequately by spices, could not be further from the truth. The food eaten in Europe from about 1150 to beginning of the 1500s was of considerable sophistication, varied in its palate and tastes, and a wonderful mixture of exotic ingredients from the far-reaches of Eurasia, and the local. Eat Medieval will introduce this enticing world with a unique combination of modern chefs and academic experts. A partnership between Blackfriars Restaurant, Newcastle, and Durham University in the north-east of England brings you a taste of the past. Housed in the medieval buildings of a Dominican Priory, Blackfriars, under its dynamic owner Andy Hook, has sustained an interest in the food of the period. Professor Giles Gasper and his team, from Durham University and with colleagues from further afield, collaborate with Andy and his chefs, to explore medieval food and its culture. 

Eat Medieval – Sauces for Courses will focus on the earliest collection of gastronomic recipes from the European Middle Ages. These, a collection of sauces, date from about 1170 and were discovered by Professor Faith Wallis (McGill University, Montreal), and analysed by her and Professor Gasper subsequently. While we know what people in the earlier period ate, and have medical and occasional food recipes, these seem to the first deliberate collection, which tells us how people prepared and consumed their food. Be warned though! Medieval recipes are very short and often not much more than a list of ingredients. No quantities, no temperatures, and ingredients which are sometimes unfamiliar. These uncertainties require the collaboration of the professional chef and the academic expert, seasoned with a lot of fun. 

What we’ll do during the week is take you through the medieval recipes, both the sauces from Durham, and those by two near contemporaries, Master Alexander Neckham and Master Henry of Huntingdon. We’ll show you how to make up the sauces on the medieval instructions and how you can adapt them. They range from the very simple to the interestingly complex, using herbs and a range of spices. You’ll make a spiced ginger sauce, different versions of the medieval green sauce (as ubiquitous as tomato ketchup), and pepper sauce, for use on a wide range of accompaniments, vegetarian, fish, meat, and game. And we’ll show you how to make a version of medieval spiced wine, the amazing Hypocras. 

Once you have booked onto the course, you’ll receive a code for pages on our website. The first code will unlock your shopping list, and some substitutes for the more unusual ingredients. The second code will unlock the pre-recorded films: each day will include recipes and explanatory academic films on medieval food and culture, as well conversation with Andy, Giles, and friends. We have two live cookery sessions within the week and Zoom Q&A sessions as well. So, by the end you’ll definitely be able to … Eat Medieval!


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