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Basics of 1300's Irish Cuisine

Ireland Food Notes: Milk - Whitemeat or Cottled Milk (like cottage cheese) - Slaves and workers were given the green milk to drink this was the milk left over (whey) after the production of the whitemeats. (Anon. 1673)

Eggs - Eggs were cooked by frying them on hot stones with butter or they were boiled or poached in a hot bath of water with salt and fermented fruit juice. (Danaher, K 1972)

Fish - Sir William Perry (1672) in his writings noted that fish were caught in abundance in the rivers and lakes of Ireland and cooked over the open fire. The salmon was the most prized of all fish, but was also considered to have magical powers. To wish a person the health of a salmon was to bestow on them long life, strength, and good fortune. Prized fish (Salmon as well as Pike and Trout) were cooked over a fire made of apple wood which the Irish believed imparted flavor and color. Trout, pike, perch, and roach were other river fish were in common use and eel weirs were well known on certain river in Celtic Ireland. Sea fish i.e. cod, hake, whiting, mackerel and skate as well as shellfish were also eaten (Mahon 1991). In addition to baking over an open fire the Irish consumed fish as a stew with all the fish available added to the pot and cooked with vegetables, seaweed and herbs.

Vegetables- They used onions, celery, carrots, parsnips, peas and beans, garlic, mushrooms, and herbs, wild leeks, sorrel, nettles, and watercress. A variety of fruits could have been gathered in the summer, sloe, wild cherry, raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, rowan, whortleberries, crabapples and elderberries, but apples seem to have been the only fruit that was cultivated in any way. Under Brehon Law a tenant who lost his land for any reason had to be compensated for any apple trees he may have planted. Hazelnuts were collected and used in cakes as a ground meal, or eaten raw. (Salaman 1949)

Meat - Beef, pork, wild deer (venison) and mutton was the most common meats consumed up and until the eight century, as venison became scarce due to over hunting, beef, pork and mutton then predominated. The meat, which was usually tough, was cooked in the cauldron for many hours. Younger animals were cooked on a spit over an open fire or stone roasted, calf meat was usually spit roasted over the open fire. It appears that horses were also eaten but how widespread this practice was, is unknown (Danaher, K 1992).

Bread - Oats and barley the most common cereals were used to make a variety of breads, the seeds of which were milled in querns or hand mills. Oats, a rain tolerant cereal most suitable for the Irish climate, and barley also acted as a thickening agent in most soups and stews. Oat-meal which was much more important than wheat or bere barley as a food source was prepared in many different ways e.g. porridges, boiled in its un-ground state as a gruel or ground and boiled in fresh or sour milk, flavoured with honey and seeds, salt or herbs. Porridge was made very thick as a morning meal or almost liquid, in the liquid state it was usually eaten at night. Porridge was consumed both hot and cold (Danachair 1958).



Recipe for Scones: Rich scones may be made by dissolving an ounce of fresh butter in a pint of hot milk, and stirring this into as much barley flour as will make a stiff dough. Roll this out into round cakes a quarter of an inch thick, and bake on a girdle. Split the cakes open, butter them well, and serve hot. A little butter may be rubbed into the meal if liked. When it is not convenient to bake the scones on a girdle, a thick frying-pan may be used instead. Time to bake the scones, about four minutes."

Recipe for Bere or Barley Bannocks (Old Method): Barley-meal, butter, salt, sweet milk. Put half a pint of milk into a pan with a pinch of salt and an ounce or more of butter. Bring to the boil and stir in quickly enough barley-meal to make a pliable dough. Turn out on a floured board, roll out thinly, cut into rounds the size of a meat-plate. Bake on a hot girdle, turning them once, on a rather sharp fire. They should be eaten hot.

Recipe for Cheese: You can make a good portion of fresh cheese using two liters of buttermilk. Very simple to make - just tip it all into a pot, cover with a lid and stand close to, but not directly in the heat. Rotate the pot as before and check every now and again to see if the curds and whey have separated. Once they have fully separated (you should see a large, round clump of 'cheese' floating under the surface of the whey) take the pot off the heat fully and leave to stand for ca. 20 min. You then need to separate the cheese from the whey. You can do this using a cheesecloth or it can also be effectively done just taking your time and carefully using the back of a spoon. You want to try and minimize breaking up the curds - otherwise you get a very crumby cheese instead of a nice, soft one. The whey can also be added to the stews if wished, drunk (at least taste it) and I'm promised that it's the ultimate natural face cleanser. Take it or leave it! You can now add chopped herbs and salt to the cheese. Leave to stand in a cool place, covered with a light cloth.

Recipe for Stewed apples & berries: Again, very simple. Peel the apples and chop them roughly. Add them and berries (if using) to a pot, ensuring they almost fill the pot that you choose to use - see the note on cracking above. Add a small cup of water and place the pot close to, but not in the direct heat. Rotate pot as before and stir regularly - remember not to tap the spoon on the side of the pot after stirring!! Add more water during cooking if necessary. Once the fruit is soft, serve warm topped with honey, chopped hazelnuts and freshly whipped cream.

Recipe for Beef Stew: Same method for both the beef and bacon versions. You need to heat the water first. NB - All pots must be AT LEAST half full of water/stew/apples whatever, at all times when cooking over an open fire (any less and the pots will crack/shatter). This raises an interesting question in terms of Irish ceramic finds as it's damn near impossible to boil a pot of water over an open fire without a lid... So, use your imaginations! Add diced beef, onions and root vegetables and cook gently for at least an hour until meat is cooked and veg are tender, remembering to keep rotating the pot towards the heat at all times. The buttermilk from making butter (see below) can also be added for extra flavour. Any herbs, nettles (pick the young shoots, they have the best flavour) should be added just before the end to allow the sting of the nettle to be cooked off but without losing all the flavour. Use plenty of herbs. Remember to add salt *after* serving in wooden bowls. (Bacon takes a little less time to cook. The bacon should be a joint of smoked bacon by the way, rashers won't cut the mustard here! Cut the bacon into small dice and add to the boiling water with chopped onions. Add the mushrooms after ca. 15 min and allow to simmer for a further 15 min. Add herbs and cream before serving.) Tip: If the beef stew is lacking a bit of flavour, remember that smoked bacon and cream can rescue pretty much any dish. A bottle of dark ale wouldn't do the beef stew any harm either...

Recipe for Butter: Very simple. get some cream (ca. 1L), tip it into a bowl. Make up a whisk using some small willow twigs (willow contains a natural antiseptic and so reduces risk of introducing bacteria) bound together with string. Start whisking! Takes a long time and takes even longer on a warm day. When the butter begins to separate from the buttermilk, gather the butter into a clump with your hand and transfer to a shallow wooden bowl. Spread the clump flat so that it's ca. 2cm thick. Pour a dollop of clean water over it and begin pressing the water into the butter with the back of a spoon. As you do this, you'll see the water turn milky as the buttermilk is pressed out of the butter. Drain this off and repeat this cleaning process until the last water runs off clear, showing you that all the buttermilk (or as much as is possible with this method) has been removed.. The more buttermilk you have in the butter, the more sour it will taste. Add salt and herbs as desired. Leave to stand in a cool place, covered with a light cloth.

Herbed butters were a savory change to the daily diet.

Recipe for Plum Pudding (a delight in those days): Too much to type out. Just go to and DO NOT Wait till last minute to read these directions!

Recipe for Honey Glazed Root Vegetables: 1 Turnip, 2-3 Carrots, 1 Quarter head of Cabbage, 1 leek, butter, honey, salt and pepper.

Peel root veggies and cut into pieces, Boil together in slightly salted water for about 15 minutes and drain. Sauté veggies in butter until soft. Let the leek and cabbage pieces saute with them at the end. Add some honey and stir the dish carefully. Season with salt and pepper. (

Recipe for ‘Fenkel in Soppes’ (Braised Fennel with Ginger) (Only Serves 6): #1 ½ trimmed fresh fennel root; cleaned and cut into matchsticks, 8oz onions, thickly sliced, 1 heaping teaspoon of ground ginger, 1 level teaspoon of powdered SAFFRON, ½ teaspoon of salt, 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil, 2/3 cup each dry white wine & water.

Put the fennel in a wide, lidded pan with the onions. Sprinkle the spices and salt on top, then the oil and finally pour the liquids over. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer 20-30 Minutes or till the fennel is cooked without being mushy. Stir once or twice during cooking process to make sure spices are well distribute.

(“Forme of Cury” Richard II’s Scribes at his cook’s directions)

Recipe for Apple Bacon: #1 of Bacon, fresh or cured, 1 teaspoon butter, 2 onions – sliced, 2-3 apples - cored and sliced, pepper, a few whole cloves

Cut the bacon into slices (if not already done) and fry them in a large grying pan at medium heat. Turn them over a couple of times and fry until rather crisp (not burnt). Remove from pan and add butter and fry onion rings and apple slices with the spices at low heat until they are soft and becining to color. Return the bacon to the pan and stir to allow them to warm through. Served best with fresh baked bread.


Recipe for Irish Sausage: 2 lbs of ground pork (if you can get a butcher to grind it for you fresh, ask for pork ground from the shoulder butt, otherwise, just use regular ground pork), 1 egg, 1 cup of bread crumbs, ¾ cup of cold water, 1 and ¼ tsps of salt, 1 and ½ tsps of dried thyme, 1 tsp dried marjoram, 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper, ½ tsp or dried rosemary, 4 cloves of garlic, flattened and finely minced, Sausage casings (these are generally sold salted and refrigerated.

1. Rinse out casings well with cold water two or three times and then stuff, twisting as you go to form links.

2. Mix together all ingredients (except for the casings!).

3. Take a small amount and fry or microwave it up and then taste for seasoning, and adjust seasoning if necessary

4. Once seasoned to your liking, use a wide mouthed funnel (I often cut a water bottle and use that as a funnel) stuck into the end of a sausage casing, and then press the meat through the funnel into the casing.

5. Divide the casing into links by twisting at intervals, and then refrigerate for a day or two (Ideally) before cooking.

Recipe for Meat Pies: 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 pound 80/20 ground beef, 1 pound ground pork (I tried it with pork sausage and it was great), 1 bunch green onions, finely chopped, 1 small bell pepper, finely chopped (green is more traditional but you can use any color that you like), 1 large garlic clove - crushed, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional), Salt and black pepper to taste, 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for preparing surface, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 cup shortening, 2 eggs – beaten, 1 cup milk

Pour vegetable oil in a large frying pan set over medium high heat; brown meat in oil. Add the onion and bell pepper; cook, stirring frequently until vegetables are soft, approximately 5 minutes; add garlic and sauté for 1 minute longer. Add red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside until ready to use.

Sift flour, salt and baking powder together into a large bowl or in the bowl of a food processor (this makes quick work of this step); process or cut in shortening by hand until it looks like cornmeal. Stir the eggs and milk together before slowly stirring into the flour mixture; mix well to form a soft dough.

Divide the dough into 16 equal portions. Dust a clean dry surface with flour. Roll each dough portion into a ball. Place each ball on the floured surface one at a time before rolling it into circle about 6 – 8” in diameter. Spoon approximately 2 heaping tablespoons of the meat mixture onto one side of the circle, leaving a 1” clean edge all around. Brush edges with a little warm water. Fold the circle over the meat mixture matching the edges, forming a semi-circle. Fold the edges in half up towards the meat leaving a 1/2" edge. Press the edge with the tines of a fork to crimp. Repeat with the remaining meat and dough.

Heat deep fryer oil or pour enough oil into a medium size frying pan to come up to a 1” depth in the pan; heat over medium high heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering place 1 – 2 pies in the pan and fry to a golden brown on each, approximately 3 minutes or so. Remove from the heat and drain on paper towels. Serve hot or at room temperature.

(Savoury Table)

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