Medieval festive treats

By meriel jeater on 25 Dec 2014
'Yule dolls' made from traditional medieval recipe!

‘Yule dolls’ made from traditional medieval recipe!

If you’re wondering how to spice up your Christmas menu this year, you could get some inspiration from the medieval period. Here are some dishes that I thought sounded particularly tasty.

Venison marinated in red wine and served with pepper sauce
Venison was usually only available in wealthy households. Peasants were forbidden to hunt large animals like deer.

Frumenty (a type of savoury porridge made from cracked wheat, water and stock/milk)
This was a standard dish eaten by most people. You can elevate it to noble levels by adding eggs and saffron and serving it as a side dish with roasted venison.

Pork roasted with spiced wine
If you want to really jazz up your Christmas dinner in a medieval style, cook the pig’s head separately, put an orange in its mouth and then carry it around your dining room while singing carols.

A Great Pie
A ‘grete pye’ was an important part of a medieval Christmas feast and contained several types of meat, dried fruit, boiled eggs and spices. You could try a mixture of rabbit, duck, chicken, pigeon and beef.

Yule Dolls
These were biscuits a bit like gingerbread men, in the shape of people or animals. They were flavoured with honey, nutmeg, saffron, lemon and currants, and had raisin eyes and orange peel mouths. I read about them in a very fun book called ‘Medieval Holidays and Festivals’ by Madeleine Cosman and thought they sounded delicious so I decided to make some. I adapted a gingerbread recipe, took out the sugar and replaced it with honey and substituted the ginger for nutmeg and saffron.

In case you’re wondering what the shapes are (the mixture wasn’t as firm as the usual gingerbread so harder to use with cutters!), they are rabbits, elephants, angels, dogs and Christmas trees! And very yummy too!

If you fancy making them yourself, here’s the recipe:

Makes about 20 biscuits
150g butter
220g honey
360g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (probably not a very ‘medieval’ addition!)
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 large pinch of saffron strands
Grated zest of 1 orange (it was supposed to be lemon but I didn’t have one)
110g raisins or currants

1. Heat the saffron strands in a saucepan for about a minute. Tip them into a pestle and mortar and grind them into a powder.
2. Melt the butter and honey together in a saucepan over a low heat (you can re-use the saffron pan).
3. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, nutmeg and saffron into a large bowl.
4. Add the melted butter and honey mixture, the orange zest and the raisins and stir until the mixture comes together into a sticky dough.
5. Roll out the mixture on a floured surface until it is about half a centimetre thick and use cutters to cut out your shapes.
6. Transfer your shapes to a baking tray covered in baking parchment. The shapes will be rather bendy so a palate knife is useful for this.
7. Bake at 180°C for about 11-13 minutes
8. Put the biscuits on a wire rack to cool, and then EAT!

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