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Medieval recipes unearthed in Durham manuscript to be tasted once again
A SELECTION of recently uncovered 800-year-old recipes, believed to be the oldest ever found, will be served up at a special event next week.
The re-examination of a Latin manuscript, written in the Priory of Durham Cathedral around 1140, revealed several food recipes hidden among instructions for medical ointments and cures. The recipes predate the previous oldest examples by 150 years.
Postgraduate students from Durham University will try to recreate the recipes described in the manuscript at a workshop on Thursday, April 25 at Blackfriars Restaurant, in Newcastle, before the dishes are served alongside a lunchtime lecture at the venue on Saturday, April 27.
Dr Giles Gasper, associate director of Durham University’s Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, said: "Some of the medical recipes in this book seem to have stood the test of time, some emphatically haven’t!
"But we’re looking forward to finding out whether these newly-discovered food recipes have done so and whether they also possess what you might call a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ – or ‘quidditas’, to use the Latin."
The 12th Century recipes are mainly for sauces to accompany mutton, chicken, duck, pork and beef, and also include a chicken dish named "Hen in Winter", denoting the use of older birds over the winter months.
The sauces include some Mediterranean flavours, featuring ingredients such as parsley, sage, pepper, garlic and coriander. The text describes one recipe as deriving from central western France.
Dr Gasper added: "This shows the extent to which international travel and exchange of ideas took place within the medieval period. And what more evocative example of cultural exchange could there be than food?"
Professor Faith Wallis, medical and science historian at McGill University, Canada, made the discovery while examining the document at Cambridge University.
Prof Wallis translated the recipes and sent them to food historian Caroline Yeldham who will lead next Thursday’s workshop.
On the following Saturday, Professor Chris Woolgar, Head of History at Southampton University, will give a lecture entitled "Cooking and the peasantry in late medieval England" at the restaurant, accompanied by a three-course lunch involving some of the recipes. Blackfriars’ restaurant owner Andy Hook said: "It’s an intriguing thought that we’ll be tasting food that hasn’t been experienced for hundreds of years and predates so markedly the earlier recipes we knew about."
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