In every issue of BBC History Magazine, picture editor Sam Nott brings you a recipe from the past. In this article, Sam recreates a healthy snack thought to have been enjoyed in Egypt around 3,500 years ago.
Sam Not writes: If you, like me, have a sweet tooth but are trying to be healthier then try tiger nut balls.
I found lots of references to this being one of the first Egyptian recipes that we know of, found written on an ancient ostraca (inscribed broken pottery) dating back to 1600 BC. Although I haven’t found a definitive source for this (or why tiger nut balls don’t contain tiger nuts!) they sounded too delicious to pass over. As your average ancient Egyptian seems to have had a very sweet tooth and often added dates and honey to desserts, I like to think that this is a sweet that would have been made thousands of years ago.
Mustard was much used by the Romans and later was very popular with the Anglo Saxons. It grew locally and so was cheap. It could be used to makes sauces for meat and fish as well as dressings for salads. It helped to preserve other foods as well as having healthy properties of its own.
The sauces were generally made from a mixture of ground mustard seeds, vinegar, wine and often honey, with spices or other flavourings added according to what people liked.
They could then be stored for several weeks. Mustard’s ‘hotness’ gets less after it is mixed and kept for a few days, which may account for the strength of the sauces often made – which would be much too hot for most of us today.
Saara whe runs Let Hem Boyle writes: I have to say that I love mustard! All different kinds of… it can be strong, mild, vinegary, spiced.. I do like them all. Making mustard for an event has been a plan for long time, but I haven’t done it until Midwinter Feast. This recipe is great! You can make it beforehand and store it in the fridge. It will be good stored in fridge for couple of weeks.
Take mustard seeds and waishe it and drye it in an ovene, grynde it drye. Farse it thurgh a farse. Clarifie hony with wyne and vynegur and stere it wel togedrer and make it thikke ynowz. And whan thou wilt spende thereof make it tnynne with wyne.
A classic French dessert recipe found in “Mat For Alle Årstider” (Food For All Seasons) published by Det Beste in 1977
Pears, Raisins, hazelnuts, honey, golden syrup, white wine and redcurrant jelly sounds like a match made in heaven for anyone who regard the dessert as the highlight of the meal. Someone like me – Ted 😉
Tak fayre porke y-broylid, & grynd it smal with yolkys of Eyroun; than take Pepir, Gyngere, & grynd it smal, & melle it with-al, & a lytel hony, & floryssche thin cofyns with-ynne & with-owte, & hele hem with thin ledys, & late hem bake, & serue forth – Original recipe
This cake is only slightly sweet. It is a cake that answers the age old question, “Is it ok to put a slab of butter on my cake?” with a definitive yes. The cake is great in the afternoon with an espresso and if it is a Saturday you might even attempt an armagnac, cognac or a sweet walnut liqueur. If you just can’t help yourself you could also add another 1/8 cup of honey.
Kim who runs ‘Tunspit & Table‘ writes: The recipe is surprisingly straight forward, considering its age. It of course doesn’t give many quantities, but you can essentially spice it to taste. As to whether you should include ginger or not, I think that it’s a matter of personal preference, or you can do as I did and add ginger to half the recipe. I haven’t tried using sanders to colour the paste but it seems to be available online, or you can substitute it with a little food colouring.
A classic seventies dessert found in “Desserter” (Desserts) published by Hjemmets kokebokklubb in 1979
If you’ve never tasted fried bananas you’ve missed out on a rather delicious dessert. Chopped almonds, lemon juice and honey makes this quickly prepared and just as quickly fried dessert a real treat – Ted
Anje who runs Kitchen History writes: This recipe comes from a book called Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books, which was published in 1888. This book contains recipes which were copied from manuscripts in the British Museum, so even though the recipes come from a book published in the late nineteenth century, they are still written in Middle English. This recipe for “Rys” is taken from the manuscript Harleian MS. 279. I’ve seen dates ranging from circa 1420 to 1439, so I just went with the earliest one.
In the 14th and 15th centuries, a dish with the name ‘compost’ was the term for any stewed mixture – a ‘composition’ of ingredients. This could have been meat, vegetables or fruit. The French term ‘compote’ very likely derives from the English ‘compost’.
A delicious dessert recipe found in “Carl Butlers Kokebok –Fortsettelsen” (Carl Butler’s Cook Book – The Continuence) published in 1991
Carl Butler writes: Honey is an ingredient we easily forget in our cooking, despite the fact that it have been used since time immemorial. Try honey in a parfait with fresh, tart raspberry sauce. These are two real summer flavors that complement each other nicely.
Cranachan is a traditional Scottish dessert. It is sometimes called Atholl Brose (which is more properly a drink using similar ingredients). A traditional way to serve Cranachan is to bring dishes of each ingredient to the table, so that each person can assemble their dessert to taste. Tall dessert glasses are also of typical presentation.
It was originally a summer dish and often consumed around harvest time, but is now more likely to be served all year round at weddings and on special occasions. A variant dish was ale-crowdie, consisting of ale, treacle and whisky with the oatmeal – served at a wedding with a ring in the mixture: whoever got the ring would be the next to marry.