This week With my friend Sue Callaghan , we are making a video for Athlone castle. The theme food around the time of the building of Athlone Castle by King John . Now you may ask for a country that have little or known recipes through the ages, how are we going to do that?
Simple really, we know the Anglo Norman’s introduced Deer parks throughout Ireland, along with rabbit warrens and dovecote according to Kelly 2016. They also introduce crop rotation to agriculture which nourished the ground and gave higher yields of crops and cereals. The Anglo Norman had likening for Pork and chicken. In fact part of their soldiers food ration were made up of pork. As with all things in History and the modern world, there are trends, the Anglo Normans were organised and liked to have Orchards and Kitchen gardens. This can also be seen in the Norman monastic orders that came to Ireland in previous century.
So in the orchards came cultivated warden pears, plums and cherries. There had been plums and cherries previously some, but with these orchards, shall we just say apples were no longer the only fruit available to the people in 13 th century.
Fish continued to be necessary for fast days and the Anglo Normans did fish the waters of Ireland, fresh water fish of Salmon, trout and Eel, the river Shannon that flows in Athlone provided the much needed fresh fish for fast days and times of lent. Indeed the Anglo Norman were proud people and like to show their elitism or power by showing off with food or in this case spices.
The Anglo Norman had a penchant for pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and more. The use of spices and salt showed wealth, as some spices in the 13 th Century was dearer than its weight in Gold. So let’s begin with a recipe or two that anyone can try out at home in the kitchen an excerpt from my Athlone castle Anglo Norman Feast.
Warden pears in wine
250 ml red wine
100ml local heather honey
4 large pears
Heat the honey, wine and spices in a pot, add whole peeled warden hard pears with stalk left on, simmer until pears have softened. Plate pears with syrup around them, one per person.Pears became popular with the Normans arrival in Ireland. The Normans cultivated the warden pears in their orchards, along with apples, cherries, and sweet plums.
This recipe can be used for cherries and plums if you so desire. Stone the cherries and plums before adding to the syrup. Other spices such as ginger and pepper can be added to the cinnamon, however, use the spice that your palate will like, this food is for eating. Also if you do not want to use wine use a grape juice instead.
Roast Pheasant/Capon chicken
Wild garlic /garlic butter
Rub butter over the pheasant/capon chicken,put bacon on the breast of the pheasant Place onion, wild garlic butter in the pheasant cavity. In our modern day cook in oven at 200 C until just cooked. In early times could be roasted on a spit, in a bread oven or in a cauldron a mix of baked and roasted,
Season flour with salt and pepper. The Normans liked pepper in their food so add a nice quantity or to your taste. Sprinklethe seasoned flour on the pheasant/capon chicken and allow to brown for ten minutes.
Wild Garlic grows in the forests and ancient lands around Athlone, a little handful go a long way, only leaves or flowers should be picked. Only pick a small amount as foraging yearly is a lot more fun. I have seen wild Garlic/ramsons, creamh for sale in Garden nursery this year. Wild Garlic was cultivated ii some instances in the Norman Kitchen gardens for easy access. Keeping of dried herbs for the winter, or butter flavoured with wild garlic has its history through the Irish ages.
So now you are ready to cook a little 13 th century Anglo Norman Ireland food.
Please visit Athlone castle in the hearth of Ireland. My friends and I have spent many a good weekend there as part of its community in Heritage week. In the area there two other king John castles, Rindoon and Roscommon.
Just the bibliography if you want to get started
Ahemed,A. 2002.A proper Newe Booke of Cookerye. Cambridge. Corpus Christy College
Barry,B. 1977.Medieval Moated sites of S.E. Ireland : Oxford: British Archaeology reports 35.
Black,M.1992. The Medieval Cookbook : London:The British Museum Press.
FitzPatrick, E.and Kelly,J.2016. Food and Drink Ireland:Dublin :Royal Irish Academy.
Hickey,M.2019, Irelands Green Larder The Definite History of Irish |Food and |Drink:London:Unbound
Kelly,F.2016.Early Irish Farming.Dublin: Instituite for Advanced studies
Murtagh, H. Athlone History and settlement.
Sherlock,R. Athlone Castle. 2016, Westmeath county Council
Roche, R.1970. The Norman Invasion of Ireland: Ireland: Anvil Books
Gleeson, CM:2015 A social Archaeology o Anglo-Norman Cork:aran.library.nuiggalway.ie.http://handle.net/10379/5045.Accesses on 18-07-2021.
Will finish with a different castle and a different story. But that’s for another day.