Anglo Norman times in Ireland.

Growing up near Nenagh where local castle was built in early 1200’s, by Theobald Walter 1st Chief Butler of Ireland. He arrived in Ireland with Prince John who became king John. The first Anglo Normans arrived in Ireland in 1169. The role of Chief Butler was to make sure should the Royalty come to Ireland, this family and their descendants were to feed the Royalty and provide the wine. In fact some of their wealth came from wine ,as they received 10% of all wine cargo value that arrived in Ireland up until a the 16 th century.

So now begins what the Anglo Normans influenced in Ireland

Guess which fruit became more popular in Anglo Norman Ireland

Well apples and nuts were mentioned in early Irish laws, but fruits such as pears, cherry and plums became part of the Anglo Norman secular and non secular orchards.

Fruit was usually cooked, so as composite in honey, wine and new herbs also known as spices. Pepper been a firm favourite, also ginger, cinnamon and

Pepper,cinnamon, ginger, honey, fruit of choice, wine

With the humours of hot and cold , fruit was considered cold so by adding spices and herbs made it more digestible.

The Anglo Normans bought the more regular use of Dovecote, warrens, deer parks and agriculture changes in crop and cereal growing. So rabbits, deer, doves, pheasants, more pork and capons as popular foods.

Dove cote At Kilcooly Abby Co Tipperary, my first dovecote, so excited

The addition of salt and pepper to food, capons cooked on spit and pork on grids flavoured with pepper, new herbs, fat and new herbs or spices.

Capon on a spit with onion and butter inserted in cavity with cavity closed. Basting in fats, and when cooked a sprinkle of flour seasoned with salt and pepper.

Capon is basted as to keep it moist, as in Ireland wild flavoured garlic butter was used to base the capon/pheasant/ chicken

Oatcakes, Salmon flavored with Salt-and pepper and honey , the Irish way, A good alternative method the Anglo Normans liked to cook fish in pot with wine, stock,new herbs/spices. White pancakes with wheat white flour and the white of eggs, with herbs from your kitchen garden cooked in fat made for delicious food between dishes,

Green vert sauces were served with fish, so taking herbs from the garden such as rosemary, parsley, thyme, fennel and chopping or putting in pestle and mortar, grinding it with salt, pepper, gingerand adding it to sweet white wines, verjuice from the grape or crabapple , new herbs and spices and reducing the mix over heat to make a green sauce, some fresh green Spring Onions can be cooked in the sauce.

So finding what the Anglo Norman. The food they brought to the table and cooking dishes in a manner or style of Anglo Norman. Food mostly cooked in pots on hot gridiron and griddles, spits and breads baked in ovens near the grounds of castles and monastery. The use of bread as trenchers, also wooden trenchers, mopping up the liquid food with bread and swallowing it down with wine.

Peas were preferred over beans, flavoured with garden herbs, salt and pepper, sweetened with some honey.

So if you have not guessed by now pepper was a firm favourite with Anglo Normans, pepper came in all shapes and sizes, long pepper cubebs, while salt came in blocks the both needed to be crushed either, pestle and mortar, a mill etc….

New herbs/spices

Holmes,U.T. 1952. Daily living in 12 th C as recommended by

Schemed.A2002.A proper Newe Booke of Cookerye,

Kelly, F Early farming in Ireland

Red Book of Ormond

Walk around Nenagh



Cooking, Cooking

What’s a girl to pack when going on holidays to Kerry, well let me see

The usual!!!!!!!

Wild garlic infused oil , garlic bulb, salt and pepper, no spring onions but have two shallots

Sun cream, hat, a little cooking stove, pot and iron griddle and a spatula

So my goal every month is to cook something I have never tasted or cooked in my life. Not sure what I was going to cook but involved a visit to the fishmonger in Kilorglin . This is how I naturally expand my SCA recipes even during a pandemic.

So now I have a kg of clams, sapphire sea plant, John Dory because of the lent campaign had tasted every other fish there much to my amazement, cockles is one of the few things left. A foraging course to learn about seaweed on my to do list and find a good book on the identification of seaweed in Ireland and it’s uses

Luckily the nice man in the shop gave me ice to keep the fish and clams fresh.

So it’s good time on one of the most beautiful beaches in Dinglebay surrounding by mountain range with the sea in front, a safe beach to swim in even with the tide in. The beach is Rossbeigh a beautiful beach about 6 miles long, a hidden gem of Kerry.

After a long shoreline walk, time to eat food

So having washed the clams in a mixing bowl I had just purchased that morning for mundane reason, I proceeded to boil water, chop garlic and shallots, wash sapphire, so green and salty to taste, so to a pot of boiling water, I added the closely closed clams and discarded the open ones, added the garli and shallots, wild garlic infused oil, and some sapphire on top of the clams. Covered the clams and cooked the clams on a moderate heat, covered the pot with griddle iron and steamed for 5 minutes,

So with a little camping pot and camp stove placed over a makeshift stone fireplace at the beach by previous visitors already in situ for safety

She cried cockles and mussels alive alive o But mine are clams

Tasted after 5 minutes a little chewy , so steamed for another minute and perfect.


I can’t really describe how a picnic beside the sea, with clams that are mild and cooked perfectly, taste of the sea, the air around us smell of the sea with the add subtle flavours, along with salty sapphire combine to make food sensual to all the food senses of taste, smell and sight not forgetting the sound of the waves. It’s one of those moments that will live in my memory for a long time, a sort of memory one has in a dream. The only negative was that I had no bread to mop up the juices, the broth that tasted mildly of the sea and garlic was surprisingly tasty. This is coming from a lady who usually cannot eat any seafood chowder. Interestingly I don’t usually use wine in my cooking and really fresh clams steamed in a simple broth really works.

The John Dory we cooked later in the day thanks to the ice on the griddle iron, the nice man in the fish shop and told me to cook skin side first for four to five minutes and then the flesh side for a minute just to colour the flesh and his instructions were perfect, so with little rub of garlic and salt into the skin, cooked on the griddle iron with sauté sapphire in wild garlic infused oil

My griddle iron

John Dory a very deep sea fish so may not be on the menu very often in medieval times

Now one may ask what was on the menu next, it was one ice cream on the hottest day so far this year.

So tasty food cooked in 5-6 minutes, not complicated at all, gourmet historical food that can be cooked in a very short space of time.

Seriously good fish shop with a very helpful attendant

If you want a taste of wild garlic, here are my two secrets, I make wild garlic butter and freeze it

Trick two wild about food range have wild garlic infused oil

However knowledge of people’s allergies are a must before offering people mussels , cockles, clams, oysters , alliums etc

Having tasted different shellfish, I have to say clams are my favourite so far

Shellfish has been eaten in Ireland from the Hunter gatherer prehistory era to 19th century Ireland. Shellfish provided the ordinary person with a good proteins, minerals and vitamins.

The next time I will bring some flour but that’s a story for another day.

Norman food in 13 th century Ireland

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

Pheasant/Capon chicken




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.

I in the middle with two great friends Sue and Kathy

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 on 18-07-2021.


Will finish with a different castle and a different story. But that’s for another day.


Now this may appear at odd thing to write about, but this weekend I stopped at Clontuskert Abby near Ballinasloe to visit a monastic settlement , it is located down a lane way , it is well kept and in good condition, but the reason I was there was to look at an oven in its walls. It has an interesting history and lot of it went on fire 1404 and was rebuilt.

The chimney itself,
This hole is actually an oven
Oven itsel is a round bevelled roof stone oven set in the wall with a diameter of at least three four feet and 3 ft high
Bevelled stone ceiling

Now, ovens in Ireland were not the norm, unless you were in a Monastic settlement, lived in castle setting or large urban areas like Dublin, Waterford, Cork or Limerick for example. You may ask the question why or what do these three places may have in common, stone is the answer, in Ireland most of the houses were made out of wattle, wooden weave with mud and grasses, not very safe place to have an oven. Some mills may have an oven somewhere on the premises as well. The Trinity Priory accounts roll of 14 th Century Dublin mentions bread been purchased from the baker. Another reason for not having bakers all over Ireland, the towns lands which is an area of land with given name may only have a few houses scattered in them. Rural Ireland was not conductive to a baker making a living. So places with good number of people and regular fairs may be lucky to have a baker as one of its trade people.

Flat breads and oatcakes were normal breads of Ireland

As I mentioned before flat breads were the norm cooked on ashes, hot hearth stone and griddles. Oatcakes left to dry beside the fire so what about bread. As history moves on, so those bread making, with advent of bread soda, bread was made in upturned pots, the use of the bastible that my grandmother used to feed twelve children was well in use into the 20 th century.

Bread waiting for the ashes to glow in the bastible
Outdoor cooking of bread

As you can see I have explored the cooking of bread through the ages, bread was one main foods in all settings before the arrival of the potatoe. There is an Interesting read by AT Lucas a paper covering just that subject” Ireland before the Potato”

So after a day of prayer and toil, there is time to partake in sharing the toils of their labour with eating of bread

So the Abby itself was in the hands of the Augustinians. Bread was main part of their diet, and as part of the lent experiment and associated research , found could have eaten thirty ounces daily. Many rules regarding penitents living on bread and water for their misdemeanour can be discussed, but that’s a different story and a different day.

I manage to visit two Augustinian Priory orAbby, A Dominican one all on my route home from work, a nice way to celebrate Bealtaine, finishing it with lighting my fire and baking my bread.

In my journey regarding ovens and lack of through the ages. Kells priory has evidence of hearths and the type of food eaten there, yet again this is a story for another day.

Kells Priory Kilkenny

Mussels and cooking on peat

Having set two goals, to cook shellfish on open fire and use traditional flavours along with the mussels and Oysters. It was the turn of the mussels from the coast of Kerry.

So having washed and de bearded, discard any that float while washing, discard mussels that do not open when cooked on the peat embers or those steamed in a saucepan.

Now for the cooking placed the washed mussels on the peat, slow heat so for at least five minutes, when open remove and eat, the smoky mussel with the flavour of the salty sea are bliss on a Spring day, some mussels sat directly on the peat other on lettuce leaves. Surprised by the length of time the leaves lasted on smouldering peat embers

Mussels on peat

The next lot of mussels were steamed a little drop of water for the butter to melt, chopped wild Garlic, chives and herbs from garden, just heaven

Buttery, herby mussels

I have to say the mussels were sublime, but the real satisfaction came from having evidence that the People of Ireland used peat for heating and cooking. The cooking evidence was elusive. archaeological excavation by G Scally finally provided me with such proof. So peat, wood and charcoal can be used as fuel when hearth cooking. I plan to have mussels on sunny afternoons a lot more often. Even though I live in the midlands of Ireland, there is a great fish mongers in Nenagh, on average I think most places in Ireland are no more than sixty or seventy miles as the crow flies from the coast. Best of all I can cook with local fuels if I so wish, a thing that will come to an end sooner than later. For those who have not smelt peat burning, it’s unique and the saving of peat brings many memories of my grandad Jack , a gentle man with a love of animal, nature and all it beheld, grew up learning a lot about nature even though I was raised in urban settings mostly. His gift to me.

Fish adventures

For last number of weeks my interest in cooking food from fish and shellfish have been interesting to say the least and was both love and hate at different times. Adventures from simply frying, cooking over hot embers, tasting fish and shellfish that I have never eaten before. From smoking fishing, cooking mussels flavoured with wild garlic, having adventures one might say, finding evidence for the SCA hearth fires that peat or turf was used both for heat and cooking along with the use of wood and charcoal. So cooking oysters on turf or peat, which in few more years will be impossible to do.

Smoking Salmon
Cooking Oysters, after lent I mean to use butter and wild garlic to flavour Oysters in April
Wild garlic flavour at its freshest with apple cider vinegar broad bean purée,

My son stated that my cooking had got very fancy and gourmet like, I beg to differ, simple food and recipes presented nicely , eating with our eyes as well as our mouths.

Using the wooden bowls , to serve the food and highlight the food
Making food a picture highlights the ingredients as well

So taking time to decide how to serve food is important, will come more important during these covid times. A thought for another day.

Food and allergies in the SCA

When cooking in the SCA it is so important to take allergies seriously , also health issues need to be catered for. What is an allergy, in my house alone it can range from a person just throwing up for a number of hours, body swelling or another having to use epi pens, so I take allergies really seriously.

So as any cook in an SCA event it is important to note allergies and make sure every cook at the event is totally aware. There are easy changes, that can help example using gluten free porridge for all, replacing milk with water but leaving cream on table for people to use themselves. Having a spoon for each pot, having a variety of foods available so people have choices.

Investiture picnic

So many allergens in my picnic, but in my head and I know people who can’t have fish or shellfish, others allergic to hazelnuts, wheat, alliums/ onions, apples, eggs, dairy. So now where to start.

Have dairy, oat or almond milk. Gluten free bread. At this stage I suggest two tables, one specifically for allergies, I try to have the same number of dishes for everyone, I have many names like Meadhbh of the nine cauldrons, in truth nine slow cookers, but excellent for cooking dishes safely, so different vegetable pottages, cereal frumenty,meat soups, using different flours, replacing butter or animal fat with oil, knowing that I have people allergic to onions, mushrooms etc, the slowcookers with its own spoon is kept separated. Serving the food in the slow cooker crockery pot.Letting people add their own spices to porridge, french toast, having a selection of honey, fruit jams available. I keep flavourings simple which helps. Last week my experiment to find a sweet pancake, so non sweetened almond milk with flour of choice flavoured with Spring fennel seedlings, sweet and fragrant at the same time,

Fennel pancake

Cooking food outdoors also helps. Remember you can always make contact with the person with allergies, funnily I don’t forget who is allergic to what but I always double or triple check. Diets are so varied these day but if there is enough choices for people to choose from, not every dish has to cater for all the people,a bit of creativity goes a long way.

Lent food

The one food I am missing is pancakes, so after thinking eiabout it for a little while, I did a bit of experimenting , the recipes are simple, and based on medieval foods available, so my first adventure is almond milk and flour mixed together with herbs, in this case Fennel seedlings,

The mix is sweet without any added sweetener but locally honey works well and the flavour from fennel adds to the sweetness of the pancake. But depending on whether you want more savoury a mix of herbs can be used, or later on the flowers of the borage, lavender, calendula can make for a very pretty pancake

Smell of fennel is sweet and pungent

We know almonds were used in dishes in Medieval times that almonds were used to replace dairy, This pancake is ideal for vegans and vegetarian, for those who have milk and egg allergies. The account roll of the Priory of the Holy trinity Dublin mentions almonds and rice dish, lots of different breads and flour, we know most monastic or religious orders had access to herbs for both medicinal and culinary uses.

Fennel pancake sweet


The season for eating Oysters is coming for a close soon in Ireland . I learnt that Oysters are eaten durning the months with a R in it.

Oysters and the magic within.

As I research Irish foods through the ages, there are many mentions of shell middens through the Irish ages. They begin with the Hunter/ forager. Shellfish and oysters including up to and including 19th century Ireland were consider the poor mans food, food eaten on fast or fish days, lent etc… There were a lot of fast days in medieval times in the Calendar year. It got me thinking that I needed to experiment. It is said that oysters were harvested at low tide.

I knew that cooking of oysters was done, but how to do so was another story. I went the simplest form, cooking the oysters in their shell on hot embers. Now from past experiences of making bread etc, I went with the theory when I smelt them cooking, they should nearly be cooked, and yes they were. Heat opened the oysters, so no mad antics trying the pry them opened, the smell of the sea was what struck me as I opened sprinkled with a little Spring onion and tasted, yes they were cooked, easy to eat and I saved the liquid for fish stock. So if eating oysters raw is not your thing, try this.

Oysters cooking on slow peat embers
Oysters with spring onion

Separating the Oyster from the shell and harvesting some of the liquid later , I tasted my first Oyster, surprisingly good with a little kick from the mild onion, included the onion in case I found the oyster to my dislike. A plan some night for when Bardic circle is happening of cooking oysters and mussels on a balmy spring evening hopefully

Continue reading “Oysters”

Herbs, their smell, their taste and what they bring to my food.

A few years ago or more I joined Drachenwald Herbalists. What I don’t know then was my small herb garden was going to play a huge part in how I cook in the SCA. I am a cook that like the food itself do the talking, less is more and I try to have no more than five to six ingredients in any given dish. You may argue that is very simplistic cooking, but I live in Ireland, the meat is grassed fed, the eggs are free ranged, Ireland is surrounded by water and my local fishmonger has delivery of fresh fish daily. I live in the country side in the midlands of Ireland, the air is good and the food tastes good. So how do I add flavour, that’s easy, I use herbs. Herbs have been cultivated by the monks and hermits of Ireland whether for medicinal or culinary purposes. The forager has gathered water cress with a peppery taste, wild garlic, wild mustard, nettle, dandelion leaves to add taste and substance to the food. Now I started planting the usual herbs of parsley, thyme, rosemary, sage, mint. Then I got my hands on some seeds, manage to get six lovage plants to grow, plot of chives and I mean a plot of chives, borage, burnet, rue. I am aware of medical issues concerning herbs in my garden. My garden then took on a permaculture look, so if sowing a plant or flowers, the question is can I eat it, so nasturtiums, Viola,calendulas of all kinds, chamomile’s becomes the first choices. So sitting on my table tonight is a herb pack that I hope to sow a planter or two for some friend to get them started, and share a lovage plant or two, lovage is my absolute favourite along with wild garlic. I will share a secret

The secret is lovage is a fantastic herb in any vegetable or meat pottage, soups. A word of warning 2- 3 leaves is really enough, do not be tempted to add anymore than that.

You too can have a fresh compound salad as in anything I can find in my small but varied herb garden. My grandmother planted the cabbages, lettuces, spring onion among the flowers so my planters can be quiet interesting. In my part of the world it’s planting time, but I have herbs all year round to add flavour to the food I am making.Another time I will provide a list but my constant go to is parsley, chives, lovage for not so Irish dishes, wild garlic, nasturtium I love the peppery taste. Find the herbs you like and most of all have fun

Summer salad from the herb garden

This just happens to be a pack I found in my shed at the weekend.