Al fresco dining,medieval style

15th July 2005 at 01:00
For a really easy Medieval picnic just buy a pork pie. Anyone feeling more ambitious, however, might like to try Tart in Ember Day. This medieval quiche, served on Ember days when the Church forbade meat eating, comes from "The Forme of Cury, A Roll Of Ancient English Cookery", compiled in 1390. "Parboil onions, and sage, and parsley and hew them small, then take good fat cheese, and bray it, and do thereto eggs, and temper it up therewith, and do thereto butter and sugar, and raisyngs of corince, and powder of ginger, and of canel, medel all this well together, and do it in a coffin, and bake it uncovered, and serve it forth." In other words, find your favourite recipe for a cheese and onion quiche, add a tablespoon of fresh sage, a handful of raisins, and a large pinch of ground ginger and ground cinnamon for a small taste of the Middle Ages.

Chike endored

This is simply chicken in a flavoured golden batter. Put it on a stick for easy finger food. The original recipe is from the 15th-century "A Boke of Kokery". For a modern version, oven cook four skinned chicken breasts at 350x for 25 minutes. Let them cool. Mix six eggs, two to three tablespoons of flour, 12 tsp of pepper, 12 tsp of ginger, 12 tsp of salt and a pinch of saffron to form a thick batter. Slice the chicken into cubes and place on skewers. Coat with batter and grill until golden.

And for dessert...

Pine nuts in sugar taken from "De Honesta Voluptate", a 15th-century Italian cookbook. It promises that pine kernels "settle thirst, take away the imbalance of humors of the stomach and purge the urine." Take equal amounts of pine nuts and sugar (eight tbsp of each serves four people).

Melt the sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, add the nuts and stir.

Remove from heat and let cool. Roll into cylinder shapes and leave to set.

Where to do it

* The former deer park of the Prince Bishops in Bishop Auckland, Co Durham, is open 7am to sunset all week.

* The neighbouring Auckland castle is open two to three afternoons a week in the summer from 2-5pm. Tours include visits to the former hunting hall.

Phone 01388 601627 or check on

* In the 12th and 13th centuries there were 66 royal hunting forests and 77 private "chases". Enjoy a picnic in the New Forest in Hampshire, Ashdown Forest in Sussex, the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, Epping in Essex or Robin Hood's Sherwood Forest near Nottingham.

* Cannock Chase in Staffordshire is an area of outstanding natural beauty.

* But perhaps the most interesting of the surviving forests is Hatfield in Essex. Mentioned in the Domesday Book, it is the only place in the country where the landscape has changed little since medieval times.

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