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Anyone for roast hedgehog tonight?

IF SOMEONE offered you a meal of roasted hedgehog followed by nettle pudding, the chances are you would turn it down.

But that is exactly what our forefathers used to sit down to thousands of years ago.

Such foods can be traced back more than 8,000 years, and are among the oldest British recipes, being first recorded in 6000BC.

A team of researchers scoured the annals of Britain's culinary history to find the definitive list of the oldest recorded recipes.

Records show nettle pudding to be the oldest, closely followed by smokey stew, meat pudding, barley bread and roast hedgehog.

The research revealed stuffed dates and elderberry patina was a familiar feature of Roman meal times. The Romans also introduced the idea of beating eggs to make custards, cakes and fruit breads, with the added flavour of sweet fruits and nuts.

Favourites such as pancakes and pottage, a thick soup or stew, have survived changing tastes and fashions and still feature on menus today.

Roasted hedgehog is not the only recipe to have failed the test of time. Others that have disappeared from the British dining table include garum and liquamen, sauces made from fish guts and heads; smokey stew, a combination of bacon and smoked fish; meat pudding, a mix of offal, fat and herbs; barley bread, a form of unleavened bread; and in mitulis, a Roman version of moules marinire.

Ruth Fairchild, of the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, who led the research team, said: "The findings are the culmination of a huge amount of intensive research.

"The team have pieced together evidence taken from a wide range of sources - archaeological evidence, social history texts, medieval records, even the work of experimental archaeologist Jacqui Wood - to bring together what we see as 'the oldest recorded recipes in the UK'.

"Some of the recipes we found dated as far back as 6000BC, which is truly astonishing.

"We set out to find recorded 'cooking directions' that embodied the true elements of a recipe. The oldest recipe that fitted that description was the recipe for nettle pudding."

The research was commissioned by the UKTV Food channel to mark the start of its new series The People's Cookbook.

NETTLE PUDDING

EATEN from Neolithic times (6000 BC), this was a mixture of readily available leaves, such as nettle, mixed with coarsely ground barley flour, salt and enough water to bind to a dough. The leaves used would show some geographic variation, but combinations of sorrel, dandelion, watercress, chickweed, wild radish, vetch, nettles and even seaweed would be common. Regional variations of this exist today, notably dock pudding in Northern England and laverbread in Wales.

INGREDIENTS:

1 bunch of sorrel, 1 bunch of watercress, 1 bunch of dandelion leaves, 2 bunches of young nettle leaves, some chives, 1 cup of barley flour; 1 tsp salt

METHOD

Chop the herbs finely and mix in the barley flour and salt. Add enough water to bind it together and place in the centre of a linen or muslin cloth. Tie the cloth securely and add to a pot of simmering venison or wild boar (a pork joint will do just as well). Leave in the pot until the meat is cooked and serve with chunks of bread.

SMOKEY FISH STEW

EATEN since Neolithic times (2000 BC), a simple combination of bacon (very common particularly in Wales and Scotland) and fish which has been previously smoked. Geographic differences would include the herbs added and the fish used. Inland carp, perch, trout, etc. On the Scottish and east English coast herring was plentiful; around the south of England and Wales bass, mackerel or dogfish were more common.

INGREDIENTS:

125g bacon, 2 leeks, 500g of any smoked fish, 1 litre milk, 1 cup cream, Some chives, 1 tsp salt

METHOD:

Fry the bacon until the fat comes away from it and add the chopped leeks. Cook until tender. Add the fillets of fish and cover with the milk. Slowly cook in a pot near the fire until the fish is cooked, which is about 30 minutes. Pour in the cream, along with the chopped chives and salt.

MEAT PUDDING

THE grandaddy of haggis, faggots, sausages, black and white pudding. Eaten since Neolithic times (6000 BC), it was a simple mix of meat - mainly offal, some fat, which would have been regarded as a real luxury, and herbs.

INGREDIENTS:

1 sheep's stomach or ox secum, cleaned and thoroughly scalded, turned inside out and soaked overnight in cold, salted water; heart and lungs of one lamb; 450g/1lb beef or lamb trimmings, fat and lean; 2 onions, finely chopped; 225g/8oz oatmeal; 1 tbsp salt; 1 tsp ground black pepper; 1 tsp ground dried coriander; 1 tsp mace; 1 tsp nutmeg; water, enough to cook the haggis; stock from lungs and trimmings

METHOD

Wash the lungs, heart and liver (if using). Place in large pan of cold water with the meat trimmings and bring to the boil. Cook for about two hours.

When cooked, strain off the stock and set the stock aside. Mince the lungs, heart and trimmings. Put the minced mixture in a bowl and add the finely chopped onions, oatmeal and seasoning.

Mix well and add enough stock to moisten the mixture. It should have a soft crumbly consistency.

Spoon the mixture into the sheep's stomach, so it's just over half full.

Sew up the stomach with strong thread and prick a couple of times so it doesn't explode while cooking.

Put the haggis in a pan of boiling water (enough to cover it) and cook for three hours without a lid. Keep adding more water to keep it covered.

To serve, cut open the haggis and spoon out the filling."

 
 
 

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