From Too Many Chefs -

September 14, 2007
As English as Nettle Pudding and Hedgehog

The Daily Mail has a piece today about Britain's stone age diet. You might think it was pretty much the same as todays diet, but perhaps with fewer crisps and no Violet Crumble, but you'd be wrong.

In fact, nettle pudding - a mix of barley, nettles, sorrel, dandelion greens, and chives mixed with water - was yesterday declared the oldest recipe in Britain. By whom? You might well ask, as I did, but you won't get an answer from the Daily Mail who neglected to source the honor.

Of course Stone-Age Brits didn't survive entirely on vegetarian fare. No, the mighty hunters of the Sceptered Isle also feasted on the most dangerous game - that's right, they ate hedeghog. OK, maybe not the most dangerous game, but you could get a really nasty little nip from one of those vicious things. Apparently, my ancestors feasted on this wild game by roasting it simply in a grass wrap.

You can find recipes not only for nettle pudding and for roast hedgehog, but also for Roman-era garum (great if you like rotting fish bits), barley bread, meat pudding, and a good looking smoky fish stew in the article here.

I'd suggest that in the interest of avoiding any unfortunate incidents, pet shops all around Britain ban the sale of hedgehogs for the next few days...

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at September 14, 2007 8:02 AM

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Posted by liz on September 15, 2007 at 5:35 PM

Actually, that recipe for nettle pudding sounded good. I've got plenty of noxious nettles in my garden, so maybe I'll give that a try.

But no way would I eat one of the hedgehogs that also live in my garden. My dog has befriended them, in a strange case of cross-species friendship. (I don't think they sell them at pet shops here, they are very plentiful in the wild.)

Posted by KathyF on September 16, 2007 at 3:31 PM

The hedgehog does alway seem evocatively British, and on reflection I'm not remotely surprised they were a common source of food. The image of The Grand Hunter Of The Past obscures the banal evidence that our ancestors subsisted mostly on smaller fare.

In my zooarchaeology classes, we ID a great many animal bones, and look for butchery marks, and two of the typically dominant animals are raccoon and porcupine. Oh, mighty hunter!

Posted by Elsa on September 20, 2007 at 6:22 PM

Nettles may be steamed for a tasty and nutritious vegetable dish. The heating kills the stingers. We find them all over in damp spots in Oregon; I always look for the square stems and serrated leaves.

Big brother

Posted by Big brother on September 21, 2007 at 3:12 PM

Can you get Violet Crumble in the UK? I thought Violet crumble was Australian?If you can get it i might have to make a trip over LOL

Posted by Emma on September 22, 2007 at 7:48 AM

Roman garum isn't really nasty if you think of it as fish sauce... as in Vietnamese cooking. Or anchovies. Honest.

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