A time-travelling culinary journey back to a 13th-century Christmas is being re-created virtually thanks to a collaboration between Blackfriars Restaurant in Newcastle and Durham University’s Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies.
The three-day cookery course, which will take place from 14-16 December, will be entitled ‘A Taste of Christmas Past’ and follows on from the worldwide-success of their inaugural course, A Taste of the Past – which saw more than 100 delegates arriving virtually from around the world earlier this month to take part.
Chefs from Blackfriars Restaurant, which is housed in a former 13th century friary, believed to be the oldest purpose-built dining room in the United Kingdom, and academics from Durham University and further afield, will help delegates make their own modern medieval Christmas feast. They will also be looking at traditions from the past – the Boar’s Head, Christmas Carols, Boy Bishops and the Bean King to recapture this time in history.
Andy Hook, owner of Blackfriars, and Giles Gasper, Professor of High Medieval History at Durham University have been working together for more than 10 years to create medieval themed events and lectures at Blackfriars and set up Eat Medieval to host virtual events in 2020.
“I’m thrilled and delighted to be co-hosting this three-day course which will take the record of the Bishop of Hereford’s Christmas Feast of 1296 as a starting point with wild boar, partridge, beef, goose and venison all on the menu as well as sweet treats and spiced wine – Clary,” Giles explains. “The course will have live cooking demonstrations, question and answer sessions, and pre-recorded films from professional chefs and scholars. We’ll explain the primary medieval recipe, the chefs will then demonstrate their own modern interpretations inspired by the original with a little festive magic sprinkled over for good measure. There will be explanatory films on Christmas in medieval literature, its customs, practice, and significance, as well as a close-up on the Christmas Feast.
“Our academic experts will explain the history of the period and reveal just how much we can know about the past through its food. And with the help of professional chefs, there’ll be top tips on how to prepare the dishes, cooking techniques, and balancing flavours. This isn’t re-enactment cooking but learning how to bring a ‘Taste of Christmas Past’ to life! It is hoped it will appeal to anyone curious to find out more about a great world cuisine. With our expert guides they’ll be able to eat medieval with confidence.”
Andy Hook, owner of Blackfriars adds, “In a time of great uncertainty in the hospitality sector when we don’t even know we’ll be able to reopen our doors and welcome guests back to the restaurant, exploring alternative revenue streams is more important than ever to our survival. We have been working with Giles and his team at Durham University for over a decade now exploring medieval food and bringing it to life within a modern restaurant with medieval cookery classes, banquets and lectures. In this new Covid-world, a virtual online course which allows guests to enjoy from the comfort of their own kitchen seems like a natural progression.
“We’d love to share our passion for medieval food with as many people as possible. We are incredibly excited by this new partnership and I can’t wait to co-host this with Giles and his team and offer our knowledge, experience and enthusiasm to a wider audience”.
The course, which costs £65 per person, will be broadcast from Blackfriars’ Cookery School, which has been hosting cookery classes for a number of years. Tickets available on Blackfriars’ website: https://www.blackfriarsrestaurant.co.uk/shop/product/1200/eat-medieval-a-taste-of-christmas-past
For more information see eatmedieval.com