Something between a soup and a stew, Pottage was a staple of the working classes from medieval times. It was cooked, perpetually, over an open fire in a large pot or cauldron and was constantly added to with whatever foodstuffs were in season or to hand. Typically the broth or basis of the pottage would have been water, though perhaps flavoured with boiled bones. To this would be added oats which added bulk and fibre, and vegetables such as kale, onions, dried peas.
In poorer households, meat would have been a luxury, but could be stretched further by including into the pottage pot. This might include chicken and rabbit and also bacon scraps. Having studied a number of medieval pottage recipes, this is my take on what may have bubbled away over the fire at Holden Gate!
- 4 pints water
- A selection of bones (chicken, beef, lamb or rabbit)
- 4 handfuls of oatmeal
- 2 onions
- 1 cabbage
- 3 handfuls dried peas
Bring water to the boil with the bones. Add the vegetables and cook until soft. Add the oatmeal and continue to boil until the pottage thickens. Enjoy!
In the West Riding of Yorkshire where much of the land was poor and hilly, oats were the only cereal crop that could be successfully grown. They therefore became a staple of the diet. There is much regional variation in the making of oatcakes, and those of the West Riding were long, thin and oval shaped compared to their thicker rounded counterparts of the Yorkshire Dales.
A meal of oats, salt and water was left overnight to ferment. The following morning, a scoop of the batter would be poured onto a backboard, a ridged tray dusted with more oatmeal. The backboard was then swirled about to spread the mixture. This was then turned out onto a linen cloth from which it was deftly thrown onto a bakestone. The bakestone was a large flat stone to one side of the open fire. After only about a minute, the oatcake was turned and cooked for another minute. It was then draped over a hanging rack known as a flake or fleeak to dry. The flake resembled a Sheila Maid used for drying clothes.
Oatcakes would have been eaten with most meals as a filling source of carbohydrate.
As I imagine there are not too many people with backboards and bakestones in their kitchens, this is an adapted recipe for modern times!
- I pint boiling water
- ½ lb oatmeal
- Generous pinch of salt
Mix the ingredients in a large bowl and leave uncovered overnight. Alternatively to speed the process up, add 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda to the mix and leave for an hour.
Ladle a spoonful of the mixture onto a hot griddle or frying pan greased with a little butter or oil (do not spoon on too much mixture as the cakes are difficult to turn). Cook for approximately one minute and then turn. Cook the same on the other side. When golden brown remove from the pan. Leave to dry out over night or to speed matters up, place in the bottom of a cool oven. Enjoy!