Medieval recipe book reveals wealth of Evesham's monks

Flans and Wine front cover The front cover of David Snowden's book Flans and Wine

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A Worcestershire historian has compiled a book of recipes used by Benedictine monks of Evesham Abbey.

David Snowden of the Evesham Historical Society has published Pies and Flans, containing ingredients and dishes from medieval times.

They are all recipes the monks used to make at the abbey, founded in 701, by St. Ecgwine, third Bishop of Worcester.

He said: "I managed to find a hard core of recipes which related to the abbey of St Mary and St Ecgwine."

He carried out the research at the British Library and found 12 recipes from Evesham, one from Pershore Abbey and others thought to be from Westminster Abbey.

Most were written in early English as opposed to Latin and include ox tongue, veal, wild boar, poultry, fish and soups and potages or stews.

Mr Snowden said the dishes were seasonal and depended upon what ingredients were available but often rich in herbs and spices: "They were very expensive - one way of showing off the wealth of the abbey was to produce very rich, spicy food.

Start Quote

The Benedictines could afford the best and they made sure they got it”

End Quote David Snowden Evesham Historical Society

"For example a lot of these recipes call for lots of saffron because it was worth literally more than its weight in gold - the Benedictines could afford the best and they made sure they got it."

Fritters and cheesecakes

The monks also had a very sweet tooth and even ate sweet porridge served with meat.

Deserts were often soaked in honey and included fritters and nutmeg cookies.

"They also liked soft cheeses - baked cheesecake was very much a medieval dish," said Mr Snowden.

Other favourites included mussels cooked with leeks and Saracen's sauce, a spicy red sauce used for cooking meat.

"They also loved to have a dish made with white crab meat fried in olive oil and mixed into scrambled eggs with a herb base," said Mr Snowden.

He said the monks' diet lacked fruit and vegetables because that food group was seen as something to eat when there was nothing else handy.

"They were not very healthy and the average age at death was 35 - most of them died from bronchial diseases, probably caused by faulty diet - but then the average life span was not very long," said Mr Snowden.

Pies and Flans is available to buy at the Almonry Heritage Centre in Evesham where it costs £4.95 a copy or online.

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