I decided to enter a cooking competition at an SCA event this weekend, the theme of which was “30 Viking raiders have shown up at your farm, and if they like your cooking they’ll leave in peace”. A worthy theme. The only thing I didn’t like was that the one sentence comprised the whole rules. Not very specific. I took second to a dish made with (canned) tomato sauce. Go figure.
Anyway, I decided to make a barley pilaf using only ingredients that appear in the archeological record in a Viking context, using techniques and equipment that they had available (again based on the archeological record). I set up my brazier and tripod with a nice charcoal (real, not briquettes) fire and over it hung a big cast iron pot. Into the pot went butter, onions, carrots, turnips, parsnips, and apples. When those were starting to carmelize, I added probably 2 cups of pearl barley (hulless would have been better, but too expensive) and enough water to cook the barley.
When the barley was al dente, I added salt to taste, and some chopped watercress. The result was pretty good, and I think probably represents the kind of food that Vikings were eating day to day.
I had intended to serve it with some chicken cooked with strawberries, watercress, and horseradish, but sadly the chicken wasn’t done on time, and the strawberries went bad in the cooler overnight, so I just cooked the chicken with some apples, onions and watercress and served it up for the evenings pot-luck feast. Pretty tasty.