We were doing a cooking demo at an SCA event this weekend in Port Gamble, WA, and I got to spend pretty much the whole day Saturday playing over the fire. At home we often give out samples to the public at demos, but the food handling laws in WA don’t really allow that, so instead I pretty much just spent the day cooking lunch and dinner for our household.
For lunch, I made some barley and oat flatbread. I tried something a little different than I’ve done before. I soaked some stone ground oatmeal in cultured buttermilk until it was quite soft, then added a little salt and some yeast, and left it until it was starting to bubble a bit. Then I stirred in enough barley flour to make a stiff dough, and but it in the fridge until the day of the event. It had about two days in the fridge or cooler before I cooked it.
To cook it, I pressed it out quite flat, about the size and shape of a tortilla or chapati, then cooked them over the coals on a dish iron like this one. They were well floured after pressing them out, and they didn’t stick at all. I cooked them until firm but still bendable, again like a tortilla. We filled them with some hard smoked ham, onion, salty cheese (I used feta) and drizzled with honey. Some friends of mine that visited a Viking market in Europe a few years ago mentioned something similar, and I’ve been dying to try it out. They were delicious, and the whole household enjoyed them.
After lunch, I started on dinner. I made some barley pilaf with carrots, and a beef stew. For the stew, I cooked some shallots in oil (in one of our ceramic pots) until they softened, then added some cubed stew beef and a handful of dried blueberries. I covered the solids with some commercial hazelnut milk, and simmered for several hours. The stew came out really well, and was a bit hit. It went very well with the barley. I think the blueberries are reasonable, although they would have had bilberries instead, but they are quite similar. The hazelnut milk was a bit of a lark. There are tons of hazelnut shells from Viking archeological digs, so I’ know they ate them, and most of Medieval Europe made almond milk, but I don’t have any evidence for a similar product in Scandinavia. The big driver for almond milk in Western Europe was really Christian dietary laws or fasting, and I’m without those drivers in the Viking context I’m not sure it’s an obvious thing to do with nuts. In future I might just add ground hazelnuts and water, which I think would cook up thicker.