Sunday 4 November 2012

Stone Age Wild Boar and Bullrush Stew

Stone Age Venison and Bullrush Stew Recipe

This is a re-constructed Ancient recipe for a classic stew of wild boar, bullrush stems and mushrooms flavoured with water mint.

For stone-age diets getting enough carbohydrate for a meal was a real problem. The main sources of carbohydrates (nuts and acorns) where all autumnal foods, wheat and farming had not arrived and the tubers we use today were, quite literally, a world away. However, there were carbohydrate sources available which we would not consider today. As well as the roots of plants like silverweed there were also the stems of plants like sedges.

Indeed, the young stems of sedges (particularly the genus Cyperus) are edible. More importantly the are a source of vitamins and, perhaps more importantly, of carbohydrate. Which, before the advent of farming and grains (and well before the discovery of potatoes) would have been very rare. Of course, you could add burdock root to bolster the carbohydrate content.

This recipe is intended to be a reproduction of a 'real' early summer stew from the stone age. As metal and even stoneware pots had not been invented yet, this would have been cooked in a pot made from the skin of the animal (not as mad as it sounds, as the fur on the outside of the skin blackens when placed on an open fire and makes a heat proof seal). Unless you lived near the coast there would be no salt. And pepper would not have been introduced to Britain 4000 years ago. Still, if you lived near the coast you would have had pepper dulse to spice up your stew and inland there would have been water pepper to provide spicy seeds.

We also know that our ancestors of this time did collect the seeds of various brassicas to act as a mustard-like spice, so I am going to add a few mustard seeds to this stew (without them its very bland). As this is a late summer stew, various mushrooms such as field mushrooms, horse mushrooms and the last of the St Georges mushrooms can also be added.

This time of year is also the period for water mint (a British native), so I will add a few water mint leaves too.


500g wild boar meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
300g bullrush (Cyperus) [galingale] stems, outer papery layers removed and cut into 4cm lengths
500g open-cap mushrooms, broken into pieces
1 bunch water mint, leaves removed from the stems and shredded
1 tsp black mustard seeds (not authentic, but a stand in for the various wild brassica seeds that could be used)

Place the wild boar in a large cooking pot with about 2l water. Add the bullrush stems and the black mustard seeds. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered for about 1 hour or until the meat is cooked all the way through. Now add the mushroom pieces and the water mint leaves.

Bring the mixture back to a simmer and cook for a further 30 minutes or until all the ingredients are tender and the stock has thickened.

Spoon into bowls (wooden for authenticity) and eat with a spoon.

This recipe is adapted from the Venison and Bulrush stew from the Celtnet Ancient Recipes collection.

For more historic recipes, see this blog's Ancient and Historic recipes collection page.

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