Recipe Purists, Please Read

I get this quite a lot. 

You'll see a lot of my recipes don't contain actual, real-life, authentic ingredients that ancient Romans, Medieval people, Tudors or Stuarts would have used. 

For example. The rice pudding I made using inspiration from a fifteenth-century cookbook uses white polished rice, not brown bitty rice. The apples in my Tudor roasted apples recipe is a variety of apple that's very modern and wasn't available in Tudor times. 

This makes my recipes not 100% authentic. 

The problem many of us modern cooks have when trying to at least get a feel for what our ancestors ate hundreds of years ago is that our ingredients are just not the same as they were back then. 

Bananas originally contained seeds. Carrots were originally white, yellow or purple and not orange at all. And rice was brown, chewy and bitty. A recipe from around 1430 states to wash the rice and be sure to pick it clean. Delicious.

The other problem - apart from genetic modification - is that our knowledge of foods they ate back then probably isn't that good. How do I know for definite what a Tudor banana looked, or tasted like? Or what eighteenth century hot chocolate or steaming pots of coffee really tasted like? How do we really know, for sure? 

I can't speak for everyone - but for myself, when I'm 'recreating' a recipe that I find in a centuries-old cookbook, I am not embarking on an archaeological culinary analysis of it. I want to end up with a dish that is appealing for us now, in our times, to eat. A photo of a bitty, brown rice pudding where I've made the watery almond milk from scratch and picked the saffron strands out of the flower would not only be incredibly time consuming, energy inefficient and wasteful but, I would argue, a little pointless. Because I don't know anyone who would want to eat it, because over the centuries, our tastes have changed quite a lot.

If I can use a modern, recognisable ingredient in a recipe, and make it into a 'historical version' of something you wish you could reach into the screen in front of you and grab it to eat, I'd feel a lot more like I achieved my purpose. 

So if my aim isn't to physically prepare a dish exactly as Medieval cooks did, then what is it? 

I want to get people thinking about the flavours and textures of a dish. 

I want to challenge those who think that food from the past was bland, watery and unflavoured. 

The first taste of roasted Tudor apples seasoned with caraway and fennel seeds taught me that food from history is in no way bland and uninteresting, and made me want to find out more. 

I want people to look at a dish and feel very much like they could make that at home for them and their families, and maybe learn something at the same time and even break some of these assumptions about the past.

I guess I'm on a PR mission on behalf of food history. 

Next on my list I'm making Marchpane. And yes, the almonds are already ground and (unfortunately) they came out of a plastic package. Then I'm going to try fifteenth-century raspberry wine. And the wine will be full of sulphites, no doubt, and not derived from grapes that have been squished inbetween Medieval French villagers' toes. I doubt the raspberries will be truly organic and even bear much resemblance to a Medieval raspberry. And the cream in my Elizabethan possets? Yep, sorry, that wasn't delivered by a rosy-cheeked Tudor milk-maid.

I'm a photographer who makes a living taking photos of (21st century) food, having a bit of fun trying out recipes from the past, as close as I can get, while making it delicious to us as well as affordable, achievable and efficient to me (and anyone who decides to make it). 

It doesn't make the recipes any less fun, educational or delicious. If you make my roasted apples, you'll still taste the soft, sweet fruit mingled with the sudden bursts of aniseed from the caramelised caraway and fennel and it's honestly gorgeous. Take a piece of quince paste and pop it in your mouth with a chunk of salty, crumbly Parmesan and you'll experience a flavour Henry VIII was probably familiar with. 

Historical cooking is so exciting - and we'll all learn from it while we enjoy cooking and eating it. 

I hope you're with me. 

What do you want to make first?