|Margarita's International Recipes|
I can't quite picture the rough Anglo-Saxons eating this rather delicate stew of small birds and walnuts. Still, according to the author of the British Museum Cookbook, birds of all kinds were prolific in East Anglia, and one presumes the Anglo-Saxons would have taken advantage of them. The Anglo-Saxons also raised pigs and cured their meat, and would likely have used it in their stews. Indeed, stews and soups, cooked in cauldrons over the heath of the house, and containing whatever vegetables or meats were in season, are likely to have been part of most Anglo-Saxon meals.
The original recipe calls for small birds, most likely pigeons. However, as far as I remember, US pigeons are not of the type you'd eat, so I decided to use quail instead. I used frozen quail because that's all I could find in my small city, though I am sure fresh would have been much better. While I liked the stew, I thought the quail were a bit dry. That might have been because I overcooked them, but it may also have been the result of being frozen.
As I mentioned, I liked the stew but it wasn't anything you'd write home about. It tasted too-flat and one-dimensional, despite the different ingredients, and I'm sure it would have benefitted from some spices (alas, the Anglo-Saxons did not use spices and instead used herbs to flavor their foods). Similarly, I think that the stew would work better with wine than it did with ale, but while the Anglo-Saxons had wine, it was imported and it's unlikely they would have used it in a stew. Indeed, it's likely that instead of ale they'd have used mead, which might work quite well with the stew. If you have some around, by all means use it.
The original recipe calls for the birds to be served on slices of coarse brown bread. I couldn't find anything of the sort (at least fresh) at my local supermarket so I used a multi-grain Artisan bread they had fresh that day. I am sure you can substitute whatever bread you like.
Quail & Bacon Stew with Walnuts
6 thick slices of fatty bacon, chopped 3 cloves of garlic, chopped 4 quail 1/2 lb. mushrooms (any kind), chopped 1 cup walnuts or hazelnuts, chopped 1 1/2 cups (10 oz) English ale 3/4 cup water 3 bay leaves salt and pepper to taste 4 slices coarse brown bread.
Fry the bacon and garlic on its own fat in a large pot. Add quail and brown on all sides. Add mushrooms and nuts, cook for a couple of minutes. Add ale, water and bay leaves. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, decrease the temperature and simmer covered for 2 to 2 ½ hours until the birds are fully cooked and the meat is falling of the bones.
Place the birds on the bread slices, cover with the rest of the stew. Serve.
Adapted from The British Museum Cookbook