Acts of Kitchen: Lisa and Vikings


In which I talk to the wonderful Lisa Hannett about Vikings: their sagas (farmers come to blows), their food, their rubbish heaps, and modern attempts at recreating such experiences…

Lisa’s site

Cranky Ladies of History, edited by Tansy Rayner Roberts and Tehani Wessely (including a story by Lisa about a woman of the Viking Age)

Podcast on seaweed from the BBC Food Programme

Oseberg ship at the Museum of Cultural History


An Early Meal: a Viking Age Cookbook and Culinary Odyssey 

Coconut and cheese and banana


OK so not all of those ingredients together but I’ll bet that recipe exists somewhere, because internet. Instead:

  1. I have lots of milk that needs to be used (long story). I shall find a dessert! … looking, looking… eventually, in a book on pies that I’ve rarely used, I come across Impossible Pie. What makes it ‘impossible’ is that the layers separate – it gets a bottom, a custardy middle, and a crusty top courtesy of the coconut. Basically this one, except that mine didn’t have nutmeg and that is a GOLD idea. It was very tasty! I added sour cherries because I could. Um, I made it in a cake tin because I don’t have a deep pie tin. I only got a glass pie tin last year because pie? Australians don’t really DO pie.
  2. IMG_1324.JPGCheese scones. I’ve struggled with scones, it’s fair to say. Then I found this recipe and I decided to try it… because one GREAT BIG scone o’ cheese (250g cheese to 450g flour!!) sounds awesome. It was as I was making the breadcrumb effect of flour and butter that I realised you don’t have to make all the butter disappear, and I think this might be the turning point for me and scones. Because this scone was awesome. I did have to cook it for longer… but that’s because I didn’t knead it enough and it was a bit bigger – that is, higher, rather than being spread out – than it probably should have been. But it was a lovely texture and a wonderful taste and I will SO be making these again. Note to self: probably don’t try to double it next time; it was a bit hard to mix. Although the fact that I now have a giant cheese scone to eat and seven small scones in the freezer is pretty darn appealing.
  3. Bananas. I don’t eat them fast enough, and I already have some in the freezer… and I don’t love banana cake. Enter banana AND CARAMEL cake. Make caramel; pour into tin that’s lined with paper, because that’s just smart. Put banana onto caramel. Make cake batter, pour on top, TA DAH. … I’ll admit I didn’t actually eat any of this one. I took it to church and by the time I got around to going to the morning tea spot, it was all gone. I was told it was very tasty though. Certainly the batter was…

Squeaky cheese

Some time back I discovered that thanks to the glories of online shopping (I do not enjoy grocery shopping), I could purchase a 1.5kg container of haloumi. The price was way better than the little individual serves, and it lasts for months in brine, so I thought – why not?

When it arrived, I discovered that the store had been out of the 1.5kg container of haloumi. So they made a substitution.

For a 2kg bucket of haloumi.

I wasn’t sad.

When I announced that this had happened, someone innocently asked: what was I planning to do with haloumi aside from pan-frying it?

To which I said “… why would I do ANYTHING aside from pan-frying it??”

IMG_0884.JPGA colleague at work, with Greek-Cypriot connections, tells me that Cyrpiots will eat (non-fried) haloumi with watermelon. I’ve not tried that. What I have tried, now, is haloumi bread, or haloumopsomi. And friends, it is delightful.

The bread is from Tess Mallos’ book Complete Middle Eastern Cooking, which I’ve just started to explore. I’ve been going through the Cypriot section, which I’ll report back on in a day or two. Anyway, the recipe asks you to make bread according to the recipe for Kouloura dough and then instead of turning it into a bread IMG_0885.JPGring, you push it out into a rectangle; dot it with 250g of haloumi; then roll it up and tuck in the ends. TA DA.

The recipe suggested sesame seeds but I adore nigella seeds so that’s what I went with. It was fairly large, as you see, so this served to accompany two dinners for two of us… because we managed not to be incredibly greed the first night. Came up fine the second night after a little while in the fridge to take the chill off.

The only hard part is the kneading, and at least some of that could just be done in the mixer if I’d thought far enough ahead. Still, kneading is a cathartic experience…