The Very Merry and Medieval “Plum Pottage”


It’s that time of year where family is in town, love ones are near, and what brings us together? Food. This time of year was especially important in many medieval households, as a time for celebration, giving and for many to share the best of their kitchens with their guests. Where cooks cook and present their dishes with great pride.

Now what did they eat? or what was served? We have a good idea of what was served by many of the art work left to us today, as well as recipes that have been passed down, which have their roots in the medieval kitchen. For example, mincemeat tarts or pies, goose, special pies, roasted pig, swan – with permission from the king, stewed vegetables, mulled wines and ale were all presented on the table. What is one of the most popular dishes today? I would go with Christmas pudding.

Christmas pudding is another Christmas tradition which sources say began in the Middle Ages but it might have been earlier than that, as there is a reference to it as far back as Roman times. The traditional name, ‘Plum Pudding’ came later in the Victorian Era. But the fruit pudding we all know, was first known as “Plum Porridge or Pottage” or “Frumenty.”

Like many of the dishes from the Middle Ages which consisted of varieties of meat and raisin, this dish was made from porridge or boiled wheat, raisins or “plums”, eggs, sweetened by molasses or honey, fruits, currants, dates, then spiced with cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. The mixture was kept moist by treacle or molasses. Due to the pudding’s fair amount of alcohol content, it helped keep it preserved and not spoil. It would then be good to eat a month to even a year after it was made. We start to see variation and addition to the dish as early as 1420, and during the reign of Elizabeth I, plums were introduced as a fruit in the mixture. Due to the popularity of the fruit, it was added to many other dishes, hence “Plum Pottage” came to be.

After the pudding was cooked, the original prep for the pudding was to be hung by a hook in a “pudding cloth.” This was later changed to cooking or boiling/steaming later on. The round little shape it has today topped with holly began to circulate in 1836. This is where the food specifically becomes a Christmas dessert. Authors such as Charles Dickens reference the new popular use in his story, boosting the dish’s popularity. Cards and printed articles also show families gathered and celebrating the holiday with the pudding dressed with its holly on the table.

Both Christmas puddings were outlawed to be eaten in the 17th Century by the Commonwealth Parliament. The consumption of the foods was considered “heathenish and a papistical practice.” This was reversed under the rule of Charles II.
NB, Christmas Pudding, It’s Medieval Origin. The West Australian, Dec. 21, 1935 (

Ciara’s Christmas Recipes


The recipes below are all meals that my family have cooked since I was a child – they have become tradition, which is why they so strongly remind me of Christmas time! Along with the traditional gingerbread house, the roast dinners and the Christmas pudding, these are some of my favourite Christmas meals. The braised red cabbage with gammon is our Christmas Eve dinner, and the pie is cooked every boxing day to use up any left-over turkey! Approaching the holidays, it’s always exciting (for uni students, especially) to be coming home to a house full of food and home cooked meals, instead of super noodles and pasta for every meal! I know that every family has traditions at Christmas, but this year maybe mix it up slightly and cook some Christmassy meals that you haven’t had before! Enjoy!

Braised Red Cabbage


1 kg red cabbage

450g onions, chopped small

450g cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped small

1 clove garlic, chopped very small

¼ whole grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

3 tablespoons of brown sugar

3 tablespoons wine vinegar

15g butter


  • Preheat the oven to 150° C
  • Cut the cabbage into quarters and remove the hard stalk
  • Then shred the rest of the cabbage finely with a sharp knife or in a food processor
  • In a large casserole dish, place a layer of the cabbage seasoned with salt and pepper, add a layer of chopped onions and apples with a sprinkle of the garlic. Continue these alternate layers until all the ingredients have been used
  • Then pour in the wine vinegar and add pieces of butter on the top
  • Put a lid on the dish and cook slowly for 2 – 2 ½ hours – stir once or twice during the cooking
  • And that’s it! This red cabbage freezes well and is delicious – the perfect Christmas recipe! It goes perfectly with a ham joint or with Christmas dinner

Extra Easy Mode:

  • Just bung all of the ingredients in the pot and give it a stir, then cook for the same amount of time – it works just as well and saves lots of time!

Mum’s Ham, Leek and Turkey/Chicken Pie

This recipe is great for using up Christmas leftovers of just for a big meal – it freezes well and is really tasty!


2oz butter

2oz plain flour

2 leeks, chopped

300g cooked ham/gammon (cut into chunks)

500g cooked turkey (cut into chunks)

3fl double cream

1 pint chicken or turkey stock

Salt and pepper

Puff pastry (I usually use a pre made packet)

Small amount of milk


  • Pre-heat the oven to 200° C. Heat some butter in a pan and sauté the leeks until soft. Add the flour and soak up the juices and then add the stock little by little stirring all the time until you have a thick sauce that is bubbling
  • Add the cream, and season with salt and pepper. Finish by stirring in the turkey and ham
  • Pour the mixture into to a ceramic dish. Roll out the puff pastry so that it covers the dish, wetting the edge of the dish so the pastry sticks. Any extras you have you can fashion into shapes to decorate the pie – I like to cut leaves out and place them on the middle. Brush the pastry all over with some milk or a beaten egg – this helps the pastry to go a golden brown and crisps nicely
  • Make sure you cut two lines into the pastry as air holes, and then bake for around 35-40 minutes (keep an eye on it as all pastry cooks differently and may take less time – as you can see in my picture I left it in slightly too long!)

Leek and Potato Soup

I always associate Christmas time and the winter with lots of homemade soup, and my favourite to make is leek and potato! It’s really simple and quick but is a lovely meal!


2 medium sized potatoes

3 leeks

2 vegetable stock cubes

Black pepper


  • Peel and dice the potatoes and add to a sauce pan. Chop the leeks and add them to the pan too
  • Add around 1 pint of boiling water to 2 stock cubes and stir – then add to the potato and leeks and heat and bring to the boil. Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat and simmer for around 20 -30 minutes
  • Once the potatoes have cooked through, the soup is ready! Season with pepper and salt in you like. You can eat it like this, or you can use a potato masher or an electric blender to make the soup smooth. And that’s it!

What’s on in Reading over the Holidays


If you’re staying in Reading over the break, or if just want to come back for one of these events, look here and see what festive things are on and when!

A variety of things to do in Reading town centre.

  • The Oracle extended Shopping hours – open until 10pm Monday-Saturday. 18/12/17 – 24/12/17.
  • Eating Out – Ask Italian offers options for those with extra dietary requirements, and up to 40% student discount!
    Las Iguanas also offers a Latin-American, 2-course, festive meal for only £19.95 (or £14.95 on select days!)
  • Christmas bars – I have already visited two great ones here – The Jager Haus German themed bar at Riverside, with currywurst, churros and Bailey’s hot chocolate. Another is just down the stairs from Reading station called Après Bar, which is a little more pricey.
  • Peter Pan is on at the Hexagon, your yearly dose of pantomime! 9/12/17 – 7/1/18.


Big club events over the holidays

  • 16/12/17 – Love Presents Jaguar Skills – Coalition
  • 31/12/17 – Black and Gold New Year’s Eve – Matchbox
  • 31/12/17 – NYE: Lost Pandora The Lost Paradise – Coalition


If you want to travel out of Reading, consider the events below or have a look at what’s on in London! (A short and easy ride by train).

  • Oxford Christmas Market, on Broad Street, Oxford. A short train ride away! 7/12/17 – 17/12/17
  • The National Trust have put together a list of what they’re putting on Berkshire this festive period:
  • There’s also a lot going on in the Beautiful city of Bath, including a Victorian carousel from the 14th to the 30th December and an ice rink!


Hopefully this list has given you some inspiration of how to spend your well-earned break, and Happy Holidays to all!


Mincemeat Pies (Based on a Medieval Recipe)


The history of the mincemeat pie is quite old. It can be traced back to the 12th century when crusaders brought back spices from the Middle East. The spices then where introduced into the medieval diet and used for various things including spiced meat and fruit. This popular mix is what began the little pies that we know today. Mincemeat pies.

I derived most of this recipe from a course I took in 2014 from FutureLearn. I had to do some improvising, as I did not have all the ingredients available to me at the time.

What you will need:

  • 1 cupcake tin (I made a dozen with this recipe)
  • a medium size pot to cook down the mincemeat
  • bowl for dough
  • pastry cutter

Shortcrust Pastry Dough:

  • 1 1/2 cups of flour (I like King Arthur flour the best)
  • 1 1/2 sticks of butter
  • good size pinch of salt
  • 4-5 Tbsp of cold water


  • 2 pork chops –optional- (If you want to place meat in them… original pies did have meat!)
  • 1/2 cup of dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup of dried currants
  • 1/2 cup of dried cherries (could even use dates. But my store didn’t have any)
  • 1/2 cup diced dried plums
  • 1/2 cup of red wine
  • 1/3 cup of rum
  • 1 tbs of molasses for color
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • a few dashes of salt
    (when measuring out the spices I was quite generous. But I cook like “throw it all in a pot”)
  • two large tbsp of marmalade
  • 1 slice of orange
  • 1/2 cup of bread crumbs for binding agent
  • 1 table spoon of olive oil

Take the two pork chops, with no bones and place them in the pot. Dust them with cloves and put the olive oil in to tender the meat. Add about a 1/2 cup of water to steam them. Cook them until they are just done. You want the meat tender and easy to chop up into fine pieces.

Chop the meat up once it is cooked through and return to the pot. Next, with all the liquid still from the pork chops, add all the fruit, sugar, orange slice, marmalade, bread crumbs, wine, and spices all into the mix. Put the mixture on low and cover with a lid. Add the rum to flavor. Taste periodically, to see if you need to adjust any of the spices or add more. It takes about a good 3 hours for the mix to cook down at low heat. It should have a consistency of thick jam. When done, let it cool. Mincemeat can be stored for up to a year if canned in a jar with sealed lid, if the mix is made without meat. Brandy or rum is excellent to preserve the mixture.

Preheat oven to 176 C -180 C.

Grease cupcake the tins with lard.

Mixing the shortcut pastry and final prep for the oven:

In a bowl, add the flour and salt mix well. Chop up the butter and add that as well. I don’t have a food processor, so I used a pastry slicer and blended the butter and flour together. I next used my fingers to get the mixture to a consistency like bread crumbs. Then add the water and kneed to form a soft ball of dough. You can refrigerate over-night or just roll it out.

Cut the dough large enough to fit in the cupcake tins and fill with the mincemeat mixture. Cut another circle to use as a top. Don’t forget to poke with a fork for ventilation. Cutting the pastry in shapes such as stars or Fleur de Lis for the top is a popular decoration for this treat. I just made mini pies.

Cook for 20 minutes or until crust is baked and a tiny golden. Lift out with a fork or knife and cool on a plate. If you love mincemeat pies and other holiday treats you will love these. Homemade is always better than store bought! These tasty pies can be stored in an air tight container or tin for a good two weeks. Refrigerate or freeze. Enjoy!


Petite Christmas Puddings


Last year my housemate, Francesca, had this amazing idea of making individual Christmas puddings (does a big one ever get finished?) and putting cocoa powder in them as, let’s face it, regular Christmas pudding isn’t always a fan favourite. So I’ve carefully shadowed her, written up the recipe and voila! Now you too can provide your housemates with festive cheer – and puddings for days!


280g Caster Sugar
80g Unsalted Butter
2 Eggs
200g Plain Flour
40g Cocoa Powder
2tsp Baking Powder
100ml Milk
100g Raisins
30g Chopped Walnuts
50g Chopped Cranberries



275g Royal Icing Sugar

8tsp Cold Water


Makes 12 puddings.



  1. Preheat the oven to 160° C/320° F/Gas Mark 3 and line a 12 hole muffin tray using butter to grease each hole.
  2. Blend together the sugar and butter in a bowl using an electric whisk or mixer.
  3. Beat the eggs together then slowly whisk them into the mixture.
  4. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and continue mixing.
  5. Next, pour in the milk, also doing this slowly, and whisk until it reaches a creamy consistency.
  6. Add the raisins, walnuts and chopped cranberries and envelope them in (saving some of the cranberries for decoration).
  7. Spoon the mixture evenly into the muffin tray and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until there is no residue left on a knife once inserted into them.
  8. Carefully remove the puddings from the tray and leave to cool before icing.
  9. For the icing, slowly mix together the icing sugar with 8 tablespoons of cold water to create a thick consistency.
  10. Teaspoon the icing onto the smaller side of the puddings, adding a little bit at a time so that it gently drips down the sides. Make sure not to heap too much icing on top as you won’t be able to achieve the dripping effect. For extra decoration, place the leftover mixed cranberries on top of each pudding for the leaves of the puddings.

8 Tips for Making the Most of the Christmas Break


You are probably thinking let me just enjoy the break full of food and fun? Solid advice, but do make the most of your break so you return in January the most rested and productive student on the earth with these top tips…


  1. Organization:
  • It’s always best to get ahead before going home. Get organized with your notes, assignments and your timetable – what do you need to do? Make sure you have you the right text books so this doesn’t hold you back. Put your spring timetable into a diary and organize your life around lectures and the deadlines you know.
    Work/Life Balance is Key. Planning = happy student


  1. Christmas Celebrations:
  • Keep Christmas celebrations on the 24th to 26th and New Years Eve completely university free. You need a break and to celebrate with your family enjoying all the festivities.
  • Make time for family and enjoy being home. They will want to hear all about your term and if you’re going to get them to do your washing the least you can do is hang out with them.


  1. Academic Work:
  • Some people prefer blocked days and others prefer a few hours a day. Work out what is best for you and plan it, but don’t over work yourself – little and often method works well in the holidays. Don’t forget to reward yourself for getting your work done; whether this is an extra Christmas chocolate or an extra night at the pub, it’s vital!


  1. Catch up with friends from home.
  • Pretty much everyone you went to school with will be home so make sure you reconnect with your friends as sometimes it’s hard to keep in contact in term time.


  1. Jobs
  • Earn a little extra money.
    You may or may not be in your overdraft; either way earning a little money over the Christmas period is never a bad thing. Christmas is a great time to get CV experience, paid or volunteering.


  1. Future Jobs:
  • Depending on your year, you might be looking at graduate schemes or internships. Christmas is the perfect time to sit down for a few hours and apply, research and apply some more.
  • Revamp your resume and keep your documents UPDATED!
    Opportunity knocks the moment you’re least expecting it so it’s always best to be prepared. Christmas is the perfect time to update all your important documents with your latest experiences.


  1. Wellbeing
  • Exercise: Stay healthy and combat holiday bulge by keeping up with a regular exercise regimen. You’ll feel better for it.
  • Catch up on sleep: Uni is exhausting and late nights doing work or clubbing can really take its toll. While you’ve got a break, enjoy the lie ins for a while, then try and establish a sleep routine ready for those January 9ams.


  1. RELAX
  • Do things that make you happy! You deserve a break after your hard work this term and need to be rested before going back for another jam-packed term!
    Whether its films, food, sleep or adventure, find what works for you!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – Bring on 2018.

Rebecca’s Christmas Fudge Recipes



When thinking about Christmas inspired recipes, I came to the realisation that just about anything indulgent and comforting, to me, counts as a Christmas food! Aside from the classic roast dinners and mince pies, at this time of year anything warming or laden with chocolate has me feeling festive. Here I have two fudge recipes, the first adapted from the side of carnation condensed milk tin, you can literally buy all these ingredients in the Co-op on campus, making it super easy. The second recipe is slightly healthier, I found this recipe somewhere online last year and have adapted it using cacao powder rather than cocoa to be even more chocolatey, I make it far too often and I always switch up my toppings.

Simple Carnation Fudge


1 can of condensed milk (I always use carnation which is just less than 400g)

150ml milk

450g Demerara sugar

115g butter


  1. Place all the ingredients into a large pan, preferably non-stick, this makes it so much easier (especially washing up afterward)
  2. Melt over a low heat, until all the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring continuously. (warning: the fudge will be very hot)
  3. Drop a small amount of the mixture into a jug of very cold water, a soft ball of fudge should form if the mixture is ready. If not allow to simmer for a couple more minutes and test again.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat, and vigorously beat the mixture for around 10 minutes, until the fudge becomes thick and starts to set. (this is a great arm workout, and will burn so many calories you can eat another piece!)
  5. Place into a lined tinned, and set in the fridge until firm. At this point you can add toppings of your choice, such as: crushed nuts, a layer of melted chocolate, a drizzle of peanut butter or sea salt.

Healthy Chocolate Fudge


1 cup pitted dates

½ cup tahini (sesame seed paste)

½ ground almonds

¼ cocoa/cacao powder

a couple of tbsp. water

pinch of salt

[if you don’t have a cup measurement, use any standard mug, ensuring the ratios of all ingredients remain the same, you may need to add more/less water].


  1. In a food processor, combine the dates and tahini, until it forms a paste
  2. Add the almond flour and cacao until completely combined
  3. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time, until it forms a ball, and does not stick to you hands
  4. Place into a lined tinned, and set in the freezer until firm. At this point you can add toppings of your choice, such as: crushed nuts, a layer of melted chocolate, a drizzle of peanut butter or sea salt.

How I’m Spending My Christmas Break


Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end of term! Now it’s time to spend four weeks relaxing, catching up on sleep, making some headway with course work and of course celebrating the Christmas and New Year period!

I’m looking forward to going back to Norfolk, where my family live and seeing the new house my parents live in. I’ll probably spend most of my evenings sitting by the wood burning stove watching films. Amongst course work for all those January deadlines, I hope to start looking at opportunities for next year, as I’m in my final year and have those scary decisions to make! It became apparent during the lecture for my careers module the other day, that the Christmas holidays is actually a really good time to start looking into options, depending on what you want to do.

I definitely don’t plan to be working flat out though, as after a busy term, I am looking forward to spending quality time with family and friends, preparing for Christmas and celebrating my 21st birthday, followed by my brother’s birthday a few days later. Christmas is one of my favourite times of year, so I’m look forward to several celebrations with the family, due to some of the family living in other parts of the country. I love decorating the house with Christmas decorations, and using my creative skills to help my parents do it in an artistic way; normally I do the tree.

As I’m on a tight budget for Christmas presents this year, I will probably make as many presents as I can and buy the rest cheaply. Making presents yourself can save a lot of money! Homemade truffles have gone down well in the past. I really enjoy making Christmas cards, so will probably make some this year. Due to my parents living in a different part of Norfolk now, I’m looking forward to exploring areas of the county I don’t know and meeting new people. I’m hoping to visit the local Deaf centre, because not only is it fun and great for meeting new people, it also useful for my course. I’m planning to get a Christmas Elf job, or something in retail, to help me save up for next term!

In terms of Christmas celebrations, my family normally open stockings in the morning, before breakfast (including Pain au Chocolat and other pastries!) then go to church, have Christmas dinner, open the main presents and then watch the Queen’s Speech and sometimes play board games. Boxing Day, we normally see family that we didn’t see on Christmas Day.

Hope you all have a lovely break, wherever you go and whatever you do, and if you’re staying in Reading, I’m sure you will have a good time! Merry Christmas and all the best for 2018!

Nia’s Festive Biscuits



Even though we’ve all secretly been celebrating since the 1st of November, it is now becoming a socially acceptable time to spread Christmas cheer! So this week I am sharing a simple Christmas biscuit recipe, suitable for bulk-making for work parties, to celebrate the end of the university term with your flat mates or even to create with younger brothers and sisters. Enjoy!


350g Plain Flour
100g Self-raising Flour
125g Granulated Sugar
125g Unsalted Butter
3tbsp Honey
1 large Egg
1tbsp Maple Syrup


Icing sugar
Green food dye
Dark Chocolate
White Chocolate
Pre-bought sweets


Makes 32 biscuits.



  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/356°F/Gas Mark 4 and line a tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. Combine the plain flour, self-raising flour and the sugar in a bowl and stir well. Next add the butter, mixing the ingredients together with your fingers to create a crumbly texture.
  3. Create a hole in the centre of the mixture and add the honey, egg and maple syrup. Using your hands, combine the ingredients together to create a dough.
  4. With any left-over flour, lightly dust a surface and roll out the dough using a rolling pin until it is roughly 0.5cm thick.
  5. Using biscuit cutters, preferably in the shape of Christmas objects, cut shapes out of the dough. If you don’t have any cutters you could always get creative with a knife or any other objects you have lying around the kitchen!
  6. Place the shapes on the previously lined baking tray and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
  7. Once they have finished cooking, take the biscuits off the tray to cool before icing.
  8. Now comes the fun part! When you’re ready to ice them, you can use a variety of methods. For mine I used royal icing sugar (mixed with water) and melted chocolate to cover the biscuits, then decorated with pre-bought sweets and chocolate shapes.