In 950 AD, Hywel the Good ruled Wales. He ate game (Helgig) and on his right sat his falconer (Penhebogydd). It was the hawk that took pride of place in a Welsh court. I have seen a trained goshawk catch a woodcock and it gave me the idea to research medieval Welsh recipes and give them a contemporary twist.

Ingredients (serves two):

  • Woodcock (1⁄2 per person)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Paprika
  • Butter
  • One large onion (finely diced)
  • Mushrooms (sliced)
  • Fresh thyme (four teaspoonfuls)
  • Mead (see tips)
  • Double cream

Method

  1. Pluck, draw and clean your woodcock. Cut up either side of the backbone of the bird and remove the spine, neck and head.
  2. Pour a drizzle of olive oil into your hands, rub together and then coat the bird with the oil. Grind a good amount of black pepper and salt on to a plate. Add three teaspoonfuls of paprika and mix together and then cover the birds liberally in this mixture.
  3. Into a lidded frying pan, melt 1oz of butter and, with the lid off, gently brown the bird either side. Remove the bird and add the onions, mushrooms and half the thyme and mix to allow it to soften. Once softened return the bird and pour in two glasses of mead. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes turning occasionally.
  4. After 25 minutes remove the lid and increase the heat. Once boiling remove the woodcock to a serving plate. Add the remaining thyme and a splash of cream. Mix well and serve.

Tips:

  • Mead is honey and water mixed together and fermented but you can also simply mix white wine and honey. Add a heaped teaspoonful of honey to the wine in the recipe while it cooks. Mead (Medd in Welsh) forms the root meaning of Meddyg (doctor) and Meddyginiaeth (medicine), so with medieval game being served this is truly healthy food.