Skip to main content

Edible History 

Offering a new flavour to the past, academics across the Arts and Humanities have been cooking up a storm in the kitchen and sharing fascinating research insights along the way. 

Food and the study of food history gives us a unique understanding of how people lived in the past; of different cultures, value systems and ideas of the body.  It also sheds light on developing trade systems and cultural synchronicities between regional cuisines. 

Here we share research and recipes, enabling all to recreate a slice of history at home. 



This is the image alt text

Durham University Kitchen: Zalābiyya

Daniel L Newman is joined by Giles Gaspar and Amanda Herbert to recreate a 13th century Andalusian recipe zalābiyya - demonstrating the long held popularity of deep frying! 


Watch here



Feasting in Fujairah: Medieval Arab Cooking

Daniel Newman, Professor of Arabic Studies in our School of Modern Languages and Cultures, recently curated three medieval banquets in Fujairah, United Arab Emirates.

The events were organised under the patronage of His Highness, Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad al-Sharqi, Crown Prince of Fujairah, and in collaboration with the Fujairah Culture and Media Authority.
Read Prof Newman's blog
Roasting a camel at a Medieval feast in Fujairah



This is the image alt text

Discovery of a mysterious medieval recipe collection

Daniel L Newman, Professor of Arabic Studies, tells us about a manuscript he has recently discovered in the Wellcome collection which informs us about the earliest tradition of medieval Arab cooking and shows the link between pharmacological recipes and culinary recipes.

View our Edible History YouTube playlist



Taramati misrepresented as a witch in a painting, from the British Museum.

Raw Livers and Rampant Lovers: The South Asian Witch as a Consuming Force

This event will discuss Durham PhD scholar Annie Zaidi's doctoral research on witches in contemporary South Asian fiction, including the theory that ‘consumption’ by a witch-protagonist is more metaphoric than literal and used to express popular ideas about women’s bodies and appetites.

See event details Link 2



Arabic culinary tradition at COP28

A date tasting workshop through a number of carefully selected recipes

Daniel Newman, Professor of Arabic Studies in our School of Modern Languages and Cultures, was recently invited to COP28 in Dubai to share his knowledge of the Arabic culinary tradition, recreating recipes from the 8th to the 15th centuries.
Read Prof Newman's blog
Professor Daniel Newman at COP28



This is the image alt text

Festive traditions were once a foodie adventure

Winter celebrations such as Christmas and New Year have long been associated with feasting. But, what are now seen as festive food traditions (think mince pies and richly spiced fruit cakes) were once a bold and daring foodie adventure, writes Dr Amanda Herbert.

Learn more



Recipe for Zalābiyya

Create zalābiyya at home

Learn how to create these thirteenth century Andalusian sweet treats, which feature in Professor Daniel L Newman's recent book 'The Exile's Cookbook', a unique medieval cookbook which reveals the fascinating development of the Arab culinary tradition and its profound influence on European cooking.
See the full recipe
zalābiyya recipe




Medieval Festive Feasting

Medieval great halls were at the heart of the festive season – here the community kept warm by staying together

Professor Giles Gasper outlines the importance of food, a shared warm space, and what we have in common with those living in medieval times.

Medieval artwork

Exploring the Medieval Christmas Table

There is no escaping that food plays a central role in Christmas celebrations across the world. However, it’s unlikely that many of us will be cooking quite the variety, or volume, of foods seen in large medieval households!

Image of a Medieval feast
A group of people watch and smile as a man chops food

Eat Medieval Summer School, 2- 6 September 2024

Join us for another week of fun and interactive medieval cookery where you’ll learn all about what and how our predecessors from the middle ages cooked and ate. This five day course is hosted between Blackfriars former 13th century Dominican friary and Durham University

Find out more

The Fantastical Feasts of England’s First Celebrity Chef

Pastry warships, frogs hopping out of pies, and other spectacles devised by Robert May.

Amanda Herbert, Associate Professor (Early Modern Americas) explores the extreme dining table of Robert May (c. 1588–1664), a celebrity chef in Elizabethan and Jacobean England, who made his name by staging elaborate feasts full of atmospheric effects, sensory experiences, and dramatic, even downright risky, stunts.
Read more
Frog jumping out of a pie



This is the image alt text

San Francisco’s Famous Sourdough Was Once Really Gross

Long before it became a viral food trend or social-media sensation, American sourdough was surprisingly disgusting. Amanda Herbert and David Woodworth track the bread back to it's roots in the Northern California Gold Rush 1849.

Read more




A 'Recipe' for Chocolate on a Nineteenth Century Cup

Freddy Fossey-Warren, currently studying for an MA in History, examines a porcelain cup housed in our collections at the Oriental Museum.

The nineteenth century cup tells a rich story - not only commerce in the early 19th century, but also of chocolate, and its role as one of its role as one of the world’s first truly global commodities.
Read more
Porcelain Chocolate Cup



This is the image alt text

Professor Daniel Newman unravels the culinary secrets of medieval Arab cuisine

Dialogue Magazine speaks to Daniel to find out more about his research and his passion for medieval Arab food.

Read more



Hand with cocoa beans

Exploring the linguistic history of chocolate

Jamie Paterno Ostmann, a PhD student in our Department of History, explores different theories regarding the origins of the word ‘chocolate.’

Read more



Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies: Historical Food

IMEMS and Blackfriars Restaurant in Newcastle have been collaborating for several years with research on medieval food. They have a regular public lecture series, teaching and tasting classes for undergraduates and postgraduates.
Find out more
A medieval food book and cooking preperation