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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 July, 2003, 10:35 GMT 11:35 UK
Britain lays claim to lasagne
Italy may be a land of lazy lunches and sun-kissed siestas, but challenge its reputation for home-grown cuisine at your peril.

With the Battle of Parma Ham not two months over the nation is facing an even more audacious claim.

As British as chicken tikka masala
Lasagne is British.

It's so British the court of Richard II was making it in the 14th Century and most likely serving it up to ravenous knights in oak-panelled banqueting halls.

The claim has been made by researchers studying a medieval cookbook, The Forme of Cury, in the British Museum.

A spokesman for the Berkeley Castle medieval festival, with whom the experts were working, said: "I defy anyone to disprove it because it appeared in the first cookery book ever written."

Recipe for disaster

It is not known whether he has dared put the claim to outspoken Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

But the Italian embassy in London reportedly responded: "Whatever this old dish was called, it was not lasagne as we make it."

I think it must have been the Romans who brought it over
Restaurateur Antonio Piscopo
And Bristol restaurateur Antonio Piscopo fired an emphatic warning shot.

"I think it's rubbish. I think it must have been the Romans who brought it over. It is definitely Italian."

The recipe does not mention meat - a staple of a good lasagne.

And such an early use of tomatoes in food would have had medieval cooks spluttering into their espressos.

But it does describe making a base of pasta and laying cheese over the top.

It calls this "loseyns", which is apparently pronounced "lasan", although it fails to mention whether it should be followed with a sweet tiramasu and a glass of Amaretto.

Pasta faded from the British diet when potatoes arrived, according to the researchers. The hearty roast dinner soon swept all before it.

Ham-fisted

Britain would be well advised not to make a meal of the claim, because Italy's track record on food fights is impressive.

Take flour of paynedemayn and make erof past with water and make erof thynne foyles as paper with a roller; drye it harde and see it in broth
British lasagne recipe
In May it finally beat off a challenge by UK supermarket Asda, which had been selling Parma ham that had been sliced and pre-packed in Britain.

European judges ruled the ham must be packed and sliced in Parma itself to be marketed under its name of origin.

And last year Parmesan producers won protection from European rivals that had been using their name.

Authentic Parmesan must come from the banks of the Po.

But despite its winning streak, Italy will not fancy many more claims to its gourmet prowess.

If you throw enough pasta, some of it will stick.

Well, if it's been cooked properly.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Jon Kay reports
"The Medieval gauntlet has been thrown down"



SEE ALSO:
Hard cheese for Parmesan pretenders
25 Jun 02  |  Business


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