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Last Updated: Friday, 14 September 2007, 09:40 GMT 10:40 UK
When nettles were dish of the day
BBC Breakfast presenters Bill Turnbull and Susanna Reid eat nettle pudding
BBC presenters Bill Turnbull and Susanna Reid try nettle pudding
They might not be top of celebrity cook Nigella Lawson's menu, but nettle pudding and roasted hedgehog were once a dinner table treat in Britain.

New research show them among the oldest recipes, dating back more than 8,000 years, and first recorded in 6000 BC.

Nettle pudding was the earliest, and Ruth Fairchild, of the University of Wales Institute (Uwic) said: "When you cook it all, the sting goes out of it".

Next came smokey stew, meat pudding, barley bread and roast hedgehog.

The Uwic team in Cardiff searched archaeological evidence, social history texts and medieval records.

Dr Fairchild told BBC Breakfast that nettle pudding was made by mixing nettles with ground-down barley and water.

Ruth Fairchild
You might have a roast hedgehog or two but it wouldn't be very often
Ruth Fairchild, University of Wales Institute

Next, it was formed into a ball and would have been placed into the intestine of an animal in pre-historic times before being boiled in stock or stew.

Dr Fairchild said the nettles would have been beaten with a stick before they were gathered.

"I bet prehistoric man's hands were a little bit tougher than ours," she said.

"We're not looking from an archaeological perspective, we're looking at what's already been put in literature.

"We liked it [nettle pudding] particularly because it had no meat in it, because in prehistoric man's diet meat would be very seldom.

Fish guts

"You might have a roast hedgehog or two, but it wouldn't be very often," she added.

Dr Fairchild said the researchers had defined "recipe" to mean three or more ingredients.

Some found by the researchers remain popular today, whereas others have disappeared from our dining tables.

Stuffed dates were popular with the Romans, who also introduced beating eggs to make custards, cakes and fruit breads, with the added flavour of sweet fruits and nuts.

But those which have not stood the test of time include garum and liquamen, or sauces made from fish guts and heads, and smokey stew, a combination of bacon and smoked fish and meat pudding, a mix of offal, fat and herbs.

The research was commissioned by UKTV Food for the start of a new series, The People's Cookbook.

What people in Cardiff think of the recipes

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