These not-so-tasty treats were carried by armies as they prepared for the long siege ahead. The hard, twice-cooked bread was resistant to mould and made from whatever scraps of grain, fat and salt that was left in the castle cellars.
I was intrigued when I learned about siege biscuits while researching medieval army food supplies for the flash game, so I asked our wonderful castle expert, Richard Dargie, for more info. Here's what he said:
I was asked about siege biscuits once before, about ten years ago when I wrote a book for children about sieges. The publisher asked me if I could provide a recipe for siege biscuits. This was a daft thing for him to do as the text in the book clearly explained that siege biscuits were just a way of providing something hot to eat for troops that used up whatever scraps of grain, fat, salt etc that were left in the castle cellars. The publisher insisted however and so I sent him the following recipe.
Ingredients: 200g oatmeal, 1tbs salt, 1 pinch bicarbonate of soda, 12g lard [strained animal fat].
Add salt and bcb of soda to oatmeal and mix by stirring till arm is stiff.
Melt the animal fat till it stinks and pour onto the oatmeal mix.
Roll out the mess of fatty dough and cut into circles.
Lay circles out on baking tray and sprinkle with flour.
Cook for 40 minutes at 150 degrees C / Gas Mark 2.
Leave to cool.
Store in a dry place away from rats, weevils and fleas.
Eat only one a day as it may be a long siege.
This recipe is a modified version of the Highland oatcakes that Richard's granny used to make when he was a wee boy! We're having yet another modified version that includes yogurt, whole wheat flour and butter instead of lard. The biscuits go well with hard cheese (and whisky). We're also having a sweet version topped with butter and maple syrup.
Big thanks to Richard for his endless fun-filled facts! Go medieval!