Shellfish Stew

This is a recipe based on archaeological lists of food eaten rather than documented techniques, and was served as part of the feast at Ymir 2008.

Seafood was a huge part of the Norse diet, including shellfish. Evidence at the Norse settlement in Dublin indicates that oysters, cockles, mussels, winkles, smelt, eels, salmon, and scallops were eaten.  This shellfish soup was inspired by the following recipe from Two Fifteenth Century Cookbooks:

Muscules in broth. Take Muscules, And sith (Note: seethe, boil) hem, And pike hem oute of the shell; And drawe the broth thorgh a streynour into a faire vessell, And sette hit on the fire; And then take faire brede, and stepe hit with the same broth, and draw hit thorgh a streynour, And cast in-to a potte with the sewe; and menge (Note: Douce MS. mynced; see next recipe) oynons, wyn, and pouder peper, and lete boyle; and cast there-to the Musculis and pouder ginger, and saffron, and salte; And then serue ye hit forthe.

However, I made significant changes to this recipe – overall, it was just a suggestion of technique.  First of all, I didn’t want two thickened soups in the same feast, so I did not thicken the soup at all.  Secondly, the exotic spices (ginger and saffron) would not have been available, so I used fennel and bay leaves, both commonly ((Charlemagne dictated in 800 that all monasteries should grow a particular variety of plants, which rapidly spread through Europe – Bay and Fennel are both on this list. (Harvey 30-32, 163-179)) grown, to flavor the soup. Wine was available to the Vikings, but probably would not have been used for cooking.  However, the acidity significantly improved the flavor of the soup.

Shellfish Stew


  • 2 lbs shell-on mussels and/or clams

  • 1 tsp fennel seeds

  • 1 bulb fennel, chopped

  • 1 large onion, chopped

  • 2 tbs butter

  • 1 cup white wine

  • ½ tsp pepper

  • ½ tsp fennel seeds

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 lb bay scallops


  • Steam shellfish with fennel seeds.
  • When shells open, remove from shells and chop meat finely. Reserve with juices.
  • Sauté onions and fennel in butter until softened.
  • Add pepper and fennel seeds and sauté until fragrant.
  • Add wine, bay leaf and 1 cup water and simmer for 30 min.
  • Add scallops, simmer until tender.
  • Add reserved chopped shellfish and juices, heat through.
  • Adjust seasoning with pepper and additional fennel seeds, if desired. Remove bay leaf.
  • Serve with crusty bread.


Harvey, John. Mediaeval Gardens. B.T. Batsford, 1981.
“Muscules in Broth - Excerpt from Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books.” Medieval Cookery, Accessed 19 Mar. 2020.

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