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Waterford is believed by historians to be one of the oldest cities in Ireland. It was founded by the Vikings in the 9th century, most likely for its access to rich hinterland, but also for its strategic position close to the sea, for easy access to France and England.

The city, which is located in a safe harbour on the River Suir, was the first port of call for trading ships, mostly carrying wine before they headed out into the Irish Sea to deliver elsewhere.

It also had the advantage of easy access to two other major rivers, the Nore and the Barrow, strengthening its trade routes throughout the south-east — along with the Suir, these rivers became known as the Three Sisters.

Waterford city was also host to a 12th-century medieval marriage alliance that would change the course of Irish history.

Diarmaid mac Murchadha was the King of Leinster in the 12th century but was driven to exile in France by enemies. It is said he became involved in a dispute with the King of Bréifne (nowadays the county of Leitrim and Cavan, along with parts of neighbouring counties), Tiernan O’Ruark, whose wife he allegedly kidnapped in 1153.

O’Ruark formed an alliance with Rory O’Connor, who was recognised as High King of Ireland at the time, and between them, they drove mac Murchadha out of the country.

He sought revenge by inviting the 2nd Earl of Pembroke, Richard de Clare, later known as Strongbow, to lead an army to Ireland and capture the cities of Waterford and Dublin, taking control of the east coast of the country.

In return for his assistance, mac Murchadha offered de Clare his daughter Aoife’s hand in marriage.

They tied the knot in Christ Church Cathedral Waterford in 1170, becoming a power couple of the time.

It is not known what food was consumed at the wedding feast of Strongbow and Aoife, but archaeological excavations that took place in Waterford between 1986 and 1992 supports strong evidence that pigs were reared within the walls of the city.

Further to that, an edict passed in 1382 gave any man permission to kill pigs found wandering in the dykes and trenches of the town.

This gives us a strong indication that the pig was being bred there and was a major source of meat. Along with the wine, known to have been imported into Waterford, perhaps a pork dish similar to the one below was enjoyed after Strongbow and Aoife’s nuptials.

This recipe is taken from The Forme of Cury, a roll of ancient English cookery compiled around 1390 A.D. by the master-cooks of King Richard II.

In the Middle Ages, the English used garlic in several dishes, whereas the French and Italians were more inclined to use it mostly in sauces.

Cormary: Roast Loin of Pork with Red Wine


  • 1.5 kg/3 lb. loin roast of pork, bone-in
  • 300ml. /½ pt. red wine
  • 100ml./? pt. chicken stock
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. ground caraway seeds
  • ? tsp. ground pepper
  • Salt


In an ovenproof dish, make a marinade with the wine, garlic, coriander, caraway, and pepper. Tie the loin of pork with twine, and score the fat with a sharp knife. Season with salt. Lower the pork into the mixture, and marinate for a few hours, or overnight, turning it occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 175?C/350?F. Roast the pork for approximately 90 minutes, basting it frequently. Remove the pork from the liquid and allow to rest.

Bring the pan with the juices to the boil and add the stock. Bring it back to the boil, taste for seasoning. Slice the meat and serve it with the sauce poured over it.

Maeve L'Estrange

Maeve L’Estrange is a culinary archaeologist, studying for a PhD in experimental archaeology in UCD. Since no medieval Irish recipes survive, she tries to piece together what may have been eaten by...

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