The time of feasting was over during Lent. After the Carnival celebrations of February, a period of fasting and penance arrived. 15th-century people abstained from meat as well as animal fat, eggs and cheese in March. Since only dry goods were still in store, medieval people had to rely on their creativity to come up with palatable alternatives.

Did you know? Lent was not limited to the 40 days preceding Easter. Over the centuries, Wednesdays, Fridays and the weeks before  Christmas were also official periods of fasting. Talk about a hard-knock life

Nuts and dried fruit galore

 As business was slow in March, the vendors were authorised by the city authorities to sell locally produced or imported nuts and dried fruit, much to the displeasure of local greengrocers. This affordable and nutritious food provided the inhabitants of Ghent with the necessary energy.

Ingredients such as hazelnuts and almonds proved to be very useful during Lent. Exotic nuts were used in the production of various foods, such as marzipan. As regular dairy products were not allowed during Lent, the upper classes used almond milk as a substitute. 

Get creative

White bean hummus

  •  2 kg white beans  (or navy beans)
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 1 leek
  • 1 onion
  • 250 g smoked bacon
  • 1 clove
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bouquet garni (rosemary, savory, parsley and bay leaf)


  1. Soak the beans in a generous amount of cold water for 24 to 48 hours and regularly change the water.
  2. Bring the beans to the boil in a generous amount of salted water and regularly skim off any impurities.
  3. Add the bouquet garni when the boiling point has been reached, reduce the heat and boil the beans until they are done (this takes about 1 hour).
  4. Remove the bouquet garni and drain. Put some of the cooking liquid to the side.
  5. Mix the beans with the cooking liquid until you have a smooth consistency.
  6. Finish with rapeseed oil, lemon, salt and pepper to season the hummus.

Rice pudding with almond milk 

  • 1 l almond milk
  • 35 g almond liquor
  • 175 g sticky rice
  • 90 g honey
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron powder
  • 2 green cardamom pods


  1. Rinse the rice and soak for 30 minutes in cold water.
  2. Drain and heat the almond milk with honey, salt and spices.
  3. Let the rice cook gently (for 30 to 45 minutes) and stir gently.
  4. Allow to cool down, add almond liquor and divide into portions.
  5. Finish with toasted almond flakes, fresh fruit, dried fruit, etc.