Category Archives: MOOCs

Week 5 has a banquet: here are the recipes!

John's makeshift kitchen at next to the Summer Dining Room in the Commanding Officer's House at Arbeia
John’s makeshift kitchen next to the Summer Dining Room in the Commanding Officer’s House at Arbeia

Professional chef John Crouch joined us at Arbeia in South Shields the day we filmed the 5 videos that make up the fourth century banquet in week 5 of Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier. John put together a menu inspired by Roman recipes in order to help us visualise what a Roman banquet might have been like in the summer dining room of the Commanding Officer’s House.

We blogged a couple of recipes earlier as a teaser for this week. And now, here are the rest of the recipes which make up the Roman inspired menu which John devised for the event. He very kindly agreed that we could share them with you.

John's menu
John’s  Roman recipe inspired menu

1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup white wine
1 cup pork and chicken livers, sliced
3 chicken breasts, sliced

dash of pepper
½ teaspoon celery seed (or lovage)
1 cup chicken stock
¼ cup white wine

In a saucepan, soften the onion in the olive oil. Add the sliced livers
and chicken (or meats from small birds). Add the white wine and stock
and cook for about 30 minutes until the liver and chicken are cooked.
When the meats are almost cooked, combine the pepper, celery seed (or
lovage), stock, and white wine for the sauce. Add a little liquid from
the casserole dish and bring the sauce to a boil. Pour the sauce over
the meats. Bring to a boil, thicken with flour if you wish, and serve.

36 large fresh mussels, scrubbed and debearded
7 tablespoons dry white wine
4 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh white breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons olive oil
chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
crusty bread to serve

For the pesto
2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
100g (4oz) basil leaves
25g (1oz) pine nuts, chopped
50g (2oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
120ml (4floz) olive oil

Put the mussels in a pan with the wine, put on the lid and shake over
high heat for 3-4 minutes until the mussels have opened. Discard any
that remain closed.
As soon as the mussels are cool enough to handle, strain the cooking
liquid and keep it for another recipe. Discard the empty half-shells.
Arrange the mussels in their half-shells in a single layer in four
individual gratin dishes. Cover and set aside.
To make the pesto, put the chopped garlic and salt in a mortar and
pound to a purée with a pestle. Then add the basil leaves and chopped
pine nuts and crush to a thick paste. Work in the Parmesan cheese and,
finely, gradually drip in enough olive oil to make a smooth and creamy
paste. Alternatively use a food processor.
Spoon pesto over the mussels placed in the gratin dishes. Mix the
parsley, garlic and breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over the mussels. Drizzle
with the oil.
Preheat the grill to high . Stand the dishes on a baking tray and grill
for 3 minutes. Garnish with basil and serve with crusty bread.

We picked fresh herbs from the Arbeia garden.
We picked fresh herbs from the Arbeia garden.

1 tablespoon fish pickle
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
pinch of cumin
2 tablespoons hazel nuts, chopped

Use fresh watercress and serve it as a salad in a dressing made by
combining the fish pickle, olive oil, vinegar, pepper and cumin.
Garnish with chopped nuts.

400g (13oz) sea salt
700ml (24floz) water
1 jar of salted anchovies (100g (4oz))
a pinch of dried oregano
1 teaspoon sapa *

Dissolve the salt in the water over low heat. Add the anchovies to the
salted water with the oregano and sapa. Simmer for 20 minutes and then
leave to cool. Strain the garum through a fine sieve or muslin cloth
and store in a jar ready for use.

1lt (2pts) red grape juice

Pour the grape juice into a saucepan and boil vigorously whilst
stirring until one third remains. Leave to cool and decant into a
sterilised bottle.

2-3kg (4-6lb) boar roast

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon myrtle berries, or juniper berries
2 teaspoons peppercorns
2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons honey
125ml (¼pt) pork or chicken stock
65ml (1/8pt) red wine
½ teaspoon ground pepper
roasting pan juices

Wipe the roast dry. Immerse for 24 hours in a marinade of salt, water,
myrtle or juniper berries, peppercorns, and cumin. Roast uncovered in a
180ºC (350ºF/Gas mark 4) oven for 30 minutes per 400g (pound).
To make the sauce, combine pepper, honey, stock, and pan juices. Bring
to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Serve with the slices of meat.

1kg (2lb) fish fillets
1 teaspoon coriander seed
pinch of aniseed
sharp white vinegar

Put the fish fillets in a frying pan. Barely cover with water, and
season with coriander and aniseed. Bring to a boil and simmer for about
10 minutes. Discard the liquid and serve the fillets with a sprinkling
of vinegar.

1-1½kg (2-3lb) poached salmon

½ teaspoon ground pepper
pinch of aniseed
¼ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon fresh of dried mint
pinch of rosemary
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon white wine or cider vinegar
125ml (¼pt) white wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
250ml (½pt) fish stock

In a mortar, grind together pepper, aniseed, cumin, thyme, mint, and
rosemary. Combine with honey, vinegar, white wine, olive oil, and
stock. Bring to a boil and simmer gently to reduce for 25 minutes.
Thicken with flour, if you wish, and serve with the poached fish.

500g (1lb) asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

Scrape any stringy bark off the asparagus and tail the ends. Steam the
asparagus until tender. Then heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add
the salt and toss the asparagus briefly before serving with the oil,
salt and the frying juices.

The cheese in this recipe sticks the chickpeas together and allows them
to be eaten easily with the fingers. Parmesan and pecorino cheese are
both ideal as they grate finely and impart a robust flavour to the dish.

200g (8oz) chickpeas
100g (4oz) Parmesan or pecorino cheese

Soak the chickpeas overnight, boil them in salted water for 40 minutes
or until tender and then drain. Finely grate the cheese and stir into
the chickpeas. Serve while still warm/ The cheese will coat the
chickpeas and add a glistening effect.

4 eggs
125ml (¼pt) milk
4 tablespoons butter or oil
2 tablespoons runny honey

Take the eggs, milk, and butter and combine. With butter, grease a
shallow pan or skillet and then heat. When the melted butter begins to
bubble, pour in the eggs and cook the omelette. Do not fold. Serve with
honey poured on top and a sprinkling of cinnamon.

6 dates per person
shelled almonds, hazelnuts or pine kernels (1 per date)
3 tablespoons honey

Stone the dates and stuff with the nuts and a little pepper. Roll the
dates in salt, then heat the honey in a frying pan, fry the dates
briskly, and serve.

My favourite piece: Professor Ian Haynes & Lindsay Allason-Jones, OBE

To whet your appetite for week 4 on Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier, which is all about ritual and religion on the Roman Wall, Ian talks here about one of his favourite pieces in the Great North Museum, in Newcastle upon Tyne. He he is introducing Sattada an (almost) forgotten goddess on Rome’s British Frontier.

We’ll also be meeting Lindsay Allason-Jones OBE again this week. Here she is talking about one of her favourite pieces, some personal hygiene tools.

Meet two of our contributors in week 3

This week we’ll meet Dr Andrew Birley again, Director of Excavations from The Vindolanda Trust, and we’ll also meet Frances McIntosh, Curator of Roman Collections, English Heritage. Here they both are talking about some of their favourite objects (click on the picture for the video).

Dr Andrew Birley
Frances McIntosh

Both little videos really bring to life what is might have been life in Roman times around Hadrian’s Wall. Week 3 of Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier concentrates on frontier communities.

“In week 3 we will deepen our understanding of the complexities of provincial society.  We will look beyond the soldiers to consider the wider communities of which they were a part, we will encounter a range of non-combatants and we will try to seek out some of the ‘native’ populations living in the larger frontier area.”
Professor Ian Haynes, Lead Educator, ‘Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier’

It isn’t too late to sign up – you could work with us from week 3 and then go back to the previous weeks later…..

Ageing Well: Falls – please help spread the word!

falls_img_lo_resDo you know someone who has fallen? A friend? Family member? Someone you care for?

Our second free online course with FutureLearn starts on 24 November, but you can sign up now.

The Lead Educators, Professor Julia Newton, Dean for Clinical Medicine and Clinical Professor of Ageing and Medicine, and Dr James Frith, Academic Clinical Lecturer in Ageing, both based in the Institute for Ageing and Health, Newcastle University have worked with Voice North in the development of this engaging and empowering course, designed for the people who have fallen, their, family, friends and carers rather than professionals.

falls_flyer_imgPlease spread the word and this flyer – share it widely – we want our course to get to as many people as possible.

Do you have a staff/waiting room where you could put one up?

There is a trailer which gives a really good idea of what you can expect over the four weeks the course runs.

If you are on social media, share the link and use #FLFalls



The Toon with fresh eyes

We were delighted to chat to David Heslop, the City Archaeologist for Newcastle upon Tyne (known affectionately to it’s residents as “the Toon”).  David’s written widely on the archaeology of Newcastle, and the reconstruction picture you see in our week 3 text is taken from his book with Zoe McAuley Digging Deeper: The Origin’s of Newcastle and Gateshead. We chatted about how archaeological evidence is uncovered and preserved during the development of new buildings; what we do and don’t know about the course of the wall through the city centre and about what has changed and what has stayed the same.

For me Newcastle Quayside is never going to seem the same!   David explained how this artificially flat area was created through land reclamation in the medieval period.  The River Tyne is tidal in city and, of course, safe quayside spots were essential as trade expanded.  Once you hear this, of course it becomes obvious – you can begin to see the how the steep descents to quayside bars mirror the drops to the original banks of the river in the Roman town.

We experimented with merging David’s picture with one from the Northumbria University’s Virtual NewcastleGateshead project.  You can see the results of our photoshop efforts in the YouTube video above. How do you think we got on?

For those interested in browsing through the region’s records of Roman evidence do pay a visit to Sitelines (Tyne and Wear’s Historic Environment Record).

Meet James Gerrard talking about his favourite object

Dr Gerrard and a large amphora.
Meet Dr James Gerrard as he talks about his favourite object in the Great North Museum’s Hadrian Gallery.

Introducing Dr James Gerrard who contributes to week 2 of our free online course Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier. This video was shot in the Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle upon Tyne which is right next door to Newcastle University, and where many of the objects in the Roman collections of both the University and The Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne are housed.

James will be talking about vessels for food and drink in the second week of the course, and here he talks about his favourite piece in the Hadrian Gallery at the Great North Museum – a large olive oil amphora with the letters QMCCCAS stamped on the handle.

Why build the Wall? A fascinating extra….

Discussion with eminent experts on why Hadrian's Wall was built.
Discussion with experts – a special addition. Click on the picture for a special video.

A special discussion featuring Professor Ian Haynes, Lead Educator and Professor of Archaeology, Newcastle University, together with leading world experts Professor David Breeze (Visiting Professor, Newcastle University), Dr Sue Stallibrass (English Heritage Regional Science Advisor, NW England) and Dr Nick Hodgson (Principal Keeper of Archaeology: Strategic Project Management, Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums) examining why Hadrian’s Wall might have been built.

As we draw near the end of week one of Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier we thought you might like to delve a little deeper into why the Wall might have been built, with the views of four eminent experts in this fascinating discussion to help you reflect a little more on this fascinating topic.

Have their ideas changed your own thoughts at all?

Try a Roman inspired recipe this weekend! #saturdaykitchen

Celebrity chef John Crouch cooked us some Roman inspired food for our free online course Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier which starts on Monday.

John very kindly said we could share his recipes. Why not try cooking one of them this weekend?

Visualising a Roman banquet at Arbeia.
Visualising a Roman banquet


1 white cabbage
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons clear honey
a bunch of fresh coriander leaves
a sprig of fresh rue
1 teaspoon asafoetida powder
salt (optional)

Thinly slice the cabbage as for a coleslaw and arrange in a salad bowl. Combine the vinegar with the honey in a cup. Finely chop the coriander and rue and add to the honeyed vinegar. Season with salt if you wish, although the dressing is strong enough not to need it. Stir the asafoetida into the dressing and pour over the cabbage. Toss before


1½kg (3lb) hare

1 tablespoon olive oil
250ml (½pt) chicken stock
65ml (1/8pt) reduced chicken stock
2 teaspoons chives
1 teaspoon coriander
pinch of aniseed

¼ teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon celery or lovage seed
½ teaspoon cumin
pinch of fennel
1 teaspoon mint
pinch of rosemary
1 small onion, chopped
2 teaspoons honey
125ml (¼pt) stewing pan juices
125ml (¼pt) boiled red wine
1 teaspoon white wine or cider vinegar

In a stewing pot, put the olive oil, stock, chives, coriander, and aniseed. Cut up the hare into pieces and add to the pot. Cover, bring to a boil, and cook the hare for about 1 hour over low heat.
For the sauce, in a mortar grind the pepper, celery or lovage seed, cumin, coriander seeds, fennel, mint, and a pinch of rosemary. Add the onion, and combine with the honey, liquid from the hare pan, boiled wine, and vinegar.
Uncover the hare, add the sauce to the stewing pan, and cook for a further 30 minutes. Thicken the sauce with flour, and serve the meat drenched in sauce. Sprinkle with pepper at the table.


200g (8oz) nettles
100g (4oz) fresh mushrooms, sliced
200g (8oz) cheese, grated
1 medium onion, sliced in rings
100g (4oz) flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fish-pickle
3 eggs
350ml (12floz) cream
1 teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pick a basket of young spring nettles and steam in a covered pan for 30 minutes. Take 200g (8oz) of nettles, drain and chop. Arrange in a buttered quiche dish. Cover with layers of mushrooms, cheese, and onion. Now blend the flour, salt, fish-pickle, well beaten eggs, cream, coriander, and pepper. Pour the mixture over the dry ingredients in the quiche dish. Bake in a 200°C (400°F/Gas Mark 4) oven for 35 to 40 minutes, and serve hot with a sprinkling of pepper. Alternatively, chill and serve cold.

We’ll share some more recipes with you as we get nearer to the visualisation of a Roman banquet at Arbeia Roman Fort, South Shields.

Have a great weekend.

Ageing Well: Falls is open for signups

Everyone knows someone who has fallen…..

Domino metaphor for falls course.
The course image for Ageing Well: Falls

Newcastle University’s second free online course opened for signups yesterday – see

Whether you have been affected by falls yourself or care for someone who has, this course will help you understand what you can do to prevent falls and also what you can do if you have experienced a fall.

We have consulted with Voice North during the development of the course, to ensure that the course will appeal to people who have fallen. As well the knowledge and experience of as Professor Julia Newton and Dr James Frith, the course Lead Educators, our Meet the Experts series includes work with the award winning Falls and Syncope Service (FASS) at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary – the largest unit of its kind in Europe, recognised internationally for its innovative work in the field of falls and blackouts.

IMG_2301_lo_resAs the course page went live, and the signup button appeared, James was in Durham with our film crew, making a video about human and primate skeletons.

Educational vodka: Making every step count

The FutureLearn Challenge

One of the challenges of developing a course in FutureLearn is ensuring the content and activities engage rather than overwhelm your audience. The participants have no exam to pass and they haven’t paid a fee. They will have varied education background and different levels of English. Some may be approaching the subject for the first time, others may  have a great deal of knowledge. They can leave the course at any time with no repercussion and the only thing likely to keeping them on task is intrinsic interest in the subject.

We know from the statistics we see from FutureLearn that If a video is too long, if a step requires too much scrolling, or if a week has too many steps (more than 20) you will lose a good chuck of your audience. At the same time, we want to facilitate deeper understanding and do justice to the complexity of the material.

Ian Haynes, the course leader for Hadrian’s Wall now views the challenge as ‘making every second count’. Rob Collins, working on the same course, describes it as, not dumbing down, but ‘distilling the essence of the learning, like making educational vodka’.

Educational vodka Recipe Ideas

We are very much still learning but we think the following can help:

  1. Signposting and calls to action. The learner (participant) needs to know what is coming and what is expected of them. FutureLearn often mention ‘Calls to Action’, which in marketing terms is what viewers need to do (sign up or buy something). In FutureLearn make it explicit that the learner should read the article, watch the video and them discuss what they have learnt, take the quiz, or do something with the information
  2. Focus on the key learning outcomes (this will help plan activities). At the same time make sure they are initially presented more like a documentary TV series, with “hooks” and possibly even a 3 act structure. Documentaries start by capturing the viewers’ attention, creating curiosity as a teaser for the rest of the series. Why did they build Hadrian’s Wall? What was it for? How might the skull have been found in the ditch etc. What are the obstacles to answering these questions? In Act 2 of a documentary, the protagonist attempts to resolve the problems, before a resolution in Act 3. It is interesting to think who the protagonist could be in a MOOC. It could be the teacher, academics, the discipline, or the subjects of a study (eg the Romans and Barbarians), but would it be more engaging if it is the learner (participant) who faces the challenges and overcomes at least some of the obstacles themselves?
  3. Journalists use Inverted pyramid writing, presenting the eye catching important information, and the “who, what, when and where” first, and the detail further down.
  4. Less is more. Keep articles and videos as short as possible. In essence, what does the learner know at the start and what do they need to do/discover to get to the next level of understanding?
  5. Balance of activities and engagement. Make sure that there are steps within activities that allow the learners to discuss, self-test or do something. Provide prompts in the form of questions that encourage reflection

Making the Most of the Steps You Have

  •  Each week’s content in FutureLearn is broken into activities which themselves  consist of a series of steps. Each activity starts with an image and 230 characters which does not itself count as a step. Use these 230 characters to introduce the content and hook the learner
  •  You shouldn’t put all the answers in the text and videos. The aim is for the learner to engage with materials (not passively receive all the answers). You can gradually reveal information through well facilitated discussions, whilst giving learners the opportunity to interpret evidence you give them, or show off their knowledge if they are more expert. If they make mistakes, that is part of the learning. Other learners as well as moderators can help the best answers float to the surface and steer others back on track. Peer reviews can serve a similar function
  • Articles and video steps can have additional files (pdfs) attached as well as links to websites. This can be a great way to give extra information to people who may be interested in finding out more. They should not be used for core material
  • There are weekly emails sent to participants as the course runs. These can be more responsive to learners, again offering links to answers or further opportunities
  • You could keep an external blog that runs during the course to provide additional information
  • Live events that take place during the course (eg Google Hangouts) not only provide a sense of interaction between learner and facilitator, they can provide additional content and learning as well. For one Hadrian’s Wall challenge, we are considering using a live event as a ‘reveal’ for an activity with a debate.
  • Quizzes are 1 step in the platform, but have an introduction page and can have further information and images as part of each question. Could an article be reformatted as an interactive case study style quiz? Could this be a more digestible way of working through the content, checking understanding as you go?