This is the recipe book that started it all: At a meeting of the Penn Paleography Group almost five years ago we transcribed a few recipes from MS Codex 1601. In the process of deciphering the handwriting of this recipe, and others from the volume, I became very curious about what on Earth “a tarte of green pease” would taste like. While peas, especially fresh spring peas, have a delightful sweetness, I was intrigued by the mix of sweet and savory ingredients in this tart.
To make a tarte of green pease
Take green peas & seeth them tender
then poure them out into a cullender, season
them with safron, salt & sweet butter
& sugar, then close him then bake itt
almost an houre, then draw itt forth
& ice itt, putt in a litle wergice; & shake
itt well, then scrape on sugar & serve itt.
This recipe is made from fairly common ingredients, but it includes no measurements. We approximated all our ingredients to make one small tart. The most surprising ingredient in the list is “wergice,” which we think is an alternative spelling for “verjuice,” a bitter liquid made from young grapes that was also called for in our Could Possett recipe. Like before, we used lemon juice instead to add an acidic sourness to the recipe.
2 c. peas
1 sheet puff pastry (homemade or store-bought and defrosted)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 t sugar, plus some to sprinkle on the top
1/4 t salt
Cook the peas. If you’re using fresh peas, remove them from their pods, blanch them in boiling water for about a minute, and refresh under cold water immediately. If you’re using frozen peas, cook them according to the instructions on the package. We used frozen peas and they worked well.
Season the peas with the lemon juice, butter, sugar, salt, and saffron. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Roll out the puff pastry. We folded the pastry into a rustic galette. You can also line a tart pan and reserve strips or a second sheet to cover the peas.
Add the pea filling to the puff pastry and fold or cover. Sprinkle sugar on top of your tarte. (An egg or milk wash on the top would be a nice touch as well.)
Bake at 350 F for 30 min or until the pastry is golden brown. Slice and serve.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the “tarte of green pease” was somewhere between a dessert and a main course. The peas were both sweet and vegetal, the seasonings bright and savory. While I confess that it was not my favorite dish we’ve prepared over the course of this project, the taste was certainly unique. The starchiness of the peas made me feel like the dish was lacking an essential element and I wanted to include other ingredients in the pie itself or on the side.
Since there are no measurements in the original recipe, we think this is a great opportunity for experimentation. With a few alterations, we think this recipe could be transformed in either a sweet or savory direction. To make it into a true dessert we would add more sugar and serve this tart with a side of vanilla ice cream. To turn it into a savory side-dish we would cut out the sugar altogether and instead add caramelized onions or shallots to the mix. The savory version might accompany roast squash, spicy baked tofu, or a roast chicken.