The farmer’s market is a sea of green: leafy lettuces, hearty kale and chard, string beans, and fragrant herbs. I excitedly scanned the tables and bins for fresh peas. I wanted to make this recipe for “green peas soup” that calls for fresh, young peas.
This recipe is from one of my favorite manuscripts: UPenn Ms. Codex 785. As you’ll see if you click here, I’ve cooked quite a few things from this book. I’ve also written about the inclusion of recipes from Hannah Woolley’s printed cookbooks in this recipe book for the Archive Journal (with Alyssa), on this site here and here, and in a forthcoming article about “Portugal Eggs” that I’m excited to share with you. In fact, as I was working on revisions to that article I skimmed through my “to cook” and realized that stars had aligned and peas would soon be available at the market.
But I couldn’t find them. I waited, I waited some more. I went to three markets, two road-side farm stands, and three supermarkets. The days of July slipped away as I waited for the sweetest, freshest peas to appear before me. But there were no fresh peas to be had at the market, not even for ready money. I heaved a deep sigh and bought a bag of frozen peas. At least my cabbage, herbs, spring onions, and marigold flowers were from the farmer’s market.
This soup is delicious: Sweet from the peas and bread, wonderfully fragrant and savory from the mace, pepper, and herbs. Please readers, make it with fresh peas and tell me what you think.
To make Green Peas Soop Lady Hastings 135
Set ouer the Fire 2 Gallons of Spring Water with a French Roll
sliced, boil ’em one hour then take 2 Pecks of Peas & in
Shelling keep the old from the Young, boil the old ones to
a mash in the Liquor then pour it thro a Cullender, rubbing
the Bread & peas till the pulp is all out set it ouer the Fire
again with the Young Peas, a small bunch of Sweetherbs
Six Cloves & 3 blades of Mace & a little whole Pepper & Salt
to make it Savory, while these boil have in readiness
Six Cabage Lettice 2 handfuls of young Spinage half a
handful of young Onions & parsly together, Chop’ em
altogether but not small wash them & dry ’em in a Cloth
put into a stew pan 3 quarters of a pound of Butter let it
boil then put in the Herbs, stew them till they are Tender
then turn it all into the Liquor & let the whole boil 15
minets, then put in some merrigold Flowers & a
quarter of a pound of Butter, let it stand till the Butter
is dissolved, & serve it to Table
Put your Spices & sweet herbs in with the old Peas
Cooking Lady Hasting’s recipe for Green Peas Soop required some reckoning and research. First, I spent some time on this Folger resource to calculate the volumes and weights in the original and determine how I might reduce the recipe to a reasonable size. Then I investigated whether all marigold flowers are safe to eat or if specific strains are cultivated for culinary uses. Good news: we can safely make all our veggie dishes more brigntly colored and fragrant with marigold flowers.
Last, but not least, the original recipe includes an interesting revision. At first, the recipe instructs the cook to season the pulverized pea and bread mixture with herbs and spices. But a note at the end suggests that you “Put your spices and sweet herbs in with the old peas,” or add the spices and herb bundle when you first cook the peas and bread. Since this specific instruction seemed designed to increase the flavor of the peas, I’ve followed it. Although this change in instruction definitely suggests that someone prepared this recipe, considered the method, and suggested an alteration, the compiler or user of Ms. Codex 785 may, or may not, be the cook that had this specific insight. The altered instruction is at the end of the recipe, but it is in the same handwriting and ink color as the main recipe. This suggests that perhaps Lady Hastings, or her cook, noted this possible alteration before the recipe was shared with the compiler of Ms. Codex 785. Either way, the peas were strongly flavored with spices and herbs when I used this method. The suggested change in method shows that this recipe was prepared and adapted by an early modern cook. I always make notes in my cookbooks when I make a change or substitute an ingredient: It’s exciting to see evidence of cooks doing the same thing in the past.
Makes 2 quarts of soup. Serves 4 as a main, 6-8 as a starter or side.
*UPDATE: If you are using fresh peas, you might want to set some aside whole to add to the soup with the cabbage. This will give the final soup a mix of whole and pureed pea textures. If you are using a mix of frozen and fresh peas, you might want to cook the frozen in the first step and add the fresh in with the cabbage to replicate the old pea/new pea strategy in the original recipe.*
4 cups water
1 lb shelled peas, frozen or fresh (approximately 3 1/3 cups)
1 slice bread
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
2 whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon mace
bunch of sweet herbs tied with cooking string – 1 sprig each thyme, mint, oregano, and rosemary
1 stick butter (8 tablespoons)
4 cups cabbage, sliced
1 cup salad spinach
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
2 spring onions, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup marigold petals (optional)
Bread or rolls to serve (optional)
Combine water, peas, and bread in a large pot. Stir in spices. Add a bundle of herbs. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 30 minutes until the peas are tender and nicely flavored.
Remove the cooked peas from the stove. Take the herbs bundle out and discard. Puree the seasoned peas and liquid with an immersion blender or in a food processor or standing blender.
In another large pot or lidded skillet, melt the butter. Add the cabbage, spinach, spring onion, and parsley and stir to combine. Add 2 cups of water and cover. Cook for about 10 minutes. Add the pea mixture to the wilted vegetables and stir to combine.
Serve in small bowls and garnish each bowl with marigold petals. Serve with bread or rolls for dipping.
This soup is pure green. I devoured my bowl in minutes and the soup disappeared from the refrigerator within two days. I’m sure my spouse and I will consume the frozen quart in the freezer in short order. Refreshing and satisfying, savory and sweet, satisfying and light, this soup will sate summer and winter appetites alike. I’m sure fresh peas will be delicious here. In the end, frozen peas were just fine when paired with the freshest herbs, greens, and edible flowers.