To make Green Peas Soop

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.
The Recipe

green peas soup

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.
Our Recipe
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.
The Results
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.
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To stew Pease the French way

When I’m not cooking archival recipes, I eat a lot of greens. Kale, spinach, chard, green beans, peas, escarole, cabbage, broccoli, or lettuce feature in most of my meals. But many of the vegetable recipes in the manuscripts we’ve consulted are for preserving vegetables for future use. We baked peas into a tart and pickled tomatoes, but we’ve featured fewer fresh vegetable dishes, like herb soup and this recipe “To stew Pease the French Way.” Alyssa and I were both excited to find this recipe for peas and cabbage in MS. Codex 644, a manuscript connected to the Frankland family that we’ve turned to for “Cheap Soupe” and “Oven Cakes.” We were also inspired by the note, “Excellent,” under the title.

If you’re looking for a new way to eat your greens, a recipe to use up that partial head of cabbage lingering in your fridge,  or even searching for a last-minute Thanksgiving side, read on!

The Recipe

pease the french way

To stew Pease the French way – Lady Monson
Excellent.
1 quart of young pease. 2 Cabbage Lettuce. A small
square piece of Ham – with a Boquet (which consists of
Thyme – Parsley – & young onions tied up) and a small
piece of Butter – put them into a stew pan, & stew them
for 10 minutes – have ready some boiling water,
add a little at a time, till your pease are quite
tender, after which add a little ButterFlour,
with a little salt & sugar, to your taste – you
must judge the thickness so as you may Eat them
with a Fork. ~ Aug[u]st. 1816 RLS

The bundle of herbs and smoky meat pair beautifully with the sweet peas and the savory cabbage. The addition of a roux thickens the cooking liquid into a delicious sauce.

The source of the recipe, “Lady Monson” may be Lady Anne Monson (1726-1776). Monson traveled to India soon after marrying Colonel George Monson of Lincolnshire in 1757 and spent her last decades living in Calcutta and traveling South Asia collecting botanical specimens. It’s tempting to link the Monsons and the Franklands given their shared history in India and South Asia, but I have not been able to confirm the connection.

Our Recipe

1 quart (4 c.) peas, fresh or frozen
1 large green cabbage, sliced thinly
4 stalks thyme, 4 stalks parsley & 4 scallions, tied up with butcher’s twine
1 slice ham or 2 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces
3 T butter (1 first, 2 for roux)
1/2 c. boiling water
2 T flour
salt and pepper to taste

Brown ham or bacon in butter.
Add cabbage, peas, herb bouquet, water, salt, and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes.
Blend 2 T butter, softened and flour, add slowly to the vegetable mix. Cook for 5 more minutes until the vegetables are cooked, but haven’t lost all their crunch.

(You may need to adjust the cooking time if you are using frozen peas.)

The Results

This is a delicious way to eat your peas. We chopped up the scallion and parsley to garnish our servings and I liked the bites that included the herbs best. You could easily leave out the smoky meat to make a vegetarian version of this dish. Smoked salt or a sprinkle of paprika might add that savory note to a vegetarian version.

We also think this would taste delicious with roast turkey, potatoes, and stuffing, which is why we’re sharing this recipe with you today. Let us know how it turns out, whenever it happens to grace your table!

A tarte of green pease

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.

The Recipe

green pease

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.

Our 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
pinch saffron

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.

Results

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.

 

Pease Pods of Puff Paste (or small fruit pies in disguise)

Even in cooking, appearances can be deceiving. Following a long tradition of performative food preparation from the ancient world through Tudor banqueting, early modern cooks sometime playfully disguised food as other food. We tried a recipe for “Pease Pods of Puff Paste” from Ms Codex 631 – a recipe that in fact contains no peas at all! These sweet little pea-pod-shaped, hand-formed fruit pies were easy to make and very tasty.

pease pods

The Recipe

Pease Pods of Puff Paste

Take some puff paste & role it out thin & lay in some cherries or any other preserv
-ed fruit in the fashion of pease & fashion your crust like pease pods & cut them with
a rowell & fry them with fresh butter then strew sugar on them & serve them up

This is a very simple recipe enlivened by creative presentation. Puff pastry and fresh or preserved fruit are combined to mimic peas nestled in their protective pods. We used fresh cherries from our local farmers’ market because we thought that they would create the distinctive pea-bumps the recipe strives to recreate. A “rowell” is a wheel or disc that would have been used to cut the pastry; to streamline the process and in an (ultimately somewhat futile) effort to prevent messy overflow, we cut the pastry into smaller squares and rolled each one around a line-up of cherries. Finally, instead of frying our pastry pods in butter, we baked them in a low oven for even cooking.

 

Our Recipe

These instructions are for 6 “Pease Pods.” Adjust fruit and pastry amounts as needed.

1 sheet puff pastry (store-bought or homemade)
18 cherries (or a similar amount of other fresh or preserved berries)
flour (for rolling out pastry)
sugar (for sprinkling)

In advance, defrost store-bought puff pastry or prepare homemade puff pastry. (We used store-bought, but for homemade Marissa prefers Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Rough Puff Pastry,” duplicated here.)

When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350F and prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper or greasing it with butter.

Wash and pit the cherries. Roll out the puff pastry until it’s thin but still workable. Divide sheet into 6  rectangles with a knife. Place three cherries in a line down the center of each piece and wrap pastry to form a “pea pod.”

Sprinkle with sugar and bake for 10-15 minutes, until pastry is puffy and golden.

 

The Result

They really did look like pea pods on their way into the oven, but the puffiness of the pastry pod overwhelmed the pea-like qualities of the cherries within. This may have been caused by our modern store-bought puff pastry, our use of fresh (larger) rather than preserved (smaller) cherries, our decision to roll the pastry around the berries instead of enclosing the berries between a top and bottom layer of pastry, or our choice to bake, rather than fry, the prepared pods. We’re curious to see if you, dear readers, produce more pea-pod-like results with this same recipe!

Although out of the oven these little pies did not look like pea-pods, they were very tasty, easy to prepare, and a great way to transform fresh summer fruit into a quick dessert. We think the addition of a simple egg wash would improve their presentation. Served with whipped cream, a summer fool, or ice cream, “pease pods” would add a sweet ending to any July or August meal.