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!
To stew Pease the French way – Lady Monson
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 Butter & Flour,
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.
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.)
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.