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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Herb Soop

A few weeks ago, thanks to my old friend George Leader, I was lucky enough to visit an archaeological dig at an eighteenth-century farmhouse on The College of New Jersey’s campus. I’d never been to a dig site before, so the technical details alone were fascinating: the reasoning behind determining where to dig in the first place, the standing sieve to strain buckets of earth for artifacts, the practice of wrapping fragile artifacts in foil (who knew!), the technology used to date wooden architectural features. I really dug it. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)

Seeing the farmhouse, getting to hold some of the artifacts unearthed that day – a metal button, a shard of blue and white pottery, and a small clay sphere that we theorized might have been a marble – made me think about this project and what we can uncover. I’m used to engaging with the past through words on a page. The archives always feel a little bit magical to me: these texts still exist centuries later, and I get to touch them, smell them, read them. I felt a similar tug at the dig, seeing artifacts being unearthed and thinking about our access to the past through what happens to have been left behind. At a basic level, archaeological investigation and archival literary research give us physical access to fragments of past lives, preserved deliberately or accidentally. You figure out where to look, but you don’t always know what you’re going to find.

This project is one of reconstruction from a distance and with pieces missing: the recipes are vestiges of what did get recorded, leaving little behind of what didn’t. Cooking from the archives creates a powerful bridge between me and the past. I will never stand in a kitchen without refrigeration, without even the possibility of electric lights, without having spent my whole baking life reaching automatically for ingredients like vanilla extract and uniform sticks of butter, but I can still approximate how Naples biscuits would have tasted nearly three hundred years ago.

There’s always a gap, though, related to how just far that bridge can reach. Working on this project has brought me up short at this gap time and again: reading handwritten manuscripts begs to know more about the person who wrote them, but there’s often little headway to be made. We can decipher handwriting, but identities are harder. This impulse isn’t just personal – it’s a question that comes up often for me and Marissa, of who wrote these recipes down, of what we know about them. Usually, not much. But this recipe left a faint trace of one of the individuals behind it.

This Herb Soop comes from UPenn MS Codex 1038, home to some of my favorites, like the Maccarony Cheese and Desart Cakes. The volume contains at least three separate hands, and we still don’t know anything about these writers. This handwriting is the second in the volume, probably written down sometime in the 1790s or early 1800s. The end of the recipe attributes it to “Lady Laroche.” (She is probably the source and not the writer of this recipe, since several subsequent recipes in the same handwriting are attributed to other women.) It is nearly impossible to know anything about the other women whose names accompany their recipes – the Mrs. Baker who gave the writer her recipe for Curd Cheescakes, the Mrs. Fordham who told her how “To make Flumery,” or the Mrs. Turner who showed how “To Dress a real Turtle as the[y] do in the West Indies,” for instance. “Lady,” however, provides direction in a way that “Mrs.” often cannot.

It turns out that this “Lady Laroche” can be one of only two women. James Laroche, a Bristol politician and slave-trader, was created baronet in August 1776. Since the baronetcy became extinct when he died in 1804 without any male heirs, this Lady Laroche has to have been one of his two wives. The first Lady Laroche was born Elizabeth-Rachel-Anne Yeamans in Antigua. An heiress (she brought at least one plantation to the marriage) and widow, she married James Laroche in 1764 and moved to England with him. After Elizabeth-Rachel-Anne died in 1781, James remarried; his second wife may also have been named Elizabeth. We know nothing else of her except that she survived her husband and died in Wales in 1824. Can we know how or even if this recipe writer and either Lady Laroche knew each other? What else they might have talked about, why this particular recipe was the one shared? No. But sometimes, even this small glimpse into archival identities feels like uncovering something satisfying.

The Recipe

Herb soopHerb soop contd

To make Herb Soop

Take Parsley, Spinnach, Cabbage Lettice, Leaves of
White Beet, Sorrell, Cucumbers, Pease & small Onions
with the green ends to them, a little Mint, and a very
little Fennell. Wash them all clean, and Chop the
Herbs very small. Season them with Pepper & Salt,
Put them into a Pot to stew with a piece of Butter
according to your quantity, but no Water. Let
them stew quite tender. Have ready boiled some
Cream or Milk, with the Yolks of Eggs beat up in it,
Mix this gently with the Herbs and serve it up.
You must not let it boil, or be on the Fire after the
Eggs are put to it. You are to observe it is not to
be a thin liquid, but more herbs than Soop. that is,
thick of the Herbs. Less than half a pound of butter
will do unless the Terene is very large. There shoud
be Cellery chopped amongs the herbs if to be had &
—-
other herbs you like but not strong of any one in particular.
Some leave out the Fennell, as it is apt to be too strong.
Lady Laroche.

Our Recipe

3 generous handfuls of spinach (about 1 1/2 c. chopped)
1/2 c. parsley, chopped
a few mint leaves, chopped
1 large or 2 small cucumbers, diced (I also seeded mine)
1-2 celery stalks, sliced thinly
1 c. chopped cabbage
3/4 c. green peas (fresh or frozen)
3 scallions, sliced thinly
1/2 tsp. salt
a few grinds of pepper
1 tbsp. butter
1/2 c. milk
1 egg yolk

In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients except for the milk and egg yolk. Cook them over low-medium heat, stirring often enough to prevent the greens from sticking. Cook until the greens are all wilted and the cucumbers are translucent; for me, this took about 20 minutes. (Though you could probably let them “stew” even longer.) Heat the milk in the microwave or on the stove until quite hot. In a small bowl, whisk the egg and then, still whisking, add the hot milk in a steady stream. Remove the herb mixture from the heat and stir in the milk. Serve immediately.

The Results

The Soop tasted green: stewed together, the herbs and vegetables made a pleasantly flavorful whole. I’d never had cooked cucumbers before and was curious – they softened but held their shape, rather like zucchini, and provided nice texture in the soup. I liked the zip from the scallions and the chewiness of the cabbage (even if cooking it did make my kitchen rather … fragrant). In its piling together of many different herbs and vegetables, the Herb Soop felt like a precursor to some of Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes. I found it satisfying that what I was tasting was probably pretty close to some of the results this recipe would have yielded for eighteenth-century cooks: all of the ingredients remain available, the cooking technique was easily duplicated in my kitchen (albeit with the ease of a gas stove), and the methodology was specific enough that I could follow the recipe’s instructions closely.

In fact, this Herb Soop recipe is quite detailed in its ingredient list and instructions – it’s very helpful to know, for instance, that the end result should be “more herbs than Soop” – more so than many of the other recipes we’ve engaged with, like Artificial Potatoes. But it provides few precise measurements. I guessed at these proportions, determining them largely based on what I had and what I liked. (I don’t love fennel, so I’m one of those “some” the recipe mentions who “leave [it] out.” And my little produce market doesn’t carry sorrel, so I didn’t use it.) And I imagine that’s what early cooks did as well, making the soup slightly differently each time based on what needed to be used or what was available.

What else could you toss in here? Leeks, zucchini, basil, cilantro, green bell peppers – really, anything green that happens to be lurking in your crisper could make its way into this soup. Some hot pepper flakes would liven things up. I see the appeal behind the milk-and-egg liquid choice: it’s a rich addition and adds some depth to the greens. However, I might substitute some vegetable broth or chicken stock for a lighter soup. Basically, this recipe provides a wonderful alternative idea for using up the leftover greens that I normally toss into a grain salad, a stir-fry, or baked eggs.

IMG_4511

An Excellent Cheap Soupe

It’s soup season. I live in southern California and I have absolutely no complaints about winter weather, but I did get a good dose of cold when I visited Alyssa in Philadelphia this month to work on project planning and to prepare for our forthcoming profile in frankie magazine (out April 2015). In any case, who doesn’t enjoy a good bowl of soup?

This recipe comes from Ms. Codex 644. Penn’s catalogers suggest that the manuscript was compiled between 1750 and 1825 and attribute this book primarily to a Lady Frankland with some additions in other hands. A note inside the front cover the manuscript entitles the volume “Grandmama Lady Frankland’s Receipt Book.”

grandmama lady frankland

This manuscript may be a product of the household of Sir Thomas Frankland, fifth baronet (1718–1784). This is a preliminary speculation, but one I hope to research in more detail. I’ve linked to wikipedia above because it’s freely accessible, but I’m also drawing on information from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 

Sir Thomas Frankland married Sarah Rhett of South Carolina (1724-1808) in 1743 and she may very well be the “Grandmama Frankland” who compiled and used this recipe book. The family likely lived at the Frankland estate in Mattersey, Nottinghamshire while Frankland traveled between England and the West Indies where he was involved in the Atlantic slave trade, among other commercial ventures. The couple had many children (somewhere between thirteen and nineteen according to various accounts), and nine lived long enough to be mentioned in Frankland’s will. This recipe for cheap soup would certainly feed a crowd.

If this volume truly is a product of the Frankland family, my preliminary biographical research leaves me with many questions about the volume: What kind of history can these recipes possibly reveal? Can the volume provide a window into the history of slavery? Does it have anything to tell us about southern foodways, transatlantic communication, and global recipe exchange? For example, Frankland was born in the East Indies, possibly in India, and that connection to South Asia may explain the presence of a recipe for Indian Curry in the volume.

Stay tuned for more on Ms. Codex 644 as we continue to research its provenance and try out its intriguing recipes!

The Recipe

cheap soup recipe

Lady Fagg
An Excellent Cheap Soupe
1 pound of Beef cut in small pieces
perl p[b?]arley
2 2 oz Rice. 1/2 pint split Peas
6 potatoes. 2 large Onions —
pepper & salt to the taste. put al[l]
these with one Gallon of water
into a deep Pot – Tie it down,
& Let it bake 6 hours –
NB – dont strain it but turn
it alltogether into the Dish – th[is]
will make a good meal for 6
or 8 people, & does not want
any bread to eat with it.

This is a straightforward recipe and it required minimal modification to work in my kitchen.

The soup recipe, like many others in the volume, is attributed to Lady Fagg in a small note at the top right corner of the page. Other sources noted in the manuscript include – Lady Monson, Lady Roche, Miss Colville, Miss Bedingfeld, Miss Bowles, Richard Jebb, Mrs. Cowslade, Baroness Philetsen, Dr. Addington, Dr. Bateman, Dr. Reynolds, and Dr. Darwell.

The final paragraph is a note that adds extra information to Lady Fagg’s recipe. “NB” stands for the Latin phrase nota bene, roughly translated as “take note.” This phrase that was used in books as a mnemonic aid to mark passages, thoughts, instructions for future use. It appears in many places throughout the manuscript.

Our Recipe

1 lb stewing beef, cut into 1-2 inch cubes
4 T butter, for browning beef
2 large yellow onions, chopped
2 oz pearl barley, rinsed and sorted
7 oz split peas, rinsed and sorted
6 potatoes, chopped into 1-2 inch cubes
cooking liquid: 1 cup chicken stock & 2 quarts water (This was the maximum amount of liquid my largest pot could hold. If you have a big stock pot, you should be able to accommodate a full gallon of cooking  liquid. I recommend using 1/3 vegetable or meat-based broth and 2/3 water.)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 325F. Measure, chop, and prepare all ingredients.

Heat 2 T butter in an oven-safe stock pot or dutch oven. Brown the beef cubes in butter to seal-in their flavor. Add the other 2 T of butter as needed. When the beef is mostly browned, add the onions and allow them to soften for 1-2 minutes. Add the barley, peas, potatoes, and cooking liquid (stock and water) and cover. When the soup has come to a rolling boil, add salt and pepper to taste. Then transfer the pot to the oven to cook for approximately 2 hours. Check every 45 minutes or so to make sure the grains have not absorbed all the liquid and add water as needed.

The Results

This soup is tasty, warm, and filling. It could easily feed a large group or provide delicious leftovers for future meals.

The leftovers fed me, and my spouse Joseph, for a few meals. He even thought it tastier leftover because the flavors deepened. Although the recipe note insists that the soup does not need to be served with bread on the side, bread did make it a more substantial meal. Our batch produced ten servings (with bread) and if we’d had a larger pot we could have made an even greater volume. This soup is economical even in 2015 with its smart use of cheap cuts of beef and filling, healthy grains and legumes.

A sprinkling of fresh herbs like sage or parsley would add extra flavor to each bowl. I would suggest serving this soup on a cold night with warm bread, a green salad with a kale or spinach base, and a nice bottle of  your favorite stout or porter.