Manuscripts and Special Collections

Recipe of the month: Pease soup

January 1st, 2011 at 08:01

Before it was possible to freeze or refrigerate food, people had to rely on seasonal produce, or on food that had been dried or preserved during the bountiful summer months. A staple of many people’s winter diet would have been dried peas, in the form of pea soup, ‘pease pudding’ or ‘pease pottage’. You may remember the children’s nursery rhyme,

Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old;
Some like it hot, some like it cold,
Some like it in the pot, nine days old.

There are many references in the Archdeaconry of Nottingham Presentment Bills to people brought before the court for sowing, gathering or winnowing peas when they should have been in church.

The following recipe for pease soup adds some flavour by including other ingredients such as anchovy, ham, root vegetables, butter, and herbs. All the ingredients are still readily and cheaply available in Britain, and it would make a very comforting dish for a cold day. The recipe comes from a recipe book associated with Mrs Willoughby of Aspley, and probably dates from the mid-18th century.

Pease soup (MS 87/2, p. 48)

3 pints of dried pease either whole or split, put into 3 pints of cold soft water, an anchovy well washed, a piece of clean ham, 3 or 4 onions stuck with a few cloves, some black peppercorns, a carrot, a turnip, a little bit of parsnip, 2 or 3 sticks of celery, a little mint either green or dry, a bunch of sweet herbs but very little thyme, set it on a gentle fire close cover’d, when you perceive the pease bursting have ready a tea kettle of soft water boiling, pour it by degreees upon the pease &c till it comes to a gallon, when the pease and roots are boil’d quite soft, strain it through a hair sieve and put it in a stew pan, let it boil till quite smooth & of the thickness you like, adding to it celery cut in slices or slips, onions sliced, a little spinnage chop’d & dices of bread all fryed in good butter & dashed with a little flour, a Quarter of an hour or 20 minutes is sufficient to let your soup boil after in these ingredients. The celery must be blanched tender before it is fried & the fried bread put last into your soup or it will be boil’d too soft. Add a little dried mint finely powdered.

Glossary

spinnage = spinach

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