Our New Hampshire weather has been unseasonably warm; however, we do get a few below normal days now and then. This week is one of them, so soup comes to mind. Looking through all the cookbooks, I came up with a Pottage of Peas that closely resembles what we might make today with the exception of the mint leaves.
I have chosen two receipts from
The Complete Practical Cook, by Charles Carter, 1730.
To make a Stock of Strong Broth of Flesh & Pottage of Pease, with Flesh.
The first receipt calls for a Leg of Beef, a Knuckle of Veal, and a Neck of Mutton and Bacon. I have chosen the bacon for this stock, as it will go nicely with the pottage of peas. Karen Hess writes that bacon was a haunch of pork or simply pork as a hank end of ham. In a more lavish household, butter would have been used instead of the bacon/ham but this is a rustic soup that would be found on the more common tables, so I am using pork hocks and, for the meat, a smoked ham.
My ingredients for the broth are parsley, celery, onions, carrots and thyme along with salt and pepper which goes into a pot with the ham hocks. Water is added to cover. After I brought it to a boil, it was simmered for 4 hours to release all the goodness from the bone. With our cool nights, I put the soup on the porch and let it cool down overnight. In the morning I brought it in. The broth had a thick layer of fat on top, so I scummed it well; this is the base of my pottage.
After the broth was scummed, I added the peas and simmered them. This took about 1 ½ hours to get them to a very soft consistency. During this time, I boiled the smoked ham so I would have the meat for the pottage. I pureed the peas, however, not too much, as I want my pottage to be rustic.
In a small fry pan, I browned until tender, leeks, onions, parsley and celery, and carrots; last I put in the chopped spinach.
The marrow from the hambones made the pottage peas thick, and I added a bit of water to make it the consistency of soup. I cut up the ham and chicken into small pieces and put it in a bowl and placed the fried vegetables in another. While reading Pottage Peas receipts, I found that they often put a whole chicken in the middle of the soup, as well as many other types of meat. Having leftover chicken, I thought to give it a try.
With the addition of a manchet and a small container of sherry placed on the cutting board. Our rustic meal, on a cold night, was at hand.
Each bowl received a portion of the pottage, and then ham and chicken put in the middle, and topped with the fried vegetables and a spoon of sherry.
The vegetables were a terrific addition to the traditional, plain pea soup and the manchet, with the tang of the beer and yeast, gave it an inviting taste, such a simple meal, however, so delightful.
One component, the mint, did not make the dish; I simply did not have any. I saved some soup, and went off a few days later and bought mint, and boiled it in leftover ham hock jelly. I added this to the Pottage and was pleasantly surprise at the freshness of taste. I may add mint the nest I make pottage and not tell anyone.
In Martha Washington’s Book of Cookery, Karen Hess tells us that the English have been fond of mint in cooking since medieval times. In John Gerard’s book, The Herbal, he writes that, “It will not suffer milke to curdle in the stomacke.” Well, neither will sherry!
Hope you enjoyed the journey into peasant food, wholesome and delicious.