With Twelfth Night past, Plough Monday signals the start of the working year. And nothing warms after a day of cold (and likely wet) farm work like a bowl of hot soup. Because our society looks at a great span of years, so should our look at cookery. I offer, therefore, a receipt (recipe) from slightly out of our SCA period, but from a source widely accepted as very likely to have been cooked in the seventy years or so before the receipts were published. Because this author is so late, you will not need a translation as before. Any needed modernization of spelling will be placed in italics and parentheses, as for “receipt” above.
Take two quarts of Pease (peas), and put them into an Ordinary quantity of Water, and when they are almost boiled, take out a Pint of the Pease whole, and strain all the rest. A little after you take out the pint of Pease, when they are all boiling together, put in almost an Ounce of Coriander-seed beaten very small, one Onion, some Mint, Parsley, Winter-savory Sweet-Marjoram, all minced very small; when you have strained the Pease, put in the whole Pease and the strained again into the pot, and let them boil again, and a little before you take them up, put in half a pound of Sweet-butter. You must season them in due time, and in the ordinary proportion with Pepper and Salt.
This is a proportion to make about a Gallon of Pease-porage. The quantities are set down by guess. The Coriander-seeds are as much as you can conveniently take in the hollow of your hand. You may put in a great good Onion or two. A pretty deal of Parsley and if you will, and the season afford them (if they are growing then), you may add what you like of other porage herbs, such as that they use for their Porrages in France. But if you take the savory herbs dry, you must crumble or beat them to small Powder (as you do the Coriander-seed) and if any part of them be too big to pass through the strainer, after they have given their taste to the quantity, in boiling a sufficient while therein, you may put them away with the husks of the Pease. The pint of Pease that you reserve whole, is only to show that it is Pease-porage. For which these proportions will make about a Gallon.
REALIZATION FOR ABOUT 2 QUARTS: Pick through about 1 pound of green split peas for stones and inclusions, cook uncovered on medium heat in a generous 2 quarts of water. While the peas are cooking to mush (about 2 to 2 ½ hours), you may thank your lucky stars that the straining step is made unnecessary by the fact that modern processing removes the husks from the peas – we don’t have to LITERALLY recreate the middle ages! After the peas have simmered about an hour, add 2 T. coriander pounded fine (measured whole; if using pre-ground coriander, 1 T is plenty), and about 1 tsp. each parsley, winter or summer savory, mint, and sweet marjoram. Finely chop at least one sizeable onion and add. Cook until very soft, and put through a food processor or blender; this soup should be thicker than modern split pea soup, but should be very smooth. If you want to try Digbie’s trick with whole peas to show that it is pease-porridge, add about a package of frozen peas. You may add them5 minutes before serving and have “polka-dotted” soup, or add them about 20 minutes before serving, so that they will change color to grayish green, to more closely match the color of the soup. Just before serving, stir in ¼ pound butter.
We really don’t need a glossary, but I will offer some insights into Digbie and into the herbs he uses.
Broth: This is very unusual for a Digbie soup in that it is made with water, not broth. Sir Kenelme was a great believer that “The ground or body of Potages (soups) must always be very good broth of Mutton, Veal and Vollaile (chicken, specifically, very old stewing hen).” This soup is very herbal, so if you use broth, use something light that will not hide the slight tang of mint,
French herbs: The three I think would be of most use here are a bay leaf, thyme and rosemary..
Quantity of herbs: You may use either fresh or dried herbs in this soup. If you use fresh herbs, use about three times as much as dried (1 tablespoon, not 1 teaspoon), and add them later in the cooking process. One of the wonderful things about using fresh herbs is the marvelous subtle aromas which dried herbs can’t duplicate. But the longer you cook fresh herbs, the more of that marvelous, evanescent scent will be lost.
Proportions: Please play with the quantities of seasoning. Recipes are advisory, not written in stone!
Mint: Yes, really! Mint was used in most pea soups back as far as the 13th century. Try it; you’ll like it!