Sunday, May 14, 2017

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .Cxlv. Blaunche Perreye. - White Pea Soup

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .Cxlv. Blaunche Perreye. - White Pea Soup

It has been quite some time since I posted anything.  I've had some pretty major changes in the household; starting a new job, working out the old one etc.  It's not an excuse for not posting anything, although I have been busily researching and interpreting from Two fifteenth-century cookery-books : Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430), & Harl. MS. 4016 (ab. 1450), with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1439, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS. 55 Thomas Austin.  This is the first of two recipes I interpreted which feature yellow peas.  Both of the interpretations were delicious and the taste testers and I were unable to decide which of the two we liked best. 

The first recipe is for "Blaunche Perreye", roughly interpreted "white pottage".  Perreye appears to be another form of the word Porrey, and is defined in The Century dictionary: an encyclopedic lexicon of the English Language, Volume 7 By William Dwight Whitney, Benjamin Eli Smith (1889) as "A pottage of leeks, also, a pottage made of beets or of other herbs, a soup of peas, beans etc.".   


Peas are among one of the oldest cultivated plants known to man. Their origins are shrouded in mystery, but, the most likely origin is in the area of Southwest Asia, India and Pakistan. There is evidence of pea consumption as early as 9750 BC in Thailand.  We also know that the Greeks and Romans were actively cultivating peas as early as 500 BC, and Apicius features nine recipes for dried peas in his cookbook written approximately 25 BC.

Peas were first cultivated in France by Charlemagne approximately 800. Because peas were plentiful, easily dried, could be stored for very long periods of time and were cheap, they made a perfect food for the lower classes.  By the 13th Century peas were such a popular food item in France that street vendors were selling them.  During the 15th Century, botanists were describing many varieties of peas of all colors--green, yellow and white, smooth, wrinkled, pitted, tall or short.

White peas proved impossible to find in my area, and yellow ones are seasonal. I finally resorted to ordering my peas from Amazon.  They did have white ones listed, but I purchased yellow instead.  I imagine this recipe would have been ok with green peas as well.  I think it is quite versatile, and fresh peas could be substituted for dried, however, the most fascinating part of the recipe for me were the instructions on how to remove the hull from the dried pea.

.Cxlv. Blaunche Perreye.—Take Pesyn, & waysshe hem clene, & þen take a gode quantyte of fyne leye, & putte it on a potte, & a lytil water þer-to; & whan þe ley is seþin hot, caste þe Pesyn þer-to, & þer late hem soke a gode whyle; þen take a quantyte of wollen cloþe, & rubbe hem, & þe holys*. [Hulls, shucks. ] wyl a-way; þenne take a seve or a wheterydoun, & ley þin pesyn þer-on, & go to þe water, & waysshe hem clene a-way þe holys, þen putte hem in a potte, & þey wyl alle to-falle with a lytil boylynge, to pereye, saue þe whyte Pepyn is þer-in, & þat is a gode syȝth; þen Salt hem, & serue hem forth.

Cxlv - Blaunche Perreye. Take Pesyn, and waysshe hem clene, and then take a gode quantyte of fyne leye, and putte it on a potte, and a lytil water ther-to; and whan the ley is sethin hot, caste the Pesyn ther-to, and ther late hem soke a gode whyle; then take a quantyte of wollen clothe, and rubbe hem, and the holys (Note: Hulls, shucks) wyl a-way; thenne take a seve or a wheterydoun, and ley thin pesyn ther-on, and go to the water, and waysshe hem clene a-way the holys, then putte hem in a potte, and they wyl alle to-falle with a lytil boylynge, to pereye, saue the whyte Pepyn is ther-in, and that is a gode sy3th; then Salt hem, and serue hem forth.

145.  Blaunche Perreye - Take peas, and wash them clean, and then take a good quantity of fine leye (dregs of wine), and put it on a pot, and a little water there-to; and when the ley is seething hot, cast the peas there-to, and there let them soak a good while: then take a quantity of woolen cloth, and rub them and the hulls well away; then take a sieve or a wheterydoun (whete rydoun-rydounisan-an obsolete term for ridder, a course sieve used to winnow grain), and lay your peas there-on, and go to the water, and wash them clean away the hulls, then put them in a pot, and they will all to-fall (disintegrate) with a little boiling, to pereye (pottage), save the white pepyn (the sprouting part of  apea) is there-in, and that is a good deal; then salt them and serve them forth.


Interpreted Recipe                                              Serves 1 as main, 2 as side

1/2 cup yellow peas
1/4 cup white wine
3/4 cup water
Salt and black pepper to taste

As I had said previously, I had to purchase yellow split peas for another recipe and those are the ones that I used for this one.  Yellow split peas come very clean in the bag so I ignored the first set of instructions on how to clean the peas.  However, I did use a mixture of wine and water to cook the peas.

I must confess, I precooked the peas for both recipes at the same time, using 1 cup of dried peas to four cups of salted water, bringing it to a boil for five minutes, and then letting the peas sit in the pot until the water had cooled.  This is the best method of quick cooking any bean, pea or legume I have found. Your other course of action is to let them sit overnight and soak in water.  This makes a LOT of peas, the remainder of the peas I put into vegetable soup....shhhh!

Once the peas were precooked I heated the water and the wine and added a half cup of the *pre-cooked* peas to it.  If you are going to cook a large amount of dried peas remember this ratio 2:4 - every two cups of peas, four cups of water and or wine.  If you are using green peas, make sure that approximately 1/3rd of your peas are also yellow.  It makes a very pleasing spring green color.  But I did find that I needed to add additional water to my peas before they were soft enough to mash, so keep an eye on your liquid when cooking this dish.

Once the peas were cooked I mashed them slightly with a potato masher and added salt and black pepper to taste.  I would definitely serve this up at a camp supper, or a luncheon or even at a feast.  We brainstormed ideas while we fought over taking bites of soup and the group consensus is that you would want to serve this with ham, or another salty meat, and good hearty thick grainy bread, early in a feast.  The soup itself might overwhelm a more delicately flavored item.  This will find its way into a lunch tavern menu as a vegetarian option in the near future.  I have been asked to make it again, this from the person who swore up and down they were positive they wouldn't like it.  Very simple and humble make great flavors--ingenious.

Similar Recipes

Fourme of Curye [Rylands MS 7] (England, 1390)

.lxix. Perry of pesoun. Tak pesoun and seeth hem fast and cover hem tyl they berst, take hem up & cole hem thurgh a cloth, tak oynouns and mynce hem & seeth hem in the same sewe & oyle therwith, cast therto suger, salt and safroun, and seeth hem wel theraftur, & serve hit forth.

Ancient Cookery [Arundel 334] (England, 1425)

Grene pesen unstreynet with herbs. Take grene pesen and let hom sethe wyth gode brothe of beefs, and take parsell, sage, saveray, and ysope, and cut hom smal, ancfdo hom in the pot, and let hom boyle tyl hit aly (mix) hitself, and colour hit with saffron ande serve hit forthe.

Liber cure cocorum [Sloane MS 1986] (England, 1430)

For Gray pese. Fyrst stepe þy pese over þe ny3t, And trendel hom clene, and fayre hom dy3t. Sethe hom in water. and brothe þou take Of bacun, and fresshe bre þou no3t forsake. Summe men hom lofe alyed wyle With floure and summe with never a dele. Þese pese with bacun eten may be As þo why3t pese were, so mot I þe. But þo white with powder of peper þo Moun be forsyd with ale þer to.

Recipes from the Wagstaff Miscellany (England, 1460)

Pome perre. Boyle white pesyn hool hem take hem fro the fyre when they have restyd a whyle then take the cleryst in to a nothir pott then have mylke of almond drawyn up with wyen figes of amely sigure and salte and yf thou wylte reysons fryed w lytyll & do to gedyr boyle hit kepe hit and serve hit forth.