Canabenys with Lekys - White Beans with Leeks

Canabenys with Lekys 

2 For to make canabenez: Take white beans. Ley hem in watyr rennyng too days, and chaunge the watyr. Take hem dry, then dry hem hard uppon a ston or apron a este. Then shylle them in a mylle, and do away the holys; and cleve the benys iii or iiii at the most. And then take hem clene. And so may thou kepe hem as longe as thou wylte.

3 Canabens. Take kanbens. Wesch hem, and yf thu wilte stepe hem a lytyll, & make hem up with mylke of almondys. Put therto, sugure and salt. Out of lentyn, make hem up with cowe mylke, and put therto sygure and salt and buttyrr claryfyde.

4 Canabens with Bacon. Do suete brothe yn a potte. Wesche the canabens clene and do therto, and boyle yt up: put no other lykure therto. Loke they be salte, & serve hem. Take ribbys of bacon boylyd; do away the skyn and ley hem on a dysch, and serve hem forthe as ye serve venson with formente yn brothe.

This weekend I will be serving "Canabenys with Lekys", a recipe that I have wanted to try since I first discovered Constance Hieatt's "Ordinance of Pottage". I used Hieatt's redacted recipe (see below) with a few twists of my own. Like Hieatt, my recipe is a combination of 3 and 4 above; however, my version is vegetarian. I substituted vegetarian sausage crumbles for the bacon or salt pork, and 50/50 mixture of homemade vegetarian stock and store bought vegetable broth for the broth. Additional changes include garlic instead of the savory and onions in addition to leeks.

The beans of the ancient and medieval world were "broad or fava beans". They originated in the Mediterranean or Southeast Asia regions. Archeological evidence suggests the broad bean in use during the Neolithic period (6800 - 6500 BCE) in Israel. Egyptians, Romans and Greeks enjoyed them, and Apicius has a recipe for a preparation of these beans in his "De Re Coquinaria".

Broad or fava beans are known by many different names; faba, field bean, bell bean, tic bean and the "horse bean". They are oftentimes grown as a ground cover crop, and fed to livestock.

Dried Beans with Leeks -Constance Hieatt "Ordinance of Pottage"

1 C. dried beans (period appropriate would be fava--I used white kidney beans)
1/4 slab bacon or salt pork
6 cups meat broth
1 tsp. savory
1/2 tsp. salt
2 bunches of leeks (approximately 5 cups chopped)
small handful of parsley
1/2 pound fresh greens

Cover the beans with boiling water and soak for an hour. Drain, and rub off the skins from all the beans (not as tedious a job as it may sound). Put them in a pot with the broth, meat, savory and salt. Bring to a boil and turn down the heat, leaving the pot simmering gently.

Trim the leeks, discarding the coarse dark green tops. Slice them, and if they are large chop them roughly, then wash thoroughly and add them to the beans. Continue cooking until the beans are very soft and beginning to disintegrate (about 45 minutes).

Next, drain the broth through a colander into a large pot or bowl. Discard any bone or rind, with most but not all of the fat. Put what remains of the meat into a processor or blender, with the vegetables from the colander and a little of the broth (you will probably have to do this in two batches.) Process until fairly smooth, but not to the point of reducing it to baby food, then return ti all to the pot with the rest of the broth. Bring to a boil, then add parsley and greens (washed and chopped) and continue boiling for 5 minutes. Taste for salt and serve hot (Hieatt, An Ordinance of Pottage; An Edition of The Fifteenth Century Culinary Recipes in Yale University's MS Beinecke 163, 1988).

As mentioned previously, my version was vegetarian and I found it to be good but a bit bland. It certainly blows the idea of medieval food being highly spiced and over seasoned out of the water, I can promise that.

Follow up: The soup was a hit at the event over the weekend, despite the fact that the electric outlet kept blowing a circuit and it was being served cool to lukewarm. I'm definitely going to keep working on this and add it to my repertoire of "good things for feast". I even convinced a young lady who really dislikes onions to try it. Leeks are much milder in flavor and she actually took home a second and third helping:-D

Works Cited

Hieatt, C. B. (1988). An Ordinance of Pottage; An Edition of The Fifteenth Century Culinary Recipes in Yale University's MS Beinecke 163. London: Prospect Books.