Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - Soupes Dorroy- Onion Soup II

Soupes Dorroy

Onions are one of the oldest cultivated plants, along with leeks and garlic. Evidence of cultivation is almost 5000 years old. They are a member of the Lily family, genus Allium, and it includes garlic, leek, chives, onions and shallot, as well as many wild species. Like the brassica's, alliums are very diverse with over 500 species.

It is believed that onions originated in central Asia. Evidence exists of onions being cultivated in Chinese gardens 5000 years ago. They were known in Egypt, where they were an object of worship. Onions symbolized eternity, and paintings of onions can be found in tombs and the inner walls of the pyramids. What is known is that onions are easy to store, can grow in almost any kind of soil, are easily stored and transported.

It was the Romans that introduced onions to Europe. Onions were used as medicine as well as for food. Pliny the Elder wrote that onions could cure vision, induce sleep, dog bites, lumbago, and dysentery, heal mouth sores and cure toothaches. The belief that onions had curative powers continued into the Middle ages where it was believed that they could cure hair loss, snakebites and alleviate headaches! Columbus may be responsible for introducing onions to the new world during his expedition to North America in 1492.

Onions do produce sulfur-containing compounds and scientific studies show evidence that onions have both microbial and antifungal properties. The compound responsible for producing tears, allyl sulphate, may also help in balancing blood sugar levels. Anyone who has cut a warm onion knows...they bring tears!

Two recipes caught my eye when researching pottages, Soupes Dorroy, and Oyle Soppys. Both recipes start with onions, but each produces a very different dish. The recipes for both of these items can be found at "Two fifteenth-century cookery-books. Harleian ms. 279 (ab. 1430), & Harl. ms. 4016 (ab. 1450), with extracts from Ashmole ms. 1429, Laud ms. 553, & Douce ms. 55" Thomas Austin

.xxx. Soupes dorroy.—Shere Oynonys, an frye hem in oyle; þanne take Wyne, an boyle with Oynonys, toste whyte Brede an do on a dysshe, an caste þer-on gode Almaunde Mylke, & temper it wyth wyne: þanne do þe dorry a-bowte, an messe it forth.

30. Soups Dorroy - Slice onions, and fry them in oil; thnn take Wine, an boil with onions, toast white bread an do on a dish, an cast there-on good almond milk and temper it with wine: than do the onions about, an mess it forth.

Interpreted Recipe

1 C. sliced onions
1 Tbsp. oil (I used olive oil)
1 C. white wine
1C. almond milk
Pinch of sugar &saffron
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 slice bread, cut into a round and toasted

Heat oil and add the onions. Fry over medium heat until the onions have become golden and tender. Once the onions have become golden, add the wine. Let the onions simmer in the wine until the wine has reduced by half. Place the toasted bread into a bowl. Warm the almond milk and pour it over the bread. Cover with the onions and serve.

Of the two recipes that I created, this was my favorite and one that I would not hesitate to serve at home again. I do caution that it must be served almost as soon as it is put together because when the acidic wine mixes with the almond milk, it will curdle.

My taste testers did not find the curdled almond milk off-putting. The onions when cooked with the wine take on a very fruity flavor, and the almond milk adds creaminess in the background that tempers the sweet fruity taste of the onions. One of my taste testers said that this dish reminded him of a pie...and it did.

I would serve this dish again at a feast, or for an everyday meal. It's quick to put together, economical and very tasty.