Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Tart of Green Peas

Tart of Green Peas. c. 1596

This recipe is from an online class by FutureLearn called A History of Royal Food and Feasting by the University of Reading and Historic Royal Palaces and was presented in Week 2 of the course which focuses on the foods eaten during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1 who ruled from 1558 until 1603.

This recipe is definitely different! Now, I like peas. I have had them straight up, mushy, on top of pizza in Venice, and baked into a savory chicken pie; however, I have never had a pie devoted solely to this humble legume. The addition of saffron and verjuice make this pie even more interesting, and, yes, a bit odd.

Verjuice actually means "green juice." It is an acidic liquid made from unripe sour grapes (or crabapples). It was used in Roman cookery, but was very popular in Medieval cooking, and even used into the 19th century. It is very popular in Iranian cuisine and is starting to be given more attention in modern American cookery. It was also used historically as a medicine.  

Verjuice is a good substitute for lemon juice or vinegar. It has a sour taste but fruity and not quite as sour as vinegar. It's mostly found in recipes for salad dressing, soups, stews, and sauces. Granted, you probably cannot find this in the average American grocery store, but it can be found easily enough online.

The recipe for A Tart of Green Peas is from Thomas Dawson's Good Housewife's Jewel, 1596:

Take half a peck of green peas, sheal them and seethe them, and cast them into a colander, and let the water go from them. Then put them into a tart whole. Season them with pepper, saffron and salt, and a dish of sweet butter. Close and bake him almost one hour. Then draw him and put to him a little verjuice, and shake them and let them into the oven again, and so serve it.

My Recipe Adaptation 
(with a bit of help from the online course)

  • 1 Box (2 Sheets) Puff Pastry
  • 5 Cups Fresh or Frozen Green Peas
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Saffron
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter, Chopped
  • 1/4 Cup Verjuice 

1.  Heat the oven to 350ยบ F.
2. Line a deep dish pie plate with one of the puff pastry sheets. Place in the refrigerator while you assemble the filling.
3. Fill a medium stockpot about 2/3 of the way up. Heat over high temperature until the water is boiling. While the water is heating, fill a large bowl about half way with icy water.
4.  Add the peas to the boiling water and blanch for about 90 seconds. Drain the peas and immediately place them in the icy water to cool.
5.  Place the peas, butter, and seasonings into a large mixing bowl and toss.
6.  Pour the peas into the prepared pie plate. Cover the pie with the remaining sheet of pastry, being sure to cut a hole in the center of the pastry sheet large enough to fit the tip of a funnel.
7.  Bake the pie for about 45 minutes.
8.  Remove pie from oven and, using a funnel, pour the verjuice into the pie and shake the plate so that the fluid is evenly distributed.
9. Return the pie to the oven to bake for an additional 6-8 minutes.
10.  Serve warm.

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