September Pottage



Last month Sonia Boal, from Losing the Plot, told that I had forgotten something very important when I was making my pottages: I live on the coast. That means there was probably edible seaweed here in the fourteenth century and it might have added saltiness to pottage. We don’t have much of a tradition of eating seaweed in Hampshire, but they’re very keen on it in other parts of the country. Sonia very kindly sent me some dulse from Northern Ireland.

I can’t tell you how wonderful dulse is. It’s salty and chewy and it goes down very well with cold beer. It’s a lovely colour and it’s a wonder there was any left for the pottage experiment. My photograph doesn’t quite capture its deep purple colour.

According to Wikipedia, dulse contains a lot of protein, trace elements, minerals and vitamins. Sadly, it only grows on the northern coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, so would not have been available to someone living where my house is in the fourteenth century. There probably was some kind of edible seaweed here, however, so it seemed to be an experiment worth trying.

I wanted to find out whether the saltiness of the seaweed would add something to a pottage, so I chose some straightforward ingredients that would have been available at this time of year: peas and barley. I could have dried some of my own peas, but I enjoy them fresh too much to have saved any. I had to use supermarket marrowfat peas. These have to be soaked overnight and then boiled for an hour and a half. There’s also grain this month.  My pottage contained barley, garlic, onion, peas and seaweed. There were no other herbs or flavourings. As you can see from the photograph below, I went for a thicker pottage this month.


September Pottage

Somewhat surprisingly the seaweed disintegrated while it was cooking, turning an offputting browny-green colour in the pan. By the time the peas were cooked (almost an hour and a half) the seaweed had disappeared completely and the colour was a bit more appealing.

Last year I made a pottage with similar ingredients. Even with a lot of herbs it didn’t taste particularly nice. This one was lovely. The seaweed did make a difference and it was definitely worth throwing some into the pan.


April Munday is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

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Filed under Medieval Food, Medieval Life

21 responses to “September Pottage

  1. Losing the Plot

    Brilliant, I e been dying to know how it turned out, I am so glad it worked!

    There was a fire in the very centre of Belfast that has caused a huge amount of destruction and hassle with parts cordoned off, but hopefully I’ll get back to Sawyers soon and get some more 🙂

    You are the only English person I have met who likes the stuff, I feared you would have had to grow up with it to appreciate it, I’m delighted that’s not the case.

    Seaweed by post 😂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. These pottage experiments fascinate me. This one sounds good.
    Is there any coastal marshland near you? I was reading up on samphire and learnt there were two sorts – rock and marsh. The latter is said to be very tasty, and salty. I’m now curious to try some, but don’t know how available it would be in NZ. I shall have to do some more investigating.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Loving these pottage experiments April, glad this one was a success.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. But! How did it taste? It looked very nice, like a side at a fancy restaurant.
    Such things as dulse & samphire are impossible to find here in Indiana. Closest things are the seaweeds from the Orient found at ethnic markets. Have tried several & love them all, so I think I’d like English salt plants.

    Please tell me what proportions you used. I’d like to give it a whirl with kombu. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • The pottage didn’t taste salty, as I’d expected. It just tasted seasoned, which was good.

      Chinese seaweed is cabbage. I like it too.

      I used the amount of seaweed in the photograph. The fronds were probably about four inches long. The onion was quite small and I have no idea how much barley and peas I used. I covered the bottom of a bowl with the peas and soaked them over night. I guessed with the barley and probably put in a bit too much.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tried kombu, about 5″ x 3″, unrinsed. Was pretty good! Used about 1/4 c. each of peas & barley. Simmered kombu in water to cover until it tasted seasoned enough, removed it, & proceeded with peas & barley. Kept adding water until it was just done, rather than let too much water boil away. Didn’t want mush, & didn’t want to pour off the seasoning.

        For those who don’t have access to dulse & samphire, this is an OK way to get an idea how it could taste to do without salting.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This looks great and I love peas. Some of your experiments look okay but unless I was really hungry, I am not sure I would try them. This one however is calling my name. I will give it a try after my trip to the grocery store. 😋

    Liked by 2 people

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