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.
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.