March Pottage

pease pottage

I’ve come up in the world a bit for my Lenten pottage. It’s got sugar, salt and oil in it. That’s because I’m following a recipe. I did baulk, though, at the saffron for which it also calls. Even today it’s too expensive for anything other than a special occasion.

The recipe comes from The Medieval Cookbook and is a very basic pea pottage. It’s March, so my medieval housewife is using things from her stores. Since it’s also Lent and no meat is allowed, the meal is completely vegetarian.

The two main ingredients are dried peas and onions. I soaked the peas overnight and boiled them in fresh water for half an hour before I added the onions.  They boiled together for an hour, then I removed them from the heat and mashed them. They could also be sieved. I added small amounts of oil, sugar and salt, then simmered for another ten minutes. In the Middle Ages, the thicker a pottage was the better it was considered to be, and none of my pottages so far have been very thick. This one was.

When I poured it into the bowl it looked like mushy peas, which is basically what it was, except for the onion. I doubt many people realise they’re getting a medieval dish when they have mushy peas with their fish and chips.

Not only was it very tasty, but it was also very filling. It’s not the most attractive pottage I’ve made, but it’s one I’d make again.


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 Fourteenth Century, Medieval Food

23 responses to “March Pottage

  1. Sounds filling and tasty. Was it sweet/savoury or somewhere in between?

    Liked by 3 people

  2. They certainly overcooked food back in the day!! I’m a big fan of one pot meals and love soups.

    Liked by 3 people

    • You have to cook dried peas forever to get them soft enough to eat, even if you’ve soaked them overnight. The recipe said to cook them until they burst, which mine had just started to do after an hour or so.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. The sugar surprises me, both because it was a luxury and because I would’ve expected it to be off the menur during Lent.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Lent wasn’t about the denial of luxuries. We’ve turned it into that more recently. Unfortunately, most of the books I’ve read that mention fasting only focus on the physical aspects, not the spiritual. It would be interesting to know what people thought about fasting during Lent.

      Liked by 4 people

  4. This looks pretty good. I think I could have a bowl of that. Although, I think I’d be hoping for a meal to follow 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. lydiaschoch

    Wow, this looks good. My parents make a similar stew, except they put about a cup of tiny pieces of cut up ham in it.

    Do you know how common it was for people to eat pottage that was vegetarian/vegan? I’m guessing it happened fairly regularly, but it would be interesting to hear for sure either way. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Most people ate meat when they could, but there were three fast days a week when meat was forbidden. On those days, those who could afford it ate fish. Those who couldn’t afford fish would have eaten a vegetarian pottage, which would often have been vegan as well.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I think I’m going to make this one!Love mushy peas me!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I love pea soup because of the thickness. This sounds yummy!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. While I enjoy pea soup, the addition of sugar makes me queasy. Not a fan of sugar in savory cooking.

    Spring onions are poking up here, as well as wild garlic. Also have some hard winter onions. Think I’ll give it a whirl.

    Fish on fast days, so I’ve read, had as much to do with helping fishermen as with any Biblical prohibitions. Favoring fishermen was also, in part, to honor Simon and Andrew, whom Jesus brought into His fellowship. Gotta mollify the Saints, especially the big guys!

    Cistercians did not consider birds as “meat”. They lived in isolated inland communities where fish would be difficult to obtain. Probably received Papal dispensations for this. Otherwise, they were to always fast from meats.

    True fasting was originally eating nothing, or just bread, and drinking only water. John the Baptist ate locusts and honey. Jesus did without food for 40 days until God sent angels to attend, after giving Satan the cold shoulder.
    Nothing is said about drinking, but human bodies cannot do without water for 40 days. Jesus’ body was very certainly human.

    As with the more severe self-castigation of hair shirts, fasting was supposedly a personal denial offered as an acknowledgement of Christ’s sacrifice. The hope was to receive some kind of spiritual insight, blessing or gift. Originally these were to draw closer to God. Life was so hard. No one wanted to end up anyplace but Paradise! Plagues, blights, and disasters impelled people to go overboard in terror of their souls.

    But a simple fast of vegetables and grains was the common course prescribed by the Church.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Some water birds were considered fish, but I doubt the Cistercians received papal dispensation to eat other kinds of birds. Many monasteries had fish ponds and some owned rivers with fish in them, so fish wasn’t that hard to come by even if you were a long way inland.

      I don’t know when or why fasting changed from eating nothing to not eating a few prohibited items. It’s not something I’ve come across in my reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Love this – I still haven’t tried..! Next time you’re in Dubai 🙂 – go to the spice souk. Iranian saffron is excellent – and very cheap. I’m just mad about it…

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I tend to forget, like many people, that language, cultural practices and even recipes have to have their beginnings somewhere – often in our distant past.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Pingback: Bread in medieval England | Notes from the U.K.

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