All About Peas, Part One

The Innsbruck MS has a lot of recipes for peas.

Pisum sativum, courtesy of wikimedia commons

86 If you would prepare Bohemian (pehaymisch) peas, boil the peas in lye (kaltgüzz) and when they shed their skins, pour the lye and the peas into a small vessel (schefflein) and rub it together on a strainer (durich slach). Wash the peas well in water with the skin and let them boil, and do not oversalt them. Serve them this way or colour the sauce (prulein) yellow etc.

87 If you would make a pastry (pasteten), take eggs and cook them in fat like scrambled eggs (ein gerüert air). Beat them and then take fat that is hot in a mortar and put the eggs into it. Then take birds and fry them in fat, and add the eggs, or take roast chickens and cut them apart and also stick them in (the egg) and let the feet stick out above. You can also use fried (pachen) fish with this.

88 If you would prepare shaggy (zotet) peas, boil them like the Bohemian ones and then let them boil dry so that the water boil away (einsied). Then pound them well and season them, add honey, and pass them through a strainer. This way they will look like worms (maden).

89 If you would make them black, prepare them with toasted (prantem) bread. Pound this very fine and mix it in, and then pass them through in the same manner etc.

90 If you would fry them, also prepare them in this manner and let them become thick, then shape small balls and fry those, and roll them in strauben batter etc.

91 If you would fry them in another manner, prepare them in the above way again and beat eggs into them and make a batter and fry that. Shape them into little balls with a spoon etc.

92 If you would make cake (chuechen) from them, prepare the peas as described above and beat eggs into them, and then put it into hot fat in a mortar or in a pot (scherben) or in a pan and let it fry in that.

This is the first half of a block of recipes that (mostly) deal with peas. They are not unique – in fact, there are interesting parallels with the Mittelniederdeutsches Kochbuch – but the quantity and concentration is.

Recipe #86 is slightly confusing – the peas are treated with lye to detach the skin, but it then suggests the skins are processed with the peas. Other recipes of this kind separate them out, and I suspect that is the intent here also. As to what makes these peas Bohemian, I am not sure. There is a recipe for Bohemian peas in the recipe collection of Sabina Welser, but it has them mashed and seasoned with expensive spices. There is very little similarity here.

Recipe #87 obviously has nothing to do with peas at all. It describes a type of pastry filling made of cooked egg that we find frequently in this period. I suspect it gets described so much because it was either new or foreign (or both), but I have yet to pin down an origin.

Recipe #88 has parallels known as ‘rainworms made from peas‘ (also in Meister Hans #204). The idea was to shape mashed peas into wormlike shapes that would be served with a sweet mustard flavouring. Here, the mush is sweetened directly and the shape is described as maden which today means exclusively maggots. Even though the meaning was potentially broader at the time, it is not a word calculated to whet the appetite. Colouring themn black as envisioned in Recipe #89 would presumably not have helped.

Recipes #90 and #91 use the mashed peas to make battered fritters. This is not surprising in itself. It seems at times that there was nothing medieval German cooks did not try to batter and fry. But it is an interesting confirmation of a more detailed recipe in the Kuchenmaistrey that I included in my Landsknecht Cookbook.

Finally, the same mass it used to prepare a cake, a solid mass cooked in a heated mortar with heat from above. Again, a common technique in the Innsbruck MS. Apparently, there were few things you could not do with peas if you had to. We will see some more tomorrow.

The Innsbrucker Rezeptbuch is a manuscript recipe collection from a South German/Austrian context. It dates to the mid-fifteenth century and survives as part of a set of medical and culinary texts bound together. The editor Doris Aichholzer published it together with two related manuscripts and drew attention to the less elaborate, more practical recipes. The manuscript is of unknown provenance, but has been owned by the Habsburg emperors since at least the early sixteenth century. It is now held at the Nationalbibliothek in Vienna. An edition, German translation and commentary can be found in Doris Aichholzer: Wildu machen ayn guet essen… Drei mittelhochdeutsche Kochbücher, Peter Lang Verlag Berne et al. 1999

This entry was posted in Uncategorised and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *