All About Peas, Part Two

Continuing the Innsbruck MS’s pea recipes:

Peas in aspic, shaped like fish

93 If you would make peas in jelly (gesultz arbais), also prepare them in this manner and boil them in honey, that way they turn out thick. Then cut them into slices, lay them in a bowl and pour sultz (aspic) over them and let it gel. Thus it does not fall apart (zerüert) and stays as it is.

94 If you wish, you can fill sheets (pleter) with it, but it is a little hard and falls apart easily etc.

95 If you would make a hollow roast (holpraten) of it, also prepare them in that manner and wrap (slach) them around a wooden spit that is as big as a rolling pin or bigger. Roast them and baste them with hot fat. Some say you should also pour honey on it so it will be stronger, and grated gingerbread (lezelten) should also be added to it, that way it is tastier and good etc.

96 If you would prepare a furhes of of peas, boil them so they do not become mushy (müsot) and (add) toasted gingerbread (geprant pfeffer prot) and pass them through with that. Grate gingerbread (lezelten) or bread into it. Take the toasted (verprünnen) bread and pound it very small and also add it, that way it becomes black. And take onions cut small and fry them (swais ab) in fat or oil. Add them, and honey, and season it and take hard bread like (as though for?) a hare’s head (hasen kopf) and add that, and do not oversalt it etc.

97 If you wish, you can make a chessboard of it. Only take of coloured pounded peas and put them in a bowl. You know how to divide them, and if you wish, press a particular coloured item (ein besunder gefert) on every part (i.e. field of the chessboard) with a mould.

These recipes, too, are quite interesting. Recipe #93 seems to be for peas in aspic, and we have a parallel for this in the Mittelniederdeutsches Kochbuch (recipe #37). Here, the peas are prepared with honey and flour and shaped into fish. The recipe here clearly refers to an aspic, as it very likely does in the Innsbruck MS. Using the same material as a filling for rolled-up dough sheets seems an odd idea, but #94 states it was done. It does suggest that the peas were strongly spiced, otherwise they would not complement the relatively bland dough well.

Recipe #95 is a riff on the roasted peas we find in so many of our sources, but here it is turned into a Hohlbraten, a hollow roast that could be filled with all manner of goodies. This cannot have been easy to pull off, but must have impressed diners considerably.

Recipe #96 is somewhat unclear. A fürhess is normally a dish of meat or, more rarely, fish that is thickened with blood. Here, dark toast and two types of gingerbread (lezelten and pfeffer brot) are added to cooked peas. We cannot reconstruct the distinction between the two, but there must have been one. Fried onions and honey, both commonly used in actual fürhess recipes, are also added. I suppose the idea is to produce a thick sauce similar in colour to cooked blood.

The final recipe #97 is also interesting. Mashed peas – presumably stiffened in some way to make them hold together better – are shaped into a chessboard decorated with moulded shapes in a different colour. Chessboards show up in other culinary media, too. This recipe is a reminder to us that a lot of complex and visually impressive work was done in more humble media than the marzipan and sugarpaste we usually asscoiate with medieval subtelties.

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

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