Chickpeas, as well as the other legumes, were essential foods in the Middle Ages during the lean days. We find several recipes in the manuscripts, in particular in the one we are using today, a beautiful 14th-century cookbook conventionally called Anonimo Toscano, which is mainly a translation in vernacular of an older source, the Liber de Coquina.
We chose Anonimo Toscano‘s variant for an interesting addition: the author suggests this recipe for Saturdays. Meat is absent, but differently from the recipes for the lean days, we find both cheese and eggs.
Among the ten recipes for chickpeas, there are three for the fat days, four for the lean days (among which two with a fat variant, with a recipe for fritters), two for the sick (one lean and the other fat), and this one for Saturdays.
The author, below in the text, mentions then a recipe for a pie, called coppo (from the name of an ancient Greek one-serving pie), which may be made with several fillings, among which one with chickpeas.
Chickpeas are very common since the Antiquity. We prepared in the past a recipe from De Re Coquinaria taking inspiration from a poem by Horace, with chickpeas, leeks, and an ancient Greek fried bread, called laganum.
The medieval sources describe three main kinds of chickpeas: white, red, and black. In De Flore Dietarum, instead, written in the 11th century, there are just the black and white ones. The best kind, writes Michele Savonarola in the 14th century, is the red one, because it is the most temperate, whereas the white is less hot and the black more. They are all hard to digest, but better if eaten without husks, as all the legumes. The best way to correct the possible damages, in particular the bloats, is to season chickpeas with pepper and sage.
Pietro de Crescenzi, the author of a treatise of agriculture (13-14th century), adds that there are small and big varieties, with hard and soft husks, and the latter are the best.
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150 gr chickpeas
Steep the chickpeas in water overnight. Soak the saffron in warm water, pound the pepper in the mortar, and cut the cheese into small pieces. Boil the chickpeas for about half an hour, then add the saffron, pepper, and cheese. At the end of the cooking, which depends on the kind of chickpeas you are using, lower the heat and add one egg for each serving, paying attention not to break it. After a couple of minutes, remove it from the broth and plate the soup. Serve it still hot.
Note about the ingredients
The author specifies to use broken chickpeas, but we chose whole ones. The best way to cook them, according to the medical prescriptions, consists in removing the husks and boiling them two times, discarding the water of the first cooking. Use the kind of chickpeas you prefer, white, red, or black.
We suggest using a cheese firm enough to be cut into pieces, according to the recipe. The author writes to cook it with the soup, but if you prefer, you can add it before serving the plate. You may choose cow or sheep cheese, according to your taste, both used in the medieval recipes. If you use salty cheese, do not add further salt.
The recipe suggests using ova perdute (poached eggs) or ova dibattute (beaten eggs). The Liber de Coquina, instead, writes to use both beaten and poached eggs. The method to prepare poached eggs is described in the Liber de Coquina, in which they are called ova partita: they are made by pouring the broken eggs in broth or in simple boiling water (ova partita sunt quando fracta ponuntur separatim, unum post aliud, in brodio vel in aqua simplici bullienti).
Altramente per dì di sabbato. Togli ceci rotti, e polli a cuocere con pepe e croco, e con cascio tagliato, e ova perdute, o ova dibattute.
Another [chickpea recipe] for Saturdays. Take broken chickpeas and cook them with pepper and saffron, with cut cheese and poached eggs or beaten eggs.
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Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Sources, Recipes
Translations of Historical Sources
Opusculum de Saporibus by Mainus de Maineris (14th century)
Registrum Coquine by Johannes von Bockenheim (15th century)
Appendicula de Condituris Variis by Johannes Damascenus (8-9th century)
De Flore Dietarum – first part (11th century)
10th-century Goat Roast – A Langobard at the Court of the Byzantine Emperor
Romania – A Recipe Between Arabic and Italian Tradition – Medieval Chicken with Pomegranates
Medieval Pizza – The Origin of Pizza
Roast Chicken with Salsa Camellina
Afrutum or Spumeum – 6th-century Byzantine recipe
A Medieval Breakfast – Wine, Carbonata, and Millet Bread
Salviata – Eggs and Sage
Tria di Vermicelli
Frittelle Ubaldine – Pancakes with Flowers and Herbs
Drunken Pork – Early Medieval Pork Stew
Medieval Monk’s Stuffed-Egg Soup
Lentils and Mustard Greens
Chicken soup – Brodo Granato
Beans and Bacon – Black-Eyed Peas
Prawn Pie – Pastello de Gambari
Foxtail Millet Polenta and Spit-Roasted Goose
Quail Stew with Coconut
Red Mullet Soup
Spit Roast Beef with Arugula Seeds
Roast Lamb with Green Sauce
Sweet and Sour Sardines
Trouts with Green Sauce
Quails with Sumac
Chicken with Fennel Flowers