Medieval peas with salted meat


Maestro Martino’s Libro de Arte Coquinaria is an extensive cookbook written in Italian vernacular in the 15th century, which collects more than 200 recipes for any kind of dish: lean and fat plates that include meat, fish, pasta, pies, vegetables, cereals, legumes. The recipes by Maestro Martino, called by the humanist Platina the prince of the cooks, are usually very detailed and clear, giving us an interesting perspective on how medieval dishes should be actually prepared, whereas many cookbooks written before the Libro de Arte Coquinaria tend to present quick lists of actions and ingredients, in which many passages are taken for granted by the authors.
This week, we selected a tasty and easy recipe from this book: peas and salted meat, seasoned with a few, selected ingredients.
In the recipe, we find fresh peas, but now, they are not in season, so we used them dry. Fresh peas require a very short cooking time: as Maestro Martino specifies, they just have to take a boil before cooking with the meat. In medieval Italy, writing about salted meat, the authors generally refer to pork meat, differently from other countries, for instance France, in which we find mentioned several kinds of salted meat: mutton, beef, duck, but also game meat. In this case, the meat must be vergellata, which means that it needs to have lean and fat parts.
Salted meat, exactly as in the Antiquity, was frequently smoked. We chose speck, which is leaner than the kind of meat suggested by Maestro Martino, because its smoky flavor pairs well with the other ingredients, but you may choose the cut of meat you prefer: pancetta, guanciale, prosciutto, bacon.
The author recommends either sapa or sugar. Sapa is concentrated grape juice, very easy to prepare: pound in the mortar the grapes, paying attention not to break the seeds, and sift the juice, then boil it down until it reduces by half. A tablespoon is more or less equivalent to a pinch of sugar. For this quantity of peas, we recommend two pinches of sugar and two tablespoons of verjuice, which may be substituted with orange or lemon juice, or even vinegar.

To know more about medieval cooking in Europe, check out our books Registrum Coquine. A medieval cookbook (15th century) and De Observatione Ciborum. Early medieval recipes at the court of the Franks, written in the 6th century by the physician Anthimus to the king of the Franks Theuderic. This book contains some of the earliest medieval recipes, in addition to information about the diet of the Franks and the differences between their food habits and the alimentation of the Mediterranean populations, showing the passage between ancient and late-medieval cooking.
For more information about ancient food, we recommend reading
Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Recipes, Sources and check out our Patreon page, in which you find several articles about historical food and the translations of ancient and medieval sources.
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Salted Meat and Peas - Thumbnail

100 grams dry peas
100 grams salted meat
brown cane sugar

Salted Meat and Peas - Preview 4yt

Simmer the peas in water for about 15 minutes. When they are almost cooked, discard the water. Grind in the mortar the sugar and cinnamon. Cut the salted meat into thin slices and fry it in a pan, then add the peas, verjuice, sugar, and cinnamon, cooking again for a few minutes. Serve it hot.

Salted Meat and Peas - Plate 1

Original text
Per fare piselli fricti in carne salata. Piglia i piselli con le scorze como stanno, et fagli dare un boglio. Et togli carne salata vergellata et tagliala in fette sottili et longhe mezo dito et frigele un pocho. Et dapoi mitti li ditti peselli accocere con la ditta carne. Et ponevi un pocho de agresto, un pocha de sapa, overo zuccharo, et un pocha di canella. Et similemente se frigono li fascioli.

To prepare peas fried with salted meat. Take peas as they are, with their skins, and let them take a boil. Take salted meat with fat parts and cut them into thin pieces half a finger long, then fry them a bit. Then, put the said peas to cook with the said meat and add a bit of verjuice, a bit of concentrated grape juice or sugar, and a bit of cinnamon. And the beans are fried in a similar way.

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De Observatione Ciborum by Anthimus. Early-medieval recipes at the court of the Franks.
Registrum Coquine by Johannes Bockenheim. A medieval cookbook
Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Sources, Recipes

Translations of Historical Sources
De Re Coquinaria by Apicius – books 1-6
De Observatione Ciborum by Anthimus (6th century)
Appendicula de Condituris Variis by Johannes Damascenus (8th-9th century)
De Flore Dietarum (11th century)
Tractatus de Modo Preparandi et Condiendi Omnia Cibaria – first and second part (13th-14th century)
Opusculum de Saporibus by Mainus de Maineris (14th century)
Anonimo Toscano – first part (14th century)
Anonimo Veneziano (14th century)
Registrum Coquine by Johannes von Bockenheim (15th century)

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