Samuel Pepy's Takes Soup...When There's Nothing Better Around
(17th Century English Soup)
The astonishing diary of Samuel Pepys (pronounced Peeps) was kept in shorthand over a 10-year period, from the restoration of King Charles II in 1660 to the death of his wife Elizabeth at the age of 29 in 1669, likely stopping because of Pepys' failing eyesight. This English civil servant in the navy office rose to become secretary to the admiralty. But his life hardly ended when his diary stopped. He successively sat in Parliament; was charged with betraying naval secrets to the French; was imprisoned in the Tower, vindicated, and freed; moved to Tangier in Northern Africa to decommission the English naval station there; was made president of the Royal Society; restored the naval fleet to a high state of readiness; and was forced into retirement with the accession of King WIlliam III. The diary records in hilarious and minute detail the life, loves, food, music, opinions, machinations, domestic squabbles, and doings of a young, highly intelligent, and ambitious bon vivant in the heady period of Restoration England. Soup is mentioned, yes, but not nearly as often as hearty meat and fish dishes, oysters, drinks, fruits, cheese, and desserts.
March 15, 1669: ...Up and by water with W. Hewer to the Temple; and thence to the Chapel of Rolles...and so spent the whole morning with W. Hewer, he taking little notes in short-hand, while I hired a clerk there to read to me about twelve or more several rolls which I did call for...At noon they shut up, and W. Hewer and I did walk to the Cocke at the end of Suffolke-street, where I never was, a great ordinary, mightily cried up, and there bespoke a pullet; which while dressing, he and I walked into St. James' park, and thence back and dined very handsome, with a good Soup and a pullet for 4s-6d the whole.
April 12, 1669: ...Thence I took him to St. James, but there was no music; but so walked to Whitehall, and by and by to my wife at Unthankes, and with her was Jane, and so to the Cocke, where they and I and Sheres and Tom dined, my wife having a great desire to eat of their Soup made of pease -- and dined very well....
TO MAKE PEAS SOOPE (adapted from Mrs. Ann Blencowe Receipt Book, 1694)
- 1 pound green peas (fresh or frozen)
- 4 cups water
- 1 leek, cleaned and chopped (white part only)
- 4 slices of bacon, chopped fine (it is easy to chop if the bacon is partially frozen)
- sprigs of parsley, chervil, and any other sweet herbs
- 4 cups meat broth
- 4 Tablespoons butter (half the original--17th century English cookery used a shocking amount of butter)
- 1/2 cup spinach, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup sorrell, finely chopped (if you can find it)
- 1/4 cup mixture of leaf lettuce, chervil, and water cress, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup heart of savoy cabbage, finely chopped
- 1 stalk celery, with leaves, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh mint, minced (or 1/4 dried mint, rubbed between your palms to a powder)
- 1 leek, cleaned and finely chopped
- 2 cups strong meat broth (the orginal recipes recommends gravy, a favorite soup enhancement)
- Salt, pepper, pinch of mace, and pinch of ground cloves
Garnish: toasted bread slices; optionally you can add meatballs "or any other thing as pallattes and sweetbreads or Combs"
In a large saucepan, bring the peas and 4 cups water to a boil and cook over medium heat until the peas are thick. Add the leek, bacon, and sweet herbs, reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and cook for about 30 minutes. (You can toast your bread slices at this point, to serve with the soup.) Puree the soup in a blender. Add the broth, puree again, and reserve.
In the saucepan, melt the butter over medium low heat, then stir in all the greens. Cover and let the greens sweat in the butter for about 5 minutes, until soft. Add the strong broth and mix well. Stir in the pureed peas. Season with salt, pepper, mace, and cloves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.
To serve, place a toast piece and any other garnish in each soup bowl and ladle the soup over.