Vegetarian stock for Lent

Vegetable Stock

legumes and root vegetablesDuring Lent, between carnival and Easter, the catholic church (and after the Reformation several protestant churches as well) restricted the faithful to a meatless diet. During the Middle Ages all diary products were also banned during Lent, later the use of butter was permitted. Almonds were used instead of meat (almond milk, almond butter, almond cheese, comparable to modern coconut milk, peanut butter and marzipan). For meat stock the alternative was pea purée. A recipe from manuscript KANTL 15.1 indicates that this purée certainly was not as thick as modern pea soup, but fairly thin: to make a brown sauce, toasted bread must be sieved with beer, verjuice, wine, or 'purey van eruijten' (purée of peas).

On this page are some recipes for pea purée from the seventeenth century. The first one is from Pierre François La Varenne, from Le cuisinier François (1651, edition). His cookbook is generally known as the first innovative cookbook since the Middle Ages, but some recipes are still purely medieval, like the pea purée described below. So you can use La Varenne's pea purée for recipes prior to the seventeenth century.
The two recipes from L.S.R. from L'art de bien traiter (1674, edition) are much more modern, using butter and fines herbes. The first recipe is for pea purée all year round, the second one especially for Lent. More about L.S.R. and his cookbook in the recipe for French peas.
Pea purée is used in the recipe for Potage au Jacobine.

The original recipes
Varenne's recipe is taken from the facsimile edition by Hyman and Hyman, the English translation is from Scully's edition (p.328). For the recipes from L'art de bien traiter I have used the edition in modernized French from 1995 (edition), the English translation, with all its mistakes, is my own.

Purée. (La Varenne, editie p.279)
Pour faire purée claire, & qui soit bonne, faites tremper vos poix du iour au lendemain apres les auoir bien nettoyés : apres quoy, vous les mettrez cuire auec de l'eau de riuiere ou de fontaine, estant tiede. Estant presque cuits, tirez vostre purée, & vous en seruez à tout ce que vous voudrez.
To make thin purée which is good, steep your peas overnight after having cleaned them carefully. Then set them to cook in warm river water or fountain water. When they are almost done, draw out your purée. Then use it for whatever purpose you like.
Purée de pois verts (L.S.R. editie p.125)
Empotez trois ou quatre litrons de gros pois ramés, admirables pour ceci quand ils ne valent que trois ou quatre sols le litron, fines herbes, beurre frais, laitues pommées, sel, épices, force oignons blancs, le tout en eau presque bouillante ; faites-les bien cuire et consommer jusque'à ce qu'ils mettent en bouillie ; passez-les avec du même bouillon, et en conservez le coulis à part pour la garniture de vos potages.
Purée of green peas.
Take three or four litron large marrowfat peas, admirable because they cost no more than three or four sous the litron, fines herbes, unsalted butter, butterhead lettuce, salt, spices, and lots of white onions, all in near-boiling water. cook them well and let them simmer until they are cooked to mush. Strain with the cooking liquid, and keep the sauce on the side to finish your pottages.
Purée de pois communs pour le carême (L.S.R. editie p.125)
Prenez des verts tant qu'il en aura, épluchez-les et lavez en eau tiède, que l'on mettra dès le soir tremper pour les faire cuire le lendemain à petit feu avec fines herbes, peu de laurier ; qu'il y ait toujours de l'eau chaude à part dans un coquemar pour les remplir au besoin. Écrasez-les de temps en temps pour en ôter plus facilement les écaflotes ; quand ils seront parfaitement cuits et presque en bouillie, passez-les proprement dans la passoire ordinaire ; s'il vous manquait du bouillon pour aider au reste, servez-vous de celui d'amandes ou de poisson ; ajoutez-y quelques girofles, peu de sel et de beurre, et la conservez pour les potages qui en auront besoin.
Purée of ordinary green peas for Lent.
Take as many green peas as you can get. Clean them and rins in tepid water, to let them steep from the night before to cook the next day, with fines herbes and some bay leaf. Have warm water ready in a coquemar to refill if neccessary. Crush from time to time to easily remove any particles. Strain through an ordinary sieve when they are completely done and practically cooked to a mush. If you lack stock [liquid], use that of almonds or fish. Add some cloves, a little salt and butter, and keep it for the pottages that need it.

Modern adaptation of the recipes
For four persons.

The peas have to be steeped in water overnight, according to the recipes, so what is used are whole green peas and not split peas. However, split peas are just green peas without the husk that keeps the halves together. So to spare yourself some work, you can use split peas that don't need steeping, and the husks are already removed. On the picture to the right you see the floating husks of boiled green peas. By the way, split peas did not come into production until late nineteenth century.

The husks of the peas floating in the panThe most simple purée from La Varenne, can be used for medieval recipes as well
What does La varenne mean with purée claire? Purée is never 'clear', least of all pea purée. I think it just means thin purée, and Scully has used the same interpretation.

150 gram (3/4 cup) dried green peas or split peas
1 litre (1 3/4 pints, 4 1/2 cups) water

Preparation in advance
If you use green peas, rinse them, and steep them overnight in ample water.

Bring the green peas to the boil with 1 litre (1 3/4 pints, 4 1/2 cups) water. If you use split peas, use about a quarter amount more water. Cook until the peas are almost done (45 minutes for split peas, 60 minutes for green peas). Purée the stock by straining or using a food mill (passevite). With split peas you can also use a blender.
The resulting liquid is thinner than peasoup, but when it has cooled it will be thick. Reheating will make the pea purée thin again.

Use this stock for Lent for all medieval recipes that need pea purée.

The pea purées from L.S.R., 'ordinary' and for Lent
The second recipe from L.S.R. makes it clear that the purée can thicken too much during preparation, you have to have warm water at hand to add if necessary. The addition of butter certainly is not medieval, especially not during Lent, when all dairy products were off limits.
For these recipes split peas work best, as you won't have to remove the husks first before puréeing. For 1 litre/2 pints.

Puree 1: purée de pois verts

150 gram (3/4 cup) split peas
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
fines herbes (some sprigs of parsley, tarragon, chervil and chives)
1/2 head butterhead lettuce, washed and chopped coarsly
spices to taste (cloves, pepper, nutmeg, mace)
2 onions, chopped
1 litre (1 3/4 pints, 4 1/2 cups) boiling water

Add everything to the boiling water in a pan, let simmer for 45 minutes. Then purée in a blender or by working it through a strainer or food mill.

Puree 2: purée de pois communs pour le carême

150 gram  (3/4 cup) split peas
fines herbes (some sprigs of parsley, tarragon, chervil and chives)
1 bayleaf
1 tsp salt
1 (1 3/4 pints, 4 1/2 cups) water
3 cloves
3 Tbsp butter

Add everything but butter and cloves to the water in a pan, bring to the boil and let simmer for 45 minutes. Then purée in a blender or by working it through a strainer or food mill. Add butter and cloves to the still warm purée.

How to keep and use the stock for Lent

All the stock on this page can be frozen. Freeze in amounts varying from 1 tablespoon to a cup or a pint, because for some recipes you'll only need a spoonful, other recipes have the stock as one of the main ingredients. See also the introduction to making stock on this site.

All descriptions of ingredients

Peas - The Pisum sativum belongs to the family of Leguminosae or Fabaceae s.l.. The seeds (peas) grow in pods which are some also eaten (snow peas). In the seventeenth century the eating of unripe, fresh green peas became very popular (see this recipe). Dried green peas have to be steeped in water before cooking, and the husks have to be removed. Split peas are dried peas from which the husk is already removed, and they can be cooked without steeping them first. Peas were an important part of the medieval diet, along with lentils and broad beans.
Fines herbes - Parsley, chives, tarragon, chervil.
Litron - French measure: 831cc or 8,3 deciliter (about 3 1/2 cups, in Parijs, elsewhere there were different values).

The editions below are in my possession. Links refer to available editions.
All books mentioned on this site (with short reviews)