Boil lentils quite slowly, put a fried onion to it, sour it, spice it, add raisins, and serve it over toasted bread as an evening meal. Balthasar Staindl, Ain künstlichs und nützlichs Kochbuch, 257.
The text of this recipe is taken from The Kitchen, Food, and Cooking in Reformation Germany (2016) by Volker Bach (p 123).
Lentils are among the oldest domesticated crops known to man, and are a useful crop, as lentils themselves are high in protein and the plants can be fed to animals. However, in the medieval period, there are very few recipes featuring them. This may be because they don’t grow well in northern Europe, or it could be that they have been associated with the poorest people for almost as long as there have been written records. However, this is also true of beans and peas, and there are multiple recipes for these. (Albala, 2007, )
This recipe, featuring expensive spices and dried fruit, could never have featured at a peasant’s table. There are a number of dishes from the medieval period that take lowly ingredients and pair them with the costliest ingredients, perhaps as a medieval joke.
|200g lentils||50g raisins||1/4 tsp pepper|
|1 white onion||600mL vegetable stock||1/4 tsp cinnamon|
|20mL olive oil||40mL vinegar||1/2 tsp ginger|
- Peel and finely dice the onion, then fry it until it softens and changes colour.
- Combine all ingredients in a pot, using enough liquid so ingredients are well covered.
- Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer.
- Cook until the lentils have softened, adding more liquid if necessary.
- You can either serve the lentils as a side dish – in which case the lentils need to be drained, or as a soup, in which case the soup should be served with toasted bread.
- There are many different sorts of lentils, and many have been staple foods since prehistoric times. However it’s often to decide which type of lentils to use, especially when looking at regional cooking. In the dish illustrated below, I have used French green lentils (sometimes called Puy Lentils), as I like the taste, and they stay whole when cooked so are great to use when lentils are to be a side dish. If making this as a soup, I would probably use brown or red lentils, as these start to go mushy when cooked, and make an excellent basis for a soup.
- The recipe is vague as to what spices should be used, giving the cook licence to use any spice mix, or whatever was to hand. I have used spices that to me complement the sweet and sour flavours of the dish.
- If using ginger, try to track down whole dried ginger which has to be grated before use. This is the way ginger would have been purchased in the medieval period, and it has a far more powerful flavour and scent.
- For examples of other dishes that create a “noble” dish from “peasant” food, check out these recipes for Bohemian Peas and Turnip with Pudding Inside.
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Albala, Ken (2007). Beans: a History.
Bach, Volker (2016). The Kitchen, Food and Cooking in Reformation Germany.