Heathen peas

August 15, 2011

Due to lack of time and resources I decided that the dish of day should be a simple dish, why I settled for the sweet called heathen peas in “Ein Buch von guter spise”.



Heidenische erweiz Heathen peas
Wilt du machen behemmische erweiz. so nim mandel kern und stoz die gar cleine. und mengez mit dritteil als vil honiges. und mit guten würtzen wol gemenget. so ers aller beste hat. die koste git man kalt oder warm.
How you want to make heathen peas. So take almond kernels and pound them very small. And mix it with a third as much honey. And with good spices well mixed. So it has the very best. One hands this out greedily, cold or warm.
Though fairly simple, and only using a few ingredients there are still some questions to the actual preparation of them. Should only cold ingredients be mixed, should it be heated in some way or even caramelized? What spices ought to be used.
In the recipe we can find a few hints as to the preparation. The first is in the name Heathen Peas would probably suggest a middle east inspiration, though I must admit that while I enjoy middle east food, I have not familiar enough with cooking it. So here I am up for some suggestions as to possible sweets to be inspired from.
The second hint in the recipe is that it is handed out hot or cold. This would probably mean that even if the recipe do not say so the dish should be heated in some way. A possible interpretation of this could be the simple fact that in almost all medieval recipes you are assumed to have clearified your honey, that is boiling it and skimming of the proteins. This would give you a warm liquid honey to work with and would be enough to for some kind of sweets with the crushed almonds. However, the heating may also have referred to a caramelized dish.
I started by dividing my almonds into two batches, one that I would roast beforehand and one that I let be as it was. (This is merely based on my personal taste, as I prefer roasted nuts to raw ones) Since there was no mentioning of and I could not really se a reason to- I did not blanch and peel the almonds for this dish. Usually this is mentioned specifically in most dishes using almonds. All the almonds were then pounded thoroughly in a mortar, this is one of the parts in this recipe that is explicitly mentioned even though the rest of the recipe may be a bit brief.
In this dish the sprices are only mentioned as god spices, why the selection may be a bit difficult to make. To this one I chose to use the classical duo of ginger and cinnamon with and addition of long pepper. The longpepper has a nice aromatic taste that I find goes very well with honey, why I thought that it might have been a good addition to the sweet.
The spices were mixed with the pounded nuts and to this mixture I added about a third honey. The batch of unroasted nuts where then divided in two parts. In order to be able to mix the honey properly with the nuts, and to reflect a possibly clearified honey I heated the mixture in a pan. The second half of the unroasted nuts were instead heated for a bit longer until the honey was caramelizing.
The resulting mixture were then all rolled into small balls, even though the recipe do not state so, the name of the dish suggest that they should be made into small spheres. Though all were possible to shape it was the caramelized mixture that were most easily rolled – once it had cooled of a bit.
Also when it came to the taste I would say that the caramelized balls were the most delicious. In all cases the combination of sweet and hot blended together rather nice. After the initial experience of something sweet and nutty the rather aromatic heat of long pepper and ginger sneaked up on my tastebuds. I was quite generous with both long pepper and ginger though hinting of the heat of medieval gingerbread in this sweet.
While I found no actual difference between the roasted and the unroasted almonds, the caramelized mixture were the most pleasing from both a visual and culinary point of view, making it easier to both eat and serve. The nice sweet taste must have stood out during the 14th century, even though this cookbook uses a bit of sugar, so it is understandable that it was eaten greedily.

6 Responses to “Heathen peas”

  1. murmel.jones said

    I would suggest a slightly different translation:
    “If you want to make “Gipsy Peas”, then you take almond kernels and pound them very small, and mix with a third as much of honey, and with good spices well mixed, the best that there are. This food one hands out cold or warm”
    I would translate “heidenische” or “behemmische erweiz” as “Gipsy Peas” , as these words were used in the 14/15th century to designate gipsies. And “koste” has nothing to do with “greed”, it’s the same as “Kost” which simply means “food” (just like in swedish “frukost”).

    • eldrimner said

      Ah I guess that could make sense, I am afraid that when using german recipes I have to suffice with the translations of other. It does make the last sentence much more sensible. Then there is a question if there was a romani tradition of making this kind of sweet. The combination of spices, honey and almonds did have a middle east feel to me…but always good to think in a another direction.

      • murmel.jones said

        As the first groups of Sinti gipsies arrived in Germany in the 14th century from Ottoman territory on the balkans via Bohemia (hence their name “behemmische” or bohemians), the origin of the recipe might very well lie somewhere in the eastern mediterranean area.

      • Andreas Klumpp said

        Almonds would have been way to expensive for gipsies. The regional origins implied in historic recipes are seldom to be taken literally. Mostly it means “something very fancy from far far a way” to make the recipe look more sophisticated and to give it a mythical origin.

      • eldrimner said

        Certainly, and most often there are no correlations between a mythical origin of a dish and the food culoture of that area. However sometimes it is possible to see some similarities in dishes that are ascribed to a certain origin or to a certain geographicall area. For instance in some cookbooks the common denominator for dishes called hungarian is the use of red onions.

        Though it is most likly confused and distorted I’d still like to see what would signify a Romani dish of that period. Rather than referring to the almonds as such, it could refer to the idea of carmellizing nuts, a dish that still can be found at markets in soutern europe, and in bakery stores with a middle east origin.

        I guess that the most likely scenario is that it is a dish with a middle east inspiration…perhaps in a few generations back, but the actual source of exotism is later lost in time.

  2. […] en smula. Min vän Daniel Serra har också lagat den här rätten. Han beskriver det på sin blogg Eldrimner. Kommentarer till hans inlägg kan eventuellt komplettera min översättning; en person menar att […]

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