Part of the challenge with participating in a blog hop with a food theme is that there are no surviving menus from Carolingian era (eighth and ninth century Europe), the time period for my novels. Not exactly a surprise when you consider that few people, including cooks, could write.
But we can make some pretty good guesses. Dandelions, for example, are an Old World plant, introduced to the States by the Puritans. It is not too much of a stretch to imagine these hardy, easy-to-grow perennials with a long season in medieval peasants’ gardens or simply harvested from the meadows near their homes.
Peasants did not eat meat every day, and the summer would be a good time to let animals grow and get as big as possible. However, if they were having a good spring, they would have had plenty of vegetables, including chickpeas, and as anyone who’s ever weeded a flower bed know, dandelions were reliable. Add a little barley, and you have a meal.
So, an inventive medieval peasant woman might have created something like the following recipe, transforming tough, bitter greens into something tasty.
Note: I gathered the dandelion greens from my backyard, where we use no pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers. Nor do we have dogs. I would have spent much less time cleaning the greens if I had harvested the dandelions when the leaves were dry and the trees were not exploding with pollen.
Dandelions and Chickpeas over Barley
1 gallon bag full of dandelion greens (This may seem like an awful lot but they will shrink.)
3 tablespoons salt per 8 quarts of water
2-3 spring onions
1 cup pearled barley (Closest to I can get to what medieval folk might have had in the small Indiana where I live.)
1 1/2 tablespoons of butter
1 can of chick peas (OK, Anachronism Police, I know full well canned food did not exist during the Middle Ages. But chickpeas were in Charlemagne’s gardens. They could be used fresh or dried for later. I’m also cheating by using an electric stove instead of a cook fire, and I’m not about to give up my dishwasher. So there.)
- Set about 8 quarts of water on the stove to boil.
- Start the barley and prepare according to package directions.
- Clean the dandelions thoroughly.
- Chopped the greens into 2-inch pieces. You should have about 10 cups. (Really, they will shrink.)
- Chop the onions.
- When the water is boiling, add salt.
- Add greens. Cook until ribs are tender, about 10 minutes. (Don’t worry if the greens are still bitter at this stage. They will be tasty when sautéed.)
- Drain the greens and pour cold water over them.
- Squeeze out excess moisture. (Told you they would shrink.)
- Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet.
- Add onions. Cook a few minutes until softened.
- Add the greens and sauté until butter is absorbed. This takes only a few minutes.
- Add chickpeas and cook until heated through. This takes only a few minutes.
- Add remaining butter, and it’s ready to serve.
Thanks for visiting this stop on the blog hop. I invite you to check out the authors below for their thoughts on food. All of us are offering giveaways.
My prize is an e-book of my first novel, The Cross and the Dragon, a tale of love amid the wars and blood feuds of Charlemagne’s reign. To enter, leave a comment in this space only, with your e-mail address so the winner can be contacted. To get an extra entry, mention that you’d like to get an e-mail (just one, I promise) announcing the publication of my second book, tentatively titled The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar. The contest closes Friday, June 7. A winner will be selected at random and be announced in an update to this post.
Update: The winner of this giveaway is Marsha, and I will soon contact her. Many thanks to all who commented. I enjoyed our conversations.
- Random Bits of Fascination (Maria Grace)
- Pillings Writing Corner (David Pilling)
- Anna Belfrage
- Debra Brown
- Lauren Gilbert
- Gillian Bagwell
- Julie K. Rose
- Donna Russo Morin
- Regina Jeffers
- Shauna Roberts
- Tinney S. Heath
- Grace Elliot
- Diane Scott Lewis
- Ginger Myrick
- Helen Hollick
- Heather Domin
- Margaret Skea
- Yves Fey
- JL Oakley
- Shannon Winslow
- Evangeline Holland
- Cora Lee
- Laura Purcell
- P. O. Dixon
- E.M. Powell
- Sharon Lathan
- Sally Smith O’Rourke
- Allison Bruning
- Violet Bedford
- Sue Millard
- Kim Rendfeld