First published September 2015 in York Food Festival magazine
One of the things that I love about autumn and winter are the endless opportunities for nourishing, warming soup. Dried pulses, root vegetables and alliums are readily available and seem to exist purely for this ages old form of cookery. It is the cooking pots of our past where inspiration for this dish begins. This is not so much a recipe as flavour profile from a particular time and place. Step into the 9th century with Anglo Saxon, Viking York with this modern version of a typical pottage. I love this served with a robust, wholemeal sourdough but any fresh, crusty bread will suffice.
Beans and peas have formed an important part of our diet for centuries and it is believed to be the field bean which was most commonly seen in Anglo Saxon England. The ancestor of the familiar broad bean and grown as a common field crop, they were dried on the plant and stored throughout the year. Meals were often meat free and beans provided an excellent source of protein and complex carbohydrates, making this an excellent option for a healthy and filling vegetarian lunch. Split peas can be used in the absence of dried broad beans but I source mine from British growers Hodmedod, Suffolk.
The second main ingredient for this dish is leeks. In the 9th century many vegetables were picked wild and would be thin and straggly compared to their domesticated relatives today. The Anglo Saxons probably also picked wild garlic and root vegetables similar to carrots and parsnips. These days the traditional white carrot can occasionally be found in the speciality section of the supermarket but I can wholeheartedly recommend Goodness Vegetables near Strensall for their excellent choice of older varieties.
As a finish we look to archaeological evidence from dig sites in York for inspiration on flavourings. Samples of plant finds confirm the use of both dill and coriander in Viking Yorvik. A perfect match for the pulses and the leeks I recommend the gently aniseed route of dill in both seed and leaf form.
- 250g dried broad beans or yellow split peas.
- 4 large leeks
- 2 tsp of dill seeds
- 2 or 3 medium carrots
- 1 litre of vegetable stock (made from a cube is fine)
- 2 small bay leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
Place the dried pulses in a large pot and cover with plenty of cold water. Soak for eight hours or overnight.
When you are ready to make your stoup, drain the beans and put to one side. Prepare the vegetables; dice the carrots, slice and wash the leeks thoroughly.
Warm a little oil in a large pan and fry a third of the leeks with the diced carrot and dill seed on a gentle heat until soft and glossy in appearance. Tip in the dried beans and stir well.
Toss in the bay leaves with a pinch of salt and pepper before pouring over the vegetable stock. Give the stoup another good stir, cover with a lid and simmer gently for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally to break up the beans as they cook, releasing their starches and helping the soup to thicken.
After this time remove the lid and taste to check the seasoning. Add more salt and pepper to taste along with the remainder of the leeks and the fresh dill. Continue to simmer until all the ingredients are cooked through and you are happy with the flavours and texture of the stoup.