Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Recipe: Medieval-Style Lentil Pottage

I'm experimenting with medieval cooking. To spare FH the trial of having to eat something new, I'm making medieval dishes at lunch, when it's just me and the kids (and the kids will swallow anything that comes with the adjective "medieval").

One thing that's figured prominently in my recent cooking is a spice mixture called "poudre douce" (or various spelling variants thereof). Poudre douce is a blend of sugar and spices, premixed like curry powder or five-spice powder. Here is a recipe for it from Le Viandier de Taillevent:
Grind white ginger (9 parts), selected cinnamon (2 parts), lump sugar (2 parts), cloves and grains of paradise (1 part each).
I don't have grains of paradise so I substituted cardamom. And I used granulated sugar, since my spices were already ground.

I made some wheat bread and put a bit of poudre douce in it (a tablespoon per loaf) and it really made the wheat bread "pop". It was so good that the kids wouldn't eat my herbed wheat bread, which was a previous crowd-pleaser, as long as there was some of the "spice bread" left.

Today I had a bit of stale bread left over so I made a lentil pottage for lunch and seasoned it with poudre douce. It was unbelievably good and surprisingly filling-- and with gas prices so high, very very cheap; good nutrition for the money. And if you use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, it's vegan to boot.

Medieval-Style Lentil Pottage (serves 6)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth, or 6 cups water + 2 Tbsp. chicken bouillon*
2 cups lentils
1 Tbsp. poudre douce
6 slices stale bread

Saute the onion in the olive oil until it starts to soften. Add broth, lentils, and poudre douce. Simmer 1/2 hour or until lentils are soft. The pottage will be on the soupy side. Place a slice of bread in the bottom of each bowl and ladle the pottage over it; allow the bread to soak up the juices and soften.

* My family and I are really liking the Knorr brand bouillon that we find in the Mexican food section of the store. It's amazing what you can find if you are willing to shop bilingually.