“ ..five or six pieces of Butcher’s Meat…. …a little Salt and Mustard upon the Side of a Plate, a Bottle of Beer and a Roll; and there is your whole Feast”
Written by ‘Monmouth’ actress and local writer Maya Pieris
This was Monsieur Misson’s view of an English meal which we would happily recognise today! Though not even a roastie! Vegetables were still viewed with suspicion in the 17th century. Knowledge about the body and diet was developing as were the skills of horticulture largely aided by our Dutch cousins and markets were increasingly sourcing new foods from the growing trade with the world including “verangenes” or aubergines, one of those products viewed as” very dangerous and hurtful”. John Evelyn, poet and foodie, was a veg enthusiast and wrote Acetaria, A Discourse of Sallets though his friend Samuel Pepys was very much a meat man and no veg man! He made very little mention of “greenstuffs” in his diary though that is not to say he didn’t eat them. Certainly exotic fruits were becoming a status symbol and the pineapple was to become the prime example of this over the coming centuries even featuring as a must have garden ornament. Vegetables did, however, appear on the menu and were often also cooked in a more sweet than savoury way. I have selected two of the least popular vegetables from my childhood, both cooked in a way even my mum never thought of doing! Both work as stand -alone meals or as accompaniments to meat and fish.
Roasted Turnip- for one
1 medium size turnip, large if you like
Approximately 10g unsalted butter
½ tsp dark brown sugar
Buttered foil squares big enough to wrap the turnip
Peel the turnip, cut the top off and gauge out some of the turnip, mix with the butter and sugar and replace as best you can! Wrap in the buttered foil and bake at 350F, Gas Mark 4 or 170 C for about 45 minutes or till cooked- use a knife to check if they are cooked through. I also do this by finely slicing the turnip using a food processor and placing in a buttered dish and melting the butter and sugar and pouring over the turnip slices, covering with foil and cooking for a similar time. This works well if doing several turnips.
Spinach Condiment suitable for “a Sick Man’s Diet”
225g fresh spinach, washed and chopped.
Juice of 2 oranges
Tblsp cider or white wine vinegar
25g unsalted butter
Cook the spinach gently with the orange juice and vinegar in a pan till almost a puree, “pult” in the original recipe, then stir in the butter and seasoning. I think it best served warm –goes well with salmon or with eggs baked in it for about 4/5 minutes and a Spinach Condiment to Accompany Fish