by Baroness Katja
I’ve been a vegetarian for the past 4 years to keep my cancer in remission and have been slowly migrating this year to being mostly vegan.
As a longtime cook in the SCA, I well know that European medieval vegetable recipes nearly always contain meat broth and often cheese or eggs. But I wanted to see if I could find a true vegan recipe within the corpus, so I perused a number of books in my library and surfed MedievalCookery.com for veg and lent/lenten recipes.
I didn’t find any true vegan recipes that were things I would enjoy eating, so I settled on Funges because I had mushrooms in the fridge.
Funges. Take funges and pare hem clene, and dyce hem; take leke and shrede hym small, and do hym to seeþ in gode broth. Colour it with safroun, and do þerinne powdour fort.
[From Hieatt, Constance B. and Sharon Butler. Curye on Inglish: English Culinary Manuscripts of the Fourteenth-Century (Including the Forme of Cury). New York: for The Early English Text Society by the Oxford University Press, 1985]
So what is this in plain English?
Mushrooms. Take mushrooms and pare them clean, and dice them; take leeks and shred them small, and put them to seeth in good broth. Color it with saffron, and add therein powder forte (strong powder).
Most gentles redact this as mushrooms and leeks simmered in just a small amount of broth — pretty simple and straightforward.
Since it was a blustery, chilly night I made this, and because so many English and French recipes of this time period are pottages/potages (porridges) of veg/greens/herbs and grain with a little meat or dairy added, I decided to redact this more as a thick warming soup.
So, I diced up roughly 8 to 10 ounces of sliced cremini mushrooms and washed well and sliced thinly 2 small leeks.
I should have just simmered these straight in broth as per the original recipe and the humoral theory, but I much prefer the taste and texture sauteed leeks and mushrooms.
Thus, I sautéed these in a little olive oil because it’s what I had and I didn’t want to use the “good grease” (generally pork fat) that would have been used for frying in this time period.
While I sautéed them until well browned, I steeped a few strands of saffron in about 2 cups of warm water until the water turned a lovely shade of yellow. Then I added a spoonful of Better Than Bouillon No Chicken, which is a great vegetarian broth concentrate that tastes like chicken (and is great when you’re a vegan living with a carnivore).
I added the broth to the veg and let it simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes until slightly reduced. I hunted in my spice cabinet for the last of the powder forte I made a few years ago for a feast — I made it at the time from equal amounts of freshly ground black pepper and dried ginger, plus lesser amounts of ground grains of paradise, cloves, mace, and cinnamon — and added it to the simmering broth (about a teaspoon).
I ate it over some brown rice, and it was quite yummy!