I like watching Jos Townsend cook in the style of the 1700s. Many reasons. Partly I’m a minimalist at heart and a lot of what they did then was with minimal equipment and methods. Partly it is that they had no refrigerators and grocery stores with endless isles of preserved food, so you had to preserve your own. Partly is is just historical nostalgia and I like history.
Then, every so often, some of it ‘clicks’ for the Prepper Community. As a lot of what they did, then, is what you would need to do now, as a Prepper. Storing and preserving food. Cooking with it. Using pots, pans, and tools geared to an open wood fire. Making an oven out of clay.
In this case, his video caught me due to the “poem” “Peas Porridge Hot, Peas Porridge Cold…” and I’ve always wondered what “Peas Porridge” was.
Turns out it is a very easy to make dish that is rather nice in the bowl, but uses minimal ingredients and methods. Yes, I made a version of it this morning and ate a bowl of it. Tasty enough and quite filling. I don’t care for mint, though, so left that out.
Here’s the video on how to make it (7 minutes):
He points out that the old recipe does not say what kind of peas to use. I take that as an open invitation to “try stuff” ;-) They chose to use split peas, which is likely traditional and easy to get at the grocery store. BUT, as a prepper dish, that’s right out. Why? Because I tried storing split peas once. At about the one year point they “get hard” and by 2 years even cooking for hours does not soften them enough. (Forget about any storage longer than that… and yes, I tried the baking soda thing. It “helps but does not fix” hard peas.)
Lentils will keep for up to 16 years, that I know of from personal experience and still cook OK. Split mung beans too. In my “cleaning out to prepare for packing up” I’d seen about 4 oz of lentils in a jar and about 6 ounces of yellow peeled split mung beans (Monggo) that needed using up. I know each are several years old as they were stored a while before being put in canister jars and that was a year or two ago. Might as well experiment with them, eh?
The basic recipe is (by volume):
1 Unit “peas”
1 Unit water
1 Unit milk
butter about 2 Tbs or 30 ml / quart or liter of peas
Roll the butter ball in flour to coat it well
Salt & Pepper to taste.
A mint bundle addition if you like mint.
The basic process is to put the peas in the water with the (optional IMHO) mint, bring to a boil, let simmer “a while” until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, add the floured butter ball, the milk, salt and pepper, stir. Return to the fire for about 15 minutes to bring back to the simmer / boil stage. Remove and let sit, or stir, or just eat it.
What I did was mix my legumes and got 350 ml (yes, I’m going to freely mix metric and traditional units… just be glad I’m not using grains and gills) so started with 350 ml of water.
The split mung beans soak up water FAST and I ended up adding about another 150 ml in the first couple of minutes (the Townsend video stresses that the water and milk can vary…). It was maybe 5 minutes to the absorbed stage. Not expecting this, I had not timed it.
I set it off the heat,rolled about a 1 Tbs slice of a stick of butter in flour and added that to the pot. Took a 12 oz can of Condensed Milk (also about 2 years old) and reconstituted it to 24 ounces, then added about 350 ml (just poured it in, didn’t measure) of milk to cover and have a wet sauce look. Back to the stove, on medium heat with stirring until it was at the simmer, then on low, covered, for about 20 miniutes.
I just “sprinkled over” with salt to what I thought would be right, but adding some in the bowl tasted better. I think I remember that salt in the cook water keeps beans hard, so for hard peas I’d hold that off to the last steps. Pepper was about 3 grinds, but another in the bowl was very nice ;-)
I got to talking and not stirring, so after about 20 minutes (maybe longer) remembered the pot. There was a thin layer on the very bottom that was starting to brown and stick, so I got it just in time.
Spooned into a bowl, it was quite tasty. Don’t know quite how to explain it. It has a bit of “cooked milk” flavor and aroma, but not enough to stand out. It has a “kind of meaty” flavor that I think is from the butter and milk. It is very much a “meal on a spoon” effect (not a desert or soup thing) and the texture is kind of like split pea soup from a condensed soup can, but with a more interesting flavor. Part of that is likely the mung beans and lentils having a nuttier flavor effect.
I expect I could add a bit more water for more of a porridge effect, or a lot more for a soup. The video also says final water may need adjusting.
As a Prepper Meal, this has it all. Only 2 stored food ingredients, some “peas” and canned milk, and then 2 spices + water. All of it keeps for years. Prep is fast (especially with fast cooking split mung beans or lentils) and the product is tasty. Then “Nine Days Old” implies it stores well after cooking ;-)
I could easily see adding SPAM chunks, ham if you have it, or bacon bits to this. It is also a mild enough flavor for folks who don’t want spice, but would take well as a neutral base to a LOT of other flavors and spices for “change ups” and variety.
As evidenced in the video (and in my cook of it), exact tools, measurements, techniques, and ingredients do not matter. It is simple and forgiving enough for just about anyone to make.
You can also make it spiced up (Nigerian or N’Orleans style) with hot peppers, crayfish, and more. The first minute the sound is too low, but picks up suddenly at the 1 minute mark. 4 1/2 minutes:
As crayfish could be found in the mud of just about any irrigation canal when I was growing up (they are drained in winter here), I have a fascination with them as “survival food” (they are also very tasty steamed and dunked in sauce ;-) Never thought of drying them before, but hey, makes sense.