Pease pudding – how to make this vegan historical dish

Pease pudding in a cloth
The pudding before being cooked. Tied up in its pudding cloth with stout string.

The challenge

How do you make historical food vegan? I approached my small library of historic cookbooks to search for inspiration.

Pease pudding was my solution.

Pottage history

Pottage is a catch all term which meant anything cooked in a pot. In the medieval period cereals were added to the cooking stock from cooking meat.

Pease pottage was eaten at all levels of society in England. And then during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the invention of the pudding cloth revolutionised food for all and made a watery soups into a solid pudding.

Pease pudding gradually died out in the eighteenth century. Once meat became cheaper England’s once national dish became an occasional menu item.

Vegan future

But history has a happen of coming full circle and I wanted to try pease pudding as an alternative to meat. Exciting it might not be, but it’s a good thing to eat before a battle or even to fill yourself up on a cold January night.

The recipe

  • 250g dried split peas
  • Salt 
  • Pepper

Put the dried split peas into a bowl and cover with water and leave for at least two hours.

You will need a pudding cloth for this recipe. It can be a square of kitchen towel, a piece of old cotton cloth or even a piece of sailcloth if you have one.

You’ll also need pudding string which is in fact any stout cotton string. It’s a good idea to use thick string to hang onto as you hoist your scalding hot pudding from its pot.

Tie the peas loosely in the pudding cloth. Tie with string and make sure to tie with a bow, much easier to untie later. Place in a large pot and cover with boiling water. Simmer, covered with a lid, for 1.5 hours. Add more boiling water when needed and lift the pudding cloth now and again to make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Remove the pudding from the water in a strainer above a bowl. Leave it until cool enough to handle. Squeeze liquid out. Untie the cloth and scrape the peas into a bowl. Add salt and pepper. Mix well. I like to break up the peas at this point. The back of a roller pin is good or a potato masher if you have one.

Put the mixture back into the pudding cloth. Put the pudding into a fresh pot of boiling water and cook for 1 hour.

Remove the pudding from the pot. Let it cool, it will get firmer as it cools. 

To turn it out I like to untie the pudding cloth and open it enough to allow space to turn it out onto a plate. Once on the place you can carefully peel away the pudding cloth. If you are careful you can keep the pudding whole. I really like the way you can see the indentations of whatever cloth you are using on the pudding.

Serve with slowly fried onions and perhaps some pickled gherkins or piccalilli.

Further reading