Recipe Source: Anonymous. The Book of Sent SovÍ. Joan Santanach, ed. Robin Vogelzang, trans. Barcino-Tamesis, Barcelona, 2008 p. 195.
A lot of people have this odd impression that medieval food consists entirely of meat. This is erroneous. A lot of the recipes that we have do involve meat, but that's because the food consumed by the vast majority of peasants didn't get written down. Furthermore, in Christian areas there were days and even weeks at a time when the consumption of meat was strictly prohibited. Even the wealthy were expected to go vegetarian (or vegan, depending on your time and place) at certain times of the year. For that reason, we do have vegetarian and vegan options that can be documented to the medieval era. And very often these recipes are not for vegetarian items that are pretending to be meat (I'm looking at you, seitans and TVP). When I eat vegetarian food I want it to be food that was intended to be meatless, not a meat substitute, and it looks like even our medieval ancestors at least sometimes felt the same way.
I made this dish, which comes to us from medieval Catalonia, for a dinner party at a medieval re-creation event up in Maine this past July. I only made one change, and that was to omit the mint. My husband is allergic to mint so it's been banned from the house. To be quite honest I don't miss it here. I'm not sure what type of lentils they would have been likely to use in medieval Catalonia. (I should know this, all things considered, but I don't.) I used the very quick-cooking red lentils because I have a lot of them on hand and would like to have less of them on hand, and because they're quick-cooking. The result was a dish that was surprisingly tasty – even the carnivores liked it.
Lentils with Vinegar and Herbs (serves 12; approx. $0.43/serving)
4 cups red lentils, rinsed
¼ cup bread crumbs
¾ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ bunch parsley
¾ bunch fresh sage
3 small onions, finely chopped
10 garlic cloves, crushed
1 pinch kosher salt
- Large sauté pan
- Small bowl
- Combine the bread crumbs and vinegar in the small bowl. Set aside.
- Put the lentils in a saucepan with water to cover generously. Bring to a boil.
- Boil until the lentils are tender, skimming as needed. Drain and set aside.
- Finely chop the herbs together. Set aside.
- Heat the oil gently in the sauté pan – medium heat would be the most I'd use here.
- Add the onions, garlic and salt. Lower the heat and cook gently until the onions are softened. This will vary depending on how small you've cut the onions, so it's in your own best interests to cut them nice and small.
- Add the lentils and breadcrumb mixture.
- Add the herbs. If additional water is needed, add it here.
- Cook until the herbs are nice and fragrant, then remove from heat.