Retronovated Recipes: Soup Meagre


Soup Meagre is a great spring recipe from about 1723.  It’s a sort of catch-all meal made of all types of early season vegetables: onions, peas, and leafy greens.  

The original recipe can be found in the American History Cookbook;  in the original, you add a hunk of stale bread and cream the soup together into something I can only imagine resembles baby food.  In my modernized version, I leave this final step out, and let the vegetables maintain their integrity in the broth.

I made this soup recently at my friend Mark’s house: I had gathered some wild onions from a farmer’s field and brought them over as a gift.  He pointed out some wild greens in his front yard, and we decided to make a batch of soup meagre.

The original recipe features sorrel, a leafy green that is ready in May when it’s cultivated, and June if it’s found wild.  It’s flavor is tart and distinctly lemony.  When choosing greens for this soup, I recommend using a combination of mild and tart flavors.  I also enjoy making this soup heartier with the addition of a hard boiled egg for garnish.  This recipe can be made your own with the additions of any ingredients you have on hand: mushrooms, white beans, ham;  be creative.  We didn’t have cloves, so we used cinnamon and red pepper flakes.  This recipe can also easily be made vegetarian by using a vegetable broth instead of chicken.  

The point is: feel free to diverge from this recipe in ingredients and proportions.  It’s very hard to go wrong.

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Soup Meagre
Inspired by a recipe from a 1723 manuscript as it appears in The American History Cookbook by Mark H. Zanger.
3 bunches leafy greens, including any combination of spinach, parsley, kale, sorrel, lamb’s quarter, or dandelion; washed well.
1 medium onion
2 cloves
1/2 stick salted butter
2 cups peas
3-6 cups Chicken stock
Salt and Pepper to taste
Hard boiled eggs for garnish
1. Melt butter in bottom of pot. Add onions and season with salt and pepper.  Cook until transparent.

2. Add chicken stock, cloves, and peas.  Bring to a boil.  Test peas for doneness (they want to be a little under done at this point). Taste and re-season broth, if necessary.

3. Add greens and cook five more minutes, or until greens are just wilted.

4.  Garnish with hard boiled eggs and serve.

Note: this soup is not good the next day; the greens tend to get slimy  So only make as much as you will eat in one meal.

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