Peas, sir, may you have some more? Why, of course! There’s pease pudding (aka “sludge”) for everyone in this fair town!
This is kind of along the lines of the legendary mushy peas. Except this is a savoury dessert with many uses in cooking.
Thusly, we’re here to explore its glorious history on this merry day! Come and join us on this most pea-based of journeys.
What’s Pease Pudding?
It’s a savouring pudding and is usually made out of boiled split yellow peas. Add into that water, salt, and spices for a truly pea happy recipe.
We should note some people add in bacon, ham, or meatballs to this dish. So it can be vegetarian or otherwise. Always handy to know, eh?
Despite its history (more on this below), this certainly isn’t an iconic British food.
But it’s well known in the north-east of England around the Northumbria area. But it’s also a recipe eaten all around the world.
The History of Pease Pudding
There’s a nursery rhyme from a 1760 book called Mother Goose’s Melody that goes:
“Pease pudding hot,
Pease pudding cold,
Pease pudding in the pot nine days old.
Some like it hot,
Some like it cold,
Some like it in the pot nine days old.”
But the first mention of the recipe in history was in the 14th century cookery tome The Forme of Cury.
Back then it was called pease pottage or pease porridge. The dish is similar to porridge… and gruel. The big difference being the use of yellow split peas.
The name comes from Middle English, with “pease” being a mass noun. Pea and peas derive from the word. Because “pease” isn’t really something you’d go around saying in modern England. People would think you’re saying “peas”.
Complex things vegetables, aren’t they?
Due to the readily available nature of the dish, it was popular with peasants and poor people of Medieval times. The lazy working class scumbags of today, basically.
With the nursery rhyme above indicating one of the reasons why—”some like it in the pot nine days old.”
Without refrigerators back in the olden days, any food with a nine day life in a cooking pot will stand you in good stead.
So, yes, the dish has stuck around. Charles Dickens made a note of it in his second novel, Oliver Twist; or, the Parish Boy’s Progress (1837). The song lyrics go:
“Food, glorious food!
Hot sausage and mustard!
While we’re in the mood,
Cold jelly and custard!
Pease pudding and saveloys!
What next is the question?
Rich gentlemen have it, boys,
And while these days you’re not really going to see it on many menus in England, there’s nothing stopping you from getting Medieval with your cooking.
How to Make Pease Pudding
Aye, then, we’ve got pease pudding here to cook. It’s kind of looking making a soup, it would appear, but it’s not. Okay? It’s a pudding.
The ingredients you’ll need include the following:
Yellow split peas
Ham, bacon, or meatballs (if that’s your thing)
And it’s really a case of boiling that lot up in a big old cooking pot.
If you do a big batch at once then it’d sort your lunch out for nine days, apparently. Just an old wives’ tale there.
Anyway, let’s end with a joke! What did Oliver say to the horrible old chef?
“Pease sir, may I have some more, pease?”
The answer? No, of course he couldn’t. He was thrashed mercilessly with a belt for his terrible punning and general impertinence.