It has been far too long since I last posted! I broke my arm/wrist a few weeks ago so I had to choose a recipe I could do with limited dexterity and minimal prepping. The obvious solution was to return to my medieval pottage roots!
This 15th-century English recipe is ideal for the cold winter months when fresh produce would have been in short supply. If stored properly, cabbage will save for 3-4 months! Even though it was written down specifically for a merchant or noble kitchen, cabochis (cabbage soup) was accessible to pretty much everyone. Cabbages were among the cheapest food items available.
If you’re new here and don’t know what a pottage is or you’re simply looking for a refresher, check out the post I did about Medieval Peasant Pottages. There you’ll also find a Caboges in Potage recipe , which tastes nothing like this one.
This recipe was written around 1450 and preserved in a manuscript that is now called Harleian MS 4016. The Harleian manuscript, combined with a few others, was later published as Two Fifteenth Century Cookery Books by Thomas Austin in 1888. Cabochis is found in Book II.
Cabochis. Take faire Cabochis, pike hem and wassh hem, and parboyle hem; then̄ presse oute the water on̄ a faire borde, choppē hem, and cast hem in a faire potte with goode fressh broth and with Mary-bones, And lette hem boyle; then̄ take faire grate brede, and cast there-to, saferon̄, salt, and lete boyle ynogh, And then̄ serue hit forth.
Cabbages. Take clean cabbages, pick them and wash them and parboil them; then press out the water on a clean board, chop them and put them in a clean pot with good fresh broth and with marrow bones, and let them boil; then put in fresh grated bread and add saffron, salt and let it boil until done. And then serve it forth
- 1 small cabbage, chopped. Approx. 4 cups
- 1 quart of bone or beef broth
- Salt to taste (around 1 tsp.)
- Pinch saffron
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
The instructions are not very complicated but I will break it all down into steps anyway.
Step ONE: The Cabbage
Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Meanwhile, prepare the cabbage by removing the outer leaves and cutting out the core at the stem. Place the whole cabbage in the boiling water and gently remove leaves as they start to separate from the head. Put the softened leaves in a colander or dish to drain excess water. This entire process should take 5-8 minutes.
Rough chop the cabbage leaves and throw into a pot deep enough to make soup.
Step TWO: The Soup
Add a quart of broth to the pot and bring to a boil. To make things easier on myself I used bone broth instead of adding roasted marrow bones. You could really use any broth you want here, but my gut tells me they used beef.
Once the soup reaches a boil, reduce heat and add a pinch of crushed saffron strands and salt to taste. Saffron was used by only the wealthiest households, often to color dishes by giving food a slightly gold tint. It definitely adds to the aroma but ultimately does very little for the taste in such small amounts. You can leave it out if you prefer.
Step THREE: Thicken the Broth
Slowly add breadcrumbs and cook 5-10 minutes, stirring constantly to thicken the soup. Serve in bowls. This recipe makes about 4 servings.
I do not know how thick this soup would have been back in 1450. It’s possible it might have been thickened to almost a gravy but I really don’t think so. I settled for just enough to make a difference while still technically remaining a soup.
A note about breadcrumbs: Do not use Panko, use regular breadcrumbs. This recipe is more forgiving than some of the others I’ve done so you can probably use any standard plain breadcrumbs. The most authentic option would be to make your own by grating some stiff wheat toast. If you want a thicker broth than mine, slowly add more breadcrumbs by the tablespoon until you reach your desired consistency.
This soup isn’t my favorite thing in the world but it’s still quite good if you like cabbage and bone broth. It would probably taste even better with some cooked barley thrown in.
Cabochis only takes about 20 minutes from start to finish, not counting the time it takes to bring a pot of water to boil, which in my case seems like forever. Overall, it was a nice little peasant-style lunch for a cold day!