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Raspberry Soup, Anyone..?

Potage de Framboises from c.1650

By Rob AngeliPublished about a year ago 4 min read
Raspberry soup, served hot.

Today I wanted to present a little known but ground-breaking work of gastronomy titled Le Cuisinier Francois (The French Cook) composed by a chef named Francois Pierre la Varenne in 1651. His work codified the style of cooking that was emerging in France in the Early Modern era and would beat the path for the future of modern French cuisine.

When we talk about the "Early Modern" era, we are referring to that vague time window between the Renaissance and the advent of the Industrialism that so revolutionized technology, culture, and the arts. For example, the first products of the printing press are a good sample of "Early Modern Typography."

The world of the kitchen was also greatly innovated in this period: there was a distinct movement away from the costly array of imported spices such as saffron, cinnamon, ginger, galingal, nutmeg, etc. that had characterized the cuisine of the Renaissance and Middle Ages, and was seen to be the "Italian School" of cookery. Instead of these, herbs such as thyme, tarragon, parsley, and bay leaf took center stage, and a much effort is made in the recipes to accentuate and maximize the natural flavors of the ingredients, as well as conserving the natural form of the foodstuffs used. Fine-tuned broths seasoned with an onion stuck with cloves and a bouquet garni are the basis of many creations; asparagus, cauliflower, mushrooms, artichokes, and capers are established as the essential vegetables. All of this seems to be a movement in the direction of the modern "norm" of French cuisine, favoring a more bland and ordinary flavor-profile than more ancient styles. However, there is still much retained from earlier periods, especially the ubiquity of clove and pepper, nutmeg frequently, and verjuice, the sour juice of green grapes found in medieval cooking.

The recipe I wanted to share here showcases that familiarity and strangeness that so often occurs in these dishes: a hot raspberry soup, with an egg and milk base, garnished with fresh berries. It is listed as number thirty-six in the section on light soups. I have experimented with this berry goo over the past couple weeks; it is easy to make and is ideal for breakfast on chilly mornings.

I will give here the original recipe with my translation, and then break it down and give my adaptation of the formula.

36) POTAGE DE FRAMBOISES

Délayez des oeufs avec des framboises, et passez le tout ensemble, faites bouillir du lait bien assaisonné de sel, et lors qu’il boult, jetez votre appareil dedans, et le remuez bien, dressez le, garnissez de framboises, et servez.

[RASPBERRY SOUP

Incorporate eggs into the raspberries, and strain the whole of it together, heat some milk well seasoned with salt, and when it is heated, throw your mixture in, and stir it well, dish it out, garnish with raspberries, and serve.]

As Julia Child said in the introduction to her 1961 Mastering the Art of French Cooking, "Recipe language is always a sort of shorthand in which a lot of information is packed, and you will have to read carefully if you are not to miss small but important points." This statement is even more true applied to the reading of archaic recipes as to modern French gastronomy.

First of all, to assess our simple ingredients: we simply need raspberries, milk, egg, and a little salt. The goal is to incorporate raspberry and egg into lightly salted milk and stir well over low or medium low heating until it thickens and comes together. "Straining" will mean passing the materials through a sieve to obtain a puree and to separate the seeds from the raspberry pulp.

My version of the recipe is as follows:

  1. 1/2 cup of raspberries, washed
  2. 1/2 cup of milk, heavy cream, or half-and-half
  3. 1 egg
  4. 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • First, position a small sturdy wire strainer over a saucepan and press the raspberries through the strainer with a spoon or other implement, until you are left with mainly seeds in the strainer and puree in the saucepan.
  • Add the egg, milk, and salt to the puree and whisk together. Put the saucepan on medium low to low heat and whisk constantly.
  • (If the process of sieving the ingredients doesn't work for you, you can blend milk, raspberries, and egg in the saucepan with an immersion blender before heating.)
  • When it has thoroughly heated and thickened (make sure you don't scramble the eggs with to high a heat!), dish it up in a bowl, and garnish with a few fresh berries you have kept aside. Serve hot.
  • (For a deluxe version and more "Medievalized", add a dash of cardamom, ginger, and a spoonful of rosewater while cooking.)

It is a warm and creamy dish, tart with a slightly salted finish; there is a certain vague whiff of ice-cream or custard-like familiarity, but without the sweetness we usually associate with berry desserts. It is very much a potage, or thick soup, and offers the curious taster a very different way to enjoy raspberries in their more savory guise. Bonne appetite!

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About the Creator

Rob Angeli

sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt

There are tears of things, and mortal objects touch the mind.

-Virgil Aeneid I.462

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    Rob AngeliWritten by Rob Angeli

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