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With all feasts where the guests serve themselves from shared platters, it's a good idea to have a few simple side dishes with each course, so that anyone who doesn't feel keen on the fancy main dishes won't go hungry.
Even Adults sometimes forget to eat their vegetables, so you have to make them interesting. Go eat a vegetable now; they're good for you.
Bread, butter, and a few on-table nibbles like dried apricots and carrot sticks are a staple (and the subject of no few comedic songs), but a few simple alternatives are always a good idea. Salad with an interesting dressing, carrots in honey, thickened stewed apple, or a pottage are simple to make without breaking the budget or your brain.
My personal philosophy is that if I'm not sure about a dish, I'll take a tiny portion and come back for more if I like it. Others might have to be more cautious, however, so I won't judge anyone labelled a "picky" eater.
Pottages are an easy side dish, and will always go down well, even if they're just there to give your palate a break from the fancier dishes.
Wild Leafy Greens and Cheese Pottage
Source: “An Early Meal – a Viking Age cookbook and culinary odyssey”
Type of dish: Pottage/Vegetables
3L white goosefoot leaves
2 tbsp salted butter
200 ml crumbled soft cheese
100 ml whey
1) Boil the white goosefoot leaves for about 5 minutes
2) Drain the water
3) Chop the leaves finely
4) Melt butter in a pot
5) Add white goosefoot, fresh cheese and whey
6) Simmer briefly, stir to mix and serve.
- While there is no way to make this dish entirely Vegan-friendly, you can accommodate for lactose-based dietary requirements by getting dairy/lactose free versions of the butter and cheese
- While medieval recipes favour pre-boiling, I find it easier to chop the leaves first, then boil them, if only so you aren't trying to chop wet leaves (see next note...) The drained water makes for a nice vegetable soup stock, too.
- If you decide to boil first, don’t use a white chopping board. Mine still has a green tinge in the right light…
- I couldn’t find white goosefoot leaves (Native to the UK and Europe, harder to find in the southern hemisphere), so I used Silverbeet and Spinach. Any salad leaves will do in a pinch, though rocket and lettuce don't cook as well. Kale is also period and documented as having been used in some Viking societies.
- Bear in mind that the leaves will shrink as you cook them when calculating how much greenery you need
- Most soft cheeses are packaged in with their whey. I’ve found ricotta to work best, but a mild feta or cottage cheese are worth experimenting with if you prefer a stronger flavour. If you need to go dairy-free, a vegan/dairy-free cream cheese is an option
- This is a great dish if you need something plain and simple to round out a meat-heavy or otherwise strongly-flavoured course
(I was submitting the recipe in a competition later in the year, which was indefinitely postponed due to lockdowns. So, I asked people to write down their reactions in the commentary book.)
"Are you sure this isn't a main dish?" (It can be, in large enough quantities)
"Party in my mouth!" (Still not sure if that's a good thing...)