• Brigitte Webster

To prepare a thick soup of common field mushrooms. From The Opera by Bartolomeo Scappi, 1570

English translation from original by Terence Scully

Original, translated text:

“Get field mushrooms (which are the most delicate of all mushrooms) in their season, in Rome between the end of February and the middle of May. Clean off the skin that is around them, and especially any sand on their stalk, and wash them in several changes of water. Put them into a casserole pot where there is melted pork fat, pepper and cinnamon, and sauté them slightly with nothing else because as they cook they make their own broth. When they have boiled a little, put in some yellow saveloy or slices of marbled prosciutto to cook with them, adding a little good meat broth. Before serving them, put in a handful of beaten herbs, a little grated bread, verjuice, pepper, cinnamon and saffron, and bring it all to a boil. Serve them hot with the saveloy on top.”

Ingredients: (serves between 3-4)

500g field mushrooms

1 Tbsp lard (pig fat)

Ground pepper & cinnamon – roughly ½ tsp

1-2 sausages or circa 100g prosciutto (cubed or sliced) or both if you like it meaty!

Circa 50 g bread crumbs

2 Tbsp of verjuice or white wine vinegar

2 saffron strands (crushed in a mortar)

A handful of fresh chopped herbs such as parsley, basil, rosemary, thyme, spearmint.

Modern, short summary of recipe:

  1. Wash and clean mushrooms

  2. Sauté mushrooms in a little fat - preferably pork fat (lard)

  3. Add cinnamon & pepper and allow to cook for about 3 mins

  4. Add sliced sausages or cubed/sliced marbled prosciutto and allow another 3 mins to cook. Add more water if necessary

  5. Just before serving, add saffron, verjuice (white wine vinegar), a small handful of breadcrumbs and freshly chopped herbs of your choice.

  6. Serve hot with the sliced sausage on top.

Verdict:

A good winter warmer broth which was enjoyed by all.

Notes:

  • I used plain white mushrooms as due to lockdown I do not have access to field mushrooms.

  • In the original Italian recipe, Scappi refers to “Cervellate Gialle” sausage but I have to confess that I do not know what that looks or tastes like, nor have I much idea about what the translated ’yellow’ saveloy looks or tastes like – so used the only type of sausage I had at home that vaguely resembled a saveloy.

  • Instead of the extra pork fat, I fried the marbled (cubed) prosciutto first creating enough fat for the mushroom to sauté in.

  • For the herbs I used parsley, rosemary, thyme and spearmint as these I can get fresh from the garden in February here in the UK.

Mushrooms do generally not feature in English sixteenth century recipes, however it appears that in Italy people were more confident in using them in the kitchen.


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