Lettuce: A cool green decoration for the more interesting chunk of protein on the plate, or a pleasant bit of crunch for a sandwich, or an edible wrapping for a savoury mix of some sort – that’s about it, for lettuce, isn’t it?
Once upon a time, lettuce often had a starring role, as the recipes below, from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries show. Both recipes specify ‘cabbage lettuce’ which appears to have been a rather more substantial, dense globe with thicker leaves than the types we use today for our lightweight salads.
To make a Lettuce Pie.
Take your Cabbage Lettuce and cut them in halves, wash them and boil them in water and salt very green, then drain them from the water, so having your Pie in readiness, put in Butter, then put in your boiled Lettuce, with some Marrow, Raisins of the Sun stoned, Dates stoned and sliced thin, with some large Mace, and Nutmeg sliced, then put in more Butter, close it and bake it; then cut it open and put in Verjuice, Butter and Sugar, and so serve it.
Queen-like Closet or Rich Cabinet, (1672) HannahWolley.
To Farce Lettuce.
Take Cabbage-Lettuce, scald them a little, drain them; then mince the Flesh of roasted Capons and Chickens with boil’d Gammon, Mushrooms and Savoury Herbs, Cives and Parsley, the Crumb of a French Roll soak’d in cream and the Yolks of three or four Eggs; and a little scalded Bacon; season all with Salt, Pepper, sweet Herbs, and Spice. Pound all together in a Mortar; squeeze the Lettuce one by one, open the Leaves, cut out the Knob in the middle, fill the Hollow with your minc’d Meat and Seasonings, then tye them up. Then take Slices of Bacon and Veal, and lay them in the Bottom of a Stew-pan with some slic’d Onion, cover your Pan and set it over a Furnace; when it begins to stick, put in a little Flour, and stir about with a Spoon, to brown it: Moisten it with an equal quantity of Broth and Gravy, season it with Salt, Pepper, Cloves, a whole Leek, Parsley, Basil, and a Bay-leaf. Lay your farc’d Lettuces in a Stew-pan, and pour this Braise upon them. When they are stew’d enough, take them, unbind them, drain them, and put them into the Stew-pan again, with a white Cullis. Let the Lettuces simmer in this, dish them and serve them for Outworks.
If you would have a brown Sauce, make use of the Essence of Ham.
You may also serve them with a Ragoo of Truffles and Mushrooms.
Cook’s and Confectioner’s Dictionary, (1723) John Nott.
Quotation for the Day.
I worry about scientists discovering that lettuce has been fattening all along.