However, by the mid-16th Century, things had moved on and people became very interested in vegetables and their variety. Seed catalogues of the time listed around 120 different vegetables and herbs. A century later this was down to around sixty, and by the 1970s just forty. This correlates with the movement of people from the countryside to the cities to find work and the loss of self-sufficiency. In its place arose large-scale agriculture, where economy of scale won over variety. The invention of the supermarket succeeded in driving diversity down even further.
This is a very calorific recipe: lots of butter, fried bread, cream and sherry. If you make it and next day wake up with gout, don’t run crying to me: you were warned.
Jane doesn’t say whether this a single course or an accompaniment to something else. I had mine with some bitter, dark kale to offset the richness.
She also doesn’t give us any amounts – ‘a system rather than a proper recipe’, she says. Here’s what I did:
Keep them warm in the oven as you finish the mushroom mixture: mix in a teaspoon of flour, and once incorporated, plenty of double cream(I used a 150 ml pot) to form a smooth sauce. Add a dash of sherry if you like and check the seasoning. Spoon the mixture into the snuffboxes, replace the lids and serve.
When the peas are tender, liquidise the whole lot and push through a fine sieve, pushing the pulp through with a ladle.
Next, fold in two egg whites that have been beaten until stiff. For maximum lightness, use a metal spoon for this task.
If growing is not your thing, then you could try and forage some for yourself. Wild seakale, or Crambe maritima to give its Latin name, is not a common plant; this is because of its rather specific gravel or stony beach habitat. There are not that many of those, except on the south coast of England and parts of Ireland. If you have holidayed in one of these areas, one of the things may have noticed is the total lack of plant life there. Unfortunately, the plants do get somewhat trampled over by people and their beach gear. According to John Wright in his very good book Edible Seashore (part of the River Cottage Handbook series) reckons you are best looking in the fringes of the beaches where the vegetation is less disturbed. If you do find one – remember where it is so the next January or February, you can pile on some gravel and force your own to collect in April.