I will admit it. I am a sucker for Regency Era romances. The imagery, the language, the snarkiness. It checks every box in my English major brain. I try not to be a snob regarding modern works taking place in this era. Some are excellent, such as Shades of Milk and Honey and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Some perhaps less so, such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
Today’s recipe is from a book that I rate in the former category, Julia Quinn’s The Duke and I, book one of the Bridgerton series. We’ll get to the main course soon, but today we’ll start with a side dish.
Click here to skip to the recipe for Peas à la Bridgerton.
Bridgerton Book One
For those who’ve yet to crack into one of Julia Quinn’s books or check out the Netflix-produced TV show, The Duke and I follows Daphne Bridgerton — the fourth out of eight siblings in a close-knit wealthy society family. It also follows Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings, the sole heir from a loveless marriage and image-obsessed father.
Daphne is the first daughter out in society, and she has a precise idea about what she wants. She wants a big family with lots of children and love as passionate as her parents had. Her suitors are genial enough, but no one captivates her or treats her as a romantic prospect.
Simon, on the other hand, has no desire for marriage and even less for children. With a father who declared him dead in society over a childhood stutter, he is determined to let the title die with him. Why? First, so that no child never suffers as he did. But secondly and mostly to spite his father.
The two, having met through her brothers, agree to fake a courtship to their mutual benefit. Daphne would draw more desirable suitors due to the Duke’s attention. Simon would receive less bombardment from society’s “ambitious mamas.”
Falling for each other is only the first step into their story arc, however. Quinn takes extra steps in most of her books to show that marriage alone needs more than a ring and a proposal to declare it happily ever after. That I will go over in my next post.
I’m hungry, though. Aren’t you? Let’s get to our first course: Peas à la Bridgerton.
Little Green Cannonballs
Today’s dish comes from the following scene from The Duke and I, where Daphne’s mother invites Simon to a family dinner. Society families at the time never dined with their children unless they were of age. Violet Bridgerton counts herself the exception to the rule:
Simon had not been prepared for supper with the Bridgertons. It was a loud, raucous affair, with plenty of laughter and thankfully, only one incident involving a flying pea. (It had looked as if the pea in question had originated at Hyacinth’s end of the table, but the littlest Bridgerton had looked so innocent and angelic that Simon had difficulty believing she had actually aimed the legume at her brother.)
“I’m not afraid I might not be heard,” Gregory said.
“I’m not afraid of that, either,” Violet commented dryly. “Gregory, eat your peas.”
“Lady Bridgerton,” Simon said loudly, “may I trouble you for another helping of those delicious peas?”
“Why certainly.” Violet shot an arch look at Gregory. “Notice how the duke is eating his peas.”
Gregory ate his peas.
Simon smiled to himself as he spooned another portion of peas onto his plate, thankful that Lady Bridgerton had not decided to serve dinner à la russe. It would have been difficult to stave off Gregory’s certain accusation of Hyacinth as a pea-tosser if he’d had to summon a footman to serve him.
Quinn, Julia. The Duke and I (Bridgertons) (p. 145). Avon. Kindle Edition.
I will admit one of the reasons why I found this scene amusing is my own relationship with peas as a child. Apparently, I hated them enough to try hiding them under the rim of my plate as a toddler. Then at four, when I was living in Farnborough, England, I was sent to the headmistress’s office because I DARED to eat my peas with a pudding spoon instead of a fork.
I love them now, though a part of me wants to go back in time and fling them a la Hyacinth at my headmistress. Not these peas, though. These I’d end hoarding in a bowl to myself!
I based my recipe on Peas, French Style, from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management. Granted, this book’s publication follows at least 40 years after the Regency era. Publication does not equate to origination, however. Beeton’s was a compilation of popular recipes that had been served for decades, at least. Cookbooks during Bridgerton’s time were rare as recipes more often made their way from household to household via ladies and their housekeepers.
On the other hand, the plating I took from The Complete Servant: Being a Practical Guide to the Peculiar Duties and Business of All Descriptions of Servants (1825) — five years after this era’s end.
My version incorporates Madeira--which adds a hazelnut undertone, acidity, and sweetness — also super popular during the Georgian and Regency era — I figured that Mrs. Bridgerton wants to impress the Duke of Hastings.
I also incorporated nutmeg, which blooms with the mint, parsley, and black pepper in butter — it’s also used in Creole love spells. Beyond that — it also pairs very well with lamb à la bechamel from The Duke and I. Don’t worry, folks, what do you think is next week’s recipe?
Sing for your Supper!
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Ménage à Petit Pois
Peas à la Bridgerton
Equipment: Stovetop, skillet, and serving dish.
- 2 Tb unsalted butter
- 3 cups frozen peas
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 Tb fresh chopped mint
- 1 Tb fresh chopped Italian parsley
- 1/2 cup Madeira
- kosher salt
- Preheat the skillet over a medium flame on the stovetop for three minutes. Add the peas, then the Madeira, and then a pinch of kosher salt.
- Allow the peas to simmer until a thin sheer of Madeira remains. Stir in the butter.
- Once melted, stir in the nutmeg and pepper. Cook for one minute until fragrant, then toss in the mint and parsley.
- Stir cook another 2-3 minutes until the herbs release their aromatic oils. Finish with another two pinches of kosher salt and transfer to a serving dish.
- Serve the peas with roasted meat and potatoes or corned beef, eggs, and toast.