Soup Meagre

This soup was made with Lent in mind as there is no meat. Almost as thick as a chowder, this wholesome dish is wonderfully aromatic and pleasing to the eye in any season.

18th Century

Take a half a pound of butter, put it into a deep stew pan, shake it about, and let it stand till it is done making a noise; then have ready six middling onions peeled and cut small, throw them in and shake them about; take a bunch of celery clean washed and picked, cut it into pieces half as long as your finger, a large handful of spinach clean washed and picked, good lettuce clean washed, if you have it, and cut small, a little bundle of parsley chopped fine; shake all this together well in the pan for a quarter of an hour, then shake in a little flour, stir altogether, and pour into the stew pan two quarts of boiling water; take a handful of hard dry crust, throw in a teaspoonful of beaten pepper, three blades of mace beat fine, stir altogether, and let it boil softly for half an hour; then take it off the fire, and beat up the yolks of two eggs and stir in, and one spoonful of vinegar; pour it into the soup dish and send it to table. If you have any green peas, boil half a pint in the soup for change.

Glasse, Hannah, “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy”

21st Century

  • ½ lb. butter
  • 5 to 6 small onions chopped fine
  • 5 medium celery stalks cut into 1 to 2 inch lengths
  • A good handful of spinach leaves with stems removed
  • A small head of lettuce, such as Romaine, chopped fine
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of finely chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 quarts of boiling water
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. ground mace
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp. white vinegar
  1. Put your butter into a large stew pan over medium high heat to melt it. It will start to cook and sizzle. Do not burn it.
  2. After a couple minutes of this, add your onions to the butter and stir them, reduce heat to medium, and start cooking them for another two to three minutes.
  3. Add the celery, spinach, lettuce and parsley to the butter and onions. Stir them and let them cook for about 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Shake in the flour and stir it in well. Add the 2 quarts of boiling water and stir well to blend the ingredients.
  5. Add the bread crumbs, pepper and mace, and stir well again.
  6. Let the soup slowly cook over medium heat for close to half an hour, then remove from heat.
  7. In a small bowl, whip the egg yolks with the vinegar. Slowly, not too fast, drizzle this into the soup as you stir. Keep stirring all the while until the yolks are all added in. Stir for a little while longer to blend well.
  8. Pour into a soup tureen and serve.

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12 Responses to “Soup Meagre”

  1. March 21st, 2013

    Diana Ashkenasy says:

    As I have to maintain a gluten free diet, due to severe allergy, what can be used as a flour substitute? May I use coconut flour?

    • March 25th, 2013

      Historic Foodways says:

      A very pertinent question these days. Usually a rice or coconut flour will be good as thickeners for most soup or saucy dishes. Also a bit of corn starch (I’m not sure of gluten content in it) can help as well.
      Thanks for your query.
      Dennis Cotner

  2. March 21st, 2013

    Helen Robison FitzGerald says:

    Hi there, It appears to me the flour is merely a thickener. What would substitute for the bread crumbs? Just use more of that or less boiling water or reduce the soup to the thickness you like.

    Best regards,
    A fellow historic cook, Helen

  3. March 21st, 2013

    Diana Ashkenasy says:

    I didn’t even read down to the breadcrumbs, that would be another challenge

  4. March 22nd, 2013

    Lady Anne says:

    There are gluten-free bread crumbs, and there is a product (very expensive!) called “C for C” which can be substituted for flour. You might try rice flour and/or rice crackers.

  5. April 21st, 2013

    Tami says:

    I too have gluten allergy. Arrowroot starch or potato starch or flour might thicken it.

  6. April 21st, 2013

    Trae says:

    Hi: I have had Celiac disease for 20+ years and there are options everywhere for flour and breadcrumbs. If you cannot have gluten there is cornstarch, arrowroot, gram (chickpea) flour, rice flour, potato flour, aramath to thicken. They may give the dish a slightly different flavor The cornstartch or potato flour may alter it the least. You can buy non-gluten bread crumbs or you can dry non-gluten bread in the oven or on a plate in the sun and when dry run it through a food processor. It is so much easier to get the building blocks for non-gluten cooking. I’d try this recipe with different thickeners to see if they change the flavor.

  7. July 4th, 2013

    Ellen says:

    There’s no salt in the recipe. Is it just assumed to salt to taste or would this be made without salt?

    • July 10th, 2013

      Historic Foodways says:

      You can add salt if you like Ellen, however the recipe is relying on the other herbs and spices (as well as the greens) to lend the flavor to this soup.

      I hope you enjoy it.
      Dennis Cotner

  8. September 21st, 2013

    I was wondering how popular this would be with the Governor being that he was the leader of the Church of England in Virginia.

    • October 9th, 2013

      Historic Foodways says:

      Interesting question!

      While the recipe was intended to be used during Lent, I cannot say with certainty that it was popular here in Virginia due to the Royal Governor acting as the head of the church or not.

      Melissa Blank

  9. January 30th, 2017

    Mariaelena says:

    I am planning a dinner menu around Colonial Williamsburg and I need to know how many servings will this recipe produce and of what size?

    Thank you!

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