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Peas the Portuguese Way

Learn about this recipe from our historic foodways staff, then try it at home

Each spring Historic Foodways staff highly anticipate the arrival of one of our most favored vegetables- the garden pea. Wesley Greene’s Vegetable Gardening the Colonial Williamsburg Way, states that the green pea was one of the most fashionable of all garden vegetables for 18th-century Virginia gentlemen to grow. Thomas Jefferson held a yearly competition with his neighbor to see who could harvest them first.  In 1707, Englishman John Mortimer lamented, “The great inconveniency that doth attend them is that their extraordinary sweetness makes them likeable to be devoured by Birds.” It’s a lament familiar to most gardeners. According to research conducted by Tiffany Fisk, apprentice in Historic Foodways, peas may have been around as early as 9750 BC. “Most people were eating dried peas rather than fresh ones,” she says.

For more of Tiffany’s research and recipes from Chef Tavis please see the Spring 2018 issue of Trends and Traditions!

18th Century

Wash your Peas, cut in some Lettuce, with a Lump of Sugar, some fine Oil, a few Mint Leaves cut small, with Parsley, Onions, Shallots, Garlick, Winter Savory, Nutmeg, Salt, Pepper and a little Broth; put them over the Fire, and when ’tis almost ready, poach some new Eggs in it, making a Place for each Egg to lie in; then cover your Stew pan again, and boil your Eggs with a little Fire upon the Cover; then slide them into your Dish and serve them.

— Adam’s Luxury and Eve’s Cookery, 1744. English version.

21st Century


  • 1 bag (13-16 oz.) frozen peas
  • 1 small head of romaine lettuce
  • 1-2 tbsp. sugar
  • 3-4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp mint
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp winter savory (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup of beef or vegetable broth (add more if you need to when cooking)
  • 5 eggs (keep cold until ready to use)


  1. Chop the lettuce fine. Put all the ingredients, except the eggs into a medium saucepan. Stew on medium heat until the peas are cooked through and the onions and shallots are translucent and tender, about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add more broth if necessary.
  2. While the pea mixture is stewing, in a separate saucepan, place about two inches of water in the pan. Heat until it starts to simmer. Add about a tablespoon of white vinegar. Carefully poach the eggs. With a wooden spoon, swirl the water so it keeps moving. Crack an egg into the center of the swirling water being careful not to let the egg stick to the bottom of the pot. Poaching one or two at a time works best. Turn off the heat and cover. Let eggs poach for 4-5 minutes. Repeat until all eggs are poached.
  3. While eggs are poaching, pour the stewed peas into a serving dish. When eggs are finished poaching, carefully remove the poached eggs from the water with a slotted spoon and place on top of the peas, arranging them in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Serve one egg per person.

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