A few months ago, in my quest to find more campfire-capable recipes for my repertoire, I flipped through one of my favorite medieval cookery books, The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi. I don’t even have the words right now to tell you how much I love this book. In fact, it probably deserves its own post, so let’s leave it for now, and get back to the recipe.
“Sops” make a frequent appearance in medieval cookbooks. The word comes from sopp, the Old English word for “bread soaked in liquid”, and that’s pretty much what it continued to be for many hundreds of years. It’s a cognate of “soup”, and is likely where we got the term “supper”, as well as the phrase “sopping wet”. A “milksop” was a weakling, someone who could only take bread soaked in a little milk. The same goes for the synonym, “milquetoast”.
Ok. Etymology lesson over. FOOD.
While the concept of sops is a simple one, the execution can be anything but. Most sops recipes tended to have a base of either almond milk, wine, or a meaty broth, depending on the Lenten season. Scappi has a lot of recipes for sops, some savory and some sweet. He calls for dried legumes, mushrooms, fruits, capon meat, cheese, and (disturbingly specific) trout entrails.
I’ve spared you the latter, and gone instead for both a savory and a sweet version.
For the savory version, I used leftover roast chicken, scraps of cheddar, and meaty broth from the same bird. One thing I love about the sops is how adaptable they are. If I’d had any, mushrooms would have been a delicious addition to the savory sops. The fruity and sweet version has a wine base, and is not dissimilar in concept to the recipe for Arya’s Tarts in the cookbook. Stewed fruits provide the substance, while honey and spices jazz it up.
Where in Westeros?
This dish would be as widespread in that world as it was in our own.
On The Wall and in parts of the North, it would be a way to salvage stale bread and cobble together a small meal out of whatever they had. Further south, in more prosperous regions, the different elements would likely include finer breads and more varied and expensive ingredients, such as quail, fresh fruit, and so on.
In either case, it’s a very easy party food with an authentic feel, and great as a serve-as-they-come dish for when you are expecting multiple rounds of guests.
Sweet & Savory Sops Recipes
Cook’s Note: As Sops are more of a concept than a hard reality, these recipes are just a starting point. Absolutely experiment and be sure to share your final favorites!
Ingredients for Sweet Sops :
- 1 1/2 cups red wine
- 1/2 cup honey
- pinch each cinnamon, ginger, and pepper
- 1/2 cup dried diced fruit, such as figs, prunes, dates, currants, etc.
- 2 slices toasted bread
Combine all ingredients in a shallow saucepan, and cook over medium-low heat until the consistency has thickened, and the fruit has soaked up some of the liquid. Serve over toast.
Ingredients for Savory Sops:
- 1 Tbs. salted butter
- 1 Tbs. flour
- 1-2 cups meat broth, depending on desired consistency
- 1 cup shredded chicken meat
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- dash of ground mustard
- 2 slices toasted bread
Melt the butter in a shallow saucepan, then gradually add the flour and mix until you have a smooth paste. Cook this for a few minutes, then pour in the broth, while stirring. Add the remaining ingredients, cook for a few minutes until the flavors have melded and it’s hot through, then serve over toast.