Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dining in Romania, in 1903.

Restaurant and hotel reviewing is a relatively recent phenomenon, historically speaking, and I thought it might be fun to look at some early examples. One of the first ‘experts’ in the process was the London gourmet and newspaper columnist, Lieut.-Col. Nathaniel Newnham-Davis. He authored a book on dining in London, and then, with a rather mysterious friend with the interesting name of Algernon Bastard, took on the hotels and restaurants of Europe. Their book,
Gourmet's Guide to Europe, was published in London in 1903.

The authors outlined their mission in the Preface:

Often enough, staying in a hotel in a foreign town, I have wished to sally forth and to dine or breakfast at the typical restaurant of the place, should there be one. Almost invariably I have found great difficulty in obtaining any information regarding any such restaurant. The proprietor of the caravanserai at which one is staying may admit vaguely that there are eating-houses in the town, but asks why one should be anxious to seek for second-class establishments when the best restaurant in the country is to be found under his roof. The hall-porter has even less scruples, and stigmatises every feeding-place outside the hotel as a den of thieves, where the stranger foolishly venturing is certain to be poisoned and then robbed. This book is an attempt to help the man who finds himself in such a position. His guide-book may possibly give him the names of the restaurants, but it does no more. My co-author and myself attempt to give him some details - what his surroundings will be, what dishes are the specialities of the house, what wine a wise man will order, and what bill he is likely to be asked to pay.

Our ambition was to deal fully with the capitals of all the countries of Europe, the great seaports, the pleasure resorts, and the "show places." The most acute critic will not be more fully aware how far we have fallen short of our ideal than we are, and no critic can have any idea of the difficulty of making such a book as we hope this will someday be when complete. At all events we have always gone to the best authorities where we had not the knowledge ourselves. Our publisher, Mr. Grant Richards, quite entered into the idea that no advertisements of any kind from hotels or restaurants should be allowed within the covers of the book; and though we have asked for information from all classes of gourmets - from ambassadors to the simple globe-trotter- we have not listened to any man interested directly or indirectly in any hotel or restaurant.

I have chosen the authors’ review of Romania to give you today. I don’t believe I have ever covered Romanian food (or rather, an outsider’s view of Romanian food) in any previous post, so here goes:

In Roumania you must never be astonished at the items set down in the bill of fare, and if "bear" happens to be one try it, for bruin does not make at all bad eating. The list of game is generally surprisingly large, and one learns in Roumania the difference there is in the venison which comes from the different breeds of deer. Caviar, being the produce of the country, is a splendid dish, and you are always asked which of the three varieties, easily distinguishable by their variety of colour, you will take. A caviar salade is a dish very frequently served. The following are some of the dishes of the country:- Ciulama,  chicken with a sauce in which flour and butter are used; Scordolea, in which crawfish, garlic, minced nuts, and oil all play a part; Baclava, a cake of almonds served with sirop of roses. These three dishes, though now Roumanian, were originally introduced from Turkey. Ardei Ungelute is a dish of green pepper, meat, and rice; Sarmalute are vine leaves filled with meat and served with a preparation of milk; Militei is minced beef fried on a grill in the shape of a sausage. Cheslas and Mamaliguzza, the food of the peasant, much resemble the Italian Polenta and are eaten with cold milk. Ghiveci, a ragout with all kinds of vegetables mixed in it, is a great dish of the country.


When in Bucarest, as it should be spelt, go straight to Capsa's in the Calea Victorici, a first-rate restaurant. It is perhaps not quite equal to the best of the London and Paris establishments, but the cooking is really good, and certainly superior to anything you can find in Vienna. The French chef will provide you with a recherche dinner ordered a la carte. Fresh caviar is in perfection there, as also the sterlet or young sturgeon; the latter is caught in the Danube, and is a most dainty and much prized fish. The prices are fairly high, - about 2 francs 50 centimes for an ordinary plat. The wines are all rather expensive, that of the country being perhaps best left alone, although the Dragasani is a wine which tastes strangely at first, but to which one becomes used. A liqueur tasting of carraway seeds is pleasant, but that made from the wild plum is not to be rashly ventured upon.

This is the menu of a little dinner for two eaten at Capsa's:-

      Ciorba de Poulet.
      Turbot a la Grec.
    Mousaka aux Courzes.

And this a breakfast at the same establishment:--

    Glachi de Carpe (froid).
         Oeufs Polenta.
     Aubergines aux Tomates.

There is also a confectioner's shop kept by Capsa, who was for some considerable time at Boissier's in Paris, afterwards returning to Bucarest and opening this establishment. It is as good as that of any Parisian confiseur, with the result that all Bucarest are his customers, and his business is an extremely lucrative one.

A cheap dinner can be obtained, a la carte, at the Hotel Continental in the Calea Victorici, opposite the Theatre Nationale.

Jordachi's in the Strada Coatch, and Enesco's in the Strada Sfantu Tonica, also deserve mention; they are cheap, second-rate restaurants, but you get there the dishes of the country. In both these places a capital band of Tziganes play the music of the country. Enesco's is, perhaps, the better of the two. If you require any specialites the waiter will be sure to know what to advise; one dish, called Brochettes de Filet, may be recommended. The waiters at Enesco's and Jordachi's are intelligible in German and Roumanian; at the Continental, and especially at Capsa's, they are mostly French.

If you pay a call in Bucarest you will be offered Dolceazza, a kind of sweetmeat, and a glass of water.

I had not come across the word ‘ciorba’ (ciorbă) before I saw the dinner menu given in this book.  It is apparently a sour soup made with a variety of ingredients – the key feature that distinguishes it from ‘ordinary’ soup is the sourness.  Sadly, I have been unable to find a historical recipe, written in English, for a Romanian sour soup. Instead, I give you a version of ‘baklava’ (spelled with a ‘P’) from Foods of the foreign-born in relation to health, by Bertha M. Wood (Boston, 1922)

(Used by all Near East)
2 eggs                          2 teaspoons baking powder
I cup butter                 2 tablespns. melted butter
I pint milk                   1 ½ cups chopped nuts
Flour                            ½ cup sugar or ½ cup honey

Mix two eggs, one cup butter, one pint milk, as much flour as you need, and two teaspoons baking powder. Let stand overnight. Make into balls. Mix cornstarch and flour, and put on board. Roll balls out thin. Put into pan and cover with melted butter, chopped nuts, and sugar or honey. Add another layer of dough, then one of nuts — pistachio, walnuts, or pinto, etc. Cut in pieces, diamond shaped. Bake. Serve with syrup.

Perhaps we will accompany the ‘Anglo-Saxon gourmet’ on a visit to another European destination tomorrow?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Naval Dinner, 1868.

It is some time since I gave you a menu, and today’s should appeal to those of you with an interest in military history too. My source is a newspaper from New Zealand – the Daily Southern Cross, of 25 July 1868.

On Thursday evening [July 23] the officers of the 2nd battalion of the 18th Royal Irish entertained Commander Villemsens and officers of the French ship 'Dorade,' at present in harbour, to dinner at their mess-rooms, Karangahape Road. The dinner was served in a most recherché style by Mr. Gallagher, caterer to the mess. The bill of fare was as follows : —Mock turtle soup, boiled mullet, sirloin beef, lamb cutlets, sausages a la pomme de terre, curried chicken, braised turkey, ham, rissoles of veal and ham, devilled kidney, fricasseed turkey, fried gar fish, roast saddle of mutton, roast pheasants, curaçoa jelly, tartlets, apple tart, Italian cream, pineapple jelly, Cape gooseberry tart, anchovy toasts ; a superb dessert of all fruits in season. The band, under Mr. Quinn, performed a choice selection of music. The usual toasts of the Queen and Royal Family were duly honoured, also the toast of H. I.M. the Emperor of the French, and appropriate tunes played by the band. The proceedings terminated at a late hour, all having thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

The menu is typical of the Victorian era, with nothing unsettlingly novel or innovative presented to the diners. Curaçoa Jelly appears to have been a popular dish at the time, and with the substitution of gelatin for the labour-intensive calves’ feet jelly it would make a fine dessert for today.

Curaçoa Jelly.
Take two calves' feet, chop them into convenient pieces, and put them into a saucepan with rather more than two quarts of cold water; set the saucepan on the fire; directly the water boils throw it away, and wash the pieces carefully; then put them on again with two quarts of cold water, and let them boil slowly for three hours, removing the scum carefully during the process; then strain the liquor into a basin, and when quite cold and set, take off all the fat, and wash the top of the jelly with a little hot water, so as to get rid of every vestige of fat. Put the jelly in a saucepan on the fire; directly it is melted add sugar to taste, the juice and the thin rind of one lemon, and the whites of three eggs whisked to a froth. Beat up the mixture till it boils. Place the thin rind of a lemon at the bottom of a jelly bag, and pour the mixture over it. The bag should have been previously rinsed in boiling water, and the first half-pint of jelly that comes through must be returned to the bag. If the jelly does not come out quite clear, the operation of straining must be repeated. Add sufficient dry Curaçoa to the clarified jelly to flavour it well. Fill a mould with it and place it on ice to set.

Practical dinners: with plain directions for their preparation (London, 1887)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Things to do with Marmalade.

There is no need for me to repeat here all of the ethical, economic, and environmental justifications for avoiding food waste. Anyone who doesn’t already understand them is a lost cause. I can, however, give you an additional reason for saving that last spoonful of good gravy, soup, sauce, or condiment. It is an idea with no global implications, to be sure, but it deserves consideration none the less.

Flavour. Throwing out the last little bit of something delicious is throwing out flavour. A bit of flavour that just might be what your recipe needs. Today I ask you to consider marmalade. Of course, a spoonful or two of a jam is just the right amount to spread on your toast, so in theory “leftover marmalade” should be a nonsense phrase. There may be a potent temptation to throw out a not-quite empty jar of a conserve, I suppose. Perhaps you have returned from a visit to the Farmers’ Market with a new flavour of jam, but feel that the old jar should be finished off first? Perhaps you are about to make a new batch of marmalade and need to recycle that jar? Perhaps, of course, you just love marmalade and want to explore new ways of using that lovely citrus tang to your cooking.

In a couple of previous posts we have had Marmalade Pudding (here, and here,) so I wont give another pudding today.

 How about this intriguing idea?

When eggs are scarce, use one egg and a tablespoonful of marmalade instead of two or three eggs in a cake. This makes it light and gives the cake a delightful flavour.
Worker (Brisbane, Qld) 31 May 1938
And this:
Marmalade Sauce.
Take 3 tablespoonfuls of marmalade, mix with it about 2 tablespoonfuls of water and 1 of sherry, warm over the fire; if not sweet enough, add a little sifted sugar. A few drops of lemon juice is an improvement to it.
The Menu Cookery Book (1885)

Another tasty idea, from a most interesting source:

Jam or Marmalade Pie.
Take two tablespoonfuls of jam or marmalade, beat up one egg, add an ounce of butter, previously melted. Beat altogether. Line a plate with good paste and fill with the mixture.
The Phrenological Magazine, Volume 5 (1889)

If you are a marmalade fanatic with a jar to spare, how about this?

Marmalade Bread.
Sift together 3 cups flour, 4 teaspoons baking powder and ½ teaspoon salt. Add grated rind and juice of 1 orange to 1 well beaten egg; stir in ¼ cup brown sugar and 1 cup milk. Blend flour mixture with egg mixture, stir in ½ cup marmalade and add ¼ cup melted shortening. Pour into greased loaf tin, stand 25 minutes and bake in moderate oven till firm to touch.
Chronicle (Adelaide, SA) 8 July 1948

And, finally, my favourite idea for a whole jar of the good stuff:

Seville Orange Ice from Marmalade.
Put 1 lb. of smooth orange marmalade into a basin and add the juice of 2 lemons; mix in by degrees 1 quart of cream, pass through a hair sieve, and freeze as before.

The Pastrycook and Confectioners Guide, by Robert Wells, 1889.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Anglo-French Recipes, 19th Century.

The culinary rivalry between England and France is centuries old, but intentionally or not, inevitably each country has absorbed something of the other’s cuisine. I thought it might be fun to look at a mid-nineteenth century English view of the situation, and to find some recipes which perhaps represent “fusion cuisine” of the time.

The London Saturday Journal in 1841 gave a review of The Domestic Dictionary, And Housekeeper’s Manual, by Merle Gibbons, which included an opinion of the Anglo-French divide.

The main recommendatory feature of this diligently compiled Dictionary, (five hundred pages) and, at the same time, its chief originality, consists in the variety of information which it contains as to French Cookery and Domestic Economy; or rather, Anglo-French Cookery, which, according to Ude, is the best system in the world. Frenchmen, we know, dress a dinner, and Frenchwomen, themselves, better than any other people; and France is the highest authority upon matters of the mouth and of dress; but, so beneficial has been the renewed intercourse of French and English of late years, that we have actually improved their science of cookery, this Ude himself admitted, and neither Carême nor any other French artiste can gainsay it; though we admit, that in Confectionery, the French still keep the lead. The author of this Dictionary has evidently long resided in Paris, and his information is as certainly gathered by experience; for there runs throughout this work a current of information, such as has long been wanted—we mean, on French Cookery adapted to English habits. Yet, he has no partiality on the subject; for he loses no opportunity to set the relative advantages of English and French cookery before the reader; and his introductory chapter upon the Comparative Expenses of Living at home and abroad, will be very serviceable to that large class of the expensive English, who cannot make both ends meet In their own country, and so go to reside on the continent for purposes of economy, which, by the way, is an excellent lure to extravagance. The whole of this chapter is excellent, and we believe the lesson it reads to be the true stale of the case—that Paris is, by no means, the place for a man of small income to reside in, if his object be economy; and, that if he wish to play tricks with his fortune, (as Dr. Johnson phrases it,) he had better settle in London. But, the English flock to France - are fascinated with the change of customs, scenery, and general habits; and there is a certain gaieté and showiness about French society, which is just the bait for English persons of limited income, who too often aim at doing great things on a small scale at home. But, a man of easy income, we should say, may do greater things with his fortune in Paris than in London; for Trench party-giving is by no means so expensive as "having a few friends" in England. We arc, doubtless, the richest people in the world; and, at the same time, the most costly in our tastes and habits; Out tables are
better appointed than those of our neighbours; we have massive plate of standard value, whereas they have silver of all finenesses, and of filagreed lightness. Upon the relative merits of French and English cookery, medical men do not generally agree; but in what do they not differ? Dr. Prout, however, maintains that viands well stewed and macerated, are in the fittest state for digestion, and he has a large class of followers; so that the English underdone school is a mistake; though instead of broths, convalescent invalids are now recommended to cat a mutton-chop. Turn to the food of the working classes in the two countries: an Englishman grumbles if he does not cat meat daily—a Frenchman is satisfied with meat on every alternate day, and many in the south dine from bread and grapes, or a pipkin of stewed vegetables: but the English operative is stronger than the French artisan; and we have been assured that in a large work at Nantes, some few years since, undertaken by an English capitalist, the engineers of our own country did twice the labour of the men of Nantes, and with twice the regard to neatness and substantiality.

And here are a selection of “Anglo-French” recipes from the era. I don’t know which aspects of each recipe are English and which are French, but perhaps you do.

Pie Hot Raised, Anglo-Française.
Take the fillets from four loins of mutton, trim and cut them into scollops, season well with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, dissolve slowly three quarters of a pound of butter, and the moment it becomes liquid put into it two spoonfuls of parsley, four of mushrooms, the same of truffles, a shalot, all shred fine. Make a raised crust of whatever size and form you please, and having soaked the fillets in the butter and herbs, lay them on the pie en couronne; fill up the centre with mushrooms minced truffles, artichoke bottoms, veal sweetbreads; pour the remainder of the butter and herbs over; cover them with two bay leaves, slices of bacon; the lid and the walls or sides decorate tastefully, dorez and set it in a brisk oven; when you find the top is sufficiently done cut it off, and lay in its place three or four sheets of paper, and put the pie in the oven; an hour and a half is the time required for baking. As soon as done take out the bacon and bay leaves, and pour in a demi-glaze of mutton, mixed with an essence of truffles and mushrooms and the juice of a lemon; glaze the crust, and serve quite hot.
The Illustrated London Cookery Book, by Frederick Bishop (1852)
The following sweet pie recipe is interesting with its rice and cherry filling:

Pie, Anglo-Française
Take a deep dish, line the edge with puff paste like a common pie; stew a quarter of a pound of rice with some sugar until quite soft and sweet; take a pound of ripe juicy cherries, which pick and roll in a quarter of a pound of powder-sugar, and lay about a quarter of them at the bottom of the dish cover these with a fourth part of the rice, then the cherries again, and so on till your materials are used, taking care to keep the pie high in the middle; cover it with a layer of puff paste, which wash over lightly with some white of egg, and strew a little powder-sugar over; put it in a moderate oven for an hour and a quarter; then take it out, mask the crust with apricot marmalade, and a few macaroons crushed. Serve it either hot or cold.
The Cook's Own Book, by Mrs N.K.M.Lee (1832)

And repurposing a marrow pudding as fritters apparently make it Anglo-French:

Fritters a lAnglo-Française.
Make a batter as follows:—Put into a saucepan one glass and a half of water, two ounces of fresh butter, and a little salt, let it boil, then stir in enough flour to make it a firm batter, keep stirring for three minutes, then turn it into another vessel. Make previously a marrow pudding, while it is cooling prepare your batter, cut the pudding into thin slices, divide again into pieces about two inches long and three quarters of an inch wide, dip them into the batter and fry them, when done drain them, glaze with fine sugar, and serve them as hot as you can.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Good Fish Recipes,1914.

I am home after my (all-too-brief) travels, and have the usual post-fun catching-up with chores and emails etc. today, so my post will be brief too.

From a Queensland newspaper of one hundred years ago this month, I give you some Good Fish Recipes.

Fish Balls.
Ingredients.- Fourteen ounces of mashed potatoes, 5 oz. of cold boiled slat fish, 2 oz. of butter, 2 tablespoonfuls of milk, salt, pepper, 1 egg, breadcrumbs.
Method.- Melt the butter in the hot potatoes; add the milk, seasoning, and the fish free from bones; mix thoroughly form into balls, roll them in beaten egg and breadcrumbs, and fry in deep, very hot fat. When nicely browned, put on paper to drain. Serve garnished with parsley.

Lobster Pudding.
Ingredients.- One tin of lobster, 3 ½ oz. of breadcrumbs, 1 oz. of suet, 1 egg, 1 teaspoonful  of anchovy sauce, cayenne.
Method.- Drain the liquid from the tin of lobster; chop it up lightly, mix with other ingredients, put into a buttered basin, and bile for one hour. Turn out onto a hot dish, and serve with white sauce or melted butter.

Salmon Pie.
Ingredients.- One tin salmon, 3 oz. grated cheese, 1 tablespoonful of vinegar, cayenne, salt, breadcrumbs.
Method.- Butter a flat dish, spread the salmon on it with vinegar, cayenne, and salt; put a sprinkling of cheese, then breadcrumbs, on top; bake from 15 to 20 minutes.

The Western Champion and General Advertiser for the Central-Western Districts

(Barcaldine, Qld), 25 July, 1914.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Several Ways to use Peach Leaves.

I have a few ideas for peach leaves today - and they will be launched into cyberspace while I am myself in the air, on my last leg home from the UK.

Peach Leaf Yeast.
Peach leaves, used in the same way as hops, make excellent yeast. They may be used fresh fro the tree in summer, but the winter supply should be picked before the first frost comes, and dried. A small handful of leaves, scalded in a teacup of milk, makes a nice flavouring for a cake - often used instead of almond. After scalding, let the milk cool before using in the cake.
The Southern Agriculturist and Register of Rural Affairs: Adapted to the Southern Section of the United States, 1832.

Ratafia Cream.
In a tea-cupful of thin cream boil two or three large laurel, or young peach leaves ; when it has boiled three or four minutes, strain, and mix with it a pint of rich sweet Cream ; add three well-beaten whites of eggs, and sweeten it with pounded loaf sugar. Put it into a sauce-pan, and stir it gently one way over a slow fire till it be thick ; pour it into a china dish, and when quite cold, ornament it with sweetmeats cut out like flowers; or strew over the top harlequin comfits.
The Practice of Cookery: Adapted to the Business of Every Day Life, by Mrs Dalgairns, 1832

Plain Custards.
Tie together six or eight peach leaves, and boil them in a quart of milk with a large stick of cinnamon broken up. If you cannot procure peach leaves, substitute a handful of peach-kernels or bitter almonds, or a vanilla bean split in pieces. When it has boiled hard, strain the milk and set it away to cool. Beat very light eight eggs, and stir them by degrees into the milk when it is quite cold, (if warm, the eggs will curdle it, and cause whey at the bottom,) and add gradually a quarter of a pound of sugar. Fill your cups with it; set them in a Dutch oven, and pour round them boiling water sufficient to reach nearly to the tops of the cups. Put hot coals under the oven and on the lid, (which must be previously heated by standing it up before a hot fire,) and bake the custards about fifteen minutes. Send them to table cold, with nutmeg grated over each. Or you may bake the whore in one large dish.
Directions for Cookery, in its various Branches, by Eliza Leslie, 1844

To every pound of cherries put half a pound of lumpsugar, half an ounce of bitter almonds, and four peachleaves; cut the stalks of the cherries, and put them with the sugar, &c in bottles, filling the bottles with brandy. When Morello cherries are used, after three months the liquor may be poured off, and more brandy added.
A New System of Domestic Cookery: Founded Upon Principles of Economy and Adapted to the Use of Private Families, Mrs Rundell, 1842.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Thoughts on Rice, in 1838.

Yesterday's story on quinoa came from an article written in the 1830's, and in it the "new" grain was compared with rice. Today I give you some further words on the latter from the same era. The recipe which follows is from the same source.

From: The Young House-keeper, Or, Thoughts on Food and Cookery, by William Andrus Alcott (Boston, 1838):-

substance which enters into the human stomach, and which is at the same time perfectly inoffensive, has been more slandered than rice. On the one hand, it has been said to be an innutritious, feeble substance; on the other, it has been said to be an active poison. It has been charged with producing costiveness, blindness, and even in some instances the cholera.
The truth is, that rice is one of the most nutritious substances in the world; as may be seen from the tables in a former chapter. I know, as I have already said, that it will be hard for many people to believe this. Because meat stimulates more, and gives more momentary warmth and strength, it is therefore insisted that it contains more nutriment. On the same principle, it might be proved that alcohol is highly nutritious; whereas all the alcohol in the world does not contain a particle of that which can nourish us or make blood.
Nor does rice tend directly to produce costiveness. The most that can be said against it is, that it is not very active on the stomach and bowels— and in our climate, and especially when trained as our stomachs and intestines are, to the action of substances much more stimulating and irritating, seems to have the effect of producing costiveness. But to the eastern nations who are trained to it— even without the curry sauce so largely used in many places—it has no constipating qualities. Let our children and youth be trained, from the first, to a pretty full proportion of rice with their food, and let them use other simple, wholesome, unstimulating things, and we shall hear little more of its tendency to costiveness.
As to its producing blindness, I have sought, these ten years, for evidence on this subject; but have never found a particle. The nearest approach to evidence I have met with, is the statement of a very worthy old man, that he knew a case of the kind in Maine. But every one knows how many other causes might have contributed to produce such a result as was stated. If this substance could cause blindness, we ought to hear of such facts from China, Japan, and other parts of Asia; especially since the establishment of eye infirmaries by the missionaries in those regions; but no such developments have, to my knowledge, ever been made. In short, I regard the whole as a base slander; and the charge that it produces cholera, no less so. Neither of the charges ever was, or—I venture to affirm it—ever can be substantiated.

Rice Pudding, With Apples.—Boil six ounces of rice in a pint of milk till it is soft, then fill a dish about half full of apples pared and cored; sweeten; put the rice over them as a crust, and bake it.