Friday, June 30, 2006

Luncheon at the Railway Hotel.

Today, June 30th …

If you were passing through Glasgow, Scotland by train on this day in 1898, you might have partaken of this luncheon at the Central Station Hotel:

Table d’Hote
Luncheon menu 3/-

Green pea soup Consommé à la Brunoise

Trout, Hollandaise Sauce Fried Fillets of Sole
Chops Haricot Chops Steak

Cold Roast Beef Chicken and Ham
Cold Chicken and Ham Pie
Pressed Beef Tongue Galantine

Fig pudding Strawberry Ice
Gooseberry Fool Cold Tarts Jelly

Tomato, Beetroot, Potato, and Lettuce Salads
Cheese, Butter, etc.

Eggs en Casserole, Savoury Omelette
Devilled Shrimps, Cavaire[sic], charged extra.

Dessert 1/- Extra

At first glance it seems surprising that there are no obviously Scottish dishes on the menu - no haggis, no cock-a-leekie soup, no oatcakes. It was, however, already the goal of most hotels with any pretensions at all (and this was the "Largest and Most Luxurious Hotel in Scotland") to have a menu from which it was completely impossible for the tired traveler to determine which country or city he was currently in. Frequent travelers will be familiar with the dilemma (“It was the Consommé à la Brunoise, we must have been in Glasgow … ”).

A little book written by the Principal of a Glasgow Cookery school of the time, Mrs. Black, called “Choice Cookery: La Bonne Cuisine.” reflects this generic approach to food. There are a couple of token recipes for traditional Scottish dishes, but it could just have easily have been a manual for the Central Station Hotel chefs, rather than the housekeepers and cooks of the middle class households for whom it was intended.

There is one particularly amusingly named recipe in this book, which would have been my pick for the house specialty.

Billiard Eggs.
¼ lb Bread-crumbs; 1 oz. Butter; 1 tea-spoonful Parsley; 1 onion; 1 large mushroom; 1 Egg; A little Milk; Salt, Pepper, and Nutmeg.
Put the bread-crumbs in a basin, and add to them the parsley, which must be very finely chopped; the onion, which must be boiled, and then chopped very finely; the butter, which must be melted; and stir all very well. Then chop up the mushroom very finely, and add it; add also ¾ tea-spoonful of salt, ¼ tea-spoonful of pepper, a little nutmeg; beat up the egg and stir it in.
If necessary, add a little milk to moisten the whole. It should be just moist.
Roll this mixture into round balls. Beat up an egg and brush them over with it; roll them in fine bread-crumbs, and fry in smoking hot fat.

On Monday: The end of the Auk.

Quotation for the Day …

A soup so thick you could shake its hand and stroll with it before dinner . Robert Crawford, From his poem "Scotch Broth":

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Chicken Tetrazzini.

Today, June 29th …

Today in 1871 was the birthday of the enormously popular opera star Luisa Tetrazzini, after whom the dish Chicken Tetrazzini is named. There is no doubt that the dish was named in her honour, but as with Chicken Marengo, which was undoubtedly named for the battle, all else is myth mixed with conjecture and imagination. Although recipe details vary, it is essentially a dish of chicken, pasta, and mushrooms in a cream sauce.

It is certainly an American dish, and was probably invented in San Francisco where Luisa won the hearts of the general public with her performance outside the San Francisco Chronicle building on Christmas Eve 1910. Strangely, Victor Hertzler’s “Hotel St Francis Cookbook” of 1919 does not mention it - although it does mention Potatoes Tetrazzini and Peach Tetrazzini - perhaps reflecting professional jealousy, as one version of the story says that the chicken dish was invented at that other famous SF hotel – the Palace.

Just what is it that qualifies a dish as “new” and worthy of a special appellation? Chicken and pasta dishes were hardly new, even then. So, in the absence of anything resembling an authentic, definitive recipe for Chicken Tetrazzini, here is the authentic, definitive recipe from Victor Hertzler for “Chicken Caruso” – a dish of chicken, pasta, and mushrooms:

Spaghetti Caruso.
Boil a pound of whole spaghetti in salt water. Soak one pound of dried mushrooms over night. Heat in a casserole two ounces of butter, add a chopped shallot and a little garlic. When hot add the mushrooms and three peeled and cut up tomatoes, and simmer for five minutes. Then add the cooked spaghetti and two cups of grated parmesan cheese, season with salt and white pepper, and serve very hot.

And for no other reason than it is a non-eponymous dish of chicken, pasta, and mushrooms, this recipe from “The International Jewish Cook Book” by Florence Greenbaum (1919):
Chicken with Spaghetti en Casserole.
Prepare and truss a young chicken, as if for roasting. Put it in a casserole, and pour over it two tablespoons of olive oil, a cup of white wine, a cup of bouillon, salt and cayenne to taste, one spoon of dried mushrooms soaked in one cup of water and chopped fine, and one-half can of mushrooms. Cover tightly and simmer in the oven for about an hour, turning the chicken occasionally; add a dozen olives and a tablespoon of chicken-fat, smoothed with one tablespoon of flour, and bring to a boil. Remove the chicken and add about a pint of boiled spaghetti to the sauce. Place the chicken on a platter, surround with the spaghetti, and serve

Tomorrow: Luncheon at the Railway Hotel.

Quotation for the Day …

Everything you see I owe to spaghetti. Sophia Loren.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Scarcity Root.

Parson James Woodforde of Norfolk has left us with a wonderful legacy of descriptions of the food of the rural middle class in the second half of the 18th century, but on this day in 1787 he noted in his diary something of interest to himself as a farmer.

"Sr Wm. Jernegan sent me by Mr. custance a Treatise on the Plant called Scarcity Root"

The good parson was very up-to-date with his agricultural reading: the treatise was undoubtedly that of the Abbe de Commerell, who wrote the first known description in 1787 of a variety of yellow beet that was proving very useful as a fodder crop in the Rhineland. The origin of the name is interesting: originally "mangold wurzel", or "root of the beet", in a Chinese whispers sort of way it underwent a transformation to "mangel wurzel", meaning "Scarcity root", which was even more appropriate as the plant was able "to constantly thrive, and to produce a very great crop, even when other kinds of roots and vegetables fail, and when there is a general scarcity of forage".

Although this "edible and salutary" plant was primarily grown as animal fodder, it was edible for humans too. Although one writer did suggest it migh also "furnish an agreeable variety to the tables of the opulent", it eas the poor who were the usual recipients of this new agricultural largesse. The root itself may have been
cheap and wholesome", but it must also have been a culinary challenge; the leaves however were said to "exceed spinach", and the stems and stalks of the larger leaves "eat like asparagus".

Virtuously wholesome the root may have been, but delicious and appetising - possibly not. Time-honoured ways of dealing with very ordinary edibles include making them into alcohol, and pickling them. As befits its German origins, here is a recipe from "Mary at the farm and book of recipes compiled during her visit among the 'Pennsylvania Germans'", by Edith M. Thomas (1915)

Pickled Mangelwurzel.
A vegetable in taste, very similar to very sweet, red beets; in shape, greatly resembling carrots. Wash the manglewurzel and place in a stew-pan with boiling water ad cook until tender (allow about an inch of top to remain when preparing to cook). Skin the mangelwurzel, slice and pour over the following, which has been heated i a stew-pan over the fire: One cup of vinegar and water combined, one tablespoonful of sugar, one teaspoonful of salt, a dust of pepper. Stand aside till cold then serve. Or serve hot like buttered beets.

Tomorrow: Chicken Tetrazzini.

Post-Script ...

As for the alcohol, Mrs Dalgairns - who gave us a cheap treacle beer recipe in the March 30th story - also gives us a very canny Scots recipe for even cheaper mangel-wurzel beer.

Mangel-wurzel beer.
For a ten-gallon cask, boil in fourteen gallons of water sixty pounds of mangel-wurzel, which has been well washed and sliced across, putting some kind of weight on the roots to keep them under water; having boiled an hour and a half, they may be taken out, well broken, and all the liquor pressed from the roots; put it, and that in which they were boiled, on again to boil, with four ounces of hops; let them boil about an hour and a half, then cool the liquor, as quickly as possible, to 70° Fahrenheit; strain it through a thick cloth laid over a sieve or drainer; put it into the vat with about six ounces of good yeast, stir it well, cover it, and let it stand twenty-four hours; if the yeast has then well risen, skim it off, and barrel the beer, keeping back the thick sediment. While the fermentation goes on in the cask, it may be filled up the beer left over, or any other kind at hand; when the fermentation ceases, which may be in two or three days, the cask must be bunged up, and in a few days more, the beer may be used from the cask, or bottled.
These small proportions are here given to suit the convenience of the humblest labourer; but the beer will be better made in larger quantities; and its strength may be increased by adding a greater proportion of mangel-wurzel. By this receipt, good keeping table-beer will be obtained.

Quotation for the Day ...

In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is strength, in water there is bacteria. David Auerbach.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

An Orgy of Bon-Bons.

Today, June 27th ...

The infamous Maquis de Sade, with the help of his trusty valet, Latour, were in Marseilles on this day in 1772, ostensibly to collect on some debts, but the real motive being to throw a private party.

The real facts will probably never be known, but the local gossips of the time had a field day with what became known as "The Cantharidic Bon-Bon Orgy". Gossips rarely agree on details, but the Maquis had invited either a small select number, or a large one, of guests who were either local innocents or local libertines (or both), and with the intention of inciting them all to a friendly sexual frenzy he fed them either aniseed comfits or chocolate pastilles (or both) laced with "Spanish Fly" and/or other more "genuine" aphrodisiacs.

The planned fun backfired in the worst possible way for both the guests (who became seriously compromised and/or seriously ill) and the Maquis who was arrested and charged with poisoning.

"Spanish Fly" is a green beetle containing cantharides which produce local irritation as they pass through (and out) of body tissues - a local irritation which needs "scratching", hence its reputation for provoking lust. Sweetmeats laced with it were a popular novely in the 17th and 18th centuries, and went by a variety of names: pilles galants, pastilles de Richelieu, pastilles de serail (seraglio). It has, apparently, a bitter taste, so it seems more likely to this writer that the more strongly flavoured aniseed comfits were the vehicle.

Comfits without this special additive have a much longer and more noble history. They are essentially sugar-coated seeds such as caraway, aniseed, and coriander, and were often brightly coloured.

Here is a basic recipe from John Nott's "The cooks and confectioners dictionary: or, the accomplish'd housewives companion ... " (1724)

To make Carraway-Confects.

Having a deep Brass-pan with Handles, tinn'd over, with a Slice and Ladle of the same Metal, set it over a Chafing-dish of Coals; put into the Pan three Pound of double refin'd Sugar in fine powder, with a Pint of Rosewater or Spring-water, stirring it till it is moistened and suffering it to boil; then take half a Pound of Carraway-seeds well cleansed and dry'd; then from your Ladle let the Sugar or Syrup drop upon the Seeds, continually moving or shaking the Bason in which they are; between every Coat dry and rub them as well as may be; and when they have taken up the quantity of Sugar or Syrup, and by Motion or Shaking, are rolled into From, then dry them before the Fire, or in an Oven.

Post-Script: Accomplish't housewives may prefer the more detailed instructions found in Hannah Wolley's "The queen-like closet: or, rich cabinet stored with all manner of rare receipts for preserving, candying, & cookery. Very pleasant and beneficial to all ingenious persons of the female sex" (1670), which is on the Companion site HERE.

Tomorrow: The Scarcity Root.

Quotation for the Day ...

Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker. Ogden Nash.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Tomato Figs.

Today, June 26th …

The popular-science magazine Scientific American was first published in August 1845, and it is still going strong. In its early days, it often contained recipes, and it seems a backward step to have discontinued these (every magazine should contain recipes, Yes?). Most of the recipes had some connection with manufacturing, and many with methods of food preservation which was of huge interest at the time.

In the edition published on this day in 1852, there was an interesting recipe for preparing tomatoes in the form of a sweet preserve, “like figs.” A few decades later when a U.S. court decided that the tomato was a vegetable (a decision that clearly had tariff benefits at the time), one of the justifications was that “any plant or part thereof eaten during the main dish is a vegetable … If it is eaten at any other part of the meal it is a fruit”.

It is certainly the case that the tomato usually appears in the “savoury” part of the meal, but as always, it is the exception that demonstrates the rule. An earlier Old Foodie story that discussed the “tomato is a vegetable” decision, included a recipe for “Green Tomatoes for Pies”. This recipe from the Scientific American is most unusual in that it is a combination of drying and sugaring methods. The method doesn’t seem to have made its way into modern books – or if it has, TOF has missed it.

Tomato Figs.

The following is the method of preserving tomatoes in Bermuda, and thereby manufacturing a sweet preserve something like figs:-Take six pounds of sugar to one peck (or sixteen pounds) of the fruit, scald and removethe skin of the fruit in the usual way, cook them over a fire, their own juice being sufficient without the addition of water, until the sugar penetrates and they are clarified, they are then shaken out, spread on dishes, flattened, and dried in the sun. A small quantity of the syrup should be occasionally sprinkled over them whilst drying, after which pack them down in boxes, treating each layer with powdered sugar. The syrup is afterwards concentrated and bottled for use. They keep from year to year, and retain their flavor surprisingly, which is nearly that of the best quality of fresh figs. The pear-shaped or single tomatoes answer the purpose best. Ordinary brown sugar may be used, a large portion of which is retained in the syrup.

Would you eat this “during the main dish”, or as a sweetmeat?

Tomorrow: An Orgy of Bon-Bons.

Quotation for the Day …

Shape is a good part of the fig's delight. Jane Grigson

Friday, June 23, 2006

Midsummer Freeze.

Today, June 23rd …

It is Solstice time, the night to pick magical herbs, make love potions, and frolic in the balmy night air … in the Northern hemisphere that is. In the Southern hemisphere it is cold, and somehow it seems a cheat, food-wise, for what would be appropriate in this winter season has already been misappropriated for the mid-summer/Christmas season.

In the interests of our global citizenship, The Old Foodie suggests “snow-themed” food for all of us – symbolic of the winter in the south, and desirable in the heat of the north. Apples are available everywhere, in some form or other, all year round, so they are appropriate too.

From a great range of choices from many centuries, here are two very different dishes:

From “A Book of Cookrye” (1591)

To make a dish of Snow
Take a pottle of sweet thick Cream, and the white of eight Egs, and beate them altogether with a spoone, then put them into your Creme with a dish full of Rosewater and a dish full of Sugar withall, then take a stick and make it clean, and then cut it in the end four square, and therwith beat all the aforesaid things together, and ever as it ariseth, take it off, and put it into a Cullender, this doon, take a platter and set an Apple in the midst of it, and stick a thick bush of Rosemary in the Apple. Then cast your Snow upon the Rosemary & fill your platter therwith, and if you have wafers, cast some withall, and so serve them forth.

From Elizabeth Raffald’s “The Experienced English Housewife” (1769)*

To make Snowballs.
Pare five large baking apples, take out the cores with a scoop, fill the holes with orange or quince marmalade. Then make a little good hot paste and roll your apples in it, and make your crust of an equal thickness and put them in a dripping pan. Bake them in a moderate oven. When you take them out make icing for them the same way as for the plum cake, and ice them all over with it about a quarter of an inch thick. Set them a good distance from the fire till they are hardened, but take care you don’t let them brown. Put one in the middle of a china dish and the other four round it. Garnish them with green sprigs and small flowers.

On Monday: Tomato Figs.

Above and Beyond …

Elizabeth Raffald also has a recipe for “A dish of Snow”.

Cassell’s “Dictionary of Cookery” (1870’s) has (amongst other "Snow" recipes: "Snow, Apple", and "Snow Cake"

Quotation for the Day …

The height of luxury was reached in the winter afternoons … lying in a tin bath in front of a coal fire, drinking tea, and eating well-buttered crumpets is an experience few can have today. J.C.Masterman.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Jubilee Lunch (and Dinner).

Today, June 22nd …

Immense wealth, battalions of servants, awesome political power and very blue blood would have a downside you know. What if you had to sit down to this lunch?:

Consommé à la Sarah Bernhardt
Entrées Chaudes
Côteletes d’agneau panes et sautées
Boeuf braise, sauce au persil
Kalbsbraten mit Spargel
Entrées Froides
Chaudfroid de poulets
Mayonnaise de homards
Roulades à la Renaissance
Hure de sanglier à la Royale
Asperges à la hollandaise. Pommes de terre
Riz au lait à la canella
Kalteschaale von Frűchten
Hot and Cold Roast Fowls, Tongue, Cold Beef, Salade.

… and then you had to sit down to this at dinner?

Bernoise à l’Impératrice. Parmentier.
Whitebait Filets de saumon à la norvégienne
Timbales à la Monte-Carlo
Cailles à la Duxele
Poulets à la Demidoff
Roast Beef
Poulardes farcies
Pois sautés au beurre. Pouding Cambacérès
Pain d’orange à la Cintra
Canapés à la Princesse
Side Table
Hot and Cold Roast Fowls, Tongue, Cold Beef, Salade.

Consider the digestive effort. The effort of maintaining the illusion of being interested in the small talk of your “guests’. The sheer fatigue of it all.

Such was the lot of poor Queen Victoria, aged 78 years, during the intense weeks of the Jubilee celebrations in 1897 . Even for one reared to the life, it must have gotten awfully tedious.

There was very little variation on formal menus in those days, they were variations on a theme of stodge and classics. Nevertheless, the menus raise some interesting questions.

Why (again, this question), the menu in a mix of French and English (and German)?

Were the lunchtime Buffet items recycled to the Side Table for dinner?

And what possessed the chef de cuisine to put on the lunch menu a soup named for one of the actress mistresses of Victoria’s son and heir, the often-wayward “Bertie” (the future Edward VII)? Victoria always blamed Bertie for the death of her beloved Albert, who caught a chill when he went to visit his son in college to take him to task about an early liaison which had resulted in a “delicate situation”.

Consommé à la Sarah Bernhardt was said to have been created by her admirer and friend, Auguste Escoffier. It is usually described as a chicken consommé thickened with tapioca, and containing quenelles of chicken (or crayfish, or lobster), truffles and poached marrow.
Strangely, Escoffier does not give the recipe in “Ma Cuisine”. Instead he gives a quite different soup he calls “Sarah Bernhardt’s Favourite Consommé”. The recipe takes TOF well over the 400, but one must make exceptions for a royal jubilee.

Sarah Bernhardt’s Favourite Consommé.
2 pints chicken consommé.
Garnish: 3-4 slices fat bacon, 1 small carrot, 1 medium onion, 10oz., shin of veal, 2 tablespoons melted butter, 1 pint consommé, bouquet of parsley, ½ bay leaf, 1 sprig thyme, velouté sauce to which a little tomato paste has been added.
Put the bacon in boiling water 10 minutes, drain, when cool put into a saucepan. Add the carrots and onion, thinly sliced, the veal cut in small pieces and the butter. Addd ½ pint consommé. Put over low heat and cook until reduced by two-thirds. Add the other ½ pint consommé and the bouquet. Cover and continue cooking over moderate heat. The meat must be thoroughly cooked so it can be puréed. Remove the bouquet, rub all through a fine sieve; mix the purée with an equal quantity of the tomato velouté sauce. In addition serve some vermicelli cooked in consommé then drained and finished with butter and grated Parmesan cheese.

Tomorrow: Midsummer Freeze.

Quotation for the Day …

When ordering lunch, the big executives are just as indecisive as the rest of us. William Feather.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A Lunch too Leisurely.

Today, June 21st ...

On this day in 1791, with royalty becoming dangerously unpopular, Louis XVI and his immediate family were fleeing Paris secretly and in disguise. En route to meet with other exiles near Luxembourg, they stopped for a meal in a small town in Marne called Sainte Menehould. The area is famous for its charcuterie, and especially its pigs trotters, and part of the legend says that this apparently lowly dish was a favourite of the King. Louis, so the legend goes, was complacent about his escape plans and lingered over his dinner far too long. He was recognized by either the postmaster, or the stable-owner, or the mayor, or someone else who notified the authorities, and was arrested in the next town and escorted back to Paris to meet with Mme. Guillotine.

A dish styled “á la Menehould” has very ancient origins, and usually refers to something dipped in egg and breadcrumbs, then fried or grilled, and often with mustard on the side. The constant factor seems to be the breadcrumbs. It was already a classic way of preparing many dishes before Louis’ unfortunate last meal in freedom.

If Pigs Pettitoes are not your thing, try this mutton recipe from the very English Hannah Glasse’s “The Art of Cookery” (1796 edn.)

Another French Way, call’d, St. Menehout.

Take the Hind Saddle of Mutton, take off the Skin, lard it with Bacon, season it with Pepper, Salt, Mace, Cloves beat, and Nutmeg, Sweet Herbs, young Onions, and Parsley, all chopp’d fine; take a large Oval, or a large Gravy-pan, lay Layers of Bacon, and then Layers of Beef all over the Bottom, lay in the Mutton, then lay Layers of Bacon on the Mutton, and then a Layer of Beef, put in a Pint of Wine, and as much good Gravy as will stew it, put in a Bay-Leaf, and two or three Shalots, cover it close, put Fire over and under it, if you have a close Pan, and let it stand stewing for two Hours; when done, take it out, strew Crumbs of Bread all over it, and put it into the Oven to Brown, strain the Gravy it was stew’d in, and boil it till there is just enough for Sauce, lay the Mutton into the Dish, pour the Sauce in, and serve it up. You must Brown it before a Fire, if you have not an Oven.

Tomorrow: Jubilee Lunch (and Dinner)

Quotation for the Day …

Any part of the piggy
Is quite all right with me
Ham from Westphalia, ham from Parma
Ham as lean as the Dalai Lama
Ham from Virginia, ham from York,
Trotters Sausages, hot roast pork.
Crackling crisp for my teeth to grind on
Bacon with or without the rind on
Though humanitarian
I'm not a vegetarian.
I'm neither crank nor prude nor prig
And though it may sound infra dig
Any part of the darling pig
Is perfectly fine with me.
Noel Coward “Any part of the Piggy”

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

At the table of the Grand Chamberlain.

Today, June 20th …

François Massialot was a cook to the rich and famous in 17th century France. In his book “The Court and Country Cook”, he describes an “entertainment” on this day in 1690
“in the Presence of the Cardinal d’Estrées and the Ambassadours, at the Table of the Grand Chamberlain and Purveyor to the French King”.

The First Course.


Four in number, viz.
A Bisk of Pigeons.
A Potage de Santé, with a large fat Pullet.
A Potage of farc’d Chickens, with green Pease-soop.
A Potage of Quails, after the manner of an Oil.


A great Side-dish, of a Loin of Veal, half larded and a Salpicon thereupon; garnished with Cutlets of Marinated Veal.
Two middling side-dishes, viz.
One of Rabbet-pye, and the other of farc’d Cabbage or Cole-worts, garnish’d with farc’d Fricandoe’s.
Two small side-dishes, viz.
One a white Fricassy of Chickens, garnish’d with Marinade, and the other of young Rabbets á la Saingaraz.

The Out-works.

A Dish of young fat Pullet, farced, in Cream.
One of Chickens á la Placre, with a Ramolade.
One of Pain de Perdrix.
And one of a Loin of Mutton á la Sainte Menehout.
After having taken off the four Potages, four other outworks were set on the Table, viz.
One of Pain de Veau.
One of Pigeons with sweet Basil in their Bodies.
One of Hatlets.
And a Grenade.
There were also two other Out-works, consisting of Sturgeons prepared, as for Flesh-days, two different ways, viz.
One after the manner of larded Fricandoe’s.
And the other á la Sainte Menehout in thick Slices.

The Second Course.

The Roast-meats and Intermesses are of the Nature of the Preceding.

As for the Potages served up in the Second Service, recourse may be had to those that have already been set down for the three first Months of the Year. Let us now observe, what may be added, as well to the Side-Dishes, as with respect to the Roast-meats.

Massialot goes on to list a large number of alternative dishes suitable to be included in the Second Course. The party would then have then moved on to a completely separate “banquet” course of sweetmeats and fruits.

As for a recipe, what is this thing called “Grenade”? He give detailed instructions for the complex recipe in the main section of the book (and the rationale for the name of the dish), but the glossary summarises it by saying:

Grenade, a Dish of larded Veal-collops bak’ed in a round Stew-pan between two Fires, with six Pigeons and a Ragoo in the middle, and cover’d on the top and underneath with thin slices of Bacon.

Tomorrow: A Lunch too Leisurely.

On This Topic …

There is another menu from M. Massialot’s book HERE.

Quotation for the Day …

The world is progressing and resources are becoming more abundant. I'd rather go into a grocery store today than a king's banquet a hundred years ago. Bill Gates.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Royal Puddings.

Today, June 19th …

With war looming in 1917, the German name brought to the royal family with the wedding of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert was was increasingly unpopular, and on this day the family name was officially changed from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor.

Which quite naturally brings us to the topic of puddings. Right royal sounding puddings to be exact, for it is a universally acknowledged truth that the British do puddings better than anyone else in the world, even when they call them “sweets” - and probably because they don’t call them “desserts”.

Naturally, a recipe from a royal chef would be appropriate, so from “The Modern Cook” of Charles Elmé Francatelli, chef to Queen Victoria, here is:

Pudding à la Coburg.
For this purpose it is necessary to have some ready-baked brioche. This should be cut in circular slices, about an inch less in diameter than the mould intended to be used for the pudding; the slices of brioche must be placed on a dish, and soaked in maraschino. The sides of the mould should be spread with butter, and ornamented with dried cherries and candied citron; and previously to placing the pieces of brioche in the mould, let each of them be sprinkled with apricot-jam; the mould must then be filled up with some vanilla-custard prepared for the purpose, part of which must, however, be reserved for the sauce. This pudding should be steamed in the usual way for about an hour and a quarter, and when done, turned out on its dish, and the sauce poured over it.

Which is quite different from the recipe in “Warne’s Every-Day Cookery” for “persons of moderate income”:

The Coburg Pudding.
Some apples; half a pint of cream; half a pint of milk; two tablespoonfuls of arrowroot, two of sugar, some butter and jam, or marmalade.
Fill a deep dish three parts full with apples sliced very thin, sprinkle over them some pounded sugar, and a layer of butter, and then a layer of apricot jam, or of marmalade; mix the sugar and the arrowroot in a little milk quite smooth, then add it gradually to the cream and the remaining milk, and stir it over the fire until it boils, pour it over the apples and jam, and bake it a nice brown in a moderate oven.

Which sadly leaves us with no room for another very different Coburg pudding from from Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery, or Francatelli’s Brown-bread pudding à la Gotha, and Biscuit pudding à la Prince Albert, or several versions of Windsor pudding.

Tomorrow: At the table of the Grand Chamberlain.

Quotation for the Day …

They bake them in the oven, they boil them with meat, they make them fifty different ways. Blessed be he that invented the pudding - to come in pudding time is to come to the most lucky moment in the world. M. François Misson, visiting England in 1698.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Bloomsday Breakfast.

Today, June 16th …

Today is, as many literature fans are aware, “Bloomsday” - the day that James Joyce fans around the world celebrate his writing, and in particular his novel “Ulysses” - the novel said by some to be the least read, but most significant novel of the 20th century.

The day is named for the chief protagonist Leopold Bloom, an Irish Jew and newspaper advertising salesman in Dublin, and all of the action takes place over the single day of June 16th 1904.

If the stream of consciousness style of the book is not everyone’s cup of tea, neither are Leopold’s food preferences:

Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods’ roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.
Kidneys were in his mind as he moved about the kitchen softly, righting her breakfast things on the humpy tray.

Bloom goes out to the “ferreteyed porkbutcher”, (not Kosher, that) and in the window “A kidney oozed bloodgouts on the willowpatterned dish: the last.” He fears that the customer already in the shop will buy it, but she does not, so he parts with three pence and puts the “moist tender gland” in his pocket – and almost burns it when he cooks it for breakfast.

Offal, and in particular the parts which are scented with urine, inspire horror and disgust in many otherwise adventurous eaters. If you are one of those who thinks offal is awful, how do you feel about leftover offal re-cycled for another meal? This recipe from Cassell’s “Dictionary of Cookery” (1870’s) shows you how:

Kidney Fritters.
Make a batter with four well-beaten eggs, mixed with half a pint of new milk, and flavoured with a little pepper, salt, and pounded mace. Stir into this a teaspoonful each of finely shredded chives, parsley and mushrooms, and a table-spoonful of the remains of a cold veal kidney finely minced, and mixed with half its weight of fat. Beat together for two or three minutes, then melt an ounce of butter in the frying pan, pour in the mixture, and stir it until it is set. When it is browned on one side, turn it on a hot dish, hold a salamander or red-hot shovel over it for a minute or two to colour it on the other, and serve immediately.

UPDATE: You can find more recipes for Leopold Bloom's favourite dishes in the 2007 update HERE.

On Monday: Royal Puddings.

Quotation for the Day …

Take advantage of the gracious condescension of the elegant calf's kidney, multiply its metamorphoses: you can without giving it any offence, call it the chameleon of cuisine. Des Essarts (1740-1793) French actor.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Practically straight cucumbers.

Today, June 15 …

We recently discussed the legislation that determined, in the face of botanical evidence to the contrary, that the tomato was a vegetable. At least actual evidence can be refuted. What is a committee to do when it has to determine the acceptable degree of bend for a cucumber to be a good quality cucumber? Personal preference is impossible to refute.

An EEC committee rose to the challenge however, and on this day in 1988 agreed on Regulation NO. 1677/88, which stated that cucumbers must be “well shaped and practically straight”, with a Class I quality having a maximum arc of curvature of 10mm per 10cm length. How many hours of agonising debate and deliberation did that decision take?

Of course, not everyone would agree that cucumbers are worth any effort at all. Dr Samuel Johnson is famously quoted as saying “A cucumber should be well sliced and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out, as good for nothing”, and Samuel Pepys was convinced that one of his friends died from eating “cowcumbers”.

Nice straight cucumbers would work best for today's dish, albeit it is from the blissful days when no-one usually had to worry how bendy they were. Even Samuel Johnson might have found them acceptable this way.

From William Salmon’s “The Family Dictionary: or, household companion” (1705)

Cowcumbers, to Pickle in the likeness of Mangoes.
Take large Cowcumbers, but not too ripe, nor the seeds grown hard, cut off about one Inch at the Stalk end, and with a Scoop take out the Seeds, and let the substance remain as thick as you can; then make Brine of Pump-water, and Salt so strong as an Egg may swim [float] therein, in which put your Cowcumbers, and let them continue there 48 Hours, cover’d close, and take them out and dry them with a coarse Cloth, put as much Vinegar as will cover them. To one Gallon of Vinegar put half a pint of Mustard-Seed half bruised, Salt according to your Pallate, boil altogether for Pickle; into each Cowcumber put two or three bits of Horseradish of the bigness of a Dye, and one Shallot, with two or three whole Corns of Jamaica-Pepper, then stop them in with the piece of Cowcumber you cut off at the end: lay your Cowcumbers in smooth and handsome in the Vessel you pickle them in, and pour your Pickle boiling hot upon them, stopping or tying them up very close; boil your Pickle every other day for twelve days, pouring it boiling hot upon them, and afterwards once in three Weeks, boil and pour it in hot as before, and by keeping them stopt close they will hold good a Year.

Tomorrow: Bloomsday Breakfast.

Quotation for the Day …

At an English tea-party, according to Sir Compton MacKenzie: “You are offered a piece of bread and butter that feels like a damp handkerchief and sometimes, when cucumber is added to it, like a wet one”

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Chicken Marengo Story.

Today, June 14th …

Today in 1800 was indisputably the day that Napoleon defeated the Austrians at the battle of Marengo. It is also indisputably NOT the day that the dish “Chicken Marengo” was invented. The story that Napoleon’s chef, Dunan(d) scrounged the makings of this dish from the local area after the battle, and created it on the spot, is simply that – a good story. It can be denied on a number of counts: Dunan(d) was not in Napoleon’s service until after the event and the dish was not mentioned in contemporary accounts or cookbooks until nearly 2 decades later.

There is no need for an indisputable truth to get in the way of celebrating the classic dish however, for it was indisputably named FOR the famous event, in the grand tradition of nineteenth century chefs, who also named “Chicken Austerlitz” in honour of Napoleon’s victory over the Russians in that battle in 1805.

One major problem in re-creating the classic dish, is that there is no indisputable list of ingredients. Other than the rather obvious chicken (probably cooked in oil not butter), various interpretations include tomatoes, crayfish, mushrooms (especially truffles), garlic, parsley, ham, and lemon juice, with a garnish of croutons and/or fried eggs.

It seems reasonable to give a recipe from the correct century, so here is the version from Baron Brisse, from his 1868 cookbook.

Chicken à la Marengo.
Cut up a chicken into joints, and cook in olive oil and a little salt, put in the legs before the other pieces, as they take longer to cook. When a good colour and nearly done, add a bouquet of mixed herbs, pepper, mushrooms, and some slices of truffles; place the chicken on a dish, and add the oil drip by drop to some Italian sauce; stir the whole time. When warm, pour over the chicken, and garnish with fried eggs and sippets of fried bread. If preferred, clarified butter may be used instead of oil.

Italian Sauce.
Simmer a lump of butter as big as two eggs in a saucepan, with two tablespoonsful of chopped parsley, one tablespoonful of chopped eschalots, and the same quantity of minced mushrooms, add a bottle of white wine; reduce the sacue, and moisten with a tumblerful of velouté sauce and half a tumblerful of stock; boil over a quick fire, skim off all grease, and as soon as the sauce is thick enough, take off the fire, and keep warm in a bain-marie.

Tomorrow: Practically straight cucumbers.

Quotation for the Day …

We did not immediately come up with béarnaise, Bercy, and poivrade sauces. It took more than a single attempt to discover reduced cream, marinade, and forcemeat. We did not straightaway invent barding fat, the touch of garlic, and the thin slice of truffle under the skin .... While genius is spontaneous, its manifestations nevertheless require the passage of time before glorious perfection is achieved. This is particularly true in the area of food and drink .... Magical dishes, magical words: a great cook is, when all is said and done, a great poet. . . . For was it not a visit from the Muses that inspired the person who first had the idea of marrying rice and chicken, grape and thrush, potatoes and entrecôte, Parmesan and pasta, aubergine (eggplant) and tomato, Chambertin and cockerel, liqueur brandy and woodcock, onion and tripe? 'Cinquante Ans a Table' (1953) Marcel Étiennegrancher (1897-1976)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The English Breakfast.

Today, June 13th …

The English writer Dorothy L. Sayers, the creator of Lord Peter Wimsey, the aristocrat amateur detective, was born on this day in 1893, at the tail-end of the Victorian era. This eminently quotable writer must have loved food, surely? Why else would she say things like:

“What? Sunday morning in an English family and no sausages? God bless my soul, what’s the world coming to?”

“I have never regretted Paradise Lost since I discovered that it contained no eggs-and- bacon”.

The eggs, bacon, and sausages beloved of Dorothy Sayers are merely the distillation of what was, until the Great War, a much larger breakfast spread - the English firmly believing that one must “breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper” – which modern dietitians would probably support in principle.

The Victorian gold-standard was of course duly recorded by Mrs Beeton, and her comments about dishes appropriate for breakfast should be read in their entirety. Several other cookery books of the era had daily menu suggestions and recipes, which are very enlightening.

For June 13th breakfast, if you were from a household of “moderate circumstances”, “Cre-Fydd’s Family Fare”(1869) suggested: “Tongue, broiled ham, fried eggs, fruit, rolls.”

A decade later, Phyllis Browne’s “A Years Cookery” suggested “Potted Beef, Buttered Eggs, Scones, Dry Toast, Watercress, Brown and White Bread and Butter, and Milk Porridge” - this for a family with “moderate income, moderate domestic help, and ordinary kitchen utensils”.

The balance of breakfast then was firmly on the savoury side, and there is one savoury concept much beloved of the English - the Anglo-Indian “devil” – eminently suitable for the peculiarly English final savoury course to a long meal, as well as for supper and breakfast.

So for those who cant think of breakfast without eggs, from those lovely ladies Mrs Leyel and Miss Hartley in “Gentle Art of Cookery” (1920’s), here is a recipe for:

Devilled Eggs.
Eggs, two tablespoonfuls of Worcester sauce, one dessertspoon of French mustard, one ounce of butter, thick brown gravy, salt and cayenne pepper.
Boil the eggs for eight minutes; peel them, cut them in half, and remove the yolks. Make a paste of the yolks, cayenne and salt. Cut a tiny piece off the bottom of each half white to make it stand up, and fill each one with the paste. Pour over them a sauce made of the gravy, French mustard, and Worcester sauce. Serve very hot, and sprinkle them with chopped parsley.

Tomorrow: The Chicken Marengo Story.

On this Topic …

The eccentric William Kitchiner had something to say about “devils” in “The Cook’s Oracle” (1817).

Isabella Beeton's comments on breakfasts are here.

Quotation for the Day …

Oysters are the usual opening to a winter breakfast…..indeed they are almost indispensible. Grimod de la Reyniere.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Corn Talk.

Today, June 12th …

When Harriet Martineau wrote of sweet corn “The greatest drawback is the way in which it is necessary to eat it … It looks awkward enough: but what is to be done? Surrendering such a vegetable from considerations of grace is not to be thought of”, she was writing about a delight sampled by few of her countrymen and women.

The radical social scientist, political commentator, and writer was born on this day in 1802 in England - her French name indicating her Huguenot origins – and must have been introduced to sweet corn during her couple of years in America in the 1830’s.

Harriet was an early feminist who apparently chose independence over marriage, and then, when the family circumstances changed radically, had to earn her own living, which proved a powerful stimulus to her writing career. She made no gender specific comments about the eating of corn, unlike the mysterious Charles Day (who was he?) in 1844:

It is not elegant to gnaw Indian corn. The kernels should be scored with a knife, scraped off into the plate, and then eaten with a fork. Ladies should be particularly careful how they manage so ticklish a dainty, lest the exhibition rub off a little desirable romance.

I like to think that as a writer she would have had some interest in the word “corn”, which in America was “maize”, but in her native England meant “grain” (especially wheat), and by extension anything grain-like or “granular” (think of pepper-corns). Salting meat is “corning” it because of the use of grains of salt which often then appear on the outside (which is why it is also called “powdering”). Would she have had fun with the two countries already divided by their common language?

Cassell’s ‘Dictionary of Cookery’ (c 1870) regretted its rarity in England:

Maize, Boiled.
It is a subject of regret that this vegetable, so highly esteemed in America, is not to be obtained in this country, at least not in a fresh state. It can, however, be procured preserved in tins, and though in that state much of its freshness is lost, it will be much appreciated by those housekeepers who study variety. Strip the stalks of the fibre and the outside covering, boil from twenty to twenty-five minutes; drain, place a piece of toast at the bottom of the dish, and pour rich melted butter over the ears. Maize is in America simply boiled, and served with a piece of fresh butter. One ear of grain is sufficient for one person.

Tomorrow: The English Breakfast.

Quotation for the Day …

Sex is good, but not as good as fresh, sweet corn. Garrison Keillor.

APOLOGY! The "comments" link accidentally became disabled on this post (TOF blames cyberspace gremlins), so if you have a burning desire to comment on this particular post, please email me vial the link in the sidebar.

Friday, June 09, 2006

A Banquet for Mr. Stanley.

Today, June 9th

Henry Morton Stanley, the man immortalised by his famous words “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” on finding the lost explorer in 1871, received a mixed reception on his return to Britain. His reports were disbelieved by some, his methods were criticised by others, and episodes of previous ungentlemanly behaviour were quoted. The British were probably simply offended that he had taken up American citizenship.

Time re-gilds many tarnished reputations however, and by the 1890’s he was on the equivalent of the speakers circuit. On this day in 1890, he was banqueted by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, and the event was reported in detail the next day in ‘The Scotsman’. There was “an influential company, numbering 120 gentlemen” – no ladies of course - and the theme was unashamedly African (apart from the obligatory Scottish pipers who played at intervals during the evening) .

Behind the chairman was “a miniature African forest, formed of tall palms and grasses, which had a fine appearance”, and the menu “while including the usual dishes, had also a number suitable to such a gathering. There was, for example, White Nile soup, salmon with Red Sea sauce, Pigeon cutlets à la Congo, Zanzibar curry and rice, Egyptian quails and cresses, ivory jelly, Niam-Niam cream, and bananas à la Ruwenzori”.

As was usual practice “After dinner, the balcony was occupied by ladies”, whose role was to be both decorative and suitably impressed by the men’s after-dinner speeches.

The recipe inspired by today’s story is from an 1890’s Scots cookbook of “high class and household recipes” called “Choice Cookery. ‘La Bonne Cuisine’” by Mrs. Black. It is for a very decorative and impressive way of cooking leftover mutton - impressive provided you can turn it out of the mould successfully!

[Warning: long recipe takes us beyond the allowed word count – but if an African theme can include Scottish pipers ….]

Chartreuse of Mutton.

2 carrots,1 turnip, 6 potatoes, ½ lb cooked mutton, ½ pint brown sauce, 1 yolk.

Have a plain mould (a Charlotte mould will do)
well buttered; prepare the carrots and turnip, and boil them till cooked (but not too soft) in salted water. Then cut the carrot in inch-lengths, and , with a tube-cutter, punch out the red part into tubes 1 inch long; do the same to the turnip. Now arrange the pieces around the mould thus [see image at top of this post], and cover also the bottom of it in the same way. Have the potatoes boiled and carefully mashed; add to them on the fire, the yolk and a little seasoning, and stir over the fire till the yolk is cooked. Carefully line the mould about ½ an inch thick with the potatoes.

Now put the mould in the oven for a few minutes, to get hot. It must not brown, or remain long, or the vegetables will get discoloured. Then fill with the following hash, and immediately turn out and serve.


Cut the mutton I rather large small slices in this case; put into a saucepan 1 teaspoonful of dripping; make it quite hot, and fry a chopped onion in it till very brown. Add 1 large tea-spoonful of flour, and fry it a little; then add a little salt, pepper, mustard, ½ teaspoonful red currant jelly, 1 small tomato cut up, and ½ pint of stock; stir this till it boils; let it boil 10 minutes, then strain, Return to the pan, put in the pieces of mutton to heat, not to boil; then put all in the mould to fill it quite, and immediately turn out and serve.

On Monday: Corn Talk.

Quotation for the Day ...

Reminds me of my safari in Africa. Somebody forgot the corkscrew and for several days we had to live on nothing but food and water. W.C .Fields.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Good Gooseberry Tart.

Today, June 8th …

The Hon. John Byng (later fifth Viscount Byng) was an eighteenth century gentleman diarist who is surprisingly not as well known as his contemporaries, Samuel Johnson and Parson James Woodforde. He took a series of journeys around England in the years between 1781 and 1794 - to escape the busy fashionable life of the city, to escape the embarrassment of being spectacularly cuckolded, but it seems primarily for the adventure.

When first Imagination fills the Mind,
And Hope delusive leaves slow doubt behind,
The eager Tourist hastens to begin
His fancied Journey to a pleasant Inn;

The Hon.John had a sentimental view of Old England, or England as She Should Remain, and railed against many of the changes being wrought by the increasing industrialisation of the country – enclosures, turnpike roads, and the “improvements” of landscape gardeners. He recorded his impressions and opinions of all these things as he travelled, and of course, also noted his experiences at the coach-houses and taverns where he spent the nights.

Hope certainly can delude the traveller, as we are all aware. Not all of the inns were pleasant, and he notes with annoyance the meals of such things as “miserable stale trout, some raw, rank mutton chops and some cold hard potatoes” or a “fusty old tart of last years fruit”. But on this day in 1789 he was in Southwell, near Newark in Nottinghamshire, and stopped at the Saracen’s Head, (which happily still exists), and all was well.

… put up at the Saracens-Head Inn, at ½ past one o’clock; (having been on my ride four hours and an half), where, to my great contentment, I was instantly Served, in a large Room, with Cold Beef, Cold Veal, and Gooseberry Tart … fared sumptuously …

So, here is a recipe for Gooseberry Tart from the eighteenth century cookbook “The Compleat English cook; or prudent housewife …” by Catharine Brooks:

For making a Gooseberry Tart.
Taking your Crust, then sheet the Bottoms of the Patty-pans, and strew them over with Powder Sugar; then take green Gooseberries, and fill your Tarts with them, and lay a Layer of Gooseberries and a Layer of Sugar; close your Tarts, and bake them in a quick Oven, and they will be very fine and green.

A fine Paste for Patty-pans.
Work up a Pound of Flour with half a Pound of Butter, two Ounces of fine Sugar, and Eggs.

Tomorrow: A banquet for Mr Stanley.

Quotation for the Day …

The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land, it is at last to set foot on one's own country as a foreign land. G. K. Chesterton.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Dinner of the Three Emperors.

Today, June 7th …

In 1867, Paris hosted a Universal Exposition – partly to show the British they too could do it – and the royals and important dignitaries of the world were invited, so that in the end, “Paris was bloated with Majesties and Highnesses”.

Three of the important majesties attended a dinner on this day at the Café Anglais (which sadly no longer exists): Tsar Alexander II, the Tsarevich (the future Alexander III), and Kaiser Wilhelm I of Prussia (accompanied by Prince Otto von Bismarck).

The dinner was prepared by the famous Adolphe Dugléré, who had himself been a pupil of the legendary Carême, and the menu he prepared for “The Dinner of the Three Emperors” demonstrates what can be done when the guests must be impressed, the country’s honour is at stake, and no expense need be spared.


Souffle à la Reine
Filets de Sole a la Venitienne
Escalope de Turbot au Gratin
Selle de Mouton Purée Bretonne
Poulet à la Portugaise
Pâté Chaud de Cailles
Homards à la Parisienne
Sorbets au Champagne
Canetons a la Rouennaise
Ortolans sur Canape
Aubergines à l'Espagnole
Asperges en Branches
Cassolette Princesse
Bombe Glacée

Madere Retour de l'Inde 1810
Xeres Retour de l'Inde 1821
Châteaux d'Yquem 1847
Chambertin 1846
Châteaux Margaux 1847
Châteaux Lafite 1848

No possible cause for complaint there, you would think. There is, however, a persisting rumour that the Tsar did complain about the lack of foie gras – he was in France, after all. The quick-thinking chef supposedly said "Sire, in Gastronomie Française it is not the custom to eat foie gras in the month of June. If you will but wait until October, you will have no cause for regret."

Most of the dishes on the menu are from the classic French repertoire. The only eponymous dish mentioned – the Potage Fontanges, a soup of peas and sorrel - was named after Mlle. de Fontanges, Marie Angelique de Scorailles, one of the mistresses of Louis XIV. The tradition of naming dishes after royal mistresses seems to have died out, more’s the pity, as methinks it adds an extra flavour to the dish.

From Larousse:

Potage Fontanges.
Prepare 6 cups (1 ½ litres) of Purée of fresh pea soup, dilute it with a little consommé and add to it 4 tablespoons of a chiffonade of sorrel cooked in butter until soft, and some chervil leaves.
This soup is sometimes thickened with a liaison of yolks and cream.
Tomorrow: A fine Gooseberry Tart.

On this Topic …

It is the intention of The Old Foodie to source contemporary recipes for each of these dishes over the next week or two and post them on the Companion site, in case an enthusiastic reader wishes to recreate the meal. In which case, The Old Foodie expects an invitation to herself would be fair reward. Will someone please organise the wine?

Quotation for the Day …

The only cooks in the civilized world are French cooks. . . . Other nations understand food in general; the French alone understand cooking, because all their qualities - promptitude, decision, tact - are employed in the art. No foreigner can make a good white sauce. 'La Vie parisienne', 1853. Louis Victor Nestor Roqueplan.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Ices, Baked.

Today, June 6th …

The Baron Brisse was perhaps the first food journalist in the world. Not much seems to be known about him, apart from the fact that he wrote for “La Liberte” in the mid-nineteenth century, and that he published a book called “366 menus and 1200 recipes” in 1868. The recipes were apparently gleaned from various places – the good Baron, as befitted a gentleman of presumably aristocratic birth, did not himself do any cooking – and even at the time many of the dishes were considered outlandish.

On this day in 1866 his newspaper column reported the dinner of a Chinese delegation at the Grand Hotel in Paris, at which “baked ices” were served. The story has become one of several about the “true” origins of “Baked Alaska”.

The basic ingredients – ice-cream and meringue – have been around for quite a few centuries, so the debate is about who put them together in such an outrageous way. Other contenders are a list of the usual suspects:

- Thomas Jefferson, who served some sort of ice-cream with a crust in 1802.
- Benjamin Thompson, aka Count Rumford, in Monaco
- Charles Ranhofer at Delmonico’s, supposedly to mark the occasion of the purchase of Alaska.

Unfortunately, Jefferson and Rumford did not leave recipes for us. Ranhofer’s “Alaska, Florida” – which seems oddly named if it was to celebrate Seward’s Folly - contains apricot jam, cake, and banana and vanilla ice-creams, which is in complete contrast to the recipe recorded by the good Baron, which is very minimalist, and more like baked-not-fried ice-cream.

Baked Ices.
Make your ice very firm, roll out some light paste thin, and cut it into small squares, place a spoonful of ice in the centure of each piece of paste, and fold it up carefully so that no air may get in, and bake. The paste will be cooked before the ice can melt. In this dish gournamds have the pleasure of eating hot light paste, whilst their palates are cooled by the refreshing ice.

In a nice piece of synchronicity, for those readers who like such things, on this day in 1912 the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th Century began at Novarupta on the Alaska peninsula. Cold on the outside and hot inside? Sounds more like the “Inverse Alaska” of the physicist Nicholas Kurti, discussed in an earlier Old Foodie.

Tomorrow: The Three Emperors' Dinner.

On this Topic …

Charles Ranhofer’s recipe for “Alaska, Florida” from his famous book “The Epicurean” (1894) can be found on The Companion to The Old Foodie site here.

The story about “Inverse Alaska” was retropectively posted when the blog was started, and appears in the March archive, so after you click here you will have to use Ctrl+Find for “November 18”.

Quotation for the Day …

I doubt the world holds for anyone a more soul-stirring surprise than the first adventure with ice cream. Heywood Brown (1888 – 1939).

Monday, June 05, 2006

Moffett's Musings.

Today, June 5th …

Popular myth has it that the nursery rhyme “Little Miss Muffet” was about the daughter of Thomas Moffett, a physician and entomologist who died on this day in 1604. It is pure myth, but it is easy to see how the connection arose. Moffett (Muffet, Mouffat) was a physician and interested in nutrition and his particular hobby was spiders.

His posthumously published book “Health’s Improvement” gives great insight into medical and nutritional ideas of the day.

Sea-birds were a mystery with religious implications:

Puffins being Birds and no Birds, that is to say Birds in shew and fish in substance, or (as one may justly call them), feathered fishes, are ill taste and worse digestion; how dainty so ever they seem to strange appetites, and are permitted by Popes to be eaten in Lent.

Ideas of “terroir” are not new:

The best Mutton is … that which is taken from a short hilly and dry feeding, is more sweet short and wholesome, then that which is either fed in rank grounds, or with pease-straw (as we perceive by the taste) great fat and ranck fed sheep, such as Somersetshire and Lincolnshire sendeth up to London, are nothing so short nor pleasant in eating, as the Norfolk, Wiltshire, and Welsh mutton …

Neither is food snobbery:

Barnicles both breed unnaturally by corruption, and taste very unsavoury. Poor men eat them, rich men hate them, and wise men reject them when they have other meat.

Bread, however, was truly the Staff of Life, “never out of season, disagreeing with no sickness, age or complexion”, and a fine inspiration along with the mythical Miss Muffet for our recipe for the day, from “The Compleat Cook” (1655).

To make a great Curd Loafe.
Take the Curds of three quarts of new milk cleane wheyed and rub into them a little of the finest flower [flour] you can get, then take half a race of Ginger, and slice it very thin, and put inot your Curds with a little salt, then take halfe a pint of good Ale yeast and put to it, then take tenne Eggs but three of the whites, let there be so much flower as will make it into a reasonable stiffe Past [paste], then put into an indifferent hot Cloath, and lay it before the fire to rise while your Oven is heating, then make it up into a Loaf, and when it is Baked, cut up the top of the Loaf, and put in a pound and a halfe of melted Butter, and a good deale of Sugar in it.

Tomorrow: Ices, baked.

Quotation for the Day …

Acorns were good till bread was found. Francis Bacon

Friday, June 02, 2006

Crowning Glory.

Today, June 2nd …

Queen Elizabeth II was crowned on this day in 1953, and after what was no doubt an exhausting ceremony for the young queen, the family and guests sat down to dinner at Buckingham Palace. Several very elaborate, and no doubt equally exhausting official banquets followed over the ensuing few days, but on this day, the family dinner could not have been simpler: steak, salad, and ice-cream. To be exact, the royal version was:

Consommé Royale
Filet de Boeuf Mascotte
Glace a la Mangue

Which translated means:

Chicken Consommé garnished with cubes of egg custard.
Fillet of Beef garnished with quarters of artichoke bottoms, tossed in butter with cocotte potatoes and slices of truffle.
Mango Ice Cream.

The plebs on the other hand, were, if they were patriotic, tucking into “Coronation Chicken”, the cold curry-mayonnaise chicken salad dish invented specially for the occasion by Constance Spry and Rosemary Hume of the Cordon Bleu cooking school, and promoted on the basis that because it could be prepared in advance and served cold, Mum would not have to drag herself away the new-fangled thing called a TV to cook the family dinner, thus missing some of the spectacle. Considerate, Huh?

Constance Spry’s cookbook also contains a recipe for the garnish for the consommé, so in case you want to reproduce the Coronation dinner for your family tonight, here it is:

Custard for Consommé à la Royale.
1 egg white, 4 tablespoons cream, seasoning.
Put the mixture into a dariole mould or a tea-cup, and steam gently until set. For a yellow custard, take 2 egg yolks to 3 or 4 tablespoons cream, season, and cook in the same way.

The garnish “à la Mascotte” is as described, so unless the truffles are beyond your budget, the steak dish should be easy.

As for the mango ice-cream, from whence could the mangoes have originated? Did HM’s loyal Commonwealth citizens in India or here in sunny Queensland send over some frozen mango pulp? In honour of that possibility, I humbly offer my own mango ice-cream recipe, sadly not used this past season which was unspeakably bad – even The Old Foodie’s Mum’s backyard tree had only about five mangoes, and the fruit-bats got those.

Mango Ice-Cream.
Make a custard base in the usual way, using 2 cups each of cream and milk, 4 egg yolks, and 4 tablespoons of caster sugar. Add the flesh of three ripe mangoes, pureed. Chill and churn as per usual.

On this Topic …

Constance Spry’s recipe for Coronation Chicken, and her comments on the perils of serving something such as curry to guests of “varying and unknown tastes” are on the Companion site here.

On Monday...

Muffet’s Musings.

Quotation for the Day …

A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Day One at the Ritz.

Today, June 1st …

The Paris Ritz Hotel opened on this day in 1898 – one of the greatest, if not the greatest hotels in the world, certainly the ritziest, and surely the one with the most celebrity stories. It is the the hotel that Coco Chanel made her home for over thirty years, including during the Nazi occupation (allegedly facilitated by her German lover), the hotel that Ernest Hemingway claimed to have personally liberated at the end of WW II, and about which he said “When I dream of the afterlife in heaven, the action always takes place at the Paris Ritz” (so they later named a bar after him), and the hotel where Princess Di had her last meal shortly before her death by motor-vehicle accident.

Discussing the hotel is impossible without slipping into an orgy of name-dropping, and no ritzy name is more famous than that of Auguste Escoffier, who ran the kitchens at the Paris Ritz for years between his sojourns at the London Savoy and the London Ritz. Strangely, there do not seem to be any famous dishes particularly associated with his time at the Paris Ritz – or if there are any, TOF does not know about them.

So, what to chose for a recipe?

The Mimosa cocktail was first invented at the Paris Ritz, unless you believe that a French barman stole the strangely similar “Buck’s Fizz” from a London club and re-named it and claimed it. Which would be ironic, because the word “mimosa” alludes to the supposed “mimicking” of animal movement by the moving leaves (so says the OED, so it must be true). Mimosa blossoms are small fluffy yellow things, so can be mimicked by chopped up egg yolks, hence “Salade Mimosa” which is essentially salad topped with chopped up egg yolks.

One version of a Mimosa cocktail is:

2 ounces orange juice
6 ½ ounces Champagne
1 teaspoon Grand Marnier.

What the hell, it might be a Savoy Hotel recipe (another pretty ritzy pub), but here is a later version of Escoffier’s Pêche Melba, which he invented for the opera star Nellie Melba.

Pêche Melba

Peaches, sugar, vanilla ice-cream, raspberry puree, sliced “green” almonds.
Peel and stone the peaches and sprinkle with sugar, Put the ice-cream into a serving dish or individual dishes, arrange the peaches on top, and cover with the sweetened puree.
Note: finely sliced “green” almonds may be sprinkled on top, but dried almonds should not be used.

Tomorrow: Crowning Glory.

Quotation for the Day ...

When evening quickens in the street, comes a pause in the day’s occupation that is known as the cocktail hour. It marks the lifeward turn. The heart wakens from coma and its dyspnea ends. Its strengthening pulse is to cross over into campground, to believe that the world has not been altogether lost or, if lost, then not altogether in vain. Bernard de Voto