Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A royal Pullman breakfast.

Today, July 19th …

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth set off on an official visit to Paris on this day in 1938, to confirm the allegiance between the two countries in the face of the threatening war. They traveled by train from Victoria station to Dover, and had breakfast in their Pullman carriage.

Orange Juice
Porridge & Cream
Fried Fillets of Sole
Finnan Haddock Kippers
Bacon Egg Tomatoes
Lamb’s Kidneys Mushrooms
York Ham Saute Potatoes
Tea Coffee Chocolate

The usual royal breakfast fare, or a final comforting meal before they hit French shores and ineffectual French breakfasts? Methinks the former is most likely.

Notice the choice of fish. One each from the two big families – big in the sense of their historic importance that is - herring (kippers) which came up in an earlier Old Foodie story, and haddock, which is from the cod family.

Genuine Finnan haddock (“haddie”) is traditionally from Findon in Aberdeenshire (beware of imitations), and is considered a delicacy by afficionados. The fish is headed, gutted, lightly salted, and should properly be cold-smoked over a peat fire.

Mrs Dalgairns (1840) tells us how to prepare them:

Finnan or Aberdeen Haddocks.
Clean the haddocks thoroughly, and split them; take off the heads, put some salt on them, and let them lie two hours, or all night, if they are required to keep more than a week; then, having hung them two or three hours in the open air to dry, smoke them in a chimney over peat or hardwood saw-dust.
Where there is not a chimney suitable for the purpose, they may be done in an old cask open at both ends, into which put some saw-dust with a red-hot iron in the midst; place rods of wood across the top of the cask, tie the haddocks by the tail in pairs, and hang them on the sticks to smoke; the heat should be kept as equal as possible, as it spoils the fish to get alternately hot and cold. When done, they should be of a fine yellow colour, which they should acquire in twelve hours at farthest. When they are to be dressed, the skin must be taken off. They may be boiled, or broiled; and are generally used for breakfast.

Mistress Meg Dods (1856) would have been horrified at the Frenchified “Finnan en Cocotte” recipe given in an earlier story. Her advice is that they should simply be “skinned, broiled over a quick and clean fire, and served in a napkin.

Tomorrow: The proper appreciation of sparrows.

Quotation for the Day …

“A Finnan haddock has a relish of a peculiar and delicate flavour, inimitable on any other coast than that of Aberdeenshire. Some of our Edinburgh philosophers tried to produce their equal in vain. I was one of a party at dinner wher the philosophical haddocks were placed in competition with the genuine Finnan fish. These were served round without distinguishing whence they came; but only one gentleman out of twelve present espoused the cause of philosophy.” Sir Walter Scott, quoted in Boswell’s Life of Johnson.

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