Friday, September 28, 2007

Fat in Africa.

Today, September 28th ...

The intrepid missionary explorer David Livingstone was in Africa, near Lake Nyasa (he was the first European to set eyes on it) on this day in 1866. He wrote:

“The chief … was prodigiously fat. This is the African way of showing love – plenty of fat and beer. He brought also a huge basket of pombe, the native beer, and another of porrige, and a pot of cooked meat. More food was brought to us than we could carry.”

A century and a half later we are immediately struck by the meaning of fatness in this story. This chief was loved and loving and generous, as demonstrated by his fatness - even before we find out about his great gift of food. In his own country no doubt the chief would still be viewed in that light today, for in poor countries and poor times fat is a sign of wealth and health and amiability (and is beautiful). Within an affluent society it is the reverse - fat is seen as a mark of poverty or ignorance or gluttony (and is ugly).

This is how it has always been – creating and applying a meaning to something is inevitably associated with making a judgement of it, and we have always been most savagely judgemental in respect of our fellow humans. In another part of Africa (the south and west) were peoples with a language which sounded strange to the seventeenth century Dutch who were vigorously colonising the area. The speech sounded to them like stuttering, and the indigenous people became known as ‘Hottentots’ from the colonists word for that form of speech.

Naturally for the era, the colonists considered the native people inferior in every respect, and ‘Hottentot’ became a generally derogatory adjective applied to a number of things. With one exception. A rather elegant and delicious “Hottentot pie” was fashionable in the eighteenth century. The pie is not essentially different from a common sort of pie made for centuries, and going by a variety of names. I have no idea why for a while it was briefly called after the Hottentots, so if any of you do know, please pass the information on.

Hottentot Pie.
Boil and bone two calf’s feet, clean very well a calf’s chitterling, boil it an chop it small, take two chickens and cut them up as for eating, put them in a stew-pan with two sweet-breads, a quart of veal or mutton gravy, half an ounce of morels, Chyan [cayenne] pepper and salt to your palate, stew them all together an hour over a gentle fire, then put in six force-meat balls that have been boiled, and the yolks of four hard eggs, and put them in a good raised crust that has been baked for it, strew over the top of your pie a few green peas boiled as for eating; or peel and cut some young green brocoli stalks about the size of peas, give them a gentle boil, and strew them over the top of your pie, and send it up hot without a lid, the same way as a French pie.
[The Experienced English Housekeeper; Elizabeth Raffald; 1769]

Monday’s Story …

Quotation for the Day …

"I have no truck with lettuce, cabbage, and similar chlorophyll. Any dietitian will tell you that a running foot of apple strudel contains four times the vitamins of a bushel of beans. S.J. Perelman.

My Book ...

There will be more, much more, on pies and pasties in my upcoming book tentatively entitled "The Pie: A Celebratory History", to be published by Reaktion Press in the UK in late 2008.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


September 27th

The Dow Chemical Company filed a patent application on this day in 1940 for a thermoplastic synthetic resin which was to be used to provide a protective coating to military equipment being transported to various theatres of war. What has this to do with food, you ask?

By the end of the war there was a huge infrastructure geared up to the production of plastics of various kinds, and no-one in the industry was going to simply give up on that sort of investment. The plastic patented on this day by the Dow company was called Saran. Military strength Saran was modified after the war so that it could form thin transparent, self-adhering sheets, and, along with many other similar plastics, was quickly given the appelation GRAS (meaning “Generally Recognised As Safe”) in respect of their association with food. Tupperware had a similar origin. Voila! – a by-product of the war effort was rapidly converted into a myriad indispensible products for every post-war kitchen.

What on earth did we use to wrap up our lunch before we had the convenience of “thermoplastic synthetic resins comprising polymers and co-polymers derived from vinylidene chloride”? We used leaves, baskets, paper, pots, glass jars, and pieces of cloth – none of which ever needed an official GRAS label. I feel confident that our ancestors came to little harm from their food wraps – but I am not so confident about plastics, particularly in view of the fact that we now don’t just wrap or package but actually cook in plastic containers in our microwave ovens.

Perhaps I should review the once-fashionable art of cooking in paper. Nicolas Soyer, the grandson of Alexis Soyer, published a book called Paper Bag Cookery in 1911. The preface to the American edition is enthusiastic:

“M.Soyer’s system of Paper-Bag Cookery has made a great furor in England, and the English press have everywhere given it the attention it deserves.”

Naturally, Nicolas noted that “specially prepared bags should be used” – so there was clearly a commercial enterprise behind the book. The concept was, however, an old one – traditionally known as cooking en papillote. I am sure some carefully folded kitchen paper would work just as well in the following recipe from the book.

Entrée of Chicken.
Cut up a chicken in pieces, dust with salt and pepper. Add one tablespoonful of flour, tomato or mushroom (if desired), or a little tomato ketchup. Add a small chopped onion, according to taste, and a little bunch of bay leaf, parsley, and thyme. Place all in the middle of the bag. Add three tablespoonfuls of water, stock, or wine, according to taste. A little chopped ham or bacon (if desired) will add to the flavour. Seal bag up and place on the broiler, and allow 45 minutes in a hot oven.
Any other poultry treated in the same way will give the same satisfactory result. The seasoning and garnish can be left to the taste of the cook. The viands will not spoil if left a little longer than 45 minutes.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Eating African

Quotation for the Day …

The benevolence of wrapping the partridge in a vine leaf brings out its quality, just as the barrel of Diogenes brought forth the qualities of the great thinker." Des Essarts; French actor 1740-1793.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Extra! Extra! Chocolate Tea Cake!

Some days, because you might have been very good, you deserve a second story for the day.

I have had a lovely evening browsing the beautifully battered old cookbook given to me by Barbara at winosandfoodies when she and I had lunch on Saturday. There is no publication date in the book, but an inscription made by a previous owner is dated 1939.

It is The Woman’s Book, and the chapter entitled Guide to Cookery shows that there was no doubt in the author’s mind that the cook and recipe writer are female. The author is quite clear on another point too – if the recipe turns out badly, the fault is the cook’s, not the recipe writer’s.

“The cook, whether professional or amateur, owes something to the author of the recipes she uses, and that debt is not discharged if the recipes are carelessly read and carelessly followed. Nearly every one has heard the remark “I am sure I don’t know why the dish is like this – the recipe must be wrong.” The recipe cannot reply – can only defend itself by success; and so, in the interests of fair play, it ought to receive just treatment. Accuracy in the weighing and measuring of ingredients must be insisted upon. Cooking may be an art, but it is also a science, and to ensure success we must be exact. There must be no guesswork. An ounce more or less may bring ruin on your labours.”

I do, however, have some issue with the recipe writer in this book – there is a certain lack of clarity in some of the instructions, so perhaps it is not always the cook’s fault if things don’t turn out as expected.

This recipe does sound delicious, with a wonderful combination of flavours – if only we could be sure when and how to add them.

Chocolate Tea Cake.
4 oz Butter.
3 oz Castor Sugar.
3 oz Grated Chocolate.
1 oz Ground Almonds.
Grated rind of half a Lemon
4 oz Pastry Flour
3 small eggs
1 dessertspoonful Orange Flower Water
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
A Pinch of Ground Cinnamon.
A Pinch of Nutmeg.
Sieve the sugar, cinnamon, chocolate, and nutmeg into a basin. Add the butter, and beat together with a wooden spoon until of a soft creamy consistency. Then add the eggs and flour by degrees, beating and mixing well between the addition of each egg. Flavour to taste, and add the baking powder at the last. Pour into a tin that has been greased and dusted out with flour and sugar mixed, and bake the cake in a moderate oven about one hour, until well risen and until it feels dry when tested with a skewer.
Note:- When cold, this cake may be iced with chocolate glacé icing, and then decorated with crystallised violets and leaves cut out of angelica or any other suitable decoration that will form a nice contrast to the brown icing.

My issue with the recipe writer: Sieving of cocoa would make sense, but this recipe calls for sieving of the grated chocolate, which sounds odd indeed. There are no specific instructions for the inclusion of the ground almonds, lemon rind, orange flower water – these are presumably added at the point where the recipe says “flavour to taste” – which belies the warnings about exact measurements. Would it not make more sense to add the ground almonds with the flour?

I’ll make it if you come to visit, Barbara!

Shrimp Cocktail.

September 26th

The Golden Gate Casino in Las Vegas celebrated the sale of 25 million servings of its famous shrimp cocktail on this day in 1991. The casino started serving the shrimp cocktail in 1959, at which time it cost 50c. Inflation caught up with it along the way, and it is now 99c, which still sounds like a bargain when you consider that the cocktail is served in a 6 ounce glass and there is no padding, not even lettuce. It is pure shrimp with cocktail sauce.

What I want to know is – who did the counting? The famous Tour d’Argent restaurant in Paris is famous for its Pressed Duck, and since 1890 when Edward VIII got official serving number one, every guest who orders the dish is presented with a numbered card. The one millionth serving was in April 2003, and the numbers are now beyond 1.2 million. One million in over a century is not as big a counting effort as 25 million in 32 years. I bet they just estimated.

The casino cocktail sauce is, of course, secret, so this one will have to do. It is from The American People’s Cookbook (1956), and is pure 1950’s. Get Retro and make it.

Shrimp with Peppy Cocktail Sauce.
1 ½ lbs fresh shrimp with shells.
Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

For Peppy Cocktail Sauce:
To make about 1 cup sauce, mix thoroughly in a small bowl
1 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon onion juice
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
few drops Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon Accent*.
Chill in refrigerator.

For completing cocktail:
Arrange in 6 chilled sherbert glasses:
Lettuce or curly endive
Arrange about 5 shrimps in each glass. Top each serving with the Peppy Cocktail Sauce.

*Accent is a commercial brand of MSG, and as such could (and perhaps should) be left entirely out of the picture. Although, having said that, there are no doubt commercial brands of ketchup that contain plenty of MSG.

Tomorrow’s Story …


Quotation for the Day …

I think somebody should come up with a way to breed a very large shrimp. That way, you could ride him, then, after you camped at night, you could eat him. How about it, science? Jack Handey.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

On Corned Beef.

September 25th ...

Alice Cunningham Fletcher (1838 – 1923) was an anthropologist and passionate advocate for the American Indian. In an age when women were not expected to stray too far from house and home, she spent years in the field, living with Indian tribes and documenting their culture. On this day in 1881 she was “Camping with the Sioux”, and according to her diary she “Breakfasted on corn beef and coffee.”

We all all know what it was that Alice had for breakfast. She had meat that had been previously salted (or “pickled”). So why not call it salted beef, or pickled beef? Why “corned”? “Corn” is a problem word, one of the words that helps divide America (where it means maize) and England (where it used to mean grain, particularly wheat).

“Corn” is also trite entertainment that appeals to unsophisticated folks (presumably meaning the sort of folk that live in the country and grow corn), or any of us when we are in an unsophisticated mood. None of these explanations bring us any closer to understanding “corned” beef however.

The OED gives a long explanation of the word “corn” which essentially determine that it means a small particle – a “grain” in other words (but not the sort of grain grown as a crop and sometimes called wheat, or is it corn? ….) So we can have corns or grains of salt, for example. Of course, the surface of meat (or fish) preserved with salt can also look “powdered”, which is an alternative name. Salted or pickled beef would be so much easier.

In the unlikely event that you want to corn (salt, pickle, powder) your own beef, I give you the instructions of Miss Corson (1885). As is generally accepted, the best reason for corning meat is to have leftovers to make into hash, so I give her recipe for that too. In between the pickling and the hashing, you have to boil it, but I am sure you can work that out for yourselves.

How To Pickle Meat.
For eighteen pounds of meat, pound to a powder half an ounce of saltpetre and an ounce of brown sugar, and rub the mixture well into the meat; make enough brine to cover the meat, by dissolving in water all the bay salt it will receive; boil it up, and skim it, then cool it, and pour it over the meat in the pickling-tub; for four days take the meat out of the brine every day, rub into it the above quantity of saltpetre and sugar, and replace it in the brine; after four days, turn the meat every day in the brine for ten days; it will then be ready to smoke for eight days, or may remain in the pickle simply as corned meat.

Corned-Beef Hash, New-England Style.
Remove all cartilage and skin from cold corned beef, but do not take away the fat, and then chop it fine. Chop an equal quantity by measure of cold boiled potatoes; season the beef and potatoes rather highly, put them into a frying-pan containing two heaping tablespoonfuls of butter, and stir the hash until it is quite hot. Then move it to one side of the pan, press it firmly together in an oblong cake, and let the bottom brown. When the bottom is nicely browned, turn the hash out on a hot dish without disturbing its shape, and serve it hot.
[Miss Corson's Practical American Cookery and Household Management; 1885]

Tomorrow’s Story …

Shrimp Cocktails.

Quotation for the Day …

Salt is white and pure - there is something holy in salt. Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Monday, September 24, 2007

On Cloves.

September 24th

Samuel Pepys got himself a bargain on this day in 1665:

“…. And there, after breakfast, one of our watermen told us he had heard of a bargain of Cloves for us. And we went to a blind alehouse at the end of the town, to a couple of wretched, dirty seamen, who, poor wretches, had got together about 37 lb. of Cloves and 10 lb. of Nuttmeggs. And we bought all of them – the first at 5s. 6d. per lb and the latter at 4s. – and paid them in gold …..”

I get the distinct impression that our old friend Sam Pepys did not care to enquire too deeply into the source of the cloves. At least the poor wretches who sold them were a lot less poor at the end of the transaction:

- 5s. 6d. in 1665, is approximately equivalent today to ₤ 31.60 UK = $63 US = $75.8 AUD

- 4s. in 1665, is equivalent today to ₤ 23 = $45.8 US = $ 55 AUD

Which means, by my reckoning, the wretches made away with almost $2,800 U.S in today's money. No doubt Sam himself made a decent profit too when he on-sold them.

Cloves are the dried flower buds of Caryophyllus aromaticus, a tree originating in the Moluccas - the original Spice Islands, now part of Indonesia. The desire for them (and other spices) drove many of the early European voyages of exploration, and successful traders made fortunes. Their value lay as much if not more in their medicinal than their culinary use. To judge from the Household Dictionary of William Salmon (1695), they were a great panacea. He says:

They help Digestions, stay the Flux of the Belly, and are binding; they clear the sight, and the powder of them consumes and takes away the Web or Film in the Eye, as also Clouds and Spots: being beaten to Powder, and drunk with Wine or the Juice of Quinces they stay Vomiting, restore lost Appetite, fortifie the Stomach and Head, gently warm an over-cold Liver: and for this Reason they are given with success to such as have the Dropsie; the smell of the Oil of them is good against fainting Fits and Swoonings; and being chewed, they sweeten the Breath, and fasten the Teeth; the Powder of them in White-wine is given for Falling-Sickness, or Palsie, the distilled Water of Cloves is good against Surfeits and pestilential Diseases; receiving the Smoak of the Cloves into the Nostrils whilst they are burning on a Chafing-dish of Coals, opens the Pores of the Head.

Today’s recipe, inspired by the nautical location of the story, is from a famous cookbook of Pepys’ era – The Accomplisht Cook, by Robert May (1660). Naturally, it contains cloves. It is also quite do-able today.

To Stew a small Salmon, Salmon Peal, or Trout.
Take a Salmon, draw it, scotch the back, and boil it whole in a stew pan with white wine, (or in pieces) put to it also some whole cloves, large mace, slic’t ginger, a bay leaf or two, a bundle of sweet herbs well and hard bound up, some whole pepper, salt, some butter and vinegar, and an orange in halves; stew all together, and being well stewed, dish them in a clean scowred dish with carved sippets, lay on the spices and slict’t lemon, and run it over with beaten butter, and some of the gravy it was stewed in; garnish the dish with some fine searsed manchet, or searsed ginger.

Tomorrow’s Story …

On Corned Beef.

Quotation for the Day …

Salmon are like men: too soft a life is not good for them. James de Coquet.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Crime and Punishment in the Kitchen.

Today, September 21st

Benjamin Franklin recorded his experiences en route to Philadelphia aboard the Berkshire in 1726. A very interesting and instructive event happened on this day in that year.

Wednesday, Sept. 21. - This morning our steward was brought to the geers and whipped, for making an extravagant use of flour in the puddings, and for several other misdemeanors.

It is difficult to be sure of the exact nature of his crimes but let me tell you - the cook got off lightly compared to some of his colleagues in history. Mind you, some cooks’ crimes are rather larger in scale than being a bit heavy-handed with the flour: in a previous story we saw what havoc can be wreaked by a shipboard cook with a temper and a cleaver.

Richard Roose, a cook in sixteenth century England was boiled to death in a large pot, having been found guilty of poisoning several members of the household of the Bishop of Rochester (and inadvertently several paupers who received the leftovers as alms) in 1532. The legislation which enabled this particularly gruesome execution was especially enacted and made retrospective for his case - presumably on the principle of making the punishment fit the crime. It seems likely, or at least possible, that poor Richard was the fall guy for one of the movers and shakers of the political and religious conflict of Henry VIII’s reign, as the probable intended victims were well and truly involved in it all.

I am puzzled at how one can be “extravagant” in the use of flour to make puddings. The puddings would have been of the solid, stodgy, filling type made made to eke out the meat supply, and just as likely to have been “savoury” as “sweet”. Perhaps the "crime" was that there was too much flour and in relation to suet in his puddings and they were too dry? A common seaboard meal was sea-pie, which is something like a cross between a savoury suet pudding and a pot-pie – made with several layers of crust reminiscent of the various decks of a ship. But we have had a recipe for sea-pie before (two, actually, there is one in the cook-with-the-cleaver story too) – so what to give you today?

I have chosen an entirely different sort of pudding – far too extravagant for seaboard life, but I am sure Ben Franklin would approve. It is from a famous cookbook of his time – John Nott’s Cooks’ and Confectioners’ Dictionary (1724), and is a sort of multiple cross between bread pudding, custard, and apple-pie.

To Make an Italian Pudding.
Beat half a score Eggs well with a Pint of Cream, add to them a Penny white Loaf grated, and a grated Nutmeg; mix them well together, then butter the Bottom of a Dish, and lay upon it half a score Pippins cut in slices, and a little Orange-peel, strew over them some fine Sugar, and pour on them half a Pint of Wine: Then put in your Pudding, lay over it a Puff-paste, and set it into the Oven, it will be done in half an Hour. Lay Paste also round the sides of the Dish.

Monday’s Story …

The Price of Cloves.

Quotation for the Day …

I seem to you cruel and too much addicted to gluttony, when I beat my cook for sending up a bad dinner. If that appears to you too trifling a cause, say for what cause you would have a cook flogged ?
Marcus Valerius Martialis (Martial), First Century Roman poet.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Meat From The Jungle.

Today, September 20th

The Pulitzer-prize winning author Upton Sinclair was born on this day in 1878. Twenty-eight years later to the day his book The Jungle was published – and what a stir it caused! Sinclair was a passionate socialist and intended his book to expose the awful working conditions of ordinary wage-earners - the victims of expoitation by greedy capitalist bosses in the meat-packing industry. His novel also described the appalling public health problems posed by the slaughterhouses - and as it turned out, this was the issue picked up by the reading public, who were outraged and vocal. A couple of sentences will suffice as examples of the situation described by Sinclair:

“ … the first cattle of the morning were just making their appearance; and so, with scarcely time to look about him, and none to speak to any one, he fell to work. It was a sweltering day in July, and the place ran with steaming hot blood - one waded in it on the floor. The stench was almost overpowering …. ”

“ … In summer the stench of the warm lard would be nauseating …”

Animal activists got plenty of ammunition too from the book too:

“The shriek was followed by another, louder and yet more agonizing - for once started upon that journey, the hog never came back; at the top of the wheel he was shunted off upon a trolley, and went sailing down the room. And meantime another was swung up, and then another, and another, until there was a double line of them, each dangling by a foot and kicking in frenzy - and squealing. The uproar was appalling, perilous to the eardrums; one feared there was too much sound for the room to hold - that the walls must give way or the ceiling crack. There were high squeals and low squeals, grunts, and wails of agony; there would come a momentary lull, and then a fresh outburst, louder than ever, surging up to a deafening climax. It was too much for some of the visitors - the men would look at each other, laughing nervously, and the women would stand with hands clenched, and the blood rushing to their faces, and the tears starting in their eyes.”

There is no doubt that the public uproar over the public health issues exposed in The Jungle that contributed significantly to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act. It is good to know that novelists can influence politics.

The book also did no harm to the vegetarian cause either – and after all that blood and squealing, the only suitable recipe for today is something gentle and vegetarian, don’t you think? From Mrs. Mills’ Reform Cookery (1909), here is an “instead of sausages” recipe, and it fits nicely into the Variations on a Theme of Yorkshire Pudding suggested by a recent post.

Make the sausages the same as in previous recipe*, only using brown lentils instead of German lentils. Put in a buttered pie-dish and pour over the following

Beat up one or two eggs. Add 3 tablespoonfuls flour, and by degrees two gills milk, also seasoning of grated onion, chopped parsley, white pepper, "Extract," &c.

are made of the same ingredients as savoury brick**. Pound well in a basin, so as to have all the materials nicely blended, or put in a saucepan over gentle heat, and mash well with a wooden spoon. See that the seasoning is right. Some chopped tomatoes and mushrooms are an improvement, also some grated onion, ketchup, and "Extract." These should be put in saucepan with a little butter until lightly cooked, then the lentils, &c., should be added, the whole well mixed and turned out to cool. When quite cold, flour the hands and form into small sausages. Brush over with beaten egg and fry, or put on greased baking tin and bake till a crisp brown. They may need a little basting, or to be turned over to brown equally.

**Savoury Brick
Take about 2 teacupfuls cooked German lentils - not too moist. Put in a basin and add a cupful fine bread crumbs, and a cupful cold boiled rice or about half as much mashed potatoes. Add any extra seasoning--a little ketchup, Worcester sauce, Marmite or Carnos Extract, &c. - also a spoonful of melted butter. Mix well with a fork and bind with one or two beaten eggs, reserving a little for brushing. Shape into a brick or oval, and press together as firmly as possible. Brush over with beaten egg, put in buttered tin, and bake for half-an-hour. Or it may be put in saucepan with 1 oz. butter or Nut Butter that has been made very hot. Cover and braize for 10
minutes. Turn and cook for another 10 minutes. Add a little flour and seasoning to the butter, and then a cupful boiling water, stock, or diluted "Extract," and allow to simmer a little longer. Serve with garnish of beetroot or tomatoes.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Crime and Punishment in the Kitchen.

Quotation for the Day …

Veal is the quintessential Lonely Guy meat. There's something pale and lonely about it, especially if it doesn't have any veins. It's so wan and Kierkegaardian. You just know it's not going to hurt you. Bruce Jay Friedman, The Lonely Guy Cookbook.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Bite of Chocolate.

Today, September 19th

George Cadbury was born on this day in 1839. He was the son of John Cadbury, a Quaker who opened a modest little grocery store in Birmingham in 1824, from which he advertised and sold “'Cocoa Nibs', prepared by himself, an article affording a most nutritious beverage for breakfast.” John could hardly have realised in 1824 how spectacularly serendipitous his timing was. Huge developments in chocolate manufacture were just on the horizon.

The ancient Olmec civilisation of Central America are now credited with the cultivation of the cacao tree somewhere between 2 ½ and 3 ½ thousand years ago. The knowledge was bequeathed to the subsequent Maya and Aztec civilisations, and ultimately via the Spanish conquerors of the very early sixteenth century, it found its way to Europe. First and foremost, chocolate was a beverage, and it remained this for hundreds of years after its enthusiastic adoption by Europeans. Several steps were necessary before it developed into the chocolate bar as we know it today – and these happened all of a rush in the first half of the nineteenth century, which is why John Cadbury proved to be a man with the right ideas, in the right place, at the very right time.

A few years after John opened his shop, a man called Coenraad Van Houten in Amsterdam patented an process that resulted in a superior form of chocolate powder – superior in that the fat content was reduced by removing the some of the cocoa butter (making the ‘cakes’ easier to pulverize), and it was also less bitter and easier to dissolve (by virtue of treatment with alkaline salts). The process became known as ‘dutching’.

In 1847, another Quaker called Joseph Fry (great-grandson and name-sake of the original founder of the company) made another giant leap towards the development of eatable chocolate. He mixed some of the cocoa fat back into the ‘dutched’ cocoa powder to make a paste that could be pressed into a mould. The aim was apparently still to make a cake which was then to be used to make a drink, but it did not take long for the public to cotton onto the fact that this cake was pretty good to eat as it was.

The Cadbury family stayed firmly on the chocolate manufacturing bandwagon, and the first prettily boxed chocolates were turned out in 1868. There was a final development before chocolate perfection could be achieved. In 1879 Rudolphe Lindt invented what became known as the conching machine (because of its shell-shape), which gave chocolate the superb mouth-feel that we associate with superior chocolate today.

Chocolate does not have to be eaten out of hand of course. It is still a worthy ingredient in cooking. Here is an early eighteen century idea from the English translation of a famous French cookbook.

A Sea-duck with Chocolate in a Ragoo.
Having pick’t, cleans’d and drawn your Sea-duck, as before, let it be wash’d, broile’d a little while upon the Coals, and afterwards put in a Pot; seasoning it with Pepper, Salt, Bay-leaves and a Faggot of Herbs. Then a little Chocolate is to be made and added thereto; preparing a the same time a Ragoo with Capons-livers, Morilles, Mousserons, common Mushrooms, Truffles, and a quarter of a hundred of Chestnuts. When the Sea-duck is ready dress’d in its proper Dish, pour your Ragoo upon it; garnish it with what you please, and let it be serv’d up to Table.
[Court and Country Cook, by Francois Massialot (a.k.a Vincent La Chapelle); 1702]

Tomorrow’s Story …

Meat From The Jungle.

Quotation for the Day …

Chocolate, of course, is the stuff of which fantasies are made. Rich, dark, velvety-smooth fantasies that envelop the senses and stir the passions. Chocolate is madness; chocolate is delight. Judith Olney.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

No honey for the children.

Today, September 18th

On this day in 1942, the Reich Minister for Nutrition and Agriculture, issued a Decree Concerning Food Supply for Jews. This is an extract from it:

Decree Concerning Food Supply for Jews.

Jews will no longer receive the following foods … meat, meat products, eggs, wheat products (cake, white bread, wheat rolls, wheat flour, etc) whole milk fresh skimmed milk, as well as such foods are distributed not on food ration cards issued uniformly throughout the Reich but on local supply certificates or by special announcement of the nutrition offices on extra coupons of the food cards. Jewish children and young people over 10 years of age will receive the bread ration of the normal consumer. Jewish children and young people over 6 years of age will receive the fat ration of the normal consumer, no honey substitute and no cocoa powder, and they will not receive the supplement of marmalade accorded the age classes of 6 to 14 years. Jewish children up to 6 years receive ½ liter of fresh skimmed milk daily.

Accordingly no meat, egg or milk cards and no local supply certificates shall be issued to Jews. Jewish children and young people over 10 years of age will receive the bread cards and those over 6 years of age the fat cards of the normal consumer. The bread cards issued to Jews will entitle them to rye flour products only. Jewish children under 6 years of age shall be issued the supply certificate for fresh skimmed milk. "Good for ½ liter daily" shall be noted on it.

For the purchase of non-rationed food the Jews are not subject to restrictions as long as these products are available to the Aryan population in sufficient quantities. Ration-free foods which are distributed only from time to time and in limited quantities, such as vegetable and herring salad, fish paste, etc., are not to be given to Jews. The nutrition offices are authorized to permit Jews to purchase turnips, plain kind of cabbage etc.

From amidst this whole, awful list, for some reason I cant explain, the most poignant image for me was the idea of little children without “honey substitute”. Not “no honey” - not even "honey substitute”. I don’t even know what constitutes a honey substitute. Do you? In a Quotation for the Day in a previous post, I used a comment by Judith Olney, and it bears repeating here:

“Once in a young lifetime one should be allowed to have as much sweetness as one can possibly want and hold.”

In recognition of a whole generation of little children who never had an opportunity to experience such a moment of sweetness, here is a recipe from an English newspaper of 1942 – a time when, in England, due to sugar rationing, honey was often used as a substitute.

Honey Chocolate.
Private bee-keepers may be glad of the following recipe for home-made honey chocolate:
¼ lb honey, ¼ lb sugar, three tablespoonsful cocoa, ½ lb chopped home-grown nuts (hazel, cob, walnut &c.), three tablespoonsful stale plain cake crumbs. Put the honey and sugar in a saucepan over very low heat and allow the sugar to dissolve. Boil up, stir in the cake crumbs and cocoa, heating until smooth, add the chopped nuts and mix well. Spread on greased flat tin, leave to dry, cut into squares.

Tomorrow’s Story …

A Bite of Chocolate.

Quotation for the Day …

"Bee vomit," my brother said once, "that's all honey is," so that I could not put my tongue to its jellied flame without tasting regurgitated blossoms." Rita Dove 'In the Old Neighbourhood."

Monday, September 17, 2007

Conversation Cake.

Today, September 17th ….

Today I have for you another little bit of Retro Cake trivia (are you reading this, Patron Saint of Retro Cakes?) from an almost Retro Recipe source – the radio. In spite of the obvious advantages of a highly visual medium such as TV in providing cookery infotainment, radio recipe programs just refuse to die.

There is, in the USA, a long running food/cookery/household hint program called Ask Heloise Radio Show. The current Heloise is the daughter of the originator, who started off with a newspaper column in the Honolulu Advertiser in1959. On September 17th 1959 Heloise the First gave a recipe for Tomato Soup Conversation Cake, which used as its title suggests, one can of tomato soup – and which no doubt (as Heloise I pointed out) has the potential for being a conversation starter, should you need one for your little tea-party.

The recipe was not a new idea in 1959 - without the ‘conversation’ in the title the idea has been around since the 1920’s. It seems to have first appeared in a Campbell’s recipe booklet – and if anyone can provide the original recipe I will happily post it. Variations on the theme have been in and out of fashion in the decades since then: most have spices, some have dried fruit and/or nuts, and it can be made in the style of a Chiffon-cake type if that is your preference. I have come across a recipe with only three ingredients – 1 package of spice-cake mix, 1 can (10 ½ oz) of condensed tomato soup, and ¼ cup water – which is more of a set of assembling instructions than a recipe I think.

The version I give you today is from a newspaper article of 1935. The columnist begins by saying:

“For some reason editors throughout the country report a deluge of requests for ‘tomato soup cake.’ It sounds weird to the uninitiated, but try some and understand that such popularity must be deserved!”

Tomato Soup Cake.
Cream 1 cup butter and one cup sugar until smooth, then add one beaten egg and mix thoroughly. Dissolve one teaspoon soda in one can tomato soup, and alternate with 1 ¾ cups flour which has been sifted with two tea-spoons cloves, one teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon salt. Mix thoroughly and stir in one cup sliced pasteurized dates and one cup chopped walnut meats. Place in greased and floured shallow loaf pan and bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees Fahrenheit). Cool and ‘frost’ with a cream cheese frosting.

It might be one way to give your children more vegetables, and your adults some extra lycopenes (the cancer-protective ingredient that makes tomatoes red), should you need some cake-justification. Either way, please relax and enjoy, for tomorrow is a very serious story.

Tomorrow’s Story …

No honey for the children.

Quotation for the Day …

Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie. Jim Davis (he who produces “Garfield”).

Friday, September 14, 2007

Finally, a Salad.

Today, September 14th

I always crave salad after a long trip – getting good food in transit is always tricky, getting good salad is doubly so. I have a delightful little American cookbook by the name of:


I don’t think I have featured it before, so I thought today was a good opportunity. The book comes in its own box, has a hanging cord just like a regular calendar and a wonderful cover illustration. It is not dated, but is probably 1920’s. The salad for September 14th is:

Cheese and Apple Salad.
Wipe and pare apples, scoop out olive shape forms, using a French vegetable cutter made for this purpose. There should be 2 doz. “olives”. Marinate at once with French dressing. Mix a cream cheese with ½ c. finely chopped pecan nut meats, 1 tbsp. finely chopped pimento, season with salt, paprika, and a few drops of Worcestershire sauce. Shape with the hands into 12 small “olives” the size of apple olives. Arrange in 6 individual nests of small, crisp, chicory leave, placing 3 apple olives and 2 cheese olives in each nest. Serve with French or mayonnaise dressing.

This was not the sort of salad I had in mind. It immediately brought to mind Julia Child’s comment on nouvelle cuisine “It's so beautifully arranged on the plate -- you just know someone's fingers have been all over it.”

Monday’s Story …

To be advised.

Quotation for the Day …

Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe. Anatole France

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mumbled or Scrambled?

Today, September 13th ...

I am at the airport in Narita, Japan, filling in time until my flight - and it occurred to me that I could use some of that time to publish this post. I think it is Wednesday, isnt it? I am not sure what body-time it is, but it is not a comfortable one. Anyhow - here is today's story ...

A recent post about an unseemly scramble for palace leftovers in the mid-eighteenth century created some discussion of the use of the word ‘scramble’ in relation to a method of cooking. I indicated that the OED gave the first use of the word I 1891, but reader Anne M. identified a recipe for scrambled eggs in Mrs Hale’s New Cook Book, by Sarah Josepha Hale, published in 1857.

Somewhere in between those dates, the same dish was also called ‘mumbled eggs, or rumble-tumble’ – again, the authority is the OED which cites its appearance in 1879, in a book with the intriguing title of Indian Household Management, by Mrs James. Another book for my wish list. The use of the verb ‘to mumble’(in the culinary sense, meaning ‘to cook to a soft pulp’) is supported by a quotation from much earlier – from 1728 in fact. It is a recipe from The compleat housewife: or, accomplished gentlewoman's companion, by E.Smith, published in 1728.

To mumble Rabbets and Chickens.
Put into the Bellies of your Rabbets, or Chickens, some Parsley, an Onion, and the Liver; set it over the Fire in the Stew-pan with as much Water as will cover them, with a little Salt; When they are half boiled take them out, and shred the Parsley, Liver, and Onion, and tear the Flesh from the Bones of the Rabbet in small flakes, and put it into the Stew-pan again with a very little of the Liquor it was boiled in, and a pint of White-wine, and some Gravy, and half a pound or more of Butter and some grated Nutmeg; when ‘tis enough, shake in a little Flour, and thicken it up with Butter. Serve it on Sippets.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Finally, a Salad.

Quotation for the Day …

Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember; and I remember more than I have seen. Benjamin Disraeli

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fruit with Meat.

Today, September 12th ….

I am in transit today, on my way home from England and the Symposium. I may not get chance to post for another two whole days, unless the wireless connection at Narita airport (12 hour stopover - I wonder how much I can see in that time?) is hassle-free.

My musings on the “there is nothing really new, culinarily speaking, under the sun” theme of yesterday got me thinking of other recipes that serve as examples. Here are a couple of my favourites – a fourteenth century German recipe for chicken and quinces or pears, and a seventeenth century French recipe for turkey with raspberries. Any modern chefs care to adapt these and let us know about it?

Ein gut spise (A good food)
[Chicken and Quinces or Pears]

Take hens. Roast them, not very well. Tear them apart, into morsels, and let them boil in only fat and water. And take a crust of bread and ginger and a little pepper and anise. Grind that with vinegar and with the same strength as it. And take four roasted quinces and the condiment thereto of the hens. Let it boil well therewith, so that it even becomes thick. If you do not have quinces, then take roasted pears and make it with them. And give out and do not oversalt.
[Ein Buch von guter spise; about 1350; Alia Atlas]

Turkie with Raspis.
When it is dressed, take up the brisket, and take out the flesh, which you shall mince with suet and some little of Veal-flesh, which you shall mince together with yolks of Eggs & young Pigeons, & all being well seasoned, you shall fill your Turkie with it,and shall season it with Salt, Peper, beaten Cloves and Capers, then you shall spit ti, and turn it very softly; When it is almost rosted, take it up, and put it into an Earthen pan with good Broath, Mushrums, and a bundle of Herbs which you shall make with Parsley, thime, and Chibols tied together; for to thicken the sauce, take a little Lard sliced, pass it in the pan, and when it is melted, take it out and mix a little flower with it, which you shall make very brown, and shall allay it with a little Broath and some Vinegar; then put it into your Earthen pan with some Lemon juice and serve. If it be in the Raspis season, you shall put a handfull of them over it, if not, some Pomegranate.
[The French Cook; la Varenne; 1653]

Tomorrow’s Story …

Mumbled or Scrambled.

Quotation for the Day …

Travel has a way of stretching the mind. The stretch comes not from travel's immediate rewards, the inevitable myriad new sights, smells and sounds, but with experiencing firsthand how others do differently what we believed to be the right and only way. Ralph Crawshaw

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Parmesan Cheese Ice Cream.

Today, September 11th

I was reminded of this interesting recipe in an email conversation with lapinbizarre. It is a superb example of finding an old recipe that sounds so funky that it surely must soon be rediscovered and claimed as the new idea of a cutting-edge modern chef.

I am unable to track down the well-known recipe from Hannah Glasse – there are a lot of editions of her works to troll through, and I am, after all, on holiday. The same recipe certainly appeared in many cookbooks of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This is the version from The Cook's Dictionary and House-keeper's Directory … by Richard Dolby (1830)

Cheese (Parmesan) Ice Cream.
Take six eggs, half a pint of syrup and a pint of cream; put them into a stewpan and boil them until it begins to thicken; then rasp three ounces of parmesan cheese; mix the whole well togetherand pass it through a sieve, then freeze it according to custom.

Now, all I need to do is find the recipe for Asparagus Ice, and we have the makings of a wonderful ice-cream parfait.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Fruit with Meat.

Quotation for the Day …

The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see. Gilbert K. Chesterton

Monday, September 10, 2007

Eggs Drumkilbo

Today, September 10th ….

This week, the final week of my travel adventure, I will feature a few specific recipes that have intrigued myself, or one of yourselves, during the last (almost) two years.

Sometimes – almost always, when I think about it – researching a blog post throws more curiosities in my path than there were to start with. One of those was Eggs Drumkilbo – supposedly a favourite of the late Queen Mother. It was often served at luncheons, and also featured at the wedding breakfasts of Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips in 1973 and of Prince Andrew and Fergie in 1986. I understand that since the death of the Queen Mother, the royal kitchens have ceased serving Eggs Drumkilbo.

Drumkilbo is a famous and ancient estate in Perthshire, Scotland. I do not know if there is a connection between the stately home and the current members of the Royal family, or what is the connection with the egg recipe. If anyone does, do please let us know. The recipe pops up unacknowledged on various Internet sites, and in the Two Fat Ladies cookbook, but I have no idea who originated it.

Eggs Drumkilbo

1 lobster
225 gm (8 oz raw prawns)
8 good tomatoes
8 hardboiled eggs
fresh mayonnaise
a little tomato puree
anchovy essence
Worcestershire sauce
Tabasco sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tab aspic powder
white wine or water.

Cook the lobster and prawns. When cooled and shelled, dice the flesh of both. Dip the tomatoes into boiling water for half a minute, then skin and deseed them. Dice the flesh and add to the lobster and prawns. Remove the whites from two of the eggs and discard and discard. Dice all the yolks and the rest of the whites, and add to the mixture. Mix all the ingredients with sufficient mayonnaise, flavoured with tomato puree, anchovy essence, Worcestershire and Tabasco to taste, to produce a good, fairly stiffish consistency. Check for seasoning.
Dissolve the aspic in a little boiling white wine or water, but do not let it actually boil. Stir into the mayonnaise mixture, making sure it is evenly distributed. Pour into a rinsed mould, or a pretty glass dish if you don’t want to unmould. Chill until well set.
Unmould or not, and serve as a first course with brown bread and butter or fingers of mustard and cress sandwiches.

Mustard and cress sandwiches, now there’s another topic …. See what I mean?

Tomorrow’s Story …

Parmesan Cheese Ice Cream.

Quotation for the Day …

Surely one advantage of traveling is that, while it removes much prejudice against foreigners and their customs, it intensifies tenfold one's appreciation of the good at home. Isabella L. Bird

Friday, September 07, 2007

Eating in Oxford.

Today, September 7th
Here I am! In Oxford for the Symposium on Food & Cookery, and looking forward to it enormously. I have been trying to get here for years.
Karen Resta asked for some Oxford food history – actually, if you look back to the original comment, Karen made a lot of requests. A sign of a curious mind, methinks.
I have given you some random snippets of Oxford food history in the past. For those of you who are coffee fiends, the first record of coffee drinking in England was in 1637 in Oxford, and was noted in the diary of none other than John Evelyn. Our frequent friend Parson Woodforde’s early academic life was at Oxford, and he recorded a number of his meals there – one in particular feast of ‘tongue and udder’ in 1763 did not impress, and we have considered why that may be in another post.
I could regale you with a historic menu – if only I could chose which one is the most fun! You might have to wait until Menus from History is finally published!
As I will be staying at St Catherine’s college during the symposium I thought that something on college food might be interesting. I am confident that the food served at the symposium will be excellent, and far above what is normally associated with student accommodation. We have previously discussed the terrible plight of an undergraduate student at Christ Church in 1889 who had cause to complain about the rhubarb tart, on account of it not being apple. Within a couple of years after his complaint, the system had been modernised and lunch was now available in Hall, for a modest cost. A letter from the chief instigator of this change, Oscar Browning, to the Steward of Christ Church, summed it all up:
“Our common luncheon in Hall is a great success. Things are ordered à la carte. The usual prices are Soup 6d., Fish or Entrée 6d., made dish 8d., Vegetables or salad 1d., Pudding 3d. Men order what they like but the whole style is simple. … Members of College entertain out [of] College friends at luncheon. The luncheon is served at the tables used for dinner and the most delightful part of the arrangement is that Dons, Undergraduates & their friends all sit together and the conversation is quite general and I may say unrestrained. … Some men still lunch in their rooms on bread and marmalade for the sake of economy, and some people I know find that the Hall is an occasion of expense. I think it saves me personally about ₤40 a year.”
I decided to give you a recipe with ‘Oxford’ in the title, and had a difficult time chosing: there is Oxford John (mutton collops), Oxford dumplings, Oxford pancakes, Oxford pudding, Oxford sausages (with and without skins) for starters. There also seems to be a rather large number of alcoholic beverages named for Oxford. Now why would that be? I give you one of them today, as we have not had a beverage recipe in a little while.
Oxford Punch.
Rub the rind of three fresh lemons with half a pound of loaf sugar, in lumps, until all the yellow part is taken off. Put the sugar into a large jug with the thin rind of a Seville orange and a lemon, the strained juice of three Seville oranges and eight lemons, and a pint of liquid calf’s-foot jelly. Mix these ingredients thoroughly. Pour over them two quarts of boiling water, and set the jug which contains them on the hob for twenty minutes. Strain the mixture into a punch bowl, and when it is cool, mix with it a bottle of capillaire, a pint of brandy, a pint of rum, half a pint of light wine, and a quart of orange shrub. Sufficient for nearly a gallon of punch.
[Cassells’ Dictionary of Cookery, 1870’s]
Monday’s Story …
Eggs Drumkilbo
Quotation for the Day …
I have just been all round the world and have formed a very poor opinion of it. Sir Thomas Beecham.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Kiwi Food.

Today, September 6th

In honour of my friend and fellow-blogger Barbara of winosandfoodies, today I give you a taste of New Zealand’s culinary history. The Edmonds Cookery Book was a marketing exercise on the part of the Edmonds company to promote their baking powder and jelly, and has somewhat iconic status in the country. It is now freely available online. The Director of the online project, Alison Stevenson, says that there are not many families in New Zealand who have grown up without a copy. The online version is the third edition, published in 1914, and like Australian cookbooks of the era, is more English than Antipodean. You wont find barbequed kiwi bird or silver fern salad within its pages.

Even if they cooked the same old things from ‘home’, early settlers often gave their dishes ‘local’ names. There is one single recipe with a local name in this little book. It is a scone, really.

New Zealand Buns.
1 breakfastcup flour
1 tablespoonful sugar
1 heaped teaspoon Edmonds' Baking Powder
1 egg
3 ozs. butter

Rub the butter into flour, sugar, and baking powder, then add the egg well beaten, and enough milk to make a stiff dough. Place in heaps on cold greased oven shelf. Bake quick oven 10 to 15 minutes.

I liked this one too – another scone recipe to add to our collection.

Preserved Ginger Scones.
½ lb. flour (one breakfast cup)
1 oz. butter
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Edmonds' Baking Powder
Preserved Ginger
Milk and water to mix

Sift baking powder and salt with flour, rub in butter, mix to a stiff dough, turn out on board, cut in two equal parts, roll out, spread one-half with thinly-cut ginger, place the other half on top, cut in squares, brush over the milk, and bake in quick oven.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Eating in Oxford.

Quotation for the Day …

“ Love in a ——— ”

“ Do you love me ? ” said the cup to the custard.
“ I'm just brimming up in you,” replied the custard.
“ You sweet thing,” answered the cup.
“ Delightful.”

A Golden Rule.—Hold fast to that which is good.

[From the cookbook featured today! I don’t quite know what to make of this.]

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Going Colonial.

Today, September 5th

A reader called ‘Pootentate’ asked for ‘something Colonial’, which is a broad brief indeed. I assume the request is for something American Colonial, which is still a very broad brief. I hope my choice is broadly acceptable!

The settlement of Rhode Island, Providence was established in 1636 by an English clergyman called Roger Williams and some of his flock. On the anniversary of two-hundred years of settlement an ‘Indian Banquet’ was held, “in the style of the olden time”, presumably to acknowledge the Native people and the help they gave the early colonists. It was a simple, sustaining meal, straight from the land.

“An Indian mat being spread out, a large wooden platter well filled with boiled
bass graced the centre, supported on one side by a wooden dish of parched corn,
and on the other by a similar one of succotash.”

I felt last week that my story on sunflowers had something lacking. Paying homage to Vincent van Gogh and his sunflower paintings somehow led me to an ‘artistic’ salad recipe, which is hardly an appropriate way to pay homage to the plant itself. I can now redress that omission. As I said in that story, it was the Indians of North America who first domesticated and cultivated the sunflower for its valuable seeds. They often used it along with other grains and seeds to make ‘bread’, but according to the 1920 book Zuni Breadstuff from the Museum of the American Indian foundation, sunflower seeds could also be an authentic ingredient in the quintessentially American dish called ‘succotash’ which featured on the anniversary banquet table.

Succotash is essentially a dish of corn and beans boiled together, and the name comes from the Algonquian (Narragansett) word msíckquatash, referring to boiled whole-kernel corn. Other things are added in modern versions (the human race has an irresistible urge to fiddle with perfectly good recipes) including such things as tomatoes, butter, cream, peppers and even meat, but the corn and beans are obligatory.

Here is the ‘recipe’ for Succotash from the Zuni Breadstuff cookbook.

“The delicacy of the year was the far-famed succotash, made by scraping the milky kernels from the ears, mingling them with little round beans, which had now come to be domesticated, and with bits of fresh meat, the whole being seasoned with salt, thickened with sunflower-seeds, suthl'-to-k'ia, or piñon-nut meal, and boiled until reduced to an almost homogeneous stew.”

Tomorrow’s Story …

Kiwi Food.

Quotation for the Day …

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be. Douglas Adams

Yorkshire Pudding at last!

Today, September 4th

I am heading off for a very brief trip down memory lane today. A flying (well, driving) visit to Yorkshire, where I spent my first 15 years, then on to Oxford by Thursday. Today’s topic is the suggestion of the most prolific commenter on this blog, the slightly mysterious and very knowledgeable lapinbizarre. The topic is very dear to my heart – Yorkshire Puddding.

Yorkshire pudding is a batter pudding traditionally served before the meat - a variation on the age-old theme of fill ‘em up with stodge before you let ‘em at the expensive stuff. The first known recipe for ‘Yorkshire Pudding’ is in Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy (1747). Hannah did not invent the recipe, the concept had been around for a long time, presumably too well known for any housewife to need a written recipe and too humble to justify its own name. An earlier name for the same thing was ‘Dripping Pudding’ – a name that suggests its history, for it was originally cooked by being placed under the roasting meat (on its spit, in front of an open fire), where it absorbed the dripping fat and meat juices. When we use the term ‘roast’ now, we almost always mean ‘baked’ (in an oven), and Yorkshire Pudding is now cooked by baking – often in individual size portions.

There are two schools of thought on the modern version of baked Yorkshire Pud. One is that it should be light and puffy – and made in small tins they are the same as ‘popovers’. Heretics eat these with butter and jam. You know what they used to do with heretics, don’t you? The other traditionalists say it should be a dense batter, closer to the original thing - although without the enrichment of the constantly dripping meat juices and fat it must be a pale immitation of its former self.

A third school says that the best thing to do with Yorkshire pudding batter is to make ‘Toad in the Hole’ It is more usually made with sausages nowadays, but here is a late 18th C version.

Toad in a Hole.
Mix a pound of flour with a pint and a half of milk and four eggs into a batter, put in a little salt, beaten ginger, and a little grated nutmeg, put it into a deep dish that you intend to send it to table in, take the veiney piece of beef, sprinkle it with salt, put it into the batter, bake it two hours, and send it up hot.
[The new art of cookery, Richard Briggs; 1792].

This minimalist old recipe does not mention the crucial thing if you want good Yorkshires – the pan must have a goodly layer of fat in it (preferably meat dripping) and it must be very hot before you put in the batter. Also – if you use sausages, it wont take 2 hours!

Tomorrow’s Story …

Going Colonial.

Quotation for the Day …

Loving life is easy when you are abroad. Where no one knows you and you hold your life in your hands all alone, you are more master of yourself than at any other time. Hannah Arendt:

Monday, September 03, 2007

Magna Carta Cake.

Today, September 3rd

Today, if I don’t get lost en route from Norwich and Lincoln, I will be visiting my aunt and uncle in Lincoln. The city of Lincoln has a connection with my home town of Brisbane, Australia. During the country’s bicentennial year, Brisbane hosted ‘Expo ‘88’, which was enormous fun (and in fact we are still enjoying its legacy as the Expo site became our wonderful South Bank riverside public park, complete with inner-city beach). One of the other wonderful treats that year was that the Lincoln Cathedral copy (one of four that survive) of the historic Magna Carta was brought to Brisbane and put on display for all to see.

The Magna Carta, or ‘Great Charter of Freedoms’ established for the first time the principle that the power of the king could in fact be limited. It was signed, apparently fairly reluctantly, by King John at Runymede on the Thame in 1215. It was a truly amazing experience in this country with such a short history, to be able to actually look at a document signed over seven centuries before. Naturally, such temporary gifts deserve a good party, and one was held on June 15th (the anniversary of the signing of the Charter) in the Expo year. A special cake was made for the occasion, adapted apparently from “an old English recipe”, and the recipe is given pride of place in the 1988 edition of the fundraiser Lincoln Cathedral Cookbook.

Magna Carta Cake.
8 oz (225 gm) stale white bread without crusts.
½ pt (250 ml) milk
2 tablespoons (2 x 15ml) rum
4 oz (125 gm) dried fruit
2 oz (50 gm) chopped candied peel
3 oz (75 gm) mixed chopped pecans, macadamias, almonds
Grated rind of 1 large orange and 1 large lemon
2 oz (50 gm) shredded suet
2 oz (50 gm) soft brown sugar
1 level teaspoon (1 x 5ml) mixed spice
1 level teaspoon (1 x 5ml) cinnamon
1 level teaspoon (1 x 5ml) nutmeg
1 egg

Rum and Orange Butter Icing.
4 oz (125 gm) unsalted butter.
4 oz (125 gm) soft brown sugar.
½ teaspoon (½ x 5ml) grated orange rind.
1 tablespoon (1 x 15ml) boiling water.
1 teaspoon (1 x 5ml) orange juice.
4 tablespoons dark rum.
Extra grated orange rind.

Butter a 9” x 5” (23 cm x 13 cm) tin or ovenproof dish.
Break the bread into small pieces and put into a mixing bowl containing the milk and rum, and leave to soak for an hour. Beat out lumps with a fork.
Add fruit, peel, nuts, lemon and orange rinds, suet, sugar and spice and mix well.
Beat egg and stir into the mixture to give a soft dropping consistency.
Turn into buttered dish and bake in pre-set oven (350o F, 180o C, Gas Mark 4) for 1 ½ - 2 hours till crunchy on top and set underneath.
Cream butter, sugar, and orange rind in a warm bowl. Add boiling water and beat until sugar grains are dissolved. Add orange juice and rum gradually otherwise the icing will curdle. Spread over the cooled cake.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Parmesan Ice Cream.

Quotation for the Day …

Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living. Miriam Beard