Monday, April 30, 2007
Alice B Toklas was born on this day in 1877 in San Francisco. She is best known as the partner of the writer Gertrude Stein, with whom she lived for many years in France, and as the author in 1954 of The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook. The book is a wonderful read – as much memoir as cookbook, full of reminiscences of life in France during and after the war, and liberally sprinkled with the names of the artists and writers who gathered at their home.
Alice’s cookbook has never been out of print, and the infamous recipe for Haschich Fudge has much to do with its fame. Ironically, it is said that Alice herself had no idea of its significance, and had not tested or tasted the recipe. She supposedly asked friends for help when the deadline was approaching, and the artist Brion Gysin contributed this particular recipe ‘which anyone could whip up on a rainy day’ and which ‘might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies’ Bridge Club’. The reader is advised that ‘it should be eaten with care. Two pieces are quite sufficient.’
There are many memorable passages in the book. Here is a sample from the chapter entitled Murder in the Kitchen.
'The only way to learn to cook is to cook, and for me, as for so many others, is suddenly and unexpectedly became a disagreeable necesitty to have to do it when war came and Occupation followed ….. It was at this time too that murder in the kitchen began. … The first victim was a lively carp. … I carefully, deliberately found the base of its vertebral column and plunged the knife in. I let go my grasp and looked to see what had happened. Horror of horrors. The carp was dead, killed, assassinated, murdered in the first, second and third degree. Limp, I fell into a chair, with my hands still unwashed reached for a cigarette, lighted it, and waited for the police to come and take me into custody.'
At another time, in Mallorca, their French cook “tried to teach me to murder by smothering”. The cook insists that this is not only more humane, it makes the flesh fuller and tastier than the blood-letting methods. Alice does not want to be involved, but some time later, after the war and back in Paris, she receives an unexpected present one day. She is horrified when she discovers what it is:
'…. A crate of six white pigeons, and a note from a friend saying she had noting better to offer us from her home in the country, ending with But as Alice is clever she will make something delicious of them. It is certainly a mistake to allow a reputation for cleverness to be born and spread by loving friends. It is so cheaply acquired and so dearly paid for. Six white pigeons to be smothered, to be plucked, to be cleaned, and all this to be accomplished before Gertrude Stein returned, for she did not like to see work being done. … I carefully found the spot on poor innocent Dove’s throat where I was to press and pressed. The realization had never come to me before that one saw with one’s fingertips as well as one’s eyes. It was a most unpleasant experience, though as I laid out one by one the sweet young corpses there was no denying one could become accustomed to murdering.'
I searched the book to find something suitable with which to celebrate Alice’s birthday. The only recipe specific for birthdays is this one, which will do nicely:
Birthday Ice Cream for Adults.
Toast 2 slices of dark brown bread, spread lavishly with butter on both sides. Cut into small cubes. Cover with egg nog made of 2 eggs and 1 cup rum. Add 1 quart cream and freeze.
I bet you thought I was going to give you the recipe for the fudge, right?
On this Topic ...
We previously had a story about Alice and Gertrude, with recipes for Duck in Port Wine and Flaming Peaches.
Quotation for the Day …
To cook as the French do one must respect the quality and flavour of the ingredients. Exaggeration is not admissible. Flavours are not all amalgamative. These qualities are not purchasable but may be cultivated. The haute cuisine has arrived at the enviable state of reacting instinctively to these known principles. Alice B Toklas.
Friday, April 27, 2007
The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam is a collection of about a thousand poems written about a thousand years ago by a Persian astronomer. Most of us don’t read medieval Arabic, so have to appreciate it via translations, and the best known English translation is that by the wealthy, learned, and eccentric English writer Edward FitzGerald. He was referring to this work in the letter he wrote on this day in 1859 to his friend Edward Byles Cowell: “I hardly know why I print any of these things which nobody buys, and I scarce now see the few I gave them to”.
Many of the phrases from his translation of the Rubáiyát have entered our everyday language, and one of the best known is this quatrain (from the 5th edition)
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread - and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness -
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!
FitzGerald’s work has been criticised as being more of a free interpretation than a straight translation, although he himself referred to it as a ‘transmogrification’. He was said to be indifferent about food himself, but nevertheless he has managed one of the most poetic and beautiful evocations of a simple meal in a simple setting in the history of literature.
Transmogrification is something that cooks do very well, and those delightful ladies Mrs Leyel and Miss Hartley in their very delightful book The Gentle Art of Cookery (1925) seem to have provided us with a good example in their chapter on Dishes from the Arabian Nights. They do not source the recipes from that other famous Eastern tale, but tell us that:
‘The people of the Arabian Nights are gourmets; the stories are full of expatiations of the luscious things they had to eat. Food is treated as a fit subject for poetic ecstasy…. The following recipes are for some of the real “Arabian Nights” dishes, as delectable today as hundreds of years ago.’
They proceed to give a number of recipes which may or may not be a long way from authentic, but nevertheless sound delicious. Firstly, a dish that would be excellent for a picnic, if you felt you needed a little more than just wine and bread:
Cold Chicken Stuffed with Pistachio Nuts
Make a stuffing of two ounces of minced cold veal freed from fat and gristle and skin, the same quantity of suet or butter, half an ounce of minced apple, half an ounce of powdered almonds, a little coriander seed, two ounces of pistachio nuts chopped finely, a little sugar and a pinch of salt, a little lemon peel, and half a drachm of mace or allspice.
Pound all these together, adding the pistachio nuts last, and mix it with the beaten yolk and white of one egg.
Stuff the chicken with this and boil it whole with vegetables in the French way.
Serve it cold with a thick poulette sauce, to which some of the liquor in which the fowl was boiled has been added, poured over it.
Decorate it with chopped pistachio nuts, and serve it with a dish of cold well-seasoned rice.
And I cannot resist also giving you this recipe, in spite of its unpronounceable name, which is quite different from the standard hard-boiled picnic eggs.
Oeufs à la Constantinopolitaine.
Mix in equal proportions olive oil and Turkish coffee. Put into this mixture as many eggs as are required, in their shells, and cook them very slowly for twelve hours at least. After a long time the mixture penetrates the shells, makes the whites of the eggs amber colour, and the yolks the colour of saffron, and gives to them a flavour of chestnuts. Serve.
Monday’s Story …
Murder in the Kitchen.
This Day, Last Year.
Anne Frank, in the ‘Secret Annexe’ in Amsterdam where she and her family hid during WW II, discussed coffee substitutes.
Quotation for the Day …
There are only three things which make life worth living: to be writing a tolerably good book, to be in a dinner party of six, and to be travelling south with someone whom your conscience permits you to love. Cyril Connolly
Thursday, April 26, 2007
This day in 1909 was the birthday of columnist William Neil Connor, who wrote as ‘Cassandra’ in the London Daily Mirror for three decades. He took his pseudonym from the name of the beautiful Greek woman given the gift of prophesy by Apollo, who then took away her gift of persuasion when she spurned his advances, dooming her to be forever disbelieved. Mr. Cassandra has only come to my attention via a statement he made concerning cabbage, which may not be prophetic but is hardly to be believed:
‘Boiled cabbage à l'Anglaise is something compared with which steamed coarse newsprint bought from bankrupt Finnish salvage dealers and heated over smoky oil stoves is an exquisite delicacy.’
Here I am again, in defence of ‘English food, properly done’. Mr. Cassandra may have been a non-foodie, a Francophile snob, been force-fed slimy cabbage as a child, been deliberately provocative of his readers, or simply had a bad household cook – but I cannot forgive him for perpetuating this mythical connection between the English and badly cooked cabbage.
Cabbage originated in Northern Europe in ancient times, perhaps or probably from wild sea-kale. Chance and deliberate horticultural intervention eventually produced the familiar tightly balled head from the loose leaves of the kale, and further meddling by humans produced the cabbages we know as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collard greens, kohlrabi, and kale. Mr Cassandra was slighting an impressive dynasty.
John Evelyn in his Acetaria (1699) said 'Tis scarce a hundred years since we first had cabbages out of Holland’, which gives us an idea of its history in English kitchens.
In less than half a century, a lovely book with the great title of Adam’s luxury, and Eve’s cookery; or, the kitchen-garden display’d. (1744) gave detailed planting and growing instructions and medicinal applications (cabbages are Balsamic, Diuretic, prevent Drunkenness …) and then gave a total of eight recipes, all of which sound delicious. The author does specify that cabbages must be well-boiled “to help their digestion in the stomach”, but the actual recipes completely belie the concept of smelly slimy cabbage mush.
Here are my two selections from the eight recipes:
A Ragoo of Cabbage.
Divide a cabbage in the Middle, and blanch it in hot Water; squeeze it, and dtie it round with Pack-thread, and then stew it. When it is stew’d, drain it, untie it, and cut it into little Slices into a Sauce-pan; and let it simmer over the Fire with some Cullis* of Veal and Ham to thicken it. It may be eaten with all Meats boil’d, roast, or stew’d.
To stew Red Cabbage
Cut your Cabbage very fine, and stew it with Gravy, Sausages, and Ham, and season it with Pepper and Salt. Before you serve it up, put in a little Elder-Vinegar**, and mix it well together.
*Cullis = coulis, or reduced broth.
** Vinegar steeped with flowers of the Elder bush (Sambucus nigra).
Tomorrow’s Story …
This Day Last Year ….
Samuel Pepys ate sturgeon.
Quotation for the Day …
Cabbage: a familiar kitchen-garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man's head. Ambrose Bierce
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Today is Anzac Day, the anniversary of the landing of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey in 1915. It is an enormously significant day in Australia, when we remember the heroes of the First World War and the ultimate sacrifice so many of them made during that long and terrible campaign in Gallipoli. Last year on this day (on the Companion site) we had a story about the history of Anzac Biscuits, but we pay homage to our soldiers in other wars too, so today we will move to WW II.
I have been awaiting an excuse to give a recipe from a delightful little book called Wartime Cookery published by The Herald Newspaper of Melbourne, in 1945. The chatty, friendly enthusiasm of author Sarah Dunne is hard to resist, and she surely has sprinkled her pages with more than her fair share of exclamation marks.
The recipe for Upside-down cake caught my attention because of the fat used. I know that every scrap of fat was saved during wartime - but clarified codfat? In cake? She had to be joking. That is taking wartime austerity a bit too far. I searched the book at bit further, and thankfully, Sarah explains codfat:
‘The strangely named ‘codfat’ had nothing to do with fish! It resembles beef suet in appearance, but is softer, and once clarified it liquefies very easily. It is fat from the buttock, whereas real suet is fat from around the kidney.’
She goes on to describe the method for clarifying any fat in detail, but acknowledges that it still retains a distinctive flavour:
‘To banish this (when making special cakes, puddings, or pastry) , simply re-clarify the amount of fat you wish to use with milk. Allow half a cup of milk to a pint of melted fat. … Clarified codfat will “cream” with sugar exactly like butter and gives particularly good results in cake making.’
Surprisingly for a war cookbook, Sarah then blots her austerity cookbook by then advising that the milk be thrown away. I am sure many housewives would have recycled it into a savoury milky soup or gravy.
Cut two slices (average thickness) from a nice pineapple. Remove rind, core and all dark specks. Shred fruit into small bits. Simmer fruit and juice slowly for 10 minutes with two large tablespoons of brown sugar. Put evenly over the bottom of a well-greased cake tin. Spread the following cake batter over the hot fruit, and bake in a moderate oven from 30 to 45 minuts. Turn out carefully onto a hot dish, and serve at once (5 portions)
For the cake mixture cream a generous tablespoon of clarified cod fat (or butter) with two tablespoons castor sugar. Work in the grated rind of one orange. Add two eggs (unbeaten) – one at a time – as soon as the mixture is creamy again fold in one breakfast cup of wholemeal self-raising flour, using from half to two-thirds cup of milk to make it a creamy texture. (The actual quantity of milk will depend upon the size of the eggs.) The pineapple in the tin will give it a glazed fruit top.
Tomorrow’s Story …
Boiled cabbage à l'Anglaise.
This Day Last Year …
We considered the windiness of beans.
Quotation for the Day …
Thought flows in terms of stories - stories about events, stories about people, and stories about intentions and achievements. The best teachers are the best story tellers. We learn in the form of stories. Frank Smith
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
The famous Las Vegas resort the Desert Inn opened on this day in 1950, and the menu for opening night was recreated in 2000 for the fiftieth birthday celebration.
The menu was pure 1950’s:
French Onion Soup
Baked Baby Lobster Thermidor & Filet Mignon
Chocolate Malted Milk Cake.
The cake is a good choice for a recipe today, given that the recent story about Lady Baltimore Cake provoked some interest.
As far as I have been able to make out, Chocolate Malted Milk Cake seems to have made its appearance in the USA in the late 1920’s. The first mentions that I have come across are for bakery-made cakes, but I am sure that lurking in someone’s grandma’s cookbook there is a recipe for a home-made version earlier than the one I give you today, from a newspaper article of 1937. If you know of an earlier recipe, do please let me know. I think an archive of "First Recipes For … " might be a very nice feature, but I will need some help.
This recipe is also interesting in that it highlights some of the inherent difficulties in accurate recipe-writing.
Chocolate Malted Milk Cake.
2 ¼ cups cake flour
1 cup chocolate malted milk [appears to refer to the powder, not the made-up drink!]
3 teaspoons tartrate baking powder OR:
2 ¼ teaspoons double-action baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup soft shortening
1 cup sugar
2 whole eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanila
½ cup evaporated milk
½ cup water.
Light oven and set at moderate (350deg) [refers to Fahrenheit!] temperature. Grease and flour two 9 inch cake pans. Sift before measuring the cake flour and re-sift with the chocolate malted milk, baking powder and salt. Cream together until light and fluffy the shortening and sugar. Beat in vigorously the egg and vanilla.
Add the flour mixture alternately with the evaporated milk diluted with water. Begin and end with the flour mixture, beating until smooth after each addition. Pour into prepared pans. Bake 25 minutes in moderate oven (350deg) or until cakes shrink from the sides of pans. When cool, put together with;
Chocolate Malted Milk Topping.
1 ½ teaspoons plain gelatin
2 tablespoons cold water
1 cup evaporated milk
6 tablespoons chocolate malted milk [again, appears to mean the powder]
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
Soak the gelatin in the cold water for five minutes. Scald [the evaporated milk, presumably] over boiling water. Add soaked gelatin and stir until dissolved. Pour into bowl or freezing tray of mechanicial refrigerator and chill until icy cold.Whip until stiff with rotary beater or electric mixer at high speed. Fold in the malted milk and sugar. Spread between and on top of cake. Chill.
t.w.barritt over at Culinary Types has made this exact recipe, and posted pictures and commentary. If you want to learn some 1920's slang, hop over and check out the post!
Tomorrow’s Story …
An Aussie War Cake.
This Day, Last Year …
We found out about the Lord Mayors Easter in 1848
Quotation for the Day …
No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers. Laurie Colwin
Monday, April 23, 2007
Today is the feast day of St George, the patron saint of England. In honour of the day, Sam at Becks‘n Posh has challenged bloggers to demonstrate why English food is not a joke.
A joke is something open to ridicule, not to be taken seriously, a laughing-stock. I put it to you that English food must be taken very seriously. There is nothing ridiculous about oysters from Chester, cheese from Wensleydale, bacon from Bath (especially that from the cheeks or chaps of the local pig), apples from Somerset, and roast beef from just about anywhere. Sure, the names of some English puddings are good for a laugh – Spotted Dick comes to mind – but a laughing stock they are not. One might gasp with delight at a fine summer berry pudding or an apple pie (with clotted cream from Devon, please) but they demand to be enjoyed most seriously.
Given the fantastic range of fresh produce, wild game, artisanal cheeses,and specially bred stock in the various (and varied) regions of England, plus a written corpus of historic recipes dating back to the fourteenth century – what to choose to make my point?
Naturally I am inclined to provide a recipe with some historic significance today. In spite of a huge range of possibilities, I made my choice easily. Hare Soup has a fine lineage, and is particularly associated with St George, or at least with St George’s Day dinners – although I have no idea why. The famous French chef Antonin Carême (1784-1833), the man referred to as “the chef of kings and the king of chefs” was for a short while the Chef to the Prince Regent. He made Hare Soup from an English recipe, and it is said he dedicated it to St George – perhaps that is where the association developed.
Here is a recipe for it from the very English Mrs Elizabeth Raffald’s book, The Experienced English Housekeeper (1769).
To make a Hare Soup.
Cut a large old hare in small pieces, and put it in a mug with three blades of mace, a little salt, two large onions, one red herring, six morels, half a pint of red wine, three quarts of water. Bake it in a quick oven three hours, then strain it into a tossing pan. Have ready boiled three ounces of French barley or sago in water. Scald the liver of the hare in boiling water two minutes, rub it through a hair sieve with the back of a wooden spoon, put it into the soup with the barley or sago and a quarter of a pound of butter. Set it over the fire, keep stirring it but don’t let it boil. If you don’t like liver put in crisped bread steeped in wine. This is a rich soup and proper for a large entertainment where two soups are required, almond or onion for the top, and hare soup for the bottom.*
* Hannah is referring to the placement of the soups at the top and bottom of the table. Dishes were arranged on the table in her day with geometric precision in strict formal order, in the form of service known as service à la française. The method may have produced an impressive display, but the food must have had plenty of time to cool by the time guests sat down.
Tomorrow’s Story …
Chocolate Malted Milk Cake.
Quotation for the Day …
[Soup] … must be the agent provocateur of a good dinner. Carême
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Dont forget the database of 500-odd freely available Online Historic Cookbooks which you can download as a pdf file. If you would prefer the Excel spreadsheet from which this is derived, so that you can fiddle with it and make it your own, just email me at theoldfoodieATfastmailDOTfm and I will send it to you. There are a few new additions to the spreadsheet which I have not yet got around to adding to the pdf.
I hope soon to complete the retrospective tagging of old posts (Blogger did not have that feature when I started, or maybe I didnt have that feature!)
Please do let me know what you think.
Friday, April 20, 2007
We have met Ella Kellogg, the wife of Johh Kellogg of cornflake fame, in a previous story. Ella wrote a book with the impressive title of Science in the Kitchen. A Scientific Treatise on Food Substances and their Dietetic Properties, Together with a Practical Explanation of the Principles of Healthful Cookery, and a Large Number of Original, Palatable, and Wholesome Recipes, which was published in 1893. The Introduction is dated April 20th 1892.
Did Ella feel a special thrill as she signed and dated her book? Did she celebrate in some way? Ella and John did not leave themselves many celebratory activities to use for special occasions. They pursued the sort of philosophy of life that defines itself by negatives – their marriage was celibate, they were teetotal, and ate only food that was 'palatable and wholesome'.
Most of us would at least have a cake on a special day. Ella warns about the dangers of Pastry and Cake:
So much has been said and written about the dietetic evils of these articles that their very names have become almost synonymous with indigestion and dyspepsia. That they are prolific causes of this dire malady cannot be denied, and it is doubtless due to two reasons; first, because they are generally compounded of ingredients which are in themselves unwholesome, and rendered doubly so by their combination; and secondly, because tastes have become so perverted that an excess of these articles is consumed in preference to more simple and nutritious food.
But does not forbid it:
And here is one of her simple cakes, to be eaten in accordance with her caveats:
For this will be required four eggs, one cup of sugar, one tablespoonful of lemon juice with a little of the grated rind, and one cup of white flour. Success in the making of sponge cake depends almost wholly upon the manner in which it is put together. Beat the yolks of the eggs until very light and thick, then add the sugar little by little, beating it in thoroughly; add the lemon juice and the grated rind. Beat the whites of the eggs until perfectly stiff and firm, and fold or chop them very lightly into the yolk mixture. Sift the flour with a sifter little by little over the mixture and fold it carefully in. On no account stir either the white of the eggs or the flour in, since stirring will drive out the air which has been beaten into the eggs. Do not beat after the flour is added. The cake, when the flour is all in, should be stiff and spongy. If it is liquid in character, it will be apt to be tough and may be considered a failure. Bake in a shallow pan in a rather hot oven fifteen or twenty minutes.
As for meat, Ella had strong views about it. She and John were militantly vegetarian themselves, but in her book she accepts that some will insist on it in their diet. She gives a number of dire warnings about its dangers:
… Besides being in no way superior to vegetable substances, they contain elements of an excrementitious character, which cannot be utilized, and which serve only to clog and impede the vital processes, rendering the blood gross, filling the body with second-hand waste material which was working its way out of the vital domain of the animal when slaughtered. To this waste matter, consisting of unexpelled excretions, are added those produced by the putrefactive processes which so quickly begin in flesh foods exposed to air and warmth.
Birds Baked in Sweet Potatoes.
Small birds, of which the breast is the only suitable portion for eating, may be baked in the following manner: Cut a sweet potato lengthwise; make a cavity in each half. Place the breast of the bird therein; fit, and tie together carefully; bake until the potato is soft. Serve in the potato.
Monday’s Story …
St George’s Day.
On This Topic …
Another recipe from her book is HERE.
Last Year on this Day …
We had a Tale of Timbuktoo.
Quotation for the Day …
No diet will remove all the fat from your body, because the brain is entirely fat. Without a brain you might look good, but all you could do is run for public office. Covert Bailey
Thursday, April 19, 2007
The plant of the day according to the medieval calendar is garlic (Allium sativum*), dedicated to St Leo. I have no idea why he should have garlic dedicated to him, but I am grateful as it gives us an excuse to have bloggy fun with garlic.
Garlic probably has more folklore associated with it than any other plant food, which is not surpising due to its ancient origins (more myth-making time), widespread distribution (more myth-making people) and its strong smell and pungent taste (more provocative of opinion).
Ancient and smelly plants inevitably end up with medicinal and mystical attributes (which may be the same thing), and garlic is no exception. Historically it has been claimed to cure a whole alphabet of diseases from asthma, baldness, consumption and dropsy to at least as far as leprosy and plague, and to be useful to ward off the evil eye, evil spirits, evil snakes, and evil vampires.
As for its culinary use, the world seems to be divided into two camps – the camp that uses it with frantic abandon, and the camp that, if it uses it at all, uses it in the Victorian English way of wiping a single clove over the bottom of the pan (twice only) before adding the other ingredients, then throwing away the clove. I am of the former camp myself.
The medicinal, mythical, mystical, and culinary uses come together nicely in something called ‘Four Thieves Vinegar’. The story is that during an epidemic of the plague in Marseilles in 1722, four thieves made a good living from plundering the bodies of plague victims but escaped contagion themselves. They attributed their protection to the liberal application or ingestion (the stories vary here) of a special vinegar infused with herbs and garlic. There are many recipes for the vinegar, which is eminently adaptable to the fragrant ingredients on hand, but they do all include garlic. Here is one version of it from The Virginia Housewife (1860) by Mary Randolph. I cannot vouch for its efficacy in treating the plague, I would suggest you seek medical advice in that instance, but with the proper selection of herbs along with the garlic, it would make a fine base for a salad dressing.
Vinegar Of The Four Thieves.
Take lavender, rosemary, sage, wormwood, rue, and mint, of each a large handful; put them in a pot of earthen ware, pour on them four quarts of very strong vinegar, cover the pot closely, and put a board on the top; keep it in the hottest sun two weeks, then strain and bottle it, putting in each bottle a clove of garlic. When it has settled in the bottle and become clear, pour it off gently; do this until you get it all free from
sediment. The proper time to make it is when the herbs are in full vigour, in June. This vinegar is very refreshing in crowded rooms, in the apartments of the sick; and is peculiarly grateful, when sprinkled about the house in damp weather.
[* thanks to Judy (see the comments) for correcting me on this, I had Allium ursinum, which is the wild form of garlic]
Tomorrow’s Story …
Last Year on this Day …
We had a story about coffee substitutes during the American Civil War.
Quotation for the Day …
The emotional content of garlic almost equals its culinary value. Arthur E Grosser.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Charles Townshend, second Viscount, was born in Norfolk England on this day in 1665. He was a Whig politician and Secretary of State for a number of years between 1714 and 1730 until he fell out with his brother-in-law Robert Walpole over foreign policy issues, and was forced to resign. Politic’s loss was Agriculture’s gain however, and he devoted the rest of his life to improving farming methods at his family home of Raynham.
He gained his nickname of “Turnip” Townshend not from introducing the turnip to England, as is often claimed (it had been grown in a smallway for half a century), but because of his interest in and enthusiasm for the vegetable. He was an enthusiastic promoter of the relatively new idea of crop rotation in which four crops (wheat, turnips, barley and clover) were rotated annually. The advantages were huge. There was no need to have land ‘wasted’ lying fallow every few years, the nitrogen-fixing ability of the clover enriched the land, as did the increased manuring by the animals grazing the fodder crops. The real advantage of the turnips however was that they stored well and enabled animals to be over-wintered rather than all but breeding stock being slaughtered sometime in November.
Townshend’s efforts revolutionised animal husbandry, but it seems he may have been a tad boring on the subject at times, for the poet Alexander Pope said rather drily of him that “he was particularly fond of that kind of rural improvement which arises from Turnips; it was the favourite subject of his conversation.”
In France baby turnips (navets) are used in several classic dishes, and the green tops can be delicious cooked as spinach, but the English generally do not consider turnips a premium vegetable for humans. The following recipe from The cook’s and confectioner’s dictionary (Fourth edition; 1733) does seem to use them in an interesting way, although as one cant seem to get good servants nowadays, I think I’ll forgo the decorative step of cutting pieces of turnip in the shape of cocks’ combs, however pretty they may be. Note also the casual suggestion of adding a roast duck, at which point it would probably sensible to offer it to your guests as Canard au Navets.
To make Turnip Soop.
Pare your Turnips, cut them into Dice, fry them brown in Hogs Lard or clarified Butter; put to them a Quart or two of Gravy, and the Crust of a French Roll or two, boil’d and strain’d; drain your Turnips from the Fat they were fry’d in; put them together, and boil them till they become tender: You may lay a roasted Duck in the middle of your Soop. Make a rim for your Soop-dish; garnish with small dic’d Turnips, boil’d in white Broth, and a Piece of fry’d Turnip, cut in the Form of a Cocks-comb, between every Piece. Let your Bread be soaked in good Fat and Gravy, and serve it up.
Tomorrow’s Story …
We dined with Dickens at Delmonico’s.
Quotation for the Day …
The turnip is a capricious vegetable, which seems reluctant to show itself at its best. Waverley Root.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
On this momentous day in 1810, in the United States of America, something called Pineapple Cheese was patented by Lewis M Norton of Troy, Pennsylvania.
My first thought was that Mr Norton had been sufficiently inspired (or deranged) to try combining pineapple (the fruit ) with cheese (the dairy product), a combination that he could probably confidently assume no-one else had already been inspired (or deranged) enough to combine, causing him to rush off to the patent office before he was proven wrong. I thought therefore, that he was the man ultimately responsible for the idea that gave us the multi-coloured dried-fruity cheeseballs that graced the best buffet tables in the 1970’s.
Further investigation put me right. What Lewis actually patented was a cheddar-style cheese cured in string bags which left criss-cross marks on the yellow surface of the cheese which were suggestive of the pineapple, hence the name. In other words, what he actually patented appears to be a particular shape and surface decoration, rather than a new cheese (I am willing to stand corrected here, not having had the pleasure of tasting it myself). The story did make me briefly wondering if I could make my own fortune by following a standard recipe for cheese and hanging it up to dry in old socks, thereby giving it sock-shape and entitling me to patent it as Sock Cheese.
Did Lewis make a fortune from his cheese? Alas, I do not know, but he should have, because this ornamental cheese was sufficiently popular to have its own bespoke ornamental storing and serving container – a silver bell shaped, of course, like a pineapple. According to a gem of a book called The Complete Book of Cheese (1995), by Robert Carlton Brown this is how it worked:
‘You cut a top slice off the cheese, just as you would off the fruit, and there was a rose-colored, fine-tasting, mellow-hard cheese to spoon out with a special silver cheese spoon or scoop. Between meals the silver top was put on the silver holder and the oiled and shellacked rind kept the cheese moist. Even when the Pineapple was eaten down to the rind the shell served as a dunking bowl to fill with some salubrious cold Fondue or salad.’
Cheese purists would say that Lewis’ cheese was not in fact Cheddar cheese (ie made in Somerset England, from raw milk and animal rennet, using traditional methods and with a cloth wrapping). It is correct to say it is a cheddar style cheese however, as it has undergone the crucial cheddaring process. Cheddaring refers to the repeated stacking and turning of slabs of curd after it is separated from the ‘cooked’ whey. The process facilitates drainage and the matting together of the curd before it is placed into moulds and compressed.
Cheese purists are probably horrified at the thought of eating it in any other way than in its naked original form, perhaps with a cracker biscuit, but cheese junkies will eat it in any form, and cant bear to waste a scrap of it. The recipes today are for cheese junkies. They are taken from a book popular in Lewis’ time. It is A New System of Domestic Cookery, Formed Upon Principles of Economy, and Adapted to the Use of Private Families, By a Lady (1807)
Cut and pound four ounces of Cheshire cheese, one ounce and a half of fine butter, a tea-spoonful of white white pounded sugar, a little bit of mace, and a glass of white wine. Press it down in a deep pot.
Roast Cheese, to come up after Dinner.
Grate three ounces of fat Cheshire cheese, mix it with the yolks of two eggs, four ounces of grated bread, and three ounces of butter; beat the whole well in a mortar, with a desert-spoonful of mustard, and a little salt and pepper. Toast some bread, cut it into proper pieces, lay the paste as above thick upon them, put them into a Dutch oven covered with a dish, till hot through, remove the dish, and let the cheese brown a little. Serve as hot as possible.
On this Topic …
We have previously featured that special form of toasted cheese called Welsh Rabbit (and explained why it is not Rarebit).
More recipes for it are in Welsh Rabbit, Chapter II.
Tomorrow’s Story …
The Viscount and his Turnips.
This Day Last Year ...
We celebrated the birthday of Eliza Acton.
Quotation for the Day …
A cheese may disappoint. It may be dull, it may be naive, it may be oversophisticated. Yet it remains cheese, milk's leap toward immortality. Clifton Fadiman.
Monday, April 16, 2007
The contents of a commercial meat pie are always a bit mysterious and therefore worrying. If you buy them and eat them, but are of an anxious turn of mind, it may be better not to read further today.
On this day in 2002, a spokesperson for the Australian consumer organisation Choice, which had just completed an investigation of meat pies, made a statement in reference to the legal definition of ‘meat’:
‘The definition of meat is broadly embracing - well beyond the muscle tissue of cattle, which is how we normally think of meat - and includes fat, gristle, trimming, meat scraps. In fact, all parts of many animals, except the foetus is excluded. You could have gravies enriched, quite legally, by blood, and that could be a percentage of the meat as defined as meat.’
This is far too broadly-embracing a definition for me, and a better inducement to making meat pies at home is hard to imagine. It is not the idea of ‘eating’ blood that is the issue here, it is the lack of ‘meat’ in ‘meat’ (pies) that is the issue. For some, there are religious prohibitions about ingesting blood, and for some there are aesthetic objections, but outside of these exceptions, humans have been ingesting, even enjoying, blood for centuries.
Blood from various animals has a long medicinal history, and in ancient Rome the drinking of human blood from gladiators was a supposed cure for epilepsy. This is a food history blog however, and I risk putting you off eating with too many medicinal remedies, so let us concentrate on blood as an integral part of a dish.
Dishes in which blood is incorporated in the sauce are referred to as ‘jugged’, or the dish is called a ‘civet’ (not to be confused with the cat-like animal with the same name), and they feature in both classical British and French cuisine. At the comfort/peasant end of the spectrum of bloody food is of course Black Pudding, traditionally made at the pre-winter pig-killing but now available all year round at your specialist butcher, and just right with your bacon, eggs, and tomato for breakfast.
We started off on the topic of pie, and we end with it with this recipe from the days when cooks and eaters were not so squeamish.
A Blood-pie for a Side-dish.
On those days that young Turkeys, fat Pullets and other sorts of Fowl are kill’d, some of their blood may be preserv’d, to the quantity only ofa large Glass full. It must be put into an Earthen Pan, with some Filets of a Hare and of Veal: Let these Filets be larded with Gammon and thick slips of Bacon, and steept in the Blood; seasoning them a little. To make the Godivoe*, you are to provide some Flesh of Chickens and Partridges, a good piece of a Leg of Veal, some Bacon, Marrow, and a little Sewet; with Parsly, Chibbol**, A Clove of Garlick and Truffles, all well season’d, enrich’d and chopt small: Let the Blood be put into this Farce and temper’d with it. In the mean time, let two sorts of Paste be prepar’d, viz. one ordinary, of a greater quantity, and the other less, consisting of Eggs, Butter, Flower and Salt, all well workt, without any Water. Thus two large pieces are to be roll’d out of the common Paste, and two lesser ones of the finer sort: Let the great piece for the Bottom-crust be put upon Paper, and the lesser on the top of it: Take one half of your Godivoe, and spread it neatly upon those two pieces of Paste; then let your Filets in order, and the rest of the Farce upon them; covering all with Bards or Slices of Bacon, and afterwards with a small piece of the fine Paste; wetting the greater round about: At last, the other large piece being put on the top, to compleat the Lid or uppe Crust; the whole Pie is to be wash’d over with an Egg, and baked in the Evening, for the space of eight or ten Hours: For it must be left all Night till the same Hour next morning, taking care that the Oven be not over-heated. It must be served up hot to Table, after having poured a Partridge-cullis*** into it, and both the Meat and Crust ought to be eaten with a Fork.
[The court and country cook : giving new and plain directions how to order all manner of entertainments, ..François Massialot; 1702]
* Godivoe = a forcemeat stuffing, also called a Farce.
** Chibbol = onion
*** cullis = a broth reduction [same origin as ‘coulis’]
Tomorrow’s Story …
Quotation for the Day …
A highbrow is the kind of person who looks at a sausage and thinks of Picasso." Alan Patrick Herbert (1890-1971)
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Karen piqued my interest and my memory with her comment on the Eggs, Nineteenth Century Style post of a few days ago. She mentioned a Curried Egg recipe from the marvellous, inimitable M.F.K. Fisher’s An Alphabet for Gourmets with the wonderful name of Hindu Eggs. I remembered then a Curried Eggs recipe from my childhood in England – a dreadful mess of hard-boiled eggs and apples which I could never quite fathom.
Curried Eggs are, like kedgeree, mulligatawney soup, and ‘devilled’ dishes an Anglo-Indian concept that is a legacy of the British Empire. Curried Eggs intersect at some point with ‘Devilled’ Eggs, and the distinction seems to be that the devilled version contains cayenne pepper (plus perhaps other savoury ingredients such as anchovy sauce) and is ‘dry’, whereas the curried version includes ‘curry powder’ and has a sauce or ‘gravy’. The curry powder may be in the eggs or the sauce. These ‘distinctions ’ only serve to highlight the decidedly Anglo-Indian concept of ‘curry’ itself of course.
Karen’s comment set me on a trail in search of historic recipes for Curried Eggs, and I now pass on my findings (to date) for your enjoyment.
Mrs Beeton (1861) does not have a recipe for Curried Eggs, which is perhaps surprising. The earliest recipe I have found to date is from the 1870’s (I am sure there will be earlier ones, and I eagerly await your comments). I rediscovered the recipe for Hindu Eggs (1949), thanks to Karen, and also found a version of my childhood nightmare, complete with apples.
Fry a couple of middle-sized onions in butter, and stir into the pan,as soon as the onions are slightly browned,one tablespoonful of curry powder. Mix well, and add by degrees half a pint of veal stock; keep stirring the sauce till it is smooth and thick. When the mixture has simmered from ten to fifteen minutes, add, carefully stirring, two table-spoonfuls of cream, and let it simmer a few minutes longer. Have ready sliced half a dozen hard boiled eggs, lay them in the curry sauce long enough to get quite hot, then serve both together on a dish.
[Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery; England; 1870’s]
Cut hard-boiled eggs in halves; then fry 1 small chopped onion and 1 chopped apple in hot butter; add ¼ cup of pounded almonds and 1 pint of milk, mixed with ½ tablespoonful of cornstarch. Season with salt and a dessertspoonful of curry-powder. Let cook ten minutes; then add the eggs. Let all get very hot. Serve with croutons; garnish with fried parsley.
[365 Foreign Dishes; England; 1908]
Three eggs, half a pint of milk, one ounce of butter, half an ounce of flour, quarter of a teaspoonful of curry powder, quarter of a teaspoonful of salt, pepper.
Hard boil the eggs. Melt the butter and stir in the flour, curry powder , etc. and gradually stir in the milk, which must be hot.
Cut the eggs in half lengthways, and then again, and heat them in the sauce. Serve them very hot.
[The Gentle Art of Cookery; England; Mrs C F Leyel and Miss Olga Hartley; 1925]
Curry of Cold Meat.
1 lb of cold meat, cut into small pieces
1 apple, (peeled, cored, and chopped)
3 heaped teaspoons of Flour
1 small onion, (chopped finely)
1 tomato, (skinned and sliced), if in season
1 teaspoonful of chutney
juice of ½ lemon
¾ pint of stock or water or milk and water
1 ½ oz of butter or margarine
1 tablespoon of curry powder
1 dessertspoonful of jam (preferably plum)
(sliced bananas, shredded or dessicated coconut, sultanas etc may be added to taste)
Fry the onion in the butter in a saucepan, add the apple and tomato (if used), fry a minute or two longer; mix flour and curry powder, add to the butter etc, and cook for 3 mintues, stirring and shaking the pan well; add the chutney, jam, and lemon juice, lastly the stock or liquid used; bring to the boil, then skim and simmer for 1 hour. Add the meat and simmer for ½ hour longer. Serve on a hot dish with a border of boiled reice. Garnish with lemon, or slices of hard-boiled eggs.
[Practical Cookery: Cookery under Rationing; England; 1943]
12 peeled hard-boiled eggs
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon finely minced onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
3-4 cups heavy cream sauce.
Cut the eggs once lengthwise and then mix their yolks well with all the other ingredients except the cream sauce; that is, make a good recipe for deviled eggs of any proper picnic, but adding curry powder. Stuff the eggs, put them together in their proper shape, and let stand several hours or overnight, to bring out the heat of the curry. Place in a shallow buttered casserole, cover with hot bland sauce, place in a medium oven till almost bubbling, and serve. Use more cream sauce if it is to be served with rice. The eggs should have a strong curry flavour, in contrast to the gentle sauce, so some experimentation with your brand of curry powder is a good idea.
[The Alphabetical Gourmet; M.F.K.Fisher]
Fisher suggests that this is a good hot weather dish, and recommends it be served with a green salad and some beer. Sounds good to me.
Friday, April 13, 2007
First: Eggs Whisked, not Stirred:
The writer Ian Fleming’s first novel – Casino Royale – was published on this day in 1953, which, as it turns out, is very timely during our Egg Week. The chief protagonist in the novel is of course James Bond, whose exploits as Agent 007 of the British Secret Service were continued in further novels by Fleming, and subsequently by numerous movie-makers. James Bond almost singlehandedly saves Britain in particular and the world in general from a series of dastardly bad guys without pausing in his womanising or compromising in his martini standards. It is well known that his signature drink is the vodka martini, which he insists is “shaken, not stirred”, but what is less well known is that his favourite meal is scrambled eggs. Ian Fleming let this little secret out in a short story called “007 in New York”, which appeared in some editions of an anthology called “Thrilling Cities”. He even gave the recipe:
“ . . The Edwardian Room at The Plaza, a corner table. They didn't know him there, but he knew he could get what he wanted to eat - not like Chambord or Pavillon with their irritating Wine and Foodsmanship and, in the case of the latter, the miasma of a hundred different women's scents to confound your palate. He would have one more dry martini at the table, then smoked salmon and the particular scrambled eggs he had once (Felix Leiter knew the head-waiter) instructed them how to make:
For four individualists:
12 fresh eggs
Salt and pepper
5-6 oz. of fresh butter.
Break the eggs into a bowl. Beat thoroughly with a fork and season well. In a small copper (or heavy bottomed saucepan) melt four oz. of the butter. When melted, pour in the eggs and cook over a very low heat, whisking continuously with a small egg whisk.
While the eggs are slightly more moist than you would wish for eating, remove the pan from heat, add rest of butter and continue whisking for half a minute, adding the while finely chopped chives or fines herbes. Serve on hot buttered toast in individual copper dishes (for appearance only) with pink champagne (Taittinger) and low music.”
Secret Agents must sometimes resort to disguise, which can also be a fun thing for an egg to do, as in this recipe by those elegant ladies Leyel and Hartley in The Gentle Art of Cookery (1925).
Eggs in Overcoats.
Six eggs and the whites of two more, six large potatoes, six tablespoonfuls of minced ham, two tablespoonfuls of chopped parsley, three tablespoonfuls of cream, salt and pepper.
Bake the potatoes; cut a piece off the top of each and scoop out the inside. Mash it with a little hot milk. Add the minced ham, parsley, cream and butter, salt and pepper, and bind the mixture with the well-beaten whites of two eggs. Line the potato skins with the mixture.
Poach six eggs lightly, put a poached egg into each potato, cover each potato with the mashed potato mixture, and bake till this is brown.
This dish is also a Double Agent as it could just as easily sneak into the Potato Recipe archive, could it not?
20th C Egg Recipes from previous stories:
Eggs cooked with Marigold (1925)
Devilled Eggs. (1925)
Eggs en Surprise 
Beauregard Eggs 
Egg and Potato Scallop 
Tamago Bolan (Peony Eggs) 
This Day Last Year ...
The American explorers Lewis and Clark ate dog meat on this day.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Here is a selection of recipes for ‘other’ eggs, as you may be getting bored with the hen variety. They are all from the exhaustive and ever-reliable Cassells Dictionary of Cookery (1870’s).
These eggs are much esteemed for their rich flavour, and the beautiful colour of the white part, which is much used for decorating salads. When boiled hard they are eaten hot or cold; but with a good brown gravy or some béchamel sauce they make a dainty breakfast dish.
Eggs, Swan’s (en Salade).
Cut the eggs, when boiled hard (see Eggs, Swan’s to Boil), in halves, pound the yolks with an ounce and a half of good fresh butter, and season with minced herbs or shallot, cayenne, and salt; add two teaspoonfuls of essence of anchovies, and the same of chili vinegar. Fill the white halves with this mixture, and set them in a bowl of prepared salad, or ornament a lobster or German salad with them.
Eggs, Swan’s, To Boil.
Put the eggs into quite boiling water and let them stay without boiling for twenty minutes. See that the water quite covers them, then boil slowly for a quarter of an hour. Let them rest in the water five minutes before removing them, and cover them up while cooling. Swan’s eggs retain their heat a long time. They should not be cut until quite cold, and should then be divided into halves lengthwise.
Eggs, Turkey’s, To Dress.
Choose those of the young bird for cooking in the shell. They may be known by their pale, almost white colour. The larger ones are excellent for poaching, and to serve in the composition of any dishes where eggs are required. Time, six minutes to boil, four to poach.
19th C Egg recipes from previous stories:
To dress a Military Omelet (c. 1845)
To cook eggs in the shell, without boiling them. (1845)
Eggs with Burnt Butter (Soyer, 1853)
To Roast Eggs. (1875)
Eggs en Surprise 
Birds’ Nests (same as Scotch Eggs) 
Last year on this Day ...
We found out about the first pressure cooker.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Still on our egg theme, and with minimal commentary due to TOF being TNM (The Nurse-Maid) to TOC (The Old Curmudgeon) who has a broken right shoulder due to his efforts to get fit by riding his bicycle at great speed, weather not permitting (i.e drizzly rain).
So - here we are already in the eighteenth century, with a selection of egg recipes quite unlike those in modern textbooks.
First, from a French cookbook:
Eggs after the German Mode.
Break some Eggs into a dish, as it were au Miroir, and put a little Peas-soop therein: mix two or three Yolks with a little Milk, and strain them through a Sieve: Then take away the Broth in which the Eggs were dress’d, put the Yolks upon them with some scraped Cheese, and give them a good Colour.
[The court and country cook ; Massialot; 1702]
Eggs after the Burgundian Way.
Take a piece of red Beet, that has not an earthy or unsavoury tast, and pound it well with a slice of Lemmon, a few Macaroons, Sugar, and beaten Cinnamon: Then taking four or five Eggs, without the Sperm, mix all together very well, and strain them thro’ the Hair-sieve, with a little Milk and Salt. Afterwards they may be dress’d in the same manner as Eggs with Milk, and brought to a fine colour.
[The court and country cook ; Massialot; 1702]
And now from an English book, a recipe with an interesting name:
A Pallateen* of Eggs.
Beat twelve Eggs, and take out the Crumb of a Penny Loaf, add to it a Jill of Rhenish Wine, and mix it well with the Eggs; boil six Artichokes, take the Bottoms and cut small, and mix with the Eggs; season them with Mace, Nutmeg, and Salt, and mix them all well together: Grease a round Bason that will just hold them, and pour them into it, lay three thin Slices of Butter over all, and set it an Hour in a slow Oven; then take half a Hundred fresh Oysters and wash them clean in Water, lay them on a clean Board, and season them with Black-pepper and Salt, and drudge some Flour over them; then take a Quarter of a Pound of Butter in a clean Frying-Pan over a clear Stove or brisk Fire, let the butter be brown when you put in the Oysters, and turn them; then add to them half a Jill of Water, a Spoonful of Catchup, and thicken it with Flour and Butter; then turn the Eggs out of the Bason on the middle of the Dish, pour over it the Ragoo: Garnish with Barberry-berries and Parsely, and send it up.
[Professed Cookery …; Ann Cook; 1760’s]
*Pallateen references the Palatine Hill in Rome, therefore suggests things Imperial and Grand. Makes a change from “Royal” I guess.
And finally, from Hannah Glasse’s well known cookbook, a recipe that seems anything but “Plain and Easy”
A Ragoo of Eggs.
Boil twelve Eggs hard, take off the Shells, and with a little Knife very carefully cut the White a cross long-ways, so that the White may be in two halves, and the Yolk whole. Be very careful neither to break the Whites, nor Yolks, take a quarter of a Pint of Pickle Mushrooms chopped very fine, half an Ounce of Truffles and Morells, boiled in three or four Spoonfuls of Water, save the Water and chop the Truffles and Morells very small, boil a little Parsley, chop it fine, mix them together with the Truffle Water you saved, grate a little Nutmeg in, a little beaten Mace, pu it into a Sauce-pan with three Spoonfuls of Water, a Gill of Red Wine, one Spoonful of Ketchup, a Piece of Butter, as big as a large Wallnut, rolled in Flour, stir all together and let it boil. In the meantime get ready your Eggs, lay the Yolks and Whites in Order in your Dish, the hollow Parts of the Whites uppermost, that they may be filled, take some Crumbs of Bread, and fry them brown and crisp, as you do for Larks, with which fill up the Whites of the Eggs as high as they will lye, then pour in your Sauce all over, and garnish with fry’d Crumbs of Bread. This is a very genteel pretty Dish, if it be well done.
[Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy ..; Hannah Glasse; 1747]
18th C Egg recipes from previous stories:
To broil Eggs.(1747)
Last year, on This Day ..
We had a story about sauerkraut
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
As explained yesterday, this weeks posts will be minimalist - the recipes must speak for themselves. The first two speak strangely to us today, but the other two - minus the sugar - sound quite acceptable to the modern palate.
The manner how to make an Egge Tart with Apples.
Put into a Porrenger or Dish the bigness of two eggs, or a little more of the mellow part of a roasted Apple, adde thereunto two spoonfuls of fine flower, five or six eggs, and some salt at your own discretion, dissolve and beat all these together, until such time as the flower be well incorporated with the other ingredients, pour this mixture into a Tart-pan or Skillet, or in a Dish, in which you shall have dissolved the bignesse of an egge, or thereabouts of fresh butter; cover your Tart-pan, and put upon it some fire, and cover also the lid with a few embers, and after a quarter of an hour or a little more you must uncover your Tart-pan, to see whether your Cake be baked, and whether it be sufficiently coloured both above and below, and if you find it to bee so you may dish it up, and serve it to the Table, after you have powdered it with some sugar, and sprinkled it with some rose-water, & stuck into it some few slices of preserved Lemmon-peels.
Observe that instead of the mellow of Apples, to make a variety of the said Tarts, you may take the mellow of Pomkins, or of any other fruit you have a mind to, so you do first boyl or bake it before you make use of it to make your Tart or Cake withall, according to the former prescriptions in the foregoing Chapter.
[The Perfect Cook ( Patissier françois); Marnette; 1656]
To dress Eggs in the Spanish Fashion, called, wivos me quidos.
Take twenty eggs fresh and new, and strain them with a quarter of a pint of sack, claret, or white wine, a quartern of sugar, some grated nutmeg, and salt; beat them together with the juyce of an orange, and put to them a little musk, (or none) set them over the fire, and stir them continually till they be a little thick, (but not too much), serve them with scraping sugar being put in a clean warm dish, on fine toasts of manchet soaked in juyce of orange and sugar, or in claret, sugar, or white wine, and shake the eggs with orange comfits, or muskedines red and white.
[The accomplisht cook; Robert May; 1660]
To dress poached Eggs.
Take a dozen of new laid eggs, and the meat of four or five partridges, or any roast poultrey, mince it as small as you can, and season it with a few beaten cloves, mace, and nutmeg, put them into silver dish with a ladle full or two of pure mutton gravy, and two or three anchoves dissolved, then set it a stewing on a chafing dish of coals; being half stewed, as it boils put in the eggs one by one, and as you break them, put by most of the whites, and with one end of your egg-shell put in the yolks round in order amongst the meat, let them stew till the eggs be enough, then put in a little grated nutmeg, and the juyce of a couple of oranges, put not in the seeds, wipe the dish, and garnish it with four or five whole onions boild and broild.
[The accomplisht cook; Robert May; 1660]
To make an Amalet [omelet]
Take ten eggs, and more than half the whites, beat them very well, and put in a spoonful or two of cream, then heat some butter in your frying pan, and when it is hot, put in your eggs and stir them a little, then fry them till you find they are enough, and a little before you put them out of the pan, turn both the sides over that they may meet in the middle, and lay it the botome upwards in the dish, serve it in with verjuice, butter and sugar.
[Cook’s Guide; Hannah Wooley; 1664]
17th C egg recipes from previous posts:
Bacon Froise. (1695)
To dress Eggs called in French Ala Augenotte, or the Protestant way.(1682, Rabisha)
Last year on this Day ...
By co-incidence, the story last year was about a dinner held in the seventeenth century.
Monday, April 09, 2007
This week, as promised, is a week of egg recipes from the sixteenth to the twentieth century. It may be the recipes, and just the recipes this week, my friends, with minimal commentary. I have been somewhat busy with a husband who suddenly, unexpectedly and at some speed flew off his bicycle to land on his shoulder, which is not the recommended method of dismounting.
Here are today’s offerings, all chosen because they seem familiar, or not, in today’s world. As for the recipe for Eggs in Moonshine, who could resist a name like that? They seem to be rose-scented, candied egg yolks, which might make a very innovative ‘modern’ idea for decorating a fancy cake.
For to make Cremmeboyle. [a custard decorated with borage flowers]
To make Creme boyle take cowe creme and the yolkes of egges clene drawen & welle beten and boyle it up that it be standynge and put thereto sugre and colour it with saffron and salt it and leske it in dyshes and plante therin flours of Borage and serve it.
[A Noble Bok of Festes Ryalle and Cokery; 1500]
To make egges in moneshyne.
Take a dyche of rosewater and a dyshe full of suger, and set them upon a chaffyngdysh, and let them boyle, than take the yolkes of viii  or ix  egges newe layde and putte them therto everyone from other, and so lette them harden a lyttle, and so after this maner serve them forthe and cast a lyttle synamon and sugar upon them.
[1545 Proper New Booke of Cokerye]
To poche Egges in Broth.
Take Vergis [verjus] and faire water, and a dish of newe Yest, and put therin Cloves, Mace, Corans [currants]. Suger, sweete Butter, a handfull of Spinage, and let them boyle a good while, then havying poched your Egges in faire water that is seethying: then laie your Egges in brothe and serve them forth with hearbes laied over them.
[Widowes Treasure; 1586]
[TOF: I don’t understant the ‘newe Yest’ in this recipe. Does anyone have a clue? Otherwise this recipe sounds like a sort of Eggs Florentine, doesn’t it?]
A Pudding in Egges.[Egg shells re-filled]
Take and boyle your Egges hard, and blanch them, and cut off the Crowne of them, and take then of the yolks and chop them, Beetes boyled, and yolks of hard egges, greated Bread, and Corance [currants], Salte, Sugar, Sinamon, and Ginger, and then put the yolks of rawe Egges, and mingle them altogither, then put in your Egges, then for your broth take a little Mutton broth, Corance, Dates, Sugar, a little salt and butter, thicken it with yolks of Egs, vergions [verjuice] and a little sugar, so serve it in.
[A Boke of Cookrye; 1591]
Friday, April 06, 2007
Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten on this day wherever there is a historically Christian culture. The cross is intended to symbolise the crucifixion, and in their purest form the buns have no butter or milk or eggs, as befits the season of Lent.
As with so many traditional foods, a large number of myths abound, and these range from the amusing to the ridiculous. One story insists that the buns date back to pagan rituals, but as the first recorded us of the phrase ‘cross buns’ was in 1733, this seems a tad unlikely.
Some foods never date, and sweet, fruity bread buns are one of them. I give you this recipe from the ever-reliable Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery (circa 1870’s). Vary them at your whim. I believe some people even put choc-chips in them.
Good Friday Buns (commonly called Hot Cross Buns)
Rub a quarter of a pound of butter into two pounds of flour. Add a pinch of salt; then mix a wine-glassful of fresh, thick yeast with a pint and a half of warmed milk, and stir these into the flour till it forms a light batter. Put the batter in a warm place to rise. When sufficiently risen, work into it half a pound of currants, half a nutmeg, grated, and a quarter of an ounce of powdered mace. Knead these well into the dough, make it up into buns, and place them on buttered baking tins. Make a cross on them with the back of a knife, brush a little clarified butter over the top, and let them stand a quarter of an hour before the fire. Bake in a good oven.
Next week as befits the Easter Season, we will have an Egg Theme. We will eat our way through five centuries of Egg Recipes, starting with the 16th C on Monday.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
We meet Sam Pepys again today, this time in 1669 in the company of his colleague Henry Sheres who has spent some time at the embassy in Spain, and introduces Sam to a new dish on this day.
“To the Mulberry garden, where Sheres is to treat us with a Spanish Olio by a cook of his acquaintance that is there, that was with my Lord in Spain. And without any other company, he did do it, and mighty nobly; and the Olio was indeed a noble dish, such as I never saw better, or any more of….So we left other things that would keep till night for a collation..”
An Olio, or Olla Podrida is, according to the OED “a dish of Spanish and Portuguese origin, composed of pieces of meat and fowl, bacon, pumpkins, cabbage, turnips, and other ingredients stewed or boiled together and highly spiced.” The name comes from the cooking pot, much as we now use ‘casserole’ to refer to the dish rather than the container. They sometimes had a spectacular number of ingredients, as this recipe from Robert May’s Accomplish't Cook, published in 1660.
To Make an Olio Podrida.
Take a pipkin or pot of some three gallons, fill it with fair water and set it over a fire of Charcoals, and put in first your hardest meats, a Rump of Beef, Bolonia Sausages, Neats Tongues, two dry and two green, boiled and larded, about two hours after the pot is boiled and scummed: put in more presently after your Beef is scummed, Mutton, Venison, Pork, Bacon, all the aforesaid in gubbins, as big as Ducks Egg, in equal pieces, put in also Carrots, Turnips, Onions, and Cabbidge, in good big pieces as big as your meat, a faggot of sweet herbs well bound up, and some whole Spinedge, Sorrel, Burradge, Endive, Marigolds and other good Pot hearbs a little chopped, and sometimes French Barley, or Lupins green or dry.
Then a little before you dish out your Olio, put to your pot Cloves, Mace, Saffron &c.
Then next have divers Fowls; as first,
A Goose, or Turky, two Capons, two Ducks, two Pheasants, two Widgeons, four Partridges, four Stockdoves, four Teals, eight Snites, twenty four Quails, forty-eight Larks.
Boil the aforesaid Fowls in water and salt in a pan, pipkin or pot, &c.
Then have, Bread, Marrow, Bottoms of Artichocks, Yolks of hard Eggs, Large Mace, Chestnuts boil’d and blancht, two Collyflowers, Saffron.
And stew these in a pipkin together, being ready clenged with some good sweet butter, a little white wine, and strong broth.
Some other times for variety you may use Beets, Potato’s Skirrets, Pistaches, Pine Apple seed, or Almonds, Poungarnet, and Lemons.
Now to dish your Olio, dish first your Beef, Veal, or Pork; then your Venison, and Mutton, Tongues, Sausage, and Roots over all.
Then next your largest Fowl, Land Fowl, or Sea Fowl, as at first, a Goose or Turky, two Capons, two Pheasants, four Ducks, four Widgeons, sour Stock-doves, four Partridges, eight Teals, twelve Snites, twenty-four Quails, forty eight Larks, &c.
Then broth it, and put on your pipkin of Collyflowers, Artichocks, Chestnuts, some Sweetbreads fried, Yolks of hard Eggs, then Marrow boil’d in strong borth or water, large Mace, Saffron, Pistaches, and all the foresaid things being finely stewed up, and some red Beets overall; slic’t Lemons, and Lemon peels whole, and run over it with beaten butter.
What size pot must this have needed? Twenty different sorts of meat, if you include the marrow!
Tomorrow’s Story …
Good Friday Buns
Last Year on this Day …
The story was about the African explorer,
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
In 1658 Samuel Pepys was “cut for the stone” – that is, he had surgery for a bladder stone. It was a common medical problem of the time, particularly amongst the wealthier folk who had little in the way of dairy produce in their diet. Butter was for the lower classes, and clean fresh milk was difficult to get in the cities, so city folk were more liable to suffer from Vitamin A deficiency – a known contributor to the problem. Specialised ‘stone-cutters’ were kept busy plying their trade, and a gruesome and risky procedure it was in the days before anaesthesia (the patient was strapped to the table) and sterilisation of instruments.
Surviving such surgery was indeed worth celebrating. Every year on the anniversary of his operation, Samuel had a special dinner. The actual day had been March 26th, but in 1663 he had been forced to postpone the celebration because the household was in a muddle due to his wife Elizabeth being ill, and “my servants being out of order” (they were in search of a new cook-maid.) The delayed dinner was finally held on this day, and what a good feast it was.
“…This being my feast, in lieu of what I should have had a few days ago, for my cutting of the Stone …… Very merry before, at, and after dinner, and the more for that my dinner was great and most neatly dressed by our own only mayde. We had a Fricasse of rabbits and chicken – a leg of mutton boiled – three carps in a dish – a great dish of a side of lamb – a dish roasted pigeons – a dish of four lobsters – three tarts – a Lampry pie, a most rare pie – a dish of anchoves – good wine of several sorts; and all things mightly and noble to my great content.”
Samuel Pepys’ diary is fascinating to histo-foodies, but he also recorded the political events of the day (well, you can't eat all the time). He lived through England’s eleven-year post-civil war government by the Commonwealth and Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate, and the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660. In 1664 a piece of Royalist propaganda was published in the form of a cookbook purporting to be written by Elizabeth (“Joan”) Cromwell. In spite of its satirical tone, there are some interesting recipes in the book. Here is one for a tart that would not have been out of place on Samuel’s feast table.
To make a double Tart.
Take some codlings tenderly boyled and peel them, cut them in halves, fill your Tart, put into a quarter of a hundred of codlings a pound and a half of sugar, a few cloves, and a little cinnamon, close up the coffin and bake it; when it comes out of the Oven, take a quart of cream, six eggs, a quartern of sugar and a sliced nutmeg, beat all these well together, pour them into the Tart, then set your tart in the Oven for half a quarter of an hour, when it comes out, cut off the ley and having a lid cut in flowers ready, lay it on, and garnish it with preserves of damsons, resberries, apricocks and cherries, and place a preserved quince in the middle, and strew it with sugar biskets.
Tomorrow’s Story …
Last Year on This Day …
Tinned apricots were the topic of the day.
Quotation for the Day …
The longer I work in nutrition, the more convinced I become that for the healthy person all foods should be delicious. Adele Davis (1904-1974)
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Ann Frank was thirteen-years old in July 1942 when she and her family attempted to escape Nazi persecution in Amsterdam by going into hiding in a “Secret Annexe” in her father’s office building. Friends and employees of her father supplied them with whatever spare food they could obtain. They lived in the hidden rooms for two years.
On this day in 1944 Anne commented about the tedium of some of their meals. A little over two years after this diary entry, Ann was dead – a victim of typhus in the infamous Bergen-Belsen camp where she was sent after her family was betrayed and their hiding place discovered.
“In the twenty one months that we've spent here we have been through a good many 'food cycles'...periods in which one has nothing else to eat but one particular dish or kind of vegetable. We had nothing but endive for a long time, day in, day out, endive with sand, endive without sand, stew with endive, boiled or 'en casserole;' then it was spinach, and after that followed kohlrabi, salsify, cucumbers, tomatoes, sauerkraut, etc., each according to the season.”
Ann would have been in no confusion about ‘endive’. Greengrocers in different locations nowadays might call it ‘chicory’, but other greengrocers might sell a thick root vegetable by the name of ‘chicory’. Sometimes ‘witloof’ and ‘escarole’ get into the confusion act too. We might also have to factor in the translator’s error or opinion as well when we consider Ann’s endive dinners. This sort of confusion is begging for some clarification, so here is my attempt to set myself straight.
Firstly, both endive (Cichorium endiva) and chicory (Cichorium intybus) are members of the same family, as their name suggests. Endive is grown and eaten for its leaves, which have two main forms – curly and broad-leafed. This is where confusion number one turns up. In the USA the curly form is often called chicory, and the broad-leafed form is often called escarole. Whatever it is called, endive is used in salads, or cooked as one would spinach.
Chicory (Cichorium intybus) is a popular salad vegetable in Europe, particularly when the tight leafy heads are ‘forced’ (grown in the dark). Confusion number two is that this form is called ‘witloof’ or Belgian or French Endive. The root of the chicory plant is also cooked as one would any other root vegetable, and it has had a starring role as a coffee substitute (‘ersatz’ coffee), coffee alternative (supposedly healthier), or coffee additive.
In 1915 a collection of recipes provided by Belgian refugees was published under the title The Belgian Cook-Book in England. The Belgians know all about endive.
Make a mince of any cold white meat, such as veal, pork or chicken, and add to it some minced ham; sprinkle it with a thick white sauce. In the meantime the chicories should be cooking; tie each one round with a thread to keep them firm and boil them for ten minutes. When cooked, drain them well, open them lengthwise very carefully, and slip in a spoonful of the mince. Close them, keeping the leaves very neat, and, ifnecessary, tie them round again. Put them in a fire-proof dish with a lump of butter on each, and let them heat through. Serve them in their juice or with more of the white sauce, taking care to remove the threads.
Monday, April 02, 2007
Giacomo Casanova was born on this day in 1725 in Venice. Casanova apparently had many other interests, charms and habits (good and bad), but popular history has chosen to feature only his notorious womanising (the official number of seductions in his memoir was of a mere 122 women.) His last years, expelled from his own country and shunned by the man believed to be his biological father, he lived a dull and relatively friendless life as a librarian to an aristocrat in Bohemia.
Casanova loved food, it is said, almost as much as he loved women. At the age of 73 this was his remaining pleasure: he was described at that age as ‘no longer a god in the garden or a satyr in the forest, he is a wolf at table.’ In his more virile days, he supposedly used to his benefit the aphrodisiac effect of oysters, describing his particular method of serving thus:
‘I placed the shell on the edge of her lips and after a good deal of laughing, she sucked in the oyster, which she held between her lips. I instantly recovered it by placing my lips on hers.’
Oysters have been considered aphrodisiacs since at least Roman times, and there may be something in the myth after all. Some American and Italian researchers recently published their findings in this regard. They found that oysters are very rich in amino acids, particularly those that stimulate the release of certain hormones. I bet those researchers have no problem finding volunteers for their follow-up research.
The aphrodisiac effect is said to only occur when the oysters are eaten raw. Should you dislike or fear raw seafood, or fear or not need this hormone boost, you can cook them of course. Here are some recipes from the time of Casanova, to give you some ideas.
From: The Country Housewife and Ladies Director; Richard Bradley (1732)
To stew Oysters. From Exeter.
Take large Oysters, open them, and save their Liquor; then when the Liquor is settled, pour off the Clear, and put it in a Stew-Pan, with some Blades of Mace, a little grated Nutmeg, and some whole Pepper, to boil gently, till it is strong enough of the Spices: then take out the Spices, and put in the Oysters to stew gently, that they be not hard; and when they are near enough, add a piece of Butter, and as much grated Bread as will thicken the Liquor of the Oysters; and just before you take them from the Fire, stir in a Glass of White-wine.
Roasted Oysters in Scallop Shells. From Exeter.
Provide some large scallop Shells, such as are the deepest and hollowest you can get, which Shells are sold at the Fishmongers at London; then open such a Number of Oysters as will near fill the Shells you design, and save the Liquor to settle; then pour a moderate quantity of the Liquor into each Shell, and put a Blade of Mace, and some whole Pepper with it; after which, put into your Shells a small piece of Butter, and cover the whole with grated Bread: then let these on a Grid-Iron over the Fire, and when they are enough, give the grated Bread at the tops of the Shells a browning with a red-hot Iron, and serve them.
The same Person who sent the foregoing Receipts, concerning Oysters, advises another way of roasting Oysters, which I think is a very good one, and not much known. It is, to take large Oysters, open them, and hang them by the finny part on a small Spit, after having first dipt them in the Yolk of an Egg, and roll'd them in Crumbs of Bread; turn them three or four times before the Fire, and baste them gently with Butter, till the Crumbs of Bread are crisp upon them, and serve them hot. As for their use in Sauces, they are proper with Fish, and are sometimes used with Fowls; their own Liquor is always put in such Sauces where they are used. For pickling of Oysters, the following is an excellent Receipt.
To pickle Oysters.
Open a quantity of large Oysters, saving their Liquor, and letting it settle; then pour the Liquor clear off into a Stew-pan, and wash the Oysters in Water and Salt: after which, boil them gently in their own Liquor, so that they are not too hard. When they are enough, take them out, and add to the Liquor some Mace, a few Cloves, some whole Pepper, a little Ginger, and a Bay-Leaf or two, and let the Liquor boil, putting to it about a fourth part of White-wine Vinegar, letting it continue to boil a little more; then take it off, and let it stand to be quite cold. When the Oysters are cold, put them into Jars or Gally-pots, and pour the Liquor with the Spice cold upon them; then tie them down with Leather.
Tomorrow’s Story …
An Endive by any other Name.
Quotation for the Day …
She knows no difference 'twixt head and privities who devours immense oysters at midnight. Juvenal, from his Satires, early 2nd C.