Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Barley Sugar and Butterscotch.

Barley Sugar and Butterscotch are boiled sugar sweets – but which is the oldest?

The OED says barley-sugar is ‘a confection, usually in twisted sticks, made from sugar, formerly by boiling in a decoction of barley’, and gives the first mention as 1712 in a pharmacology text. As with many of our candies, it started out as medicine. I am in search of a barley sugar recipe that specifies barley-water, and when I find one, I will let you know. In the meanwhile, here a recipe from Frederick Nutt’s The Complete Confectioner (1789)

Barley Sugar.
Take a small stewpan, put some syrup into it and boil till it comes to carimel; rub a little butter on a marble stone just to grease it that it may not stick; then take your saucepan by the handle and let the syrup run out of the spout along the stone in long sticks; twist it (while it is hot) at each end and let it stand till cold.

Butterscotch (also, apparently butterscot) is ‘a kind of toffee, chiefly composed of sugar and butter’, and it appears to be a more recent invention.

The OED is not accurate here, I am afraid. It gives the first mention in 1865. Other sources, including Wikipedia, say it was made in Doncaster in the north of England, in 1817, by a Mr. Samuel Parkinson. In another case of ‘hiding place of secret old recipe on tatty piece of paper discovered’ (see my cynical Sally Lunn story earlier this week), it is now being made again, to this original recipe.

As for its name, is it scorched, scotched (cross-hatched) or Scottish? I don’t know. But I am intrigued, and am in search of the ‘first recipe.’ Until then, you will have to be happy with the barley sugar.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Toffee Time.

I leave England today for home. About 30 hours travel I reckon, including hanging around at Heathrow before the flight, then a couple of hours each in Dubai and Brunei airports. Not that I care, really, I have my Sony e-Reader – a gift from my lovely spouse before I left. Never again to have that dreadful panic about running out of reading material en voyage. Heaven, for a readaholic, is 150 books in one small device. I only got time to upoad 40 or so before I left, but it has been enough …

But I digress. For this week I will either be in planes or airports, or recovering from same, or catching up on family, friends, and emails. So – short posts which will be set up to pop up at the usual time. On confectionary, methinks, as on reflection I have neglected the sweetie, candy, lollie department so far. A quick but not necessarily complete review shows that we have had:

- A story called ‘Candy for health’, and a recipe for Liquorish Cakes.

- A story about nougat and a recipe for sugared fruits (the original sweetmeats)

- A story about Kendal Mint Cake with a recipe for ‘Sugar of Roses’

- A story about the Maquis de Sade, and a recipe for Caraway comfits.

- A story about Lammas, and Yellowman (honeycomb toffee)

- Dulcia Domestica (Ancient Roman sweets made from dates)

- Candy in Cakes.

- Jelly Babies, Jujubes, and Dr.Who.

- Tomato marshmallows.

- And of course, a number of stories on chocolate in all its dark brown glory.

Which leaves a lot yet uncovered.

Today is Toffee Day.

‘Toffee’ is a word that puzzles the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary, who say it is of ‘uncertain origin’, and possibly a dialect word. It is sometimes spelled tuffy or toughy, and is a later form of taffy. The first mention, according to the OED which is marvellous but not infallible, is 1817 for taffy and 1825 for toughy (the quotation says is is named for its toughness.). Given that words are usually in use for some time before they are enshrined in a quotable publication, it looks like toffee as we know it might be a late eighteenth century idea.

The first references to toffee/taffy suggest it was made from treacle or molasses. The recipe I have chosen for today is for Everton Toffee. I have no idea why it is so-called, and would love it if you do, and let us all know in the comments. The thing I like about this recipe is that it proves you can make candy without a sugar thermometer – all you need is a clean tobacco pipe.

Everton Toffee.
Boil half an ounce of bruised ginger in half a pint of water till it obtains the flavour of ginger; strain it, put the liquor into a saucepan, add two pounds of sugar and one ounce of butter; let them simmer gently over the fire for some time, then take a piece of clean tobacco pipe, dip it into cold water, then with it stir the mixure round, plunge the pipe into the water, if the sugar adheres to it and becomes crisp, pour it into tins which have been buttered ready for use.
The Frugal Cook, by E.Carter (1851)

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Georgian Dinner.

This is Georgian week and I can do no better than give you a menu from our old friend Parson Parson James Woodforde. In his diary on this day in 1780 he wrote:

“Mr Custance ...asked me to dine with the Company at Ringland at 2 o’clock ….We had for dinner a Calf’s Head, boiled Fowl and tongue, a Saddle of Mutton rosted on the Side Table, and a fine Swan rosted with Currant Jelly Sauce for the first course. The Second Course a couple of Wild Fowl called Dun Fowls, Larks, Blamange, Tarts etc etc and a good Desert of Fruit after amongst which was a Damson Cheese. I never eat a bit of Swan before, and think it good eating with sweet sauce. The Swan was killed 3 weeks before it was eat and not yet the lest bad taste in it.”

Swan might have impressed Parson James, but I have never fancied it, which is just as well as it is as impossible to get as the elusive Bath Chaps I have been seeking this week. If you want to roast a swan, and can get one legally, there is a previous post on how to do it.

A Damson Cheese is the dish of the day. A ‘cheese’ can be anything that is made in a mould, like cheese. It is a French concept, so in France you can have a fromage glacé, if you want ice-cream, or if you really want to get confused you can order a fromage d’Italie, which is sometimes a Bologna sausage. The idea is very old. It is overcooked jam, really. The modern version are the fruit ‘cheeses’ made into chewy little strips for children’s lunch boxes, or little blocks of quince paste to put on the cheese platter. It is the candy you have when you should be having fruit.

Here is Mrs. Rundell (1824) again.

Damson Cheese.
Bake or boil the fruit in a stone jar in a saucepan of water, or on a hot hearth. Pour off some of the juice, and to every two pounds of fruit weigh half a pound of sugar. Set the fruit over a fire in the pan, let it boil quickly till it begins to look dry; take out the stones and add the sugar, stir it well in, and simmer two hours slowly, then boil it quickly half an hour, till the sides of the pan candy; pour the jam then into potting-pans or dishes about an inche thick, so that it may cut firm. If the skins be disliked, then the juice is not to be taken out; but after the frist process, the fruit is to be pulped through a very coarse sieve with the juice, and managed as above. The stones are to be cracked, or some of them, and the kernels boiled with the jam. All the juice may be left in and boiled to evaporate, but do not add the sugar until it has done so. The above looks well in shapes.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Buns in Bath.

I have given up on the search for Bath Chaps. Perhaps they are hiding in Bristol?

Instead I went to the ‘authentic’ and ‘original’ Sally Lunn shop. Oh Dear. So much mystery and myth masquerading as historic fact. The ‘Sally Lunn’ is a sort of large soft brioche ‘bun’. I have briefly considered them before, but it is time to take the investigation further. The local absolute truth is that French Huguenot called Solange Luyen arrived in Bath in 1680, and made her living making her soft rich French bread which wowed the locals, who Anglicised her name to Sally Lunn, the buns themselves eventually also being given the name. The bakery where local truth is hat she made her buns is in a little lane near where I am staying – and the ‘museum’ staff tell that her original recipe was amazingly discovered in the 1930’s – hidden away somewhere (I forget where). The only problem with this story (well the first problem that I can think of) is that there does not appear to be any evidence at all of a person by that name – and surely there would be evidence of someone who was a well known baker in the town? Secondly, there does not seem to be any recipe called Sally Lunn until the mid-nineteenth century – what happened to it for two hundred years? So far, the first recipe I have found for them is in the 1864 edition of Eliza Acton’s Modern Cookery for Families. Interestingly she calls them Solimemnes – this is another clue I am sure. I am away from my 1845 edition, but I don’t believe it is in there, but Ms. Acton surely would not have omitted it. I will update you when I am home and can check it out.

An intriguing variation of the story has Sally Lunn being a Scottish cook employed by a Mme. Narbonne (also a French émigré – this time from the Revolution) and the location is her pastry shop in St. James’ in London. She was then ‘discovered’ and moved to Bath.

A final story is that the name derives from ‘Soleil et Lune’ – a bun that was dark on the bottom from contact with the oven floor and cooked to golden perfection on top. Mispronunciation of this name made it sound like it might be a girl’s name – and Sally was born. Now, this story sounds plausible. We did make croissant into crescent roll, didn’t we?

The story is a bit like that of Pavlova. Meringues have been around for a several hundred years, so the argument is really about who named it, not who invented it. Rich bread doughs have been around for a long time too, and one variety was called a Bath Bun. Is this a clue?

This project needs more time, but I offer you a Bath Bun that sounds like the Sally Lunn tastes.

Bath Buns.
Take half a pound of flour, seven eggs, seven eggs, seven spoonfuls of new yeast, two ditto of sherry, two of rose-water; stir all well together, and set to rise before the fire; then work up a pound of butter, with a pound of flour, and stir all well together, and bake them in a hot oven, this quantity makes two dozen.
Marshall, Elizabeth. The young ladies’ guide in the art of cookery: being a collection of useful receipts. 1777

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Eggs not Chaps.

I spent a large part of today in Bath on a fruitless search for Bath Chaps. An otherwise well bacon-stocked deli/butcher told me that he used to sell a lot, but I am the first person in five years to ask for it. Bath Chaps are obviously victims of the cholesterol police, damn them.

My fall-back position was the Scotch Eggs (with ‘thrice cooked chips’) at the Rummer, a pub just near Pulteney bridge. They advertise a number of sausage dishes made from the ‘Old Spot’ variety of pig. I have to say they were good – so do try them if you are in the area. I am embarrassed to admit that I was unable to finish the chips, but it was not for want of trying. There was a man-sized portion. It might also have had something to do with the 500ml of cider I had with the lunch – a local organic variety, very dry and not at all like alcoholic apple juice. When I finished I noticed that it was 6.5% alcohol, so I had had 3.3 standard drinks. For lunch.

I don’t know when Scotch Eggs became Scotch, but I will look into it. In the meanwhile, this recipe fits into the Georgian time-frame, just.

Scotch Eggs.
Boil hard five pullets' eggs, and without removing the white, cover completely with a fine relishing forcemeat, in which, let scraped ham, or chopped anchovy, bear a due proportion. Fry of a beautiful yellow brown, and serve with a good gravy in the dish.
A New System of Domestic Cookery, Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell, 1824.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Marmalade, modern.

I am in Bath, in Somerset – an enchanting town with a rich Roman heritage and some beautiful Georgian architecture. Say ‘Bath’ and it is impossible not to think of Jane Austen (1775 –1817) - but we have considered Jane and black butter and cheesecakes in previous posts, so we need something different today. The Word According to Wikipedia is that the Georgian era is defined as including the reigns of the four King Georges (1-IV), in other words, from 1714-1830. In the remaining four days of this week (while I am still on holiday) I will sample some cookbooks – more or less at random - from that period.

Right at the beginning of our chosen period, Mary Kettilby published her book A collection of above three hundred receipts in cookery, physick and surgery; for the use of all good wives, tender mothers, and careful nurses. It contains the earliest known recipe for marmalade as we know it today. We had a seventeenth century for Marmalat of Quinces in a previous post, but this was more like a fruit paste such as we now put on our cheese platters. The ‘modern’ way of making marmalade is no different than when Mary wrote her recipe in 1714 – although the bitterness that she clearly dislikes is surely the desirable feature of real marmalade made from Seville oranges.

To make Orange Marmalade, very good.
Take eighteen fair large Seville Oranges, pare them very thin, then cut them in halves, and save their Juice in a clean Vessel, and set it cover’d in a cool Place; put the half-Oranges into Water for one Night, then boil them very tender, Shifting the water till all the Bitterness is out, then dry them well and pick out the Seeds and Strings as nicely as you can; pound them fine, and to every pound of Pulp take a pound of double-refin’d Sugar; boil your Pulp and Sugar almost to Candy-height: When this is ready, you must take the Juice of Six Lemons, the Juice of all the Oranges, strain it, and take its full weight of double-refin’d Sugar, all which pour into the Pulp and Sugar, and boil the whole pretty fast ‘till it will Jelly. Keep your Glasses cover’d and ‘twill be a lasting wholsome Sweet-meat for any Use.

Quotation for the Day …

Marmalade in the morning has the same effect on taste buds that a cold shower has on the body. Jeanine Larmoth.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Pig's Face, by any other name.

I am leaving York today and heading South, to Bath. As it turns out, it is Jane Austen week, which I did not know when I booked – proving that travel is full of good surprises. I had in mind to talk about food and dining in the Regency period, to keep in my holiday theme, and I will do this later the week – but today I want to consider the Bath Chap. Actually, what I really want to do while I am here is eat a slice or two of genuine Bath Chap.
In 2006 the Guild of Fine Food Retailers ran a competition to decide the top 10 Forgotten British Foods – and Bath Chaps are top of the list, which seems like a good enough reason to try them.

1.‘Eadles’ Bath Chaps
2. Mrs Grieve’s Fish Custard
3. Mrs Langland’s Faggots
4. Grey Squirrel Casserole
5. Rook Pie
6. Rabbit with Prunes
7. Fife Brooth
8. Roman Pie
9. 16th C Pancakes
10. A Grand Sallet (from Robert Mays’ cookbook of the 17th C)
‘Chaps’ are chops in the old-fashioned sense of the word meaning the jaw, or cheeks. So chaps are part of a pigs’s face, really. A true Bath Chap should be made from a dappled, apple-eating pig called a Gloucestershire Old Spot. The cheeks are boned, then brined (and sometimes smoked) and pressed into a cone-shaped mould. When needed, the now cone-shaped piece of meat is removed, crumbed, sliced and then eaten, or alternatively, fried then eaten. It is simply facial ham or bacon.
Should you have a desire to make your own, here is how:
Bath Chaps, Or Cheeks.
Chose your cheeks from pigs not more than eight score weight. Split open, carefully take out all the offal, and for every stone of fourteen pounds of meat, allow
Saltpetre 1 oz.
Coarse sugar 1 Ib.
Bay salt or rock 1 Ib.
Pepper 1 oz.
Rub the cheeks thoroughly and daily for a week; then turn them in the pickle for a fortnight more, when you may take them up, dry and wipe, and coat them nicely with warmed coarse oatmeal, and hang them to dry for a week. Smoke them a month, or only dry them in your chimney by a gentle heat. Oak and grass turfs must be the fuel made use of.
The art and mystery of curing, preserving, and potting all kinds of meats, game, and fish; also the art of pickling and the preservation of fruits and vegetables. By J.R, 1864.
Quotation of the Day …
Eternity is a ham and two people. Dorothy Parker.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Yorkshire Steak.

I had not expected to find a ‘Yorkshire’ recipe in an American cook book, but life is full of surprises, thank goodness. I have no idea why this steak dish is styled ‘Yorkshire”, and hope for some enlightenment from you. The book is Joe Tildens’ Recipes for Epicures, published in 1907. The preface says:

“Major Joseph Tilden was in his time one of the most famous Bohemians and epicureans of the Pacific Coast. Ever since his death his many friends have been trying to learn the culinary secrets which made a repast of his devising so delicious. He had given his recipes to but few, and those few his most intimate friends and fellow spirits. One of the most favored of his old companions has given this complete collection of his recipes for publication.”

Yorkshire Steaks.
Fry in butter several small tenderloin steaks, with two onions sliced and one cucumber sliced. When well browned add a pint of stock, salt, pepper and cayenne and one teaspoonful of made mustard. Simmer an hour or longer.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Yorkshire Beer.

Now this recipe (from the same newspaper source as the previous two days) triggered a real trip down memory lane for me, on account of one of the ingredients.

Home-made Yorkshire Beer.
1 breakfast cupful of linseed,
1 breakfast cupful of hops,
1 lemon
1 lb. of sugar
1 oz stick of spanish
Half-penny worth of yeast (either brewer’s or German)
1 gallon water.
Put lemon sliced into a pan with linseed, hops, spanish (bruised), sugar and water. Boil 20 min. Strain into a vessel. Let stand until just warm and add the yeast. Stir the contents well, place in a warm place, and cover with a cloth. After 24 hr. skim off the yeast and pour off the liquor carefully into another vessel, leaving the sediment. Bottle immediately and in three days the beer is fit for use.
For some tastes the above portion of sugar may be found too large. It may be diminished but the beer will not keep so long.
When in season, a cupful of nettle tops and a few dandelion flowers may be boiled with the other ingredients if liked.

The ingredient is of course ‘spanish’. It is a particularly northern word for liquorice – I don’t know that it is used outside Yorkshire, but would be very interested to hear from you if you have any ideas. ‘Spanish’ was the only word we ever used as children. It came in short, brittle, shiny sticks with one end slighly flattened with some sort of logo on it. We used to suck the end to a tiny point and loved the black lips and mouth. Or, we would buy packets of ‘kali’ – fizzy sherbet powder, and dip the spanish in it and suck it. The third thing was to put a stick of it in water, and shake and shake it till it dissolved into ‘spanish water’ – our sort of childhood ‘beer’.

Why liquorice is called ‘spanish’ is a mystery. There is a particular Yorkshire connection with liquorice. It is a major product of the town of Pontefract (especially famous for its ‘Pontefract Cakes’ or ‘Pomfret Cakes’ – flat discs of liquorice stamped like sealing wax with an image supposedly of the castle.) One theory is that it was Spanish monks at the Cistercian abbey at Rievaulx who introduced it to the area. Another is that liquorice was introduced (imported) from Spain. A dearth of theories for such an intriguing subject, methinks.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Yorkshire Parkin.

Yorkshire Parkin is a well-known north country variation of gingerbread made with oatmeal. There are a myriad variations on this theme, and one is in the Gingerbread Archive. This is another, with a strange name. A ‘moggie’, according to the OED originally meant “a young girl’, then it progressed to mean “an untidily dressed woman” then a “non-pedigree” cat. The latter is certainly the usage here in Australia.

I have no idea why it would be given to a cake. It is a rough, peasant, mongrel sort of cake I guess.

The ‘parkin’ is definitely mysterious, even the OED says so. It suggests (with a slight note of desperation) that it might be related to the surname Perkin or Parkin (“earlier also a forename”). The first usage listed by the OED is by Dorothy Wordsworth (sister of the poet William) in 1800, whose journal is scattered with references to her domestic routine. I like it that this early reference to parkin is from a poetical family. I do not doubt that the cake was in existence for a very very long time before Dorothy wrote of it, and would love for someone to come up with earlier references.

From the same source as yesterday:

Yorkshire “Moggie”
2 breakfast cups flour,
¾ breakfast cup sugar
3 tablespoonfuls treacle,
2 teaspoonfuls ginger,
1 teaspoonful carbonate of soda,
3 oz lard.
Mix dry ingredients together, put in treacle and lard, and melt. Mix soda in a tablespoonful of milk. Mix with milk, and bake in a slow oven.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Yorkshire rabbit.

Yorkshire recipes will be the theme of the rest of the week – by which I mean they must have ‘Yorkshire’ in the title. Today, to add to our collection of variations on a theme of Welsh Rabbit (HERE and HERE) , I give you Yorkshire Welsh Rarebit, which you will all now realise is incorrectly named. It also uses Cheshire Cheese. But – my selection criterion was only that it must have Yorkshire in the name.

Yorkshire Rarebit.
4 oz Cheshire cheese
½ oz. butter
3 tablespoonfuls milk.
A little vinegar, mustard, pepper,
2 slices buttered toast.
2 poached eggs.
Cut cheese into small pieces, place them in a saucepan with the butter and milk, add a little made mustard, a few drops of vinegar, and pepper to taste. Stir and cook gently until the mixture resembles thick cream. Meanwhile prepare two slices buttered toast, and pour cheese preparation over toast. Then lay a poached egg on each piece of toast.
From: The Yorkshire Observer (newspaper) cook book, 1934-5.

P.S. Before you ask, Yorkshire Pudding (and Toad in the Hole) is HERE

Monday, September 15, 2008

Railway Breakfast(s)

The Oxford Symposium is over for another year, and a fantastic event it was indeed. It manages the most egalitarian atmosphere of any 'conference' I have ever attended, as well as being the most fun. There were some very erudite and interesting papers on 'Vegetables' , but we also managed to eat some great food, had the opportunity to make Arcimboldo-inspired pictures with fruit and veg, and listened to the sounds that plants make by themselves - and some that humans make using vegetables as instruments. The 'Carrot Crunch Concerto' was really something, and I sincerely hope that someone has U-tubed it.

Today, if all goes according to plan, I should be heading off to York by train. I love train travel, and it gives me an excuse to relate a fine rail-food story that I have wanted to tell you for a long time.
The late ninteteenth century was a time of great competition between railroads. Speed was the thing, and railway races attracted a great deal of interest. In Scotland in 1895 a young man called Norman McDonald set off on the East Coast Flyer from London to Edinburgh – and managed four breakfasts on the trip.
“I did the feat of having four breakfasts in four divers places. (1) Soon after midnight one of my co-lunatics in our “sleeper’ produced a flask and very massive sandwiches. (2) After Berwick-on-Tweed the attendant gave us coffee and biscuits. (3) not long after 5 am we were hammering on the doors of the Imperial Hotel in Aberdeen calling for food. On getting in I said the Cockney pressmen must have real porridge for once, “and mind they have milk, all proper, and no beastly treacle or sugar.” The poor waiter said “There is no milk!” I blazed into Highland fire, which he damped down by saying “Man! The coos is no milket yet!” (4) I caught the “Flying Scotsman” portion from Aberdeen and landed in Edinburgh at 9.40 am, dashed to my nearby house to find the joyful remains of the family feed still on the table. I had done nearly 200 miles between my second and third breakfasts, and about 130 miles bteween the third and fourth ones!”
Four breakfasts - what a good thing to aspire too! I feel sure it would help one to adapt to time differences on international trips. One could extend the concept to multiple lunches and dinners too.
Here is Porridge, with preliminary Comments, from the redoubtable Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery (1870’s)
Porridge, Oatmeal
Oatmeal porridge is a leading article of food with the Scottish peasantry. It is generally accompanied with milk when milk is to be had; when milk is very scarce, butter is sometimes used, sometimes sugar, and sometimes treacle beer. …. Whey is sometimes used instead of water for the making of oatmeal porridge, and affords an agreeable variety for those using porridge every day. Milk porridge is another variety esteemed an especial luxury by the Scottish peasantry, and is certainly both an agreeable and very nutritious article of diet. Whether fine oatmeal or coarse oatmeal should be used for the making of porridge is merely a matter of taste.
Put a pint and a half of water or milk and water into a saucepan and add a pinch of salt. When the liquid fully boils, as it is rising in the pan, sprinkle gradually two ounces of oatmeal into it with the left hand, and at the same time stir briskly with a fork held in the right hand. Keep stirring till the lumps are beaten out. Boil the mixture for a quarter of an hour, pour it on a plate, and eat it with milk and sugar.
[I wonder what it is like with treacle beer?]

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sweet Things.

I am in Oxford for the Symposium, you still (I hope) receiving these (very) little stories courtesy of Bloggers post-ahead feature.

Today I am drawing from the Barossa Cookery Book, published in aid of the Tanunda Soldiers Memorial Hall, no date but the drawing look very 1920’s. The Barossa Valley is in the state of South Australia – famous for its great wines (it has some of the oldest Shiraz vineyards in the world) and with its German migrant heritage still obvious in its cuisine.

Almost all of this book is given over to baking – there are only a few pages at the beginning with meat, fish etc. Browsing it made me realise that I have not included near enough sweets (candies, lollies, confectionary) in the nearly three years of this blog.

Butter Scotch.
One lb. sugar, 1 ½ oz. butter, ¼ cup cold water. Melt butter in saucepan, add water and sugar, boil 20 mins but do not stir.

Almond Toffee.
Two cups sugar, ¾ cup water, 1 eggspoon cream of tartar, ¼ lb.blanched almonds. Put sugar and water into a greased pot. When boiling, add cream of tartar and almonds. Boil till toffee cracks when dropped into cold water. Pour into a greased toffee tin and leave to set. To be kept in air-tight tin.

Peppermint Creams.
Break into a bowl the white of one egg, add to it an equal quantity of cold water, then stir in enough icing sugar to make a firm paste. Flavour with peppermint essence. Roll out, cut into rounds or any fancy shapes and place on waxed paper to dry.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Caramel Cake.

Today I plan to be in Oxford for the Symposium on Food and Cookery. The story today however is from Australia in 1923, from a little cookbook produced as a fund-raiser for the Junior Red Cross. The project received the generous assistance of Mrs. Fred Aronson, ‘for many years the cookery editor for the Sydney Mail, and Telegraph and the Brisbane Telegraph’, and author of the Excell Cook Book. Mrs. Fred (‘Thallia’, apparently, if etiquette had allowed her to use her own name) gave the use of the whole of the Excell book to the society. Extra recipes were added by Mrs. Fred and a number of Red Cross ladies.

The book was offered with the feeling ‘that although it is not pretentious in its appearance, it cannot be surpassed in the excellence of its general matter.’

Where these community cookbooks usually shine is in the baking section. I like this recipe.

Caramel Cake.
Caramel Syrup. Put one half cup of sugar into a granite saucepan and stir over the fire until the sugar melts and becomes a liquid and throws off an intense smoke – it really must burn. Have ready one-half cup of boiling water. Remove the saucepan from the fire then throw in the water, stir rapidly and allow it to boil until you have a syrup (me: this is risky, take care). Bottle and put away for use. Enough for three cakes.
The Cake Part. Beat one half cup of butter, one and one-half cup of sugar to cream, add the yolks of two eggs and one cup of water. Add gradually two cups of flour and beat three minutes. Then add three teaspoonfuls of caramel and one teaspoonful of vanilla and another one-half cup of flour. Beat again thoroughly, then stir in carefully two teaspoonfuls of baking powder and then the well-beaten whites of the eggs. Bake in two layers in a moderate oven.
Filling for Cake. Take one-half cup of sugar and one-half of water, place over the fire until the sugar is dissolved, then boil quickly without stirring until the syrup will spin a thread from the prong of a fork. Have ready the beaten whites of two eggs, stir the boiling syrup gradually into the eggs and beat until the icing is cold then add one teaspoonful of vanilla and two teaspoonfuls of caramel. Spread between layers of vanilla on top (me: not sure what this means.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Thirsty Work.

A little story today on a very important topic.

Australians are romantically attached to the idea of the Outback, even though most have never been there - in the same way, I expect, as a lot of Americans are about their Frontier. Everyone has heard of the The Royal Flying Doctor Service - it is part of the national identity. It was established in 1928, and continues to provide an invaluable service to isolated communities and homesteads. I have a book – undated, perhaps from the late 1950’s or 1960’s – produced as a fundraiser by the Women’s Auxiliary of the RFDS, Air Branch, Alice Springs.

It gets thirsty out in the Bush.

Ginger Beer.
4 cups sugar, 4 cups hot water, 1 dessertspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon tartaric acid, juice 3 lemons, 20 cups cold water.
Stir sugar, hot water, ginger, and tartaric acid till dissolved. Add lemon juice and cold water. Strain and bottle.
Drop 3 sultanas in each bottle and seal. Let stand for at least 4 days.
Chill, and use when gas begins to form in bottle.

Orange Squash.
Rind and juice of 8 medium sized oranges, 4 lbs. sugar, 2 pints boiling water, 2 oz. tartaric acid, 1 oz citric acid, 1 oz. Epsom Salts.
Put ingredients in china basin, pour over boiling water and stir until sugar dissolves. Cool and bottle.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Condensed milk to go.

Today I am going to introduce you to The Milky Way Cookbook, published in 1914 by the Nestlé company to promotes its condensed milk. This is the Australian version, I don’t know if it appears elsewhere.

It is a very little book, measuring only a little over 11 x 14 cm (4 ¼ x by 5 ½ inches) – but what a powerhouse of wisdom it is! Some of the wisdom is a little scary – like the advice on how to prepare condensed milk for babies. I am pretty sure that whatever you do to condensed milk it is never suitable for babies, but Nestlé clearly disagree. The book is no mere recipe book. It includes ‘Hints on Etiquette’, plus ‘an amusing extract from a seventeenth century work called The Ladies Dictionary’ (also etiquette advice). There is an article on ‘Frauds and Swindles: Traps for Housewives: A number of the most widely practiced frauds by which swindlers seek to victimize the female occupants of the home’ by the well known writer Mr. G. Sidney Paternoster of the Truth newspaper (when did we stop using ‘swindler’ and start using ‘con-man’?). Every single page, in addition to a recipe has one or two household remedies or pieces of advice on such things as ‘Pores, to contract’, ‘Unpermissable Jests’, ‘Husbands, Treatment of’ and ‘Parental ignorance.’

There is yet more! Every page also has at its top and bottom, some little aphorism such as ‘Pleasure that comes too thick grows Fulsome’, and ‘Better a portion in a wife than with a wife’ and ‘Do in the Hole as you would in the Hall.’

This recipe sounds quite good.

Ginger Cream Ice.
½ pint Nestlé’s Milk [prepared to a formula of four tablespoons of the milk to three quarters of a pint of water.]
1 pint water
3 tablespoonfuls Ginger Syrup
6 oz. Preserved Ginger.
¼ pint Nestlé’s (whipped) Cream
6 eggs.

Heat the condensed milk and water together, pour on to the beaten eggs, strain into a jar standing in a pan of boiling water, and stir till the custard thickens. Pound the ginger and rub through a hair sieve, then add it to the custard with the syrup. When quite cold, stir in the stiffly beaten whipped cream, and freeze.

Monday, September 08, 2008

"Cookless" Cakes.

I am (if all goes according to plan) arriving in England today. Blogger willing, this weeks short (very) stories will pop up as instructed as if I never left the keyboard.

I know a lot of you have a particular fondness for the small cookbooks put out by community groups or companies promoting their products. This week I will give you a selection of recipes from some Aussie examples.

A couple of weeks ago I talked about the mysterious (outside the US) product called Crisco. Today it is the turn of the mysterious (outside Oz) product called Copha. An equally luxuriantly fatty product made from coconut oil. One hundred percent fat, 98% saturated, and very hydrogenated. We feed it to our children.

Copha exists for one main reason. To make Chocolate Crackles. These are an Australian institution. I do believe it may be against the law to hold a children’s birthday party without them. I am not sure you are allowed in the country if you cant give the Immigration Officer the recipe off the top of your head, on request. To assist you to visit, I therefore give you the recipe. It is from the Copha Cookbook (1950’s?) of course, which includes another 99 recipes just to pad out the book. The recipe is from the section called Dainty Temptations from the Copha “Cookless” Series. It is OK to use cornflakes if you don’t have Rice Bubbles, they don’t revoke your visa or citizenship. Remember to only just melt the Copha, don’t get it hot or you will cook the cereal which (a) breaks the cookless rule and (b) makes them soggy and they are meant to be crackly.

Chocolate Crackles.
5 oz. Rice Bubbles
2 ½ oz. Cocoa (3 tablespoons)
2 ½ oz. fine Coconut (1 cup)
8 oz. Icing Sugar
8 oz. Copha.
Mix dry ingredients, melt Copha and pour over them. Mix thoroughly, spoon into paper cup containers, and allow to set.
The above quantity makes from 2 ½ to 3 dozen.

Quotation for the Day …

Always serve too much hot fudge sauce on hot fudge sundaes. It make people overjoyed, and puts them in your debt. Judith Olney.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Aftermath of a Wedding.

A wedding sets up a train of events. Bliss, sometimes. Divorce, often. Children, frequenty. Queen Victoria referred to childbearing as one of the ‘unavoidable inconveniences’ of married life. Nevetheless she did her wifely and royal duty and provided her husband and the nation with nine heirs, and the royals of most of Europe with spouses.
Apple pie is the universal Western symbol of motherhood, for reasons, I suppose, that apples and mothers are everywhere. In the case of my young friend who has inspired this week’s stories, it should be apricot pie – for reasons that I wont explain because no matter how funny they are, some stories should be kept within the family circle. Or at least not made public on the eve of the Bride’s Big Day.
The apricot originated in China, and was enjoyed (but probably not cultivated) by the Romans, and found its way to Europe in the mid-sixteenth century. It required some clever horticultural work before it could be grown well there, and apricots did not become easily available in England for another two hundred years. The name of the apricot seems to come from its early ripening, and is derived from the Latin word praecox (from which we also get precocious). Perhaps a nice symbol for a young woman in the prime springtime of her life, pre-motherhood?
The recipe for apricot pie is not a secret, so here it is. The pie in the family story was a double crust pie – a ‘real’ pie, in my eyes, not a wimpy pot-pie style. And it was also made from canned apricots, for reasons that I wont go into, because that is part of the story. I know, because I made one for the girl-who-will-be-bride.
Apricot Pie.
Pare, stone, and halve the apricots. Place them in a pie-dish, piling them high in the middle. Strew over them a little sifted sugar, and a few of the kernels blanched and chopped small. Cover them with a good light crust, and bake in a moderate oven. Time to bake, three-quarters of an hour. Probable cost, 2s. for a moderate-sized dish. Sufficient for four or five persons.
Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery, c1870’s.
Quotation for the Day …
Talking of Pleasure, this moment I was writing with one hand and with the other holding to my Mouth a Nectarine – good god, how fine. It went down soft, pulpy, slushy, oozy – all its delicious embonpoint melted down my throat like large beatified Strawberry. I shall certainly breed.  John Keats.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A French Wedding.

The wedding of my young friend is approaching fast (The Girls’ Lunch is today), and the realisation of all that planning is at hand. Wedding catering always means a lot of work for someone. It was no different in fourteenth century France. Here are some instructions from Le Menagier: A Treatise on Moral and Domestic Economy by A Citizen of Paris, published about 1393.

Arrangements for the wedding done by Master Helye in May, on a Tuesday; dinner only for twenty bowls.

Platter: butter, none because it is a meat day. Item, cherries, none, because none could be found; and so no platter.

Soups: capons in fricassee, pomegranate and red sugared almonds on top.

Roast: on each plate a haunch of kid: haunch of kid is better than lamb; a gosling, two young chickens and sauces for them, oranges, cameline, verjuice, and for this fresh towels or napkins.

Side dish: crayfish jelly, loach jelly, small rabbits and pigs. Dessert: frumenty and venison. End: hippocras and wafers. Extras: wine and spices.

The arrangements for supper done this day are for ten bowls.

Cold sage soup of halves of young chickens and little geese, and a vinaigrette of this same dish for supper on a plate. A pie of two young rabbits and two flans - it is said that at French weddings you must have meat pies - and on the other dish the kids' mesenteries and the half-heads, browned.

Side-dish: jelly as above. End: apples and cheese without hippocras, because it is out of season .

Dancing, singing, wine and spices and torches for light.

Now we shall talk about the quantities of the things spoken of above and what goes with them and the prices, and who provides them and sells them.

At the baker's, ten dozen flat white bread baked one day ahead and costing one denier each.

Trencher bread, three dozen of half a foot in width and four fingers tall, baked four days before and browned, or what is called in the market Corbeil bread.

Vintner: three pairs of wines.

At the butcher, half a sheep to make the soup for the companions and a quarter of bacon for larding; the master bone of a leg of beef to cook with the capons so as to get broth to make the fricassee; a forequarter of veal to serve in the fricassee. For the seconds a hind leg of veal or veal feet, to make the liquid for the jelly. Venison, a hefty leg.

At the pastry-cook order: first, to serve the young women, a dozen and a half conical wafers stuffed with cheese, three sous; a dozen and a half long wafers, six sous; a dozen and a half porte wafers, eighteen deniers; a dozen and a half stirrup wafers, eighteen deniers; one hundred sugared cakes, eight deniers.

Item, they shopped for twenty bowls, for the wedding-day dinner, and for six bowls for the servants, and this cost six deniers per bowl, and served each bowl eight wafers, four supplications and four stirrup wafers.

At the poulterer, twenty capons, two Paris sous each; five kids, four Paris sous; twenty young geese, three Paris sous each; fifty young chickens, twelve Paris deniers each; that is to say forty to be roast for the dinner, five for the jelly and five for supper in the cold soup. Fifty young rabbits, that is to say forty for the dinner, which will be roasted, and ten for jelly, and cost twelve Paris deniers each. A thin pig, for the jelly, four Paris sous; twelve pairs of pigeons for the supper, ten Paris deniers the pair. One may enquire of him for venison.

In the market, trencher bread, three dozen. Pomegranates for fricassee, three costing... Oranges, fifty costing... Six new cheeses and one old, and three hundred eggs.

You must realise that each cheese must furnish six tartlets, and also for each cheese you need three eggs.

Sorrel to make verjuice for the chickens, sage and parsley for the cold soup, two hundred pommes de blandureau.

Two brooms and a shovel for the kitchen and salt.

At the sauce-maker's, three half-pints of cameline for dinner and supper and a quart of sorrel verjuice.

At the grocer's: ten pounds of almonds, forty deniers a pound. Three pounds of blanched wheat, eight deniers a pound. - One pound of columbine ginger, eleven sous. - one quarter-pound of mesche ginger, five sous. - A half-pound of ground cinnamon, five sous. - Two pounds of ground rice, two sous. - Two pound of lump sugar, sixteen sous. - A quarter-pound of cloves and seed of garlic, six sous. Half a quarter-pound of long pepper, four sous. - Half a quarter-pound of galingale, five sous. - Half a quarter-pound of mace, three sous four deniers. - Half a quarter-pound of green laurel leaves, six deniers. - Two pounds of tall thin candles, three sous four deniers the pound, making six sous eight deniers, - Torches at three pounds apiece, six; smaller torches at one pound apiece, six; that is to say a cost of three sous a pound, and six deniers less per pound on the returns .

For chamber-spices, that is to say, candied orange peel, one pound, ten sous. - Candied citron, one pound, twelve sous. - Red anise, one pound, eight sous. - Rose-sugar, one pound, ten sous. - White sugared almonds, three pounds, ten sous a pound. - Of hippocras, three quarts, ten sous a quart, and all will be needed.

These spices amounted to twelve francs, including returns on the torches, and a few spices left over; this works out to half a franc per bowl

At Pierre-au-Lait, a sixth of full-cream milk without water added, to make the frumenty.

In the Place de Greve, a hundredweight of coal from Burgundy, thirteen sous two sacks of charcoal, ten sous.

At the Forte-de-Paris: may, green herb, violet, bread-crumbs, a quarter of white salt, a quarter of coarse salt, a hundred crayfish, a half-litre of loach, two clay pots, one of six quarts for the jelly, and the other of two quarts for the cameline.

The Menagier includes a large number of recipes. What to chose? This one, on the basis of its name, wins for today.

A chick should be suffocated while it is still alive, and it is suffocated at the neck; then bind its neck and let it die: then scald, pluck, gut, put it back together and stuff.
Item, or else, when it is all ready to put on the spit, at the hole where it was gutted, you can separate with your finger the skin from the flesh, then stuff it using the end of your finger, then sew it back up with a whip-stitch, at the hole, sewing the skin with the flesh, and put it on the spit.
And note that the stuffing is made of parsley and a little sage with hard-cooked eggs and butter, all chopped up together, and powdered spices too. For each chick you need three eggs, whites and all.

Quotation for the Day …

Marriage is not merely sharing the fettuccine, but sharing the burden of finding the fettuccine restaurant in the first place. Calvin Trillin.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Honey Moon.

Before there was sugar - a very long time before - there was honey. Honey is merely the nectar of flowers, collected and then regurgitated by bees, to feed bee babies. It varies enormously in flavour, depending on exactly which flowers supply the nectar – and it can even be poisonous, if the flowers are poisonous and the ‘uncapped’ honey is eaten.

There is evidence from very ancient times that humans would go to great lengths to steal honey from the bees – climbing up to crevices in the rocks where wild bees were nesting, and risking severe stinging in the process. Until well into the Middle Ages it was essentially the only sweetener; sugar was an exotic imported ‘spice’, far too expensive to be used in any quantity. The monasteries of Europe were great producers of honey, but it was a by-product of the main purpose of keeping bees – to provide wax for church candles. Luckily for the populace of England, sugar became more accessible around about the time that Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries.

All of which, in a round about way, brings us to the honeymoon, our theme of the week being wedding-related. There are a number of theories as to why the ‘honeymoon’ got its name. Nowadays it means the traditional holiday taken by a newly-married couple, but this is only a relatively new idea – since about the second half of the nineteenth century. The word used to refer to the first month (‘moon’) after marriage, and it is the ‘honey’ part that is mysterious. Some say it derives from the Old Norse word for ‘hiding’ – because the usual way of obtaining a bride was to abduct her and hide her until the family stopped looking. Another northern story is said to be the seclusion of the young couple for the first month, honey wine (mead) being supplied to them each day by their families. The young bride was supposed to be pregnant by the time they re-entered society.

Honey cakes (A German Recipe).
Put two ounces of butter into a saucepan, and when melted, stir in half a pound of honey. Let it boil, stirring briskly all the time. Take it from the fire, and when slightly cool. Mix with it the finely-minced rind of half a lemon, two ounces of sweet almonds, blanched and coarsely pounded, the eighth of a nutmeg, grated, and half a pound of flour, and last of all, half an ounce of carbonate of soda dissolved in a small quantity of warm water. Leave the mixture in a cool place twelve or fourteen hours. Roll it out half an inch thick, cut it into small square cakes, put a thin slice of candied peel in the middle of each cake, and a slice of blanched almond in the four corners. Bake in a moderate oven for twenty five minutes.
Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery, circa 1870’s.

Quotation for the Day …

The only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey....and the only reason for making honey is so I can eat it. Winnie the Pooh.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A French aristocrat living in England in the 1930’s would be just the person to give advice to a young wife, on what to do when YOUR HUSBAND BRINGS HOME AN INFLUENTIAL BUSINESS FRIEND, now wouldn’t he?

Take heed, my young friend-who-is-to-be married on Saturday. And be prepared. Have your freezer, pantry, and wine-cellar well stocked, just in case, for HUSBAND’s often spring these INFLUENTIAL guests upon their wives, just as said wives are heating up the leftover meatloaf from yesterday.

The Vicomte de Maduit has a number of suggested menus for such events as ‘Before Wimbledon’, ‘After Eighteen Holes of Golf (in Cold Weather), and Before the Races.’ Here is his suggestion for when YOUR HUSBAND BRINGS HOME AN INFLUENTIAL BUSINESS FRIEND.

Grape-fruit maraschino.
Scotch Broth.
Fillets of Sole Anne-Marie.
Pheasant à la Belle Alliance.
Pommes Anna - Peas Sautés.
Soufflé à la Vanille.
Canapés Ivanhoe.
Wines: Montrachet and Chambertin.

The good Vicomte of course gives recipes for his suggested dishes. The old British tradition of ending a meal with a savoury dish seems to have gone by the board in these modern times, and we would be more likely to serve the canapés as an appetiser.

Canapés Ivanhoe.
Remove the skin and bones of a dried haddock, chop it up, and pound it with butter and a little cream. Cook this slowly. Then spread thickly on rounds of fried bread and garnish with pickled walnuts.

Quotation for the Day …

My wife and I tried to breakfast together, but we had to stop or our marriage would have been wrecked. Winston Churchill.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Wedding Feasts, Part 1.

A young friend is getting married this week (you know who you are, Alexis) so I dedicate this week of wedding-themed stories to her.
When I searched the almost-three years of posts, I found only a few with a wedding theme. The first known recipes for white wedding cake icing are in Elizabeth Raffald’s The Experienced English Housekeeper (1769). Her recipes for Sugar Icing and Almond Icing for a Bride Cake have been featured previously, but for some strange reason not her cake. We had the wonderful mid-seventeenth century instructions for To make an extraordinary Pie, or a Bride Pie, of severall Compounds, being several distinct Pies on one bottom from Robert May’s wonderful book The Accomplisht Cook. And we did have a story around Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast. Not sufficient wedding food history, methinks.
For Alexis, and all other beautiful brides, here is Mrs. Raffald’s cake.
To make a Bride Cake.
Take four Pounds of fine Flour well dried, four Pounds of fresh Butter, two Pounds of Loaf Sugar, pound and sift fine a quarter of an Ounce of Mace, the same of  Nutmegs, to every Pound of Flour put eight Eggs, wash four Pounds of Currants, pick them well and dry them before the Fire, blanch a Pound of Sweet Almonds (and cut them length-way very thin) a Pound of Citron, one Pound of candied Orange, the same of candied Lemon, half a Pint of Brandy; first work the Butter with your Hand to a Cream, then beat in your Sugar a quarter of an Hour, beat the Whites of your Eggs to a very strong Froth, mix them with your Sugar and Butter, beat your Yolks half an Hour at least, and mix them With your Cake, then put in your Flour, Mace, and Nutmeg, keep beating it well 'till your Oven is ready, put in your Brandy, and beat your Currants and Almonds lightly in, tie three Sheets of Paper round the Bottom of your Hoop to keep it from running out, rub it well with Butter, put in your Cake, and lay your Sweetmeats in three Lays, with Cake betwixt every Lay, after it is risen and coloured, cover it with Paper before your Oven is stopped up; it will take three Hours baking.

And to wash it down, what better than a good sack-posset?

“A Receipt for all young Ladies that are going to be Married.”
To make a SACK-POSSET.

From famed Barbadoes on the Western Main
Fetch sugar half a pound; fetch sack from Spain
A pint; and from the Eastern Indian Coast
Nutmeg, the glory of our Northern toast.
O'er flaming coals together let them heat
Till the all-conquering sack dissolves the sweet.
O'er such another fire set eggs, twice ten,
New born from crowing cock and speckled hen;
Stir them with steady hand, and conscience pricking
To see the untimely fate of twenty chicken.
From shining shelf take down your brazen skillet,
A quart of milk from gentle cow will fill it.
When boiled and cooked, put milk and sack to egg,
Unite them firmly like the triple League.
Then covered close, together let them dwell
Till Miss twice sings: You must not kiss and tell. 
From: New York Gazette of February 13, 1744

Quotation for the Day …

The most dangerous food is wedding cake. James Thurber