Thursday, October 09, 2008

Green is easy.

Green food coloring is easy: the juice of spinach and parsley and lots of other plants are there for the taking. They are a good way of sneaking some vegetable goodness into little children – although this may be more useful to reduce maternal guilt than have any impact on their nutrition. Green juices have been used for hundreds of years, and as there is no dearth of green plants, it would not seem necessary to resort to anything else.

There is one natural food coloring however that is slightly infamous. It was also used as a paint pigment. Actually it is yellow, but if blue is added it becomes green (I forgot to include it in the story a couple of days ago, so need an excuse to do so now, so please forgive the artifice.) It is Indian Yellow – and it is said to have been produced from the urine of cows fed on mango leaves. This is (or was) apparently a cruel practice causing pain and premature death of the cow. I have no idea how true this is, or if the practice continues, but if there is an art historian out there who can enlighten us all I would be very grateful. But, it is natural – or at least not synthetic, which proves that you have to be careful in interpreting that word on food packages.

Here are a couple of ideas from Cassell’s New Dictionary of Cookery, 1910, for your next cake or soup.

Green Icing.
Take a handful of young spinach-leaves, wash them thoroughly, and put them while wet into a mortar, and bruise them until the juice can be squeezed out. Whisk the white of a fresh egg to a firm froth: add, gradually, a quarter of a pound of sifted loaf sugar, and the juice of half a lemon, with as much of the spinach-juice as will colour the icing sufficiently. Beat it well, one way, for half an hour, and add a little more sugr, if necessary. Spread it smoothly and dry in a cool oven.

Greening for Soup.
Wash a handful of young spinach leaves, pound them in a mortar, put the bruised leaves into muslin and squeeze out as much juice as is required. The soup may be heated, but must not be brought to the boiling point after the juice is added, or the green will be converted into a dirty yellow.

There is also a recipe in the book, in which parsley juice is used to convert Bechamel into Dutch Sauce (a little lemon added at the point of serving).

Quotation for the Day …

Red meat is not bad for you. Now blue-green meat, that’s bad for you!
Tommy Smothers.

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