Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Salmon, as it used to be.

Today I am off to Bangkok for a week with my lovely daughter, and I promise to have fun. I also promise you will get a story each day – pre-posted with the timer set for 5.30 am, Brisbane time. Hannah Wooley (our seventeenth century resource and inspiration for the week) had nothing to say about Thailand, or anywhere much East of England - apart from France, of which she was scathing.
Hannah does have quite a lot to say on salmon however. Last year on this day I gave you a story about the first salmon to be caught in the Thames for almost a century and a half – thanks to a decade and a half of the Thames-cleaning program.  Hannah would not have believed it possible that good English salmon would be in short supply - it was a staple on the seventeenth century table.
She has several recipes for salmon, and to me they indicate one of the great myths of British cookery – that it has never been interesting, let alone excellent. I venture to say that if the following recipe appeared in a book by Nigella or Jamie it would be hailed as a fantastic and innovative way to serve the fish. When and Why did we lose recipes like this?
An excellent way to roast Salmon
Take a Rand or Sole, cut it into four pieces, and season it with a little Nutmeg and Salt, stick a few Cloves, and put it on a small Spit, put between it some Bay-leaves, and stick it with little sprigs of Rosemary, roast it and baste it with Butter, save the Gravy, and add to it for Sawce some Vinegar, sweet Butter, and some slices of Orange.
Quotation for the Day …
There is but one season of the year when salmon should be served hot at a choice repast; that is in the spring and early summer, and even then it is too satisfying, nut sufficiently delicate. The man who gives salmon during the winter, I care not what sauce he serves with it, does an injury to himself and his guests.
Ward McAllister, 'Society As I Have Found It' (1890)

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