Saturday, January 31, 2009

Boomerang Cake.

Well, a Saturday post is unusual, but not forbidden. After a week of twentieth century Australian-named recipes in honour of Australia Day week, I am itching to go back in time (I am thinking of sixteenth century pears?) - but I have one more gift for you. A recipe not named after an Aussie city or region, but impossible to resist on account of its name - no doubt given on account of it being so good people keep returning for more?

Boomerang Cake
½ lb butter
2 level cups sugar
4 eggs
¾ cup milk
3 cups SR flour
1 level tablespoon almond meal
few drops vanilla
1 cup sultanas
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs 2 at a time. Just beat eggs in a little. Add half flour and almond meal. Add milk and remainder of flour alternately, until all has been used. Add essence. Beat well. Turn into a well greased and floured shallow cake tin. Bake from ¾ to 1 hour. When cold, ice with butter icing, sprinkle plentifully with chopped sultanas. This cake is very suitable for picnics, afternoon tea and lunches, as it will cut to an advantage. You can cut 35 small slices out of this cake. The size of the tin for baking the cake is 10 in. square and 2 in. deep.

From: Mrs. Floate’s Secret of Success Cookery Book (undated but probably mid 1950’s)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Aussie puds, final episode.

Next week I think we will hurtle back into the sixteenth century for some good food ideas (or at least interesting food ideas), but today is the final day (for the time being) on the topic of dishes named for Australian places.  I have a motley collection of ‘puddings’ for you again.

From New Standard Cookery Illustrated, by Elizabeth Craig, 1933 we have three more:

Tasmanian Pineapple Whip
1 large pineapple
1 cupful Castor sugar
¾ cupful water
2 egg whites
3 tablespoonfuls Cornflour
Glacé cherries.
Peel and remove eyes from pineappl. Cut 6 rings from the fruit and remove the cores. Simmer in water with sugar to taste till fruit is tender. Drain in a colander and chill. Grate enough of the remainder of the pineapple to make 2 cups grated fruit. Place this pulp with the ¾ cup water and sugar in a saucepan. Simmer till the fruit is cooked through. Mix cornflour to a paste with a little cold water. Stir into the pineapple pulp. Cook, stirring constantly utnil the mixture thickens. Remove from fire. Cool slightly.
Beat egg whites to a stiff froth and fold into cooled pulp. Pour into a mould rinsed in cold water. When set and chilled, turn out into a glass dish. Garnish with pineapple rings . Fill centres with glace cherries. Serve with lightly whipped cream.

Adelaide Sultana Roly-Poly.
½ lb flour
¼ level teaspoonful baking powder
¼ lb suet
¼ lb sultanas
1 ½ oz sugar
water to mix
2 oz breadcrumbs
2 tablespoonfuls Golden Syrup
1 ½ oz shelled walnuts or brazil nuts
½ flat teaspoonful ground ginger.
To make the filling warm the golden syrup in a saucepan. Stir in the breadcrumbs mixed with the ground ginger, also the nuts (which should have been put through a mincer). Mix all together and leave to cool.
Chop the suet finely and mix it with the flour and baking powder. Add the sugar and sultanas, and stir in sufficient water to make the mixture into a dough. Turn this on to a floured board, roll to an oblong shape, then turn it over to the other side and spread it with the prepared filling, leaving a good margin all round. Damp the edge and roll it up, pinching the edges firmly together at each end. Roll the pudding in a scalded and floured pudding-cloth and tie it securely. Put the pudding into boiling water and boil it for about 1 ½ to 2 hours.

Brisbane Currant and Honey Tart.
2 oz. currants
2 tablespoonfuls honey
2 tablespoonfuls breadcrumbs
a squeeze of lemon juice
6 oz short pastry
Roll out the pastry and line a pie-plate with it. Cut the edges neatly and roll out the trimmings into long thin strips. Put the honey in a saucepan with the lemon juice and warm it just enough to make it liquid.
Add the breadcrumbs and currants and fill the tart with the mixture. Twist the crossway pieces and lay themon the tart, pressing both the ends into place. Bake in a hot oven for about 20 minutes.

Quotation for the Day …

A food is not necessarily essential just because your child hates it.
Katherine Whitehorn

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Melbourne Puds.

Today it is the turn of Melbourne (the state capital of the state of Victoria) to feature in our series of recipes named for Australian cities and towns. There has been a longstanding rivalry (enmity, often) between Australia’s two larges cities of Melbourne and Sydney ever since Australia’s earliest days. There are many points of competition (neither city has ever really gotten over not being picked as the nation’s capital city) – important points such as which is the largest, wealthiest, and most cultured, and absolutely vital points such as which has the best football code, the best beer brand, and the best restaurants.

At risk of appearing to take sides, when it comes to the battle of the recipe-names, Melbourne seems to win hands down – at least in terms of quantity. As a citizen of Brisbane I would not care to hazard a guess as to why this is – my job is merely to give you the recipes and let you make up your own mind.

Once again, these named dishes are all sweet ‘puddings’.

Melbourne Bread and Butter Pudding.
Slices of brown or white bread and butter (about 3 to 4 oz.)
Ratafia flavouring.
2 oz. sultanas
2 eggs
1 pint milk.
1 to 1 ½ tablespoonfuls sugar.
Stale or freshly cut butter can be used. Wash, pick over and dry the sultanas. Divide the bread and butter into convenient-sized pieces, put half of them into a pie-dish and sprinkle with sugar and sultanas.
Beat up the eggs, mix them with the milk, and add a few drops of flavouring. Pour some over the bread and butter in the dish, then add the remainder of the slices and the egg and milk. Leave to soak for an hour or so, then bake in a moderately hot over until set, being careful not to let the pudding boil.
From: New Standard Cookery Illustrated, by Elizabeth Craig, 1933.

Melbourne Nut Fruit Batter.
4 oz. sultanas
1 oz. almonds
2 eggs
1 pint milk
½ lb. flour
pinch salt.
Sieve the flour and salt into a basin. Make a well in the centre. Add the beaten eggs mixed with the milk by degrees. Leave the batter to stand for an hour or so. When ready to bake, stir in the sultanas and the almonds, the latter blanched and cut up previously, and the former washed, picked, and dried. Turn into a previously greased pie-dish and bake for 1 hour. Serve with castor sugar.
From: New Standard Cookery Illustrated, by Elizabeth Craig, 1933.

Melbourne Pancakes.
Mix two breakfastcupfuls of flour, 2 breakfastcupfuls or sour milk, 2 eggs, and ½ level teasponful of salt into a smooth batter, and let stand for 1 ½ hours. Then add 2 oz. melted butter and 1 good teaspoonful of carbonate of soda previously dissolved in a little hot water. Fry the pancakes in hot lard, pile them one above another with a thick layer of ripe fruit (mashed and sweetened) between them. Sprinkle with sugar, and serve.
The Australasian Cookery Book, circa 1915

And finally, a recipe sent by Jo in Toowoomba (which is in Queensland!). It is from the Digger Cookery Book (140 Recipes for Making Good Cooks Better). Thanks Jo!

Melbourne Pudding (no eggs):- One cup flour, 1 cup breadcrumbs (wheatmeal or white), 1 cup sugar, 1 cup suet (finely chopped), ½ teaspoon baking powder. Mix all together, then add 1 tablespoon jam. Lastly, 1 small teaspoon of baking soda in small cup of milk. Steam for 2 hours. Serve with boiled custard.

Quotation for the Day …

Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may work.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hobart Cake and Tassie Pudding.

This week began with Australia Day, so I am giving you recipes named for Australian places. The connection is in the name only, I claim no historic significances.

Today it is the turn of the little island state off the south eastern corner of this large island continent. Tasmania is affectionately known as ‘Tassie’, although in its early history it was infamous as the penal colony of Van Diemen’s land. Tassie is tiny – a little less than 68 ½ thousand square kilometres (a little less than 26 ½ thousand square miles) - but it has some of the most magnificent wilderness reserves in the world. About half a million people enjoy its magnificent natural scenery, plus of course the tourists.

I have been musing this week on why it is that cakes and puddings seem to be given place names, rather than things such as salads and sides. A reader (Shay) suggested in the comments yesterday that perhaps it is to do with comfort food – the food that we crave in times of stress (such as migration). Comfort foods tend to be fatty or sweet, with good mouthfeel, and are usually easy to eat – just like today’s recipes, named for the island and its state capital.

The recipes are from the third edition of the Hobart Cookery Book of Tested Recipes, Household Hints, and Home Remedies, compiled by a Committee of Ladies for the Methodist Central Mission. It is undated, but is probably from about 1912.

Tassie Pudding.
Four tablespoonfuls butter, 4 tablespoonfuls sugar, 2 eggs, ½ lb flour, 1 teaspoonful carbonate soda, ¼ cup milk, 3 tablespoonsful jam (raspberry).
Beat butter and sugar to a cream; add eggs well-beaten, then milk, soda, and flour; lastly, jam. Steam 2 hours; longer, if possible.

Hobart Cake.
Half-pint cream, 3 eggs, 6 oz. sugar, 6 oz. sultanas 2 oz. candied peel, ¾ lb flour.
Whip the cream till quite stiff, then beat in the eggs, sugar, peel, and flour. Bake at once in a quick oven.

Quotation for the Day …

In the childhood memories of every good cook, there's a large kitchen, a warm stove, a simmering pot and a mom.
Barbara Costikyan

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sydney Apples and Wilbah Whip.

My quest this week to find recipes named for Australian cities and towns has already proven that they are almost all sweet dishes – puddings and cakes especially. It seems that when folk move or migrate to far away places, and are forced to adapt grandma’s recipes to the available ingredients, it is the cakes and desserts that they re-name, not her stews or soups. Why is this? Is it baking that is the nostalgic branch of the cooking art?

Recipes for baked apples have been around for as long as there have been cooks, ovens, and apples – so what makes the following recipe Sydney-specific?

Sydney Stuffed Apples.
6 cooking appless
½ cupful dessicated coconut
6 halved walnuts
1 egg white
6 dessertspoonfuls castor sugar
6 stoned dates
6 dried figs
1 teaspoonful ground cinnamon.
Choose apples of even shape and size. Shred dates, figs, and walnuts. Mix with sugar and cinnamon. Core and peel apples. Beat egg white slightly. Brush over each apple. Roll in cocoanut. Place in a well-buttered fireproof dish, or in individual ones. Stuff each apple with mixture. Dab with a pat of butter. Bake until tender. Serve with thin cream.
From: New Standard Cookery Illustrated, by Elizabeth Craig, published in 1933.

Elizabeth Craig (1883-1980) was a famous and very prolific British cookbook writer. She collected recipes wherever she travelled, and although I have no evidence that she came to this country, there are a number of recipes apparently named for Australian places in her books.

There may be another intriguing example in the New Standard Cookery Illustrated. In the middle of West Australia, in the goldfields area, is a tiny pinpoint on the map called Wilbah. West Australia is a big place – it takes up a third of the continent (that is, it has an area of about 2.5 million square kilometres or about 965,210 square miles), but its mere couple of million citizens avoid the vast desert and cling to the south-western corner around the city of Perth. I don’t even know if Wilbah actually exists anymore, or if it is the location of an old homestead, but whatever is there, is a long way from the town of Kalgoorlie, which itself is 600km (over 370 miles) east of Perth. This seems like an elegant, cool dessert for a hot, dry desert location.

Wilbah Apple and Nut Whip.
1 cupful chilled stewed apples.
1 teaspoonful chopped nuts
1 dessertspoonful castor sugar
1 egg white
marshmallows and cream.
Beat apples and fold in stiffly frothed egg-white, sweetened with the sugar. Pile in sundae glasses. Decorate each with chopped nuts, marshmallow and whipped cream, flavoured with vanilla essence to taste.

Quotation for the Day …

A few years ago we colonised this place with some of our finest felons, thieves, muggers, alcoholics and prostitutes, a strain of depravity which I believe has contributed greatly to this country's amazing vigour and enterprise.
Ian Wooldridge (English sports journalist).

Monday, January 26, 2009

Brisbane Pish-Pash.

Today Down Under is Australia Day – the day that commemorates the English settlement in 1788 (or invasion, if you wish) of this far South Land. It is a public holiday all over the nation, and if you cant smell the smoke of a million backyard BBQ’s drifting all the way up to the Northern hemisphere, then we have failed in our national responsibility.

I thought that for this week, for fun, I would find some recipes named for Australian cities or towns. These are not in any way traditional or regular dishes, they are simply recipes with quirky names. For fun, you understand. Not heavy-duty history lessons.Naturally, I will start with my home town of Brisbane.

Today’s recipe is for Brisbane Pish-Pash. A pish-pash is ‘a soup or stew containing rice and small pieces of meat, especially chicken’ (OED). A pish-pash has a clear Anglo-Indian heritage, and essentially is a mishmash (‘a confused mixture; a medley, hotchpotch, or jumble’) - one interpretation of which is mishmish, (and here) which we considered earlier this month. Alternatively you could consider a pish-pash as another name for a hash (‘something cut up into small pieces; spec. a dish consisting of meat which has been previously cooked, cut small, and warmed up with gravy and sauce or other flavouring.’) So many ways to make a mixed up mess of leftovers sound like an exotic dish! And a worthy addition to our forgotten food words collection.

Brisbane Pish-Pash.
One cup cold chicken or meat, 2 eggs, ½ cup rice, 1 cup gravy or sauce, pepper and salt.
Very small pieces of chicken will do for this dish, such pieces as can be picked from the bone. If not small enough, cut them up into small dice. Cold boiled rice will do very well, but it must be well boiled and dry, and there should be, when boiled, 3 cupfuls. Mix the rice and chicken, boil the eggs hard, and cut into small pieces; season all nicely with pepper and salt, and put into a saucepan with a little nice gravy or sauce that may be in the larder. Shake over the fire until it is thoroughly hot through; heap on to a hot dish; garnish with a little parsley, and serve.
The Queenslander, 1896.

This dish does not appear to have any connection at all with Brisbane, apart from its name, and luckily it failed miserably to become strongly identified with the city. Perhaps an early settler to the colony of Brisbane brought with them a copy of the popular cookbook A New System of Domestic Cookery, by Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell (1844), which contains this recipe:

Take about three pounds of the neck of mutton; boil it until tender; prepare a small teacupful of rice by bruising it raw in a mortar; then cut the meat into small pieces; throw the rice, meat, and an onion sliced into the water in which the meat was boiled, adding a small piece of mace, and a few peppercorns tied in a muslin bag; boil till the rice and onions are sufficiently done; take out the muslin bag, season with salt, and serve up. A chicken may be used instead of the mutton.

P.S As a side note: if you would like to see what Brisbane looks like, and used to look like in the past, I can do no better than recommend that you start a regular visit to Your Brisbane: Past and Present , the new blog of my friend and neighbour The Foto Fanatic. He has started off recording our own suburb of Teneriffe, taking new pictures to show side-by-side with old archival photos of the same location, and a fascinating view it is turning out to be.

P.P.S. Previous Australia Day Stories are:
The Inevitable Banquet (1888)

Meat Pie

Cakes for Australia Day

P.P.P.S. And for some recipes and advice on the original Aussie Bread (Damper), you can go HERE and HERE.

Quotation for the Day …

AUSTRALIA, n. A country lying in the South Sea, whose industrial and commercial development has been unspeakably retarded by an unfortunate dispute among geographers as to whether it is a continent or an island.
Ambrose Bierce.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Other Uses of Coffee.

Sometime ago, I wrote a short article called ‘The Other Uses of Coffee’ for my regular gig with a bakery trade magazine. The curse and blessing of a limited word allowance meant that some of the weirder uses of coffee had to be left out, but I have no intention of wasting the delightful information I gleaned in my research. Today I give you an interesting idea from the nineteenth century Australian cookbook guru, ‘Mrs. Rawson’ (Wilhemina Frances, or ‘Mina’ to her friends.)

Mrs. Rawson’s Dry Coffee Preservative.
(To Preserve Game When Carried Any Distance, Or Kept Some Time.)
When the ducks, water hens, turkeys etc are shot, let them be cleaned as soon as possible. The task need not be an unpleasant one at all, if each gentleman is provided with a piece of stout wire, and each does all that falls to his own gun. Cut the opening at one side, the left is the most handy, first picking away just a few feathers. That done, introduce the wire which should be bent like a wide hook at the top, and draw out all the loose contents of the body. All that should come without trouble, and in one pull, the wire being held firmly. Now sprinkle a liberal quantity of dry coffee into the inside, pick a handful of grass, roll it up, and push it in as stuffing. I cannot tell you what qualities the coffee possesses, but that it is far before pepper, used in this way. I have also used it successfully on butcher’s meat.

I am not too convinced that pulling out the innards of a duck with a loop of wire can be done ‘without trouble’ – and a lot of splattery mess, but then I have never tried the manoeuvre. I wonder if the coffee does have some preservative ability – or just disguises the smell of putrefaction. Anyone know of any other examples of its use in this way?

Mrs Rawson was big on baking too, but I am going to take a leap into the mid-twentieth century for the recipe for the day – to my favourite source of the wartime Ministry of Food leaflets. From issue number 29, a recipe that fits nicely into the Coffee Recipe Archive.

Coffee Potato Scones.
Sift 6 oz plain flour, 2 level teaspoonfuls baking powder, and ½ teaspoonful salt into a basin. Mix thoroughly with 4 oz mashed potato. Rub in 2 oz fat with the tips of the fingers. Blend to a soft dough with ½ teacupful strong, milky, sweetened coffee. Roll out to ½ inch thickness on a floured board and cut into little rounds. Glaze the tops with a little milk. Bake on greased baking sheets in a hot oven for 15 minutes.

Quotation for the Day …

Coffee: we can get it anywhere, and get as loaded as we like on it, until such teeth-chattering, eye-bulging, nonsense-gibbering time as we may be classified unable to operate heavy machinery.
Joan Frank

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Outside Ideas.

The food reference for the new hard times should without doubt be the Food Facts leaflets put out by the British Ministry of Food during World War II. We could learn a thing or three about waste and about frugality in the kitchen by a thorough study of those old papers. The concepts of not wasting a crumb of bread, and finding creative ways to extend a small amount of animal protein are immediately accessible ideas at any time of the economy, but those pamphlets gave good advice too about the stuff most of us would normally throw away without a millesecond-length guilt attack. 
From a couple of the early leaflets, in the second half of 1940:
Example 1. The outside leaves of lettuce.
Cooked Lettuce.
Don’t make the mistake of using lettuce only as a salad. Lettuce cooked in a very little water makes a delicious vegetable, and you will enjoy even the outside leaves.
Example 2.  The outside leaves of cauliflower.
Cauliflower Leaves.
Always ask your greengrocer for the leaves of the cauliflower. As well as being rich in vitamins, the leaves taste delicious. Cook and serve them with the cauliflower, or have them as a separate vegetable the next day.
What do you think your greengrocer would say if you asked for a cauliflower in full leaf? Makes good sense though, doesn’t it? Especially considering that botanically speaking the cauli is exactly the same as a cabbage. Both are officially Brassica oleracea. The cauli is simply a cabbage cultivar grown for its flower head.
Cultivars are not always ‘natural’ – many are testament to the skills of human gardeners who have selected a particularly interesting or desirable feature of the plant (flower head, buds, leaves) and cultivated them in such a way as to maintain that feature. Other Brassica oleracea cultivars include kale, brussels sprouts, broccoli, kohlrabi, and collard greens. All very good for you, apparently, with a possible protective effect against bowel cancer. Eat some today.
Quotation for the Day …
Cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education.
Mark Twain

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Noisy Puddings.

I doubt if anyone would call oatmeal ‘exciting’, but it is certainly interesting – if only in a historic and linguistic sort of way. Oatmeal is, or was, ‘the bread of the North’ – although decent ‘real’ bread cannot be made from it on account of its lack of gluten. It was sometimes made in bread-like blocks by the expedient of making very thick porridge and pouring it into a dresser drawer, leaving it to set, then cutting it into slabs. Antique Scottish dressers can still be found with deeply knife-scored drawers from years of porridge cutting.

Oatmeal is undoubtedly versatile. Apart from porridge slabs and gruel (see yesterday’s post), it makes fine oatcakes and it is absolutely essential in the form of gingerbread called Yorkshire Parkin (see the Gingerbread archive), but I am particularly intrigued by its ‘savoury’ applications. Here is where the linguistic fun comes in.

Porridge is, of course, simply one form of the universal staple carbohydrate ‘filler’ – it is the oatmeally version of hasty pudding, frumenty, polenta etc. All of these bland stodgy fillers can be flavoured and embellished in an infinite variety of ways, depending on whim and availability of ingredients. In the case of oatmeal, one version is called ‘skirly’ or ‘skirlie.’ According to the OED it is ‘a dish of oatmeal and onions, etc., fried together’, and the name is apparently a shortened form of ‘skirl-in-the-pan’ – meaning something fried in a pan.

But why does ‘skirl’ mean to fry? The Dictionary of the Scots language comes to our rescue here. Skirl is apparently ‘a scream or shreek, or to make the sound characteristics of the bagpipes.’ Further elaboration comes from one of the supporting quotes:

“A favourite substitute for mealy pudding was made in a small pan in which dripping was melted, with oatmeal added. This concoction, which was known to us by the picturesque English name, ‘scream pudding’, had to be stirred all the time it was cooking, to prevent it from singeing. The Scots name for it is ‘skirlie’.
[Angus Duncan Hebridean Island: Memories of Scarp 93]

So – skirlie and scream pudding – names arising from the sound of cooking in the pan. Nice, Huh?

Another noisy Scots dish made from oatmeal is crackins –‘a dish made of oatmeal fried in fat till well browned.’ The same thing as skirly? Similar, it seems, but more specifically associated with the melted fat of pigs (crackins/cracklins, see the association?), or, even more interestingly, with fish bits as shown by the following quote from the Scots Dictionary: ‘Crackens . . . are formed of fish livers and oatmeal cooked together.’ (1914). As the dictionary also gives Crackens as a name for the ‘roe of herring, etc., which, when thrown into the fire, burst with a crackling sound’, perhaps this gave the name to the pudding rather than the cracking-crunching pork bits? Anyone for fishy-flavoured porridge?

And if the OED wasn’t magnificent enough in its explicatory function, believe it or not it has recipes within it. It supplies our recipe for the day, in the form of a supporting quote:

Chop two ounces of suet finely. Have a pan very hot and put in the suet. When..melted, add one or two finely chopped onions and brown them well. Now add enough oatmeal to absorb the fat.
Scots Kitchen. F.M McNeill. 1929

Quotation for the Day …

Oats: A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people. Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary, 1755

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tamarind for Health.

The tamarind (Tamarindus indicus) is native to parts of tropical Africa, but now widespread in India. The fruit produces a very sour pulp which has many culinary uses. Recipes containing tamarind are usually instantly identified as “eastern”, but several seventeenth century recipes demonstrate that at that time it was a common enough ingredient for various English dishes (albeit mostly for the sick or indisposed). It was purchased from the apothecary not the greengrocer, and a couple of nice ideas occur in Kitchin-physick, or, Advice to the poor by way of dialogue betwixt Philanthropos, physician, Eugenius, apthecary [sic], Lazarus, patient. With rules and directions, how to prevent sickness, and cure diseases by diet ... (1676.)

The author gives several variations of Watergruel (‘the sick man's Food and Physick’), one of which contains tamarind (or prunes) as an alternative to the currants in the main recipe.

Take two pints of River or Spring Water, boil it first, and then let it cool again; then put to it a due proportion of Oatmeal, a handful of Sorrel, and a good quantity of pick'd and well wash'd Currants, (eston'd Raisins of the Sun, and other ingredients, as the Disease will permit, may also be added) [...]ye up these ingredients loosely in a fine thin linnen cloth or bag: boil them all well together (with or without a little Mace, Nutmeg, Rosemary, &c. as occasion offers) when 'tis sufficiently boil'd strain the Oat-meal, and press out all the juyce or moisture of the Currants and Herbs; throwing away the husks; as you eat it, sweeten it with a very little Sugar, Salt, Butter, and fine Manchet may be added, unless the Disease be very acute: Or,
Take a quart of water, put to it a spoonful or two of Oatmeal, and a little Mace, when it is sufficiently boil'd, put in it seven or eight spoonfuls of white, or Rhenish-wine, to make it more nourishing (if the Disease will bear it) beat up an Egg with a little Sugar, and put some of the hot liquour to it, and then give it a walm or two: Or,
Take Tamarinds or Pruens, wash them in several Waters, then stone them, and cut them small; boil them in a sufficient quantity of Water and Oatmeal, and strain the juyce from the flesh, as you did the Currants, and add to it a little Sugar when you eat it.

The author then suggests this very pleasant-sounding dish:

“Tamarind Possets are also very pleasing, and profitable in all hot Diseases: 'Tis made thus:
Take three pints, or two quarts of Milk, boil in it about two peny worth of Tamarinds (which you may buy at the Apothecaries) until it turn the Milk, then strain it from its Curds: Thus is made Whitewine, Rhenish, Lemon, Orange, Sorrel, Pippin, and all Possets made of sowre things, whch are excellent in Fevers, and all Diseases coming of Choler; Vinegar Possets will do as well as any.”

The recipes are a fine example of the substitution of an exotic imported ingredient for another more homely one – the added expense and allure no doubt adding to the healing potential of the remedy.

Quotation for the Day …

The past is always a rebuke to the present.
Robert Penn Warren

Monday, January 19, 2009

Food Signals, Part 2.

The sisters of the Monastery of Sion in Middlesex in the fifteenth century had a ‘Table of Signs’ to get around the rules of silence, and some of these (the food related ones, naturally) provided a blog story in July last year. A sequel is long overdue. I don’t know about you, but I always have to re-read or re-view the primary story in order to remember enough of the original story detail to make the sequel comprehensible. If you are similarly affected by poor narrative memory and decide to revisit the first story, you can skip the following revision list:

BREDE: Make with thy two thombes and two forefyngers a roude compas. And if thou wole haue white make the sign thereof. And if brown, toche thy cowll sleue.

BUTTUR OR OTHER FATNES. Draw thy two right upper fyngers to and fro on thy left palme.

DRYNK. Bowe thy right fore fyngere and up it on thy neder lyppe.

ALE: Make the signe of drynk and drawe thy hande displaied afore thyn eer dunwarde.

EGG: Bowe thy right fore fyngere’ upon they left thombe to and fro. As though thou should pill [peel] eggs.

FYSSHE. Wagge thy hand displaied sidelynges, in maner of a fissh taill.

FLESSHE. Reyse up with thy rigt fyngers the skyn of thy left hande.

PERE. Joyne all thy fyngers in length of thy right hande and wagge douwarde.

Now for the new list:

APPULE (Apple): Put thy thumbe in they fiste & close thy ha[n]d and meue afore the to and fro.

CHESE (Cheese) : Holde thy right hande flatlynge in the palme of thy lefte.

CUPPE (Cup): Hold up they thombe and fyngers rou[n]de. as bery[n]g a coppe.

DISSH OR POTYNGER: Make a cercle with thy rigt forefynger in the myddes of they left palme.

ETYNG (Eating): Put thy right thombe wt two forefyngers joyned to thy mouthe.

HERYNG (Herring): Putte thy right fore fy[n]ger. all the other closed. streght on [thy]ne ere.

MILKE: Drawe thy left litle fynger in maner of mylkyng.

MUSTERD: Holde thy nose in the upper parte of thy right fiste & rubbe it.

POTAGE: Make a cercle with the fore fynger of thy right hande in the palme of thy lefte hande.

SALTE: Phillipe with thy rigt thombe & his forefynger ouer the left thombe. [bit baffling, this one]

WATER: Joyne thy fyngers of thy right hande & meve them dow[n]warde droppyngly

WYNE: Meue [move?] thy fore fyngre up and down upon the ende of thy thombe afore thy eghe.

You should now be able to order a nice three course meal, with your choice of beverage even in the confines of a silent religious order.

Quotation for the Day …

There is more simplicity in the man who eats caviar on impulse than in the man who eats Grape-Nuts on principle.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Twelve Ways with Corn, 1794.

A missionary called George H. Loskiel famously recorded the ‘twelve different ways’ that the Delawares and Iroquois dressed ‘Indian corn’ (maize) in his book History of the Mission of the United Brethren Among the Indians in North America (1794). It remains a fine list of ideas for this amazing plant.

1. They boil it in the husk, till soft and fit to eat.
2. Parboil it, and having rubbed the husk off with sharp leys, wash and boil it over again.
3. They roast the whole ear in hot ashes, as it is taken from the stalk.
4. They pound it small, and then boil it soft.
5. They grind it as fine as flour by means of a wooden pestle and mortar, clear it from the husks, and make a thick pottage of it.
6. They knead the flour with cold water, and make cakes about a hand's breath, and an inch thick. These they inclose in leaves and bake in hot ashes, putting live coals upon them; and use them as bread.
7. They mix dried bilberries with the flour, to give the cakes a better relish.
8. They chop roasted or dried deer's-flesh, or smoked eels, into small pieces, and boil them with the corn.
9. They boil the grits made of it with fresh meat, and this is one of their most common meals, with which they eat the bread described above.
10. They roast the corn in hot ashes till it becomes thoroughly brown. Then they pound it to flour, mix it with sugar, and press it down forcibly into a bag. This serves for citamon.
11. They take the corn before it is ripe, and let it swell in boiling water. It is then dried and laid by for use. The white people buy it in this state to make soup of, or soak it again, and use it with oil and vinegar as salad.
12. They roast the whole ear, when grown, but still full of juice. This is a well- flavored dish, but wastes much corn. They therefore like to have their plantations at some distance from their dwellings, that they may not be tempted to waste so much, or at least increase the difficulty of getting it.

This list also perhaps gives us another forgotten food word – citamon. If any one out there has some other examples of its use, I would be most interested, because I have found no help from dictionaries. Loskiel himself elaborates elsewhere in the text, saying:

“The preparations for war are soon made: they do not carry much baggage; a bundle of citamon, as described above, consisting of pounded Indian corn and maple sugar, is all the provision they want.”

This sounds like a great recipe for pancake mix!

When Loskiel made his observations, the first genuine American cookbook had not yet been published. In 1798, Amelia Simmons (‘an orphan’) published her book American Cookery, or the art of dressing viands, fish, poultry, and vegetables, and the best modes of making pastes, puffs, pies, tarts, puddings, custards, and preserves, and all kinds of cakes, from the imperial plum to plain cake: Adapted to this country, and all grades of life.

She gives three variations of Indian pudding, which is hasty pudding by another name.

A Nice Indian Pudding.

No. 1. 3 pints scalded milk, 7 spoons fine Indian meal, stir well together while hot, let stand till cooled; add 7 eggs, half pound raisins, 4 ounces butter, spice and sugar, bake one and half hour.

No. 2. 3 pints scalded milk to one pint meal salted; cool, add 2 eggs, 4 ounces butter, sugar or molasses and spice q: s: it will require two and half hours baking.

No. 3. Salt a pint of meal, wet with one quart milk, sweeten and put into a strong cloth, brass or bell metal vessel, stone or earthen pot, secure from wet and boil 12 hours.

More on this topic …

Other recipes from from Amelia Simmons that have appeared in this blog are:
Honey Cake

To dress a Beef-Stake, sufficient for two Gentlemen, with a fire made of two newspapers.

Election Cake

There is more on Hasty pudding HERE and HERE.

Quotation for the Day …

It is not elegant to gnaw Indian corn. The kernels should be scored with a knife, scraped off into the plate, and then eaten with a fork. Ladies should be particularly careful how they manage so ticklish a dainty, lest the exhibition rub off a little desirable romance.
Charles Day (1844)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Rx: Custard Powder.

Will the idea of ‘food as medicine and medicine’ ever be revived to the extent that recipes appear again in official pharmacopoeia? I would like to think so, but doubt it. If they do, I suspect they will not include the likes of the recipes I give you today, from The Druggist's general receipt book (1863), by Henry Beasley. The author included ‘beverages, dietetic articles and condiments’ in his book, which he justified thus:

“As the ingredients of some of the following compounds are usually sold by druggists, who may be expected to furnish information as to the manner of using them, and as they all may be regarded as auxiliaries to medical treatment, some notice of them here seems desirable, though it must necessarily be brief and incomplete.”

Custard Powder.
Rub up together gum tragacanth 2 oz., potato starch 1 lb., powdered turmeric 2 ½ dr., with oil of bitter almonds ½ dr., and essence of lemon 1 dr. Put up into 1-ounce packets. (From 1 pint of new milk take 2 tablespoonfuls to work up with the powder; boil the remaining milk with 2 ounces of lump sugar, and pour it, while boiling, into the basin, stirring quickly until thoroughly mixed. Bake as a custard.)
Without the colouring, this forms Blanc-mange Powder.

White Chocolate.
White sugar 3 lb., rice flour 27 ½ oz., English or Indian arrow root 8 oz., tincture of vanilla ½ oz., butter of cacao 8 oz. powdered gum Arabic 4 oz., form a paste with boiling water and put it into moulds.

William Beasley also references Dr Kitchener's Magazine of Taste in his book, and includes a few of the good doctor's recipes for flavouring powders and the like. The Magazine of Taste has been featured previously in the blog on:
May 12,
May 13
May 14
May 15
May 16

Quotation for the Day …

An old-fashioned vegetable soup, without any enhancement, is a more powerful anti carcinogen than any known medicine.
James Duke, ethnobotanist.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

To make a Dunelm, Part 2.

The story a couple of weeks ago about the mysterious dish ‘A Dunelm’ piqued the interest of the apparently indefatiguable Mexico Bob, who sent the query on to a friend, who sent it on again (in the manner of these things). Simultaneously with receiving the response from a wordsmith of note (who will make his own exposition in his newsletter), I found another culinary reference to the dish.

We now have linguistic support for the word ‘Dunelm’ being a reference to the cathedral city in Durham, in the north of England (but south of Scotland!). I guess someone, somewhere, in the deep south of Britain, knowing the dish came from the North, mistakenly attributed it to the Scots, and the attribution stuck.

The food association is apparently the responsibility of the cathedral city clerics, who were in past times known for their comfortable lifestyles. ‘A Dunelm’ was therefore no mean hash, but quite an elegant dish, as the following recipe shows. Interestingly it still has the Scots taint, as will be seen by its alternative name, given at the end of the recipe.

A Dunelm of Mutton.
Take the caul sent in with a leg of veal, and lay it in a dish nearly as deep as a punch-bowl. Then take the lean part of a leg of mutton, chop it very small, and add to it a third of its weight of suet and some beef marrow, the crumbs of a penny loaf, the yolks of four eggs, two anchovies chopped small, half a pint of red wine, the rind of half a lemon grated, and some white pepper and salt. Mix all like sausage meat, and lay it in the caul placed in the dish. Close all up with the caul that hangs over, and send the dish to bake in a quick oven. When sufficiently done, turn it upon a dish, and pour over it some hot brown gravy. Send up with venison sauce in a boat. In the north, this is called, a Royal Haggis.
Culina famulatrix medicinæ: or, Receipts in modern cookery; with a medical commentary, by Alexander Hunter, 1810

Quotation for the Day …

I am ready to defend the right of the tasty crab, the luscious oyster, the noble rockfish and the incomparable terrapin to continue their part in the penitential practice of Friday.
Lawrence Cardinal Shehan, Archbishop of Baltimore , on the subject of retaining the tradition of Friday ‘abstinence’.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Disconsolate eggs and weary steak.

The author of yesterday’s source (One Thousand Simple Soups) emphasises the value of soups as a way of using up pantry scraps – and the sense of glee that arises from presenting to the unsuspecting family the recycled leftovers of an unpopular recipe experiment as a successful soup the following day. She includes a several page poem to illustrate the idea that soup can rescue the hostess when the cook is gone, the pantry is empty, and not only does the immediate family need to be fed, the extended half arrive unexpectedly, each with his or her own food desires and expectations. Each person at the soup meal finds just what they wanted in that single dish. The poem, called Ballad of the Empty Pantry and the Seven Guests is attributed to the Chronicles of Metu – an apparently fictitious source which nevertheless lends great authenticity to the concept.

In her own introduction, Olive Green says:

‘Monday’s disconsolate fried egg, Tuesday’s tough and world-weary steak, Wednesday’s sad lamb chop, Thursday’s disappointing codfish ball, and Friday’s stewed tomatoes,may all fulfil a designated destiny in Saturday’s soup, to the inner satisfaction of the unsuspecting, and the secret amusement of the artist.
For cookery, when all is said and done, is an art, as Dionysius has it:

“Know on thyself thy genius must depend:
All books of cookery, all helps of art,
All critic learning, all commenting notes
Are vain, if void of genius thou wouldst cook.” ’

Well, I am not sure that one would get too many unexpected visitors for Saturday supper if one gained a reputation for that sort of end-of-the-week cooking extravaganza!

Soup is nonetheless a great way of making a good meal out of not much. Here is an idea (one can hardly call it a recipe) from The family save-all, a system of secondary cookery, by Robert Kemp Philp (1861)

[Pea-Shell Soup]
When peas first come in, Pea Shells, boiled, and pressed through a sieve, with some of the liquor in which they were boiled, are equally good as peas. The young pea haulm is also good for the purpose. One half the quantity of young peas will suffice- for soup, when the shells are used in this manner.

Quotation for the Day …

When my mother had to get dinner for eight she’d just make enough for sixteen and only serve half.
Gracie Allen.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Taking the Life of a Cabbage.

The author of One Thousand Simple Soups (1907) had an utterly fearless approach to making cabbage soup. She argues:

“One who will take the life of a cabbage, need not hesitate at chicken or turkey, for cabbage has life – triumphant, compelling, penetrating life. Any one who lives in a flat may prove it by cooking a cabbage and listening in the court for remarks made by the other tenants. Anything lifeless could never be so forceful and powerful as cabbage even in its last moments.”

I was simply researching soups, and suddenly feel obliged to re-visit the old argument ‘Do plants feel pain? The question and the research surface from time to time - the devoutly carnivorous hoping for irrefutable proof that they do, to flaunt at vegetarians (and especially vegans) to counter one of the common ethical arguments for abstaining from meat. I don’t expect science will have the answer soon – there are so many peripheral arguments to be settled first, like “what is pain?” and “how do we measure it?” and “are plants sentient?” and “can non-sentient organisms experience pain?” and so on.

What about those organisms that are neither plant or animal? The bacteria in your yoghurt? The yeast in your bread? If scientists ultimately decide that yeasts are animals, will that condemn staunch vegetarians to a breadless, beerless life?

While, with your help, I try to puzzle out some of these issues, I give you what I set out to do – some cabbage soup recipes from Olive Green’s book (surely not her real name?).

Cabbage Soup A La Rouennaise
Shred fine two small cabbages and fry brown in plenty of butter, stirring constantly. Drain off the butter, add three quarts of beef stock, cover, and cook slowly for an hour and a half. Cover the bottom of the tureen with thin slices of toasted bread, pour the hot soup over, and serve.

Cabbage Soup With Rice
Select a small, hard cabbage, remove the core, and shred fine. Cut into dice half a pound of salt pork, and fry until brown and crisp. Add two teaspoonfuls of butter and a large onion chopped fine. When the butter is hot, add the shredded cabbage and fry slightly. Add three quarts of beef stock, and two quarts of water, boil for half an hour, add one cupful of well-washed rice, season with salt and pepper, cook until the rice is done, skim, reheat, and serve.

Cabbage And Potato Soup
Core and shred two small green cabbages. Fry brown in a little butter. Add three quarts of beef stock, and one quart of water, cover and cook for one hour. Peel six large potatoes, cut them into dice, add to the soup and cook until the potatoes are done. Cut two small French rolls in thin slices, toast in the oven, put into a soup tureen, pour the hot soup over, and serve.

Quotation for the Day …

Vegetarians are people who cannot hear tomatoes screaming.
Joseph Campbell

Friday, January 09, 2009

Curried Mayonnaise of Vegetables, 1917.

I have been considering the history of bouillon cubes recently, to determine what role they will play in my forthcoming book Soup: A Global History. In my own growing-up life in the North of England, with my dear mother who hated cooking, there was only one player – the OXO cube.

The OXO company developed out of the nineteenth century Liebig Extract of Meat Company. The little foil-wrapped cubes that I remember from my childhood developed out of the liquid extract, but OXO had already indisputably been part of the British food tradition for many decades. The history of the company itself is worthy of a blog post, but today because of time constraints I want to go straight to an interesting recipe. It comes from a product advertisement during World War I, from a newspaper dated December 12, 1917. The ad urges the use of OXO ‘To make many inexpensive delicious dishes which will to a great extent take the place of a meat course, and help to save rations.’

Curried Mayonnaise of Vegetables.
Ingredients: Cooked vegetables, such as potatoes, spinach, carrots, onion (about 2 lb in all.) 2 teaspoonfuls of OXO, 2 oz. dripping, 1 dessertspoonful of curry powder, a small piece of butter, 1 teaspoonful of flour, salt, pepper, and a little lemon juice.
Cut all the vegetables into neat pieces, mix them together. Melt the dripping in a frying-pan and add the vegetables. Toss them about in the pan until they are thoroughly hot. Then dissolve the OXO in a little hot water, and mix with the curry powder, stir into the vegetables. Add a piece of butter and a dust of flour, and stir until all are well mixed. Season with salt and a sprinkle of lemon juice just before serving. Send to table with a dish of nicely boiled rice.

What intrigued me about this recipe (it was certainly no anticipated deliciousness!) was the name – ‘mayonnaise’ as a noun referring to a dish thickened with flour! Anyone else seen the word used this way?

Quotation for the Day …

Mayonnaise: One of the sauces which serve the French in place of a state religion.
Ambrose Bierce.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Hickory Smoked Yeast

The idea of the necessity of ‘fortifying’ foods with extra vitamin-power is not new. It is difficult to sort out how much of it is driven by real nutritional requirements, and how much by the desire on the part of industry to make a profit from ‘waste’ or surplus products. One manufacturer came up with an idea to value-add (and presumably profit-add) to the already value-adding ingredient of brewer’s yeast in the 1940’s.

The News of Food column in the New York Times in late 1942 ran an article on the problem of obtaining brewer’s yeast in a palatable form “only to be told that the superlative source of the vitamin B complex is now hickory-smoked.” The story of hickory-smoked yeast was picked up some time later in the same column, and the writer continued:

“As a matter of fact, one company has been smoking it in this way for more than six years, marketing it among a few stores scattered about the city. The yeast – processed without heat so that none of the nutrients are destroyed – is a pale yellow powder, smelling like bacon, and tasting a little like it too. A couple of teaspoons furnish about 200 international units of B-1, which is a little below the daily requirement recommended by the National Research Council. The idea is not to eat the stuff as it comes from the silver container, but to blend it with any foods that combine pleasantly with it.
Certain persons, according to one informant, like the yeast, with butter, spread on toast or crackers, pancakes or waffles, fish or meat. Others advocate its usefulness in cheese and egg dishes, baked beans, gravies. Still others sprinkle it on baked potatoes or employ it instead of sugar – at least, so they say – with dried or cooked cereal. The concern itself reports that its versatile yeast is included in the ingredients of many dehydrated soups, some of which find their way to the Army.”

About twelve months later the same columnist gave a number of recipes which included brewer’s yeast as a ‘fortifying agent’. Some of the recipes would appear to have needed the plain variety of yeast, but the following one would lend itself well to the smoked variety. It sounds interesting – a sort of baked bread-and-bean savoury pudding flavoured with sage and ‘fortified’ with yeast (and presumably ‘bacon flavoured’ if the smoked variety is used.)

Sage Baked Beans.
(serves six)
1 ½ cups navy beans.
5 cups cold water
1 ½ teaspoons salt.
1 cup soft breadcrumbs.
1 ½ cups milk.
2 medium-sized onions, chopped.
2 tablespoons drippings or other fat.
1 to 1 ½ teaspoons sage.
½ teaspoon salt.
Dash pepper
2 eggs, beaten.
4 tablespoons brewers yeast.
Soak beans overnight in the water, add salt, and then simmer until tender but not too soft. Soak the crumbs in milk. Brown onion lightly in fat and mix all ingredients. Pour into a greased baking dish, cover and bake in a slow oven (325 degrees F.) and bake one hour.

Quotation for the Day …

If pale beans bubble for you in a red earthenware pot, you can often decline the dinners of sumptuous hosts.
Martial's Epigrams

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Blancmange and Black Caps.

Our old friend Parson James Woodforde had a fine dinner and supper with friends on this day in 1783. As was his habit, he recorded the meals in his journal:

“…..went by appointment to Mr. Priests and there dined, supped and spent the Evening…. We had for Dinner some fresh Salmon and Oyster Sauce, a boiled Turkey and Oyster Sauce, a fore Qr. of London Lamb, mince Pyes, &c … We did not sup till near 10 at night – and then we had a very handsome supper – A Couple of boiled Fowls and Oyster Sauce, a rosted Hare wch. I sent them – one Duck rosted, a hot Tongue, Tarts, Italian Flummery – Blamanche [blancmange], black Caps and Sweetmeats. I did not get to bed till after 12 tonight.”

That was certainly a substantial supper for 10 o’clock at night! The Black Caps were a favourite eighteenth century dish of baked apples – the caramelisation of the sugar on top giving it its name. A dish worthy of reviving, I believe – especially with Orange-Flower water included. A nice homely dish after some of the more outlandish that we have had this week.

To make Black Caps.
Take a dozen large Pippins, or Golden-runnets, cut them in halves, and lay them single, with the flat sides downward in a pretty large Mazareen, as close by each other as they can lie; then squeeze a Lemon into two spoonfuls of Orange Flower-water, and pour over them; shred some Lemon-peel very fine, and shake between them; then grate over them some double refin’d Sugar; put them into a quick Oven, and they will be done in half an Hour.
Cook’s and Confectioner’s Dictionary, John Nott (1724)

The story of blancmange is a long and fascinating one, and I have covered it piecemeal in previous posts. Two fourteenth century versions are HERE and HERE, and there is a wonderfully artistic nineteenth century Coffee Blancmange from the Baron Brisse HERE. Methinks I must find some inbetween versions to properly demonstrate its evolution from a medieval sweetened and spiced chicken/rice/almond milk “porridge” to a bland, wobbly gelatinised and coloured modern dessert.

Quotation for the Day …

Happy and successful cooking doesn't rely only on know-how; it comes from the heart, makes great demands on the palate and needs enthusiasm and a deep love of food to bring it to life.
Georges Blanc, Ma Cuisine des Saisons

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


Today is Twelfth Day, and the official end of the Christmas season. Every previous year of The Old Foodie blog, I have written about the food traditions of this day, but this year I have a different idea for you.

The end of the Christmas season is a time for looking ahead and wondering what the new year will bring. One way to find out, so the old books say, is by tyromancy. A bit of divination one-upmanship on your friends who merely read tea-leaves or tarot cards. Tyromancy is divination by cheese – by the interpretation of the signs that appear as the cheese coagulates. Unfortunately, no book written by an enlightened one has appeared to help us read those signs, so we must make it up as we go along, or rely on our intuitive interpretation.

So – go to it, and make yourself some cheese, and watch it carefully as it cheeses. There are some instructions HERE.

When you have made your cheese, make some Welsh Rabbit. The number of variations on the theme of cheese on toast is astounding, and the collection of recipes (HERE and HERE) grows very large.

You are not likely to come up with a good Camembert cheese in your own kitchen, but if you have some at home, and are sick of the damn stuff, you can use it up in an up-market version of Welsh Rabbit.

Camembert Toast
1 Camembert Cheese
slices of Graham or Boston brown bread or crackers
salt and paprika
Remove the crust from a creamy Camembert cheese, spread the cheese thickly on slices of bread or crackers, dust with salt and paprika, and bake in a quick oven – 375 degrees F. – from five to eight minutes, or until the surface of the cheese is golden brown.
Mrs. Allen on cooking, menus, service: 2500 recipes; 1924

Quotation for the Day ...

Cheese is the biscuit of drunkards.
John Keats

Monday, January 05, 2009

Lion on the Menu.

The New York Times of February 20, 1875 ran an item about a very special dinner in Paris the previous December in which the fierce Mr. Lion was doubly honored in giving up his life to the valiant lion slayer and providing a magnificent meal to some very appreciative gourmands.

M. Constant Cheret, the well-known lion hunter, says Land and Water, recently sent the editor of La Chasse Illustré a magnificent quarter of a lion which he had shot in the neighbourhood of Phillipeville, Algeria, in the course of the month of December. With a view to doing all possible honor to the sportsman’s gift, the editor invited his staff to dine with him at Restaurant Magny, a house renowned for its cook and cellar, and well patronized by Messieurs les Chasseurs. On this momentous occasion the great Magny himself superintended the dinner, and prepared the principal dishes with his own hand. The guests were nineteen in number, and the menu was one of the choicest; indeed Mr. Lion seems to have been the pretext for organizing one of the prettiest and most recherché gastronomical fêtes that we have heard of for a long time. The bill of fare was as follows:

Huitres de Marennes.
Beurre et Olives.
Potages tapioca et bisque.
Bouchée à la Reine.
Barbue Sauce Hollandaise.
Filets à la Rossini.
Estouffade de Lion à la Méridionale.
Coeur de Lion à la Castellane.
Coq d Bruyère flanqué de Bécasses.
Petits Pois.
Biscuit Glacé.

Chablis, Sauternes, Rousillon’s Champagne, Corton &c.

The dinner, as a specimen of the culinary art, was perfect; but of course the great attraction was the lion ham and heart. These dishes were prepared by Magny himself in the following manner:

Estouffade de Lion à la Méridionale.
Mariner the lion for a week with plenty of spice, onions, carrots, thyme, bay leaves, garlic, parsley, and cloves; then pour red wine over it – some Burgundy or a strong Southern wine – until it is completely covered, taking care to add a little good cognac. At the end of the week strain the lion on a cloth, remove the sinows, cut it into nice fillets, lard them, and put them into a casserole with olive oil. When the outside is slightly browned, remove them from the sauce-pan, and place them en couronne in a large frying pan, along with a third of the marinade, some butter, and the third of a quarter of an orange. Prick a few fine olives with pins, remove the stones, and place them along with the filets half an hour before serving. Four hours’ cooking is sufficient.

Coeur de Lion à la Castellane.
Chop up a pound of fat bacon and a pound of lean veal, season it well with salt, pepper, and spice; pass it through a strainer, as you would in making a purée, after having warmed it on the fire. Now mix a pound of farce de volaille with it, adding a little cognac, some Madeira, and half a pound of mushrooms chopped up small. Remove the centre of the heart, fill it with the farce, roll it and envelope it in a pâtee. Cook it for three hours and a half, and serve it up with a demi-glace and a garniture of mushroom farcis.

When Mr. Lion was placed upon the table there was a religious silence, which, however, only lasted for a few seconds, for at the first mouthful, a murmur of approbation ran round the table, and the guests with one accord drank to the health of Mr. Cheret and M. Magny, coupling in their admiration the valiant lion-slayer and the clever artiste who had proved himself able to prepare such a delicious dish out of the flesh of this ferocious game, which is more frequently in the habit of eating others rather than of being eaten itself. In these days of economy it is pleasing to find that even lions in carcase can be utilized, and that no longer is a live dog better than a dead lion. M. Magny should come over to Regent’s Park and give Mr. Bartlett a few of these simple recipes.

Friday, January 02, 2009

More on Mishmish.

Today I give you another historic menu which expands (a little), the story of mishmish.

Another Victorian travellers tale gives us a menu for a dinner in Egypt in 1874. Amelia Ann Blandford Edwards (1831-1892) was the daughter of one of Wellington’s officers, and a writer and Egyptologist. She visited Egypt in 1873-4, and wrote up (and illustrated) her experiences in A Thousand miles up the Nile. She gives a lively account of a dinner with Mustapha Aga in March 1874.

“In the round of gaiety that goes on at Luxor the British Consulate played the leading part. Mustapha Aga entertained all the English dahabeeyahs, and all the English dahabeeyahs entertained Mustapha Aga. We were invited to several fantasias at the Consulate, and dined with Mustapha Aga at his suburban house the evening before we left Luxor.

The appointed hour was 8.30 P.M. We arrived amid much barking of dogs, and were received by our host in a large empty hall surrounded by a divan. Here we remained till dinner was announced. We were next ushered through an anteroom where two turbaned and barefooted servants were in waiting; the one with a brass basin and ewer, the other with an armful of Turkish towels. We then, each in turn, held our hands over the basin ; had water poured on them; and received a towel apiece. These towels we were told to keep ; and they served for dinner-napkins. The anteroom opened into a brilliantly-lighted dining-room of moderate size, having in the centre a round brass table with an upright fluted rim, like a big tray. For each person were placed a chair, a huge block of bread, a wooden spoon, two tumblers, and a bouquet. Plates, knives, forks, there were none.

The party consisted of the Happy Couple, the Director of the Luxor Telegraph Office, L., the Writer, Ahmed, and our host.

"To-night we are all Arabs," said Mustapha Aga, as he showed us where to sit. "We drink Nile water, and we eat with our fingers."

So we drank Nile water; and for the first time in our lives we ate with our fingers. In fact, we found them exceedingly useful.

The dinner was excellent. Without disrespect to our own accomplished chef, or to the accomplished chefs of our various friends upon the river, I am bound to say that it was the very best dinner I ever ate out of Europe. Everything was hot, quickly served, admirably dressed, and the best of its kind. Here is the menu :–

MENU. MARCH 31, 1874.
White soup : — (Turkey).
Fried Samak.*
Stewed pigeons. Spinach and rice.
Kebobs* of mutton. Kebobs of lambs' kidneys.
Tomatoes with rice. Kuftah.*
Turkey, with cucumber sauce.
Pilaff* of rice.
Mish-mish.* Rus Blebban.*
Kunáfah* Totleh.*

Samak: a large flat fish, rather like a brill.
Dall: roast shoulder of lamb.
Kebobs : small lumps of meat grilled on skewers
Kuftah: broiled mutton.
Pilaff: boiled rice, mixed with a little batter, and seasoned with salt and pepper.
Mish-mish : apricots (preserved).
Kunáfah : a rich pudding made of rice, almonds, cinnamon etc etc
Rus Blebban: rice cream
Totleh: sweet jelly, encrusted with blanched almonds

These dishes were placed one at a time in the middle of the table, and rapidly changed. Each dipped his own spoon in the soup, dived into the stew, and pulled off pieces of fish or lamb with his fingers. Having no plates, we made plates of our bread. Meanwhile Mustapha Aga, like an attentive host, tore off an especially choice morsel now and then, and handed it to one or other of his guests.

To eat gracefully with one's fingers is a fine art; to carve with them skilfully is a science. None of us, I think, will soon forget the wonderful way in which our host attacked and vanquished the turkey – a solid colossus weighing twenty lbs., and roasted to perfection. Half-rising, he turned back his cuff, poised his wrist, and, driving his forefinger and thumb deep into the breast, brought out a long, stringy, smoking fragment, which he deposited on the plate of the Writer. Thus begun, the turkey went round the table amid peals of laughter, and was punished by each in turn. The pilaff which followed is always the last dish served at an Egyptian or Turkish dinner. After this, our spoons were changed and the sweets were put upon the table. The drinks throughout were plain water, rice-water, and lemonade. Some native musicians played in the anteroom during dinner; and when we rose from the table, we washed our hands as before.

We now returned to the large hall, and not being accomplished in the art and mystery of sitting cross-legged, curled ourselves up on the divans as best we could. The Writer was conducted by Mustapha Aga to the corner seat at the upper end of the room, where he said the Princess of Wales had sat when their Royal Highnesses dined with him the year before. We were then served with pipes and coffee. The gentlemen smoked chibouques and cigarettes, while for us there were gorgeous rose-water narghilehs with long flexible tubes and amber mouthpieces. L. had the Princess's pipe, and smoked it very cleverly all the evening.”

Here is a nineteenth century English take on ‘pilaff’ (or pillaw or pilau), from John Mollard’s The Art of Cookery (1836).

Pilau Of Rice.
Wash, pick, and dress, in the same manner as for plain rice, observing only, that before setting in the oven, a little pounded mace must be added to the rice ; then put into a stewpan a chicken half boiled and a piece of pickled pork three parts boiled, and cover with the rice. On serving, place the fowl and pork at the bottom of the dish, with the rice over, and garnish with boiled or fried button onions and halves of hard eggs, hot.

Pilau Of Rice (another way).
Wash, pick, and boil a pound of rice in plenty of water till half done, with a dozen of whole cardamum seeds; then drain it, pick out the seeds, and put the rice into a stewpan, with three quarters of a pound of fresh butter and some pounded mace, and salt. Cut a loin of house lamb, or some fresh pork, into small pieces; put them into a frying-pan, add a small quantity of cinnamon, cloves, cummin and cardamum seeds pounded and sifted, with a bit of butter and some Cayenne pepper, and fry the meat till half done. Then add two bay leaves, and four good sized onions sliced, to a pint and a half of veal broth; boil them till tender and rub them through a tamis cloth or sieve. Then boil the liquor over a fire till reduced to half a pint, and add it to the fried meat and spices, together with some peeled button onions boiled. Place some of the rice at the bottom of another stewpan, then a layer of meat and onions on the rice, and so on alternately till the whole is put in. Cover the pan close, set it in a moderately heated oven for two hours and a half, and when to be served, turn the rice out carefully on a dish.

Quotation for the Day …

Traveling, you realize that differences are lost: each city takes to resembling all cities, places exchange their form, order, distances, a shapeless dust cloud invades the continents.
Italo Calvino.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Mishmish at New Year, 1851

George T. Lowth was one of the nineteenth centuries intrepid travellers who turned his adventures into a book. He made his journey in 1850-1, and published his account under the title of The Wanderer in Arabia: Or Western Footsteps in Eastern Tracks. At the turn of the New Year he was ‘in the wilds of Upper Egypt’, and he and his fellow guests aboard the Cambria sat down to dinner presented by ‘the caliph and Selim.’

A Nile fish, with Prince of Wales’ sauce (a small silver fish, delicate as a Thames flounder).
Pigeon-pie – lamb kufties, with wine sauce
Roast turkey and fried bacon.
Mashed potatoes – boiled native légumes – unknown.
Mince-pies – puddings of Damascus mishmish of apricot.
Gloucester cheese – pale ale.
Oranges, figs, almonds and raisins, dates from Mecca.
Nectar from Yemen – English biscuits.

The menu details are somewhat lost in interpretation. The dinner was clearly a mix of local and English ingredients and dishes: the lentsiche soup was presumably lentil soup, the kufties presumably meatballs (kofta, kofte.) The nectar from Yemen is a mystery – it is not likely to have been alcohol in any form, so perhaps was a sweetened fruit drink? The Gloucester cheese was, and is unequivocally English, and along with Cheshire cheese, was a seafaring staple for centuries.

I had thought at first that mishmish was a simple compote of apricots, but it is described in another book of travellers tales from Egypt as ‘an excellent dish of small apricots, dried and stewed, and served up in general with boiled rice.’ The dried apricots of Damascus are particularly admired, and some books refer to the apricots alone as the Mish-mish.I guess the name means the same as mish-mash, or ‘a confused mixture; a medley, hotchpotch, or jumble’. The OED ascribes a German origin to mish-mash, and admits to perhaps some Yiddish influence – but I would love to know what this dish is called in Arabic. Any experts out there?

The recipe for the day could easily be the simple description above, but I also offer you:

Compôte of Apricots.
Pick out the stones of twenty-five apricots that are not quite ripe, prick and blanch, but do not boil. Put them into a pound of clarified sugar, upon a slow fire, that the sugar may penetrate them; dish them in the compôtier, give the sugar a boil, and pour it over them: a kernel may be blanched and put in each.
Domestic Economy and Cookery, for rich and poor, by a Lady (1827)

Quotation for the Day …

Travel by sea nearly approximates the bliss of babyhood. They feed you, rock you gently to sleep and when you wake up, they take care of you and feed you again
Geoffrey Bocca.