Thursday, July 30, 2009

When is a Chipolata Not a Chipolata?

A ‘chipolata’ here in Australia is, unequivocally, a sausage. Until recently I understood that this was pretty much what it was everywhere else in the civilised world. Not so. Some time ago I came across a mention of a Bavarois Chipolata in a Netherlandish wedding menu of the 1930’s and was briefly, but deeply, horrified. A sweet cream dessert with sausage?

A brief request to the Oracle at Google confirmed that there is a dessert-type Pudding à la Chipolata. Curiously enough it does seem to be associated with the Dutch – at least in its modern incarnation. The story is far from clear however, with one source (1877) insisting it is un gâteau anglais-italien and another that it was invented (and the recipe kept a secret), by the famously tragic French chef François Vatel (1631-1671). Most versions have it as a set or iced pudding, but there is also a version called Plum Pudding à la Chipolata.

So, my question is, what has chipolata – either the sausage or the word – got to do with a sweet dessert? The word apparently comes from the Italian cipolla for onion, and the the classic garnish à la Chipolata does contain onions, as well as chestnuts and small sausages. The sausages used in the chipolata in turn became called chipolata sausages or simply chipolatas. At least, that is my working theory on how the chipolata sausage got its name. None of which explains the pudding variety however (although chestnuts are a common ingredient in nineteenth century iced puddings, so perhaps there is a connection there.)

Frustratingly, after an intense and harrowing full twenty minutes of research, I have been unable to come up with a convincing ‘historic’ recipe for this pudding. I hope that perhaps one of you might be able to fill in this gap. Instead I give you this rather tasty-sounding ‘foreign ragout’ which might make a nice one-pot winter dinner.

A foreign ragout. Blanch two dozen of carrots, two dozen of turnips, the same quantity of large chesnuts and onions; let these stew for some time over the fire with some consommé and a little sugar. Having fried separately a dozen sausages and a dozen slices of bacon, add them with two dozen champignons and a few spoonfuls of espagnole sauce to the vegetables, adding from time to time a little consommé or gravy. These are to stew for an hour.
The domestic dictionary and housekeeper's manual, by G. Merle, 1842

Quotation for the Day.

A high-brow is someone who looks at a sausage and thinks of Picasso.


Anonymous said...

Ha ha, we have just spent a harrowing twenty minutes researching why they call chipolata, chipolata for the same reson. It's a desert here in Holland so we thought chipolata may mean small chips or something. No luck though, it seems it is a sausage.

The Old Foodie said...

Hi There, Anonymous! What type of dessert do you call 'chipolata'? is it ice-cream?

Anonymous said...

It's a pudding with raisins and dried fruit says another Anomynous from the Netherlands...

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks, Anonymous from the Netherlands: fascinating, isnt it? a pudding with dried fruit - or a little sausage. How could two such different foods have the same name?