Friday, December 31, 2010

All Aboard for New Year’s Eve.

It is a while since I gave you a cruise ship menu, so here is one from New Year’s Eve, 1941. It is from a ship of the Aberdeen and Commonwealth Line, and appears to have been on a voyage to or from Canada.

Crème de Tomato
Sole Blanchaille
Vol au Vente Toulouse
Supreme of Chicken, Stanley
Roast Sirloin of Beef
Carrots Flamande
Puree & Browned Potatoes
Savoury Rice

Cold Buffet;
Roast Pork, Apple Sauce
Americano Pudding
Scotch Shortbread
Mince Pies

Coffee Cheese Biscuits Tea.

I am greatly intrigued by the Americano Pudding, but have not been able to find a recipe, so it must remain a mystery for the time being. Perhaps it was a special invention of the chef aboard the vessel?

Instead, here is a recipe for Savoury Rice, courtesy of Mrs Harriet Anne de Salis, from her book Savouries à la Mode (1887)

Savoury Rice.
Put into a saucepan six cupfuls of stock or broth into which has been previously dissolved a good allowance of either tomato paste or tomato sauce, add pepper and salt to taste; when it boils, throw in for every cupful of stock half a cupful of rice, well-washed and dried before the fire. Let the whole remain on the fire until the rice has absorbed all the stock, then melt a large piece of butter, and pour it over the rice.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Well-Bred Picnic.

I will be at the beach later today, so my thoughts have inevitably turned to the great tradition of eating out of doors. In Australia nowadays - and am pretty sure elsewhere too – picnics are by design and necessity, pretty informal events. It seems that this was always the aim, even back in ‘the old country’ (Britain) in the nineteenth century when the picnic concept really began to capture the imagination.

The problem for the Victorians however was, of course, that they were so, well - Victorian - that they were unable to embrace wholeheartedly the concept of informality. The food was expected to be prodigious in quantity and variety, with few concessions to the outdoor venue, as we saw in a post some time ago which included Mrs Beeton’s suggested bill of fare for a picnic for forty persons. It seems to one Victorian food writer at least, that the reality of a picnic experience fell far short of the ideal. The writer was William Blanchard Jerrold, who was responsible for yesterday’s source, The Epicure’s Year Book and Table Companion. In the 1869 edition, Jerrold pleaded for ‘picnic reform’, and it appears that the attitudes of the picnic guests were a large part of the problem.

He writes:

Even the naturally disputatious will not dispute the fact, that half the picnics given under the uncertain sky of England, are failures. To begin with, it is difficult to get a good picnic party together. The thorough picnic nature is not common among us. We cannot unbend easily. It is with the greatest difficulty we loose the bow. Now, at a picnic, the company should be all not only genial, but sans-gêne. As Mademoiselle Schneider has pithily observed in Barbe Bleue, "Jusqu'il y a de la gêne, ily a pas de plaisir." I have had occasion to observe that the government of sans-gêne is one of the most difficult and delicate matters in the world. How far it is removed from rudeness, from familiarity, from " hail, fellow " coarseness, it is not given to all to measure justly. Safe sans-gêne is possible only in a company where all are well-bred. The underbred pass rapidly from playfulness to buffoonery. The laughter becomes loud that should only sparkle and bubble. At best, we make bad gipsies. But there is no reason why we should not endeavour to get at something like the reason why picnics are so often failures; and do away with it. Bores and gâte-joies are accidents which the most careful host cannot always eliminate from his company. A comic gentleman intrudes. A guest lives too well in presence of the champagne that he has espied lying in the ice-buckets, and buried in ferns. A prude finds fault with everything. An audacious lady shocks the dean. Your awkward visitor upsets the salad mixture - for salad mixtures have not yet been driven, as an abomination, out of the best regulated picnics. Somebody troubles the party with an attack of hysterics. There is the lady who is quite sure she cannot sit upon the grass. It is barely possible to escape the pest who screams at the approach of a June fly, and wants salts after the apparition of a caterpillar. But of all picnic nuisances, preserve me from the officious, awkward guest, who gives the wrong wines with unflagging assiduity. The provoking element in him is, that while he is rasping the temper of the company, he is in the seventh heaven of enjoyment himself.

One universal truth emerges from this opinion piece. Human nature does not change. A century and a half later, we have all met Jerrold’s guests, whether at picnics or corporate dinners or neighbourhood barbeques, have we not?

Jerrold continues his article with an opinion on ‘picnic gastronomy’, which we shall save for another day.

The recipe for the day comes from Cookery for English households, by a French lady, published in London in 1864, and a very elegant picnic contribution it would make to a thoroughly English picnic.

Melt, over a very moderate fire, half a pound of fresh butter; add gradually a pound of flour and as much pounded sugar, with a little grated lemon peel; when it is warm, remove the pan from the fire and break into it eight eggs, which you mix thoroughly with the other ingredients. Fill up with this preparation some small buttered moulds, and set them in the oven. Twenty minutes' baking is sufficient.
Madeleines when shut up in boxes and put in a dry place may keep for a month.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

An American Dinner in London.

On this day in 1863 was held in London, England, an ‘American Dinner.’ Here is what The Epicure's Year Book And Table Companion said of the event:

It has been said that canvass-back ducks cannot be eaten in perfection in London, nor in anything like perfection: but we call to mind an occasion on which, on the authority of American gourmets present, these precious birds were eaten in perfection - in perfect condition, and perfectly cooked. The dinner took place on the 29th December, 1863, and the entire menu was specially imported by the host, Mr. H. L. Bateman. The dinner was cooked admirably by Mr. Blanchard, of Beak Street, Regent Street, and was served in his establishment. The following was the menu. The Saddle Rock oysters were as they are in the States.

Saddle Rock oysters.
Oyster soup à l'Americaine.
Turbot, lobster sauce.
Canvass-back ducks; celery.
Saddle of mutton.
Diamond-back terrapin à la Maryland.

Sauterne, amontillado, claret, champagne.

Recipe for the Day.

In case you should be lucky enough to find some canvas-back duck for your dinner, I give you a simple but elegant sauce recipe from Joe Tilden’s Recipes for Epicures (1907.)

Sauce for Canvas-back Duck.
melt together in a hot soup plate one ounce of butter, and an equal amount of currant jelly. Add th juice of a lime, a glass of sherry and a small cupful of finely chopped celery. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Birthday Food.

Today is my birthday, so birthday food is my topic. On Thursday I am off to the beach for ten days with my grandsons (and their parents), so posts may be shortened in proportion to the fun I am having – or, on the other hand, they may be lengthened in proportion to the interminable flooding rain we are experiencing here in sunny Queensland at present. I have not missed a Monday to Friday post in over five years, so short they may be, but absent they will not be.

First, my birthday beverage of choice is, of course, champagne. This sounds like a fun alternative however:

Birthday Syllabub.
Put into a large bowl half a pound of sugar broken small, and pour on it the strained juice of a couple of fresh lemons, stir these well together, and add to them a pint of port wine, a pint of sherry and half a pint of brandy; grate in a fine nutmeg, place the bowl under the cow, and milk it full. In serving it put a portion of the curd into each glass, fill it up with whey, and pour a little rich cream on the top. The rind of a lemon may be rasped with part of the sugar when the flavour is approved, but it is not usually added.
Juice of lemons 2; sugar ½ lb or more; port wine 1 pint; sherry 1 pint; brandy ½ pint ;nutmeg 1; milk from the cow 2 quarts.
Obs. - We can testify to the excellence of this receipt
Modern Cookery, in all its branches (1845) Eliza Acton.

In the absence of a live cow in the vicinity of the kitchen, this version would be quite acceptable, even if not authentic.

Birthday Syllabub*.
Juice of 2 lemons, ½ lb. of sugar, mixed in a bowl; add a pint of sherry; grate in a nutmeg; add 2 quarts new milk; in serving, let the curd remain in the glass.
Cooling cups and dainty drinks (1869) by William Terrington.

*Syllabub: A drink or dish made of milk (freq. as drawn from the cow) or cream, curdled by the admixture of wine, cider, or other acid, and often sweetened and flavoured.

Of course, there must be cake at a birthday, mustn’t there? An article in Popular Mechanics (interesting source of recipes!) of May 1913 described a cake that must surely be the Gold Standard of celebratory cakes:

Birthday Cake that cost two hundred dollars.
Two hundred dollars were spent by the wealthy parents of a Washington baby for the infant. The cake somewhat resembles the crown of an African potentate. Specially selected bakers worked on the cake for several days, and every pound of sugar, fruit, etc. which went into it was carefully inspected. The upper portion of the cake represents a fountain, with doves in the basin.

But No! An even bigger and better example of a ‘birthday’ cake was described in Popular Science Monthly in February 1916. The cake was made in Columbus, Ohio, to celebrate the thirty-fifth anniversary of a store devoted to the sale of women’s goods. It was describes as being a ‘nine story’ wonder - presumably this meant a column of nine separate cakes, not a cake the height of a building – and was lit with thirty-five electric candles on the top. It was four and a half feet in diameter, weighed a little short of one ton (including two hundred and twenty pounds of icing), and required eight men and a motor-truck to transport it to the store. There was sufficient cake for every employee of the store to enjoy a ‘generous portion.'

I have chosen a rather more modest, but classical cake for the day from Scotland – the Land o’Cakes - and hope you will share it with me.

Birthday Cake.
Pour one gill of water on ¾ lb sugar, stir and let stand, beat the yolks of 6 eggs, add to them the grated rind of half a lemon, froth the whites and pour the yolks on them; beat and add the syrup and beat until thick, sift in ½ lb flour, mix gently, add the juice of a lemon. Bake half an hour.
Aberdeen Weekly Journal (Aberdeen, Scotland), Wednesday, December 23, 1891

Monday, December 27, 2010

Turkey Again?

As the peak of Christmas season passes we can all wind down and enjoy the fridge full of leftovers, right? I like this idea for leftover turkey from The Times, of December 18, 1939

Little Turkey Puddings.
Chop up the white meat from a cooked turkey and season it to taste. Add two eggs beaten up with two tablespoons of cream and a few breadcrumbs. Mix well together and flavour lightly with salt and cayenne. Put the mixture into buttered fireproof cups, and steam for about 45 minutes. Hand a good Béchamel sauce, well seasoned, with finely chopped. These puddings can be turned out if preferred.
Cold turkey is excellent served with a salad of equal quantities of celeriac and Jerusalem artichokes boiled separately, drained, sliced and dressed with mayonnaise. Large brazil nuts shelled and thinly sliced may be added with advantage.

Today is also the ‘Second Day of Christmas’. If you are confused about the naming of the days, you can read my interpretation

A few years ago I wrote a post for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas, inspired by the old song. Here are the links:
First Day of Christmas
Second Day of Christmas
Third Day of Christmas
Fourth Day of Christmas
Fifth Day of Christmas
Sixth Day of Christmas
Seventh Day of Christmas
Eighth Day of Christmas
Ninth Day of Christmas
Tenth Day of Christmas
Eleventh Day of Christmas
Twelfth Day of Christmas

Quotation for the Day.

They sat down at tables that well might have groaned, even howled, such was the weight that they carried.
Martha McCullough-Williams.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Savoy, Christmas Eve 1899.

Herewith the menu, prepared by Escoffier himself, for Christmas Eve, 1899 at the Savoy Hotel in London.

Caviar frais      Bouquet de crevettes     Royal natives
Tortue claire       Bortsch à la russe
Suprêmes de soles à l'aurore
Filets de rougets aux laituces
Poulardes royales
Timbales de truffes au champagne
Selle de chevreuil grand veneur
Mousseline d'écrevisses
Délices de bécasses
Sorbets dame blanche
Ortolans cocotte
Cailles à l'orange
Salade des capucins
Asperges nouvelles
Foies gras pochés au Clicquot
Soufflé Chantilly
Ananas glacé
Mandarines à l'orientale
Biscuits aux avelines         Mignardises
Galettes écossaises

Johannisberger cabinet, 1874
Pommery, extra sec, 1884
Château Coutet, marquis de Lur-Saluces Mise du Château Etampé, 1861
Grande Champagne, 1830
Grandes liqueurs
Café turc

As the Recipe for the Day, I give you Escoffier’s blushing pink (like the goddess Aurora’s dawn light) sauce for your sole.

Aurore Sauce.
Into ½ pint boiling veloute put the same quantity of very red tomato purée and mix the two. Let the sauce boil a little, pass it through a tammy, and finish, away from the fire, with 3 oz butter.

Quotation for the Day.

The merry Christmas, with its generous boards,
Its fire-lit hearths, and gifts and blazing trees,
Its pleasant voices uttering gentle words,
Its genial mirth, attuned to sweet accords,
Its holiest memories!
The fairest season of the passing year –
The merry, merry Christmas time is here.
George Arnold.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pudding Sauces.

Yesterday we looked at some slightly different ideas for Christmas pudding and mince pies; today I want to offer you a couple of slightly different sauces for your chosen pudding.

Teetotal Pudding Sauce.
is made with melted butter, to which a little cream has been added, sweetened to taste, and flavoured with any of the favourite spices.
The Corner Cupboard, Robert Kemp Philp, 1853

Orange Sauce.
½ cup orange juice
2 teaspoons orange marmalade
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ cup sugar
4 eggs separated
⅛ teaspoon salt
Cook orange juice, marmalade, rind, lemon juice, sugar, and egg yolks in a double boiler or a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. Beat egg whites with salt until they hold firm peaks. Fold egg whites into orange custard mixture before serving.
Life, Dec 8, 1961

Or how about this rather tropical idea from, of all people, the very English Eliza Acton, in 1845? One shudders to think of the availability (and price) and quality of pineapples at the time.

A Very Fine Pine-Apple Sauce Or Syrup, For Puddings Or Other Sweet Dishes.
After having pared away every morsel of the rind from a ripe and highly flavoured pine-apple, cut three-quarters of a pound of it into very thin slices, and then into quite small dice. Pour to it nearly half a pint of spring water; heat, and boil it very gently until it is extremely tender, then strain and press the juice closely from it through a cloth or through a muslin strainer* folded in four; strain it clear, mix it with ten ounces of the finest sugar in small lumps, and when this is dissolved, boil the syrup gently for a quarter of an hour. It will be delicious in flavour and very bright in colour if well made. If put into a jar, and stored with a paper tied over it, it will remain excellent for weeks; and it will become almost a jelly with an additional ounce of sugar and rather quicker boiling. It may be poured round moulded creams, rice, or sago; or mingled with various sweet preparations for which the juice of fruit is admissible.
*It is almost superfluous to say that the large squares of muslin, of which on account of their peculiar nicety we have recommended the use for straining many sweet preparations, must never have a particle of starch in them; they should he carefully kept free from dust and soil of any kind, and always well rinsed and soaked in clear water before they are dried.
Modern Cookery, Eliza Acton, 1845

From a previous post: Honey and Butter sauce.

Quotation for the Day.
A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together
Garrison Keillor

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Something a Little Different.

Not everyone considers alcohol an essential Christmas pudding ingredient, as we discussed yesterday. Indeed, apparently not everyone even likes traditional pudding. There is, as they say, no accounting for taste. Or, as others would say ‘One man’s meat is another man’s poison’. Or, as my dear old Mum would say - ‘It wouldn’t do for us all to be the same, would it?’

For those of you who dislike hot steamy spicy fruity puddings with lashings of custard, and for those of you who simply want a change, I give you the following recipe for your consideration. The chestnuts might be a bit of a challenge at this time of the year, for those of us in the Southern hemisphere, unfortunately! As a bonus – just when you thought there could be no more variations on the theme of mince pies, I give you a recipe for yet one more version.

A Chestnut Caramel Pudding.
Chestnuts are always in season at Christmas. The caramel in Marrons à l’Espagnole gives them a distinctive flavour.
One pound of chestnuts. Boil in their shells for about half an hour. Skin, and put them to soak with three tablespoons of sugar in enough milk to cover them. Put through a sieve, adding the milk left over. It should be stiff enough to form into shape. Cover with caramel, and put plenty round the pudding. Cover the pudding with whipped cream just before serving.
Caramel: put 12 lumps of sugar with two tablespoonfuls of water and a little lemon-juice in a small saucepan. Let it come to a boil, but not candy. It should be thick as treacle and of a light brown colour.
The Times, Dec 19, 1935

Mince Pies Royal.
Add to half a pound of mincemeat an ounce and a half of castor sugar, the grated rind and strained juice of half a lemon, an ounce of melted butter, and four egg yolks. Beat well together and put the mixture in pastry cases. Set in a moderate oven and when nearly cooked, cover with meringue mixture and bake to a golden brown.
The Times, Dec 18, 1939

Quotation for the Day.
Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas."
Peg Bracken.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

No Brandy.

Not everyone in Britain would have taken up Messrs. Hennessy’s offer of free brandy in 1905, as was discussed in yesterday’s post. There are those who, for various reasons, eschew the use of alcohol.

The temperance movement had been alive and well in both Britain and the USA since at least the mid-nineteenth century, and Christmas was a particularly challenging time for its would-be adherents. To this end, the movement discovered, invented or modified and promoted alcohol-free recipes specifically for the season. Many appeared during the thirteen-year long ‘noble experiment’ of Prohibition in the USA, but many also pre-dated this by decades. In the Vintage Christmas Recipes Archive you will find ‘Mincemeat without Intoxicants’, from 1909. Today I give you an even earlier one recipe for ‘temperance mincemeat’, which sounds quite intriguingly delicious with its cream and molasses base.

Temperance Mince Pies.
Take one quart of good rye or wheat bread, after it is chopped fine, and one quart of sour apples, chopped fine; add the juice of six lemons, two large spoonfuls of ground cinnamon, a large teaspoonful of salt, a pint of cream or milk, a pint of the best sugar bakers’ molasses, and a pint of washed raisins. Grate in a lemon peel. Bake them one hour.
The young house-keeper: or, thoughts on food and cookery, William Andrus Alcott, 1839

Quotation for the Day.

...Christmas is a season of such infinite labour, as well as expense in the shopping and present-making line, that almost every woman I know is good for nothing in purse and person for a month afterwards, done up physically, and broken down financially
Fanny Kemble, writing on December 31, 1874.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Free Brandy.

The British public received an offer almost too good to believe in November 1905. The makers of Hennessy’s Brandy offered, via display advertisements in the newspaper, “free of charge and carriage pain, a quarter-pint sample” of their One-Star brandy - just in time for Christmas. Customers were to enclose their visiting card with the request form, which was to be cut from the newspaper. The free sample amount of half a pint was double the volume of the smallest bottle sold by James Hennessy, so it was not an insignificant freebie.

Messrs. Jas. Hennessy had two apparent reasons for their generosity. They expressed a heartfelt concern for the decline of Brandy and Soda as a popular national beverage, gave a considered opinion as to the reasons for this decline (a problem which presented ‘a curious psychological study’), and offered as a solution their One Star brandy. They also deeply regretted ‘that “cooking brandy” is synonymous in every home with inferior brandy’, and warned ‘do not imagine that a brandy which makes a superb brandy and soda is too good for cooking purposes.’ The lengthy advice noted that ‘on bad raisin would only spoil a corner of the pudding, but one ounce of bad brandy will spoil the whole pudding’.

The problem of inferior and imitation brandy was not only a problem of the Christmas season, of course. The article (one can hardly call it merely a Display Advertisement) continued:

‘The damage done by the use of inferior and spurious brandy does not stop short at the Christmas pudding, nor at Christmas time; for Brandy is employed in the preparation of numberless dishes. “Mrs Beeton’s Cookery Book” gives over fifty recipes in which Brandy is a necessary ingredient; and she very often qualifies the word brandy with the adjective “good”, probably from her own experience of the brandy which is usually used for cooking purposes.’

“Mrs Beeton’s Cookery Book” had gone through many alterations and revisions by 1905. The original work was published in 1861 as The Book of Household Management, and was far more than a mere recipe book. It contained, as its title suggests, a wide range of advice on such things as the management of servants, the laundry and linen requirements of a home, and legal matters pertaining to women. It is marvellous that four decades after publication of the book (and the author’s death), when this Hennessy advertisement was made, Isabella Beeton’s monumental work was still the gold standard English cookery.

Mrs Beeton’s Christmas Cake recipe is in the Vintage Christmas Recipes archive. Today I give you her brandy-inclusive Christmas Plum Pudding recipe, from the original edition.

(Very Good.)
Ingredients.—l ½ lb. of raisins, ½ lb. of currants, ½ lb. of mixed peel, ¾ lb. of bread crumbs, ¾ lb. of suet, 8 eggs, 1 wineglassful of brandy.
Mode.—Stone and cut the raisins in halves, but do not chop them; wash, pick, and dry the currants, and mince the suet finely; cut the candied peel into thin slices, and grate down the bread into fine crumbs. When all these dry ingredients are prepared, mix them well together; then moisten the mixture with the eggs, which should be well beaten, and the brandy; stir well, that every thing may be very thoroughly blended, and press the pudding into a buttered mould; tie it down tightly with a floured cloth, and boil for 5 or 6 hours.
It may be boiled in a cloth without a mould, and will require the same time allowed for cooking.
As Christmas puddings are usually made a few days before they are required for table, when the pudding is taken out of the pot, hang it up immediately, and put a plate or saucer underneath to catch the water that may drain from it. The day it is to be eaten, plunge it into boiling water, and keep it boiling for at least 2 hours; then turn it out of the mould, and serve with brandy-sauce. On Christmas-day a sprig of holly is usually placed in the middle of the pudding, and about a wineglassful of brandy poured round it, which, at the moment of serving, is lighted, and the pudding thus brought to table encircled in flame.
Time.—5 or 6 hours the first time of boiling; 2 hours the day it is to be served.
Average cost, 4s.
Sufficient for a quart mould for 7 or 8 persons.
Seasonable on the 25th of December, and on various festive occasions till March.
Note.—Five or six of these puddings should be made at one time, as they will keep good for many weeks, and in cases where unexpected guests arrive, will be found and acceptable, and as it only requires warming through, a quickly-prepared dish.

Quotation for the Day.
From a commercial point of view, if Christmas did not exist it would be necessary to invent it.
Katharine Whitehorn, The Office Party, 1962

Friday, December 17, 2010

Poetical Christmas Recipes, Part 2.

Another short and sweet – and musical – post today for you, folks. I hope your holiday season plans are going very smoothly, and your holiday catering even more smoothly. If you have not yet made your Christmas pudding, and you fancy one with a historical spin, you could refer to the Vintage Christmas Recipes archive. Alternatively, you could sing along with the following recipe from The Poetical Cookery Book, from the inimitable nineteenth century Punch (1852) magazine .

The Christmas Pudding.
Air: Jeannette and Jeannot.

If you wish to make a pudding in which every one delights
Of a dozen new-laid eggs you must take the yolks and whites;
Beat them well up in a basin till they thoroughly combine,
And shred and chop some suet particularly fine;

Take a pound of well-stoned raisins, and a pound of currants dried;
A pound of pounded sugar, and a pound of peel beside;
Stir them all well up together with a pound of wheaten flour,
And let them stand and settle for a quarter of an hour;

Then tie the pudding in a cloth, and put it in the pot,-
Some people like the water cold, and some prefer it hot;
But though I don’t know which of these two methods I should praise,
I know it ought to boil an hour for every pound it weighs.

Oh! If I were Queen of France, or better still, Pope of Rome,
I’d have a Christmas pudding every night I dined at home;
And as for other puddings, whatever they might be,
Why those who like the nasty things should eat them all for me.

Quotation for the Day

"Oh! All that steam! The pudding had just been taken out of the cauldron. Oh! That smell! The same as the one which prevailed on washing day! It is that of the cloth which wraps the pudding. Now, one would imagine oneself in a restaurant and in a confectioner's at the same time, with a laundry nest door. Thirty seconds later, Mrs. Cratchit entered, her face crimson, but smiling proudly, with the pudding resembling a cannon ball, all speckled, very firm, sprinkled with brandy in flames, and decorated with a sprig of holly stuck in the centre. Oh! The marvelous pudding!"
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Poetical Christmas Recipes, Part 1.

A short, commentary-free post today, folks – I have Christmas preparation to do myself, don’t you know? And my pantry is still disorganised after the house move.

From Rhymed Receipts for Any Occasion , Imogen Clark (Boston, 1912), I give you these two poetry gems.

Christmas Charlotte Russe.
We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.
– Walter Scott.

Whip up a pint of well chilled cream
Till it’s a fairy fluff,
Then powdered sugarfold within,
Your taste is guide enough.

Add tablespoon of gelatine
Dissolved in water cold
(The cup should be but quarter full,
And drop by drop it’s told).

Next candied cherries, chopped in bits,
Ruddy and gleaming bright,
From a big cup are turned upon
The mass of snowy white.

Serve this within a sponge-cake shell,
The dish all wreathed about
With holly leaves, between whose green
Red berries twinkle out.

[Charlotte Russe was discussed in a previous post here.]

They are ever forward in celebration of this day.
— Henry VIII.

Of all the cakes that come for Christmas Day
The little Bethlehems must lead the way,
So simple, too, to make, as you will see
If you will read this rhyme attentively.

First butter take, about a fourth of cup,
Then sugar - brim but once same measure up.
Cream these together till they're smooth as silk,
And add straightway half-cup of sweetest milk.

Next sift one cup - and half one more - of flour
Into the bowl - a sudden fairy shower! –
With two teaspoons of baking-powder white,
Now beat - and beat again - till all is light;

Then in the mixture fold with careful hand
Whites of two eggs, whipped so they stiffly stand,
And, last of all, a dash of flav'ring sweet.
Rose, or vanilla, and the whole's complete.

Put in star pans, but give each room to grow,
And bake in oven, neither quick, nor slow;
Then, when the little shapes have grown quite cold,
Wrap them in softest frosting smoothly rolled;

Let some the red of holly berries wear,
While others don a snowy mantle fair,
But white, or red, this do they clearly say:
" We wish you all a Merry Christmas Day!"

Quotation for the Day.

Now good digestion wait on appetite
And health on both.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Chilly Christmas Dinner.

It is Christmas in the year 1866. You are a gentleman farmer in England, who espouses vegetarianism, and wish to promote the philosophy amongst your neighbours. You advertise a dinner to be held on Christmas day, and 1000 locals turn up. You feed them:

“ … raw turnips, boiled cabbages, boiled wheat, boiled barley, shelled peas (half a ton of each of these three last-named); oatmeal gruel, with chopped carrots, turnips, and cabbage in it; boiled horse beans, boiled potatoes; salads, made of chopped carrots, turnips, cabbages, parsely &c, over which was poured linseed boiled to a jelly… there were no condiments of any kind,…and all being cold except the potatoes.”

A festival dinner to win the hearts and minds of the local populace over to the vegetarian cause? Hardly. Nevertheless, this is exactly what Mr. William Lawson of Blennerhasset, Cumberland, served on his co-operative farm in the depths of the English winter of 1866 - a cold, condiment-free, Christmas-puddingless Christmas dinner. The boiled linseed dressing - sans vinegar, sans salt, sans everything that might have made it taste of something other than varnish left over from painting the barn doors – must only have served to emphasise the lack of gravy and brandy sauce. Perhaps at the very least it gave the wooden bowls a nice Christmasy gleam. The English are stoic, but not that stoic. It goes without saying that “the beef-eating peasantry … did not sit down with much relish to their vegetarian fare”, and it seems doubtful that any guests signed up for the cause on the day. It was said that even the pigs next day refused the banquet remains.

It is hardly surprising that the dinner was not a success. William Lawson had set himself an almost impossible challenge. Not only was he trying to promote a vegetarian diet, it was to cost less than a penny a head and be “a truly national meal”, with all ingredients of British origin. In the middle of winter, this meant that the only vegetables available were those that could withstand storage, and spices and other exotic ingredients were out because most were from foreign parts, and in any case he belonged to “the most rigid sect of the vegetarian school”, which prohibited the use of all condiments, including salt and sugar.

The dinner was extraordinarily austere even for the generally condiment-poor and teetotal vegetarian events of the era. It was widely (and mockingly) described in the press of the day, and the wonder is that it did not kill the fledgling vegetarian movement stone dead! As we know however, vegetarianism not only survived, but thrived, and the menu of that dinner in 1866 is a reminder of just how far vegetarian cuisine has come in the last 140 years.

The less-rigid sect of the vegetarian school were quite willing to use condiments and to serve hot food of course, as contemporary cookery books demonstrate. For the Recipe of the Day I give you a hot potato dish from The Principles And Practice of Vegetarian Cookery, by John Smith, published in 1860.

Potato Hash.
To five pounds of potatoes pared and sliced as for a pie, add one quart of water, a table-spoonful of oatmeal, a little salt and pepper, also two ounces of butter, or three quarters of a pint of milk; boil the whole, shaking the pan frequently; add chopped parsley and sweet leeks, and let the whole stew till tender, stirring it occasionally. Onions and sage chopped and stewed with potatoes, make also a good hash; and pease meal may be substituted for the oatmeal.

Quotation for the Day.

Christmas? Christmas means dinner, dinner means death! Death means carnage; Christmas means carnage!
Ferdinand the Duck, in the film 'Babe' (1995)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cans for Christmas in Coolgardie.

When gold was discovered in Coolgardie, Western Australia in 1892 - just as the other goldfields reached depletion and the economy was struggling - the greatest gold-rush the country has ever seen began almost overnight. As with gold-rushes wherever they have occurred, camps were miserable, life was hard and hungry, and most miners stayed poor. One who did not was Newton Moore, later Premier of West Australia and then Agent-General for Western Australia in London. In 1911 at the inaugural luncheon of the Grocers’ Exhibition, he described his Christmas Dinner in Coolgardie in the 1890’s.

“Sir Newton Moore, that Australian statesman, who has the distinction of being the youngest Premier in the British Empire, took the chair at the inaugural lunch of the Grocers’ Exhibition at the Royal Agricultural Hall in Islington … Sir Newton, who today so ably fills the post of Agent-General … commenced his career as a pioneer prospector at Coolgardie, and, as he reminded his fellow-guests at the hall the other day, it fell to his lot, with some other hardy pioneers, to locate that goldmine which has since produced ₤100,000,000 worth of gold. The conditions under which those miners worked in those days on the West Australian goldfields were strenuous, though Sir Newton characteristically made light of them. An amusing sally occurred in his speech when he recalled a Christmas dinner he had eaten at Coolgardie 20 years ago, which consisted entirely of tinned food. The company started with tinned salmon, which was succeeded by tinned beef, while an appropriate finish was furnished by tinned plum pudding. We have Sir Newton’s word for it that the fare was excellent, both in quality and flavour, but, somehow, the prospect of a tinned banquet does not altogether appeal to us.”

It seems likely that Sir Newton and his friends, in their rough camps on the goldfields, simply opened the cans and ate the contents without much elegance or ceremony. The provenance of the canned food that made up their dinner is not known, but was presumably Australian – although in those times, as a matter of patriotic principle, food imported from ‘Home’ (that is, England) was highly prized no matter what the quality compared to the fresh version from the colony. The reverse trade, in tinned meat from Australia was hugely important in the later nineteenth century at both ends of the arrangement for reasons I explored in a previous story on this blog, and on the long-defunct companion site to this one. May I refer you to those stories for a refresher?
From Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery (c1877) which gives us one-hundred recipes for Tinned Meat, Australian, I give you this horror.
Gâteau Australian.
Take a pie-dish, and butter it; cut hard-boiled eggs in slices, lay them round the sides of the dish and at the bottom. Then put slices of beef and mutton, and ham and bacon, and spread sliced pickles over each layer, with pepper, salt, and nutmeg; pour over it some good rich well-seasoned gravy in which one ounce of gelatine has been dissolved; let it stand till cold, turn out, and garnish with parsley.

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 amongst geographers as to whether it is a continent or an island.
Ambrose Bierce, Devil’s Dictionary.

Monday, December 13, 2010

An Emergency Dinner.

I moved house, finally. Although delighted with my new home, I found myself too tired to cook dinner. And anyway, I had not yet stocked the fridge. I had a dinner emergency (or rather, a ‘no-dinner emergency’). I remembered some ‘emergency dinner menus’, with recipes, in one of Fanny Merritt Farmer’s many works. Surely this famous lady would have an idea to suit the occasion?

In What to Have for Dinner: Containing Menus with the Recipes Necessary for Their Preparation, (1905) I found the chapter I was looking for. There were two ‘Emergency Menus’, one of which I give you below. Clearly ‘post-house move exhaustion and empty fridge situation’ was not the sort of emergency that Ms Farmer had in mind, as you will see. I assume it was an ‘unexpected guest in the context of a well-stocked pantry’ sort of emergency.

Call me bold, if you will, but I do take issue with Ms Farmer on a couple of small points. The inclusion of cayenne in both the timbales and their accompanying sauce, for one. And if I was using five egg whites in the timbales, I would have adjusted the ‘hollandaise’ to use up all of the yolks, not just four of them.

Menu No.1.
Small cheer and great welcome make a merry feast.

Emergency Soup. Croûtons.
Salmon Timbale, French Hollandaise Sauce.
German Fried Potatoes.
Creamed Peas.
Dresden Sandwiches. Wine Sauce.
Café Noir.

Salmon Timbales.
¾ cup soft breadcrumbs
1 cup milk
½ teaspoon salt
Few grains Cayenne
1 ½ cups flaked canned salmon
Whites 5 eggs.
Remove salmon from can, rinse thoroughly with hot water and separate into small flakes. Soak breadcrumbs in milk fifteen minutes, then cook over hot water and stir to form a smooth paste. Add salt, cayenne and salmon. Cut and fold in whites of eggs, beaten until stiff. Turn into slightly buttered mould set in pan of hot water, cover with buttered paper, and bake until firm; time required being about fifty minutes. Serve with French Hollandaise Sauce.

French Hollandaise Sauce.
½ cup butter
Yolks 4 eggs
½ cup boiling water
½ teaspoon salt
Few grains Cayenne
½ tablespoon lemon juice.
Work butter until creamy and add egg yolks one at a time, lemon juice, salt, and cayenne. Put in small sauce pan and place in larger sauce pan of hot water.

Quotation for the Day.

I once read cooking is something you do for your family. But when you’re alone you sometimes have to treat yourself like family. And now that my apartment’s redolent with the smell of food it feels more like a home than a box where I hang my hat.
Waiter Rant, Waiter Rant

Friday, December 10, 2010

Phyrying your Food.

Earlier in the week we had some fun (at least, I had fun – I hope you did!) with some old food words. There is, of course, no law against inventing new words, and if we all made more of an effort in that regard, the language would be the richer. The fruit of one man’s neologistic (have I just invented a new word?) labours has given me my favourite food word of the week.

The man was Johann Ludwig Wilhelm Thudichum, and the word appears in The Spirit of Cookery. A popular treatise on the history, science, practice, and ethical and medical import of culinary art in 1895. Chapter XXI is entitled Culinary Fats and the Process of Frying (Phrygology), and the relevant sub-heading in that chapter is Theory of the Process of Baking in Fat, called Frying (Phrygology.) So, phrygology it is. Like it?

I have found no other appearance of the word phrygology, either before or since, so feel it is reasonable to assume it was a pure invention of J.L.W’s. The impulse to Greekify (I think that is my second neologism of the day) a perfectly good f-word with its own ancient lineage was clearly irresistible for this man of Science. Thudicum was a neurochemist, and I am delighted that he took some time out from his seminal work on brain chemistry (which is still revered today) to write a book on cookery.

For today’s recipe I give you a very basic frying batter from a promotional cookery book - Mazola: Perfect For Deep Frying (1925.)

Plain Fritters.
1 cup Flour, ½ teaspoon Salt, 1 teaspoon Baking Powder, 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon Mazola, ½ cup Milk.
Sift dry ingredients. Add eggs unbeaten with Mazola and milk, and stir till well mixed. Drop by spoonfuls into hot Mazola. Cook until golden brown. Serve with Karo, Green label.

Quotation for the Day.

If you have formed the habit of checking on every new diet that comes along, you will find that, mercifully, they all blur together, leaving you with only one definite piece of information: french-fried potatoes are out.
Jean Kerr.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Hobo Cake.

On this day in 1898 in Sedan, Kansas, the circus performer Emmett Leo Kelly was born. Kelly was the creator of “Weary Willie”, the famous tragic, tattered clown with the permanently mournful expression. Now, there is a white cake in the American repertoire which is called “Weary Willie Cake”, so naturally I am intrigued by the connection.

Here is today’s mystery. Kelly apparently based his character on the tramps and hobos of the Depression era of the 1920’s. So, how come there are references to the cake in a newspaper cookery column in 1908 (the earliest I have found so far)? Perhaps “Weary Willie” was a pre-existing name for an itinerant beggar? Perhaps one of you with some local knowledge can enlighten us.

The recipe from 1908 contains an obvious error in the amount of flour, so I give you one from 1915, from The Syracuse Herald of April 8, 1915. Note that some recipes for the cake use butter, not Crisco (an unavailable mystery to those of us on the other sides of the two big waters), so we can make this wherever we live.

Weary Willie Cake.
2 large or three small egg whites, Crisco, Milk, 1 ½ cupfuls flour, ¾ cup sugar, 1 ½ teaspoonfuls baking powder.
Break eggs into a standard measuring cup. Fill cup over egg to one-half full with Crisco, then fill with milk. Pour into mixing bowl. Put dry ingredients into sift into first mixture. Beat thoroughly and bake twenty-five to thirty minutes in a slow oven.

Quotation for the Day

If God had intended us to follow recipes, He wouldn't have given us grandmothers.
Linda Henley

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Soup for the Queen of Scots.

December 8th in 1542 was the birthday of Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary Stewart, as we know, became Queen of Scotland at the age of six days upon the death of her father, James V. She met her untimely end as a result of her claim to the English throne, which led to her trial and execution for treason in 1587.

There is a rather mysterious soup named in her honour. Actually, several mysteries attach to The Queen of Scots Soup. The soup itself is simple enough: it is a light chicken soup with eggs and parsley stirred in at the last minute. But why or how it came to be named for her, I cannot tell, nor can I find the name of the originator. Was there ever indeed a published recipe for The Queen of Scots Soup, or was it a figment of the imagination of a nineteenth century Scottish writer?

I know of the recipe only from a secondary source – The Edinburgh Literary Journal of September 1829. The article introduces a ‘curious black-letter book’, which turns out to be the 1631 edition of Murrell’s A New Booke of Cookerie. The journal being Scottish, the writer, quite naturally, was delighted to find in its pages the recipe for The Queen of Scots Soup, and gives this (or a loose translation of it) in his article. He (it must surely be a male, in this journal at this time) begins by saying “we are seriously of the opinion that, for the sake of the Royal House of Stuart, it should immediately become a standard dish with all the defenders of Mary and her unfortunate family.”

Here is the recipe, as given by the author of the Edinburgh Literary Journal article.

The soup is made thus: “Six chickens are cut in small pieces, with the heart, gizzard, and liver well washed, then put into a stew-pan, and just covered with water, and boiled till the chickens are enough. Season it with salt and cayenne pepper; and mince parsley with eight eggs, yolks and whites beat up together. Stir round altogether just as you are going to serve it up. Half a minute will boil the eggs.”

The article went on to opine that “This must be a delicate and gentle soul, worthy of the amiable dispositions of Mary, and every way calculated to produce a beneficial effect on the female character.

My difficulty is that I am unable to find a 1631 edition of Murrell’s A New Booke of Cookerie to verify the recipe. It is not in the 1615 edition or the 1638 edition – although I admit to a quick scanning of both of these versions (I am moving house this week, so I can be forgiven, surely?) If I have missed it, or you know the actual whereabouts of this recipe, do please tell us all.

Quotation for the Day

I live on good soup, not fine words.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A Nice Dish of Braughwham.

If the bread left over yesterday from your experiment with ‘bust-coat’ is now cool and less appetising, you could make yourself a nice dish of ‘braughwham’ for your supper - if we can work out what that is, of course. Using your leftovers from yesterday's recipe would not be quite authentic, as braughwham is supposed to be made from clap-bread, not wheaten bread, but why not give it a try anyway?

According to the source that introduced us to ‘bust-coat’ - Nathan Bailey’s Etymological Dictionary (1675) – ‘braughwham’ is “A dish made of Cheese, Eggs, Clap Bread and Butter, boiled together.” Sometimes dictionary definitions are not quite definite enough for clarity, and I remain unsure as to the exact nature of ‘braughwham.’ Is it a sort of savoury bread custard? A cheesy bread pudding in a cloth? Some form of coarse scrambled eggs? Or maybe a dish of dumplings? It sounds like a dish guaranteed to continue to bust you out of your coat, however.

I give you a basic recipe for bread dumplings (‘light’ dumplings, too, if there is such a thing), to get your creative juices flowing. This recipe begins with the raw dough, so as it turns out it will not help you use up your leftover bust-coat bread – sorry about that, but I am moving house in two days and have run out of recipe-search time!

Light Bread Dumplings.
Take as much lightened dough as will make a loaf of bread. Work into it half a pound of stemmed raisins tie it up in a cloth, and boil it an hour and a half.
Domestic Cookery, Elizabeth Lea, 1859

Quotation for the Day

“I am the Emperor, and I want dumplings.” 
Emperor Ferdinand I.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Busting Out with Bread.

I hope you will indulge my love of old food words over the next few days in posts that may be brief as I move house. I am on a constant voyage of rediscovery through old dictionaries and glossaries, and have been saving my gleanings for a busy time such as this.

Meals can be rather ad-hoc, as one prepares to move house. The staff at the café across the road from my ‘old’ home have become like a second family to me recently, and I particularly love the very ‘seedy’ bread with which they make their sandwiches. It is delicious, but it is not ‘Bust-coat.’

‘Bust-coat’ may well have been familiar to Samuel Pepys, although I don’t recall any reference to it in his diary (perhaps because he was a city man). According to Nathan Bailey’s Etymological Dictionary (1675), bust-coat is a country word for ‘Tosted Bread, eaten hot with Butter.’ In a later edition of this work, Bailey’s Etymological Dictionary (1773) bust-coat is ‘soft bread, eaten hot with butter’, and in The Philological Society’s New English Dictionary (1861) it is simply ‘hot bread.’ The Oxford English Dictionary cannot be our arbiter, for – most inexplicably sadly – it has no entry on ‘bust-coat.’ It seems however, that the consensus is that bust-coat, as the name suggests, is a particularly indulgent and irresistible form of warm bread oozing with melting butter.

I give you the following recipe, from the marvellous Eliza Acton’s The English Bread Book (1857)

(From the Wife of a Parish Clerk.)

The good woman whose receipt for bread is given here, is often called upon to supply it to persons who cannot otherwise procure it homemade without much difficulty; and as one feels assured in eating it that it is composed of honest country flour *, and as it is light and well-flavoured, it is often peculiarly acceptable in London and elsewhere. She makes it even for the family of the clergyman of her parish, when their own servants cannot perform that duty; and the constancy with which it is required from her is sufficient evidence of their deficiency in that respect.

"Mix with about five gallons and a half of flour, a teacupful or about six ounces of salt, and three pennyworth, or rather more than a pint, of yeast. Make these up into a dough at once, with something more than a gallon of warm water; let it stand to rise until it is quite light, and in the meantime, kindle the fire in the oven, and heat it well. A fourpenny faggot is all the fuel that is used for it; but it is always heated once a week, and sometimes twice, so that it requires less than ovens which are not so regularly used. Divide the dough into four-pound loaves, and bake them well. They will be nicely done in about two hours."

This bread, when carefully stored, remains perfectly good in cool weather for ten days; and has occasionally been found quite eatable at the end of a fortnight, which it would not have been unless it had been wholesomely made and thoroughly baked. I think it might be slightly improved by diminishing a little the proportion of yeast used for lightening it, and allowing it to be rather longer after it is kneaded down, before it is put into the oven. A portion of milk, too, is always a desirable addition to bread when it can be had. Flour (resembling what is called households, but excellent of its kind), four gallons and a half; salt, one small teacupful; fresh brewers' yeast, three pennyworth (or rather more than a pint); water, four to five quarts; made into a firm dough at once, and left to rise for an hour; kneaded down, and shortly afterwards divided into 41b. loaves; baked in well-heated brick oven two hours. Remark.—The proportion of fresh yeast for this bread being large, it becomes light in a shorter time than that specified for the second rising of the dough in the generality of the receipts contained here; but slower fermentation is to be recommended. In cottage life, many laborious avocations falling often on one individual, the same time and the same minute attention cannot well be bestowed on any of them as in families where the work is divided between several persons. The "clerk's wife," cited above, has to make bread for a large family of her own, as well as for her customers, yet the order and neatness of her house, even on the busy baking days, and the attractive appearance of her " batches" of wholesome-looking bread, have been remarked with pleasure by accidental visitors.
* Occasionally with that of the wheat grown in her own allotment ground, or with that which her family have gleaned, — the leasing corn,—supposed to make the best bread of any; and hers has been certainly most sweet and nice in flavour.

Quotation for the Day.
The flesh endures the storms of the present alone; the mind, those of the past and future as well as the present. Gluttony is a lust of the mind.
Thomas Hobbes.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Making a Little go a Long Way.

In ‘the good old days’, nothing was wasted. It can be difficult today - when we throw away one-fifth of the food we buy - to appreciate just how deep was the abhorrence of waste until relatively recent times. Rationing in Britain during both wars was imposed on a nation of people accustomed to re-purposing every leftover scrap, bone, or crumb - which perhaps partly explains why it was accepted with barely a demur.

Today I give you in its entirety an article from The Times of April 10, 1917, which beautifully demonstrates an attitude of patriotic frugality with no hint of mean-spiritedness or resentment. The only part of this that makes me shudder is the purchase of a fowl on a Saturday in Spring, with the raw legs not being used until the Wednesday – in a household that almost certainly did not have a refrigerator. I admit that the toast-water coloured soup does not excite me greatly, but it would certainly be a healthy choice.


“A Housekeeper” writes:-

My little household of three women falls within the category for which some of your correspondents have suggested that menus are difficult to arrange. I venture to send you a sample of ours for a week. They are so simple as to be perhaps hardly worth quoting, but we have found them satisfactory and they have the hygienic feature of avoiding twice-cooked meat.
We begin always on a Saturday. On that day we bought 1 ¼ lb. of rump steak, and a fowl weighing 2 ½ lb.

Half the rump steak grilled; seakale; baked apples.

The body of the fowl roasted without its legs.
Chestnuts (stripped, boiled whole, and served like new potatoes with a bit of butter.
Remainder of bundle of seakale; jam tart.

Second half of the rump steak cut into strips, stewed with prunes, and served with dumplings.
Tin of marrow-fat peas.
Coffee custard.

Slices of cod, sautés in butter and onions.
Potatoes and hard-boiled eggs sliced together in white sauce.
Baked tomatoes.
Mont Blanc of chestnuts, currant jelly, and whipped cream.

Chicken pie made with raw legs of fowl, a few whole chestnuts, bacon, hard-boiled eggs, and some good gravy.
Remains of chestnut cream.

Vegetable pot-au-feu soup; 1 lb of midget sausages on a puree of tomatoes and eggs; marrow-fat peas.

1 ¼ lb roast mutton (best end of neck); baked onions.
Remains of trifle.

Total Rations for the week:
Rump steak      1 ¼ lb
Fowl                2 ½ lb
Mutton             1 ¼ lb
Sausages          1 lb
Bacon               ½ lb
                        6 ½ lb (to spare, 1 lb)

Flour, made into bread    7 lb
For cooking                   1 ½ lb
                                     8 ½ lb
Add sponge cakes for trifle
                                (to spare, nothing)

Sugar, helped out with saxin for
the sweetening of puddings          1 ½ lb

We thus come round to Saturday again, well within our rations; and on two days (marked by the better puddings) we had a guest to luncheon. But we do not attempt meat more than once a day. Breakfast consists only of porridge, bread, butter, jam, and a boiled egg if desired, with tea or coffee. The evening meal consists of good soup with a dish of haricot beans, eaten with the soup. After the soup we have only some slight dish of scraps, and bread and cheese and fruit, with a cup of cocoa to follow for those who like it.
We keep a meat stockpot and a vegetable stockpot. Our meat stockpot besides receiving our chicken and other bones, is reinforced by two pennyworth of butchers bones sawn and chopped in pieces; our vegetable stockpot receives all parings and strippings of vegetables, besides liquor in which certain vegetables have been boiled; and according as we desire to have a meat soup or a vegetable soup we dip to the right hand or we dip to the left.
This recipe for a vegetable pot-au-feu soup which is independent of the stockpot is perhaps worth giving:-
Cut three carrots, one turnip, one large onion, and the quarter of a moderate-sized cabbage into coarse strips. Put them into a large saucepan, earthenware for preference, with three pints of salted water: let them come to the boil, and continue to simmer gently for three hours. Within a quarter of an hour of serving toast a bit of bread very brown on both sides and hard. Put it in the soup and leave it there for only five or six minutes. Take it out before it has time to break and spoil the clear appearance of the soup. The only object of putting it in is to give the soup the pleasant colour of toast-water. When serving, empty the entire contents of the saucepan into the tureen. If rightly done, this soup has the appearance and flavour of a French pot-au-feu, and few people would guess that it has been made without meat. Where vegetables in the soup are not liked, the liquor can be strained off and sent up as a clear soup accompanied by little cheese puffs.

Quotation for the Day.

“He had drawn many a thousand of these rations in prisons and camps, and though he'd never had an opportunity to weight them on scales, and although, being a man of timid nature, he knew no way of standing up for his rights, he, like every other prisoner, had discovered long ago that honest weight was never to be found in the bread-cutting. There was short weight in every ration. The only point was how short. So every day you took a look to soothe your soul - today, maybe, they haven't snitched any.”

Alexander Solzhenitsyn