Friday, February 26, 2010

Dinner Rules.

It sometimes seems that in modern times we live in an over-legislated society, but perhaps the rules in previous times were not less, but just different. For example, I don’t suppose the staff at Buckingham Palace have the exact details of their meals set out in their work agreements nowadays.

Princess Cecily, the mother of King Edward IV (1442-1483), outlived her son by many years – managing to get to the then very ripe old age of 80 years. The Ordinances governing the day to day business of her household state exactly what the staff (most of whom lived in) were to receive for their meals on each day of the week.

Uppon sondaye, tuesdaye, and thursdaye, the houshoulde at dynner is served with boyled beefe and mutton, and one roste; at supper leyched [sliced] beefe and mutton roste.
Uppon mondaye and wensdaye at dynner, one boyled beefe and mutton; at supper, ut supra [as above].
Upon fastinge days, salte fyshe, and two dishes of fresh fishe; if there come a principal l fasted, it is served like unto the feaste honorablye.
If mondaye or wensdaye be hollidaye, then is the houshold served with one roste, as in other days.
Upon satterdaye at dynner, saltfyshe, one fresh fishe, and butter; at supper saltfishe and egges.

Here, for satterdaye dinner, is a nice recipe for fish with herbs and sorrel sauce. It is from a manuscript dated about 1500, called A Noble Boke Off Cookry Ffor A Prynce Houssolde

Freche makrelle
To dight a freche makerelle tak and draw a makerelle at the gil and let the belly be hole and wesche hym and mak the sauce of water and salt and when it boilithe cast in mynt and parsly and put in the fisshe and serue it furthe with sorell sauce.

Quotation for the Day.

Fishing is boring, unless you catch an actual fish, and then it is disgusting.
Dave Barry.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Fear of Bacon.

It seems to me that the citizens of the world are divided into three groups when it comes to bacon:

- Those who eschew it for religious reasons.
- Those who love it madly, deeply, unreservedly and unashamedly.
- Those who fear it.

The groups are not completely exclusive of each other of course. Strange though it may seem, some of those in the second group also belong to the third group – and how sad is that?

There are many things about bacon that can be a source of anxiety for those who are susceptible. There is the kidney-destroying salt used in curing, the potentially carcinogenic smoking process, the worrying preservatives – some ‘germs’, maybe, in spite of that salt, smoke, and chemicals. Most of all there is the FAT. Fat gives flavour of course, but we are talking here about fear, not flavour. Supermarket bacon can now be found which has so little fat it looks like oval slices of uniformly pale pink luncheon meat, and tastes about as delicious. Bacon so low fat it might as well be rhubarb.

How refreshing to go back to the days when bacon was loved for its fat – the days when every drop of it was saved to add flavour to another dish. How marvelous to find an author who positively glories in bacon fat – and the author of a book on salads too. The book is called Two hundred recipes for making salads with thirty recipes for dressings and sauces, (Olive Hulse, 1910). This author is so fearless she is even able to refer to it as ‘grease’- a word not normally welcomed in the modern kitchen in any context.

“One can always rely on the best quality of olive oil for salads, but there are those who prefer the flavor of smoked bacon fat. This is particularly true of people living in hot climates.”

The author particularly likes it with Dandelion Salad.

Dandelion Salad.
First remove all dead leaves and root, and wash thoroughly. Take a small handful at a time, shake free from water, and cut up fine into a mixing bowl. When all is used – have enough to make about two quarts when tossed lightly into a bowl – sprinkle over one teaspoonful of salt, one of sugar, and a pinch of mustard. Have ready as much fat bacon cut into bits as will fill a small teacup, fry to a light brown; remove the bacon and into the hot grease mince a small onion, if onion flavor is not objectionable; fry lightly; then add to the hot grease, one-half cup mild vinegar, and pour it over the dandelions and mix well. Garnish with hard-boiled eggs sliced, and serve at once.

And here is another version of bacon dressing – a proudly, fearlessly named sauce that can be “thinned” with …… cream!

Bacon Fat Sauce.
Heat five tablespoons of strained bacon or ham fat in a saucepan: add two tablespoonfuls of flour and stir to a smooth paste. Add one-eighth of a teaspoonful of paprika and one-third of a cup of vinegar diluted with one cup of boiling water, stirring constantly. When the sauce begins to boil, remove to the side of the range, and beat in two yolks of eggs. Add more salt if necessary. Do not allow the sauce to boil after the eggs are added. Chill thoroughly and serve with spinach or dandelion, endive or lettuce. The sauce may be thinned with cream if too thick.

Quotation for the Day.

We plan, we toil, we suffer -- in the hope of what? A camel-load of idol's eyes? The title deeds of Radio City? The empire of Asia? A trip to the moon? No, no, no, no. Simply to wake up just in time to smell coffee and bacon and eggs. And, again I cry, how rarely it happens! But when it does happen -- then what a moment, what a morning, what a delight!
J. B. Priestley, (1894-1984)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Having Your Plate and Eating it too.

Earlier in the week we considered the lost art of picnic-catering. The idea of course at a well-catered anything is that the amount of food prepared is exactly right. This applies even more to picnic meals - because no-one likes waste, but it is tedious to have to re-pack previously transported food and carry it home again. What do you do about the other picnic accoutrements? Take paper plates and plastic cutlery and bin them on the way home? Or do the elegant thing and take the china and crystal and take it home (carefully) to wash and put it away?

For the ultimate in biodegradable picnic ware – next time why not consider taking edible plates? Any one of the flat breads or ‘wraps’ would work of course, but if picnic one-upmanship is your thing, you could make the white-glazed bread trenchers from Hannah Wooley’s [Woolley’s] book The Queen-like Closet, or, Rich Cabinet: stored with all manner of Rare Receipts for Preserving, Candying, and Cookery. Very Pleasant and Beneficial to all Ingenious Persons of the Female Sex.(1672)

To make white Trencher-Plates which may be eaten.
Take two eggs beaten very well, Yolks and Whites, two spoonfuls of Sack, one spoonful of Rosewater, and so much flower as will make it into a stiff Paste, then roule it thin, and then lay it upon the insides of Plates well buttered, cut them to fit the Plates, and bake them upon them, then take them forth, and when they are cold, take a pound of double refin’d Sugar beaten and searced, with a little Ambergreece, the White of an Egg and Rosewter, beat these well together, and Ice your Plates all over with it, and set them into the Oven again till they be dry.

Quotation for the Day.

I've liked lots of people 'til I went on a picnic jaunt with them.
Bess Truman.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Trendy? New?

I bought a jar of chilli jam at the Farmer’s Market recently, from a new stallholder, and very good it is too. I can still remember the first jar of chilli jam I ever bought. It was a few years – not a few decades – ago. Suddenly, it seems, every deli and grocery store and farmer’s market is selling chilli jam of one sort or another.

When I got home from the market, I made a cup of chai from the tea-bag selection that was part of a Christmas hamper gift. Over the last few years – years, not decades – it also seems that all of the coffee shops around the city now offer chai, and every supermarket stocks the prepared mixes.

There is no doubt about it, food fashions come and go – or do they just fade slightly between major appearances? It was yesterday’s source (For Luncheon and Supper Guests, by Alice Bradley, Boston, 1923) that got me wondering along those lines. This is why …

Spiced Syrup for Tea.
Put in a small saucepan
1 cup water and
½ cup sugar. Heat to boiling point and when sugar is dissolved add
1 tablespoon whole cloves, crushed, and a
2-inch piece stick cinnamon broken in pieces, tied together very loosely in a piece of cheesecloth. Boil gently to 215 degrees F. or to a thin syrup. When cool add juice of
2 lemons. Serve in small bowl, using
1 tablespoon syrup in each cup of tea.

Pepper Jam.
1 small can pimientos and force through food chopper. Put in saucepan, add
¾ cup sugar and
½ cup vinegar, stir until sugar is dissolved and boil gently to 220 degrees F. or until mixture is the consistency of jam. Pour in small sterilized glasses ad when cool cover with melted paraffin.
If preferred use,
3 sweet bell peppers in place of pimientos. Remove seeds, force through food chopper, sprinkle with
Salt, and let stand 3 or 4 hours. Drain, rinse, and finish as above.

Quotation for the Day.

Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world.
T'ien Yiheng

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Good Old Days.

I read, somewhere, quite a while back, that twenty-five years ago the average American family went on a family picnic five times a year, but in recent times the frequency is less than once a year. I suspect that a similar situation would apply in Britain, Australia, and many other developed countries. No doubt a number of factors are responsible. Our 24/7 society means that the entire family are not likely to have all the weekend off simultaneously – and even if we do, we are often spread geographically over too wide a segment of the country to make get-togethers an easy, spontaneous thing to arrange. If time and geography are not a problem – our attitude (and priorities?) are – when we have time to spare, we tend to retreat to our individual rooms to watch our personal televisions or play with our virtual computer friends.

Bring back the family picnic, I say. Not the sort of grand picnic event requiring “a bill of fare for forty persons” such as Mrs. Beeton recommended in 1861 (which included ‘2 cold cabinet puddings in moulds’), or the sort that end in an embarrassing assassination attempt such as happened at the public picnic for Prince Alfred when he visited Melbourne in 1867, but a picnic in the style of the elegant, genteel Edwardian ‘motoring excursion’ picnic that we enjoyed in a previous blog post.

Should you be so inclined as to organise a family picnic, there are some lovely catering ideas in a little book called For Luncheon and Supper Guests, by Alice Bradley (Boston, 1923). Alice notes in her introduction that many of the dishes recommended as ‘Sunday Night Suppers’ ‘will be found desirable for afternoon teas or evening spreads, and for use in tea and luncheon rooms, and for automobile picnics.’ She goes on to say:

Automobile Picnics.
For picnics the beverages and hot dishes may be prepared at home and carried in thermos food jars. The cold dishes may be packed in a small portable refrigerator. The biscuits, sandwiches, cakes, and cookies should be carefully wrapped in wax paper and packed in boxes. Ice creams may be taken in the freezer. Hot sandwiches and bacon may be cooked over the coals or on a portable oil or alcohol stove. In some menus it may be desirable to omit or modify a few of the dishes, if food is to be carried several miles.

Because I know that what most of you like best are retro cake recipes, here is my choice for today, from our book of the day. A lovely cake, quite suitable for a picnic, or luncheon or supper – or breakfast for that matter.

Cream Caramel Layer Cake
Beat until thick
¾ cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar and
¼ cup water. Add
1 cup bread flour sifted with
2 teaspoons baking powder and
¼ teaspoon salt. Add
3 egg yolks and
1 whole egg, well beaten, and
2 tablespoons chocolate caramel syrup.
Bake 20 minutes at 400 degrees F in 2 layer cake pans 7 inches square, and put together with Chocolate Caramel Frosting between and on top.

Chocolate Caramel Syrup
2 squares bitter chocolate over hot water. In a saucepan put
¾ cup sugar and
¼ cup water, and cook until it forms a dark brown syrup. Add
½ cup boiling water and cook until thick. Add slowly to the melted chocolate and stir until smooth.

Chocolate Caramel Frosting
For frosting boil
Chocolate caramel syrup remaining from cake and cook to soft-ball stage. Beat
2 egg whites until stiff and continue beating while slowly adding the syrup. Then add, a little at a
time, enough sifted confectioners' sugar to make of right consistency to spread.

Quotation for the Day
If the rain spoils our picnic, but saves a farmer’s crop, who are we to say it shouldn’t rain?
Tom Barrett.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Cooking Songs.

If you are trying to teach ‘the younger generation’ in your household to cook in the hope that they will take over some of the responsibility for meal preparation, but are finding them rather lukewarm to your instruction, perhaps you could try an idea developed by a certain nineteenth century New York City school mistress.

Mrs J.B.Romer was the author of Cooking and Sewing, Songs and Recitations for Industrial and Mission Schools, (1889). Mrs. Romer says “In teaching cooking classes to classes of children, I have found bright and cheerful songs very helpful and inspiring”, and she expands on her theme in the book’s Introduction.

The success which has attended the introduction of cooking into industrial and mission schools has surprised its most enthusiastic and sanguine advocates. A few years ago it would have been thought impossible to teach cooking to a class of fifteen little girls of ten and twelve years of age. But the experiment has been fully tried, and it has been proved that this can be very satisfactorily done.
A little daughter is soon able to cook the simple meals when the mother goes out to work, and, as she learns neatness and economy in the cooking school, she puts her lessons in practice in her home. The mother learns from her child that with her small earnings she may have better food and a more inviting table, and she is generally quite ready to adopt the new school methods which the little cook so earnestly advocates. Many of the mothers, having been always employed in shops and factories, do not understand the first principles of cooking, and do not know howto prepare properly a simple meal for their families. The little girl becomes the teacher, and the mother soon begins to cook from the school recipes, and finds to her surprise that cheap articles of food may be made both palatable and nourishing. This knowledge is imparted to other mothers in the same house, and so the influence extends. A child who has been properlytrained in a cooking class can do more in a tenement house to improve home living than a missionary visitor.

The sample song from the book does double-duty as the recipe for today. Just get your own little darlings to memorise the words (I am sure they know the tune), and look forward to listening to it as you lie abed next Sunday morning while they are whipping up breakfast for you.

Omelet Song.
Tune – “Pop goes the Weasel.”

First open out two nice fresh eggs,
Be careful not to spatter;
Whip up the whites to a stiff foam,
The yolks to a stiff batter.
Add to the yolks a little milk.
About a gill you'd better;
Then season as you have been taught
With salt and pepper.

Then lastly add the beaten whites,
And stir in very lightly;
Unless you heed with care this rule,
Your dish may be unsightly!
Have ready in a frying-pan
A good-sized piece of butter,
Put on the stove and wait until
You hear it sputter !

When this shall hiss, you'll know it's hot,
And for the mixture ready;
So put it in, and do not spill -
Your hand you must keep steady.
Now watch it till the form is set.
Then place in a warm oven;
Be careful not to let it scorch,
That would look sloven.

This omelet I think should cook
Ten minutes to the letter;
And when it's done should look like gold,
And taste very much better !
Reverse upon a nice warm plate,
Be sure you do not break it ;
With pleasure to the dining-room
Now you may take it.

Quotation for the Day.
Music with dinner is an insult both to the cook and the violinist.
G.K Chesterton.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Only Apples.

In yesterday’s post I mused on the history of ‘single ingredient’ cookbooks. They seem to have started to pop up in the second half of the nineteenth century, amidst the general great burgeoning of the genre. Today, I want to see if a cookbook published in 1865 (contemporary then with Mrs. Beeton’s famous tome) on the subject of the apple.

The apple, in one or other of its enormous number of varieties, is surely the most widely known fruit in the world – not to mention one of the most versatile? Has the sheer history and ubiquity of it bred disinterest, or even downright boredom with the apple, do you think? Will today’s source - How to Cook Apples: shown in a hundred different ways of dressing that fruit … by Georgiana Hill, (London, 1865) - yield any good ‘old’ ideas for us?

Amongst the expected variations on the themes of pies, puddings, dumplings, fritters, and fools, there are these rather more interesting ideas.

Apple Sausages.
Chop up some fat pork as for ordinary sausages, and, instead of bread crumbs, to each pound of meat put half a pound of sour apples finely minced; season with the finest whitepepper, and add a considerable quantity of Spanish pimiento to give it a richness of appearance. Fry to a fine brown, and serve with olives.

Irish Stew.
Take four large apples, two potatoes, and two onions, chop them all up together, add some herbs freshly shred, and any kind of meat, well seasoned with pepper and salt; put into a saucepan a layer of vegetables and a layer of meat alternately, until three parts full; then pour in a pint of gravy, cover it with a thick suet crust, put on the lid of the saucepan, and let it simmer for two hours.

Apple Bread.
Weigh seven pounds of fresh juicy apples, peel, core, and boil them to a pulp, being careful to use an enamelled saucepan, or a stone jar placed inside an ordinary saucepan of boiling water, otherwise the fruit becomes discoloured; mix the pulp with fourteen pounds of the best flour, put in the same quantity of yeast you would use in common bread, and as much water as will make it into a fine smooth dough; put it into a pan, and stand it in a warm place to rise; let it remain for twelve hours at least; form it into rather long-shaped loaves, and bake it in a lively oven. This bread is very much eaten in the south of Europe.

Quotation for the Day.

Surely the apple is the noblest of fruits.
Henry David Thoreau, Wild Apples.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Take a single ingredient ...

I have become interested recently in the evolution of ‘single ingredient’ cookery books. It was the Chocolate Parfait Amour recipe from the other day that got me thinking about the phenomenon. The source book - Cocoa and Chocolate: a short history of their production and use was published by the chocolate-making company Walter Baker and Co. in 1886 (the company that gave America ‘German Chocolate Cake’ – thanks to a typo. It should have been ‘German’s Chocolate Cake’ after the employee who developed the recipe, but that is another story.) This book must surely be one of the earliest examples of an advertising cookery book?

Numerous books of the nineteenth century contain recipe chapters – such as A Treatise on the Management of Fresh-water Fish, with a view to making them a source of profit to landed proprietors, published in 1841 by Gottlieb Boccius, which has ‘twenty three German recipes’. I do not count these however, as the recipes are not their main focus. The best I have been able to uncover so far (so many projects, so few hours in the day) are books on cooking apples (1865) and potatoes (1870), and I will give you some ideas from these books soon.

Please join in the search for early examples of this sort of cookery book – it promises to be quite good fun. I will feature them from time to time, as I (we) find them. For today, I will go again to the Baker Company’s chocolate recipe book, from which I have chosen a few interesting beverages.

Chocolate Syrup for Soda Water
Baker's chocolate (plain), four ounces; boiling water, four ounces ; water, twenty- eight ounces ; sugar, thirty ounces; extract of vanilla, one-half ounce. Cut the chocolate into small pieces, then add the boiling water, and stir briskly until the mixture forms into a thick paste, and assumes asmooth and uniform appearance; then slowly add the remainder of the water, stirring at the same time, and set aside until cold. After cooling thoroughly, a layer of solid grease, forms over the surface, which is to be carefully removed by skimming. After this is completed add the sugar, dissolved by the aid of a gentle heat, and allow the whole to come to a boil. Then strain and add the extract of vanilla. This forms a syrup which is perfect. It possesses the pure, rich flavor of the chocolate without the unpleasant taste.

Wine Chocolate.
Set half a bottle of good white wine, three ounces of chocolate, and one ounce of powdered sugar over the fire; beat the yolks of four eggs to foam, with a little wine, and add it to the chocolate as soon as it begins to simmer; stir it for a few minutes, then take it from the fire and serve. This is an excellent winter beverage.

Chocolate Wine.
Infuse in a bottle of Madeira, Marsala or raisin wine four ounces of chocolate, andsugar if required. In three or four days strain and bottle.

Quotation for the Day.

I can recommend switching to chocolate for all you addictive types. .. . Think of the advantages. … Chocolate doesn't make you stupid and clumsy. It doesn't render you incapable of operating heavy machinery. …You don't have to smuggle chocolate across the border. ...Possession, even possession with intent to sell, is perfectly legal. … and second-hand chocolate doesn't offend the people around you.
Linda Henley, American Columnist.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Enough Mace.

How often do you use mace? A reader asked about its apparent decline in popularity recently in response to the recipe of the day.

Mace is, to quote the OED “An aromatic spice consisting of the fleshy aril or covering surrounding the seed in the fruit of the nutmeg tree, Myristica fragrans, dried and used (chiefly in powdered form) to flavour savoury dishes, sauces, etc. (the kernel of the seed being the source of nutmeg).” Mace was certainly known and used in medieval Britain and Europe – but although we still use nutmeg itself, and other sweet spices such as cinnamon and cloves, methinks mace nowadays has been relegated towards the back of the mental pantry (at least in ‘English-speaking’ kitchens that is.)

I wondered just what have we lost, or mislaid, in our apparent modern neglect of mace, so set out (briefly) to find out. Historically there is no shortage of meat dishes flavoured with mace, and of course there is the inevitable fruit cake, and perhaps mulled wine, but surely there are some different ideas begging revival?
Chocolate and mace – now that sounds like a combination I could learn to love. The author of The Complete Confectioner, Pastry-Cook, and Baker, Plain and Practical (Philadelphia, 1864) gives mace double duty in the following recipe – the ‘basic’ or vanilla version of chocolate has mace, and more mace is added to the ‘mace’ version.

Cinnamon, Mace, or Clove Chocolate.
These are made in the same manner as the last* using about an ounce and a half or two ounces of either sort of spice in powder to that quantity or add a sufficiency of either of these essential oils to flavour.

*Vanilla Chocolate.
Ten pounds of prepared nuts, ten pounds of sugar, vanilla two ounces and a half, cinnamon one ounce, one drachm of mace, and two drachms of cloves, or the vanilla may be used soley. Prepare your nuts according to the directions already given**. Cut the vanilla in small bits, pound it fine with part of the sugar, and mix it with the paste, boil about one half of the sugar to the blow before you mix it to the chocolate, otherwise it will eat hard. Proceed as before, and either put it in small moulds, or divide it in tablets, which you wrap in tinfoil. This is in general termed eatable chocolate
[**the cacao nuts are pounded in a warmed mortar until they are reduced to an oily paste which is then sweetened if desired.]

And I like the next idea – clotted cream delicately flavoured with mace - which does not need a spice bag, the ‘blades’ being lacy enough to allow string to be easily threaded through for easy retrieval.

Clotted Cream
String four blades of mace on a string, put them to a gill of new milk, and six spoonfuls of rose water, simmer a few minutes, then by degrees stir this liquor, strained into the yolks of two new eggs well beaten, stir the whole into a quart of good cream, set it over the fire and stir till hot but not boiling, pour it into a deep dish and let it stand four and twenty hours, serve it in a cream dish; to eat with fruit some persons prefer it without any taste but cream, in which case use a quart of new milk, or do it like the Devonshire cream scalded; when done enough a round mark will appear on the surface of the cream the size of the bottom of the pan it is done in, which in the country they call the ring, and when that is seen remove the pan from the fire.
The Illustrated London Cookery Book, Frederick Bishop (1852)

And finally, an interesting mac-based sauce which just might ring the changes for your next roast turkey or chicken.

Sauce for Turkey or Chicken.
Boil a spoonful of the best mace very tender, and also the liver of the turkey, but not too much which would make it hard; pound the mace with a few drops of the liquor to a very fine pulp; then pound the liver, and put about half of it to the mace, with pepper, salt, and the yolk of an egg boiled hard, and then dissolved; to this add by degrees the liquor that drains from the turkey, or some other good gravy. Put these liquors to the pulp, and boil them some time; then take half a pint of oysters and boil them but a little, and lastly, put in white wine, and butter wrapped in a little flour. Let it boil but a little, lest the wine make the oysters hard; and just at last scald four spoonfuls of good cream, and add, with a little lemon juice, or pickled mushrooms will do better.
The Lady’s Own Cookery Book … by Lady Charlotted Campbell Bury (1844)

Quotation for the Day.
Once you get a spice in your home, you have it forever. Women never throw out spices. The Egyptians were buried with their spices. I know which one I'm taking with me when I go.
Erma Bombeck.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Mustard Many Ways.

This day in 1758 was not, as I pointed out in a post on the same day a couple of years ago, the first time that mustard was advertised in America. The perpetual myth is a good enough excuse, however, to use the day to again pay homage to that most ancient of condiments.

Just how long has mustard been used by humans? Since long, long before we started recording our dinners, for sure. The word is Anglo-Norman, so a legacy of 1066 and all that. The first reference noted by the Oxford English Dictionary dates to the year 1289, in a list of the Household Expenses of Bishop Swinfeld – the entry noting the purchase of four pence worth..

Mustard plants grew easily throughout Europe, and long before the ready availability of imported pepper it provided the main condiment to meat, and certainly in medieval times, it was an obligatory accompaniment to brawn.

Originally, mustard was made by grinding the seeds to an oily paste before mixing this with must (the pulp of grapes crushed for wine-making.) A sea-change in the preparation of mustard for the table occurred in 1720, when Mrs Clements of Tewkesbury developed a way to produce a dry mustard powder (or ‘flour’) – thus simplifying its preparation for the table, and allowing cooks and housewives to let loose their creative powers and produce a multitude of different mustards.

It is difficult to think of anything that has not been added to mustard in the name of ‘gourmet’ or ‘artisan’ specialties. It can be made hotter with pepper, ginger, horseradish, wasabi, or chilli. It can be mellowed down with honey, mayonnaise, milk, cream, or wine. The basic flavour can be enhanced with anchovies, truffles, any spices, herbs, or vinegars that you wish, as well as garlic, ‘curry’, and even chocolate.

The recipe I give you today is most unusual in that it uses the broth from corned beef in making up the mustard. It is from a source I used last week - The House Servant's Directory, or A Monitor for Private Families: Comprising Hints on the Arrangement and Performance of Servants' Work by the African-American Robert Roberts (1827)

A Great Secret to Mix Mustard, by M.B. of London

Take one quart of water that corned beef has been boiled in, skim off any fat that may remain,
then strain it and when cool put it into a junk bottle, then grate some horseradish, about two dessert spoonsful, and put into the bottle and shake it well up, and cork it tight. When you want to mix your mustard, take whatever quantum you think necessary, but you should never mix more than half your mustard pot full at once, as it is better when first mixed; first put the flour of mustard in a tea-cup, add to it half a teaspoonful of salt, mix well together, then put in your liquor, by degrees, that you may not make it too thin, mix extremely well together, until it becomes quite smooth; this method of mixing mustard is absolutely the best I have ever met with, as it much surpasses any other, both in strength and flavour.

Quotation for the Day.
His wit's as thick as Tewksbury mustard.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) 'King Henry IV'

Friday, February 12, 2010

Recipes for Perfect Love.

I don’t know about real life, but in cookery books a number of things go by the name of Perfect Love. Well, actually they go by the even more romantic French version of the name – Parfait Amour. With Valentine’s Day imminent, I thought I would offer you some examples of this culinary Perfect Love.

I must mention firstly, a liqueur of disputed heritage called by the actual name of Parfait Amour, because it features in several dishes with the same name, as you will see below. The liqueur is pinkish-purplish in colour, and spicy-citrusy-floral in fragrance – the devil being in the details of the particular manufacturer’s formula. Not everyone is a fan of this decidedly girly-sounding drink, including the author in 1877 of Kettner’s Book of the Table (who was not, in fact, the Victorian restaurateur Auguste Kettner, although he did supply the recipes). His opinion fell somewhere betwixt underwhelmed and mildly disgusted:

“Parfait Amour unhappily is a liqueur which lives by its name and nothing else. We all like to taste that unknown bliss which is not to be found on earth, and we hope to find its semblance in the bottle. The liqueur is too true as a satire. Starting with the idea that love is a bitter-sweet, Parfait Amour is made of the bitter zest of limes, mollified with syrup, with the spirit of roses, and with spicy odours. It is in fact a kind of orange bitters spoilt. Whoever drinks of Parfait Amour says in his heart, This is a mistake. And therein lies the success of the liqueur: it has a rosy colour, it has a fine name, and it is nought. One trial is enough.”

A parfait is also an ice-cream dessert, as we all know, and what could be better than ice-cream for dessert on Valentine’s Day, especially if it is chocolate ice-cream? Interestingly, the Oxford English Dictionary’s etymological definition of parfait specifies the chocolate:

“French parfait frozen dessert made with cream and mocha (1869; subsequently also ice-cream of a single flavour, often in the form of a sugar loaf)”

My Valentine’s Day gift to you is a random selection of recipes for Parfait Amour – may much of it find its way to you on the day.

Parfait Amour.
The French, in preparing this somewhat poetically-named liqueur, use the fresh citron as a foundation; as that fruit is seldom seen by us au naturelle, though well-known in candied form, I recommend the rind of lemons when first in season, taking away only that portion which contains the essential oil.
The peel of a dozen lemons should be bruised in a mortar, the strained juice added, then mixed with an equal weight of Cognac brandy; put these into a stone bottle, cork it down well, and keep it in hot water for ten days. Reduce a quarter of an ounce of cinnamon and two ounces of coriander seed to a fine powder, mix these in a quantity of clarified syrup, equal to the brandy and lemon juice. At the expiration of the ten days, add the sugar and spice to the former. Shake the jar or bottle well, and let it stand for ten days more in hot water, then filter through blotting paper, into case or liqueur bottles.
If you desire two sorts of “Perfect Love,” red as well as white, you may convert half the latter into a roseate liqueur by adding a drachm of cochineal and an drachm of alum to the other materials.
The Epicure’s Almanac: or, diary of Good Living, by Benson Earle Hill, published in 1842.

Sorbet Parfait Amour.
Pour into a freezer one pint of raspberry water ice, one pint of orange water ice, and a pint of cherry water ice; mix thoroughly and add to them half a gill of Curaçoa, half a gill of maraschino, one gill of kirsch or one gill parfait amour cordial and half a pint of champagne just when ready to serve. Dress in tulips made of gum paste or pulled sugar.
The Epicurean, by Charles Ranhofer (Chicago, 1894)

Chocolate Parfait Amour.
Dissolve half a pound of chocolate [cacao beans ground into a paste and compressed into a cake] highly flavored with vanilla in sufficient water. In a bottle of brandy digest one ounce of bruised cinnamon, half an ounce of cloves, and a pinch of salt. In three days add the dissolved chocolate; macerate one week, closely corked ; then strain clear.
Cocoa and Chocolate: a short history of their production and use. Walter Baker and Co., 1886

Punch au Parfait Amour.
Place one quart of water on the fire with two pounds of sugar until melted, add a teaspoonful of orange flower water, strain and freeze. When nearly stiff, add the snow of eight whites of eggs, mix well, and add two pony glasses of Parfait-Amour.
Dainty Sweets … Archie Corydon Hoff (Los Angeles, 1913)

Parfait Amour (Transparent Jelly of)
Pare the rinds of two lemons and a small cedrat as thin as possible, and infuse with half a dozen cloves (bruised) in a boiling syrup made with twelve drachms of sugar; add a little cochineal to make it of a delicate rose colour. When cold, mix with the infusion half a glass of kirschenwasser, filter, and having put the ounce of isinglass to it, finish as directed (See Clear Fruit Jelly)
The Cook’s Dictionary and Housekeeper’s Directory, Richard Dolby, 1833

Parfait Amour Soufflé (Français of)
Rub upon a pound of lump sugar the zestes [sic]of two lemons, and two large cedrats, scraping off the surface as it becomes coloured; infuse this sugar in nine glasses of boiling milk, with the addition of a dozen cloves, for half an hour; strain the infusion through a napkin, mix it with the usual ingredients, and finish as directed (see Soufflé Français.)
The Cook’s Dictionary and Housekeeper’s Directory, Richard Dolby, 1833

Previous Valentine’s Day Topics.

Chocolate Soup.

An aphrodisiac tart.

Moravian love cakes.

Quotation for the Day.

A number of rare or newly experienced foods have been claimed to be aphrodisiacs. At one time this quality was even ascribed to the tomato. Reflect on that when you are next preparing the family salad.
Jane Grigson

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Inky Pinky.

My current favourite phrase for using up leftovers is ‘repurposing food’ (my previous favourite was ‘secondary cookery.’) A large part of the skill involves disguising the original ingredient by creatively naming the new-from-old dish, and I came across a lovely example the other day. It is ‘Inky-Pinky’, and I want to share it with you.

I discovered Inky-Pinky in an article in an English newspaper - The Leeds Mercury - of October 1879. The article was in the Household Department of the paper, and the subject was ‘gathering up the fragments’ – fragments of cold meat, that is. Just before a recipe called ‘Encore Roast Beef’ was this gem:

Inky-Pinky is simply cold roast beef or mutton hashed. Do it as follows:- Slice down some boiled carrots, likewise the cold meat, adding a small onion or two, and pepper and salt to taste. Simmer all these in a gravy made from the bones and trimmings of the beef, thicken with a little flour, and serve with a border of nicely mashed potatoes. The carrots should be put on in advance of the beef, which only requires to be thoroughly heated. Season with catchup if liked.

An almost identical recipe appears in another 1870’s source - Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery. The name of this dish greatly intrigues me. If the phrase has been around since at least the 1870’s, what does the Oxford English Dictionary have to say about it? 

The OED gives inky-pinky (or inkie-pinkie or hinkie-pinkie) a Scottish origin and defines it as ‘small beer’. No mention of leftover roast beef or mutton. That it is indisputably Scottish is supported by Mr. Google – although he usually turns up the meat version.

I went therefore to the Dictionary of the Scots Language, and again, it gives several quotations to support the definition of small beer – then, suddenly, in 1827, in that marvelous Scottish cookery resource, the Cook and Housewife’s Manual by Mistress Dods (aka Christian Isobel Johnstone), there is a recipe for repurposing leftover roast beef with carrots and gravy! OED editors please take note.

Perhaps the beer version got its name on account of its colour or taste? I would love some ideas or wild guesses as to how this name got transferred to a dish of leftover roast beef – so please, go right ahead and comment!

Quotation for the Day.

As to those things called hashes, commonly manufactured by unwatched, untaught cooks, out of the remains of yesterday's repast, let us not dwell too closely on their memory, - compounds of meat, gristle, skin, fat, and burnt fibre, with a handful of pepper and salt flung at them, dredged with lumpy flour, watered from the spout of the tea-kettle, and left to simmer at the cook's convenience while she is otherwise occupied.
Christopher Crowfield (Harriet Beecher Stowe) ‘House and Home Papers’ (1865)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Bill of Fare for ‘Colored Patrons.’

An interesting article in the New York Times of March 21, 1886 made ponder on the various and devious ways in which the determinedly subversive can get around anti-discrimination legislation. It made me wonder too, how much progress we have really made in well over a century. The article outlined the not-so-subtle way in which one Chicago restaurateur managed to find a way to keep ‘colored folk’ out of his establishment in spite of the new State racial discrimination laws.


CHICAGO, March 20. – “Billy” Boyle, a restaurant keeper, has found a novel method of evading the State civil rights law, which gives to colored people the same privileges in hotels, restaurants, and public places that white people enjoy. When a negro sits down at one of Boyle’s tables, he is handed politely a special bill of fare from which the following prices are culled: Porterhouse steak $3.75, the same with oysters for $3.90; a sirloin with mushrooms for $2.65; pork sausage only $3.35; fried chicken with cream sauce, whole, $4.20; picked up codfish, $4.25; and fried apples and salt pork $4.35. Fried eggs cost $2.25, tomato omelet, $4.30, brook trout $ 5.60, frogs’ legs 5.75, broiled prairie chickens $6.75; buckwheat cakes $1.10; oatmeal mush $1.25; pickled pigs’ feet $3.80; fried oysters $5.80 for half a dozen; buttered toast $1.10; corned beef hash $4.25, and liver and bacon $3.25, and the whole can be washed down with tea, coffee, or milk at 50 cents. The guest is calmly invited to call for wine, liquors, ales, and cordials.
The object of this, of course, is to drive the colored guest from the restaurant, and it seldom fails. Often pride would bid them stay, but pride must be backed by money or it will have a fall. It is a question if this discrimination against one class of people is not illegal.

In honor of my African-American friends, I have chosen today’s recipe from The House Servant's Directory, or A Monitor for Private Families: Comprising Hints on the Arrangement and Performance of Servants' Work by Robert Roberts (1827) – the first book written by an African-American to be published in the United States of America*. The book contained over one hundred ‘receipts’ – many for household cleaners and the like, but a few for foodstuffs.

*UPDATE - see the comments below.

A Most Delicious Lemonade, to be Made the Day Before Wanted.
Take and pare two dozen of good sized lemons as thin as you possibly can; put eight of the rinds
into three quarts of hot water, but not boiling, cover it close over for four hours, then rub some sugar to the rinds to attract the essence, and put it into a bowl, and into which squeeze the juice of the lemons; to which add one pound and a half of fine sugar, then put the water to the above, and three quarts of boiling milk, mix and run through a jelly bag until clear; bottle it, if you choose, and cork close; this will be most excellent, and will keep.

To Make Raspberry Vinegar Most Delicious.
Put one quart of clean picked raspberries into a large bowl, pour on them one quart of best white wine vinegar, the next day strain off the liquor on one pound of fresh raspberries, and the following day do the same, but do not squeeze the fruit, but drain the liquor as dry as possible from the fruit; the last time pass it through a cloth wet in vinegar, to prevent any waste, then put it into a stone jar, with a pound of sugar to every pint of juice, let your sugar be in large lumps, as it is much better; when dissolved stir it up well, put your jar in a pot of hot water, let it simmer, skim well, and when cold bottle and cork close.

Quotation for the Day.

When I'm at a Chinese restaurant having a hard time with chopsticks, I always hope that there's a Chinese kid at an American restaurant somewhere who's struggling mightily with a fork.
Rick Budinich

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Hors d’Oeuvres.

I am constantly intrigued by the way that words and phrases change in meaning over time – particularly food words of course. We had an example yesterday in ‘a la mode’, and today we have another French culinary phrase to consider – hors d’oeuvres. Look into any ‘modern’ dictionary, and you will find that hors d’oeuvres are defined as appetizers – little morsels served before the meal, the exact nature of which includes and overlaps with zests, whets, canapés, amuse bouches, nibbles, and assorted cocktail party tid-bits. Hors d’oeuvres were not always thus.

The phrase ‘hors d’œuvre’ literally means ‘outside the (main) work’. From medieval times until the second half of the ninteteenth century, a dinner consisted of two (or sometimes three) courses, each of which contained a mixture of dishes, both ‘sweet’ and ‘savoury’, all of these dishes being set out on the table in a strictly ordered and hierarchical structure before the diners entered the room. This style became known as service á la française, to distinguish it from the new (early nineteenth century) service á la russe (see here for further explanation and a diagram.) The largest and most impressive dishes sat grandly in the centre of the table, sometimes elevated on an elegant plinth of some sort, with the ‘lesser’ dishes flanking them. By about the mid-eighteenth century these smaller, less important dishes became known as hors d’œuvres. At an important dinner cold hors d’œuvres might be served at one point during the meal, and warm hors d’œuvres at another.

I give you the words of several early nineteenth century cook book writers, to show how the term hors d’oeuvres was interpreted by that time.

From The French Cook, by Louis UstacheUde (1815):

In France, between the dormant (centre stationary dish) and the entrées, it is customary to place hors-d’œuvres, viz. sallads of anchovies, canapés, sallad dishes filled with lemons, bitter oranges, butter, radishes, turnip radishes, of figs in autumn, what we call hors-d’œuvres de cuisine, such as saucisses, boudins &c, &x, which indeed give a good appearance to the table. In England it is not customary to serve hors d’œuvres, as in very few houses they keep a Confectioner, and that the hors d’oeuvres belong to his department.

From French Domestic Cookery,by an English Physician, (1825):

A French dinner is usually composed of seven sorts of eatables: firs the soup, second the boulli, third the hors d’œuvre, (by-dishes,) either hot or cold, fourth the entrées, (or regular first course dishes,), fifth the roast, sixth the entremets (or relishing dishes,) and seventh the dessert.

From: Domestic Economy, for Rich and Poor, by a Lady (1827)

Celery, Radishes, Cresses, &c. in Water.
There are deep glasses made on purpose for sending these to table in water. Radishes and cresses are excellent digestives, when eaten with oil before dinner. They are also very ornamental. The French use them as hors d’oeuvres, not belonging to the course, although placed on table.

And for the recipe of the day, I go back to the early days of use of the term. Oh for the days when an elegant dish of pigeon was a mere side-dish!

Pigeons au Gratin.
Having young Pigeons picked dry, blanch them again over a Charcoal Fire, then pick them very clean, and when they are well picked, split them in the Back; then take the Livers, which you mince with scraped Bacon, Parsley, green Onions, Champignons and Truffles, seasoned with Pepper, Salt, fine Spice and Sweet Herbs; but all moderately: Then put in a silver dish Slices of Bacon, of Veal, and of Ham; after that place in it your Pigeons and put your Forced-Meat, mentioned before, in their Bellies; and lay over each Pigeon a small Slice of Ham and Veal: There is no need to put Seasoning, by reason of the Ham: Cover them with another Dish, half as small again as the other, and take a white Napkin moisten’d, which put around the Dish, to hinder it from taking Vent; then put it a stewing over a small Stove; it being done, dish it up with Essence of Ham in another Dish, and serve it up hot for a small Entry, or Hors d’Oeuvre.
[The Whole Duty of a Woman, or, an Infallible Guide to the Fair Sex, 1737]

Quotation for the Day.

Hors d’Oeuvre: A ham sandwich cut into forty pieces.
Jack Benny.

Monday, February 08, 2010

In the Fashion.

Food is no less subject to fashion (at least amongst those that can afford to be choosy) than are frocks and footwear. In late nineteenth century America, to serve apple pie ‘in the fashion’ was to serve it with ice-cream. As the fashionable menu language was still French, this was to serve it ‘a la mode.’ No knowledge of the French language was required to have a comfortable certainty that one would get ice-cream if one ordered pie a la mode – and this was the case right up until …well, almost if not definitely the present time.

It was not always so. Once upon a time (the seventeenth century) a dish styled ‘a la mode’ (often spelled alamode) referred to a meat (usually beef) dish. The certainty ended there however. There was a huge variation in recipes for Alamode Beef. To many, including the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary, alamode beef consisted of ‘scraps and remainders of beef boiled down into a thick soup or stew’ – in other words it is a dish of recycled leftovers glamorized with a fancy French name. At one time or another, in England and America, other cooks and cookbook writers have given the name to virtually any beef stew or pot-roast – each individual no doubt determined that theirs is the ‘real’ dish.

Alamode Beef was a common café and take-out item, and major cities in the English speaking world had ‘Alamode Beef Shops’ where no doubt the version sold was not always the most savoury – metaphorically speaking.

The author of an article in The Ladies Literary Cabinet (New York, 1819) was quite adamant on the subjects of alamode beef shops (the English variety) and the definitive recipe – in this case a rather elegant dish of beef larded with fat bacon and cooked slowly, slowly, in a sealed pot.

Real Beef Alamode.
Though what are called alamode shops swarm in London, there is not, perhaps, one place under that denomination in the city where the real beef alamode is sold. What passes under this name in England is nothing more than the coarsest pieces of beef stewed into sort of seasoned soup, not at all superior to those of ox cheek or leg of beef, and often by no means so good. The real alamode beef is well known to be thus made. Take some of the veiny piece or a part of the thick flank, or rather a small round, commonly called the mouse buttock, of the finest ox-beef, but let be at least five inches thick. Cut thick slices of fat bacon into proper lengths for lardings of about three quarters of an inch thick; dip them first into vinegar and then into a mixed powder of finely beaten mace, long pepper, nutmeg, a clove or two, and double the united weight of salt. With a small knife or larding pin cut holes in the beef to receive the bacon thus prepared; the lardings tolerably thick and even; rub the beef over with the remainder of the seasoning; put it into a pot or pan just sufficiently large to contain it, and add a gill of vinegar, a couple of large onions, some sweet herbs, a few chives, a little lemon peel, some truffles and morels, and half a pint of wine. It should be very closely covered up and have a wet cloth round edge to prevent the steam from evaporating. It must be dressed over a stove or very slow fire, and will require six hours to do it properly. When half done it should be taken off, turned, and again closed up as before. If thick flank or the veiny piece be used, it may necessary to tie up the beef with tape, on putting it into the pan or pot; which of course must be taken off when meat is dressed.

Quotation for the Day.

Smell brings to mind … a family dinner of pot roast and sweet potatoes during a myrtle-mad August in a Midwestern town. Smells detonate softly in our memory like poignant land mines hidden under the weedy mass of years.
Diane Ackerman.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Angels, Devils, and Pigs.

I have been side-tracked recently into a minor exploration of historical bacon recipes. Life’s interesting little side-tracks have a secondary level of deviations and detours all of their own, as I am sure you have found for yourself. One along which I found myself wandering was the trail of the original ‘Angels on Horseback’. I am sure you are all familiar with these delicious items – oysters wrapped in bacon and served as an hors d’oeuvre – or, if you have traditional English eating habits, as the small savoury dish which represents the final course at dinner or supper.

If you are familiar with Angels on Horseback, you are probably also familiar with their cheaper cousin, Devils on Horseback, made with a devilishly black prune (or occasionally a date) where the oyster should be? There are other interpretations of the idea too – we had Oysters Dick Turpin some time ago, but have yet to enjoy Pigs in a Blanket (which are served on toast, therefore technically a canapé not an hors d’oeuvre – for those of you inclined to pedantry in these matters.)

So, when did Angels on Horseback first appear, and whence their name? The second question I cannot answer, there being a surfeit of theories which I have not attempted to authenticate at this time. The first question I cannot answer either with any degree of certainty save to say that the Oxford English Dictionary is not correct. The OED gives the first citation as the 1888 edition of Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, but a very superficial search retrieves some earlier mentions. I make no claim that the following one (from 1800) is the absolute earliest, but it provides a much earlier and very different interpretation of ‘Devils on Horseback’.

“All frequenters of London restaurants know, I suppose, the pleasant little dish called “Angels on Horseback”, sometimes transformed into “Devils.” I find them extremely agreeable with brown bread and butter, and any favourite beverage – cocoa, chocolate, wine, or beer – on returning form an evening’s amusement with exhausted energies; and, lest any of my readers should not know how to arrange them, I give the directions:-
Take a dozen or more fine native oysters, according to your party, remove the beard, and wrap each oyster up in a tiny very thin slice of good bacon, having first salted and peppered it to taste, and added a few drops of lemon juice. Procure some well galvanized or silvered thin skewers, and string the rolled up oysters onto these till each skewer is full. Place them in a Dutch oven before the fire, turning them until the bacon is well done, brown, and crisp, serve on a hot dish, leaving the oysters on the skewers, which can be removed as wanted with a fork.
To transform the “angels” into “devils”, add a larger quantity of cayenne pepper or even a few shreds of capsicum. I prefer the “angels” as retaining the flavour of the oysters, just as I think whitebait is best not devilled. These delicate morsels keep hot for a long time before the fire in my plate warmer, which for the occasion becomes an oven, for the preservation of viands and hot plates, after the prescribed hours of bedtime for the household.
[Aberdeen Weekly Journal, Dec 11, 1800 in ‘Our Ladies Column’]

And as for ‘Pigs in Blankets’, here is a recipe from the Household Column of the Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle of January 8, 1887.

“Little Pigs in Blankets” are made by first draining the oysters and seasoning with salt and pepper, and then cutting fat bacon into very thin slices and wrapping a big oyster in each slice, fastening with a wooden skewer – a toothpick is best. The frying pan must be heated well before the little pigs are put in, and they must be cooked long enough for the bacon to crisp. These are to be served immediately on toast cut into small pieces.

Quotation for the Day.

“I've long said that if I were about to be executed and were given a choice of my last meal, it would be bacon and eggs. There are few sights that appeal to me more than the streaks of lean and fat in a good side of bacon, or the lovely round of pinkish meat framed in delicate white fat that is Canadian bacon. Nothing is quite as intoxicating as the smell of bacon frying in the morning, save perhaps the smell of coffee brewing.”
James Beard (1903-1985)

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Potato Bread.

I rather hastily by-passed the use of potatoes in bread yesterday, in my enthusiasm to enjoy potato cakes. Potato bread, I think, is deserving of a little more blog space than it has had to date. It was covered only briefly in a previous post in which I talked about Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, the eighteenth century French pharmacist, agriculturalist, and passionate advocate of that strange and suspect ‘new’ vegetable.

Parmentier had experienced first-hand the nutritional value of the potato while a prisoner of war in Germany, and on his return to France he campaigned vigorously for its adoption as a useful ‘bread’for the poor – the word ‘bread’ in this instance being a metaphor for food generally. Potatoes soon became a common addition to actual bread dough, of course – as we considered yesterday – its value here being to reduce the amount of expensive or scarce grain needed to make up a particular quantity.

A potato bread recipe developed by Parmentier himself (in about 1778?) is quite unusual in that it contains no flour at all. It must have been very dense indeed.

A method to make Potato-Bread without the admixture of flour.
By M.Parmentier, of the College of Pharmacy, Paris.
Take five pounds of dried starch, and five pounds of pulp; dissolve a suitable quantity of leaven or yeast in warm water the eve or night before. The mixture being exactly made, let it lie all night in the kneading-trough, well covered and kept warm until the next day; this is the second leaven; then add five pounds more of starch, and the same quantity of pulp, and knead it well. The water must be in proportion as a fifth part, that is to say, that upon twenty pounds of paste there must be five pounds of water. You must observe that the water be used as hot as possible.
The paste being completely kneaded, it must be divided into small loaves: this bread requires slow preparation, and the oven must be equally and moderately heated: it will require two hours baking.

An enormous number of recipes for potato bread - containing an enormous range of proportions of potato pulp or starch to grain - have evolved since Parmentier’s time. Here is the version from Eliza Acton’s The English Bread Book (1857)

Potato Bread.
This is one of the best varieties of mixed or cheap bread when it is made with care, as its flavour is excellent, and it remains moist longer than any other except rice bread; but the potatoes used for it should be good, thoroughly boiled, well dried afterwards by having the water poured from them, and then standing by the side of the fire to steam and be reduced to a perfect paste by mashing, or be rubbed quickly through a cullender or other coarse strainer. They should be perfectly mixed with the flour or meal while they are still warm; and after the addition of rather more salt than for common bread, the dough, which will require less liquid than wheaten dough, should be made up smoothly and firmly, and be managed afterwards like other bread but be baked in a more gentle oven. Seven pounds of potatoes weighed after they are cooked and peeled may be added to each gallon of meal or flour. Should it be necessary, from circumstances that cannot be controlled to use such as are watery, the moisture may be partly wrung from them in a warm thick cloth, before they are mixed with the other ingredients.

Quotation for the Day.

Even during the rationing period, during World War II, we didn't have the anxiety that we'd starve, because we grew our own potatoes, you know? And our own hogs, and our own cows and stuff, you know.
James Earl Jones.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Sweet fun with Potatoes.

Methinks I have neglected the potato lately, which is not laudable, given that this blog has a special archive called Fun With Potatoes.

Once, long ago, I made coconut ice with potatoes: it was not memorable and has never been repeated. Nevertheless, it demonstrated the great adaptability of the potato to sweet as well as savoury dishes – thanks to all that high-carb (Shhh!!) starch.

Potatoes were adapted for use in bread in Europe in the eighteenth century, the starch eking out the more expensive wheat flour. The result was nutritionally very acceptable, but rather more dense and damp than pure wheat bread – and very suitable, according to the mores of the time, for feeding the poor. Taking advantage of the starch in potatoes in sweet baked dishes (apart from in pies) came later. By the mid-nineteenth century, the one-time chef to Queen Victoria, Charles Elmé Francatelli included the following very elegant recipes in his book The Modern Cook (1846)

Bake eighteen large York potatoes, and when done, rub their pulp through a wire sieve; put this into a large basin, add four ounces of butter, eight ounces of sifted sugar, a spoonful of pounded vanilla, a gill of cream, the yolks of six eggs and the whipped whites of two, and a little salt; work the whole well together, and then place it in a mould previously spread with butter, and strewn with bread crumbs; bake the cake for about an hour, and when done, dish it up with a fruit sauce poured round the base, made in the following manner:-
Pick one pound of either currants, raspberries, cherries, damsons, strawberries, or apricots; place them in a stewpan with eight ounces of sifted sugar and half a gill of water; boil the whole down to the consistency of a thick pureé, and then rub it through a sieve or tammy.

Ingredients: Six ounces of potato flour, ten ounce of sugar, four ounces of butter one pint of cream or milk, twelve eggs, two sticks of vanilla, and a little salt. Put the milk or cream to boil, then throw in the vanilla; cover the stew pan with its lid and allow the infusion to stand for about half an hour in order to extract the flavour of the vanilla. Next put the potato flour, the sugar, butter, salt, and one egg into a stewpan, and mix the whole well together; then add the milk and the vanilla, and stir the preparation on the stove fire until it boils, when it must be worked with the spoon to make it perfectly smooth; after adding the yolks of ten eggs, set it aside while the ten whites are being whipped quite firm, and then add these in with the soufflé batter pour the whole lightly into a soufflé dish, having a broad band of buttered cartridge paper round the outside, and then set it in the oven to bake: this will take about three quarters of an hour. When the soufflé is done, place it (on its baking sheet) upon another baking sheet covered with hot embers of charcoal, and let it be thus carried to the dining room door; just before dishing it up remove the bands of paper, shake some sifted sugar over the top, place it in the soufflé dish and serve immediately.
Note: Soufflés of flour, ground rice, semolina, arrow- root, tapioca, tous les mois (a kind of potato flour, ) should all be prepared as the above substituting either of these for the potato flour. Soufflés may be flavoured with orange, lemon, cinnamon, orange-flowers ,or with any kind of essence or liqueur

Quotation for the Day.

What I'm doing here is seeking to offer protection from life, solely through the means of potato, butter and cream... there are times when only mashed potato will do.
Nigella Lawson.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Rations for one.

The amazing work of the British Food Ministry during World War II continues to provide much food for thought over half a century later. Week after week throughout the war and for years afterwards (rationing did not end completely until 1953) they churned out information and advice to the general public on rationing and many other war-related food issues. We could with advantage heed some of that advice today – particularly the advice relating to avoiding waste, reducing our meat consumption, and growing as much as possible of our own food.

Weekly Food Facts leaflets put out by the Ministry were reproduced in the newspapers, and today I want to share with you the advice in one edition from mid 1944. Food Facts leaflet number 231 gave good advice about using leftovers and spreading out the meat consumption, but it was particularly addressed to those living alone. It was a lot less common for someone to live alone at this time than it is now – and we are told that the number of solo households is increasing dramatically, so perhaps reviewing this advice is timely.

Upon receipt of a postcard request, the Food Ministry would send, free of charge, “ideas for a week’s menu for one person living alone, with recipes for many of the dishes mentioned,” but Food Facts leaflet 231 had some good advice in itself.

“It’s less easy to manage on a single ration than it is to cater for a family when one has three or four Ration Books to juggle with, but given imagination and ingenuity, it is possible for those with one Ration Book to avoid monotony and eat well. Sometimes you will buy your meat ration on one piece, pot-roast it, and eat the remainder cold with some appetising trimming. Sometimes you will grill or stew your three chops, or make pie, pudding, and casserole out of your 1s.2d. worth of stewing steak. A vegetable stew with dumplings, or a cheese and vegetable pasty will provide you with another main meal. Bacon Hash, a risotto of diced liver sausage, a Pilchard salad, or Scotch eggs or Mock Hamburgers are other good dishes for the man or woman who lives alone.”

Most of the Food Facts leaflets included recipes, and number 231 was no exception. I give you two of them for your interest today.

Bacon Hash.
Ingredients: 2 slices bacon, ½ lb potatoes, sliced, ½ lb mixed vegetable slices, 1 onion, sliced, pepper and salt, ½ pint stock or water.
Method: Remove rinds from bacon and cut into small pieces. Cut bacon into larger pieces and fry all together until fairly crisp. Remove from pan. Put in layers of sliced potatot, vegetable and onion and bacon, finishing with potato. Season well. Pour over liquid. Bring quickly to boiling point then simmer gently for one hour.

Mock Hamburger.
Ingredients: 1-2 oz.mince, 2 oz. grated raw potato, 1 oz. oatmeal, seasoning, 1 chopped onion, 1 teaspoon chopped parsley.
Method: Mix all the ingredients together and fry spoonfuls in shallow fat for 10-15 minutes.

Quotation for the Day.

We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink, for dining alone is leading the life of a lion or wolf.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Street Boys Fare.

I am too intrigued by the street vendors of Victorian London to cast them aside just yet, so I hope you are not bored by another post on the topic.

As we discovered, the street food was not for the hoi-polloi, but for the folk lower down the social scale, many (perhaps most) of whom had limited or no cooking facilities in their homes. As always, the well-to-do can rationalize the situation of the poor, and I give you a fine Victorian London example today, from a gentleman who almost convinces that the street boys eat as well as the gentlemen in their clubs – Nay! Better, because cheaper, and more fun!

From yesterday’s source (Mayhew’s London Poor), we have:

Mr. Albert Smith, who is an acute observer in all such matters, says, in a lively article on the Street Boys of London:
"The kerb is his club, offering all the advances of one of those institutions without any subscription or ballot. Had he a few pence, he might dine equally well as at Blackwall, and with the same variety of delicacies without going twenty yards from the pillars of St. Clement's churchyard. He might begin with a water souchée of eels, varying his first course with pickled whelks, cold fried flounders, or periwinkles. Whitebait, to be sure, he would find a difficulty in procuring, but as the more cunning gourmands do not believe these delicacies to be fish at all, but merely little bits of light pie-crust fried in grease; - and as moreover, the brown bread and butter is after all the grand attraction, - the boy might soon find a substitute. Then would come the potatoes, apparently giving out so much steam that the can which contains them seems in momentary danger of blowing up; large, hot, mealy fellows, that prove how unfounded were the alarms of the bad-crop-ites; and he might next have a course of boiled feet of some animal or other, which he would be certain to find in front of the gin-shop. Cyder-cups perhaps he would not get; but there would be gingerbeer from the fountain, at 1d. per glass; and instead of mulled claret, he could indulge in hot elder cordial; whilst for dessert he could calculate upon all the delicacies of the season, from the salads at the corner of Wych-street to the baked apples at Temple Bar. None of these things would cost more than a penny a piece; some of them would be under that sum; and since as at Verey's, and some other foreign restaurateurs, there is no objection to your dividing the "portions," the boy might, if he felt inclined to give a dinner to a friend, get off under 6d. There would be the digestive advantage too of moving leisurely about from one course to another; and, above all, there would be no fee to waiters." After alluding to the former glories of some of the streetstands, more especially of the kidney pudding establishments which displayed rude transparencies, one representing the courier of St. Petersburg riding six horses at once for a kidney pudding, Mr. Smith continues - "But of all these eating-stands the chief favourite with the boy is the potato-can. They collect around it as they would do on 'Change, and there talk over local matters, or discuss the affairs of the adjacent cab-stand, in which they are at times joined by the waterman whom they respect, more so perhaps than the policeman; certainly more than they do the street-keeper, for him they especially delight to annoy, and they watch any of their fellows eating a potato, with a curiosity and an attention most remarkable, as if no two persons fed in the same manner, and they expected something strange or diverting to happen at every mouthful."

Kidney pudding
Procure one ox or eight mutton kidneys, which cut into slices the thickness of half-a-crown piece; lay them upon a dish, seasoning well with black pepper and salt, and shaking one ounce of flour over; mix all well together to absorb the flour and seasoning, then have a pudding basin lined as directed for beefsteak pudding, finish, boil, and serve as there directed. A pudding made with one pound of steak and a beef kidney is also very excellent.
The Modern Housewife, Alexis Soyer, 1851

Quotation for the Day.

The weather here is gorgeous. It's mild and feels like it's in the eighties. The hot dog vendors got confused because of the weather and thought it was spring, so they accidentally changed the hot dog water in their carts.
David Letterman.