Monday, October 18, 2010

Salad Thoughts.

In a post last week I hoped to convert you to the use of old-fashioned oxoleum instead of the new-fangled French vinaigrette for your salads. I thought that perhaps a little more on the virtues of ‘sallets’ might help convince you. I therefore give you the words of the eccentric English garden designer Batty Langley (1696-1751), which demonstrate that there is no expiration date on good principles. His words are a plea for the use of freshly-picked seasonal produce, freshly and cleanly prepared, carefully and appropriately seasoned, and stylishly presented.

Directions for the gathering ordering and dressing of a Sallet.
In the choice of sallets observe,
- First that the kinds are young and delicate.
- Secondly that they are picked very clean from imperfect, slimy, etc leaves.
- Thirdly that each kind be washed separately in two clean waters.
- Fourthly that they are well drained in a cullender and afterward swing’d dry in a clean napkin.
- Fifthly and lastly, that every sort be proportioned as directed in the preceding sections, and laid singly in the dish, in such a manner as to form a pyramidical or other agreeable figure.
N.B. That during the months of January February and March, sallets may be cut at any time of the day, but when the weather increases in heat the best time to gather or cut a sallet, is about eight or nine o clock in the morning, to be afterward kept in a cool place till within one hour before it is eaten, at which time it should be washed as before directed and not immediately before it is eaten as practised by many.
And when you are obliged to cut a sallet in very hot weather, put it into spring water for the space of half an hour or more, and then take it out and order it as before directed. And having thus gathered and washed your sallet, the next work is the dressing wherein observe,
- First that the oil be very clean, smooth, light, and perfectly sweet, without any sort of rancid smell.
- Secondly that the vinegar or other acid, be perfectly clear and fresh.
- Thirdly, that the salt be of the brightest and best refined kind, and moderately dry.
- Fourthly, when sugar is used that it be the very best refined.
- Fifthly that the vinegar, salt and sugar be proportioned to the heat or cold of the stomach, as near as can be.
- Sixthly that the sallet be composed of such herbs as are agreeable to both weather and constitution.

Salads in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were often highly complex constructions with a large number of ingredients, which in truth are probably not much to today’s taste. Simple salad ideas did exist however, and for today I have chosen not one, but two eighteenth century recipes for you:

Sallad for Winter.
Take a hard cabbage, and with a sharp knife shave it as thin as possible and serve it up with oil, mustard, and vinegar.
Or else take corn salad and Horse radish scrap’d fine, dish it handsomely and serve it with oil and vinegar.
The Cook’s and Confectioner’s Dictionary, John Nott, 1723

Brockely in Sallad.
Broccoli is a pretty dish by way of Sallad, in the middle of the table. Boil it like asparagus (in the beginning of the book you have an account how to clean it); lay it in your dish, beat up with oil and vinegar and a little salt. Garnish it with nasturtium buds.
The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy, 1774

Quotation for the Day.

Salad "freshens without enfeebling and fortifies without irritating."
Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826)


Unknown said...

Those winter-salad ideas both sound pretty tasty... appropriate for me, partly because here it already feels like winter, but also because I have lamb's lettuce ('corn' salad) in my fridge. Might have to give that one a try!

Keith said...

Excellent post, thank you.

kitchen hand said...

I like the reference to the early salad spinner.

Unknown said...

My Mum still uses that "salad spinner", hehe.

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks everyone, for your comments - they make it all worthwhile.
I use that salad spinner myself, occasionally, when I cant be bothered to get the 'real' one out.