Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Beer recipes, Part 3.

The United Brewer’s Industrial Foundation produced a recipe booklet in 1937 to promote the use of beer in cookery. A beer-themed luncheon menu based on recipes from this book was mentioned in a recent blog post (and a follow-up here), and regular readers will remember that I determined to find enough of them (or suitable alternatives) to make it possible for you to hold your own beer-based lunch. I have been unable to find an actual copy of this recipe book, but luckily, some of the recipes are quoted elsewhere.

At the end of the two posts we had recipes outstanding for ‘melon balls with beer dressing, beer bread, sweet potatoes in beer, beer sauce on asparagus, potato salad with beer dressing, jellied vegetable salad containing beer, beer with eggs.’ Some of these are still proving elusive, but today I offer you beer soup (not in the menu quoted, but why not?), and a fine alternative for the fish course.

Bohemian Beer Soup.
2 cups beer (room temperature)
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 whole eggs
Little grated nutmeg.
Get the milk very hot and then add to it eggs, sugar, and nutmeg beaten together. Stir until thickened then pour in the beer. Then pour all the mixture back into the kettle from which you poured the beer. Try this pouring back and forth for 4 to 6 times and serve immediately – to six of your best friends.
[From the United Brewers’ Foundation beer cookery book; quoted in a New York Times article of September 1937]

Fish Sauce [with beer].
5 ounces shallot onions, cut fine and braised.
2 ounces gingersnap crumbs
1 stalk celery, finely cut
Put in a fish kettle the desired fish, add the onions, celery, gingersnap crumbs, parsley, salt. Cover the whole completely with a light bottled beer and cook slowly till done.
To prepare the sauce, use the fish broth, cook it down to two-thirds of its volume and put thru a sieve, add 5 ounces of fresh butter, beat lightly, and pour over fish.
[From ‘Joseph Happle, chef at Schroeder Hotel in Milwaukee’, quoted in the New York Times of April 27, 1934]

Quotation for the Day.

I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer.
Brendan Behan

Monday, August 30, 2010

Digestive biscuits.

We had ‘dyspepsia bread’ on Friday, so why not ‘digestive biscuits’ today? My impression was that digestive biscuits were particularly English, in comparison to the unequivocally American ‘dyspepsia bread.’ I thought I should know, being reared in the North of England where a digestive biscuit is an almost compulsory accompaniment to a cuppa. It appears though, that ‘digestive biscuits’ began to be mentioned with increasing frequency in both the USA and England by the 1840’s, and by the 1860’s, according to one source, were becoming ‘fashionable’.

It seems that my impression of an English origin can be blamed squarely on Messrs. Huntley and Palmer and Messrs. McVitie, who were responsible for the modern commercial product. These very popular biscuits – renamed ‘sweetmeal biscuits’ in the 1950’s - are, however, a far cry from the original ‘digestive biscuits.’

Wikipedia claims that the term ‘digestive’ is derived from the belief that the biscuits had antacid properties due to the use of sodium bicarbonate when they were first developed. Sorry, Wikipedia - the earliest digestive biscuits had no soda in them at all. They were leavened with yeast if they were leavened at all. They were frighteningly ‘healthy’ unsweetened brown discs, named ‘digestive’ with the same rationale as ‘dyspepsia’ bread was named – because, being excruciatingly plain, they were good (that is, they were not bad) for the digestion.

I give you a couple of terrifyingly healthy-sounding nineteenth century digestive biscuits, so that you may go down on your knees in thanks to the commercial biscuit manufacturers who gave us the ‘sweet-meal’ chocolate-coated versions which you can enjoy today.

Brown Digestive Biscuits.
Take equal parts of fine wheaten flour and meal, and mix them together. To 5 quarts of liquor, use 2 ½ lbs of butter, and 2 oz. of German yeast. Mix the whole into dough as directed for “butters”. When it has proved, make into biscuits as captains’, and bake in a sound oven. They will bake well after captains’ and Abernethy’s.
Complete Bread and Gingerbread Baker’s Assistant, London, 1854

Brown Bread Hard Biscuits.
Ingredients: 1 ¼ lb of brown wheaten flour, 1 oz. of fresh butter, a teaspoonful of salt, and rather better than ½ pint of water. Proceed as for Thick Captain’s, No. 323*. These are biscuits are also called digestive biscuits.
*Spread out the flour on the slab with a hollow in the centre, add the butter dissolved in the milk just tepid, mix, and vigorously work all together into a stiff compact smooth paste; this must be well-worked for ten minutes by pressing and jagging it with a rolling pin held in both hands; (bakers have a machine made on purpose, with which they achieve this hard work with comparative ease). You then wrap the biscuit paste in a napkin, and allow it to rest in a comparatively warm place for an hour: and, at the end of that time, divide it into twelve equal parts, mould them into balls with your hands on the floured slab, roll them out to the size of small saucers, prick them all over with a fork, bake on a floured baking-plate, in rather sharp heat.
The Royal English and Foreign Confectioner (1862)

Quotation for the Day.

“How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young?”
Paul Sweeney

Friday, August 27, 2010

Dyspepsia Bread.

I must be honest, I have never really fancied ‘dyspepsia bread’. It may well be worth recreating on historical grounds, being a particular dietetic phenomenon of nineteenth century America, but frankly - notwithstanding the fact that many recipes sound delicious - I have real trouble getting past the name.

The health gurus of the time (and there were a lot of them) protested long and hard – and with considerable justification – about the poor quality, nutritionally depleted, and adulterated bread bought by the general public from bakers not worthy of the name. They promoted a return to the good old days when the good wife baked wholesome brown bread for her family every week, thus preserving their morals as well as their health. This whole-wheat brown bread was often called ‘dyspepsia bread.’ I don’t for one minute believe that the bread was intended to induce dyspepsia, although that is the image that pops into my head when I hear the phrase. I assume it was so named because it would avoid or relieve the dyspepsia caused by the inferior commercial product. I assume also that no marketing gurus were consulted in the naming of the product.
Even dyspepsia bread however was not always what it appeared. Here is an opinion (and a recipe) from the author of The Ladies’ Indispensable Assistant (1850).

Brown or Dyspepsia Bread.
This bread is now known as “Graham Bread,” – not that Doctor Graham invented or discovered the manner of its preparation, but that he has been unwearied and successful in recommending it to the public. It is an excellent article of diet for the dyspeptic and the costive; and for most persons of sedentary habits it would be beneficial. It agrees well with children; and, in short, I think it should be used in every family, though not to the exclusion of fine bread. The most difficult point in manufacturing this bread is to obtain good pure meal. It is said that much of the bread commonly sold as dyspepsia is made of the bran or middlings, from which the fine flour has been separated; and that saw-dust is sometimes mixed with the meal. To be certain that it is good, send good clean wheat to the mill, have it ground rather coarsely, and keep the meal in a dry cool place. Before using it, sift it through a common hair-sieve; this will separate the very coarse and harsh particles.
Take six quarts of this wheat meal, one tea-cupful of good yeast, and half a tea-cup of molasses; mix these with a pint of milk-warm water and a tea-spoonful of pearlash or saleratus. Make a hole in the flour, and stir this mixture in the middle of the meal till it is like batter. Then proceed as with fine flour bread. Make the dough when sufficiently light into four loaves, which will weight two pounds per loaf when baked. It requires a hotter oven than fine flour bread, and must bake about an hour and a half.

Quotation for the Day.
Bread is a staple article of diet in theory, rather than in practice. There are few who are truly fond of bread in its simplest, most pure, and most healthful state....Is there one person in a thousand who would truly enjoy a meal of simple bread of two days old?
 William Andrus Alcott, 'The Young House-keeper' (1846)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Back to Beer.

I am coming good today on the promise I made to find more recipes for the beer-themed luncheon mentioned in a post earlier in the week.

To refresh your memory, the luncheon held in 1937 featured “melon balls with beer dressing, beef kidney with beef, beer bread, sweet potatoes in beer, beer cabbage slaw, beer sauce on asparagus, potato salad with beer dressing, jellied vegetable salad containing beer, beer spice cake, chocolate beer cake, and … beer with eggs”

I gave you a contemporary recipe for Chocolate Beer Cake in the earlier post, and today I am able to add three more dishes from the menu. Firstly, here is the Beer Spice Cake – also from 1937.

Beer Spice Cake.
1 cup beer
1 cup seedless raisins
3 cups sifted cake flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup shortening
1 ¼ cups sugar
2 eggs, separated.
Turn beer over raisins. If cold and carefully poured it will not foam and will be easy to measure. Let stand 15 minutes. Mix and stir together 3 times flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and raisins. Add cinnamon. Cream shortening until soft. Add sugar gradually, beating until light and fluffy after each addition. Add egg yolks. Blend well. Add flour alternately with beer a small amount at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Turn into 2 greased loaf tins [cant read tin measurements here] and bake in a moderate oven (375 degrees F) thirty minutes or until done.
Adair County Democrat, June 4, 1937.

Nineteen thirty-seven certainly seemed to be the year of beery recipes, thanks, apparently, to promotional booklets produced by various stakeholders in the brewing industry. Here is a lovely savoury dish from the menu.

Beef Kidney with Beer.
2 Beef Kidneys
4 tablespoons Golden State Butter
2 tablespoons Globe A1 flour
2 teaspoons salt
4 glasses Rainier beer
6 slices crisp Wonder Bread toast.
Cut kidney into small cubes. Remove skin and white core. Cover with cold water. Bring to boiling point. Drain. Repeat. Drain well. Saute in butter until brown. Add flour. Mix well until blended. Add salt and beer. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally for 35 minutes, or until kidney is tender and beer cooked down to a thickened sauce. Serve on toast. Approximately 6 servings.
Oakland Tribune, July 23, 1937

And for the final recipe for the day I you - Beer Cabbage Slaw. Of all the menu items listed for the United Brewers Foundation luncheon in 1937, the coleslaw made with beer intrigued me the most. I have seen mention of recipes from this era, but so far have been unable to actually find one, so the following, from 1979 will have to suffice.

Beer Cabbage Slaw.
1 medium head cabbage, shredded
1 red or green pepper, shredded
2 teaspoons celery seeds
2 teaspoons minced onion
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
½ teaspoon pepper
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup beer
Pinch sugar
Combine cabbage, red or green pepper, celery seeds, onion, salt and pepper. Thin mayonnaise with beer. Add to cabbage with sugar to taste. Toss thoroughly. Chill.
Winnipeg Free Press, October 3, 1979

Which leaves us only with recipes to find for “melon balls with beer dressing, … beer bread, sweet potatoes in beer, … beer sauce on asparagus, potato salad with beer dressing, jellied vegetable salad containing beer, … beer with eggs”, and you can prepare a complete beer meal for the beer fans in your life.

Quotation for the Day.
It was a woman who drove me to drink and I never got the chance to thank her.
W.C. Fields

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Adding Fragrance.

Every baker knows that the smell of hot bread and pastry is a powerful lure for customers. When the VAT legislation was being formulated in the UK, bakers successfully argued that hot meat pies should be VAT-free, as the main reason for having them hot on the premises was to create an enticing smell. Real estate agents have a similar trick, and say that the smell of coffee helps sell a home.

In the words of Alan Hirsh, director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago “Odorants are potentially more efficacious than any other modality in increasing sale ability of consumer products”. In simpler words: “smell sells”.

Why is it so? One reason is that smell has a powerful alliance with memory, which always comes with a lot of associated emotion. All it takes is a whiff of something familiar – so small as to be almost un-noticed by the conscious brain – to trigger a whole flood of nostalgia, so that the smell of bread or coffee make us feel at home, or drawn to a comforting feeling of what a home should be.

The other, more primitive, reason why smell sells is that we are hard-wired to believe that whatever smells good will also taste good. This makes sense of course, because our sense of smell IS intimately tied to our sense of taste. We are all familiar with the lack of a sense of taste that goes with the lack of sense of smell when we have a cold, and the party trick that fools you into thinking you are eating an apple when your eyes are closed and your nose pinched shut and someone puts a piece of pear in your mouth.

Our taste buds can actually only distinguish four basic “tastes” – sweet, sour, salty, and bitter - or five if you include the controversial “umami” or “savoury”, as researchers are increasingly inclined to do. At least 70% of the flavour that we perceive as “taste” actually comes via our sense of smell, and although humans are very limited in comparison with dogs, we can still discriminate between 5-10,000 different odour molecules. In all sorts of permutations and combinations these molecules detected by our noses make up all of the “tastes” beyond the basic four (or five), so that when we taste the “spiciness” of Christmas cake or the “earthiness” of mushrooms, or the sheer “apple-y-ness” of apple pie, what we are actually doing is smelling it.

It makes sense then, to consider carefully the smell of baked goods, and how this might be used to make them even more delicious. We can use flowers for example – and there does seem to be a resurgence of interest in using flowers in food over recent years. We can learn (or re-learn) a great deal from the past in this regard, when flowers were much more freely used - partly it is true, on account of their supposed medicinal qualities, but also for the sheer joy of their colour and fragrance.

We usually associate rose-water with the sweet foods of the Middle East, but in medieval times until the end of the eighteenth century it was a common ingredient in England in many foods, both sweet and savoury. One recipe for “lamb stones” (testicles) sprinkled with rose-water comes to mind, but I think it unlikely it will become a trendy dish no matter how popular flowers might become in food.

Rose-water was particularly freely used in bread and pastry dough, partly because being distilled, it was clean and pure, and without the muddy taint of water bucketed out of the well. The other reason of course was that it tasted (smelled) good. Rose-water and rose-oil were made in the still-rooms of grand homes, often from roses grown on the estates specifically for that purpose, and the preparation was an occupation of the Lady of the household.

One such Lady was Elinor Fettiplace of Appleton Manor in Berkshire, who left us her handwritten cookbook dated 1604. Rosewater appears in many of her recipes, and in this one for sweet bread it is clearly added because it would make the bread more fragrant and delicious – not overpoweringly and obviously rose-scented, as this quantity of dough is sufficient for five large loaves, but it would surely provide a lovely floral note to underpin the nutmeg and sweet buttery flavour.

To make buttered loaves.
Take the top of the morning milk, warme it, &c; put thereto three or fowre spoonfuls of rose water, then run it, and when it is hard come take some flower, the yolks of two eggs, the white of one, &c; some melted butter, &c; some sugar, &c; some nutmeg, then temper this together with the milk, &c; mould it up into loaves, then set them on paper, &c; so bake them, if you make five loaves as big as manchets, you must put half a pound of butter to them, when they are baked, straw some sugar upon them, &c; so serve them.

Quotation for the Day.

The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life's plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Nine Things to do with Porridge.

Waste not, want not. A good rule to live by, Yes? There is, however, something particularly challenging about the congealed paste that is leftover porridge - whether it be the oatmeal or cornmeal variety - is there not?

There are several ideas in Foods and Household Management: a textbook of the household arts, (New York, 1914) by Helen Kinne and Anna Maria Cooley.

The uses of cold cereal. – Never throw away cooked cereals.
The cold cereal is useful in many ways.
(a) Mould in small cups with dates or other fruit, and serve with sugar and cream for luncheon.
(b) Cool corn meal mush in a flat dish, cut it in slices when cold, and brown the slices in a frying pan with beef fat, or a butter substitute. Serve with sugar, molasses, or sirup for breakfast or luncheon.
(c) Rice or hominy may be mixed with a beaten egg, moulded into small cakes, and a browned wither in the frying pan or in the oven.
(d) A small remaining portion of any cereal may be used to thicken soup.
(e) Any cooked cereal may be used in muffins or even yeast bread [the author suggest substituting ½ cup cooked cereal in place of an equal quantity of flour.]

Suggestion 6: Elsewhere in the above cookery book, the authors also suggest leftover cold cereal may be added to the meat mixture when making rissoles.20

Suggestion7: Cereal Pancakes.
Cooked cereal of any kind may be added to a pancake batter by omitting an equal quantity of flour and using not more than 1 cupful of cereal to each cupful of flour.
Mrs. De Graf’s Cook Book (1922)

Suggestion 8: Cereal Griddle Cakes.
1 cup any cold cooked cereal, mashed fine to free from lumps; add 1 beaten egg, yolk and white separate, ½ teaspoon Royal Baking Powder, beat thoroughly. Drop by spoonfuls on hot griddle and serve when brown with syrup.
The Royal Baker and Pastrycook, 1911

Suggestion 9: Oatmeal Fritters

I leave you in the happy expectation that leftover porridge will no longer be a domestic problem in your home.

P.S I know I half-promised some more beer recipes, but - Hey, I get distracted by a better idea some times. They will come, I promise.

Quotation for the Day.

He receives comfort like cold porridge.
William Shakespeare

Monday, August 23, 2010

Take one cup of beer …

If you have ever wanted a beer-themed dinner for the beer-lover in your life, I do believe I have found a prototype menu for you to follow. All I need to find over the ensuing weeks is a recipe for each of the items mentioned, or at least some reasonable alternatives, and you will have no excuse not to go ahead.

The Wisconsin newspaper, the Rhinelander Daily News of June 2 1937 printed the following article about some promotional activity on the part of the United Brewers Industrial Foundation.

‘Some of the foundation’s ineffable squibs of information would seem to indicated that the beer-makers press agents have been sampling something stronger than the mild amber fluid manufactured by their employers. Witness the latest creation of the foundation’s press contact men – a blurb for the use of beer in cooking which asserts:
“Recipes which excited the interest and enthusiasm of the guests at the luncheon included such exotic and wholesome items as melon balls with beer dressing, beef kidney with beef, beer bread, sweet potatoes in beer, beer cabbage slaw, beer sauce on asparagus, potato salad with beer dressing, jellied vegetable salad containing beer, beer spice cake, chocolate beer cake, and for pure liquid delight, beer with eggs!” (exclamation point ours.)
These proclaimed “exotic” creations impelled a recheck on the meaning of “exotic”. The Webster unabridged dictionary gives these meanings: “not native, extraneous, foreign.”
“Exotic” is the word. It is hoped, for the sake of peace and quiet at dinner time, that melon balls with beer, sweet potatoes in beer, beer cabbage slaw, and all the rest of these beery innovations will remain “not native, extraneous, foreign.” – Grand Rapids Press.

Chocolate Beer Cake sounds quite tame after Sauerkraut Cake, doesn’t they? Nevertheless it will be the first on our list. It seems that this novel cake did indeed burst onto the scene in the year of 1937, with various interpretations of the idea making the housewifely sections of a number of newspapers. We will almost certainly never know for certain who ‘invented’ this cake, but a hotel chef (either in Milwaukee, or at the Waldorf in New York City) seems to be the most popular theory.

The Oakland Daily Tribune, of June 11, 1937 began with: ‘Recently there was an inquiry for a chocolate beer cake, so here it is.

Chocolate Beer Cake.
1 ¾ cups sifted Globe A1 cake flour
1 teaspoon any kind of baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup Golden State butter
1 cup sugar
2 Golden State eggs, separated
2 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
¾ cup Budweiser beer (cold)
Mix and sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together three times. Cream butter until soft. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating until well blended. Add chocolate. Beat until smooth. Add flour alternately with beer, a small amount at a time, beating until smooth arter each addition. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Turn into two greased seven-inch layer tins. Bake in a moderately hot ove (375 deg.) 30 minutes or until done. Cool. Spread butter frosting generously between and on top of layers.

I shall endeavour to bring you more beer cookery ideas over the coming weeks – may be one more tomorrow, then we shall move onto another topic.

Quotation for the Day.
There are better things in life than alcohol, but alcohol makes up for not having them.
Terry Pratchett

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cabbage Delights.

I wanted to end ‘cabbage week’ with something really wild, but I cannot think of anything more outrageous than Sauerkraut Cake, which we have had before. Rumour has it that there is a chocolate cabbage cake ‘out there’ somewhere, but I cannot find it, and if it exists, it is probably not historical enough to qualify for this blog.

There are ‘cakes’ and there are ‘cakes’ of course. Here is another version, quite suitable for luncheon, I would think.

Cabbage Cake.
One cooked cabbage, cold; 1 tablespoonful butter, 1 well-beaten egg, salt, hard-boiled egg as a garnishing, hot water or milk, red pepper.
Run the cooked cabbage through the colander, using a wooden spoon, adding a little freshly boiled water or milk, if necessary; add the butter, egg, salt, and a touch of red pepper. Bake for 20 minutes in a buttered dish, and serve in a cake on a flat platter. A garnishing of hard-boiled egg adds, but is not essential.
The Winnipeg Free Press, January 29, 1916

And if it is cake today,why not pudding tomorrow?

Cabbage Pudding.
Take one pound of beef suet, and as much of the lean part of a leg of veal. Then take a little cabbage well washed, and scald it. Bruise the suet, veal, and cabbage together in a marble mortar, and season it with mace, nutmeg, ginger, and a little pepper and salt, and put in some green gooseberries, grapes, or barberries. Mix them all well with the yolks of four or five eggs well beaten. Wrap all up together in a green cabbage leaf, and tie it in a cloth. It will take about an hour boiling.
Modern Domestic Cookery, and Useful Receipt Book, Adapted for Families in the Middling Genteel Ranks of Life , by William Augustus Henderson, (New York, 1828.)

Finally, something not outrageous, but surely interesting, is the following recipe from another of those wonderful WW II leaflets.

Cheese and Cabbage Spread.
1 oz. cheese, finely grated
1 oz. cabbage, finely shredded
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon onion finely chopped
1 tablespoon vinegar.
Mix all ingredients together and use in sandwiches.
Food Facts No 261, July 1945

Quotation for the Day.
The cabbage surpasses all other vegetables. If, at a banquet, you wish to dine a lot and enjoy your dinner, then eat as much cabbage as you wish, seasoned with vinegar, before dinner, and likewise after dinner eat some half-dozen leaves. It will make you feel as if you had not eaten, and you can drink as much as you like.
Cato (Marcus Porcius) 234-149 BC.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Creative Cabbage.

I had a mind to make leftover cabbage the subject of today’s post, but, really, why would you consider anything else when you can make Bubble and Squeak?

Instead, I decided to find a few more unusual uses for this wonderful vegetable. The English journalist and food writer Ambrose Heath (1891-1969) has singlehandedly given me the recipes for the day. Heath was a very prolific and entertaining writer, with over a hundred original works or translations to his credit. Today’s recipes for ‘out-of-the-way fashions of cooking cabbage’ are from an article he wrote for the Manchester Guardian in December 1932 (the names of the dishes are mine, as Heath simply explained the methods.) As it turns out, the first two do use cooked cabbage, so at a pinch, leftover boiled cabbage would work.

Cabbage Purée.
If a cabbage must be boiled, then it might be turned at the last into a purée, as follows. Chop up the cooked cabbage finely, and pass it through a sieve. Make a white roux in a saucepan with a tablespoonful of butter and the same of flour, add the cabbage seasoned with salt and pepper, and mix in a couple of tablespoonfuls of vinegar. Stir this over the fire for ten minutes, and garnish it, if you like, with circles of hard-boiled egg.

Cabbage and Cheese.
When it is cooked, it can also be served pleasantly with cheese. Drain it carefully, and shred it as finely as you can. Lay the shreds in a well-buttered fireproof dish and sprinkle them with grated cheese. Add a few small pieces of butter, pour a little cream over, and cook in the oven for half an hour.

My final choices from the article are introduced by Heath introduces with the words “The Americans have two ways of serving cabbage, to be eaten hot or cold, which are rather interesting.”

Cabbage with Egg.
This is the hot one. Shred up the best leaves of a cabbage, omitting the outer leaves and the heart, and put them into a frying-pan in which you have first melted an ounce of butter and then added a couple of tablespoonfuls of boiling water to it. Season with pepper and salt, and cook it gently until the cabbage is tender. Then add a well-beaten egg, continuing cooking slowly (stirring well) for about three minutes, pour in a small cupful of sour cream, heat well through, and serve at once.

Cold Cabbage Dish.
The cold version is made this way. Shred the whole of the cabbage, except the stalk and outer leaves. Melt half an ounce of butter in a frying-pan, and add to it a quarter of a pint of vinegar; when this is warm, put in the cabbage, seasoned with salt and some celery seed or salt. Mix in a tablespoonful of flour and cook gently for a few minutes only. Now add a lightly beaten egg, and cook for a few minutes longer, mixing it well together. Resist the temptation to eat it hot, and wait till it is cold.

Quotation for the Day.

“Like warmed-up cabbage served at each repast, The repetition kills the wretch at last”

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wartime Cabbage.

Cabbage was a great mainstay for the British housewife during World War II. It was home-grown – sometimes literally, in garden beds and allotments – it stored well, and it was very useful to ‘bulk-up’ other dishes.

Cabbage featured in many of the Ministry of Food’s Food Facts leaflets. Nutrition being at the forefront of the Ministry’s attention, a great deal of effort went into persuading the housewife to give up her grandmother’s method of ‘cooking cabbage in chunks … for half an hour or more … until it becomes soggy … colourless, and tasteless … ’, a method which also caused a lot of its goodness (especially its Vitamin C) to be boiled away.

The Ministry advised in several of their leaflets that instead, ‘Shredding is the secret of delicious cabbage’. One leaflet included a strip ‘cartoon’ story featuring grandma learning a thing or two about cabbage cookery from her granddaughter (who had learned it from the Ministry’s leaflets), and another included a helpful little rhyme about the technique (see the Quotation for the Day.)

I have chosen two recipes for you today from the Ministry of Food’s leaflets. The first is for red cabbage, from December 1942, the second is from March 1943 and is for a substantial side-dish or vegetarian main dish with a very puzzling name.

Try cooking it this way. Slice 2 lb. cabbage finely with a knife. Put into a saucepan with a cupful of boiling water and cook for 20 minutes with the lid on. Just before serving, drain, add 1 tablespoonful mixed lemon substitute, a teaspoonful of sugar, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and shake well.

1 cabbage (shredded)
1 leek, chopped,
¾ pint boiling water
1 oz. flour
1 teaspoon dry mustard
3 oz. grated cheese
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 eggs (reconstituted)
Salt and pepper
A little chopped parsley.
Method: Cook cabbage and leek in the boiling salted water until tender (10 to 15 minutes). Drain, and keep cabbage hot. Blend flour and mustard with a little milk, and add to the liquid from the cabbage. Boil up, add cheese and vinegar. Stir in the eggs and seasoning. Stir until the sauce thickens, but do not boil. Pour over the cabbage, sprinkle with parsley. Serve with potatoes, sautéed if possible.

Quotation for the Day.

Don’t waste fuel
On a vegetabuel
It’s more to your credit
To shred it.
Ministry of Food’s Food Facts No. 128

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bubble and Squeak.

‘Bubble and Squeak’ is an English dish originally made up of “meat and cabbage fried up together.” Nowadays the meat is often replaced with potatoes – which makes it the same as the Irish traditional favourite of Colcannon.

The supporting quotations in the Oxford English Dictionary demonstrate this change from a rather fine way of using up thinly sliced cold roast beef to an equally fine (in a very different sort of way) method of using up leftover cooked cabbage and other vegetables. The first quotation cited for the actual dish is in 1772 but there are earlier references to the figurative use of the phrase, so the dish was undoubtedly being made well before this time.
There is a fine example of metaphorical ‘Bubble and Squeak’ and eighteenth century wit in an article in The Mid-Wife: or, the old woman’s magazine, by Christopher Smart, 1753 - which is certainly not a cookery magazine.

LECTURE the first. Which contains the Art of making BUBBLE AND SQUEAK for Supper. Published at the Request of the Gentlemen of both Universities.

Take of Beef, Mutton, or Lamb, or Veal, or any other Meat, two Pounds and an half, or any other Quantity; let it lay in Salt, till the saline Particles have lock’d up all the Juices of the Animal, and render’d the Fibres too hard to be digested; then boil it over a Turf or Peat Fire, in a Brass Kettle cover’d with a Copper Lid, till it is much done. Then take Cabbage (that which is most windy, and capable of producing the greatest Report) and boil it in a Bell-Metal Pot till it is done enough, or if you think proper, till it is done too much. Then slice the Beef, and souse that and the Cabbage both in a Frying-Pan together, and let it bubble and squeak over a Charcoal Fire, for half an Hour, three Minutes, and two Seconds. Then eat a Quantum sufficit, or two Pounds and a half, and after it drink sixteen Pints of fat Ale, smoak, sleep, snoar, belch, and forget your Book.

It is generally accepted that the name of the dish comes from the sizzling noise as it cooks in the frying pan, as is poetically explained in our quotation for the day, below. The poets have not been silent on the matter of Bubble and Squeak . Lord Byron (1788-1824), no less, mentions it in Don Juan, Canto XV:

Alas! I must leave undescribed the gibier,
The salmi, the consommé, the purée,
All which I use to make my rhymes run glibber
Than could roast beef in our rough John Bull way:
I must not introduce even a spare rib here,
"Bubble and squeak" would spoil my liquid lay:
But I have dined, and must forego, Alas!
The chaste description even of a "bécasse;"

And Robert Browning (1812-1889) too, referred to it in Holy-Cross Day:

Fee, faw, fum! bubble and squeak!
Blessedest Thursday's the fat of the week.
Rumble and tumble, sleek and rough,
Stinking and savoury, smug and gruff,
Take the church-road, for the bell's due chime
Gives us the summons - 'tis sermon-time!

As for recipes for Bubble and Squeak, the OED itself provides one (and is therefore a candidate then for my collection of ‘recipes from unusual sources’)

1881 Leicester. Gloss. (E.D.S.) Bubble-and-squeak, slices of underdone beef fried and seasoned, laid on cabbage, boiled, strained, chopped, and fried in dripping.

Note: this recipe uses fresh (not previously cooked) cabbage, and slices of underdone [roast] beef – not leftover cabbage and potatoes. The following recipe is earlier, but is essentially the same.

Bubble and Squeak.
Boil, chop, and fry, with a little butter, pepper, and salt, some cabbage, and lay on it slices of underdone beef, lightly fried.
A New System of Domestic Cookery, formed upon principles of economy …, by Maria Rundell, 1833

Quotation for the Day.
What mortals Bubble call and Squeak,
When midst the Frying-pan in accents savage,
The Beef so surly quarrels with the Cabbage.
Peter Pindar Wolcott (1738-1819)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Considering Cabbage.

This week I have set myself a little challenge – to see if I can keep you interested over a whole week of posts on the topic of cabbage.

The cabbage is not a glamorous (artichokes, perhaps?) or sexy (truffles, asparagus?) or fun vegetable ((as potatoes can be), but it is ancient, useful, adaptable, and worthy of respect. The name is old, and is derived from the Latin caput for ‘head’, which is self-explanatory. Botanically speaking an ‘ordinary’ cabbage is “a plane-leaved cultivated variety of Brassica oleracea, the unexpanded leaves of which form a compact globular heart or head.” The specifics of ‘plane-leaved’ and ‘compact globular heart or head’ are important, for as we have seen in a previous post, the full gamut of cabbage, broccoli, kale, collard greens, kohlrabi, and Brussels sprouts (and others) are simply different cultivars of the same Brassica oleracea. See what I mean about being adaptable?

The cabbage is also adaptable to many different sorts of recipes, as I hope to show you this week. To start with, I want to consider this most ancient and adaptable vegetable it in that most ancient and adaptable dish – soup. We have had recipes for cabbage soup in previous stories – a Russian version from 1862, and three versions from the same cookery book published in 1907 – but I say there is always room for another good soup recipe.

A very early recipe for cabbage soup appears in The Forme of Cury, the manuscript cookery book compiled in about 1390 by the Master Cooks of King Richard II. The dish of cabbage, minced onions, and leeks cooked in a good broth and spiced with saffron and other spices would be just as acceptable today, and proves that there is no expiry date on a good idea.

Caboches in Potage.
Take Caboches and quarter hem and seeth hem in gode broth with Oynouns y minced and the whyte of Lekes y slyt and corue smale, and do thereto safroun an salt and force it with powder douce.

My translation: take cabbages, and quarter them, and simmer them in good broth with minced onions and leeks sliced and chopped small, and add saffron, and salt, and sweet spices.

Quotation for the Day.
“Having a good wife and rich cabbage soup, seek not other things”
Russian Proverb.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Crackling Bread.

Yesterday’s post introduced me to the possibilities of pork rind. I realise that the amazing culinary potential of pork rind may not be a novelty to my American friends, particularly those in the South, but to this Aussie Yorkshire lass, it has been quite revelatory.

I have never tasted it, but I am in love with ‘Goody-bread’. For those of you not familiar with it, it is Crackling Bread by an even more appealing name. The ‘cracklings’ are of course, the crispy shreds of pork rind remaining after lard is rendered, and, as the name suggests, when this is incorporated in bread dough – you end up with ‘crackling bread’! I guess if I use crispy bits of bacon rind I get ‘bacon bread’ - and there is no way that anything with those two words in the title can be anything but delicious.

Here, for your delectation, are three interpretations of this wonderful idea:

Crackling Bread.
Cracklings are the residue after lard is rendered. Beat or mash the cracklings fine, add one egg, salt, sweet milk and meal enough to make a thick batter for cornbread. Add one teaspoonful of quickeast (not soda) and bake in a quick oven in pones formed by hand and “with the prints of fingers on them.”
Galveston Daily News, February 21, 1909

Crackling Bread.
To one cup of cornmeal allow three-fourths teaspoonful salt and half a cupful of cracklings – the crisp brown particles that are left after lard is rendered. If the cracklings contain a great deal of fat, place them while warm in a cheesecloth and squeeze out part of the fat. Pour boiling water over the meal until it is of such consistency that it can be mashed with the hand. Add the cracklings, shape into cakes, and bake.
Pinedale [Wyoming] Roundup, July 26, 1923.

Crackling Bread.
One cup sifted all-purpose flour
One-half teaspoon baking powder
Two teaspoons baking powder
One teaspoon salt
Two tablespoons sugar
Three fourths cup cornmeal
One half cupbran
One egg
One and one-half cups sour milk or buttermilk
Four tablespoons all-vegetable shortening
One-half cup dry, chopped cracklings.
1.Sift flour before measuring, sift again with baking powder, soda, salt and sugar; mic with cornmeal and bran.
2. Beat egg well, add milk and combine with dry ingredients, stirring only until flour disappears. Add fat and cracklings.
3. Bake in greased pan in moderately hot oven (400 degrees F.) about 40 minutes. Serve hot with butter. Makes nine three-inch squares.
[Note: To make cracklings, cut fat from fresh pork into small pieces, add a small amount of water to prevent burning at first, then fry very slowly in heavy frying pan or kettle until fat is crisp. Drain thoroughly.]
San Antonio Light, April 12, 1937

Quotation for the Day

Friends are the Bacon Bits in the Salad Bowl of Life.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


I have a mystery for you today. What, pray, is ‘wick-a-wack’? ‘German’ wick-a-wack, to be specific. I have a recipe for it, and my inference is that it is an interpretation of a German recipe – perhaps one for sausage meat or some other pork smallgoods.

I found the recipe in Home pork making; a complete guide ... in all that pertains to hog slaughtering, curing, preserving, and storing pork product--from scalding vat to kitchen table and dining room (Chicago, 1900), by Albert Fulton, and I have been unable to find any other reference to it at all.

German Wick-a-Wack.
Save rinds of salt pork, boil until tender, then chop very fine, add an equal amount of dried bread dipped in hot water and chopped. Season with salt, pepper, and summer savory; mix, spread one inch deep in baking dish, cover with sweet milk. Bake one-half hour. Very nice.

It is some sort of savoury bread pudding, and does indeed sound interesting, but whence the name? I await your enthusiastic comments, wild guesses, and the fruits of you deep knowledge. In the meantime, it is an excuse to give you a favourite, but rather long, prose extract in lieu of a quotation for the day.

Quotation for the Day.
Of all the delicacies in the whole mundus edibiles, I will maintain roast pig to be the most delicate. There is no flavor comparable, I will contend, to that of the crisp, tawny, well-watched, not over-roasted crackling, as it is well called – the very teeth are invited to their share of pleasure at this banquet in overcoming the coy, brittle resistance – with the adhesive oleaginous – oh, call it not fat! But an indefinable sweetness growing up to it – the tender blossoming of fat – fat cropped in the bud – taken in the shoot – in the first innocence – the cream and quintessence of the child-pig’s yet pure food – the lean, no lean, but a kind of animal manna – or rather fat and lean (if it must be so) so blended and running into each other that one together makes one ambrosian result or common substance.
Charles Lamb.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Prisoner’s Beans.

On this day in 1934, the first civilian prisoners arrived at Alcatraz. The prison had previously been purely for military miscreants, but in this year the island was converted into a Federal hold-all for the most difficult and dangerous inmates of other prisons around the country. It was a maximum security, minimum privilege jail and it was said that no-one got sent to Alcatraz - each had to earn the privilege by his behaviour.

Warden Johnson was no softie. Punishment, not rehabilitation, was the philosophy – but there were a couple of advantages to life there, over life in other penal institutions. There were individual cells, and a decent library – and the diet was the best in the Federal system, for the very practical reason that bad food was a common trigger for prison revolt.

A Prisoner got three meals a day, served cafeteria style, and second helpings were allowed so long as the prisoner finished all the food he took. The range of food was good, for the place and time, with luxuries such as salads and fresh fruit being on the menu.

Sadly, I have not been able to find an actual Alcatraz menu from the 1930’s, but to give you a general idea of prison fare of the time, here is one from the Dallas County Jail, on June 29, 1934.

Bacon             Syrup
Coffee           Cream

Veal           Stew
Irish          Potatoes
Chilie          Beans
Stewed          Peaches
Ice         Tea

The format of the menu makes it unclear whether the supper dish was ‘chilie, plus a side of beans’, or just ‘chile, including beans’. I suspect the latter, but am treading carefully here, being aware that in Texas, opinions on chile (and the inclusion of beans, or not) run very high.

There is one school of thought that says that ‘chile’ (the spicy meat dish, not the chilli pepper) was ‘invented’ in the Texas prison system in the mid-nineteenth century, as a way of making cheap, tough, meat go further and taste better. I don’t know about that, but I like the story.

From a 1930’s Texas newspaper, a very simple recipe for chili suitable for both bean-adders, and no-beaners:

Chili Recipe.
The Gebhardt Chili Powder Company, of San Antonio, Teas, offers a very simple recipe to make chili at home. Here is all you have to do.
2 lbs of beef.
2 Tablespoons of Gebhardt’s Chili Powder
3 Tablespoons of Flour.
4 Tablespoons of Shortening.
2 Teaspoons of salt.
1 ½ Quart hot water.
One can of Gebhardt’s Spiced Beans (if desired).
Chop or cut the meat into small chunks. Sear well in shortening. Add Gebhardt’s Chili Powder, salt, and water. Simmer until tender. Add flour to thicken the gravy a few minutes before serving. Serve hot.
This recipe may disappoint you unless you use Gebhardt’s Chili Powder. Gebhardt’s Chili Powder is a complete flavoring, containing the necessary spices, etc, in combination with a blend of imported and domestic chili peppers to give you the perfect Mexican flavor of chili.
The Gebhardt Chili Powder Company has been a Texas institution for 41 years.
The Panola Watchman,[ Carthage, Texas] January 6, 1938

Quotation for the Day.
The only thing certain about the origins of chili is that it did not originate in Mexico.
Charles Ramsdell

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Missouri Mood.

On this day in 1821, Missouri was admitted as the twenty-fourth state of the Union. The folk of Missouri must take their food seriously, if I am to judge by the twenty-six state symbols given on the state’s official site. Assuming (as I do) that the official state amphibian (the bullfrog) and the official state aquatic animal (the paddlefish) can be eaten, then the eight of the twenty-six symbols could find their way onto your plate. I await correction from readers in Missouri.

The other six edible state symbols are:

State fruit: Norton Cyanthia grape
State tree: The Eastern Black Walnut.
State game bird: The Bobwhite Quail
State fish: Channel catfish.
State dessert: Ice cream cone.
State invertebrate: The crayfish (crawfish or crawdad)

The Norton Cyanthia grape is very important to the Missouri wine industry. It is, I understand, a deep bluish purple colour, which indicates it is stuffed full of acanthocyanins, which we are told are good for the health. I have no idea how useful, or how much used they are as table grapes or for cooking, but feel sure they must have some value. To celebrate the day therefore, I thought a nice grape ice-cream might be in order – although, looking at the list, it looks like an entire meal could be made from state symbols, if that would not be some sort of treasonous or sacrilegious act.

The book Cooking for Profit … (1893), by Jessup Whitehead has a recipe for White Grape Ice Cream, which simply says “Make the same as for white cherries”. The book however also gives a recipe for Red Cherry Ice-Cream, and it seems more sensible to use this with the Norton Cyanthia grape.

Red Cherry Ice-Cream
4 cups cream
2 cups sugar
5 cups red cherries
½ cup water
Use only the light red cherries for this purpose, for the dark kinds make an unpleasant color.
Boil the water and sugar together and drops the cherries in. Let simmer at the side of the range a few minutes without stirring or breaking them. Then strain the syrup into the freezer and set the fruit on ice to be mixed in at last. Add the quart of cream to the syrup in the freezer, freeze and beat up well, then add the cherries and cover down until needed.

Quotation for the Day.
Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice-cream fall from the cone.
Jim Fiebig.

Monday, August 09, 2010

A dainty dish of eels.

Isaac Walton, the English writer and biographer was born on this day in 1593. His best known work - The Compleat Angler; or, the Contemplative Man's Recreation: A pastoral discourse on the joys of fishing, published in 1653 – is scattered with snippets of culinary information, giving us a very good idea of the role of fish in the diet of the seventeenth century Englishman.

I was a little puzzled by one of his comments about the eel:

“It is agreed by most men, that the Eel is a most dainty fish"

Dainty? The eel? The OED defines ‘dainty’ as ‘of delicate or tender beauty or grace; delicately pretty; made with delicate taste.’ The eel is a fish with the misfortune to look like a snake, which hardly qualifies as ‘delicately pretty’ in most people’s eyes. Nor would eel flesh be considered delicate or delicate-tasting on account of it being very oily – and high cholesterol oily, not Omega-3 oily at that.

In Walton’s time, ‘dainty’ also meant ‘valuable, fine, handsome; choice, excellent; pleasant, delightful’ and ‘precious; hence, rare, scarce.’ I don’t know about ‘scarce’ in Walton’s time, but the eel was certainly valuable as a food – precisely because it was high in oil. Fatty foods were desirable in a time when being thin meant you were starving or sick. Oily fish do taste more substantial and ‘meaty’ too, so were particularly desirable during the many fast days on the religious calendar.

The eel has also been associated with the poor – perhaps because the robust, meaty, oily flesh was considered suitable for less refined folk, or perhaps because it was easily obtained and inexpensive? Just guessing, friends, I don’t really know. Walton himself noted in relation to small eels that ‘The poorer sort … make a kind of Eele-cake of them, and eat it like as bread.’ These ‘eel cakes’ seem to have been patties made from infant eels, known as elvers – I assume these are made much in the same way as is done with whitebait.

The author of The Cult of the Chafing Dish, (1905) certainly felt that eel dishes were not refined:

‘Jellied eels and stewed eels, both East End and racecourse prime favourites, are somewhat too rich and coarse for any save the very ravenous, but it is certain that there is a deal of rich, if perhaps somewhat heavy, nourishment in the eel, and its meat is a great delicacy in any form.’

The popularity of eels in the past is indicated by the fact that there are 25 recipes for eel in Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery (circa 1870’s). Here is my choice for you today.

Eels, Stewed.
Divide four large eels into pieces of about two inches, and season them with pepper, salt, and a little pounded mace. Lay them in a deep dish with a little veal stock, a bundle of sweet herbs, and a very little chopped parsley sprinkled in over them. Tie down with a paper, first putting some small bits of butter on the top. Stewed eels are always best when done in a moderate oven. Time, one hour or more. Probable cost, 6d.to 1s. per pound.

On this topic.

A previous post included Isaac Walton’s instructions for making a Minnow Tansy.

Quotation for the Day.

I love such mirth as does not make friends ashamed to look upon one another next morning.
Isaac Walton.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Battles and Biscuits.

Sometimes I give you an ‘on this day’ story which has a food angle, but the problem with giving you the story on the actual day is that it gives you no time to prepare a commemorative food in advance. I intend to remedy that glitch today by giving you an ‘on the morrow’ story.

Dishes are, as we have found out repeatedly, often named for famous events as well as for famous people. The opposite does occur too, and a historic event is given a foodie name. We have had stories about the Pastry War and the Battle of the Herrings, for example, in previous posts.

Tomorrow, August 7, is the anniversary of The Battle of the Ford of the Biscuit – an event that took place early in the history of the Irish rebellion against English rule.

In February 1594, at the beginning of what became known as the Nine Year’s War, an English army captured and garrisoned the Ulster stronghold of Eniskillen Castle. The Irish response was to place the garrison under siege. On August 7 the advancing English relief forces were ambushed at the Arney River by Irish rebels led by the famous Hugh Maguire, Lord of Fermagh, and leader of the Maguire clan. The English were well and truly routed, and the sight of English rations floating down the bloody river gave the event the name of the ‘Battle of the Ford of the Biscuit.’

The ‘biscuits’ were of course not Gingernuts or Oreos or Chocolate Digestives, but the traditional military campaign ration of ‘hardtack’ (or sea-biscuit, in the case of the navy). You can find a story about hardtack on the now-defunct Companion to the Old Foodie site, here. The recipe has remained unchanged for centuries – take flour and water (and salt, if you wish), make a paste, roll it thin, and bake it very hard so that it will keep for many years. It was most certainly NOT like the following biscuit, in spite of its name.

Sea-biscuit – Biscuit de Mer.
Take half a pound of sugar and half a pound of flour, mix in a bason with a little lemon grate and four eggs; mix them with a spatula to make rather a liquid paste, but if too much so add flour and sugar, or if too firm, add an egg: the cases must be the size of half a sheet of paper folded in, with the sides much lower than those made for the gros biscuit à couper: put the pâte into these cases, and set them in a hotter oven than for ordinary biscuit; when enough, take them out, and cut them in pieces the length and thickness of the little finger, and put them upon a copper leaf, on the side that has been cut, that all sides may be equally coloured.
The Art of French Cookery, Antoine Beauvilliers, 1827

Quotation for the Day.
You had to eat with all your mind on the food...and how good it tasted, that
black bread!
A. Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Curry Condiments.

I apologise in advance to my friends from the Indian subcontinent, for the information in this post. Please do not shoot the historical messenger!

Until the mid nineteenth century, cookery books covered the full range of dishes, but at this time, a trickle of books on specific food topics began to appear. I was most pleased recently, to find a curry cookery book from 1891. It is Tempting Curry Dishes, and was published in New York in 1891.

The introduction notes that, in ‘an ancient cookery book in the Sanskrit language’ are preserved many of the formulae and recipes of the ‘mighty Hindoo kingdoms’. These, it said, totalled many hundreds of formulae – each dish having its own separate powder, which ‘are known to modern civilisation as Curry Powders.’

The introduction goes on to report:

‘ … a short time ago, the members of the famous New York Chafing Dish Club decided to hold a series of practical sessions in curry cookery, with a view to determining which Curry Powder on the New York market was the most appropriate for the United States [and] at the same time was made of the purest and most wholesome ingredients.’

Over forty different curry powders were tasted, and ‘a number of distinguished English epicures were present and took part in the contest.’ The labels of the competing brands were of course covered. The winner – universally chosen by the experts - was the Curry Powder of James P. Smith & Company’, from Park Place, New York.

This then, is the promotional cookery book for the product. There are recipes for curried apples, curried frogs, and curried tripe amongst the expected curried beef, chicken, and prawns. There is even a recipe for curried sandwiches. A great range of options for a spicy dinner for the discerning gourmet – and, most conveniently, every single dish receives its delicious curry flavour from ‘J.P.Smith’s Curry Powder.’

I do quite like the following ideas from the book, but perhaps we should experiment with our own blends of ‘curry powder’ to use instead of the (no doubt unobtainable today), J.P.Smith’s Curry Powder.

Curry Oil.
One of the agreeable and at the same time useful oils which should find a place on the shelf of every kitchen or butler’s pantry, is known as Curry Oil. It is made by putting into a six-ounce, large-mouthed bottle two tablespoonfuls of J.P.Smith’s Curry Powder, then filling up the bottle with Antonini Olive Oil. In a week it will be ready for use. A few drops of it should be added to sauces and salads.

Curry Vinegar.
Put in a pint of good cider or wine vinegar a tablespoonful of J.P.Smith’s Curry Powder, shake it well from time to time, and in ten days it will be fit for use. It is excellent for flavouring soups etc.

Quotation for the Day.

Lettuce, greens and celery, though much eaten, are worse than cabbage, being equally indigestible without the addition of condiments.
William Andrus Alcott, The Young House-keeper, (1846)

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Mock Choc.

I love the history of ‘mock’ food. I love genuine chocolate. I love really good soup. I love the crazy fact that someone, somewhere, a little over a century ago, thought that the world needed (and would be fooled by?) a recipe for ‘mock chocolate soup.’

I gave you a recipe for Chocolate Soup (from 1890) in a previous post, but one can’t have too many chocolate soup recipes (even if they are actually for custard), can one? From yesterday’s source, the simply named Soups, by S. Beaty-Pownall (London, 1904), please enjoy ….

Chocolate Soup.
Put into a pan 2 oz. or 3 oz. of best chocolate, grated or powdered, together with a stick of cinnamon or vanilla, as you choose; pour on to it a quart of new milk, sweeten to taste, bring it all to the boil, and let it cook till the chocolate is all melted and the whole is smooth; meantime, whip the yolks of four or five eggs to a stiff froth, draw the soup to the side of the stove, and when it has cooled for a few minutes, work in the eggs sharply, and pour the hot soup at once into a tureen, in which you have already placed some nice sweetened coffee rusks.

Chocolate Soup (Mock)
Brown 2 oz. of fine sifted flour in the oven till of a rich chocolate brown (be careful it does not catch or burn), then put it into a pan with a tablespoonful of sugar, a clove or two, and a piece of vanilla or cinnamon stick; pour to this a pint of new milk, boiling, then stir it all steadily till it re-boils, being careful it does not get lumpy, add in egg yolks as in the preceding recipe, and serve very hot. Beat the whites of the eggs to a stiff froth, with a little caster sugar, and drop spoonfuls of this on to the boiling soup a minute or two before serving it. This garnish may also be added to the preceding soup. Use vanilla sugar with the egg whites.

Quotation for the Day.
If any man has drunk a little too deeply from the cup of physical pleasure; if he has spent too much time at his desk that should have been spent asleep; if his fine spirits have become temporarily dulled; if he finds the air too damp, the minutes too slow, and the atmosphere too heavy to withstand; if he is obsessed by a fixed idea which bars him from any freedom of thought: if he is any of these poor creatures, we say, let him be given a good pint of amber-flavored chocolate....and marvels will be performed.
Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Bread, or Beer?

The people of Britain were faced with a particular dilemma early in 1917. The First World War was dragging wearily on, and there was a serious shortage of grain. In January, the Food Controller had warned that it was ‘really a question of bread v. beer.” A choice between bread and beer - the two great products of fermented grain, and the two great staples of Europe for millennia – an ominous situation, and a very difficult choice, Yes?

A letter to The Times from Mr. Duncan Miller, M.P, was printed in the edition of April 28. Mr. Miller made his choice quite clear, and also reminds those of us who read his words today of a more sinister use for alcohol.

“The public cannot be expected to take seriously the appeals made to them for economy in bread and sugar while the Government is allowing the consumption of 367,220 tons of barley and 44,700 tons of sugar in the manufacture of beer during the present year, and also of 425,000 qr.of grain in the manufacture of spirits, not a gallon of which can be consumed under the Immature Spirits (Restriction) Act, 1915, for three years. In view of the serious shortage of cereals, and of the growing submarine menace, the first duty of the Ministry of Food surely ought to be to lay aside the 1,000,000 qr. of malt at present in the hands of the brewers, and the further large quantity of malted barley in the hands of the distillers, for the production of bread and other food for the people. If the Food Controller’s statement in January was true, i.e., that it was ‘really a question of bread v. beer,’ it is much truer today, and the use of malted barley in various forms would provide a valuable additional food supply. Alternatively, the Food Controller might at least ration all consumers of grain and sugar on the same footing, whether consumed in the form of bread an sugar or of beverages in the manufacture of which sugar and grain are employed.
The nation is now beginning to realize that, if compulsory rations are to be introduced, this will be due in no small degree to the unlimited consumption of malt liquors and other spirituous beverages permitted in the past, and the large quantity of cereals still allowed to be used for their manufacture.
Another valuable saving might readily be effected by the use of such quantity of the 156 ½ million gallons of bonded spirits as may be suitable for the manufacture of explosives. This would at once release for the food of the people a further considerable supple of grain and other materials presently employed in manufacturing alcohol for explosives.”

If you have both bread and beer, then you are indeed blessed. You can even combine them, if you wish, as in the following recipes, taken from the book Soups, by S.Beaty-Pownall, (London, 1904)

Beer Soup (German)
Bring two quarts of bottled beer to the boil, remove a little of the froth, sweeten to taste with brown sugar, add the rind of a lemon cut in fine strips free from pith, and a little stick cinnamon. Have ready some crisp, nicely toasted bread cut into strips or fingers (or use zwieback); place these in the tureen, pour the scalding soup upon it and serve.

Beer Soup (Russian)
Bring two quarts of barley beer to the boil, with 6 oz. or 7 oz. of loaf sugar; beat up the yolks of six or eight eggs with a gill of sour cream, strain these into a large hot basin, work to them gradually the boiling beer, and serve very hot.

Quotation for the Day
Do not cease to drink beer, to eat, to intoxicate thyself, to make love, and to celebrate the good days.
Egyptian Proverb.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Bottled Beer.

I have no idea how true today’s story is, but I love it – and you will too, if you have ever wondered about the origin of bottled beer.

Once upon a time, ale and beer were drawn from the barrel as needed. If liquid refreshments were required to be carried out for a day labouring in the fields or, - as in our story today - a day of labouring to catch fish, then a suitable container was pressed into service.

‘The origin of bottled beer is thus quaintly recorded by Fuller. “Dean Newall* [Nowell], of St. Paul’s, in the reign of Queen Mary [1553-1558], was an excellent angler. But while Newall was bent on catching of fishes, Bishop Bonner** was bent on catching of Newall, and would certainly have sent him to the shambles had not a good London merchant conveyed him away upon the seas. Newall was fishing on the banks of the Thames when he received the first intimation of his danger, which was so pressing that he dared not go back to his own house to make preparation for his flight. Like an honest angler, he had taken provisions for the day; and when, in the first years of England’s deliverance, he returned to his own country, and his own haunts, he remembered that, on the day of his flight, he had left a bottle of beer in a safe place on the bank of the stream in which he had fished; there he looked for it, and found ‘no bottle, but a gun,’ for such was the sound emitted at the opening thereof.” And this is supposed by many to be the origin of bottled beer in England.’

*Alexander Nowell, an Anglican clergyman and Dean of St. Paul’s whose style of preaching displeased Queen Elizabeth I, and who fled to Europe on the accession of the Catholic Queen Mary.
** Edmund Bonner, Bishop of London who assisted Henry VIII’s schism from Rome, then returned to Roman Catholicism, and was responsible for the brutal persecution of heretics (Protestants) during Queen Mary’s reign.

Instead of a recipe for beer, in order to prepare you for tomorrow’s post I give you one for bread. Bread recipes did not often find their way into early cookbooks. ‘Everyone’ knew how to make it, so instructions were not necessary. Here is a pretty exception, from the seventeenth century – a lovely soft, rich, white bread perfect for breakfast.

Lady Arundel’s Manchet.
Take a bushel of fine wheat-flour, twenty eggs, three pounds of fresh butter; then take as much salt and barm as to the ordinary manchet; temper it together with new milk pretty hot, then let it lie the space of half an hour to rise, so you may work it up into bread, and bake it: let not your oven be too hot.
True Gentlewoman’s Delight (1676)

Quotation for the Day.
A fine beer may be judged with only one sip, but it is better to be thoroughly sure.