Friday, April 29, 2011

Pest for Dinner.

Today I want to tackle a tricky subject - the rabbit. Once upon a time there were no rabbits in Australia. Then, in 1788, the First Fleet arrived. The ships carried not only convicts, but also breeding stock for future food – including the rabbit.

By the mid-nineteenth century it became clear that a species spectacularly damaging to the ecology of this large country was on the loose and multiplying faster than you can say “rabbit rabbit rabbit.” Strangely though, it appears that escaped First Fleet rabbits perhaps did not spawn this plague, but that it was the progeny of specimens introduced in 1859 by a wealthy landowner in Victoria called John Austin, who released them on his property to provide future hunting amusement.

Many methods to control the rabbit population have been tried over the decades, including poisons, trapping, biological warfare (myxomatosis and calicivirus) and the building of a (theoretically) rabbit-proof fence in Western Australia. The bad ecological news is that the rabbit still survives here in the wild, but the irony is that it is no longer free bush tucker but an expensive delicacy at the butcher’s – presumably because the rabbits sold there are the cage-reared, disease-free version. Rabbit is now more expensive than rump steak.

In 1938 however, disease-free wild rabbits were there for the taking, and consequently a number of recipes for it were submitted to the Perth newspaper competition.

Rabbit Soup.
Take two large rabbits, half a head of celery, two carrots, one onion, salt, pepper, half a pint of milk and two quarts of water. Cut the rabbits up and well wash. Put into saucepan, boil with water about an hour and a half. Take the rabbit out and add the vegetables, salt, pepper and milk. Simmer for two hours. Sufficient for seven people.

Savoury Rabbit.
Use the meat taken from the soup, a quarter pound of fat bacon, two onions, one teaspoon chopped parsley, half a teaspoonful mixed herbs, four tablespoon flour, salt and pepper. Cut the rabbit and bacon in small pieces, put in a baking dish with chopped onions, parsley, herbs salt and pepper. Mix the flour with two tablespoons cornflour to a thin paste with milk. Pour the mixture into dish bake in moderate oven about an hour.

Rabbit Mould.
One rabbit, one oz. gelatine, three peeled tomatoes, one quart stock, sprig parsley, half lemon, three rashers bacon, two onions, two hard boiled eggs, half tablespoon bacon fat and seasoning. Blanch and joint rabbit, place in a sauce- pan with bacon fat, brown lightly all over, add cold water and onion, remove rind from bacon, cut up and add to pan, cover and simmer till rabbit is tender, remove bones, strain and season, add gelatine, dissolved in a little water, add juice of lemon. Decorate mould with slices of hard boiled eggs, and tomatoes and leave till set. Fill up with rabbit, turn out when cold.

Quotation for the Day.

Hare is respectable, even distinguished; rabbit is common and vulgar, and it is good form to turn up the nose at it.
Waverley Root.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Galah Grub.

We continue our week of Aussie bush recipes, thanks to our source for the week - several editions of the Perth newspaper The Western Mail, which ran a competition on the topic in 1938. I can pretty well guarantee that you wont find today’s dishes on the menu anywhere.

The galah is a noisy, pretty pink and grey cockatoo found all over Australia. It also used to be an ingredient for the stew-pot in the days of real bush cuisine. The ‘real’ way to cook it of course is well known, but just in case you have forgotten them, let me give the instructions again via the words of a South Australian newspaper correspondent in 1934.

“DR. A. M. Morgan, North Adelaide, writes:- "Dear Bufus -Your friend who says galah is too rough to eat, evidently does not know how to cook them. The proper way is to put the bird in a billycan with a medium-sized stone, and fill with water, and bring to the boil. When a fork will go easily into the stone, and come out clean, the bird is done, and will be found tender and tasty. This is an old bush recipe, and I am surprised that your friend did not know it.”

The newspaper competition provides some slightly more sophisticated ways of dealing with the bird, which I am sure will adapt easily to any sort of cockatoo or parrot that might fall into your hands.

Curried Galahs.
Take six galahs, cover with about one quart of water. When boiled for half an hour add two onions, pepper and salt to taste and let boil for half an hour longer. Then take out half a cup of the galah stock and add to it one tablespoon of curry and two tablespoons of flour. Mix well together and add to galahs. Let simmer for quarter of an hour before serving.

Braised Galahs.
Allow one galah for each person. Cut off the heads and then skin the birds and clean them. Place in a dish of salted water for a few hours. Make a nice stuffing of onion and herbs, breadcrumbs, a knob of butter, salt and pepper and a grating of nutmeg. Bind with a well beaten egg. Stuff the birds with this stuffing, make some dripping very hot in a saucepan, and place in the birds. Turn occasionally to brown. When half cooked put in a little hot water and finish cooking. A rasher of bacon placed on each bird while cooking is delicious.

Galah Savoury.
Take four or five birds, skin (do not pluck them) clean and soak in salted water for a few hours. Cut a rasher of bacon into small strips, put two or three pieces inside each bird, then arrange them in a casserole, cut up an onion very small, put over the top of the birds, sprinkle a dessert spoon of flour over them, then small dabs of butter, or dripping on top. Now half fill the casserole with cold water, put the lid on and cook in a slow oven for about two and a half or three hours. The result is a cheap and appetising dish. Bronze wing pigeons and parrots done in the same way are delicious.

Quotation for the Day.

Not presume to dictate, but broiled fowl and mushrooms – capital thing.
Charles Dickens.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Emu on the Menu.

The bush recipes competition run by the Perth newspaper The Western Mail in 1938, is proving rich fodder for this week’s stories. Today, for your delectation, I give you some ideas from the competition for emu meat and emu eggs.

Emu Liver Savoury.
Plunge liver into salt and hot water. Dry with cloth, rub with fine wheat flour, cut into two by four slices. Fry in a little boiling fat till brown. Cut in half as many large quandongs* as needed, and fry quickly. Make a sauce of half cup flour, pinch salt, pinch mustard and teaspoon butter. Place the liver on slices of toast, pour on sauce, place fried quandongs on top.
[*Santalum acuminatum , a common native plant of inland Australia, sometimes called the ‘native peach’]

Emu for Beef.
The meat from the breast of a young emu is luscious and highly nutritious, quite equal to rump steak. The meat may be casseroled, fried, stewed, or used in meat pies or boiled puddings, in fact any recipe may be used in which beef is required.

Emu eggs, as we found out in a post several years ago, are about ten times the size of a hen’s egg, and contain a higher percentage of fat. They apparently make great cakes.

Emu Egg Sponge.
Beat one emu egg for five minutes; add one and a half cups of sugar, beat for 15 minutes longer, then add two cups of flour to which two teaspoonfuls of baking powder have been added. Lastly add one cup of boiling water in which one tablespoonful of butter has been melted. Bake in a quick oven. This recipe makes two large sandwiches. For all measurements use a breakfast cup.

Quotation for the Day.
The strongest thing I put into my body is steak and eggs. I just eat. I'm not a supplement guy. Steroids are not even a thought.
Jim Thorne.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lizard for Dinner.

The Australian monitor lizard - more commonly called the goanna – has an important place in Aboriginal culture and medicine and in Australian folklore. It also, apparently, makes good eating. The tail is said to be the best part, and - not surprisingly- is said to taste like chicken, or like fish, or ‘sweeter and more juicy than rabbit.’

The simplest bush recipe for cooking goanna was to roast it in the ashes, so that that when the ashes were brushed off, the skin came with it, and the flesh was then ready to eat. By the time of the Perth newspaper’s bush recipes competition in 1938 (mentioned yesterday), there was less of the bush and more of the French kitchen about goanna tail recipes, as the following competition entries show:

Goanna Tail.
Scald and skin the tail of a goanna. Cut into three-inch slices. Dip in egg and bread crumbs, and fry quickly to a golden brown. Olive oil is the best to fry in, but some do not like the flavour of olives.

Goanna Tail with Parsley Sauce.
Skin tail and cut into small pieces. Place in a saucepan, and just cover with water. Cook till tender. Make parsley sauce as follows:-Boil one pint of water, throw into it one tablespoon finely minced parsley and half a teaspoonful of salt. Then add two ounces flour, mixed to smooth paste in a gill of water. Stir over fire until it thickens. Break into it one or two ounces of butter. Put cooked tail into this, and serve hot.

Quotation for the Day.
You can never have enough garlic. With enough garlic, you can eat The New York Times.
Morley Safer.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Kangaroo for Dinner.

Here in Australia, today is not only Easter Monday, it is also Anzac Day. Previous Anzac Day posts have been From Hardtack to Anzacs (on the now-defunct Companion site), An Aussie War Cake, and a story which included recipes for ‘Drover’s Dream’ and ‘Bushman’s Brownie’. In the hope that you are not exhausted or bored with Aussie recipes, this week intend to give you as interesting a selection as I can muster.

Australians have an enduring love affair with The Bush. It is a romance that has withstood reality with the fierce determination that befits the best romances. Most of us live in the cities that cling to the very edge of this vast continent, and certainly most of us never venture anywhere near The Bush, yet we love it just the same. Hell, I love it too, and I was born in Yorkshire - which, though wild and uncouth by effete Home County standards, is pretty tame compared to the Australian version.
In celebration of this (to most of us) semi-mythical time and place called ‘The Bush’, today I am going to give you a smattering of ideas from entries to a competition for bush recipes run in 1938 by a Perth newspaper (The Western Mail) in 1938. All of today’s choices are for kangaroo meat. I am not sure what eating one of our national symbols (totems?) says about a nation, but I am very sure that some of you will tell me.

Kangaroo Rissoles.
Take some nice slices off a leg of kangaroo, and put it through the mincer, with two nice potatoes and two nice onions. Mix all together, and add pepper and salt to taste. A little bacon is very nice minced with it. Mix in some plain flour; add a beaten egg to bind and make into rissoles, and fry in hot fat until a nice brown. A great favourite with everyone.

Braised Kangaroo Steak.
Two things that must be remembered in the preparing of “bush mutton” (otherwise kangaroo) are firstly, to be careful to cut the meat across the grain as this makes a great difference as regards tenderness, secondly to use plenty of dripping in the cooking of rissoles, etc.
Cut steak from the middle portion of the ‘roo, place in casserole with about half lb. of bacon cut in thick pieces and a large, sliced onion.Cover with good dripping and slowly bake for a couple of hours. Potatoes or swedes cooked in with this make a tasty dish.

Kangaroo Tail Brawn.
Cut up and joint kangaroo tail, put on to boil with two onions, mixed herbs, salt and pepper. Boil until the meat leaves the bones, then take out all the bones and pour the mixture into a dish. Add two hard boiled eggs and parsley cut small. This will set well if left overnight.

Quotation for the Day.
If we’re not supposed to eat animals, how come they are made out of meat?
Tom Snyder.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday dinner with the Brothers.

I thought it would be interesting on this Good Friday to dine with the seventeenth century brethren at the Hospital of St.Cross. This was a hospital in the old sense of the word meaning a place for hospitality, in this case to ‘distressed travellers.’ The hospital was instituted (in England) by the Knights Hospitaller of St. John of Jerusalem, and its history was recorded in 1868 in the Memorials of the Hospital of St. Cross and alms house of noble poverty, by Lewis Macnaughten Humbert.
Details of the meals of the brethren for the special days of the year are noted in the book, for the period 'after the restoration of the monarchy’ (specifically in 1675). I have included the whole segment so that you can see the range of food offered on all of the days, including Good Friday.

“The diet and allowances of the brethren are very minutely recorded, both for ordinary and extraordinary occasions. An extract in reference to the latter will be interesting, the more so, as it describes, with few alterations, the present custom. "That there are five Festival days in the year, to wit, - All Saints, Christmas, New Year’s day, Twelfth-day, and Candlemas-day: on which days the brethren have extra-ordinary commons, and on the eve of which days they have a fire of charcoal in the Common Hall, and one jack of six quarts and one pint of beer extraordinary, to drink together by the fire. And on the said Feast-days they have a fire at dinner, and another at supper in the said hall; and they have a sirloin of beef roasted, weighing forty-six pounds and a half, and three large mince pies, and plum broth, and three joints of mutton for their supper, and six quarts and one pint of beer extraordinary at dinner, and six quarts and one pint of beer after dinner, by the fireside; six quarts and a pint at supper, and the like after supper. And on Wednesdays before Shrove-Tuesdays at dinner every brother hath a pancake; and on Shrove-Tuesdays at dinner every brother hath a pancake besides his commons of beef, and six quarts and one pint of beer extraordinary, among them all; and at supper their mutton is roasted, and three hens roasted, and six quarts and a pint of beer extraordinary. And in Lent-time every brother hath in lieu of his commons eight shillings in money paid. And on Palm Sunday the brethren have a green fish, of the value of three shillings and fourpence, and their pot of milk pottage with three pounds of rice boiled in it, and three pies with twenty-four herrings baked in them, and six quarts and one pint of beer extraordinary. And they have on Good Friday, at dinner, in their pot of beer a cast of bread sliced, and three pounds of honey, boiled altogether, which they call honey sop.”

So, honey-sop for Good Friday. Sounds good, doesn’t it? There was no shortage of honey in religious houses on the time – bees were kept primarily to supply wax for candles, and honey was the useful by-product.

I am not going to give you a ‘recipe’ for honey sops, because the text above explains it (‘sops’ are simply pieces of bread soaked in a liquid; it is the word from which we get ‘soup.’) Honey is still the theme however, and I really cannot resist the following recipe for an interesting variation of honey mead.

Walnut Mead.
Put seven pounds of honey to every two gallons of water, and boil it three quarters of an hour. To every gallon of liquor put about twenty-four walnut leaves, pour your liquor boiling hot over them, and let it stand all night. Then take out the leaves, and pour in a cupful of yeast, and let it work two or three days and then make it up. Let it work two or three days and then make it up. After it has stood three months bottle it cork it tight and keep it for use
The accomplished housekeeper, and universal cook, by T. Williams (1797)

Quotation for the Day.
There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.
Mahatma Ghandi.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Bread.

A week of Easter food would not be complete without some comments about Easter bread, so that is what is on our blog menu today. There are many forms of Easter Bread, and many associated traditions. Nowadays Easter bread is usually soft, sweet bread – verging on cake – enriched with butter, eggs, and milk, and often containing currants or other dried fruit. Easter Sunday seems to be the traditional day for enjoying this special loaf, but I am giving you a recipe today, because I don’t post at weekends, and also it will give you time to stock up on the ingredients, if you are of a mind to make your own this year.

One English regional tradition is described in the chapter on ‘Ancient Payments” in An historical account of the origin of the Commission appointed to inquire concerning charities in England and Wales, and, an illustration of several old customs and words which occur in the reports,by Nicholas Carlisle (1828)

“At Swerford, in the County of Oxford, the Rector supplies a small loaf for every house in the parish, on Easter Sunday, which is given after Evening Service. It is understood, that this is given on account of a bushel of Wheat, which is payable out of a field, called “Mill Close,” part of the glebe. Each house, whether inhabited by rich or poor, receives a loaf.”

There are many of these traditional doles and ancient symbolic rents in Britain, although the origins of most of them are long forgotten. I doubt if the inhabitants of Swerford still claim their bread (which would most likely have been a plain bakers loaf), but if they do, I would be pleased to have the tradition confirmed.

Easter Bread.
One yeast cake, two cups each flour and water; mix and set to rise overnight; in the morning take six cups flour, two cups milk, one and one-half cups currants, one and one-half cups raisins, one-half cup sugar, butter the size of a large hen's egg rubbed in cold, one teaspoon salt; mix and let rise until light, then mold and put in pans until light, then wet top with melted, butter, and bake one hour.
The Original Buckeye Cook Book and practical housekeeping: a compilation of choice and carefully tested recipes (1905) by Estelle Woods Wilcox.

Today is of course, Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday according to the Christian calendar. We have had stories in previous years on some of the food-associated traditions of the day (here, and here.) In Germany the day is called Gründonnerstag, or Green Thursday. It is usually said that the name derives from the symbol of a green branch which represents the journey of repentance that is the purpose of Lent, or perhaps it is intended to be a reminder of Christ’s crown of thorns. There may be another explanation however. Easter in the northern hemisphere occurs of course in Spring, and as with so many days of celebration, what we call ‘traditions’ are a blend of many centuries-worth of both religious and seasonal symbols and references – so perhaps ‘green’ simply indicates Spring. On Green Thursday it is traditional to eat green leafy salads or green soup. We had some recipes for soup in Monday’s post, if you want a traditional and healthy option for today’s dinner.

Quotation for the Day.

Bread for myself is a material question. Bread for my neighbour is a spiritual one.
Nikolai Berdyaev.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Many Colours of Easter Eggs.

The Easter food theme would hardly be complete without some instructions in the art of making and decorating your own Easter Eggs, now would it?

In the days before little bottles of violently intense artificial food colouring, there were other artificial food colourings (some quite alarming-sounding) and even a few very natural ones.

From Jenny June’s American Cookery Book (1866), two recipes containing multiple ideas for colouring eggs.

Easter Eggs 1.
Immerse eggs in hot water a few minutes, inscribe names or dates etc., on the shell with the end of a tallow candle or with grease, then place them in a pan of hot water saturated with cochineal or other dye-woods; the parts over which the tallow has passed being impervious to the dye, the eggs come out presenting white inscriptions on colored grounds. Or boil the eggs hard and paint subjects on them with a camel’s hair brush, or etch them with a steel pen in India ink. Or dye the shells first, then scrape off the dye in any design desired.

Easter Eggs 2.
An egg boiled in the coat of an onion will turn to a beautiful brown color. To give a blue color, boil the eggs in powdered indigo with the addition of a tea-spoonful of dilute sulphuric acid. To give an egg a mottled appearance, with bright colors blended, and contrasted, obtain pieces of silk of the brightest colors, cut them into bits an inch long, half an inch wide, add a few chips of logwood and a little tumeric; let the egg be well inbedded in this so that the silk may form a thick layer round it, sew it up in very coarse brown paper and boil it half an hour or more.

And from Cookery for Working Men’s Wives (1890)

Colored eggs for Easter.
Eggs can be dyed a pretty colour with the juice of a beet root, or the peel of onions boiled in the water; or, if you have a patch of fancy print, bind it round the egg and boil it, and it will leave the impression. Wash the eggs clean before boiling. Easter eggs should be boiled for ten minutes.

If you want to make your own ‘eggs’ from blanc mange as in the recipe given yesterday for the nest of eggs, but found the instructions intimidating, here is another version with rather clearer instructions.

Easter Eggs.
Make a quart of blanc-mange in the usual way. Empty 12 egg shells through a small hole in one end and rinse well with cold water. Divide the blanc-mange into four parts. Leave one white; stir into another 2 beaten yolks; into a third chocolate; into the fourth cochineal coloring. Heat the yellow over the fire long enough to cook the egg. Fill the shells with
the various mixtures, three of each. Set upright in a pan of meal or flour to keep them steady, and leave until next day. Then fill a glass bowl more than three-fourths full with nice lemon jelly, broken into sparkling fragments. Break away the egg shells, bit by bit, from the blanc-mange. If the insides of the shells have been properly rinsed and left wet, there will be
no trouble about this. Pile the vari-colored "eggs" upon the bed of jelly, lay shred preserved orange peel, or very finely shred candied citron about them, and surprise the children with
them as an Easter day dessert.
Cookery Craft: As Practiced in 1894 by the Women of the South Church, St Johnsbury, Vt. (1894)

Quotation for the Day.

Good Idea: Finding Easter eggs on Easter Sunday.
Bad Idea: Finding Easter eggs at Thanksgiving.
(by Anon.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

And Now for Easter Pudding.

The Easter food theme continues today with three very different versions of Easter Pudding.
Firstly, from The Original Buckeye Cookbook (1905)

Easter Pudding.
One pint sweet milk, yolks of three eggs, two tablespoons corn-starch, three of sugar, and a little salt. Put milk in custard kettle, and when boiling add sugar, then starch dissolved in
a little cold milk, and lastly yolks ; beat, and let cook a few minutes, and turn out in broad dish to cool. When it stiffens around the edges, transfer it, a few spoonfuls at a time, to a bowl, and whip vigorously with an egg beater. Flavor with rose-water. It should be like a yellow sponge; when put into a crown mold.
Make day before wanted. When ready to serve turn out upon dish, fill centre with whipped cream, flavored with vanilla and heaped up as high as it will stand. Pile more whipped cream about the base.
Or With Fruit, while the corn-starch mixure is still hot put a little in a large mold and turn to let it run and leave a thin coating all over inside. Ornament by sticking candied cherries to this in any regular forms liked, fill loosely with fresh or preserved fruits, macaroons and crumbed sponge cake, soaked in orange juice, and a little citron cut very thin; then pour in slowly until full remainder of corn-starch, which must have been kept warm by standing in hot water so that it would not stiffen.
Let stand in cold place all night to become very firm and serve with Marigold Sauce.
Marigold Sauce.
Four tablespoons butter seven of best powered sugar, half cup fruit juice, cup cream, half a nutmeg, yolk of six eggs ; scald cream in custard kettle, beat butter, sugar and eggs together; add nutmeg, pour hot cream over all, add juice and serve.

Secondly, a very elegant dish for gentlefolk, from The Country Gentleman’s Magazine (London, 1868) – a recipe which appears, of course in the section for Country Gentlewomen.

An Easter Pudding.
To 4 oz of fresh rice flour. add by slow degrees half a pint of cold new milk. being careful to keep the mixture free from lumps. Pour it into a pint of boiling milk. and stir it without intermission over a very clear and gentle fire for three or four minutes; then throw in 2 oz. of fresh butter and 2 of pounded sugar, and continue the boiling for eight or ten minutes longer. Let the rice cool down, and give it an occasional stir to prevent the surface from hardening. When it has stood for fifteen or twenty minutes, pour to it a quarter of a pint of cold mil,k and stir well into it a few grains of salt, the grated rind of a large sound lemon, five full sized or six small eggs properly cleared and well whisked, first by themselves and then with two additional ounces of pounded sugar. Beat up these ingredients thoroughly together, pour them into a deep dish which has been rubbed with butter, and in which about a tablespoonful should be left liquefied, that it may rise to the surface of the pudding; strew lightly upon it 4 oz. of clean dry currants, and bake it gently from three quarters of an hour to a full hour. Some nutmeg, a spoonful or two of brandy, and an ounce or two of citron sliced thin can be added if thought desirable. The pudding will be excellent if the baking be well conducted. A border of ratafias laid on the edge of the dish and fastened to it with a little beaten white of egg mingled with a dust of flour, after it is drawn from the oven, will give a nice finish to its appearance; or cakes of pale puff crust not so large as a shilling, may be used for the purpose when preferred. Should a richer pudding be liked, use for it the yolks of seven or of eight eggs and the whites of four, and if it be baked in an American oven, let it be placed sufficiently high in front of the fire for the heat to be well reflected to the under part; for when this is not attended to, recipes will often fail from want of more uniform baking - the surface of a dish being even overdone, while the inside has been but slightly acted on by the fire. When time will permit it, is better to allow the rice for this pudding to become nearly or quite cold before the eggs are stirred to it.

And last, but by no means least, a dish guaranteed to delight the little ones. From the San Rafael Cook Book (1906), I give you the recipe for a nest of Easter eggs:

Easter Pudding.
Make 1 quart of wine, orange or lemon jelly; mold in a round basin in the center of which you have three saucers turned upside down. Save 1 dozen egg shells opened at the small end, and put them in cold water. Make 1 quart of corn starch blanc mange; fill three of the shells, and stand them in a pan of bran or meal. Bruise a few spinach leaves, squeeze out a few drops of the color, add to a little of the mixture, and fill three more shells. Color some with chocolate, some with the yolks of eggs, and some pink from a little of Knox’s pink gelatine. While you are preparing the eggs, have the skin from 2 oranges or 2 lemons boiling; when tender, remove all of the white inside [and discard], and cut [the colored peel] in little strips with scissors; then boil in syrup until clear, and spread out to dry. The next day, turn out the jelly; around the edge of the nest put the peel for straw. Remove the shells from the eggs and pile in the nest; put whipped cream all around the jelly. This is a very pretty dish and delights the children.

Quotation for the Day.

The best part of Easter is eating your children’s candy while they are sleeping, and then trying to convince them in the morning that the Easter rabbit came with one ear.
Anna Quindlen.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Easter Eating.

Easter approaches, and for me and mine that means several days at the beach – with frequent meal breaks of course, so food is very much on my mind (what else is new, you ask?)

There have been many previous Easter food stories in this blog, so before I start today, let me re-cap what we have considered over the last few years.

We have learned that at different times and in different places such things as Primrose Pottage, Sedgemoor Easter Cakes, and Oatmeal Pudding have been enjoyed at this season. Another post in another year left us awestruck by the scale of the Lord Mayor of London’s Easter dinner in 1848. One year we found out that in 1879 the United States’ President Rutherford Hayes, and First Lady Lucy Hayes, hosted the very first Easter Egg Roll on the lawn of the White House.

As for recipes, there have been many with an Easter theme. One post in the past gave three different Easter Cake recipes, and in case that was not enough we have also had a White Easter Cake from an Australian wartime cookery book (1943), and a British wartime Chocolate Cake for Easter made with the dreaded and dreadful dried egg. Yet another post had Easter Biscuits and Bunny Rolls. In the posts of Easter 2007, we celebrated the egg in a whole week of posts containing five centuries of recipes (here, here, here, here, and here.)

It might be thought that we have exhausted the topic of Easter food, but I assure you we have not. We have not yet had Easter Soup. Sadly for those of us in the Southern hemisphere who are wending our way through autumn, this recipe is for spring greens, especially those of the wild variety – which should inspire the urban foragers amongst you.

Easter Soup.
Gather the young sprouts and leaves of wild herbs when their first shoots appear, such as dandelion, sheep-sorrel, yarrow, nettle, lady’s mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris), strawberry leaves, etc. Take a handful of each; rinse repeatedly in cold water and drain in a colander. Do not squeeze them, lest you lose some of their juices. Chop fine; put into some good broth, and boil gently for about half an hour. Mix butter the size of a walnut with a teaspoonful of flour and drop it into half a cup of boiling cream or milk. When cooking has dissolved it, add it to the soup. Serve with poached eggs on top, or the custard the recipe of which I give you in my last.
Letters to a Young Housekeeper (New York, 1892) by Marie Hansen Taylor

Quotation for the Day.
Large, naked, raw carrots are acceptable as food only to those who live in hutches eagerly awaiting Easter.
Fran Lebowitz

Friday, April 15, 2011

Food fit for a Cottager.

Household hints are not the only treasures to be found in the depths of books such as yesterday’s source, Cottage comforts, with hints for promoting them, gleaned from experience: enlivened with authentic anecdotes, by Esther Copley (London, 1830.) Sometimes they give us recipes for things long-forgotten – forgotten to most of us city-dwellers and supermarket-shoppers that is. Occasionally they even supply the instructions for some of the down on the farm dirty peasant stuff that no cottager’s wife would have needed to read because she would have learned the skill growing up. Such stuff is chitterlings.

Esther’s instructions for the preparation of chitterlings give the distinct impression that she had never actually prepared them from scratch, herself. Before I give you her instructions for this decidedly not-modern dish, I cannot resist sharing her introductory platitudes, which perhaps go some way to explaining why she does not appear to have put her own hands inside a pig and pulled out its innards. She was in an entirely different social class than the folk who normally prepared such stuff, that’s why.

‘The writer of this little volume has long been accustomed to observe the habits, resources, and privations of the labouring classes of society, and to cherish a lively interest in their welfare and happiness. Under a conviction that the outward condition of these classes might be materially meliorated by an improvement in their moral and prudential habits, she has often indulged the wish that some enlightened and benevolent friend to their true interests would furnish them with a familiar compendium, calculated to meet their daily round of wants, feelings, circumstances, and duties, and to suggest friendly and profitable hints relative to each.’

When the hocks, feet, or cheeks are boiled, it would never enter into the head of a wasteful slattern, that the liquor was good for any thing—it would never enter the head of a careful manager to throw it away. She knows very well, that when cold there will be a cake of fat settled on the top, enough to make a good pudding: and that the liquor boiled up with a few peas and herbs, will make good soup; (a capital breakfast this for a hard labouring man, on a cold frosty morning.) Even from the liquor in which bacon has been boiled, very good fat may be gained, and freed from salt, by skimming it from the liquor while warm, and dropping it into a vessel of cold water—the salt will go to the bottom, and the fat remain at the top. Even the brine that runs off from salting the bacon is useful. A spoonful or two of it put into the saucepan with potatoes, causes them to boil light and flowery: this is particularly useful during the latter part of the winter and spring, when potatoes are old and indifferent, and other vegetables scarce.

Chitterlings.— I am surprised that I cannot, in any cookery book that I have seen, find directions for preparing these: it is a shame they should be wasted — however, I believe all the matter is, immediately they are taken out of the pig to turn them inside out, and give them many, many washings in salt and water, till they are perfectly sweet and clean, and then slowly boil them for several hours.

Quotation for the Day.
He fell upon whate'er was offer'd, like
A priest, a shark, an alderman, or pike.
Lord Byron

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Household Hints, Part 2.

Today’s household hints come from Mrs. Ellis's housekeeping made easy, or, Complete instructor in all branches (Sarah Stickney Ellis; 1843.)  On the surface of it, it is advice that makes me very grateful to have a refrigerator, freezer, airtight storage jars, and plastic food wrap. But in the deep of it, it reminds me that there are times and places and circumstances when there may not be electrical power, and discarding meat fat and bread crusts are a wicked waste, and plastic an environmental disaster.

How and Where to Keep Things.
Crusts and bits of bread should be kept in an earthen pot, closely covered in a dry cool place. Keep fresh lard and suet in tin vessels. Keep salt pork fat in glazed earthen ware. Keep yeast in wood or earthen. Keep preserves and jellies in glass, or china, or stone ware. Keep salt in a dry place. Keep meal in a cool dry place. Keep ice in the cellar, wrapped in flannel. Keep vinegar[r] in wood or glas[s].

Mrs. Ellis also gives the following piece of advice, which made me ashamed to admit how rarely I peer into the depths of my tea-kettle to assess its crustiness.

To Prevent the Formation of a Crust on Tea-Kettles.
Keep an oyster-shell in your tea-kettle and it will prevent the formation of a crust on the inside of it, but attracting the stony particles to itself.

Naturally, Mrs Ellis’ hints include several other ways for avoiding waste, and the recipe for the day, taken from her book, shows you how to renovate bad butter and rancid lard.

Tainted butter.
Some good cooks say that bad butter may be purified in the following manner: Melt and skim it, then put into it a piece of well-toasted bread; in a few minutes the butter will lose its offensive taste and smell; the bread will absorb it all. Slices of potatoe fried in rancid lard will in a great measure absorb the unpleasant taste.

Quotation for the Day.
A lucky person is one who plants pebbles and harvests potatoes.
Greek proverb.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dormers and Cecils.

I cannot leave yesterday’s source of inspiration (Martha Careful’s Household Hints to Young Housewives) without sharing her solution to another of life’s little problems. She sets the scenario – and it is everybody’s favourite scenario – a scary beginning with a romantic ending:

I will imagine to-day that your husband unexpectedly brings a gentleman home to dinner, and that at the sound of a second voice, you begin wondering and conjecturing how you shall manage to have what is right and proper. Therefore, after a gentle introduction, in which you are to appear for your husband's sake to the most advantage - that is, as the quiet cheerful lady - you will repair to the cook, and request her to speed with the following arrangements - naming a half hour later for dinner, and recommending James to stroll either in the garden, or round the pretty village, or so to occupy his friend till dinner, that your absence may not be noticed. There must be a little extra activity on your part to see things done creditably to the bride and young housekeeper. Clean cloth and napkins, a little extra dessert from the store closet. Sweetmeats, interspersed with the apples and pears, with a few biscuits, always kept in a canister, really make the table look quite well.


You were going to have cold mutton and a duck, but as your house is too far off the town to secure fish, or little sundries in an emergency, you must simply make a little alteration in cooking the same articles.

After dinner you sit awhile at the dessert and the wine passes, while conversation mingles with the pleasant smile. But when you find a little weariness pervading the scene, you rise and retire to the withdrawing room - this being of course always required when a friend is with you. Lamps lighted, and curtains closed, tea and coffee are announced to the gentlemen, as prepared, and they join you at the summons. Your servant stands and assists you to the caddy, water, &c. watching your wants, and waiting on the company; after tea you look over the views of spots visited in your wedding tour; hear from your friend the contrast existing between this scene and that which he has visited, and thus by interchange of thought and idea, you have almost double the information you possessed before he joined your party. The piano is open - you play - your husband accompanies you on the flute, or you sing duets, and your friend lingers still - and still seems unwilling to leave the tiny circle, made so magical by harmony, love, and good management; and when he bids good night, he determines, as soon as possible, to break the chain which now rivets him to a bachelor's condition.

"And thus we banish cloud and care,
And feverish passion comes not there;
And I, if such the joys of home,
Will pitch my tent no more to roam." - C. Neale.

In larger parties, coffee is always sent in to the gentlemen before they leave the table. When a friend dines, you do not ask him to sup—in fact this is almost an obsolete meal, dinners being generally fixed at so late an hour. A glass of wine and cake are frequently handed before a friend leaves. Now your servant has had but little extra to do, and that little, from her regular habit of doing all things in order, has been done, and nothing of her regular work left undone. Your fine things are starched and ready for the ironing to-morrow. You are satisfied - your husband pleased, and you are more than ever convinced that a married life is a happy one.

"Thus habits mould the soul to be a place
Wherein may dwell forms of immortal grace;
While thoughts and tempers in the spirits shrine,
Grow into shape, and take the life divine." - R. J. Williams.
                                               Faithfully yours,
                                                      MARTHA CAREFUL.

I had no idea what ‘dormers’ were – other than a way to disguise the leftover mutton that was on the family menu. Mrs Careful gives the recipe of course:

Half a pound of cold meat, 2 ounces of beef suet, 3 ounces of boiled rice, all chopped fine and well seasoned.Roll them into sausages, egg and breadcrumb them all over, and fry a nice brown; serve with gravy in a dish with them.

Well, I think we are agreed that ‘dormers’ certainly sound better than ‘cold meat rissoles’, dont we? But why the name? The Oxford English Dictionary does not know any edible dormers, only the varieties which are sleeping chambers or vertical windows in the sloping roof of a house.
The author of The Best of Everything, Robert Kemp Philp (London, 1870) comes to the rescue with an explanation of dormers in the middle of his recipe for ‘cecils’.

Cecils: an excellent way to use up cold meat.
Mince 1 lb of cold beef or mutton with ¼ lb of beef suet, ¼ lb breadcrumbs; season with pepper, salt, mace, Cayenne, and a tablespoonful of Worcester sauce, and the same quantity of mushroom catsup; mix all well together with three eggs well beaten, form into small cakes or balls, fry of a nice brown, and serve with a rich brown gravy. These cakes are very nice if made with well-boiled rice instead of breadcrumbs, particularly if the meat is veal or lamb; they are then called ‘Dormers’. Cold fish or kippered salmon cooked in a similar manner, with potatoes in place of the rice or breadcrumbs, and with anchovy sauce and hard-boiled eggs chopped small, is extremely good and savoury.

The OED does have an opinion on cecils, which it says is ‘A name for hashed beef’ (Simmonds Dict. Trade). Minced meat, crumbs of bread, onions, chopped parsley, etc., with seasoning, made up into balls, sprinkled with bread-crumbs, and fried.’

So, there you have it – some useful advice for re-branding the leftover cold roast that is lurking in the back of your refrigerator. I can just hear you asking at breakfast one morning “Would you like dormers or cecils for dinner tonight, dearest? I must advise the cook of your preference.”

Quotation for the Day.
Meat eaten without mirth or music is ill of digestion.
Sir Walter Scott.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Household Hints, Part 1.

I am particularly fond of the sort of household manual that is not afraid to meet the challenge of assisting the housewife to cope with the myriad demands that the role requires. Sadly, no-one seems to publish these any more, and I am left to fend for myself in the matter of removing stains from silk gowns, making blacking for the stove, and concocting remedies for the green sickness. The Victorian housewife was luckier, for the publishing industry went wild for these books at the time, and she had a vast choice of such books to make her life easier, her servants better behaved, and her husband happier.

Methinks that there may still be much to learn from these books, in spite of their advice being nearly two hundred years old. To test the theory, I went first to Household Hints to Young Housewives, published in London in 1852. I chose this one because of the author’s name - or rather, her pseudonym – ‘Mary Careful.’ The name itself positively breathes reassurance, doesn’t it? It is just the thing that a new bride needs. The fact that the author chose a pseudonym is interesting in itself too. It is difficult to imagine, living in an age when celebrity rules as it seems to do today, that anyone wanting to publish a cookery book – or any book for that matter – would choose anonymity.

Mary Careful, in her lengthy preface, mentions her seventy-five years, her arthritis and her eight sons as if these in themselves give her some authenticity – and perhaps they do. She advises the newly-wedded wives to whom the book is addressed that ‘the helm of a vessel fully freighted with affection, wealth, and happiness is placed in your hand to guide – one false step may cast you on a rock of sorrow.’ The advice in her book will ‘place young housekeepers at once within the magic ring of wedded happiness’ by assisting them with ‘the trifles which make up the sum of human bliss.’ Now, I say without fear of correction, that those sentiments are not to be found in any current books on cookery or marriage, or life, - seafaring for that matter.

Mrs Careful gives some sample menus and this one caught my eye for its odd fragment of food etiquette advice below the menu proper.


Soles – Melted Butter
Minced Beef, with Potatoe Wall.
Bread and Butter Pudding.

It is not etiquette to serve up potatoes with fish. If you fancy them, a distinct order must be given.
Believe me, faithfully yours
Martha Careful.

I have never come across this piece of advice before, and this demonstrates to me the need for a return of the general household manual. I might have been saved from the culinary faux pas of serving potatoes with fish, had I had the benefit of such a manual on my kitchen bookshelves in my formative cooking years.

Perhaps it was part of the longstanding prejudice (and its accompanying misinformation) about potatoes that persisted into the early nineteenth century? Another book of the time,
Cottage comforts, with hints for promoting them, gleaned from experience: enlivened with authentic anecdotes, by Esther Copley (London, 1830), has this to say:

Potatoes should not be boiled in the liquor of which soup is made; they render it unwholesome. If you choose to have potatoes with your soup, let them be boiled in another vessel.

Another regular bad habit of mine exposed – actually cooking potatoes in the soup.

A second, minor point: I am equally intrigued by Mrs Careful’s placing of the spinach on her menu after the pudding.

Here is her recipe for the pudding, which is a rather nice version of this English staple.

Bread and Butter Pudding.
Cut very thin bread and butter; grate on it lemon peel, almond and nutmeg; place it in layers in a dish, strewing a few well washed currants or marmalade between each piece; till the dish up with custard a quarter of an hour before baking; a quart dish will require three quarters of an hour. The pudding may be turned out on a flat dish, and powdered with white sugar.
Custard for this, or any baked pudding, is made as follows:—Beat three eggs with whites, well sweeten and flavour it, then stir it into pint of new milk. An extra egg will increase the richness when required, and varied flavourings can be used—lemon, almond, noyeau, ratafia, cinnamon, coriander, orange, nutmeg, &c.

Bread and butter pudding flavoured with coriander – now that’s an idea!

Quotation for the Day.

It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.
Douglas Adams.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Easter with Samuel Johnson.

James Boswell, the diarist and author best known for his biography of Samuel Johnson, was very excited to be invited to his hero’s home for dinner on Easter Sunday in 1773.

He wrote:
'To my great surprize he asked me to dine with him on Easter-Day. I never supposed that he had a dinner at his house; for I had not then heard of any one of his friends having been entertained at his table. He told me, "I have generally a meat pye on Sunday: it is baked at a publick oven, which is very properly allowed, because one man can attend it; and thus the advantage is obtained of not keeping servants from church to dress dinners."’

When the big day came, he wrote in his journal:

April 11, being Easter-Sunday, after having attended Divine Service at St. Paul's, I repaired to Dr. Johnson's. I had gratified my curiosity much in dining with JEAN JAQUES ROUSSEAU, while he lived in the wilds of Neufchatel: I had as great a curiosity to dine with DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON, in the dusky recess of a court in Fleet-street. I supposed we should scarcely have knives and forks, and only some strange, uncouth, ill-drest dish: but I found every thing in very good order. We had no other company but Mrs. Williams and a young woman whom I did not know. As a dinner here was considered as a singular phenomenon, and as I was frequently interrogated on the subject, my readers may perhaps be desirous to know our bill of fare. Foote, I remember, in allusion to Francis, the negro, was willing to suppose that our repast was black broth. But the fact was, that we had a very good soup, a boiled leg of lamb and spinach, a veal pye, and a rice pudding.

From Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (1784), here are the instructions a boiled leg of lamb and spinach such as Samuel Johnson may have provided for his guests.

To boil a Leg of Lamb.
Let the leg be boiled very white. An hour will do it. Cut the loin into steaks, dip them into a few crumbs of bread and egg, fry them nice and brown, boil a good deal of spinach, and lay it in the dish; put the leg in the middle, lay the loin around it, cut an orange in four and garnish the dish, and have butter in a cup. Some love the spinach boiled, then drained, put into a saucepan with a good piece of butter, and stewed.

Quotation for the Day.

"I, Madam, who live at a variety of good tables, am a much better judge of cookery, than any person who has a very tolerable cook, but lives much at home; for his palate is gradually adapted to the taste of his cook: whereas, Madam, in trying by a wider range, I can more exquisitely judge."
Samuel Johnson, quoted by James Boswell.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Almond Milk Anyone?.

Yesterday’s recipe for ‘Brewet Of Almony’ reminded me that I have been intending to talk about almond milk for some time. It is difficult to imagine today how important almond milk was in medieval times in the kitchens of the extremely wealthy. It is also difficult to imagine what it must have been like for the lowliest kitchen workers of the time to be faced with a sack of expensive imported almonds and a mortar and pestle and to be told to get them all ground up and made into almond milk in time for the dinner shift to use!

Almond milk has been an ingredient in many of the recipes given in this blog over the years – in a fragrant fish dish, a risotto-like rice dish, and a dish of eggs for Lent, for example. It often seems to be suggested that almond milk came to the fore during Lent, but in fact, in the kitchens of the wealthy, it was prized above ‘cow mylke’ for many reasons – its fine flavour and fragrance of course, but also the labour-intensive production method itself presupposed sufficient wealth to be able to support a great kitchen, making it a desirable quality product by definition. After all, any lowly peasant could get access to rough farm animals such as cows.

But judge the method for yourself. How would you like to make many gallons of almond milk by this method, without a food processor?

Almond Milk.
Take blake sugre, an cold water, an do hem to in a fayre potte, an let hem boyle to-gedere, an salt it an skeme it clene, an let it kele; than tak almaundus, an blawnche hem clene, an stampe hem, an draw hem, with the sugre water thikke y-now, in-to a fayre vessel; an yf the mylke be noght swete y-now, take whyte sugre an caste ther-to.
Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books; Thomas Austin.

Almond milk also had medicinal uses, as this early eighteenth century recipe-remedy shows:

Almond Milk
Take Barley-Water one Pound, sweet Almonds blanch’d; make an Emulsion (to which add Barley-Cinnamon-Water one Ounce, a little Sugar,) of which drink plentifully.
‘This is a cooling and diluting Drink, and serves to quench the Thirst of Persons in Fevers, as well as to nourish ‘em; and when there is Danger of the Fever’s turning up to the Head, it cools that Fervor, and keeps ‘em sensible.’
Pharmacopoeia Radciffeana: or, Dr Radcliffe’s prescriptions … (1716) by John Radcliffe

We must not forget the culinary use of almond milk of course. I am not entirely sure that I should include the following recipe as the almonds are ground in a bit of water before being added to the cream, but are not actually made into milk – but the grinding being the difficult part I am going to include it as I absolutely love the recipe.

My Lady of Exeter’s Almond Butter .
Take a good Handful of Almonds blanch’d in cold Water, and grind them very small in a stone Mortar; mingle them well with a Quart of sweet Cream, and strain them through a Cushion Canvas Strainer; afterwards take the Yolks of nine or ten Eggs, the Knots and Strings being taken away clear, and well beaten; mix them very well with the Cream and set it in a silver Skillet on a quick Fire, stirring it continually till it begins to curdle; then take it off the Fire, put it into your Strainer, and hang it up that your Whey may pass from it; that done break the Curd very well in your Dish with a Spoon, and season it with Rose water and Sugar to your Taste.
The Housekeeper’s Pocket-book: and compleat family cook (1739), by Sarah Harrison.

Quotation for the Day.

Blossom of the almond trees,
April's gift to April's bees.

Sir Edwin Arnold, Almond Blossoms

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Fit for a King.

There was a sudden large spike in visits to this blog a couple of weeks ago. When I looked to see what had triggered it, most of the searches were for ‘Eggs Drumkilbo.’ This puzzled me for a while. Then I remembered a rumour that those of you in The Old Country are in for a royal wedding pretty soon. Thankfully we are somewhat protected from the hype over here in the old colony. Eggs Drumkilbo is apparently a dish popular with the royals - especially for wedding breakfasts - on account of it having being a favourite with the dear old Queen Mum. I put this and that together and came up with the theory that perhaps the menu details for the wedding breakfast of the Future King and his bride were being discussed in the press, and the egg dish was named, and, it not being a dish readily available in the caffs and pubs of England, more members of the public than usual Googled it and my story came up. Any truth in that theory? Someone out there must be an avid reader of all things relating to the royal wedding, surely.

All of this led me to the idea that I must give you a right royal menu. The bill of fare (the ‘purveyance’) for a feast for King Richard II (1377-1399) is given in Constance Hieatt’s indispensible book Curye on Inglysch . I have adapted the translation from the old English to make it a little more accessible to food enthusiasts who are not medieval food scholars, and hope that not too many inaccuracies have been introduced in the doing.

This is the purveyance (bill of fare) for the feast for the king at home for his own table. Venison with frumenty in potage, boars' heads, boiled large joints of meat, roasted swan, roasted fat capons, peas, pike, and two subtleties. White pudding, a jellied dish, roast pork, roasted cranes, roasted pheasants, roasted herons, roasted peacocks, bream (fish), tarts, meat served in pieces, roasted rabbit, and one subtlety. German broth, a ‘lombard’(a ‘solid’ spiced dish with pork, dried fruits and eggs in a sauce of almond milk or wine), roasted venison, roasted egret, roasted peacocks, roasted perch, roasted pigeons, roasted rabbits, roasted quails, roasted larks, a puff pastry dish (probably containing fruit – ‘mete’ in this sense referring to ‘food’, not specifically flesh meat), perch, a rice dish, fritters, and two subtleties.

Many of the dishes mentioned have previously appeared in this blog, but as time is short for me today to provide links to earlier posts (there are almost a million words to search now), I invite you to search for the terms yourself, should you be interested. If time permits later today I will return and do the links for you.

The Master Cooks of King Richard II left us their ‘cookery book’, and I have referred to it and given many recipes from it in the past. It is called The Forme of Cury. There are no instructions in it for boiling or roasting the vast amounts of meat on this menu – no cook would have needed these. The manuscript is more like an aide-memoire for the made-dishes, for cooks who did not need detailed instructions on actual methods.

I give you the recipe from the manuscript for the ‘German broth’ (bruet of almayne’, or ‘brewet of almony’ as it is called here.) It is a dish of pieces of rabbit (or kid), cooked with almond milk and sweet spices and thickened with rice flour – and sounds delicious.

Brewet Of Almony
Take Conynges or kiddes and hewe hem small on moscels other on pecys. parboile hem with the same broth, drawe an almaunde mylke and do the fleissh therwith, cast therto powdour galyngale & of gynger with flour of Rys. and colour it with alkenet. boile it, salt it. & messe
it forth with sugur and powdour douce.

Quotation for the Day.

When we decode a cookbook, every one of us is a practicing chemist. Cooking is really the oldest, most basic application of physical and chemical forces to natural materials.
Arthur E. Grosser (Professor of Chemistry at McGill University) 1984

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Chutney, Yet Again.

Regular readers will be only too well aware that one of my favourite blog tactics is to start with the idea of ‘many ways’ to use (or make) an ingredient or dish – such as porridge, or lemon butter, or popcorn, or mustard, for example. Today I want to have a little recipe-trivia fun with one of my all-time favourite concepts – chutney. Chutney is definitely more of a concept than a recipe, don’t you think.

One of this week’s sources, Charles Herman Senn’s Book of Sauces (Chicago, 1915) gave us an insight into classical cuisine’s classic compound butters. Amongst the traditional delights Senn gave us Chutney Butter; he also gives the following interesting recipe:

Chutney Sauce.
Make a sauce the same as directed for venison sauce [given below], omitting the red currant jelly, and adding instead one heaped-up tablespoonful of mango chutney, which must be chopped up rather finely.
Venison Sauce.
Put into a saucepan half a pint of good brown sauce, a dessertspoonful of red currant jelly, half a glass of port wine, and the juice of half a lemon. Next add a dessertspoonful of meat glaze, boil up again, then skim, strain and serve.

And now for something completely different, because sometimes - just sometimes - ‘different’ is a good enough reason. From Random Recipes, an undated charity cookbook published by and sold for the benefit of the Society for Seamen’s Children, I give you:

Chutney Toast.
Add to the popular bacon and peanut butter, spread on toast, a little chopped Major Grey’s Chutney to give that “different taste.”

Soup being one of my deepest and most faithful loves, I had to see if chutney soup existed anywhere in the world. Imagine my profound disappointment when I discovered this:

Chutney Soup.
3 cups cooked elbow macaroni
1 cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped pickle
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
½ cup salad dressing
½ cup dairy sour cream
1 cup cooked peas
Mix macaroni lightly with celery, pickle, and seasonings. Toss. Add salad dressing and sour cream. Fold in peas. Arrange salad in bowl. Garnish with crisp lettuce and pimiento slices.
The Gleaner (newspaper from Kingston, Jamaica) October 19, 1963

This is the soup you make when you are really making salad. I felt cheated. I did not allow my disappointment to delay my quest however, and eventually found the following recipe for
‘real’ chutney soup - depending on your definition of ‘real’ that is.

Apple Chutney Soup.
2 cans (10 ¾ ounces each) cream of asparagus soup.
1 can (10 ¾ ounces) cream of celery soup.
½ teaspoon curry powder
3 soup cans water
2 teaspoons chopped chutney
1 cup chopped apple.
In saucepan, blend soups and curry powder: gradually stir in water. Add chutney and apple. Heat, stirring occasionally. Makes 8 cups.
Tucson Daily Citizen, January 21, 1976

Before I finish this little ode to chutney, may I remind you of the previous posts on the topic -
A Chutney Emergency, and Chutney, Again.

Quotation for the Day.

All Chatneys should be quite thick, almost of the consistence of mashed turnips or stewed tomatoes, or stiff bread sauce. They are served with curries; and also with steaks, cutlets, cold meat, and fish.
Eliza Acton, Modern Cookery for Private Families (1845)

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Anchovies anyone?

Today I want to consider one more of the classic compound butters – made with anchovies - before I move on to another topic tomorrow.

People seem to either love or hate anchovies, but I suspect that many of those who admit to hating them have been prejudiced by the cheap, over-salty, pasty-textured versions packed in unidentified oil and stored for far too long. Perhaps their minds might be changed with exposure to some of the admittedly more expensive anchovies which still resemble little fish, not gritty, salty, mush.

The anchovy is ‘a small fish of the Herring family (Engraulis encrasicholus) found on the European coasts, especially in the Mediterranean, where it is extensively caught, and pickled for exportation (Oxford English Dictionary).

I don’t remember seeing anchovy butter in any modern textbooks or restaurant menus, but it certainly used to be a staple in kitchens with a long British heritage. Nowadays virtually the only way most of us meet an anchovy is on a pizza or in a Caesar salad.

An enjoyment of salty, fishy condiments is common to many cultures. The British no doubt got a taste for it thanks to the Roman garum, and this taste was no doubt reinforced by contact with food discovered during their Empire adventures – such as the Asian fish sauce we are familiar with today.

As we found with garlic butter, there are many interpretations of the simple concept. This one clearly shows the influence of the Empire:

Anchovy Butter.
Put anchovy essence into a boat with a little lemon pickle and corach; put melted butter to it.
A Complete System of Cookery, by John Simpson, 1808

This one is in the strictly European classic tradition:

Anchovy Butter Sauce, Sauce au Beurre d'Anchou.
Take three or four anchovies; wash them well; rub them so that no scales may remain; take off the flesh, beat them with the size of an egg of butter, gather it together; hare four skimming spoonfuls of Espagnole; warm the sauce without allowing it to boil; having put in the anchovy butter just at the moment of serving, add the juice of one or two lemons to freshen it; pass it through a search [sieve] and vannez it well; if too thick add a little comommé and serve.
Art of French Cookery, Antoine B. Beauvilliers. 1827

And finally, from that classic cookery book Modern Cookery (1845) by Eliza Acton, another which demonstrates the British love of cayenne pepper – another legacy from the Empire.

Anchovy Butter.
Scrape the skin quite clean from a dozen fine mellow anchovies, free the flesh entirely from the bones, and pound it as smooth as possible in a mortar; rub it through the back of a hair-sieve with a wooden spoon; wipe out the mortar, and put back the anchovies with three quarters of a pound of very fresh butter, a small half-saltspoonful of cayenne, and more than twice as much of finely grated, nutmeg, and freshly pounded mace; and beat them together until they are thoroughly blended, if to serve cold at table, mould the butter in small shapes, and turn it out. A little rose pink* (which is sold at the chemists') is sometimes used to give it a fine colour, but it must be sparingly used, or it will impart an unpleasant flavour: it should be well pounded, and very equally mixed with it. For kitchen use,

*I found this inclusion interesting. The OED says of ‘rose pink’ that it is ‘a pinkish pigment made by colouring whiting or chalk with a decoction of Brazil wood or other coloured wood. I have always wondered why some bottled anchovies have that strange pinkish colour. What are they coloured with today, I wonder?

Quotation for the Day.

Anchoua's, the famous meat of Drunkards, and of them that desire to haue their drinke oblectate the pallate.
T. Venner Via Recta 1620

Monday, April 04, 2011

Butter makes it better.

Mackeral à la maître d’hôtel, as we found out in Friday’s post, has been a popular dish for a very long time. ‘The great authority’ mentioned in the post, the famous gourmand Grimod de la Reynière, was born in 1758 (died 1837), and à la maître d’hôtel was already a classic way of serving fish during his writing and eating lifetime. A dish served à la maître d’hôtel traditionally means that it is served with a ‘sauce’ of maître d’hôtel butter, which we discussed in a previous blog post (here). The other ‘compound’ or flavoured butter with a long history, but which is more familiar to most of us is garlic butter, which we have also met in a previous post (here). Compound butters are amongst the standard sauces of classic cuisine, yet we have hardly given them due reverence here to date, so methinks it is time to remedy that situation.

My ‘go to’ book on this topic is Charles Herman Senn’s Book of Sauces (Chicago, 1915). He gives no less than sixteen savoury versions of compound butters. Naturally he includes the very classic Ravigote Butter. In a previous post we learned that the name comes ‘from the French verb ravigoter, meaning to cheer or revive. This ability supposedly comes from the four herbs it traditionally contained - tarragon, chervil, chives, and burnet - which together had the reputation for being restorative.’ There are several ‘sauces’ named this way, including a vinaigrette type and one with a velouté base. Today I give you Senn’s version of the compound butter.

Ravigote, or Green Herb Butter.
Ingredients: 1½ ozs. chervil, 2 ozs. spinach, 1½ ozs. of green chives, 1 oz of tarragon, ½ oz. of parsley, 3 or 4 shallots, 6 ½ ozs. of butter, pepper and salt.
Method: Wash and pick the chervil, spinach, green chives, tarragon, and parsley. Put it in a sauce-pan with water and blanch. Drain well and pound in a mortar. Peel 3 or 4 shallots, chop finely, cook them in a little butter until of a golden color, and put with the herbs; work in 6 ozs. of butter, rub through a fine sieve, add a little pepper and salt, and spinach greening if necessary. The butter is then ready for use.

Amongst the classic butters Senn also gives recipes for several other interesting combinations. This one caught my fancy, because I cant resist anything with an Anglo-Indian twist.

Chutney Butter (Beurre à la Madras)
Ingredients: Four ounces of Mango chutney, 1 tablespoonful of French mustard, 6 to 8 ounces of fresh butter, and lemon juice. Method:
Pound the chutney in a mortar, add the French mustard, add work in the fresh butter, season to taste, and add a few drops of lemon juice. Rub through a hair sieve, place it on the ice, and use as required.

If you scale that recipe down, it is the perfect way to use up that last spoonful of any chutney lurking in the bottom of a jar in the depths of your refrigerator!

Quotation for the Day.

It was the sort of poverty of conception, reproached by some foreigner to English cookery, that we had but one sauce, and that that sauce was melted butter.
W. Windham Speeches Parl. (1812)

Friday, April 01, 2011

Fool’s Food.

Today is April Fool’s Day. I just know I am going to get an email from someone (who assumes that this is my April Fool joke – or that I am just stupid) pointing out that ‘today’ is still Thursday. Believe me when I tell you that here in Australia it is already Friday.

The origins of April Fool’s Day traditions are lost in the mists of antiquity, and as such are subject to much conjecture and fanciful embroidery. There is much about the day that suggests a spring festival of renewal – it is a day of organised havoc, with rules. Beware that you don’t continue your pranks beyond midday or …. I am not sure what will happen, but you just don’t do it, it is the rule. Perhaps the April Fool Gods will turn your nose into a stick of rhubarb, or you will be doomed until the next Fool’s Day to wear your underpants on the outside of your trousers, or you will be forced to eat only low-fat, low-carb, high fibre chocolate until Christmas.

The day is strongly associated with fish, for some (to me) very obscure reason. This is relevant to us today because this is a food blog after all. The fish symbolism is particularly strong in France (some experts do blame the French for originating the tradition) where the day is called Poisson d’Avril, or April Fish Day. They even have a fish called the April Fish, as is explained in Kettner’s Book of the Table, (London, 1877)

MACKEREL: A great authority, Grimod de la Reynière, says : “The mackerel has this is common with good women – he is loved by all the world. He is welcomed by rich and poor with the same eagerness. He is most commonly eaten à la maître d’hôtel. But he may be prepared in a hundred ways; and he is as exquisite plain as in the most elaborate dressing.” (au maigre comme au gras). This is immense praise, and is a complete justification of the common English method of serving him – plain boiled, with fennel or with gooseberry sauce. Nevertheless I give my vote to those who assert that there is but one perfect way of cooking a mackerel – to split him down the back, broil him, and serve him with maître d’hôtel butter. Still better, take his fillets and serve them in the same way.
The name of mackerel is supposed to be a corruption of nacarel, a possible diminution of nacre – from the blue and mother-o’-pearl tint of the skin. In one of the dialects of the south of France he is called pies d’Avril, the April fish – or as we should say, and April fool, both because he is a fool coming easily to the net, and because he first comes in April. He is not only quickly caught, but he spoils so quickly that the law accords him a peculiar privilege: he is the only fish that may be hawked about the streets on a Sunday. For the same reason he is the only fish besides the salmon that is much soused or marinaded in this country.

For those of you living in the other hemisphere, where April means Spring, not Autumn, and who can source a mackerel in season , I give you a simple version of the traditional gooseberry sauce to serve with him.

Gooseberry Sauce.
Put some scalded gooseberries, a little juice of sorrel, and a little ginger, into some melted butter.
The universal cook: and city and country housekeeper (1792), by By Francis Collingwood.

There is a slightly different version of the sauce (from 1709), intended to be served with goose here, and one for mock gooseberry sauce (made with rhubarb) here.

Previous April Fool’s Day stories are here, here, and here (my favourite, the amazing spaghetti trees of England.)

Recipes for Fools are here and here.

Fun Pudding is here.

Quotation for the Day.

Food is so fundamental, more so than sexuality, aggression, or learning, that it is astounding to realize the neglect of food and eating in depth psychology.
James Hillman.