Monday, April 30, 2012

Blackcurrant Leaves.

 As the annual Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery approaches, those of us lucky to be attending are thinking about the theme for the year – Wrapped and Stuffed Foods. There has been some recent discussion on the symposium group Facebook page about leaves as wrappers for food, and there is a far greater variety of these in use than I had known. I am most familiar with vine leaves as used in I dolmas (dolmades), but many others have been named – including red and white mulberry, cherry, and quince.

Co-incidentally with this discussion, I came across a couple of ideas for using blackcurrant leaves as an ingredient - not a wrapper - so I thought I would share them with you. Those of you lucky enough to have blackcurrants nearby may find them interesting. The recipes appeared in The Times of March 6, 1939, in the regular feature Recipes For Small Households: Some Dishes By Request/

“Enquiries have also come for sweets flavoured with young green blackcurrant leaves. Spring being at hand we shall soon be able to get these exquisitely scented leaves so popular on the Continent.
Cream of Blackcurrant Leaves.
(For Four People)
Boil a pound of white sugar with half a pint of water to a syrup. Then add a pint of blackcurrant leaves and simmer for 15 minutes. Cool and strain. When cold add the juice of three lemons and half  a pint of whipped cream. Serve in glasses.
Blackcurrant Leaf Ice.
Make the ice the same as the above, but leave out the cream. Freeze, but not too hard. Serve with a hot puree of blackcurrants.
 At the end of summer pick a good supply of the leaves, lay them on trays and leave for a month in a warm room. Then store. In this way they will preserve their flavour all through the winter."

Quotation for the Day.
Here is a rural fellow that will not be denied your Highness' presence: he brings you figs.
William Shakespeare.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Extreme Kitchen DIY.

It is time to move from the Anzac theme, although, as promised, we will stay in Australia this week. Today’s post is in honour of the intrepid home cooks of the past, who faced problems such  as shortage of butter with great calm and great creativity, and came up with ideas from which we can still learn.

Mrs. Floate’s Secret of Success Cookery Book (1950’s.) Mrs. D Floate was a self-taught cook who won many prizes at agricultural and other regional shows in Australia in the 1930’s- 50’s, and topped off her career by writing numerous cookery books.

Here is Mrs. Floate’s method of making margarine at home. Note that this is about as far as it is possible to be from modern commercial margarine, being made completely from animal fat. On the other hand, neither does it have artificial butter flavour or colour. I think it probably did make good pastry because of the higher melting point of the lard and dripping.

Home-made Margarine.
1lb. clarified beef dripping
¾ lb lard
1 lb butter
2 dessertspoons lemon juice
1 slice stale bread.
If you happen to have walnuts or almonds growing, add 1 cup of crushed nuts to boiling fat. The nut oil is an improvement, but margarine is quite satisfactory without the nuts.
Method: this margarine is excellent for making puff or flaky pastry and all other varieties of pastry/ It may be used as a substitute for butter in all classes of cookery, including large and small cakes, biscuits,and buns, etc. I would recommend butter for expensive cakes. Put dripping on; when melted, add to it butter and lard. Bring slowly to the boil. Add lemon juice. Drop in slice of stale bread that has been cut about 1 in. thick. The bread will absorb any scum as it rises. Boil briskly 5 mins. Remove from heat. Remove bread that will still be in one piece. Pour margarine into an oblong tin and allow to set.

The following idea is also intended to make the butter go further, but without any nasty additives. It would certainly not make good pastry, but would indeed facilitate the efficient and economical preparation of a large number of sandwiches.

Magic Butter.
Magic butter is excellent for sandwiches as it lessens the cost, keeps them deliciously fresh, and makes spreading a pleasure.
One pound butter, 1 cup hot (not boiling) water, 1 cup cold water, 1 good teaspoon salt.
Place butter in mixing bowl, break up well, add salt, and gradually add first a little hot water then a little cold until all the water is used up. Beat well. This is very important.
Australian Women’s Weekly, July 6, 1940.

And a variation of the same idea:
Butter Economy.
Take ½ pint rich milk and ½ lb. butter. Soak ½ teaspoon gelatine in 1 tablespoon milk, then place the bowl in hot water until the gelatine is thoroughly dissolved. Now put the butter in a basin, and place in hot water till it softens. The add the dissolved gelatine, ½ teaspoon salt, and milk gradually. Beat all together, continuing until the milk is quite taken up, and place it aside to harden. If a yellow colour is desired, use a little butter coloring.
This butter will do the work of ordinary butter for table use, baking cakes, etc – in fact for every use except frying. Double amount if larger quantities are required.
‘Truth’ and ‘Daily Mirror’ Cookery Book, (c 1943) by Ruth Cilento.

Quotation for the Day.

If you're afraid of butter, as many people are nowadays, just put in cream!
Julia Child

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Rations and Pudding.

Lest I forget that the ‘NZ’ in ANZAC stands for New Zealand, I dedicate this post to my Kiwi buddies. After the picnics and barbecues of yesterday, we need to be reminded of the reality of the daily ration of a soldier of the time.

III. Scale of Rations on Gallipoli.

G.R.O., Q.M.G., 13th April, 1915.

    Rations Scale of:—

    The scale of Rations after leaving Egypt will be:—

        1¼ lbs. Fresh Meat or 1 lb. (nominal) preserved meat.
        1¼ lbs, Bread or 1 lb. Biscuit or 1 lb. Flour.
        4 ozs. Bacon.
        3 ozs. Cheese.
        2 ozs. Peas, Beans or dried Potatoes.
        ⅝ ozs. Tea. ¼ lb. Jam.
        3 ozs. Sugar.
        ½ oz. Salt, 1/20 oz. Mustard, 1/36 oz. Pepper.
        1/10 gill Limejuice. at discretion of G.O.C. on recommendation of S.M.O
        ½ gill Rum. at discretion of G.O.C. on recommendation of S.M.O
        Tobacco not exceeding 2 ozs per week at discretion of G.O.C. on recommendation of S.M.O

Soldiers of all nationalities and eras have managed to be remarkably creative with their rations – or at least humorous in their efforts with them – especially considering the context in which they are eaten. There are references to ‘Anzac pudding’ or ‘Gallipoli pudding’ made from the contents of ration packs. One version was described as  “consisting of mashed up army biscuits, with the ‘apricot jam’ added.” Those quotation marks around the ‘apricot jam’ speak volumes, do they not?

An American version of the same idea, which appears to date from the late nineteenth century, is ‘dandyfunk’, which consisted of hard tack, soaked in water and baked with fat and molasses.

Here is a somewhat later, more traditional version of Anzac Pudding, named perhaps in honour of a particular soldier by a proud Mama or wife.

Anzac Pudding.
Soak some lemon rind in ½ pint of milk for half hour, boil and pour it over ½ lb finely sifted breadcrumbs, 3oz. sugar and 3oz. but ter, work well, then add 3 beaten eggs. Butter a mould, put in a little of the mixture, then a layer of apricot or other jam, and so on to the top. Cover with buttered paper and steam for one hour. Serve with sauce made of 1 tablespoonful of jam (same as in pudding), 1 tea spoonful sugar and 4 tablespoonfuls of water. Boil for ten minutes.
Sunday Times (Perth) May 18, 1924

Quotation for the Day.

“'Make a remark,' said the Red Queen; 'it's ridiculous to leave all the conversation to the pudding!'”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Anzac Biscuit Day.

Every patriotic home in Australia will have (or should have) Anzac biscuits on the table today.  In a long-ago post on the now-defunct Companion site (here), I gave a recipe for Anzac biscuits, which I give again, to start us off on the right foot. The recipe appears on the Australian War Memorial website, and is a “popular version” provided by a Gallipoli veteran, Mr Bob Lawson.

Anzac Biscuits.
1 cup each of plain flour, sugar, rolled oats and coconut, 4 oz butter, 1 tablespoon treacle (golden syrup), 2 tablespoons boiling water, 1 teaspoon carbonate soda (add a little more water if mixture is too dry)
Melt butter, add syrup, water and soda. Combine dry ingredients and teaspoon onto tray
Bake in moderate oven for 10-15 minutes.

There are minor variations on the theme, of course, but one must not stray too far from the basic idea. The following recipe seems to be acceptable to me: it is from the Sunday Times (Perth), of June 14, 1936

Anzac Slices.
Take 2 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon dripping, 1 tablespoon honey, 2 cups oats, ¾ cup sugar, 1 cup cocoanut. Mix dry ingredients together and pour melted butter and honey [and dripping] into them, grease baking dish, press down flat with spoon and bake till a golden brown in a slow oven. Cut in slices while hot, and leave in dish till cold.
The Argus (Melbourne) Septem,ber 22, 1920.

And in case your sweet tooth is still not satisfied, or you want to seriously theme your Anzac day picnic, here are a couple of other ideas for the tea-table.

Gallipoli  Cake.
Three cupfuls flour, one cupful sugar, two eggs, one tablespoonful butter, one cupful and a half of milk, one teaspoonful bicarbonate of soda, two teaspoonfuls cream of tartar, one small teaspoonful salt. Beat the butter and sugar to a cream. Beat in the eggs, then add the milk and other ingredients. Put the cake into a large, shallow tin, then rub together half a cupful or flour, quarter-cupful sugar, two ounces butter, and one teaspoonful ground cinnamon. Spread this mix ture over the top of the cake. Bake from thirty to forty minutes.
The Argus (Melbourne) September 22, 1920

Gallipoli Tea Cake.
Make mixture for top of cake first:
½ cup flour; ¼ cup sugar, pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and scant 2 oz. butter.
Rub all together till it looks like breadcrumbs.
Cake Mixture: 3 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon of butter, 1 ½ cups milk, 1 teaspoon carb. Soda, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar, pinch of salt.
Beat butter and sugar to a cream, add eggs and beat well, then sifted dry ingredients, and lastly milk. Put into greased and papered baking ti (13 in x 10 in x 2 in deep), sprinkle top mixture over, press in lightly with the flat of the hand, and bake in moderate oven about ¾ of an hour. Serve buttered slices when cold.
Australian Women’s Weekly, July 6, 1940.

Quotation for the Day.

“It is easy to think of biscuits without an army, but of an army without biscuits – never”, began the writer of a tongue-in-cheek article on Army biscuits in ‘The Anzac Book’, published in 1916.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Damper Details.

Aussie week would not be complete without reference to ‘damper’ – the legendary staple of the bushman and explorer.  I have touched on it before (here), but there is more that needs to be said on the topic. Damper – the pure, real, legendary thing – requires only flour and water, but it is the method in any recipe that is the key, not the ingredients. I give you in its entirety an article from the Western Mail (Perth, WA), of 21 February, 1929, which describes the method, complete with tricks and hints from the bushman’s repertoire.

A. O. Wood asks:- Will you kindly tell me how to make damper?
Real damper is made of flour and water mixed into a stiff dough and baked in hot ashes: Since the introduction of baking powder, scones, or "soda bread," made of flour, baking powder, and water, and baked in hot ashes, or even in a camp oven, are often called damper by the inexperienced, but these are not genuine damper.
On 27-2-14 I published the following ac- count by "Old Pioneer" (Albany) of how to make damper:
The Recipe.
"To make a first-class 'damper' it is necessary to have a good heap of hot wood ashes (not coal) and good flour. If the fire is made on clean, dry sand, such as occurs in river beds, or near the beach, the heat from it, absorbed by the sand, will be sufficient to cook the damper after it is buried in the ashes. Some time before mixing up the 'damper' a good large fire of dead wood should be made, and allowed to burn down to ashes.
A quantity of good flour (say 31b. to 51b., according to the size of the 'damper' required) is then put either in a flat tin dish, like a milk dish, or, as is very frequently done in bush camps, upon a sack spread on the ground (or even the saddle cloth from one's horse, may be used, if one is travelling). This heap of flour is opened out by one's hand into the shape of a large, open crater, and into the crater water is gradually poured by one hand (from one's pannikin or quart-pot, for boiling tea, usually), while the flour is mixed by the other band into an even and rather stiff dough. This mass of dough is then well kneaded, taken up in both hands, and quickly made into as round and smooth a ball as possible, which is then placed on the remnants of flour left and firmly pressed down by the palms of one's hands, until it becomes a flat cake of about l in. or 2in. thick. This cake is lightly dusted over with dry flour.
The fire must then be immediately prepared by putting any partially burnt sticks or coals on one side and opening it the centre of the heap of ashes and sand below into a cavity rather larger than the cake of dough, care being taken not to go through the bottom of the heated ashes and sand, as, if so, the bot tom of the cake will not cook on the cold ground.
The cake is then lifted on the palms of one's hands, quickly dropped flat in the cavity made in the ashes, and firmly pressed down level by the hands. The surrounding hot ashes and sand are rapidly raked over the cake by means of a stick or other handy implement, until it is well buried. It is then cooked for half an hour or more, according to its size.
If the ashes are not hot enough, or If the 'damper’ is large, it may require to be turned over in the ashes, after a while, to ensure the bottom part being cooked. An old hand will remove the top ashes and tap the top of the 'damper,' while still in the fire, with a stick, and judge by the sound as to whether it is cooked or not; When taken out of the fire the 'damper' is usually smartly beaten with a bunch of green, leafy twigs, or a piece of bagging, to dust off any loose ashes or pieces of grit, etc. It should then be kept on its edge, and not laid flat. A good bushman will turn out a 'damper' most surprisingly free from dirt or ashes, and thoroughly cooked, without being burnt anywhere."
On 13-9-18 "Ex-Nor'-Wester" contributed some interesting reminiscences, in the course of which he described how to make "real damper."
          "Forty-three years ago (that is, about 1875), I helped to take 3,000 sheep from Brookton to Roebourne. It took us seven months to do the journey, and we lived on damper all the time. Our cook gave up the cooking, and my uncle, the late John Seabrook, took on the job, and a splendid damper maker he was, too. We used to have hot damper and fried chops for breakfast every morning, and, when we arrived at Roebourne, everybody remarked how well we looked.
To make a good damper you must first make the water warm, but not too hot you should be able to bear your hand in it comfortably. Then put, say, 21b. of flour on the smooth side of a sheep skin, kept for the purpose. Make a hole in the middle of the flour and put all the water in at once; knead it up on the wet side, and then keep adding flour till it is stiff enough to hold in your hands. Then make a hole in the ashes. Care must be taken to have a good fire several hours before you require to cook your damper. A damper should not be more than half an inch thick. As soon as it is done, take it out and brush with a wisp of nice green bushes. I liked the jam bushes the best, when no cow tails were at hand, when I learned to make damper. When done, stand your damper up against something. Never lay a damper down flat until it is cold. If you do, it will become heavy and sodden.
Johnny cakes are made the same way, except they are made very thin and cooked on the hot coals and turned over till cooked. In making damper I never used anything except warm water and good flour; and I have made them so light that they would float on the top of the tea. I can remember when I preferred damper to the very best bread."
Quotation for the Day.

Acorns were good until bread was found.
Francis Bacon

Monday, April 23, 2012

Anzac Day in Egypt, 1916.

Anzac Day – the national day of remembrance here in Australia - falls on Wednesday this week. It commemorates the landing of Australian and New Zealand troops on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey on April 25, 1915, and is arguably our most important national holiday.

I have decided to dedicate the entire week to recipes from newspapers and small cookery books from various parts of this wide brown land, and hope you enjoy them.

Firstly, to give an idea of the significance of the events of that day, I give you an article from The Brisbane Courier of June 8, 1916. One year later the day was already indelibly engraved on the minds of Australian soldiers – who managed to bring that peculiar blend of Aussie and military humour  and slang to their commemorative dinner.

The anniversary of Anzac Day was celebrated by the 4th Australian Ordnance Section with considerable gusto, judging from a typewritten menu used on that occasion, and which has found its way to Brisbane. The division, it is stated, was “on the Egyptian desert”, and the anniversary was celebrated “mid sand, sin, sorrow, sun, soldiers, and ‘sore eyes.’” The menu of the “dinner a la ordnance” is headed by the well-known lines of Burns:-

Some hae meat and cann eat
And some was eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.

followed by “7 pm, Fall in and carry on … Mungery ad lib.” The eatables were set out as follows:- “Hors d’oeuvres – Not got Johnny, Bookera plenty. Soup – vegetables, Egyptian swimmers (fish) – Canal bread, HH combination. Sauce – Dublin. Rabbits – wild, Australian fricasseed. Geese – tame, roast cold, seasoned, pedigree unknown. Ham – York, quise caters. Peas – green, fresh (so says the Gyppo). Potatoes – new, boiled. Tomatoes – ripe, au natural. Asparagus – iced, sauce vinaigrette (marvelous.) Pudding – duff, plum. Blanc mange – various colours, no other distinguishing marks. Jellies – fruit, flavour in Aspic? No! cant be did. Cheese – GS., fairly reliable, toasted (bonser crook). Oranges – very good, very nice, very clean, big ones. Almonds – raisins, on storks, assorted Pickles, sauces, Baksheesh from Budden’s stock. Beer, whisky, soda, cafĂ©, wine (perhaps.) The toasts were: “The King”, “The Day We Celebrate,” “ Absent Friends,” “Success To Our Cause,” and “Australia.”

As the recipe for the day, I cannot do better than to give you the instructions for preparing Australia’s cute furry environmental disaster in a simple stew, albeit poshed up as a French fricasse.

Rabbit Fricasse.
Take one young rabbit, two ounces, of butter, and a half ounce of flour, some white stock, half a pint of milk half a small slice, turnip, one or two strips of celery (chopped), a little parsley, thyme, and a bayleaf, tied together; one blade of mace, six white peppercorns, some salt and pepper. After rinsing the rabbit in warm water cut it into neat joints, and put them into a stewpan with sufficient stock to cover. Bring to boiling point; add the prepared vegetables, peppercorns, mace, and a little salt; cover the pan close, and cook gently for one hour and a quarter, or until the rabbit is tender, adding a little milk from time to time to replace the stock boiled away. Meanwhile melt the butter, add the flour, cook gently without browning, and set aside. Take up the rabbit, keep it hot, strain, and add three-quarters of a pint of stock to the blended flour and butter. Stir until boiling, then simmer for ten minutes. Pass the vegetables through a sieve, and stir the puree into the sauce; season to taste; and replace the rabbit to get thoroughly hot, and serve.
Evelyn Observer and Bourke East Record (Vic) Friday 4 June 1915

Quotation for the Day.

I would like to find a stew that will give me heartburn immediately, instead of at three o clock in the morning.
John Barrymore

Friday, April 20, 2012

Sauce for the Goose.

Today I want to revisit Panzoologicomineralogia, a wonderful book published in 1661, with the full title of:

Or a Compleat
Of Animals and Minerals,
Containing the Summe of all Authors, both Ancient
touching Animals, viz. Beasts, Birds, Fishes, Serpents, Insects,
and Man, as to their Place, Meat, Name, Temperature, Vertues,
Sympathie, Antipathie, Diseases., Cures, Hurts, and Remedies, &c.
With the Anatomy of MAN, his Diseases, with their Definitions,
Causes, Signes, Cures, Remedies, and use of the London Dispen-
satory, with the Doses and Formes of all kinds of Remedies:
As also a History of MINERALS, viz., Earth, Metals, Semi-
metals, their Naturall and Artificial excrements, Salts, Sulphurs,
and Stones, with their Place, Matter, Names, Kidds, Temperature,
Vertues, Use, Choice, Dose, Danger, and Antidotes.
Also an Introduction to ZOOGRAPHY and MINERALOGY.
Index of Latine Names, with their English Names.
Universal INDEX of the Use and Vertues.

By Robert Lovell, St. C C. Oxon.
Printed by HEN. HALL, for Jas: GODWIN. 1661

The book is still firmly rooted in the ancient Humoral Theory, which I attempted to summarise in a previous post (here.  In essence, it was a unifying theory of everything in the world, and one of its practical applications was in medicine. One of the basic tenets of humoral theory was that medicine was food, and food was medicine, and that the physician therefore worked closely with the cook in the household. In Panzoolologicmineralogia, this is superbly illustrated on the section on Animals, which contains a summary of the appropriate sauces to serve with various meats, in order to enhance their benefit. This fairly lengthy section on sauces featured in a previous post (here) and if you are not familiar with it, please do revisit it.

Today I want to offer a few more gleanings from other pages in the book, on the same theme, in the hope that we may gain some enlightenment about the era, and some inspiration for cooking in our own.  I give you the author’s thoughts on goose and pork, and note the exhortation to exercise to enhance digestion of these meats.

Goose: .. The flesh of goslings well fed is nourishing and pleasant, but the best is the stubble goose if it be above four months of age, it cannot be digested without Garlicke sauce, exercise, and strong drink.

Sow, or Hogge: the best of all meats ... when powdered [i.e salted[ its best eaten with green sauce to coole the salt and qualifie the malignitie of the flesh ... The bacon is of harder digestion, therefore both, as also brawn, are not to be eaten without wine, or strong bear [beer] spiced with ginger, and exercise after.

As the recipe for the day, I give you some alternative suggestions for sauce for goose, from Robert May’s Accomplisht Cook, first published contemporaneously with Panzoologiomineralogia, in 1660 (although I have taken the recipe from the 1685 edition.)

Sauce for a stubble or fat Goose.
1.       The Goose being scalded, drawn, and trust, put a handful of salt in the belly of it, roast it, and make sauce with sowre apples slic’t and boil’d in beer all to mash, then put to it sugar and beaten butter. Sometimes for veriety add barberries and the gravy of the fowl.
2.       Roast sowre apples or pippins, strain them, and put to them vineger, sugar, gravy, barberries, grated bread, beaten cinnamon, mustard, and boil’d onions strained and put to it.

Quotation for the Day.

A recipe has no soul.  You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe. 
Thomas Keller