There are two excuses to party today. Firstly, it is Hallowe’en – although I am pretty sure you are aware of that. Secondly, it is the eighth anniversary of this blog – which means it is also the eighth birthday of The Old Foodie. Who would have thought it – not a single Monday to Friday missed in eight years, and two thousand one hundred and seventy nine posts to show for it.
I have given you some Hallowe’en recipes this week, so I will indulge my birthday-persona with the meal of my choice today. Thanks to a story in the Grey River Argus (New Zealand) 8 January 1892, I am going to enjoy A Mongolian Epicure’s Bill of Fare.
In Lipincott recently, Mr Edward Bedloe gives an account of a tiffin (or midday meal) which he had with a Chinese Taotai, or City Governor.
Many of the dishes (says the writer) were so simple as to show their composition at a glance. A few of those I recall with very pleasant memories were as follows:- (1) Chicken-breast cut into dice and stewed with chicken liver, mushrooms, tree-mushrooms, bamboo-tips, and wine. The sauce was a revelation of delight, and the dish itself was so carefully prepared that each ingredient had preserved its identity. (2) Devilled crabs. The meat, carefully picked, was laid in layers in the shell, all alternating with ma-tail a very delicate vegetable resembling a potato, and mixed with finely chopped bacon, salt, and red pepper. It was better than our own mode of making the dish” (3) Goldfish stuffed. The fish is scalded and the scales removed. It is opened, cleaned, and stuffed with a paste that is chiefly vegetable in composition, and steamed until thoroughly cooked. It is served with a pale-greyish sauce, resembling Hollandaise, and decorated with sprigs of cress and other herbs. The contrast of colour is very striking and beautiful. (4) Stuffed radishes. They are prepared the same as our stuffed cucumbers, and baked or steamed. The heat destroys the biting quality of the esculescent without injuring its flavour, or when steamed, its colour. (5) Dragon-balls. These are miniature dragons made of fine pastry filled with forcemeat. They are decorated with primary colours, and stand proudly erect upon their forelegs or hindlegs and tail like dogs. I was puzzled how they kept their legs from coalescing with the body, and was informed that the body was supported in bamboo skewers during the baking operation. (6) Custard eggs. Eggs are emptied through small holes in each end, refilled with liquid custard, plugged, and steamed. When broken, one is full of rose-coloured, rose-flavoured custard, another with chocolate, and so on, not more than two being of the same tint and taste. Time and space forbid a longer enumeration.
I admit to being puzzled by the concept of chocolate custard on a Mongolian menu – it hardly sounds ‘traditional,’ does it? The rose-custard may not be traditional either, but it does sound rather delicious. Please, someone, enlighten me on Mongolian custard!
As the recipe for the day, I give you a rosy almond custard from a definitely non-Mongolian cookery book.
Beat up the yolks of four eggs with two ounces of pounded sweet, and four bitter almonds; moisten with orange or rose-water. Boil a pint of cream with lemon-zest; sweeten; let it cool, and rub the almonds through a hair-sieve with a little of it. Add syrup of roses; beat all together with the eggs; put it into cups or a dish, if it is to be baked; if for a boiled custard, cook it in a bain-marie, and dish it.
Domestic economy, and cookery, for rich and poor, by a lady (1827)