Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Military Dinner on the Mosquito Coast; late 18th C.

I have a most interesting menu for you today.  It is given in Central America: Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, and Salvador (London, 1917) by the author, W.H. Koebel, in his discussion of the Mosquito coast at the end of the eighteenth century.

Prior to 1786 there are said to have been as many as twelve hundred British settlers in the Mosquito Coast, while the number of the aborigines themselves was estimated at about ten thousand.

Before leaving this period I may refer to a very instructive document which is reproduced by Captain Bedford Pim, R.N., in his Dottings on the Roadside in Panama, Nicaragua, and Mosquito. This is the bill of fare of an entertainment given by the officers of a detachment of the 3rd Regiment (Buffs) at their station on the Mosquito Coast towards the end of the eighteenth century :—


Manati, Soused.                      Guana, Fricasseed.      Waree, Steaks.

Turtle Soup.
Armadillo Curry.         Monkey, Barbacued.               Parrot Pie.

Antelope Roasted.

Peccary, Smoked.       Indian Rabbit, Boiled.                        Hiccatee, Stewed.


It would have been of no little interest to have learned the Buffs' ideas concerning the wines to accompany this curious and rare repast in the eighteenth-century Mosquito Coast. But of these there is no record, although it is unreasonable to suppose that, at that period and place, they did not play their part in the function.

I am delighted that I am able to supply you with a recipe for one of the dishes on this menu, although I doubt and hope that you will not cook it, as parrots are protected in many places in the world - and where they are not, their flamboyant beauty usually buys them a dispensation from the sentence of death for the pot. In earlier times in tropical Queensland however, necessity spoke louder than nicety, and recipes for parrot pie are frequent in cookery books and newspaper columns.

Parrot Pie (By Request.)

The idea of our brilliant-plumaged noisy bush friends being shot to replenish the pot cannot receive unqualified approval, but parrot pie is, nevertheless, not at all an unsavoury dish when properly prepared, so, in reply to “Bush Cook”, a recipe is given. After plucking, thoroughly cleaning, and washing the birds, divide the breast and thighs from the body, and use only those portions for the pie; soak them in milk for some hours if you can; meanwhile stew all the other parts for stock with a small onion, some pepper, and salt.  Strain the stock and simmer the breasts and thighs until perfectly tender. This will take some time. Some of the pieces will take less time than others; test them while cooking with a three-prong fork. All the time the birds are stewing the pot lid must be kept well shut. Meanwhile you can be making the short-crust pastry by well rubbing some clean dripping into  one pound of flour, into which you have mixed one and a-half teaspoonfuls of baking powder end half a teaspoonful of salt. Rub the dripping well in, until the whole of the flour is worked into small, smooth crumbs. Mix with very little water, and roll out once only. Place the well-stewed birds, and gravy enough to nearly cover them, in a deep pie-dish; place round the edge a rim of pastry, cover the top with the rest, make two holes to permit the escape of steam, and bake until the pastry is done crisp, which will be in about twenty minutes. If you have a little bacon, you may add it when making the pie, and hard-boiled eggs, cut in dice also. If these instructions are carried out you will find parrot pie very good, but the pieces must be thoroughly stewed before putting into the piedish. When the meat parts readily from the bones it is stewed enough.
The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. ) Saturday 9 July 1898.

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