I know that some of you of a certain age have memories of the remains of the traditional Sunday roast being served in various guises for the next few (too many) consecutive days of the week. The prevailing culture of household frugality and the complete inability to consider waste of any food at all – despite the lack of refrigeration in many if not most households of the time – underpinned the practice of course, and I think we will all agree that a return to some of those values would have a lot of benefits beyond the mere household budget.
The practice of recycling cold meat of is hardly new of course. In the mid-nineteenth century, a woman called Caroline Chisholm migrated from England to Australia, and became a staunch supporter of, and advocate, for new immigrants, particularly of the young female kind. There was only one possible future for young single immigrant women – marriage. It was not a difficult goal to achieve in the new settlements where women were in short supply. One of Caroline’s projects was to assist the young housewife manage the weekly ration of salt beef, and to that end she produced a pamphlet entitled SevenThings to do with Salt Beef.
Today I want to share with you some comments on the topic from The Belgian Cookbook (1916) – a lovely little post-WWII book which contained “recipes … sent by Belgian refugees from all parts of the United Kingdom.” The author begins the introduction with the following:
Made dishes are a great feature in this little book. I have tried to help those small households who cook, let us say, a leg of mutton on Sunday, and then see it meander through the week in various guises till it ends its days honorable as soup on the following Friday. Endeavor to hide from your husband that you are making that leg of mutton almost achieve eternal life. It is noticeable that men are attracted to a house where there is good cooking, and the most unapproachable beings are rendered accessible by the pleasantness of a souffle, or the aroma of a roast duck. You must have observed that a certain number of single men have their hearts very "wishful" towards their cook. Not infrequently they marry that cook; but it is less that she is a good and charming woman than that she is a good and charming cook. Ponder this, therefore; for I have known men otherwise happy, who long for a good beef-steak pudding as vainly as the Golden Ass longed for a meal of roses. Try these recipes, for really good rissoles and hashes. Twice-cooked meat can always be alleviated by mushrooms or tomatoes. Remember that the discovery of a new dish is of more use than the discovery of a new star, - besides which, you will get much more praise for it. And if on Wednesday you find that you have to eat the same part of the very same animal that you had on Monday, do not, pray, become exasperated; treat it affectionately, as I treat my black hat, which becomes more ravishing every time that I alter it. Only, do not buy extravagant make-weight for a scrap of cold meat that would be best used in a mince patty, or you will be like a man keeping a horse in order to grow mushrooms.
Naturally there are recipes in the book, and I have selected a couple for you. The first is rather ordinary, unless you are passionate about celery, but the second is rather interesting, I think, although it does not specify leftover meat to be minced.
To Use Up Cold Meat
Take a fresh celery, wash it well, and remove the green leaves. Let it boil till half-cooked in
salted water. Drain it on a sieve, and then cut it lengthways, and place minced meat of any kind,
well seasoned, between the two pieces. Tie them together with a thread and let them cook again
for a quarter of an hour, this time either in the same water and gently simmered, or in the oven
in a well-buttered dish. Other people, to avoid the trouble of tying the two halves, spread the
mince on each half and cook it in the oven, laid flat in a fireproof dish. In this case put a good
lump of butter on each portion of mince.
Pick over a fine cauliflower, and plunge it for a moment in boiling water. Look over it well again
and remove any grit or insects. Put it head downwards in a pan when you have already placed a
good slice of fat bacon at the bottom and sides. In the holes between the pan and the vegetable put a stuffing of minced meat, with breadcrumbs, yolks of eggs, mushrooms, seasoning of the usual kinds, in fact, a good forcemeat. Press this well in, and pour over it a thin gravy. Let it cook gently, and when the gravy on the top has disappeared put a dish on the top of the saucepan, turn it upside down and slip the cauliflower out. Serve very hot.