In a post during the first year of this blog (2005) I made brief mention of the ‘kickshaw,’ and it is time, methinks, to revisit the concept. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the kickshaw as:
“A fancy dish in cookery. (Chiefly with contemptuous force: A ‘something’ French, not one of the known ‘substantial English’ dishes.)”
The inimitable Dr Samuel Johnson, in his famous dictionary published in 1755, had a slightly more terse and telling description:
“Kickshaw: A dish so changed by the cookery that it can scarcely be known.”
The word “kickshaw” comes from the French quelque chose, and came to mean any dish so frivolous it could not possibly have an English origin. A wide range of these insubstantial, delicate pieces were co-opted to fill the small spaces on banquet tables, and at luncheons and suppers. The recipe for a kickshaw which I gave in the post in 2005 was from Hannah Glasse’s Art of Cookery, published in 1747. I repeat it here:
Make puff paste, roll it thin, and if you have any moulds work it upon them; make them up with preserved pippins: you may fill some with gooseberries, some with raspberries, or what you please: then close them up, and either bake or fry them; throw grated sugar over them, and serve them up.
For your delectation, I offer you several more recipes for quelque choses from Robert May’s The Accomplisht Cook, or, The Art & Mystery of Cookery. Wherein the whole ART is revealed in a more easie and perfect Method, than hath been publisht in any language. Expert and ready Ways for the Dressing of all Sorts of FLESH, FOWL, and FISH, with variety of SAUCES proper for each of them; and how to raise all manner of Pastes; the best Directions for all sorts of Kickshaws, also the Terms of CARVING and SEWING. An exact account of all Dishes for all Seasons of the Year, with A-la-mode Curiosities. (1660, 1685)
Eggs or Quelque shose.
Break forty eggs, and beat them together with some salt, fry them at four times, half, or but of one side; before you take them out of the pan, make a composition or compound of hard eggs, and sweet herbs minced, some boil'd currans, beaten cinamon, almond-paste, sugar, and juyce of orange, strow all over these omlets, roul them up like a wafer, and so of the rest, put them in a dish with some white-wine, sugar, and juyce of lemon; then warm and ice them in an oven, with beaten butter and fine sugar.
Set on a skillet, either full of milk, wine, water, verjuyce, or sack, make the liquor boil, then have twenty eggs beaten together with salt, and some sweet herbs chopped, run them through a cullender into the boiling liquor, or put them in by spoonfuls or all together; being not too hard boil'd, take them up and dish them with beaten butter, juice of orange, lemon, or grape-verjuyce, and beaten butter.
Blanch Manchet in a frying-Pan.
Take six eggs, a quart of cream, a penny manchet grated, nutmeg grated, two spoonfuls of rose-water, and 2 ounces of sugar, beat it up like a pudding, and fry it as you fry a tansie; being fryed turn it out on a plate, quarter it, and put on the juyce of an orange and sugar.
Quelque shose otherways.
Take ten eggs, and beat them in a dish with a penny manchet grated, a pint of cream, some beaten cloves mace, boil'd currans, some rose-water, salt, and sugar; beat all together, and fry it either in a whole form of a tansie, or by spoonfuls in little cakes, being finely fried, serve them on a plate with juyce of orange and scraping sugar.
Other Fricase or Quelque shose.
Take twenty eggs, and strain them with a quart of cream, some nutmeg, salt, rose-water, and a little sugar, then have sweet butter in a clean frying-pan, and put in some pieces of pippins cut as thick as a half crown piece round the apple being cored; when they are finely fried, put in half the eggs, fry them a little, and then pour on the rest or other half, fry it at two times, stir the last,dish the first on a plate, and put the other on it with juyce of orange and sugar.