Friday, October 31, 2014

Try This For Hallowe’en: 1939.

This day is the ninth birthday of this blog.  This is the two thousand four hundred and forty-fourth post, which I think is a pretty good number. Each year I have to make the decision whether to celebrate the blog birthday or Hallowe’en. This year, Hallowe’en won, because I plan to save myself for a big tenth anniversary birthday bash in 2015.
So, today I give you a Hallowe’en menu and recipes courtesy of the Paris News [Texas] of October 19, 1939.

Try This For Hallowe’en.
Dinner Menu for Six To Eight Guests Has Holiday Motif.


Devilled Ham Loaf with
Hot Mustard Sauce
Sweet Potatoes in
Orange Goblin Shells
Hallowe’en Salad
Rolls and Butter
Pumpkin Tarts
Cider or Coffee
Halowe’en Salad
(Serves 6 to 8)

Hallowe’en Salad
(Serves 6 to 8)
1 tablespoon granulated gelatin
½ cup cold water
½ cup orange juice, heated but not boiled
¾ cup orange juice, not heated
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup sugar
Sprinkling salt
½ cup orange pieces, drained
1 cup shredded raw carrots
¼ cup chopped walnut meats
Soak gelatin in cold water 5 minutes. Add heated orange juice. Stir to dissolve gelatin. Add unheated orange juice, lemon juice, sugar and orange pieces, carrot and walnut. Chill in individual molds until firm. Unmould on lettuce. Press seedless raisins into  tops of molds to make faces.

Sweet Potatoes in Orange Goblin Shells.
(Serves 8)
4 cups boiled or baked sweet potatoes
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
Orange juice to moisten and whip.
Whip sweet potatoes with salt, butter and orange juice. Pack into 8 orange shells o which goblin faces have been drawn. Keep in moderate oven (350 degrees Fahrenheit) for about 20 minutes or until heated through. Top with a quartered marshmallow for a “hat” and return to oven to brown marshmallow.
To make orange shells, cut tops from California oranges. Extract juice. This juice is used to whip potatoes and in Hallowe’en Salad. Draw goblin faces on shells with India ink or an eye-brow pencil.

Devilled Ham Loaf with Hot Mustard Sauce.
1 ½ pounds lean pork shoulder, ground.
1 ½ pounds smoked ham, ground
1 ½ cups whole milk
1 whole egg
2 egg whites, beaten stiff
1 cup cracker crumbs
 ⅛ teaspoon pepper
Combine all ingredients and form into a loaf. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 ½ hours. Serve with:

Mustard Sauce.
1 tablespoon flour
¼ cup butter or substitute
½ cup boiling water
1 beef extract cube
½ cup prepared mustard
¼ cup sugar
2 egg yolks, beaten
½ cup lemon juice.

Cream flour and butter together over low heat. Add boiling water, beef cube, mustard and sugar. When slightly thickened, carefully add the egg yolks. Cook 10 minutes. Remove from flame and add lemon juice, stirring well. Serve at once.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hints on Suppers, 1835

Yesterday we considered the word ‘aristology’ and enjoyed an extract from the book which gave us the word (The Art of Dining; and the Art of Attaining High Health: With a Few Hints on Suppers, 1835.)  Naturally, I was keen to see what Thomas Walker had to say on suppers, and to share it with you. The author certainly makes a potent argument for continuing the supper tradition – and the piece even provides our recipe for the day.

I do not know how I came to dismiss the subject of the art of dining without saying a few words in favour of that agreeable, but now neglected meal, supper. The two repasts used to hold divided empire, but dinners have in later years obtained all but an exclusive monopoly, to the decay, I am afraid, of wit, and brilliancy, and ease. Supper has been in all times the meal peculiarly consecrated to mental enjoyment, and it is not possible that any other meal should be so well adapted to that object. Dinner may be considered the meal of the body, and supper that of the mind. The first has for its proper object the maintenance or restoration of the corporeal powers; the second is intended in the hours of relaxation from the cares and business of the day, to. light up and invigorate the mind. It comes after every thing else is over, and all distraction and interruption have ceased, as a pleasing prelude and preparation for the hour of rest, and has a tendency to fill the mind with agreeable images as the last impressions of the day. Compared with dinner, it is in its nature light, and free from state. Dinner is a business; supper an amusement. It is inexpensive, and free from trouble. The attempt to unite the two meals in one, in the manner now practised, is a miserable failure, unfavourable to health and to the play of the mind. Nothing places sociability on so good a footing, and so much within the reach of all, as the custom of supping. There is an objection made to suppers, that they are unwholesome. Nothing, I think, can be more unfounded; indeed, I believe them, if properly used, to be most wholesome, and quite in accordance with the dictates of nature. Undoubtedly, large suppers are unwholesome after large dinners ; but not so, light suppers after moderate dinners. I think, if I were to choose, my ordinary course of living would be a simple, well-conceived dinner, instead of the luncheon now in vogue; then tea, with that excellent adjunct, scarcely ever enjoyed in these days, buttered toast, about the present dinner hour, and a savoury little supper about half past nine or ten o’clock, with a bowl of negus, or some other grateful diluted potation after. I am of opinion there is no system so favourable to vigorous and joyous health as the moderate indulgence of a moderate appetite about a couple of hours before retiring to rest,—those hours filled up with the enjoyment of agreeable society. In the colder months I have great faith in finishing the day with a warm and nourishing potation. It is the best preparation for one’s daily end, sleep, or, as Shakespeare calls it, “ the death of each day’s life,  and those with whom it does not agree, may be sure it is not the drink’s fault, but their own, in not having pursued the proper course previously. A good drink over a cheerful fire, with a cheerful friend or two, is a good finish, much better than the unsatisfactory ending of a modern dinner party. Here I must mention that, in order to have good negus, it is necessary to use good wine, and not, as some people seem to think, any sort of stuff, in any condition. Port negus is delicious, if it is made thus :— Pour boiling water upon a sufficient quantity of sugar; stir it well ; then pour some excellent port, not what has been opened two or three days, into the Water, the wine having been heated in a saucepan. Stir the wine and water well together as the wine is poured in, and add a little grated nutmeg. A slice of lemon put in with the sugar, and a little of the yellow rind scraped with it, make the negus perfect, but it is very good without, though then properly speaking, it should be called wine and water. Supper is an excellent time to enjoy game, and all meats of a delicate nature, and many other little things, which are never introduced at' dinners. I am far from wishing to explode dinners as a social meal, but I object to their enjoying a monopoly, and the adoption of the two meals on diiferent occasions would furnish opportunities for an agreeable variety. One frequently hears people object to dining early, on the ground that they feel themselves disinclined to do any thing after dinner; but this is a false mode of reasoning. After a late dinner there is a disinclination to action, especially if it is an overloaded repast; but the reason of this is, that -the powers have become exhausted, which is a solid argument against late dining with reference to health and spirits. But a moderate dinner in the middle of the day, when the digestive powers are the strongest, instead of unfitting for action, has the very contrary effect, and a person rises from table refreshed, and more actively inclined than before. No one, whose digestion is in good order, complains of the incapacitating effects of luncheon, which is in reality a dinner without its pleasures. Luncheon may be said to be a joyless dinner, and dinner a cumbrous supper, and between the two, they utterly exclude that refreshing little meal, tea. We live in a strange state of perversion, from which many emancipate themselves as much as they can, when the eye of the world is not upon them ; and if every body dared to do as every body would like,strange changes would soon appear. If the state prisons were thrown open, and the fetters of fashion cast off, what inward rejoicing there would be among rich and poor, male and female! What struggles, what pangs, what restraints would be avoided! What enjoyments, what pleasures would present themselves, and what elasticity would be given to the different bents of the human mind! If reason and virtue alone dictated the rules of life, how much more of real freedom would be enjoyed than under the present worn-out dynasty of fashion!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Aristology and Aristologists.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines aristology as “the art or ‘science’ of dining,” and gives the etymological explanation that it comes from the Greek words for ‘breakfast, luncheon’ and ‘discourse.’ The first reference cited is from The Art of Dining; and the Art of Attaining High Health: With a Few Hints on Suppers (Philadelphia, 1835) by Thomas Walker, Esq.

 I thought an extract from this work might be interesting to you:

According to the Lexicons, the Greek for dinner is Ariston, and therefore, for the convenience of the terms, and without entering into any inquiry, critical or antiquarian, I call the art of dining Aristology, and those who study it, Aristologists. The maxim, that practice makes perfect, does not apply to our daily habits; for, so far as they are concerned, we are ordinarily content with the standard of mediocrity, or something rather below. Where study is not absolutely necessary, it is by most people altogether dispensed with; but it is only by an union of study and practice, that we can attain any thing like perfection. Anybody can dine, but very few know how to dine, so as to ensure the greatest quantity of health and enjoyment —indeed many people contrive to destroy their health; and as to enjoyment, I shudder when. I think how often I have been doomed to only a solemn mockery of it; how often I have sat in durance stately, to go through the ceremony of dinner, the essence of which is to be without ceremony, and how often in this land of liberty I have felt myself a slave!
There are three kinds of dinners - solitary dinners, everyday social dinners, and set dinners; all three involving the consideration of cheer, and the last two of society also. Solitary dinners, I think, ought to be avoided as much as possible, because solitude tends to produce thought, and thought tends to the suspension of the digestive powers. When however, dining alone is necessary, the mind should be disposed to cheerfulness by a previous interval of relaxation from whatever has seriously occupied the attention, and by directing it to some agreeable object. As contentment ought to be an accompaniment to every meal, punctuality is essential, and the diner and the dinner should be ready at the same time. A chief maxim in dining with comfort is, to have what you want when you want it. It is ruinous to have to wait for first one thing and then another, and to have the little additions brought, when what they belong to is half or entirely finished. To avoid this a little foresight is good, and, by way of instance, it is sound practical philosophy to have mustard upon the table before the arrival of toasted cheese. This very omission has caused as many small vexations in the world, as would by this time make a mountain of misery. Indeed, I recommend an habitual consideration of what adjuncts will be required to the main matters; and I think an attention to this, on the part of females, might often be preventive of sour looks and cross words, and their anti-conjugal consequences. There are not only the usual adjuncts, but to those who have any thing of a genius for dinners, little additions will sometimes suggest themselves, which give a sort of poetry to a repast, and please the palate to the promotion of health. As our senses were made for our enjoyment, and as the vast variety of good things in the world were designed for the same end, it seems a sort of impiety not to put them to their best uses; provided it does not cause us to neglect higher considerations. The different products of the different seasons, and of the different parts of the earth, afford endless proofs of bounty, which it is as unreasonable to reject, as it is to abuse. It has happened, that those who have made the gratification of the appetite a study, have generally done so to excess, and to the exclusion of nobler pursuits; whilst, on the other hand, such study has been held to be incompatible with moral refinement and elevation. But there is a happy mean, and as upon the due regulation of the appetite assuredly depends our physical well-being, and upon that, in a great measure, our mental energies, it seems to me that the subject is worthy of attention, for reasons of more importance than is ordinarily supposed.

… I will now give you, dear reader, an account of a dinner I have ordered this very day at Lovegrove’s, at Blackwell, where if you never dined, so much the worse for you. This account will serve as an illustration of my doctrines on dinner giving better than a long abstract discourse. The party will consist of seven men besides myself, and every guest is asked for some reason, - upon which good fellowship mainly depends, for people, brought together unconnectedly, had, in my opinion, better be kept separate. Eight I hold to be the golden number, never to be exceeded without weakening the efficacy of concentration. The dinner is to consist of turtle, followed by no other fish but white bait, which is to be followed by no other meat but grouse, which are to be succeeded simply by apple fritters and jelly; pastry on such occasions being quite out of place. With the turtle, of course there will be punch, with the white bait champaign, and with the grouse, claret: the two former I have ordered to be particularly well iced, and they will all be placed in succession upon the table, so that we can help ourselves as we please. I shall permit no other wines, unless, perchance, a bottle or two of port, if particularly wanted, as I hold variety of wines a great mistake. With respect to the adjuncts, I shall take care that there is cayenne, with lemons cut in halves, not in quarters, within reach of every one, for the turtle, and that brown bread and butter in abundance is set upon the table for the white bait. It is no trouble to think of these little matters beforehand, but they make a vast difference in convivial contentment. The dinner will be followed by ices, and a good dessert, after which coffee and one glass of liqueur each, and no more; so that the present may be enjoyed rationally without inducing retrospective regrets. If the master of a feast wishes his party to succeed, he must know how to command, and not let his guests run riot, each according to his own wild fancy. Such, reader, is my idea of a dinner, of which I hope you approve; and I cannot help thinking that if parliament were to grant me 10,000 a year, in trust, to entertain a series of worthy persons, it would promote trade and increase the revenue more than any hugger-mugger measure ever devised.

… the dinner at Blackwall, mentioned before, was served according to my directions, both as to the principal dishes and the adjuncts, with perfect exactness, and went off with corresponding success. The turtle and white bait were excellent; the grouse not quite of equal merit; and the apple fritters so much relished, that they were entirely cleared, and the jelly left untouched. The only wines were champaign and claret, and they both gave great satisfaction. As soon as the liqueurs were handed round once, I ordered them out of the room; and the only heresy committed was by one of the guests asking for a glass of bottled porter, which I had not the presence of mind instantly to forbid

There was an opinion broached that some flounders water-zoutcheed, between the turtle and white bait, would have been an improvement, - and perhaps they would. I dined again at Blackwall as a guest, and I observed that my theory as to adjuncts was carefully put into practice, so that I hope the public will be a gainer.

… Paulus Emilius, who was the most successful general, and best entertainer of his time, seems to have understood this well ; for he said that it required the same sort of spirit to manage a banquet as a battle, with this difference, that the one should be made as pleasant to friends, and the other as formidable to enemies, as possible.

As the recipe for the day, I give you a fine water-zouchy from the 1830’s:

Dabs and flounders and other small fish may be fried, or else prepared in water zouchy as follows :—Clean the different kinds of fish, and put them altogether into the saucepan with water sufficient to cover them, a parsley root, a bay-leaf, a couple of onions quartered, some pepper corns, and plenty of salt. Let them boil very gently until they are done. Plaice, and even soles, may be cooked in this way, either mixed with other fish, or alone. The fish are put into the dish with their liquor, which forms an excellent gravy for bread and butter. If required to be eaten with potatoes, the liquor may be thickened with some butter rolled in flour.
This mode of dressing fish, though very primitive, is in great favour among the most wealthy and luxurious, at whose tables the water-zouched fish is served up accompanied by plates of white and brown bread and butter.

The Magazine of Domestic Economy, Volume 4 (London,1839)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Calcutta in Olden Time.

Ah! The Life of the British expatriate in Colonial India! I caught a glimpse of it during my brief research into my post on Burdwan Stew, and cannot resist sharing it with you. 

The story comes from a section called Calcutta in Olden Time, in The Calcutta Review, Vol. XXXV, which was published in Calcutta in 1860 - but as the header suggests, covers the social situation and meals (and drinking habits) of half a century earlier.

The distinctions of rank among Europeans were rigorously insisted on in Calcutta last century, as strictly as at the Court of Lisbon. People were few, and the Anglo-Indians were equally noted on the banks of the Hooghly as of the Thames for social despotism, through boasting of political equality. 

… Lord William Bentinck was the first man in high position to break through "the unjust and aristocratical distinctions which have for so long a period festered the feelings of those in the less elevated grades of Indian society, by extending the invitations to Government-House to persons, who, previous to his appointment, had not been considered eligible to so high an honour." He opened his levéess at Government-House to a lower grade, much to the displeasure of Civilians and Big-wigs :—

Breakfast is described as "the only dégage meal, every one ordering what is most agreeable to their choice, and in elegant undress chatting à la volonté; whilst on the contrary, dinner, tea, and supper are kind of state levées." Business was despatched in the morning. Europeans then did not work as hard in offices as they do now, and when Lord W. Bentinck arrived here he was surprised at the laziness even then prevailing. The Europeans were eased by the keranies of a great part of the little work they would otherwise have to perform. The dinner hour last century was about 2 o'clock; it gradually became later. Lord Valentia states, in 1803 "at 12 o'clock Calcutta people take a hot meal which they call tiffin, and then generally go to bed for 2 or 3 hours, the dinner hour is commonly between 7 and 8, which is certainly too late in this hot climate, as it prevents an evening ride at the proper time, and keeps them up till midnight or later, the viands are excellent and served in great profusion to the no small satisfaction of the birds." They partook much of highly seasoned grills and stews; a particularly favourite one was the Burdwan stew, made of flesh, fish, and fowl, a sort of Irish stew, it was considered not very good unless prepared in a silver, sauce-pan, Hartley House thus describes the dinner.

"At twelve a repast is introduced, consisting of cold ham, chickens, and cold shrub, after partaking of which, all parties separate to dress. The friseur now forms the person anew, and those who do not choose to wear caps, however elegant or ornamented, have flowers of British manufacture (a favourite mode of decoration) intermixed with their tresses, and otherwise disposed s so as to have an agreeable effect. Powder is, however, used in great quantities, on the idea of both coolness and neatness: though, in my opinion, the natural colour of the hair would be more becoming: but the intense heat, I suppose, renders it ineligible. At three, the day after my arrival, as is usually the case, the company assembled, in the hall or saloon, to the number of four and twenty ; where besides the lustres and girandoles already mentioned, are sofas of Chinese magnificence; but they are only substituted for chairs; what is called cooling, in the western world, being here unpractised, and during the whole period of dinner, boys with slappers and fans surround you, procuring you at least a tolerably comfortable artificial atmosphere. The dishes were so abundant and the removes so rapid, I can only tell you, ducks, chickens, fish, (no soup, take notice, is ever served up at Calcutta.)"

Supper was light, at ten o'clock, a glass or two of a light wine, with a crust, cheese, then the hookah and bed by 11. Lord Cornwallis, on New Year's day in 1789, invited a party to dinner at 3 ½  at the Old Court House. Turtle and turkey courted the acceptance of the guests, a ball opened at 9 ½  in the evening, supper at 12, they broke up at 4 in the morning.

People sat a long time after dinner, enjoying stillness in the heat of the day, "It is no unfrequent thing for each man to despatch his three bottles of claret, or two of white wine, before they break up; having the bottles so emptied, heaped up before them as trophies of their prowess." Nor was this confined to the gentlemen. Hartley House mentions.—" Wine is the heaviest family article; for, whether it is taken fashionably or medicinally, every lady, even to your humble servant, drinks at least a bottle per diem, and the gentlemen four times that quantity."

… With respect to drinks, beer and porter were little used being considered bilious,—the favourite drinks were madeira and claret; cider and perry also formed part of the beverages; ladies drank their bottle of claret daily while gentlemen indulged in their three or four, and that at five rupees a bottle! This was far inferior to the beer drinking propensities of various men 20 years ago, when a dozen a day was thought little of in Mofussil districts. A drink was in use called country-beer. “A tempting beverage, suited to the very hot weather and called country beer, is in rather general use, though water artificially cooled is c commonly drank during the repasts: in truth nothing can be more gratifying at such a time, but especially after eating curry. Country-beer is made of about one-fifth part porter, or 1 beer with a wine glass full of toddy or palm-wine which is the general substitute for yeast, a small quantity of brown sugar, and a little grated ginger or the dried peel of Seville oranges or of limes; which are a very small kind of lemon abounding in citric acid, and to be had very cheap."

As the recipe for the day I give you a thoroughly Anglo-Indian dish of cod, from The Cook and Housewife's Manual (1826)

Cod Curried.
A large fish that comes in fine flakes is best. Fry the pieces in butter, with plenty of sliced onions, of a fine brown, and stew them in a little white gravy, thickened with butter rolled in flour, about a glassful of rich cream, and a large dessert spoonful of curry powder.

Observations—Cream for curries is, we think, the better of being a little turned, that is, thick and sourish, but not clotted. Good butter-milk makes an excellent substitute for cream in this and all common made-dishes.

Monday, October 27, 2014

An Onion Dinner, 1925.

Lew Cody (1884-1934) was a popular American movie actor of the silent and early talkie era. He specialised in the role of the handsome, debonair - but occasionally villainous - man-about-town. He played this role to popular perfection in Cecil B. de Mille’s 1919 film Don’t change your husband. In this movie, Gloria Swanson was a bored housewife lacking attention from a busy husband, and is pursued by the tall, dark, and handsome man played by Cody. She divorces the bore and marries the attentive new lover – eventually only to find that he too neglects her. He also turns out to be a bit of a slob with an over-fondness for smelly-on-the- breath onions, and to make matters worse, he has another lover on the side.

Several years later, in 1925, Cody played the character of Prince Carlos in the silent movie, The Sporting Venus, and naturally the media were all agog at his appearances around town. The onion-eating habit was still associated with Cody, as is shown in a New York Times piece about him at the time.

Adores Venice and Coney
Also Latest Jazz
Laments Fall from Comedy
to Satire
Exalts Women, But Remains
Blithe Bachelor
By Alma Whitaker.

No, it isn’t credible. Could a sophisticated villain like Lew Cody have such deplorably low tastes? How dare he be so disgustingly human? Why, he ought to have breakfast in evening dress and live almost exclusively on caviars and truffles. Just see him in “The Sporting Venus” at Loew’s State Theater this week – man-of-fashion, wealth stuff – and who, I ask you, could believe that he entertained as recently as last Wednesday night with corned beef and cabbage – and onions enough to spread the tale back in New York.

This is how the menu read – to all intents and purposes: Pickled onions, young green onions, boiled beef with cabbage and onions, onion salad with a dash of garlic, beer (as near as obtainable and … )
“Good heavens, what dessert could you ever serve with a dinner like this?” I ask?
“Bicarbonate of soda and sensen, [?]” he informed affably.
But that isn’t all. Menus were printed on paper bags – for the convenience of guests wishing to take home anything they could not stoke away on the premises!

Now, you might suppose that was a freak dinner – nothing of the sort. Lew Cody, host, specializes in just that effluviatic type of formal banquet, and a cook is hired specifically on that plebeian understanding.
But the really harrowing part of last Wednesday’s event is that the patrician, lordly, supercultured  John Barrymore was the guest of honor at a function that also included Seena Owen, Marshal Nolan, Frank and Mrs. Borzage,  James R. Quirk, Lowell Sherman, Jack Gilbert, Mabel Normand, Renee Adoree, Mae Ayer, Mr. and Mrs Roscoe Arbuckle, and several others. Can a Barrymore feast thus vulgarly and live?
“Why, I thought you were an epicure, supercultured palate gourmet, a connoisseur de luxe …” I murmured anxiously.
“I am,” he reassured me, “especially when it comes to onions. I am very fussy about my onions.”

I was disappointed that the architect of this menu did not come up with an onion dessert for this meal. The cook would only have had to go to William Ellis’ farming and household manual The Country Housewife’s Family Companion published in 1750 to find the perfect recipe:

Onion Pye made by laboring Mens Wives.
They mix chopt Apples and Onions in equal Quantities,and with some Sugar put them into Dough-crust and bake them: This by some is thought to make as good a Pie as Pumkins do. It is a Hertfordshire Contrivance.

P.S. Previous post ‘Knowing your onions’is here.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Wartime Food Advice, South Africa, 1945

One of the most popular topics on this blog – if I am to judge by your comments – is that of wartime food and rationing. I have fairly frequently given you the information contained in the World War II British Ministry of Food’s Food Facts leaflets, and of similar government advice from the U.S.A, but I have not to date used anything from South Africa.

Today I give you in its entirety, a display advertisement from the Sunday Times (Johannesburg, Transvaal) of October 14, 1945, and hope you enjoy the advice.

South African housewives have indeed been fortunate in that such food shortages as have occurred have been “staggered.” Thus for each item in short supply there have always been nutriment satisfactory substitutes available. Appetising, health-promoting meals can be achieved through wise marketing, clever menu-planning, and good cooking.


Fruit juice or Whole Fruit
Kipper or Haddock (small portions)
Potato Patties
Toast                Jam                  Marmalade
Coffee             Milk Beverage

*Cream of Spinach Soup
Raw Tomato Stuffed with Salad of Meat
and Vegetable Leftovers
Salad Greens
Hot Rolls                     Cream Cheese
Cocoa                          Milk

Clear Soup
**Creole Meat Pie
Baked Potatoes
Baked Gem or Hubbard Squash
Cabbage Salad with Grated Carrot Garnish
Baked Custard with Dehydrated Pears
Coffee Cocoa              Fruit Beverage.

*Two cups medium white sauce combined with 2 ½ cups spinach puree (liquid and pulp)

** Heat 4 tablespoonsful vegetable fat, lightly brown 1 medium onion (diced), ½ green pepper (optional) and 2 cups left-over or tinned cold meat (cubed). Add 2 cups cooked cubed vegetables, 2 cups peeled tomatoes cut small, 1 cup water or stock, 1 teaspoonful salt, ¼ teaspoonful pepper. Thicken with 3 tablespoonfuls flour mixed to smooth cream with water. Pour into round casserole. Cover with short pastry rolled into ¼ inch thickness and cut into circles with medium-sized scone cutter. Arrange circles around edge of casserole with slight overlapping, leaving centre uncovered. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes until top is brown.

Issued on behalf of the Food Control Organisation in co-operation with the

National Nutrition Council by the Regional Food Committee.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Burdwan Stew: 1806 and Beyond.

In my recent digging around in nineteenth century English texts covering the topics of Indian and ‘Oriental’ cookery, I was reminded of the topic of ‘Burdwan’ or ‘Birdwan’ stew, which has been on my list of things to tell you about for some time, so here goes!
It is clear from the references that Burdwan (or Birdwan) stew is an Anglo-Indian dish. The name presumably indicates some connection with Bardhaman (Burdwan or Barddhaman,) a city and district in West Bengal.

The earliest recipe I have come across to date is from Culina Famulatrix Medicinæ: Or, Receipts in Modern Cookery, with a Medical Commentary (1806) by Alexander Hunter, and it is a wonderfully opinionated piece:

An Indian Burdwan Stew.
A half-grown fowl being ready boiled, let it be cut up and put into a stew-pan with three table spoonfuls of essence of anchovy, three table spoonfuls of Madeira wine, a little water, a lump of butter rolled in flour, some shred onion, and Cayenne pepper to the taste. Stew over a slow fire till the onions are become tender. When poured into the dish, take a fresh Lime, and squeeze a little of the juice into the stew. Cold boiled or roasted lamb, or kid, are equally good when dressed in this manner.
This dish is frequently introduced in the East Indies, when the appetite begins to flag, after eating heartily of two courses; and being often dressed by the master or mistress, in the presence of the company, it is generally paid great attention to. The French have a saying, “L'appetit vient en mangeant.”[appetite comes with eating]. Hamlet says,

As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it feeds on.

When the stew is dressed on a small chafing dish, in the room where the company dine, it sends forth such a savoury smell, that it reminds us of what Eve felt when the apple was presented to her, during her disturbed dream.
-          The pleasant savoury smell
So quicken'd appetite, that I, methought,.
Could not but taste it.

When Chilly can be procured instead of the Cayenne pepper, and the mild Bombay onions, the Burdwan becomes a dish that few can resist. But being too rich a mess to make a meal of, and being only eat when the stomach is satiated, Ignotus is of opinion that Archæus will enter his protest against the introduction of this eastern luxury.

An English Burdwan Stew.
TAKE a rabbit, or well fed fowl, and after being cut up, put it into a stew-pan with some slices of veal, and as much strong beef gravy as will cover the meat. Roll a piece of butter in flour, and add some shred onion, anchovy liquor, Cayenne pepper, salt, and port wine, to the taste. Stew over a slow fire for the space of twenty minutes, shaking the pan two or three times. Cold veal, rabbit or fowl, will make a good Burdwan.
Archæus is always indulgent to those men whose change of climate and modes of living have created a second nature; but he constantly shows his displeasure when he sees plain eaters suffering themselves to be led astray by dishes, that never were intended for them.

And a slightly simpler version, sans commentary, from the same era:

Oriental Dish, called a Birdwan Slew.
The following is a genuine and original receipt for making a bird wan stew, as practised in the East Indies, &c.—Let a fowl be first half boiled in a little water: then, cutting it up, put it to a pint of the water in which it was boiled, with two dozen anchovies, a glass-of white wine, a little butter and flour, boiled onions, pickled oysters, and Cayenne pepper, and stew it over a gentle heat. This, in India, is commonly done over what they call a lamp table.
The Family receipt-book, or, Universal repository of useful knowledge and experience
in all the various branches of domestic œconomy (London, 1810)

The actual dish was known before the first published recipe, as is the usual situation. The Calcutta Review in 1860 included an article on Calcutta in the Olden Time in which it quoted Lord Valentia on ‘Calcutta people’ in 1803:


They partook much of highly seasoned grills and stews; a particularly favourite one was the Burdwan stew, made of flesh, fish, and fowl, a sort of Irish stew, it was considered not very good unless prepared in a silver sauce-pan.

The importance of the silver saucepan is also mentioned in Original Letters from India (1817) by Eliza Fay.

The Doctor’s Lady is a native of Jamaica and like those “children of the sun,” frank and hospitable to a degree - fond of social parties in the old style “where the song and merry jest circulate round the festive board" particularly after supper. Dinner parties they seldom give; but I have been present at several elsewhere since the commencement of the cold season. The dinner hour as I mentioned before is two, and it is customary to sit a long while at table; particularly during the cold season; for people here are mighty fond of grills and stews, which they season themselves, and generally make very hot. The Burdwan stew takes a deal of time; it is composed of every thing at table, fish, flesh and fowl; - somewhat like the Spanish Olla Podrida. Many suppose that unless prepared in a silver saucepan it cannot be good; on this point I must not presume to give an opinion, being satisfied with plain food; and never tasting any of these incentives to luxurious indulgence.

In The Cook and Housewife's Manual (1829), by Meg Dods( pseudonym of Christian Isobel Johnstone) the author manages to give both an English and a French spin to her version of the recipe. She also leaves no doubt as to her real feelings about ‘Asiatic’ cookery.

Indian Burdwan.
This eastern preparation is of the English genus, devil, or French Salmi. It is made of cold poultry, rabbits, venison, kid, game, but is best of the latter. Make a sauce of melted butter with cayenne, or a fresh Chili if possible; a bit of garlic, essence of anchovy, and a sliced Spanish onion. Stew over a spirit-lamp till the onion is pulpy, when the Burdwan will be ready. Squeeze in a lime or Seville orange. Serve round very hot.*
*It would be very may to swell this section of the Manual with a formidable array of uncouth dishes and strange names, with Indian, Syrian, Turkish, and Persian Yaughs, Kabaubs, and Cuscussuies, &c., as modern travellers, and particularly the French, have paid considerable attention to Asiatic cooker; but this we consider a mere waste of space, which may be more usefully employed.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Things to do with Pineapple in 1808-19

I am keeping my offering very simple today, folks, and offering you a few early nineteenth century ideas for pineapple.

When I copied Maria Rundell’s instructions for making the ‘Oriental’ dish of polao (pillaw, or pillau) for yesterday’s post, I noticed that the recipe which followed it was for another pillau which included pineapple. I thought this sounded rather interesting. In 1808, when A New System of Domestic Cookery was published, this must have been an uncommon and expensive dish. No wonder she suggested apple as a substitute for the exotic and rare hothouse-grown pineapple.

Pineapple, or Apple Polao.
Boil twelve ounces of rice in water, and when only a quarter of the grain remains hard, pour off half the hot water, fill the pan up with cold water, shake it, and then pour off all the water, and set the pan, covered, near the fire. When dry, add a pound of preserved pineapples with some of the syrup; or, should pineapples not be attainable, slices of apple boiled with sugar. Fry two sliced onions in a quarter of a pound of fresh butter. When the onions are browned, take them out, as they will be no longer wanted: put six whole cloves into the butter, and pour it over the rice. Stir it well, but cautiously, so as not to bruise the rice: put the apples on the top, and set the whole near the fire to swell; keep it covered, but stir it occasionally. Plain curry should always accompany this dish, and be eaten with it. The reader may judge of the excellence of this polao by the observation of a gastronome of celebrity, who, partaking of it for the first time, expressed his conviction, that if the host would go to England, and cook it for his late majesty George the Fourth, he would obtain a baronetage for his reward.

For those cooks of the time who had access to the fresh fruit, it was, of course, possible to preserve it oneself. I love the idea of a whole pineapple being preserved in syrup, instead of the more usual slices or chunks. Here is how to do it:

Pine Apples, Whole, Wet.
Take the pine apple, chip off all the small pieces of leaves from the bottom of the pine, take the top and stalk, and have a preserving pan on the fire with water, and to every two quarts of water put half a pint of syrup, so as to make it very fine thin syrup, and only just sweet; be sure that it boils before you put the pine in, and let it simmer an hour over the fire; the next day let them boil gently another hour, take them off and cover them carefully; the next day let them boil gently about half an hour; put some syrup as thick as you use to other fruits; the next day drain this syrup off and boil it, repeating the same seven or eight days; then put them into an earthen pan, and cover them up very carefully from the dust, and be very careful that your pans are very dry.
The Complete Confectioner: Or, The Whole Art of Confectionary Made Easy (1819)
by Frederick Nutt.

With any syrup remaining from your Pineapple Polao, you could make pineapple ice-cream (in a pineapple shape!) from the recipe from the same book.

Pine-Apple Ice Cream.
Take one gill and a half of pine-apple syrup, put it into a bason, and squeeze in one lemon and a half; add one pint of cream, make it palatable; then put it in your freezing pot, and freeze it till it is as thick as butter; if you would have it in the shape of a pine, take the shape and fill it; then lay half a sheet of brown paper over the mould before you put it into the ice, and let it remain some time, and be careful no water gets into the shape.

Very little need be wasted in the kitchen, so when you pare your pineapple for preserving or other use, please be sure to keep the rind. It apparently adds a very good flavour to rum.

Jamaica is the best.—An excellent flavour may be given to it by putting into the cask some pineapple rinds. The longer rum is kept, the more valuable it becomes. If your rum wants a head, whisk some clarified honey with a little of the liquor, and pour the whole into the cask. Three pounds of honey is sufficient for sixty gallons.
   Modern domestic cookery, and useful receipt book (1819)

by Elizabeth Hammond.