We had a Scottish Christmas recipe for cod’s head yesterday, and today it is the turn of the Welsh – or at least, the turn of the aristocratic author of one nineteenth century Welsh cookery book. The book is Good Cookery Illustrated: And Recipes Communicated by the Welsh Hermit of the Cell of St. Gover, with Various Remarks on Many Things Past and Present (1867,) and it is by Lady Augusa Waddington Hall Llanover, about whom I know absolutely nothing at all. Her tone is rather tongue-in-cheek, as you will see.
If you fancy a large piece of beef on your Christmas table – and have the right equipment, then this recipe may be for you:
THE HERMIT'S BAKED BEEF FOR CHRISTMAS.
Take half or whole rounds of beef, cut and prepared as described (see page 427 [see below]), roll them up, and skewer them into rounds, and put each of them into the outer part of a (round) "double" (see Plate 4),
which is made of iron, or galvanized iron; place on the top of the round of beef, a star of wood the proper size to go within the top of the vessel, then put a stiff paste of coarse brown flour (or flour mixed with bran) over the star to prevent any evaporation, and pour in as much water with a sprinkling of salt as will rise to about two inches, then put on the lid and bake in a brick oven; the time must, of course, depend upon the size and weight of the rounds. When done the paste at the top will look like gingerbread,* the gravy will be very strong and abundant, and the meat will be juicy and nicely browned. The gravy being poured off, and the fat taken from it when cold, it is re-warmed to dish up. The Hermit, when he required a number of these rounds dressed at once for a Christmas feast, used to bake them the day before, and the next day re-warmed them in the inner doubles in their own gravy, with hot water in the outer vessel, on a large stove. In this way they were all done punctually to the same time, equally well cooked, and an abundance of extra gravy without grease. Where a brick oven is not to be had for baking meat, the iron oven should always have all the fire taken out before the meat is put in. Meat should be baked very slowly, and be well covered in a vessel with a close-fitting lid. The ignorant practice of putting meat into open baking tins not only entirely ruins the flavour of the meat, from the bad taste imbibed from the vapour of the fat (frizzling in the iron oven), but it is very wasteful, dries up the meat, destroys the gravy, and taints the oven to such an extent that, if bread or cakes are baked in it afterwards before it has undergone a long and laborious purification, they would be flavoured by the same taste as pervades a house from the odour of fat frying upon hot iron.
* Very useful pounded to thicken soup tor the poor.