Friday, February 28, 2014

Ancient Honey.

The oldest word still in use in the English language is ‘town, ’according to the Oxford English Dictionary, which cites the first written occurrence in 725. One hundred years later, the word ‘honey’ is attested, in an Anglo-Saxon psalter, in the phrase ‘Swoetran ofer hunig and biobread.’ This translates as ‘sweeter than honey and bee-bread (honeycomb.)

Honey is defined by the OED as ‘A sweet viscid fluid, of various shades from nearly white to deep golden, being the nectar of flowers collected and worked up for food by certain insects, esp. the honey-bee’ – a fine and accurate definition, to be sure, but one which does not do justice to the great love-affair of humans with this marvelous food.

I am on a mission to find the early culinary uses of honey. I have not yet delved into earlier texts, so I am starting in the second half of the sixteenth century, in The widdowes treasure: Plentifully furnished with sundry precious and approued secrets in physicke and chirurgery, for the health and pleasure of mankinde. Hereunto are adioyned, sundry prittie practices and conclusions of cookerie, vvith many profitable and wholesome medicines for sundry diseases in cattle, by John Partridge (1586.)

To make drie Peares.
Take faire water and Rosewater according to the quantitie of your Peares, then take Honey as muche as you thinke good and put in your Peares, then let them seethe very softly that thei breake not, then take them out and put them in a Collander, and let them dreaine, then when you drawe your bread put them into the Oven in some earthen panne, and if they be not drie at the first, put them in againe until they be drie, then barrel them.

To keepe Venison freshed long tyme.
Presse out the bloud cleane, and put it into an earthen pot, and fill it with clarified Honey two fingers above the fleshe, and binde a leather cloase about the mouth that mo ayre enter.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Provisioning for an Elephant Hunt.

Exploring, camping, hunting – without light-weight, freeze-dried foods and light-weight cooking equipment, and light-weight clothing – the tough guys did it tough in the nineteenth century. Of course, labour was cheap and easily exploitable if you were on the imperial side of the colonial equation, so there were compensations. Today’s story comes directly from Thirteen Years Among the Wild Beasts of India: Their Haunts and Habits from Personal Observation with an Account of the Modes of Capturing and Taming Elephants, by George P. Sanderson (1882.)

An Elephant-Catching Expedition into the Hill-Tracts of Chittagong.

On the 29th December [1875] I stood at the edge of the jungle … Each coolie carried a springy bamboo lath across his shoulder, with a basket at each end, through which the bamboo passed. These baskets contained fifteen days' provisions, as it was uncertain when we might meet the provision-boat coming up the Chengree; and should we fall in with elephants on our way a halt would be necessary. Each man's rations weighed 33 lb., and as the head-men and matchlock-men made their gangs carry their rations as well as their own, and each had a few cooking-pots, the weights were over 40 lb. per man. With this they marched for several days from morning till night, in hilly country, often in the beds of streams, and through bamboo-cover and long grass, under a broiling sun. The men were generally of miserable physique according to our notions, but they had the patience and endurance of mules.

… I had provided myself with every comfort and convenience, and amongst other things I had reason to congratulate myself on possessing before the trip was over was a tin of 100 lb. of ship's biscuits and a keg of salt Bengal humps and tongues. I had an ample supply of tin provisions, plenty of books, and comfortable camp-fittings.

December 30, 1875 … To-day we marched from 7.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. The coolies got off at 4 a.m. The country was more difficult than yesterday, and we only did about sixteen miles.

… Our encampment this evening was better situated than yesterday … The elephants were scattered in all directions, gathering their night's fodder … I sat by the fire amusing myself by watching the preparations for dinner. The cook is busy near a small trench over the fire, in which two or three pots and saucepans are simmering in a row. A duck is roasting on a bamboo spit over a pan of charcoal, a saucepan-lid being ingeniously propped sideways underneath it to catch the gravy, whilst avoiding the fire, and basting goes on merrily. My interest in the operation is of a complacent nature, as I know the bird will shortly appear, as nicely browned, as correctly stuffed, and as neatly served, as it could be in headquarters.

One or two chickens which have got out of the rough jungle-coop are going about "wee-weeing " mournfully as night closes in and thoughts of jackals affright them. They are not to be overlooked, they are objects of tender solicitude, and will be wanted before many days, either for curry or "ishtew" (stew!). E'en now the cook's minions make insidious advances towards them, seize them, shrieking, and thrust them into the basket amongst their fellows, where they shortly settle down and are at peace.

And now for dinner. What a blessing it is to have a good Madras cook in Bengal! The roast duck forms one of the few cases in life where reality does not fall short of anticipation; the curry could not be mistaken, even by an idiot, for the less spicy productions of the artistes of the leading Presidency; and I am not required by my chef to contemplate any of the culinary audacities which Bengalee bobbachees (as cooks are t
here called, Heaven help them!) designate as puddings.

As the the recipe for the day, I give you an Anglo-Indian curry from The Magazine of Domestic Economy, Volume 5 (London, 1840)

A Madras Curry.
Have ready a chicken cut into pieces; put a saucepan on the fire with two table-spoonful« of butter, slice an onion and fry it in the butter, take it out when it is browned, then put in two dessert-spoonfuls of curry powder, together with a root of garlic and a piece of ginger (green if possible) of the size of the garlic, having pounded both very fine; fry all together for five minutes, stirring it all the time, then put in the chicken, which fry for about ten minutes, keeping it in motion. Add a pint of good gravy and a little salt, stew for an hour and a half gently in a closely covered saucepan. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into the curry just before serving.
Green cocoa-nut is a great improvement; a quarter of a nut is to be very well pounded with two table-spoonfuls of water, until all the milky part is extracted from the piece of nut; strain it through muslin, and add the liquid to the curry when it has been stewing an hour.

To Boil Rice.
Pick a pound of rice, and wash it very well in several waters. Set it on to boil in four quarts of boiling water, it will take from six to ten minutes to boil; but the best way of judging is to take out a grain from time to time, and crush it between your finger and thumb; as Jong as there is a slight hardness in the middle of the grain, it is not done; it should be quite soft through.

When done, throw in a pint of cold water, then drain off all the water and dry the rice by putting a little fire under the saucepan, and a little on the lid reversed; stir the rice about with a fork, and when the grains appear separate, it is sufficiently dried. If you wish the rice to appear very white, squeeze in a little lemon juice before you throw in the cold water.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

An Olympic Dinner, 1956.

I know that many of you are suffering from post-Olympic blues and boredom, now that the winter games have finished. To assuage your sense of loss, and give you something to read, I have an Olympic menu for you today, from the summer games in Sydney in 1956. The ceremonial aspects of the dinner, and the menu, were covered in The Australian Women's Weekly, of 7 November 1956
An Australian menu for Olympic dinner.
On November 22, when the red carpet is rolled out over the entrance steps to Menzies Hotel it will be the opening signal for the Olympic Banquet, one of the most significant formal dinners ever held in Melbourne.
THE banquet is being given by the president and members of the Australian Olympic Federation in honor of the president and members of the International Olympic Committee.
The Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, and the chairman of the Australian Olympic Federation, Sir Harold Alderson, will be among the party which will receive the Duke of Edinburgh and the other guests.
Exact details of how the Duke of Edinburgh and the guests will be received have been worked out with military precision.
Officials have even counted the number of steps the Duke will have to climb from the red carpet to the Gowrie Room, on the first floor, where the welcoming party will be waiting.
The menu - as Australian as any menu can be – has been drawn up by hotel chef "Blue" O'Malley, with the assistance of sweets chef Henry Timmerman.
Samples of all dishes have been approved by members of the committee organising the
A wine list which was chosen from top Australian wines has also been sampled by members of the committee.
Music for the banquet will be provided by the R.A.A.F. band under the direction of Squadron-Leader L. H. Hicks, Director of Music, R.A.A.F., who composed the Olympic fanfare for the 1956 Games.
As the official party enters the dining-room the R.A.A.F. trumpeters will play the Olympic fanfare.
When the guests reach the head table the trumpeters will play a fanfare and a special version of "God Save the Queen'" arranged by Squadron-Leader Hicks.
The trumpeters, an impressive sight with R.A.A.F. crested banners flying from their trumpets, will be stationed opposite the entrance to the dining-room. An R.A.A.F. string band will play in the orchestra balcony.
The banquet will be held in the hotel's dining-room, as the banquet-room is not large enough.
Floral decorations will be arranged by the hotel's own florist, Mrs. F. S. Neuss, who will use the Olympic colors and five circles as a theme. "It's a wonderful thrill to be doing the flowers for this occasion," she said. “Of course, as it is such a formal banquet, the arrangements will not be extravagant. I haven't quite worked out yet what I will do – except for using flowers in the Olympic colors. I will have plenty of scope in November with the spring flowers available."
Here is the menu, all Australian except for the New Zealand Toheroa soup:

Capricornia Fruit Cocktail, Toheroa Soup, Tasmanian Lobster, Creme de Menthe Sherbet, Roast Turkey and Ham, Green Peas, Potatoes Parisian, Asparagus with melted butter, Hazel Nut Bombe, Sweetmeats, Coffee.

Chefs O'Malley and Timmerman, both Australian trained, have had experience in preparing dinners and banquets for all nationalities.
"We're used to providing all-Australian menus," Chef O'Malley said, "as the Prime Minister always likes an Australian menu for any banquet he attends."
Toasts at the banquet will be proposed by a toastmaster in a specially designed red=coated uniform.
For this occasion a professional actor has been engaged.

The inclusion of a New Zealand specialty is somewhat of a mystery. The country was part of the colony of New South Wales until 1841, but the Kiwis attitude to that little historical fact seems to be “good riddance” or “thank goodness.” I jest, folks, there has been a friendly enmity between the two countries ever since the formal separation.
Toheroa is the Māori language name for) Paphies ventricosa , a large bivalve mollusk endemic to New Zealand. The name apparently translates as “long tongue.” It was so popular as an ingredient for soup, that it was very nearly rendered extinct at about the time of the Olympic dinner in 1956.

This is how you could have made the soup, when the shellfish was available, even if only in canned form.

Toheroa Soup
Two onions, one tin toheroas, one quart milk, or milk and water, one teaspoonful curry powder, one and a half teaspoonfuls flour, two tablespoonfuls butter, seasoning to taste, juice of half lemon. Pour liquor from toheroas and cut up fish, leaving a few nice pieces aside. Boil the liquid and cut up fish with a pint of water and the onions for an hour, and'strain. Bring the quart of milk to boil and thicken with the flour and curry powder. Add the butter and seasoning, then the toheroa liquid, strained, and the larger pieces. Immediately before serving add the lemon juice.

Auckland Star, 27 July 1943

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Edible Menu Cards.

I have a new-old idea for your delectation today. The following article appeared, more or less unchanged, in newspapers in England, Australia, and New Zealand (and perhaps other places), in 1906.

Eating Their Menus.
“The King’s guests at dinner ate their menu cards.” This is not an extract from a fairy story, but a plain, prosaic statement of an actual fact. It appears an ingenious chef conceived the idea of making an edible menu card, and, after many experiments, he produced one composed of the sugar tissue paper which is used on the bottom of macaroons, and which is, of course, edible; while the names of the dishes were worked out with the “frosting,” which is put on the top of cakes. The King was shown one of these menus, and he was so taken with it that he had a number made for a dinner at Windsor Castle, and there was a good deal of amusement when one of the guests, urged by the King to do so, started eating his menu – an example which was followed by most of those at table.
Queensland Figaro 15 November 1906

The only other comment appended to the article in one newspaper carrying the story was “It is said that the only bad thing about the cards is the bad French and that is quite digestible.”

The King of course was Edward VII. I have been unable so far, in the little time I have given it, to find out any more about this particular dinner. I did however, turn up a few more references to edible menu cards of various kinds.

Edible menu cards were the latest idea, in 1898, according to the Mentone Tri County Gazette of January 6, 1898:

“The latest thing in hotel bills of fare is stated to be an edible menu card. It is generally made of biscuit, which the guest eats with his cheese.”

In 1905, it was still the latest thing. From The Pittsburgh Press of September 16, 1905:

“There have been souvenir menus of various sorts, but the latest takes the palm for originality. It is the form of a menu and contains the bill of fare, but is made of biscuit and intended to be eaten with cheese.”

Back to 1906, another material was suggested as suitable for making menus edible. An article in The Boston Cooking School magazine of culinary science and domestic economics (Volume XI) explained:

Edible Menu Cards.
By Julia Davis Chandler.
THIS magazine has from time to time mentioned marzipan, and given directions for its manufacture in the home kitchen by slightly simpler processes than are used at candy factories. It is a confection much esteemed abroad, and, though it consists only of almond paste and sugar, the foreign name "marzipan" makes people think it something too unheard-of to consider.
In attractive forms, such as peas in their pods, asparagus ends, tiny rosebuds, potatoes, carrots, turnips, pigs, etc., it may be found at all good candy stores. Wish-bones are favorite shapes for Hallowe'en; but it is announced, by a New York authority that in London it is being used for edible menu cards.
There is a box propped upright by each cover, which contains pink marzipan, on which are lettered in white icing the dishes one may enjoy. At the end of the dinner the marzipan forms an agreeable sweet, or a very dainty souvenir, for future tasting.
A certain Herr Willy is said to be the inventor of these. One may give him the credit of using marzipan as a menu card; but marzipan so ornamented in boxes has long been used for gifts on the Continent. So, if Herr Willy has just introduced them in London, he is but copying from the Christmas gifts familiar in Germany. Often elaborate wreaths surround such boxes, with lettering appropriate to the occasion, and the recipient's name or initials in the centre, just as we have the same upon wedding cake or Easter eggs.

The ideas was also being discussed at this time in England. From the London Evening News of July 20, 1906:-

At several fashionable West End restaurants, the guests have been seen recently to eat their menu cards. This practice is an expensive one, for each of the cards cost a guinea.
The “cards” are made of almond paste and sugar. One a thin slab of marzipan the various courses are printed by hand in sugar, the process, which is a long and delicate one, taking often three to four hours.
The work is a distinct departure in confectionery, and is confined to Herr Willy, the well-known culinary artist.
Some of the menus Herr Willy has executed are marvelously beautiful. One used at Windsor Castle is a marvel of charming and accurate printing.
Wealthy London hostesses wishing to agreeably surprise their guests have set before them these edible menus, some of which have the strange line at the bottom, “Entremets – eat the menu.”
As a rule, the guests pack them away in dainty boxes, and preserve them as a quaint recollection of a good dinner.

So, another mention of edible menus at Windsor Castle menus - but this time of marzipan, not sugar paper. Is this one story, a bit muddled in the telling, or did Edward VII make a series of menu-eating experiments?

As the menu for the day, I give you another use for edible paper. From The Dessert Book: A Complete Manual from the Best American and Foreign Authorities. With Original Economical Recipes, (1872) by J.E. Tilton:-

Ingredients: 1 lb. of scalded sweet almonds, 1 oz. of bitter almonds, 2 lbs. of sifted sugar, about 6 whites of eggs.
When the almonds have been scalded, freed from their hulls, washed, wiped, and dried in the screen, they must be allowed to become quite cold before they are placed in the mortar; let them be thoroughly pounded into a smooth pulp, adding a little of the sugar and some of the whites of eggs occasionally, to prevent the almonds from turning oily; and, as soon as you find that the almonds are well pulverized, add by degrees the remainder of the sugar and whites of eggs, remembering that the paste must be kept quite firm. The gpste being ready, cover some baking-sheets with wafer-paper, and lay out the macaroons in the form of small round balls about the size of very small walnuts; take care to place them at least an inch apart from each other; and, when the sheet is full, pass a wet paste-brush over their surfaces, push in the oven, very moderate heat, and bake them of a light fawn-color. When done, and cold, break away any excess of wafer that may cling to the edges of the macaroons, and keep them for use in a dry place.

Macaroons Souffles.
Prepare the paste as directed in the foregoing case, keeping it somewhat firmer; add two whites of eggs of royal icing, work both together until thoroughly incorporated, use this to fill a biscuit-forcer, and push out the macaroons upon wafer-paper, as shown in the preceding.
Bear in mind that macaroons must be baked in very moderate heat; otherwise, if the heat of your oven should be at all excessive, it would cause the macaroons to run into each other, and thus produce a useless mass.
The reason macaroons soufflés are so liable to spread is owing to the addition of the royal icing.

Note. — Macaroons soufflés may also be baked in very small plaited paper cases.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Doubling up on the Perfect Menu.

Interest in re-creating historical menus is not a modern phenomenon. An article in The Queenslander (Australia) of 12 December, 1935, described such an event in far-away Chicago – which is proof in itself that the idea is intriguing even half a world away.

The “Perfect Banquet.”
Menu Served in 1906.
Chicago (By Mail.)
The “perfect banquet” was the description given to a meal eaten by the delegates to the National Restaurant Association’s Convention in Chicago, and they should know.
Here is the menu:-
Hors d’Oeuvres varie and mixed relishes, with cocktails.
Green turtle soup, with dry sherry.
Filet Pompano Victoria, with Graves Calvet.
Boneless squab baked in cantaloupe, and fresh asparagus Hollandais [sic], with Pommard.
Salad Poinsetta [sic] and Peaches Romaine, with Mumm’s Extra Dry Champagne.
Coffee, with Cognac.
This was an historic menu, for it was the same served to Admiral Dewey, victor of the battle of Manila, at the Lotos Club in New York in 1906.

I give you two interpretations of the idea of Poinsettia Salad:

Poinsettia Salad.
Place skinned tomatoes on ice. Cut into eighths without quite severing the sections at the base; press the sections open to resemble those of a flower. Beat a cream cheese and mix with a little salt and pepper, moisten slightly with French dressing, and rub through a sieve or strainer with a wooden spoon. Put a tablespoonful in the centre of each tomato and cover with salad cream.
Queensland Times, 18 September 1933.

Poinsettia Salad.
Cut pineapple slices into segments and arrange pieces on crisp lettuce leaves. Then arrange poinsettias cut from canned pimientoes on pineapple slices. Fill the centre of the flower with mayonnaise, sprinkled with paprika.

The Mail (Adelaide) 26 January 1935

Friday, February 21, 2014

Buffalo Tongues for Dinner.

Northern Territory produce provided the wherewithal for a dinner in Sydney, Australia in November 1936. The rather unusual menu for the event attracted the interest of journalists around the country. The following report is from the Courier Mail, of 25 November, 1936

Unusual Menu in Sydney.
SYDNEY, Tuesday.
Kangaroo tail soup and buffalo tongues will be served at a dinner arranged by Mr. A.M. Bain, M.H.R (Northern Territory), in Sydney on Friday night.
Mr Blain has arranged the dinner on behalf of the Northern Territory primary producers, to advertise the products of their holdings. Some of the food has been send from Darwin packed in dry ice.
At present the menu is:- Hors doeuvre [sic]: North Coast oysters. Soup: Kangaroo tail. Fish: Barramundi. Entrees: Buffalo tongues and wild sucking pig. Poultry: Geese and black duck. Roast: Sirloin of Beef. Dessert: Tropical fruit salad, Northern Territory peanuts. Wines will be supplied from South Australia.

The foods, packed in dry ice as the article indicated, were transported by Qantas Air Service and arrived in Sydney less than 48 hours after they were dispatched from Darwin – a noteworthy feat for the time.

To Cure BuffaloTongues.
“E.O.R” Port Darwin. To cure buffalo tongues without splitting them it is necessary that they should be removed in a heated condition. Then hand them up and pour over them a strong solution of salt, to which should be added a little sugar and a trifle of salt-petre – the latter gives them a good colour. Allow the tongues to hang in the sun for a time, but remove them from the dew at night. In three or four days they will be ready to smoke. This should be done with gum leaves alone, and the fire must be smothered so that as little heat as possible will be thrown out.
South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA) 16 May 1896.

Kangaroo Tail Soup.
Ingredients.-1 tail, 2 lbs. gravy beef. 2 carrots, 2 turnips, 1 head of celery, bunch herbs, 1 piece of ginger. 6 cloves, 1 lump of sugar, a small lemon, 2 oz. of bacon, 2 quarts of water. 1 glass of port wine, and flour.
Method.-Wash and dry the tail, cut it into small pieces and put into the saucepan with the beef cut small. Add pepper and salt, ½ the vegetables cut up roughly, herbs, sugar, bacon, and seasoning; cook for two hours, then strain. Add the remainder of vegetables, cut up finely, juice of half a lemon. Simmer gently until vegetables are soft, thicken with flour and cook for two minutes; add wine and serve with small pieces of tail cut into dice in it.

The Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate (NSW) 31 July 1909

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Things to do with Medlars.

The medlar (fruit of Mespilus germanica) is not generally found in your ordinary suburban fruit shop today, and I have neglected it in my own kitchen as well as in this blog. The tree is probably indigenous to the Balkan Peninsula, and has been cultivated for perhaps 3000 years. It was introduced to Europe by the Romans during the expansion of their Empire, and was popular during Medieval times, probably because the fruit was edible during winter when little else in the way of fresh fruit was available. I say ‘fresh’, but the fruit when unripe is hard, acidic, and very bitter due to the presence of tannins, and it becomes edible only when thoroughly “bletted” – which is a posh French way of saying ‘brown and rotten’. I understand that fruit from trees grown in warmer climates may be ripened on the tree, and is then edible before the rotting stage, but this is the exceptional situation rather than the rule. The fruit became less popular as the 17th century progressed – no doubt to the accomplishments of horticulturalists and orchardists who made other fruits increasingly available.

I was reminded of medlars, and my neglect of them as a topic for this blog, when I came across the following recipe recently:

To make a Tart of Medlers.
Take medlers that be rotten, and stamp them, then set them on a chaffing dish and coales, and beat in two yolkes of egges, boyling till it be somewhat thicke, then season them with suger, sinamom and ginger, and lay it in past.
The Good Huswife’s Jewel, Thomas Dawson (1587)

In times past, all natural materials, whether animal, vegetable, or mineral, had healing properties ascribed to them. According to John Parkinson, in his Theatrum Botanicum: The Theater of Plants : Or, An Herball of Large Extent … , published in 1640, the ‘vertues’ of the medlar were as follows:

Medlars have the like properties that Services* have, but are more effectual in operation to binde and stay any fluxes of  blood or humours in man or woman, the leaves also have the same quality, but besides these effects the mellowed fruit is often served amongst other sorts of fruite to the table, and eaten with pleasure by those that have no need of physicke, but worketh in women with childe, both to please the taste as in others, and to stay their longings after unusual meates, &c., as also very effectual for those that are apt to miscarry, and before their time to be delivered, to helpe that malady and make them joyfull mothers; that of Naples is more delicate & is also accounted more effectual for the said purposes: the decoction of them is good to gargle and wash the mouth and throate, and teeth, where there is any defluxion of blood to stay it, and of humours, which causeth paines and swellings, to binde those distillations and ease the paines: the same also is a good bath for women to it in or over that have their courses come down too abundantly, or for the piles when they bleed too much: the same also serveth well both to drinke and to bathe the stomacke warme, that is giving to casting, to loath or not hold and containe their meate and digest it, put if a pultis or plaister be made with dryed Medlars, beaten and mixed with the juyce of Red Roses, whereunto a few Cloves and Nutmeg may be added, and a little red Corall also, and applied to the stomacke it will worke the more effectually: the dryed leaves in pouther strawed on bleeding or fresh wounds, restraineth the blood, and healeth up the wound quickly: both leaves and fruite are of singular good use to binde, and to strengthen whatever hath need of those qualities, The Medlar stones made into pouther and drunke in wine wherein some Parslye rootes have lyen infused all night, or a little boyled, do breake the stone in the kidneys helping to expel them.
[*‘services’ are fruit of Sorbus domestica, also called the sorb tree or whitty pear.]

Medlars may have become less popular after the medieval era, but that is not to say that they were never used at all. A common way of dealing with them is to make jelly:

Medlar Jelly.
Take medlars when they are ripe (i. e. when eatable) and put them into a preserving pan with as much water as will cover them; simmer slowly until they become a pulp, then strain through a thin jelly bag, and to every pint of juice add a quarter of a pound lump sugar. Boil for an hour and pour into jars; when cold it will be a stiff jelly. Medlar jelly made from this recipe, in some degree resembles Guava jelly. It makes a very good addition to the winter dessert.
Jennie June's American Cookery Book (1866) by Jane Cunningham Croly

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

English Cricketers’ Dinner: Sydney, 1912

In all sports it seems that the winning team gets bragging rights, and if it is opportune, this is frequently exaggerated and becomes ‘rubbing it in’ rights. This was made quite painfully obvious to the losing side (Australia) at the dinner enjoyed by the victorious English cricket team in the fifth Ashes Test.  The report comes from the Queensland Times, of 5 March 1912

English Cricketers’ Dinner.
If you want a good dinner, be your own host; if you want a complimentary toast, be your own speech-maker. This was the motto of the English Eleven at the Hotel Wentworth, Sydney, on Wednesday evening last. They gave themselves a dinner (says the “Sun”). A bowl of ashes graced the centre of the table, rising glorious from decorations of the pink and white roses. A Union Jack waved triumphantly over it. the dinner was called “The M.C.G. Dinner,” and the colours of the team filled up the decorative scheme of the room and the table. On the menu-card the team broke forth into Shakespearian poetry:

“Thus far our fortune keeps an upward course,
And we are graced with wreaths of victory.”

It was a fine dinner, and everybody was happy. This was the menu:-

“On a good wicket.”
Hearne Bay Oyster Cocktails.
“First wicket down.”
Turtle Soup au Douglas (slow but sure.)
“How’s that?”
Rhodes Schnapper a la Century.
“Going great Gunns,”
Fostered Barn(es) Chicken au Maiden.
“Clean bowled.”
Champagne Punch, a la Campbell.
“All out to Pommery 1904.”
Saddle Woolley Lamb and Vine Sauce.
“Still no Hitch.”
Hobbled Asparagus and Pawley Dressing.
“Another boundary.”
Peche Warner.
“Plums out of season.”
Smith Behind Marleboro Stumps.
“Ashes on toast.”

After dinner the team toasted itself, and, as the morning papers say, the speeches were of a highly eulogistic character.

I will leave it to the cricket devotees amongst you to comment on the game, but my brief research tells me that England won the fifth Ashes Test (a five match series) by 4:1, by a margin of 70 runs.

The names of the English team-members appear in the menu, which is a eulogy in itself. Unfortunately it is impossible to appreciate the exact nature of the dishes at the dinner, but fear not, I have chosen a fish dish for you which is inspired by that on the menu – one of Australia’s favourite fish, the snapper (Pagrus auratus.)

Curried Snapper or Bream.
Cut an ordinary snapper or large bream into cutlets, roll in a little flour, and fry them a nice brown; also cut two onions in thin slices and fry; chop head into four pieces, place in a stewpan, cover with 1 ¼ pints of boiling water, season with salt and sliced apple (this takes the fishy taste from the water), boil for 20 minutes, strain off, place this liquid again in a stewpan, and thicken with cornflour and a tablespoonful of curry powder; place the cutlets and fried onions in the pa, and boil for 5 minutes. When dishing squeeze the juice of a lemon over the fish; garnish with toast, and serve with mashed potatoes.

The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld) 26 September 1929

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Bring on the Bombes!

My original idea for today’s post went by the wayside when I was confronted by the sheer number of variations on the theme of ice-cream bombes in the source of yesterday’s recipe –
Auguste Escoffier’s Guide to Modern Cookery (1907 ed.,) and I just had to pursue the idea a little further.

This book contains bombes named in honour of famous historical characters, celebrities, operas, and – as we saw yesterday – places around the world. Yesterday we had Bombe Africaine. The probable rationale for that particular ice-cream name is politically incorrect today, but what about the following selections? Can you see any connection between the ingredients and flavours and the country or city for which each is named?

Clothe the mould with coffee ice, and fill it with a vanilla and rum Bombe-preparation. 
Clothe the mould with vanilla ice-cream, and fill it with a Curaçao Bombe-preparation.
Clothe the mould with peach ice, and fill it with a tea mousse-preparation.  
Clothe the mould with blood-orange ice, and fill it with tangerine-flavoured Chantilly cream. 
Clothe the mould with Kümmel ice, and fill it with a bitter-almond Bombe-preparation, combined 
with candied fruit. 
Clothe the mould half with vanilla and half with strawberry ice and fill it with a Maraschino and Kirsch Bombe-preparation. 
Clothe the mould with coffee ice, and fill it with a Curaçao Bombe-preparation.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Johannesburg Banquet in 1897.

I have an interesting menu for you today, and hope that one of you can help clarify the background. The event occurred in South Africa in late 1897, and I came across the menu, in of all things, an Australian newspaper -  The Queenslander of 9 October 1897.

The following menu is copied from the “Matabele Times,” published in Bulowayo. It is the menu of the “Reform” banquet, given at Johannesburg. It is somewhat original, and in a degree reflects the lifestyle there:-

Hors d’Oeuvres                    All sorts and conditions of men.
Bagration                                              Gombgligations.
Consomme Cauon a la pipe.                            More Gombgligations.
Saumon du Rhin a la “regrets”                                         Landed by a “Zeiler” from a
                                                                                 “Wessel” and sold by a “Coster.”
Petites Bouchees a la “document handed in.”               Jaag hulle in en sluite hulle op.
Filet de boeuf a la Koos Plessis                                         Bully beef and cold water.
Mousse de Volaille a la “Plank Bed.”                              Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.
Game                                     Marbles.
Salad a la “Visiting Day”                   Faithful wives.
Asperges sauce mousseline                And True Friends.
Mazarin au Punch               The mixture, as before.
Bombe Gregorowski.                          Dood Vonnis: two years, ₤2000, and banishment.
Corbeille de fruits a la commutation.                              ₤25,000, ₤2000, and “Green Politick.”
Petit fours.                                                                             Forgive and forget.
Sherry                    George Gonlet
Schloss Joh’berg ’36           Liquers [sic]
Chateau Lafitte, ’74           “Ships Drinks.”

I have a feeling that I could learn a lot about the situation in South Africa between the two Boer Wars (1880-1881 and 1899- 1902) if only I could unravel some of the “clues” hidden in what is clearly a political statement as much as it is a menu. A brief flirt with Google Translate helped with a couple of the Afrikaaner phrases:

Jaag hulle in en sluite hulle op = “put them in and lock them up”
Dood Vonnis = doodvonnis = death warrant

If you can add any insights, I would be most grateful!

Now, to the dish of the day. My first impulse was to give you the recogniseable dishes of the day – the Potage Bagration. This was named by Antonin Carême for the famous Russian general of the Napoleonic era, Pyotr Ivanovich Bagration, who died at the battle of Borodino in 1812, and who was said to be more interested in dining than in his military career. As it turns out however, I have already given a recipe for this soup in a previous post (here.)

So, let us skip to dessert. When in doubt, choose ice-cream, yes?  As the exact style of Bombe Gregorowski must presumably remain forever a mystery, I give you Auguste Escoffier’s Bombe Africaine, from his Guide to Modern Cookery (1907 ed.) Some general instructions for preparing and moulding bombes precede the specific instructions for each variety, of which there must be about a hundred in the book.

BOMBES (Generic Recipe)
Originally, Bombes were made from an ordinary ice preparation, in spherical moulds; hence their name, which is once more justified by their arrangement, consisting as it used to do of superposed and concentric layers, the outermost of which was very thin. Nowadays, Bombes are more often moulded in the shape of shells, but the preparation from which they are made is much more delicate than it was formerly.

Gradually mix thirty-two egg-yolks with one quart of syrup at 28°. Put the whole on a very moderate fire, whisking it as for a Génoise, and, when the preparation is firm enough and taken off the fire, continue whisking it over ice until it is quite cold. Then
add the selected flavour, and one and one-third quarts of stiffly-whipped cream.

First clothe the bottom and sides of a mould with the ice preparation denoted by the name of the Bombe. This coat, which should vary in thickness in accordance with the size of the mould, should be somewhat thin, and made from an ordinary ice preparation, which is suited better than any other kind to this class of dish.

The middle is then filled with a Bombe preparation, flavoured as directed, or with a Mousse preparation. The whole is then covered with a round piece of white paper, and the mould is hermetically sealed with its cover, set to freeze, and left for two or three hours in the ice.
When about to serve, take the mould out of the ice; wash it with cold water; dip it quickly in tepid water; dry it with a towel, and overturn the mould on a napkin or on a block of


Clothe the mould with chocolate ice, and fill it with an apricot Bombe-preparation.