One of my favourite type of food-books is the sort that offer menu suggestions for every day of the year. Amongst those books, I particularly like A Year’s Cookery, by Phillis Browne, first published in London in 1879. Ms. Browne addresses her book to “people of moderate income, with moderate domestic help, and ordinary kitchen utensils”. She also provides a marketing list, a list of Things that must not be Forgotten, and of course - recipes for all of the dishes. The breakfast and luncheon dishes are commonly made up from leftovers of the previous day’s dinner, as in the menu for February 19th, in which the shoulder of mutton from the 18th reappears, cold, with a side of pickles. General hints are interspersed throughout, and today you will learn how to clarify fat.
Her menu for today (in the Northern hemisphere) is:
Hot Buttered Toast.
Brown and White Bread and Butter.
Cold Mutton with Pickles.
Jam and Bread.
Beef Steak à l’ltalienne.
Ground Rice Pudding.
For the Day.— A large slice of Rump Steak, weighing from three to four pounds, and cut evenly not less than two inches thick (see January 22nd). Potatoes ; Broccoli.
For To-morrow.— One large Neck of Mutton with as little fat as may he (see February 5th). One cow-heel for luncheon to-morrow. Six pennyworth of Spanish Onions. A small tin of corned beef for breakfast. One pennyworth of Small Salad; Anchovies.
BREAKFAST. — Baked Soles (January 7th); Toasted Bacon (January 19th), Porridge (January 25th).
LUNCHEON. — Mutton left yesterday ; Baked Potatoes (May 4th).
DINNER. — Haricot Puree (March 9th) ; Beef Steak a l'ltalienne (February 2nd) ; Broccoli (April 25th) ; Potatoes (April 7th) ; Ground Rice Pudding (August 21st) ; Cheese (June 8th).
Things that must not be Forgotten.
1. Turn and rub the beef in the brine.
2. Be careful to preserve the bacon rind for flavouring purposes.
3. If any of the beef is left it may be potted and used for breakfast instead of the corned beef.
4. Fillet the anchovies and prepare the cress for breakfast. (See January 18th).
5. Be careful to render the fat left from the shoulders of mutton. Fat cooked and uncooked must be rendered down before it can be used. When rendered it is better than common butter for pastry, puddings, and cakes, because common butter is made of no one but the makers thereof know what ; and it is better than lard for frying purposes because it is not so greasy. To render it, cut it (both cooked and uncooked) into small pieces, and throw any skin or lean meat there may be with it into the stock-pot. Put it into an old but perfectly clean iron saucepan, cover it with cold water, and boil it quickly with the lid off the pan till the water has evaporated, that is, till the liquid fat looks like clear oil. Stir it frequently during the time to prevent it burning to the bottom of the pan; draw it back, and let it continue to boil but very gently till the pieces of fat look dry and shrivelled, then let it cool for a few minutes, and pour it through an old sieve into a basin. If it were poured out while boiling it would crack the basin. All kinds of fat can be thus clarified; beef and mutton fat, the fat skimmings of saucepans, and bacon fat, and they only need to be clarified once. The same fat can be used for frying purposes for a long time if passed through a fine strainer after being used. Fat should never be allowed to remain on the fire when not wanted. When it becomes impure it should be melted over the fire with an equal quantity of cold water, then boiled, poured out and allowed to go cold, when the impurities will sink to the bottom and should be scraped off with a knife. When the joints used in the household do not supply a sufficient quantity of fat for cooking purposes, fresh fat can be bought at a low price and rendered down. The best kind for the purpose is the ox flare or caul, or, better still, the twist, that is, the fat which comes from the top side of the round of beef. Not all butchers, however, can supply their customers with the twist. Both ox flare and twist yield a soft fat which is much better than hard fat for cakes and pastry. After fat is rendered, the "craps" or pieces that are left can be rubbed into flour instead of dripping for plain pudding.
I have chosen the recipe for Beef à l’Italienne, from the book, for you today:
Ribs of Beef, Italian Fashion.
[From the Marketing advice for the day: One Rib of Beef, taken from the middle ribs, boned, rolled, and weighing about four pounds; or if preferred, a slice of tender Steak can be chosen, two inches thick, and weighing about three pounds.]
Put the rolled beef into a saucepan with a lump of dripping melted, and let it brown. When done upon one side, turn it to the other. Lift it up (of course being careful not to stick a fork into the fleshy part), and put it into a brown earthenware pan, not too large. Have ready a handful of parsley leaves, and the white part of two leeks cut into dice. Fry these in the fat in which the meat was browned, and when they are cooked without being at all burnt, drain them, and put them upon the beef. Add also two pickled gherkins chopped small, four cloves, and one or two outer sticks of celery cut into one-inch lengths. Pour over all a pint of the stock in which the chicken bones were stewed, and sprinkle a little pepper and salt over the meat. Cover the pan closely, and bake in a gentle oven for an hour and a half, then add a moderate-sized turnip and a carrot, cover again and bake for another hour. Take up the turnip and carrot; cut them separately into dice, and toss them in a saucepan over the fire with a small piece of butter. Put the meat on a hot dish, strain the gravy over it, and by way of garnish place the minced vegetables in little heaps here and there upon it. Serve immediately upon hot plates.