Thursday, April 30, 2015

Australian Tested Recipes (1879)

I have been musing lately on the development of our national identity as expressed through the cookery columns of old newspapers, and thought I would share a few snippets with you over the next week or two. There are many stories about early settlers from Britain (the better-off ones, at least, who could afford to choose) resolutely resisting the concept of foods with any indigenous taint, and sticking imperiously to the food of “home,” to the extent of importing preserved salmon and meat to a colony rich in both.

My first dips into newspaper archives for “Australian Recipes” brought up the following article, from The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW) of  8th February 1879. I noted too late that it referred to Australian tested recipes, and included a Bengal-type chutney and an American bread. The search for the beginnings of the concept of Australian cuisine has clearly only just begun!

The Household.
We beg to remind our lady readers that we depend entirely upon their personal assistance to maintain this department useful and trustworthy, and have once or twice lately been without any recipes to publish. We are always thankful to receive even one or two proved recipes, and will publish them without fail for the benefit of all housewives. Besides the batch in this issue, we have in hand only one additional lot from ' Lassie,' who will please accept our best thanks. We are quite confident that a large proportion of the domesticated and sensible among our lady readers really appreciate the opportunity of getting practical common sense family recipes, suitable for Australian use and climate. It each would contribute one or two of her own which she has not seen in our columns, she will return the value received from others.

By C. A. S. (Tried and found satisfactory.)
Tomato Sauce. — Take 6 lbs. of ripe tomatoes, 1 lb. of onions, ½ oz. of garlic. Boil together until the skins are clear from the tomatoes, then strain through a colander. Add a pint of vinegar, 2 teaspoonfuls of cayenne pepper, ¼ lb. of common salt, ½ oz. of ground ginger, a few cloves; then boil again till thick, constantly stirring. When cold, bottle it close.
Bengal Recipe for Making Chutney (like Mango Chutney). — 1½ t lb. of moist sugar, ¾ lb. of salt, ¼ lb.of garlic, ¼ lb. of onions,  ¾ lb. of powdered ginger, ¼ lb. dried chillies, ¾ lb. of mustard seed (common mustard will do),  ¾ lb. of stoned raisins, 2 bottles of good vinegar, 30 large unripe sour apples or 60 green tomatoes. The sugar must be made into a syrup; the garlic, onions, and ginger be finely powdered in a mortar; the apples peeled, cored, sliced, and boiled in a bottle and a-half of the vinegar. When all this is done and the apples are quite cold, put them into a large pan, and gradually mix the whole of the rest of the ingredients, including the remaining half -bottle of vinegar. It must be well stirred until the whole is thoroughly blended, then bottle for use; cork it tight. Both this and the tomato sauce will keep for years.
American Cake. — Two cups of sugar, ½ cup of butter, 2 ½ cups of flour, 1 cup of milk, 3 eggs, a few currants and some candied peel chopped very fine, 1 teaspoonful of soda, and 1 of acid; the two last to be mixed into the milk, but not till directly before using it. Beat the butter to a cream, then beat the sugar into it, then the eggs, then the flour and milk, the currants and peel; the last can be omitted.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Vintage Quick and Easy Recipes.

You all know what it is like, that first few days after returning from a fabulous holiday - the serious reality check provided by the need to empty the suitcase and fill the washing machine, to shop and re-stock the fridge and pantry, to deal with the backlog of snail-mail and email and so on and on and on.

At times like this we are in need of quick, easy recipes. I wonder what Australian newspaper cookery columns of yester-year can suggest?

Quick Soup.
Into one quart of boiling water put one cup of cracker crumbs, one half cup of Irish potatoes chopped fine, one tablespoon of rice, butter the size of an egg, onion enough to flavor and salt and pepper to taste. Let this boil until done, then add a teaspoon of extract of beef and a raw egg. Beat the egg altogether for a few minutes, then pour slowly into the boiling soup and stir constantly. The soup is now ready to serve.
Petersburg Times (South Australia) 26 January, 1894.

Quick Tomato Soup.
Rub through a strainer one quart of stewed tomatoes, and cook five minutes. Then stir in a saltspoonful of baking soda; when it stops foaming add two plain biscuits rolled into fine crumbs, a tablespoonful of butter, a teaspoonful of salt, dash of paprika, and one cup of scalding hot milk. Cook five minutes, and the soup is ready to serve.
The Telegraph (Brisbane, Queensland) 10 March, 1917.

Bacon and Vegetable Pie
[“is easily prepared”]
For this you will require four rashers of bacon, a potato, an onion, a white turnip, pepper and salt. Place the bacon in a pie dish, then add the vegetable in alternate layers, finishing with a layer of potato in top. Cover with stock or water. Steam in the oven until the vegetable is cooked, then cover with pastry and bake until brown.
News (Adelaide, South Australia) 5 August, 1932

Some Quick Recipes.
Cheese Pudding
Take l oz. butter, 3oz. grated cheese, l ½ oz. breadcrumbs, a little  made mustard, 1 gill milk, 2 eggs, pepper, salt, and a little cayenne pepper.
Put the breadcrumbs and butter into a basin. Boil the milk and pour over them, add cheese, keep
ing back about 1 dessertspoonful, the yolks of eggs and seasonings, and beat well. Beat up the whites to a stiff froth and mix them in lightly at the last.
Pour the mixture into a fireproof dish.  Sprinkle the remainder of .cheese on top and bake in a moderate oven for 20 minutes or until nicely risen.
Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative (NSW), 29 January, 1940

Some Pudding Reminders.
"What pudding shall I make?"
It is the cry of so many housewives so often. At 4 o'clock in the afternoon with the vegetables done, the soup simmering nicely, and the roast all ready for the oven, the pudding is invariably
the problem. So here are a few simple quick recipes that the housewife will welcome when ideas won't come:-
Snow Pudding.-Mix together 1 pint of milk, 3oz. bread crumbs, grated rind of 1 lemon, 2oz. butter, yolks of 3 eggs, sugar to taste. Grease a pie dish, cover the bottom with any preserve, pour the mixture over it, and bake for an hour. Beat the whites of the eggs and a little castor sugar to a stiff froth, spread it over the pudding and leave in a cool oven for a few minutes to brown. This is a good cold pudding.
Spanish Pudding.-Mix ¾ lb. flour, ¼ lb. suet, ½ lb. treacle and half a teaspoonful of carbonate of soda: make into a cake mixture with a little warm milk;  put into a greased basin, and boil
for 1 ½  hours.

Examiner (Launceston, Tasmania) 19 November, 1927

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Mission Station Menu.

It was the coconut soup in yesterday’s post that led me to this interesting glimpse of life on a mission station in North Queensland sometime in the first half of the twentieth century. I assume the station was on the coast, as the menu included coconut soup make with fresh nuts.

I was interested in the idea of coconut soup. Not soup with coconut, but very coconut-y coconut soup – rather more so than the example yesterday which didn’t specify what form of coconut was to be used, but I rather think it was the dessicated kind. I found a very different style of soup in a short piece in the Brisbane newspaper The Courier Mail of 17 June 1953, which paid housewife-contributors a guinea for a recipe or meal idea.

Mrs. B. Johnson … will receive a guinea for a typical day’s meals that she used to cook when living on a mission station in North Queensland.  She even used the leaves of sweet potatoes as a vegetable.

Mrs. Johnson wrote that they bought the wheat, grinding it themselves for the porridge, and soaking it overnight to reduce cooking time. Goats’ milk, augmented with powdered milk, was used when the cows went dry. They kept fowls, and grew most of the vegetables in drums.

This is how she treated the sweet potato leaves. Pick young, clean leaves; wash, remove stalks, and tear leaves apart. Melt a teaspoon butter in bottom of saucepan, place leaves in saucepan with salt, and cook with lid on until soft.

Her menu was:-

Wholemeal porridge, milk and sugar.
Boiled eggs, toast, butter and marmalade.
Coffee or tea with milk and sugar.
Cost: 4/6
Preparation and cooking time: 20 minutes.

Salad – cheese
Ripe pawpaw with lemon or lime juice
Scones, butter, strawberry jam.
Fruit drinks or tea.
Cost: 5/3
Preparation and cooking time: 15 minutes.

Coconut soup.
Steamed kingfish, boiled sweet potatoes, stalks of pumpkin leaves, sweet potato leaves, white sauce.
Banana custard.
Black coffee, or tea.
Cost: 10/-
Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour.

Here is Mrs. Johnson’s recipe for coconut soup:

Place milk of coconuts in saucepan, add grated coconut, a little grated onion, and about 2 tablespoons sago. Bring to boil, and allow to simmer until sago is cooked.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Coconut Bacon?

‘Coconut Bacon’, you ask? It does exist. I found it right next to the Coconut Gingerbread recipe in Friday’s post, and knew, just knew, that it would be heaven-on-a-plate for many of you.

Coconut Bacon.
For this breakfast dish fry some bacon and keep hot. Beat thoroughly one or two eggs, and allow to each egg one small tablespoon flour, 2 small tablespoons coconut, 3 tablespoons milk, a little pepper and salt. Mix well, and fry in bacon fat till brown. Cut into pieces, pile on bacon,and serve hot.
Courier Mail (Brisbane, Qld) 6th September 1950

In celebration of recipes with coconut, may I also offer you the following, also from Australian newspapers of the not-so distant past?

Papuan Curry.
TAKE 1 ½ cups coconut milk, 6 tablespoons flour, 1 teaspoon curry powder, 1 teaspoon preserved ginger syrup, ½ cup grated coconut, 1½ cups cow's milk, 6 tablespoons fat, 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice,  1 ½ teaspoons onion juice, 51b. fresh prawns.
Grate fresh coconut, add the milk contained in the coconut and one tablespoon of hot water. Mix and drain thoroughly. (Approximately a cup of milk is obtained from a medium coconut.) Make a white sauce, using the fat, flour, coconut milk, and cow's milk. When thickened add seasonings and prawns and heat about 15 minutes. Serve in a ring of rice with a little grated coconut.
The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld) of 17th September 1931

Coconut Orange Fritters.
1 cup sifted flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1well beaten egg, ⅓ cup milk, ½ cup desiccated coconut, 2 tablespoons orange juice, 1 teaspoon grated orange rind, salt, and icing sugar. Method: Sift flour, baking powder and pinch of salt together. Stir milk in to beaten egg and combine with first mixture. Add orange juice and rind, coconut and stir well.
Have plenty of hot fat ready in a deep pan, drop by spoonfuls, and fry until a golden brown. Drain well on absorbent paper, sprinkle with icing sugar and serve.
Truth (Sydney) 19th November, 1950.

Coconut Soup.
Six cups of white stock, 2 egg yolks, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, salt, pepper, mace, ¼ cup lemon juice, 4 tablespoons flour, 1 ½ cups coconut.
Put the stock, spices, seasonings, and coconut into a saucepan. Simmer gently for 30 minutes. Blend the flour with a little cold stock or water. Return to saucepan and simmer five minutes. Beat egg yolks and lemon juice together, return to soup; reheat. Serve with boiled rice.

News (Adelaide, SA) of 2nd May, 1940

Friday, April 24, 2015

Provisions for a voyage to Van Diemen’s Land.

I am starting the journey home to Australia today – not to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) but to my home state of Queensland. Food en route is of course a concern - I am in the hands of QANTAS for the duration, so I hope they do the right thing by me. Food for the long voyage to the colony of Australia was very much a subject of concern to early settlers, for several very good reasons.

My source of information on provisioning for the journey is The Rise, Progress, and Present State of Van Dieman's Land: With Advice to Emigrants. Also, a Chapter on Convicts, Shewing the Efficacy of Transportation as a Secondary Punishment (1833.) There is a little general advice on attitude towards one’s fellow

A gentleman, now in the colony, writes, “If ten or a dozen labourers were to emigrate together, their passage would not cost more than £12 each; for the captain of the ship would be glad to provide passage, fuel, (for cooking), and water (two quarts each, per diem,) for half that sum, and the remainder would be ample to buy stores for five months. The stores ought to consist of biscuit and flour in casks, salt pork, corned beef, fresh preserved provisions, pickled eggs and tongues, potatoes, carrots, split peas, rice, plums, raisins, salt suet, butter in earthenware pans, three or four bottles of soda powders, a few bottles of spirits, (no duty is paid for them,) and porter; also tea, coffee, and sugar, two or three cakes of gingerbread, and a pound or two of tobacco. They would cook their own provisions, and would be quite independent. The provisions supplied on board ship are generally very bad.” This suggestion may be worthy of consideration; for even if £2 more for each were demanded, which I think would be the case if the ship was A1, (in city phraseology, when a ship is not ten years old,) they would save about £6 each.
With the prospect of such a long voyage (16,000 miles,) before him, it would be well for the intending emigrant, both for his own sake and that of his fellow passengers, to make up his mind, before embarking, to put up, as far as he possibly can, with any little disagreeables which may occur during the voyage. He should determine neither to give nor take offence on slight occasions, but keep on good terms with all about him, overlooking little inadvertencies and hasty expressions on the part of his fellow-voyagers. He should rather try how pleasant a companion he can make of a man than quarrel with him because he does not find him so ready-made to his hands. Let the experiment be fairly tried, and it will be found that, in nine cases out of ten, unfavourable appearances or first impressions are not criterions of character.

I was delighted that gingerbread was considered an important staple for the long journey. In a previous post I gave a recipe for Gingerbread for Voyages or Travelling (1827) but this one sounds pretty good too: 

Coconut Gingerbread.
Cream 3 tablespoons butter or margarine with ½ cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind. Add 2 unbeaten eggs (one at a time), beating well after each. Dissolve 1 teaspoon carb.soda in 1 cup treacle or golden syrup, stir into mixture. Sift thoroughly 6 tablespoons flour ½ teaspoon mixed spice, 1 teaspoon ginger, and a little salt. Add to mixture alternately with cup each of milk and water. Fold in 1 cup coconut. Pour into well-greased 8-inch tin and bake in moderate oven about 30 minutes.
Courier Mail (Brisbane, Qld) 6th September 1950

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Strangest Dinner on Earth?

I have a fascinating story for you today. It is the story of a banquet in 1909 attended by many famous archeologists, scientists, and ‘savants’ of the time, and the menu was composed entirely of extraordinarily ancient foods.

It would be an even more fascinating story if it were true. Urban myth has never been so colourful. There does not seem to be a shred of real evidence that anything like this ever took place. The article is however, a fascinating example of extreme fantasy masquerading as pure truth. It is fun though, and I give it to you to show that lack of truth in food writing is not a modern phenomenon. Perhaps the secret to this sort of reporting is in having so much detail that it could not possibly be seen as anything but the truth?

I found the story in an Australian newspaper, the Goulburn Evening Penny Post (NSW) of 7th September 1909, but I suspect it was syndicated widely.

The most remarkable banquet recorded in history has just been given by Professor Herz, of the Imperial Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburg. Every article of food served it the banquet was more than a thousand years old, and the piece de resistance was, according to conservative scientific estimates, fully 20,000,000 years old. This was a magnificent joint from an ancient hairy mammoth, who died in the Old Stone Age, and was buried beneath the eternal ice of Siberia.
In addition to that there was bread made from wheat stored in the Pyramids by Pharaoh Rameses the Great; wine that had been buried beneath the ruins of Corinth when that most luxurious city of ancient Greece was sacked by the Romans; fruit that had been concealed and preserved beneath the ashes of Pompeii overwhelmed by Vesuvius; plates and goblets found beneath the site of Babylon that had perhaps been used at the feasts of King Nebuchadnezzar, and many other authentic relics of the earliest antiquity.
The officials of the Academy of Sciences recently obtained, from North-Eastern Siberia the most wonderfully preserved remains of an ancient mammoth yet discovered. The body lay in an enormous pocket of ice between the mountains, near the river bank. The ice was the relic of the great glacier that had existed here in prehistoric ages. The body, when exhumed, was complete, down to the smallest details, including hair, ears, eyes, tail, and all the extremities. In the stomach was a quantity of undigested grass, indicating by the character of the vegetation that the animal had died in the late autumn. His position showed that he met his death by slipping down a slope.
Out of scientific curiosity, Professor Herz, who superintended the stuffing of the  the perfect hide, tasted a portion of the mammoth meat, and was rather surprised to find that it was quite good, remarkably tender, resembling venison of a very superior quality, and just gamey enough to please an epicure. It then occurred to the professor that he might secure a legitimate advertisement for his new acquisition and the other fine features of the museum by giving a banquet of mammoth meat to scientists and prominent persons. He sent out invitations to scientists and archaeologists all over Europe, and was pleased to find that they not only accepted, but offered to bring many other antiquities that would help to make the banquet even more curious and picturesque than the mammoth steak alone would do.
Monsieur Amelineau, the distinguished Egyptologist, undertook to furnish enough grain which had been recovered from the Pyramids of Egypt to make bread for the banquet. It is well known that large quantities of wheat dating from the times of the Pharaohs have been found in Egypt. That country is the great wheat-growing centre of the ancient world, and when the wheat crop was short owing to the failure of the Nile there was trouble and famine in the land.
It was Joseph's wisdom in advising Pharaoh to store up grain against the years of famine that caused him to be advanced to the highest place in the kingdom. Thenceforward grain was stored with regularity.
In the chambers carved within the pyramids which served both as tombs and fortresses to the Pharaohs, wheat was stored in large quantities. It was carefully sealed up, and this fact, combined with the dryness of the climate caused it to last for ages without germinating or spoiling. It must have been awesome and inspiring to the guests to think that the wheat from which the bread they feasted on was made was growing when Pharaoh was opressing the children of Israel, and that perhaps the patriarch Moses fed upon grain that had grown side by side with this.
Another interesting contribution to the banquet consisted of wine that had been stored in a vault in ancient Corinth. It was contributed by M. Homolle, director of the French School of Archaeology, in Greece. This beverage dated from before the time of Julius Caesar, for Corinth, the richest and most luxury so great as Athens in intellectual achievements, rivalled the latter city in richness and artistic adornments amid the magnificent manner of living of her wealthy citizens.
The wine was probably of the brand known as Thrasian. It was light in colour and delicious in taste, resembling very old and dry sherry. It pleased the savants to believe that they were drinking the wine that Aspasia was accustomed to open for Pericles when he called upon her.
Perhaps the most astonishing feature of the menu consisted of apples from the ruins of ancient Pompeii, presented by Professor Fischetti of Naples. These apples had actually been preserved by a Pompeiiun housewife, who put them in a jar with spices and other efficient preservatives, corked them up tightly, and stored them in her cellar. Then occurred the great eruption of 70 A.D., during the reign of Titus, and the ashes of Vesuvius destroyed Pompeii and sealed up the cellar with its apples and peaches and onions even to this day.
The apples when found were dried and shrunken, but they were soaked in water, and then they were unmistakably recognised as apples, and had a very agreeable flavour. The mammoth steaks served at Dr. Herz's banquet was pronounced delicious. It was cut thick, grilled, and served with a strong sauce piquante in order to conceal any evidences of antiquity that might intrude themselves unduly upon the attention of the learned and enthusiastic guests. Perhaps the most peculiar circumstance about the mammoth steak was that the blood ran freely when it was cut. 
The archaeologists, scientists, and savants who attended the banquet were enchanted by it. The huge cut from the mammoth recalled to them the Paleolithic or Old Stone Man, living in a cave in the rocks, clothed principally with his own long hair and striving to defend himself against cave bears, aurochses, mammoths, and other extinct beasts. When they broke bread they saw before them the grave and terrible figure of Rameses the Great, with his hawk-shaped head-dress, the conqueror of the world in his day. They drank wine and they recalled the glories that then were. They conversed with Pericles, Themistocles, Socrates, Alcibiades, and perhaps with Aspasis and Phryne. They looked at the plates and goblets, and they thought of Nebuchadnezzar in his mighty city of Babylon. Then came the dessert, and as they partook of the preserved apples and cream they thought of ancient Rome and Pompeii.They saw the great Emperor Titus, in whose reign Pompeii was destroyed and the apples preserved. And when they went to bed they must have had some curious dreams.

Herewith I give you some instructions for preserving apples by means of cold storage, from
Experiment Station Work: Storing Apples Without Ice, ….U.S.Dept. of Agriculture (1899)

A striking example of the possibilities of cold storage in the preservation of apples is furnished by the work of the Nebraska State Horticultural Society at the Trans-Mississippi Exposition of 1898. The fruit was gathered and put in cold storage during the fall of 1897, most of it during the month of October, though some not until December. Each apple was wrapped first in a sheet of waxed paper, using 9 by 12 inch sheets for small apples and 12 by 12 inch sheets for large ones. Then another covering of common newspaper was added. This double wrapping made practically an air-tight cell for each apple, thus preventing any spread of decay. The fruit was then carefully packed in barrels, filling them up so as to require considerable pressure to get the heads in. The temperature of the room in which they were stored did not vary over one degree from 36° from the time they were placed in it until they were removed. A number of varieties were still in good condition November 1 of the following year.

And for today’s finale, a very do-able recipe for apples to keep for a short time, from Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cook Book (1896)

Apple Ginger.
Wipe, quarter, core, pare, and chop two and one-half pounds sour apples. Put in a stewpan and add one and one-half pounds light brown sugar, juice and rind of one and one-half lemons, one-half ounce ginger root, and enough water to prevent apples from burning. Cover, and cook slowly four hours, adding water as necessary. Apple Ginger may be kept for several weeks.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Porter-house Steak: the real story.

Yesterday’s source provides the story for today too, which is lucky for me as I am more keen to spend time today actually experiencing New York City than I am to spend the time reading and writing about it. 

In The Market Assistant, (1867,) Thomas F. de Voe describes the origin of the name “porter-house steak.” There may be other theories, but this is what he says:

The origin of the name of “porter-house steaks” took place about the year 1814, in the following manner:
Martin Morrison was the proprietor of a long-established and well kept “porter-house,” located and known at that period at No. 327 Pearl-street (New York), near the “old Walton House.” We introduce him in 1803, where we find he opens a “porter-house” at No. 43 Cherry-street, which became a popular resort with many of the Kew York pilots for his prepared hot meals, at any hour, at their call, they being occasionally detained on shipboard until their vessels were safely moored.
The “porter-houses” in those days were not so devoted to tippling, dram-drinking, and the common nests for the loafing, or the manufacturing of politicians and corrupt officials as at the present day, but rather to accommodate the hungry and thirsty travellers, old and young bachelors, seamen, and others with a cold lunch after the English custom – “a pot of ale [or porter] and a bite of something.” Some “porter-houses” prepared a hot meal of one or two dishes, among which was Morrison's, who must have been quite famous for his excellent broiled beefsteaks, which were universally called for at his place.
On one occasion (at the above period, 1814), Morrison having had an unusual call for steaks, he had cooked his last steak, and, as fortune would have it for all future partakers of beefsteaks, an old favorite but a rough pilot, made him a late visit, both hungry and thirsty, having been several hours without food. Not caring for the salt junk aboard the vessel which he had piloted in, he concluded to wait until he got on shore, that he might cast his anchor at Morrison's, where he could enjoy his “hot steak and mug of porter.”
In his honest language the pilot gave his usual order. Morrison had nothing but his family dinner for the next day, which consisted of a sirloin roasting-piece, of which he offered to cut from if the old pilot would have it. “Yes, my hearty, anything - so long as it is a beefsteak - for I am as empty as a gull!” exclaimed the pilot. Morrison cut off a good-sized slice, had it dressed and served, which the pilot ravenously devoured, and turning to the host (who had been expecting a blast from the old tarpaulin, but who, to his astonishment, received the order “Messmate, another steak just like that - do you hear?” Having finished his steaks and the second mug of porter, the old pilot squared himself towards his host, loudly vociferating, “Look ye here, messmate, after this I want my steaks off the roasting-piece! - do ye hear that? - so mind your weather-eye, old boy!”
It was not long after this when the old pilot's companions insisted upon having these “small loin steaks” served to them. Morrison soon discovered that these steaks were more suitable in size to dish up for single individuals, and he ever after purchased the sirloin roasting-pieces, from which he cut off these small steaks as they were called for, the large sirloin-steaks becoming less in demand.
Morrison's butcher - Thomas Gibbons - in the Fly Market, one morning put the question, after he (Morrison) had selected several sirloin pieces, “Why he had ceased purchasing the usual quantity of sirloin steaks?” Says Morrison, “I will tell you the reason: I cut off from the sirloin roasting-pieces a small steak which serves my pilots and single patrons best; but as it is now cold weather, I wish to have these roasting-pieces cut up as I shall direct every morning.” After this, Morrison's sirloins were daily cut up by Mr. Gibbons, with his order to “cut steaks for the porter-house,” hence the sirloin was changed into “cut the porter-house steaks.” Their appearance attracted the attention of other butchers and keepers of porter-houses, who admired their appearance and convenient size; in a few years their name and character became quite common to the butchers of the Fly Market, from which the name has spread to the several principal cities of the United States, and I doubt not that the name, porter-house steak has reached across the Atlantic.

The recipes for the day comes from the cookbook which I used for yesterday’s post, The New York cook book: a complete manual of cookery, in all its branches (1889) by Marie Martinelo

To Broil Beef Steaks.
Cut the steaks off a rump or ribs of a fore-quarter; beat them well with a rolling-pin. Have the gridiron perfectly clean and heated over a clear quick fire; lay on the steaks, and, with meat-tongs, keep turning them constantly, till they are done enough; throw a little salt over them a little before taking them off the fire. Serve them as hot as possible, plain, or with a made gravy and sliced onion, or rub a bit of butter upon the steaks the moment of serving. The tender-loin is the best piece for broiling.

Beef Steak Pie.

Take some fine rump steaks, beat them with a rolling-pin, then season them with pepper and salt according to taste. Make a good crust, lay in your steaks, fill your dish, then pour in as much water as will half fill the dish. Put on the crust, and bake it well.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Old New York Market Experience.

I am planning to be in the Big Apple today, so it seems appropriate to give you a Big Apple Story. May I take you back in time to 1867, when Thomas De Voe published a lovely book with the full and glorious title of

The Market Assistant: containing a brief description of every article of human food sold in the public markets of the cities of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn; including the various domestic and wild animals, poultry, game, fish, vegetables, fruits &c., &c. with many curious incidents and anecdotes.

I doubt I will find the market experience in New York as De Voe described it a century and a half ago. He is already regretting the good old days himself. Here is part of his advice:


Some fifty years ago it was the common custom for the thrifty "old New Yorker” when going to market, to start with the break of day, and carry along with him the large “market-basket,” then considered a very necessary appendage for this occasion. His early visit gave him the desired opportunity to select the cuts of meat wanted from the best animals; to meet the farmer's choice productions, either poultry, vegetables, or fruit, and catch the lively, jumping fish, which, ten minutes before, were swimming in the fish-cars.

Soon after followed the "good housewife," who would not trust anybody but herself to select a fine young turkey, or a pair of chickens or ducks, which she kept hold of until the bargain allowed her to place the coveted articles in her capacious basket, that was being carried by a stout servant who also carried a bright tin, covered kettle, ready to receive several nice rolls of butter, so cleanly and neatly covered with white linen cloths.

The modem ''marketer" will still occasionally observe some "relics of the past," who cling to the old custom taught them in their youth, perhaps, by an honored sire, who was not too proud to carry home a well-filled market-basket, containing his morning purchase, which his purse or taste prompted him to select. These old-fashioned ideas, alas! are all lived down, and we reluctantly turn from them, as we would from an interesting but worn-out book to peruse the pages of modem composition.

We now find many heads of families who never visit the public markets, who are either supplied through the butcher or other dealers in our markets, or by their stewards or other servants, or by some that may be termed go-between-speculators who take orders for marketing, groceries, etc., on their own hook; and, of course, they purchase the various articles of those who will give them the largest percentages. I am sorry, however, to be compelled to state that there are but few of this species of help, or market assistants, who can lay claim to the title of trustworthy.

It is, therefore, as necessary for our health as it is to our interest to obtain the knowledge of what we desire to purchase, that the articles shall be what they are represented to be, and that they are famished at the regular market price.

To market well, then, requires much experience, although many rules might be introduced, but they would be seldom successfully followed. Practice gives the looks, smell, feeling, and many signs that are almost indescribable, and which are formed from close observation.

…. [a long section on the various dishonest dealers’ tricks] … The safest plan for the inexperienced is to select respectable dealers, on whom they can rely. They may charge higher prices for that which they furnish; in the end, however, more satisfaction is afforded, by less risk, and more saving and relish - in fact, cheaper in every way, because all good articles are with profit used – that, while the best articles may cost more money in the purchase thereof, they will be found to be the most economical in the end.

What to give you as the recipe for the day? Something from The New York cook book
a complete manual of cookery, in all its branches (1889) by Marie Martinelo perhaps? How about a nice piece of cod fresh from the market?

COD. A cod-fish should be firm mid white, the gills red, and the eye lively: a fine fish is very thick about the neck; if the flesh is at all flabby it is not good. Cod is in its prime during the months of October and November, if the weather be cold; from the latter end of March to May, cod is also very fine. The length of time it requires for boiling depends on the size of the fish, which varies from one pound to twenty: a small fish, about two or three pounds weight will be sufficiently boiled in a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes after the water boils. Prepare a cod for dressing in the following manner: empty and wash it thoroughly, scrape off all the scales, cut open the belly, and wash and dry it well, rub a little salt inside, or lay it for an hour in strong brine. The simple way of dressing it is as follows: Tie up the head, and put it into a fish-kettle, with plenty of water and salt in it ; boil it gently, and serve it with oyster sauce. Lay a napkin under the fish, and garnish with slices of lemon, horseradish, &c.

COD BAKED. (1) Soak a fine piece of the middle of a fresh cod in melted butter, with parsley and sweet herbs shred very fine; let it stand over the fire for some time, and then bake it. Let it be of a good color.

COD BAKED. (2) Choose a fine large cod, clean it well, and open the under part to the bone, and put in a stuffing made with beef suet, parsley, sweet herbs shred fine, an egg. and seasoned with salt, pepper, nutmeg, mace and grated lemon-peel; put this inside the cod, sew it up, wrap it in a buttered paper, and bake it ; baste it well with melted butter.

FRIED Cod-Fish. Take the middle or tail part of a fresh cod-fish, and cut it into slices not quite an inch thick, first removing the skin. Season them with a little salt and cayenne pepper. Have ready in one dish some beaten yolk of egg, and in another some grated bread crumbs. Dip each slice of fish twice into the egg and then twice into the crumbs. Fry them in fresh butter, and serve them up with the gravy about them.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Food on the Missouri Pacific Line, 1948.

Today, all going as planned, we will be leaving Washington DC and travelling to New York (by train) for a final few days before heading home to Australia.

It seems appropriate to give you a railway menu today. Sadly, I have been unable to find one for the North East route, but I hope you enjoy your vicarious meal anyway.

One of the things that caught my eye on this menu was that it was folded and sealed, with instructions “To Open … Tear or Cut Along This Edge.”  A top-secret menu, only to be opened en route? Or designed to send as a letter? A marketing exercise of some sort, given that this was a convention train?

The menu is dated June 17, 1948. The graphic on the front cover is of a black waiter setting the table, which says a lot about the time, and still too much about the present, does it not?

-  en route to  -
JUNE 20 - 24, 1948

June 17, 1948

Chilled Tomato Juice
Soup: Consomme, Jardiniere

Baked Sugar-Cured Ham, with Spaghetti
Single Lamb Chop, Combination Grill

Mashed Potatoes                     Buttered Baby Beets
Hearts of Lettuce, Thousand Island Dressing

Assorted Breads.

Choice of:
Peach Diplomate
Figs in Syrup
Vanilla Ice Cream with Cake
American Cheese, Toasted Ry-Crisp.

Coffee             Tea, Hot or Iced                      Milk

There is not much there to tempt you with as far as recipes go, is there? I do wonder how the ham/spaghetti combo was served, but Alas, there is no clue in the menu. I cannot find anything called Peach Diplomate, and I gave you two versions of ThousandIsland Dressing some time ago (here.)

It looks like it will have to be the beets today – get babies if you can, and don’t waste the greens!

Baked Beets.
Beets retain their sugary delicate flavor much better by baking instead of boiling; turn often in the pan while in the oven, using a knife, as a fork will cause the juice to flow; when done, remove skin, slice and season with butter, pepper and salt, or if for pickle, slice into good cold vinegar. - Mrs. S. M. Guy

Beet Greens.
Wash young beets very clean, cut off tips of leaves, looking over carefully to see that no bugs or worms remain, but do not separate roots from leaves; fill dinner pot half full of salted boiling water, add beets, boil from half to three-quarters of an hour; take out and drain in colander, pressing down with a large spoon, so as to get out all thewater. Dish and dress with butter, pepper, and salt if needed. Serve hot with vinegar
Buckeye Cookery, And Practical Housekeeping: Compiled From Original Recipes. 

Minneapolis, Minn.: Buckeye Pub. Co., 1877

Friday, April 17, 2015

In Search of the Original Maryland Fried Chicken

I could not spend time in Maryland and not at least mention Chicken à la Maryland, now could I? What is it about this variant of the ubiquitous fried chicken recipe that justifies a special name?

Culinary historians are constantly and competitively in search of ‘first recipes for’ or ‘first mentions of’ various dishes, and I admit that I love making such finds myself. Well, I have read that ‘Chicken Maryland’ (which may or may not be the same thing as ‘Chicken à la Maryland’ is mentioned in a newspaper article of 1886, but so far I have not been able to track this down.

Fannie Farmer, cookery teacher and cookbook writer extraordinaire, who could have been expected to know, included a recipe for Maryland Chicken (and also Terrapin à la Maryland) in The Boston Cooking School Cook Book in 1896. Here it is:

Maryland Chicken.
Dress, clean, and cut up two chickens. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, dip in flour, egg, and crumbs, place in a well-greased dripping pan, and bake twenty minutes in a hot oven, basting after first five minutes of cooking with one-third cup of melted butter. Arrange on platter and pour over two cups of Cream Sauce.

Even without the à la, it sounds pretty authentic - whatever that means - to me.

The famous chef Auguste Escoffier is said to have enjoyed the dish when it was served to him in a New York restaurant in 1908 -  so much so that he included a recipe in his seminal work Ma Cuisine, first published in 1934. Escoffier’s version has the chicken pieces fried in clarified butter in a pan, not baked in an oven, and he serves them with “a béchamel sauce to which a little grated horseradish may be added or tomato sauce,” surrounded by sweet corn fritters, potato croquettes, bacon, and banana.  

Perhaps the best explanation for the name and the fame is the following one, found in an article in the Maryland newspaper the Frederick News Post  of September 24, 1932.  The article was a review of a recently published cookery book called Eat Drink and Be Merry in Maryland by Philip Stieff.

“… but a customer discovered, much to her sorrow, that there is no definition, not even any recognition of chicken a la Maryland. She gave vent to her sorrow and anger in the words “What kind of book is this anyway?” …. After the customer had gone her way, the question was put up to the author of the book. His reply was “As a matter of fact I don’t think that the name chicken a la Maryland is original with Marylanders. I think it more likely that this was a name applied by outsiders who camt to our State, ate our fried chicken, which has always been of a superior quality, and then went away to tell other people about the fried chicken they had in Maryland – chicken the way they fry it in Maryland – chicken in the Maryland style, and hence, chicken a la Maryland.  I don’t pretend to be a cook. All I did was to act as an intermediary. That is, collect the recipes and have them published in a book. The recipes bear the original names under which they came to me. I do not remember that there was any recipes for chicken a la Maryland. There are half a dozen recipes for fried chicken, however, and one of them, no doubt, will answer the demand for chicken a la Maryland.”

The same newspaper published a recipe for the dish in its edition of February 18, 1936.

Chicken a la Maryland.
Disjoint chicken and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Dip in melted butter, then in fine dried breadcrumbs, then in egg slightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water and again in crumbs. Place in single layer in a well-buttered baking pan.
Baste every five minutes with 2 tablespoons butter melted in 2 tablespoons hot water. It will take about forty-five minutes in a hot oven to cook the chicken. Serve each piece of chicken on a thin slice of baked ham, and pour over one or two tablespoons of sauce made by adding 1 cup of cream to pan in which chicken was baked. If fowl is used in place of chicken, parboil after disjointing for forty minutes.

Finally, how can I resist giving you the instructions for the dish from yesterday’s heroine, Wallis Simpson? This is how the famous ‘Baltimore Gal’ (or ‘That American Woman’) made the dish, according to the Australian Women’s Weekly in 1937.  Interestingly, she adds the corn fritters, as in Escoffier's version.

Maryland Fried Chicken.
Select young, tender frying chickens. Cut into halves, quarters, or smaller pieces according to your preference. Singe, wash, and dry thoroughly. Roll in flour to which salt and pepper have been added. Heat a large piece of butter in a deep pan with lid, or saucepan, and brown the chicken on all sides in it.  
The butter should half cover the chicken. Reduce heat, add a little water, cover closely, and let simmer until chicken is tender. Remove lid and continue cooking until almost all of the liquid has cooked away. Remove chicken to a warm place.
Pour off excess grease in pan; make cream gravy, allowing 1 tablespoon flour and 1 cup thin cream to each 2 tablespoons of fat in the pan. Cook, stirring, until thickened, adding a little minced parsley.
If desired, return the chicken to the gravy for a few minutes. Serve with waffles or corn fritters.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Maryland Recipes for the King.

The Australian Women's Weekly of 22nd May, 1937 had a feature on ‘Baltimore girl’ Wallis Simpson who had won the heart of King Edward VIII, thus precipitating a constitutional crisis when he abdicated the throne to marry her.

If The Weekly is to be believed, “that American Woman” as Wallis was not very affectionately known by the English aristocracy, was quite a dab hand in the kitchen. Part of the article reads:

Mrs. Wallis Simpson, or Miss Wallis Warfield, as she now desired to be known until her marriage to the Duke of Windsor, makes chocolate cake and other famous Maryland dishes for former King Edward.

“Cooking is an art” she said [in a recent interview.]”I would not be so ridiculous as to say cooking is an element of happiness, but it is a great art.”
Like other women of Baltimore, Mrs. Simpson is proud of her ability to make the native dishes of Maryland.

A clipping from an American newspaper published during the dramatic climax in England tells of Edward’s liking for cake:

Cake for King.
LONDON: Mrs Wallis Simpson baked a chocolate cake for King Edward on Monday, as intense cold and fog kept the King’s guests indoors at Fort Belvedere, his country estate.  Mrs Simpson’s chocolate cake has become a favorite delicacy of His Majesty, who also praises her salads and luncheon dishes.
As King Edward is partial to American cooking, business methods, and music, Mrs. Simpson’s cookery appeals greatly to the royal palate.

The article goes on to eulogise about Maryland food in general:

The natural geographic and climatic advantages of the Chesapeake Bay State have given Maryland a variety of excellent foods – terrapin and canvas back ducks, oysters and soft crabs, watermelon, yams, turkeys, corn bread, beaten biscuit (scones to us), fried chicken, corn fritters and corn pudding, big “beefsteak” tomatoes and shad roe – to mention a few.

And finally, it gets around to the recipes, including the favourite of the King:

Chocolate Sandwich Cake.
Two and one-quarter cups flour; 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder; ¾ teaspoon salt’ ½ cup butter; 1 cup sugar; 2 eggs, well beaten; ¾ cup milk; 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Sift the flour; measure, and sift three times with the baking powder and salt. Cream the butter, add sugar gradually, and cream until light and fluffy.
Add eggs and beat well. Add flour alternately with the milk, a little at a time, beating after each addition until smooth. Add vanilla. Bake in 2 greased inch layer pans in moderate oven (375 deg. F.) for 25 minutes. Spread chocolate frosting between layers and over cake.

All-round Chocolate Frosting.
Four tablespoons butter; 3 cups icing sugar; ¾ teaspoon vanilla; ¼ teaspoon salt; 3 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted; 4 tablespoonfuls hot milk (approximately.)
Cream butter well; add part of sugar gradually, blending after each addition until smooth. Add vanilla, salt, and chocolate and mix well. Add remaining sugar alternately with the milk, until of the right consistency to spread, beating after each addition.

I have to take issue with the good old Australian Women’s Weekly on its opinion on beaten biscuits or scones. About the worst thing you can do with scones is to be heavy-handed with the dough. I have never eaten beaten biscuits, although I intend to remedy this while I am in Maryland this week. They may well look similar to scones, and the ingredients are the same, but the technique is so different I can hardly believe that beaten biscuits have the same texture.

I give you the recipe for beaten biscuits from article about Wallis and her cooking, and let the English scones experts amongst you decide for yourselves.

Maryland Beaten Biscuits or Scones.
One half-pint of flour; ⅓ teaspoon salt; ⅓ tablespoon shortening; ice water and milk, combined in equal amounts, to make a very stiff dough.
Add salt to flour and rub in the shortening with the hands. Slowly add the liquid to make a very stiff dough, kneading all the while.
Beat with a hatchet, stick, or flatiron for half an hour (hard work, but it’s what “makes” the biscuits): cut into small biscuits and prick the tops with a fork.

Bake at 350 deg. F. for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Maryland Recipes: Smith Island Cake.

On April 24, 2008, the state of Maryland declared Smith Island cake its official dessert. This is cake of many layers (8-15) with much variation allowed in the flavours, fillings and frostings and almost as much in the stories of its origin. 

It has proved remarkably difficult so far to track down any authentic recipes for a cake which has supposedly been made on the island for at least a century. Perhaps it is the sort of thing that requires some local sleuthing.

I cannot help but notice the similarity in concept between Smith Island cake and several well-known and longstanding traditional European baked goods such as:

-          Dutch spekkoek or layered spice cake, which gave rise to the 
-          Dutch-Indonesian lapis legit.
-          German baumkuchen - which is very difficult to make at home as the layers of batter are progressively rolled around a rotating spit, so that the layers resemble tree-rings, and which is surprisingly popular in Japan.

Perhaps the Maryland version is the legacy of an early migrant from one of these European nations? If you have any local knowledge, do please share it with us in the comments.

In the meanwhile, as the detective work goes on in the background, a recipe from an Arizona paper would seem as appropriate as any other, would it not? From the Phoenix Arizona Republic of May 1, 1977,  please enjoy the following version of a Dutch spice cake.

(Layered Spice Cake)
2 sticks butter
3 ½ cups powdered sugar
10 egg yolks
8 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla flavored powdered sugar
1⅛ cups flour
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground cloves.
1 stick butter for spreading between layers.
Beat butter until creamy. Add sugar. Add 1 yolk at a time, beating thoroughly. Beat whites until stiff. Add to batter. Sprinkle in flour until thoroughly mixed. Use a folding motion for combining ingredients. Do not just stir in.
Divide batter into two equal parts. Add spices to half. Add vanilla sugar to half. Butter a springform pan. Cut a piece of wax paper to fit the bottom of the round pan. Spread a thin layer of vanilla batter on bottom of pan. Bake at 375 degrees 10 minutes. Turn off oven. Cook remaining layers under broiler heat. This cake is a series of thin layers, baked one on top of the other.

After first layer is baked, spread with butter. Spread a thin layer of spiced batter on the baked, buttered, bottom layer. Place the pan at the bottom of the oven. Bake dark layer 3 to 4 minuts. Again, spread butter over the baked layer. Spread with a layer of vanilla batter. Return to the bottom of the oven. Bake 3 to 4 minutes. Continue layering alternately using the two batters and spreading with butter until all the batter is used. There will be about 15 layers. This cake freezws well. Several can be done at once.