Friday, July 31, 2015

Baked Ice Cream: A Nineteenth Century Novelty.

My find of the week, which was my source of inspiration yesterday, is The Chicago Herald Cooking School: A Professional Cook's Book for Household Use (1883), by Jessup Whitehead. It contains menus and recipes of course, but ends with a rather fun section of ‘scraps’ of cooking and dining trivia. Some of these fun factoids are culled from newspapers around the English-speaking world, but many, if not most, are not credited at all – such as the following snippet:

The chef of the Chinese Embassy in Paris has introduced Baked Ice Cream as a gastronomic novelty and gives for it the following recipe: “Make your ice cream very fine; roll out some light paste thin and cut into small squares; place a spoonful of ice in the centre of each piece of paste, and fold it up closely, so that no air may get in, and bake in a quick oven. The paste will be cooked before the ice can melt.

This story triggered a vague sense of familiarity with me, and sent me digging through my blog archives. I rediscovered a story from years ago (2006 to be exact.) It was about the Baron Brissé – the man who has a good claim to being the world’s first newspaper food writer. In his newspaper column on June 6, 1866, he reported a dinner held by a Chinese delegation at the Grand Hotel in Paris, at which “baked ices” were served. This event is often quoted as the true origin of Baked Alaska. 

This event in 1866 is also surely the same event described as a novel idea in 1883 in The Chicago Herald Cooking School book. So – what happened to this ‘gastronomic novelty’ in the intervening 17 years?

So far, after an admittedly extremely brief period of research, all I have been able to do is inch the story back by twelve months. There is a mention of ‘baked ice-cream’ in an article in Harper's New Monthly Magazine of January 1882. The piece is called With the Van-Guard in Mexico. The author is William Henry Bishop, who was aboard the Cuba Mail Line steamer Newport when, “taking patriotic pride in her merits” he wrote:

“As I am a voracious narrator, there was served to us off the Pan of Matanzas, with the thermometer at ninety degrees in the shade, a dish which called itself baked ice-cream, and was in fact an ice frozen as solid as one could demand, while a crust above it was brown and smoking.”

I do not believe that such a newsworthy culinary innovation as baked ice-cream completelty disappeared for over a decade and a half, so quite clearly I have more work to do on the mystery. In the meantime, may I give you a rather delicious-sounding fig and caramel ice-cream, from my current book-crush?

Frozen Fig Pudding.
Figs cut small and mixed in caramel ice cream and frozen in brick molds is a most excellent combination— a modified tutti-frutti.
1 quart of milk.
8 yolks of eggs.
14 ounces of sugar.
1 pound of figs.
The caramel gives the flavor, but half a cupful of curacoa improves it.
Take four tablespoonfuls of the sugar to make caramel, put it into a saucepan or frying pan over the fire without any water, and let it melt and become a medium molasses color, not burnt, however, then pour in half a cupful of water, and let boil and dissolve.
Make rich boiled custard of the milk, sugar and yolks, pour the caramel into it, strain into the freezer, and freeze as usual. Cut the figs small as raisins and mix them in. Put the ice cream into Neapolitan molds, and bed them in ice and salt for two hours.

The Chicago Herald Cooking School (1883)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

What Tripe Is, and Is Not, and How to Cook It.

The theme of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery in 2016 is to be Offal, and it is hoped and expected that the topic will be explored broadly, and certainly well beyond the commonly assumed meaning of ‘organ meat’.

The Oxford English Dictionary gives a number of different usages of the word ‘offal’ including:

·       That which falls or is thrown off from some process, as husks from milling grain, chips from dressing wood, etc.; residue or waste products.

·       In pl. or (occas.) sing. Fragments that fall off in breaking or using anything, considered collectively; crumbs, leftovers, remnants

·       The edible parts collectively which are cut off in preparing the carcass of an animal for food. In early use applied mainly to the entrails; later extended to include the head, tail, and internal organs such as the heart, liver, etc. Also occas. as a count noun (usu. in pl.): a piece of offal; a particular type of offal.

·       The parts of a slaughtered or dead animal considered unfit for human consumption; decomposing flesh, carrion. Also (in extended use): slain bodies or mutilated limbs. Occas. in pl.

·       Refuse in general; rubbish, garbage; a piece of this.

·       Dregs, scum, offscourings, trash; (as a count noun) something worthless.

·       Formerly, in the fish trade: low-priced and inferior fish (contrasted with those called prime); esp. small fish of various kinds caught in the nets along with the larger or more valuable kinds.


Thinking about this marvellous annual event (and planning not to miss it next time around) made me realise that I have not given offal the attention it is deserves n my blog posts over the years.

I have chosen to start with tripe, for the very excellent reason that one of my first finds on the subject was an amusing piece in The Chicago Herald Cooking School: A Professional Cook's Book for Household Use (1883), by Jessup Whitehead:

What Tripe Is.
(Burlington Hawkeye.)

Occasionaly [sic] you see a man order tripe at a hotel, but be always looks hard, as though he hated himself and everybody else. He tries to look as though he enjoyed it, but he does not. Tripe is indigestible, and looks like an India rubber apron for a child to sit on. When it is pickled it looks like dirty clothes put to soak, and when it is cooking it cooks as though the cook was boiling a dish cloth.  On the table it looks like glue and tastes like a piece of old silk umbrella cover. A stomach that is not lined with corrugated iron would be turned wrong side out by the smell of tripe. A man eating tripe at a hotel table looks like an Arctic explorer dining on his boots or chewing pieces of frozen dog. You cannot look at a man eating tripe but he will blush and look as though he wanted to apologize and convince you he is taking it to tone up his system. A woman never eats tripe. There is not money enough in the world to hire a woman to take a corner of a sheet of tripe in her teeth and try to pull off a piece. Those who eat tripe are men who have had their stomachs play mean tricks on them, and they eat tripe to get even with their stomachs and then they go and take a Turkish bath to sweat it out of their system. Tripe is a superstition handed down from a former generation of butchers, who sold all the meat and kept the tripe for themselves and the dogs, but the dogs of the present day will not eat tripe.
You throw a piece of tripe down in front of a dog and see if he does not put his tail between his legs and go off and hate you. Tripe may have a value, but it is not as food. It may be good to fill in a burglar-proof safe, with the cement and chilled steel, or it might answer to use as a breastplate in the time of war, or it would be good to use for bumpers between cars, or it would make a good face for the weight of a pile driver, but when you come to smuggle it into the stomach you do wrong. Tripe! Bah! A piece of Turkish towel soaked in axle grease would be pie compared with tripe.

Interestingly, although tripe is often thought of as poor-folks’ food, there is anecdotal evidence that it was often enjoyed by choice by those able to afford the finest steaks. In another snippet (the source is not identified )in The Chicago Herald Cooking School tripe and onions are associated with gentlemen’s clubs:

There are three dishes, it is said, which if put upon the bill of fare of a London club, are devoured before all the rest: so that at 7 or 8 o’clock, when most members dine, there is nothing left of them. These dishes are Irish stew, tripe and onions, and liver and bacon.

Jessup Whitehead was a prolific author of books about food and hotel catering, and in another of his works - The Steward’s Handbook and Guide to Party Catering – he again indicated that tripe and onions was an actual specialty of one particular gentlemen’s club, although he does not name it.

Many of the London clubs have their culinary specialties. Thus, the Oriental, in Hanover Square, has long been celebrated for its curried prawns; the Garrick for its porter-house steaks and marrow-bones; the Junior Garrick for its mutton broth; the Windham [presumably Wyndham] for a dish known as 'all sorts," named after the 17th Lancers; another club for its tripe and onions; while the grill at the little Beef-steak, over Toole's Theatre, is unique.

So, is tripe amusing or disgusting or delicious? Is it food of necessity for the poor, or comfort food for the rich? Perhaps a recipe will help you decide.

I give you two interpretations of the tripe and onions from The Art of Cookery (London, 1836) by John Mollard.

Fried Tripe and Onions.
Cut the tripe into slips of four inches long and three inches wide, dip them in batter and fry them in boiling lard. On serving, put under it slices of onions cut one inch thick, and fry them in the same manner. Or instead of slips of tripe, pieces of cow-heel may be used; and let melted butter be sent in a sauce-boat with a little mustard in it, and, if approved, a table spoonful of vinegar.

Boiled Tripe and Onions.

Cut a prepared double of tripe into slips, then peel and boil some Spanish, or other onions, in milk and water with a little salt, and when they are nearly done, add the tripe, and boil it gently twenty minutes. Serve with the onions and a little of the liquor in a tureen. Serve, likewise, in a sauceboat, some melted butter with a little mustard, and, if approved, a table spoonful of vinegar mixed with it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Imitation Dishes for a Mock Feast (1903)

One of my favourite themes is that of ‘mock’ or imitation dishes. I have written numerous posts on them before, but came across an irresistible find recently, in an Australian newspaper, and just have to share it with you.

From Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW) of 3 August, 1903, I give you in its entirety a column simply entitled ‘Imitation Dishes.’ There is no attempt at explanation or justification for the topic in the column, – the recipes stand unashamedly alone. You could prepare a complete feast from them, should you be so inclined. I wonder if your guests would detect the subterfuge?

Mock Whitebait.
Fillet a bream, and cut it into small pieces, the size of whitebait. Roll the fish in fine breadcrumbs till well covered, place it in a frying basket, plunge this in boiling fat, fry the fish for a minute or two, taking care not to overcook it, drain on paper, arrange on a fresh paper or d’oyley on a hot dish, dust with pepper and salt, and serve at once. Brown bread-and-butter and cut lemon should accompany this dish, which should be garnished with sprigs of parsley.

Mock Pigeons.
Take a piece of fillet of veal, and cut it into pieces about the size of half a pigeon. Make a little forcemeat, and add to it some grated or minced ham. Spread each piece of veal with a little of the forcemeat, roll it up, tie it with tape, and stew in good stock for three-quarters of an hour. Place the meat in a tin, butter it, dust with flour, and bake for a few minutes in a hot oven. Arrange on a hot dish, remove the tapes, pour some thick brown gravy around, garnish with sippets of toast, and serve with bread sauce.

Mock Venison.
This may be made with fresh meat, or as a rechauffe of cold mutton. If the former, bone a piece of well-hung loin of mutton, and stew the bones in stock very gently for two hours with an onion, a carrot, sweet herbs, a stick of celery, and one or two cloves and peppercorns. Strain the soup, return it to the pan, place the mutton in it, and simmer until the meat is tender. Remove the meat, and brown it in a hot oven. Strain the gravy, thicken it, and serve very hot, with redcurrant jelly or any sharp preserves. If cold cooked mutton is used, it must be cut in thick slices, and simmered in the same way. The stock may be made of a little water, finely-chopped onion, a glass of claret or port, a tablespoonful of red-currant jelly, a little glaze, and a tablespoonful of chutney.

Mock Duck.

Take a piece of beefsteak, about 10in or 12in in extent, and spread it with a layer of sage and onion stuffing, roll up the steak tie it in shape, put it in a deep dish, with half a pint of good stock or gravy, and bake for about an hour, turning and basting it frequently. Remove the string, put the meat on a hot dish, thicken the gravy, pour it around the meat, and serve.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Extreme Kitchen DIY: Bottled Condiments.

Last week I included a recipe for Tapp’s Sauce from an Anglo-Indian cookery book of the mid-nineteenth century. The recipe was, in fact, an attempt at imitating one of the popular commercially-made bottled condiment of the same name. Attempting to re-create these condiments was a common goal, it seems, of many cooks and cookery book authors of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. The motive was perhaps a simple desire to unlock a manufacturing company’s highly guarded secret, but in some instances it was simple kitchen frugality. The latter was particularly the case with soy sauce, as the genuine article was imported and rather expensive a hundred years ago. The concocting of copies of this mysterious but incredibly savoury black liquid was so common a practice in Britain that the results were referred to as ‘English soy.’

I found the pimped-up version of Tapp’s sauce in the English colonial cookery book Indian Domestic Economy and Receipt Book (Madras, 1860.) It has a couple of other treasures for us today:

A Good Imitation of Worcestershire Sauce.
Add to a pint of apple vinegar, a half ounce of hot chopped peppers, "bird" peppers best, three cloves of garlic, mashed, five anchovies, twelve whole cloves, a one-quarter teaspoonful of ground mace, and twelve whole black peppercorns, crushed. Shake, cover and stand aside over night. Next day rub through a sieve, strain again, and add one pint of Soy sauce; put into jars, cover, and let stand ten days. Bottle, cork and seal. Use sparingly in brown sauces and soups or stews.
Mrs. Rorer's key to simple cookery, by Mrs. Sarah Tyson Rorer (Philadelphia, c.1917)

Imitation Soy Sauce—The Famous East India Sauce.
Boil one quart of the seeds of haricot or kidney beans in sufficient water until soft, add one quart bruised wheat; keep in a warm place for twenty-four hours, then add one quart salt and two gallons water, and keep for two or three months in a tightly bunged stone jar, after which press out the liquor and seal in jars.
Professor H. Blits' Methods of Canning Fruits and Vegetables by Hot Air and Steam, and Berries by the Compounding of Syrups, and the Crystallizing and Candying 
of Fruits, etc., etc:, by H. Blits (1890)

Over half a century later, Dr. Willliam Tibbles published a comprehensive reference called
Foods, their origin, composition and manufacture (London, 1912.) It is a veritable treasure trove of knowledge of the time. In the chapter on Condiments and Spices, Dr. Tibbles gives recipes for both Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce, the veracity of which he does not excuse in any way:

Sauces. — There are sold numerous liquid condiments which are highly esteemed by a host of consumers for their appetizing properties. Many of these sauces, or relishes, consist of a basis of vinegar, with Indian soy, mushroom ketchup, walnut ketchup, cayenne pepper, allspice, garlic, and other condiments and aromatic spices, to give flavour, pungency, and aromatic properties. A notable example is Worcestershire Sauce, which is composed of the following ingredients:

Soy                                    1 quart
Malt vinegar                  7 pints
Lime-juice                       ¾ pint
Tamarind                        1 pound
Chillies                             1¼ ounces
Cloves                              1¼ ounces
Garlic                                3 ounces
Shallots                            6 ounces
Anchovies                       3 ounces          

These substances are prepared by peeling and bruising the garlic and shallots with the anchovies. They are then mixed with the vinegar, soy, and spices, boiled together for twenty minutes, allowed to get cold, and strained.

There are many other examples; most of the ingredients have been described in the foregoing pages. Soy is a liquid preparation of soy beans (see Legumes), which is prepared by boiling the beans with salt, reducing them to a pulp with wheat or barley meal, and allowing the mixture to ferment. After three or four weeks the liquid is poured off and clarified, forming a thick dark brown liquid, used as a basis for various sauces. An imitation, called English soy, is made by heating together 10 parts treacle, 16 parts extract of malt, 4 parts mushroom ketchup, and 9 parts common salt; it is allowed to stand twenty-one days, and afterwards clarified.

Dr. Tibbs’ comments on ‘ketchup’ are also most interesting, and highlight the difference in the concept in the early twentieth century compared to today, when the unqualified word surely refers only to the variety made with tomatoes. It perhaps also counterpoints the English, as distinct from the American ideas on the condiment.

Ketchup or Catsup is a sauce or condiment, made from the juice of mushrooms, obtained by sprinkling them abundantly with common salt. The juice is boiled with spices, such as allspice, cayenne, ginger, and mace. The mushrooms used for this purpose are Agaricus campesiris, A. arvensis, A. rvibescens, Marasmius oreades, Coprinus comatus, C. atramentarius, Fisiulina hepatica, and Morchella esculenta. When mushrooms are scarce, doubtful species, such as Agaricus spadiceus, A. lacrymabundus, and many others, classed as nonpareils and champignons, are used.

A few paragraphs later, he notes:

Mushroom ketchup is a sauce made by covering mushrooms with common salt for three days, then removing the juice by expression, and boiling it with chillies, allspice, ginger, mace, etc. It is used for flavouring gravy and making sauces, etc.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Elegant Sauces for Fish from the 14th to 19th Centuries.

On Thursday last week we had sauce-from-fish, and today I thought we would consider sauce-for-fish. So, skimming rapidly across the centuries, may I offer you a quick taste of the possibilities?

14th Century: from a manuscript known as Utilis Coquinario:-

A Dauce Egre
Tak luces or tenches or fresch haddok, & seth them & frye hem in oyle dolieu. & than tak vynegre & the thridde pert sugre & onyounnes smal myced, & boyle alle togedere, & maces & clowes & quybibes. & ley the fish in disches & hyld the sew aboue & serue it forth.

This is essentially a sweet and sour fish dish. The fish are boiled then fried, and served in a saue of vinegar, sugar, and minced onions flavoured with mace, cloves, and cubebs (sometimes called Java pepper.)

15th C: from Two fifteenth-century cookery-books: Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430), & Harl. MS. 4016 (ab. 1450), with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1439, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS. 55 / edited by Thomas Austin:-

Haddoke in Cyuee.
Shal be yopened & ywasshe clene / & ysode & yrosted on a gridel; grind peper & saffron̛, bred & ale / mynce oynons, fri hem in ale, & do therto, and salt: boille hit, do thyn haddok in plateres, & thi ciuey aboue, & ȝif forth.

In this dish, the prepared fish is boiled then cooked on a griddle, and served with a sauce of ale, bread, and minced onions, spiced with pepper and saffron. ‘Cyvee’ (many alternative spellings) usually refers to a sort of stew or other dish with a sauce thickened with breadcrumbs and minced onions, as above. Sometimes the thickener is blood, as in the ‘modern’ dish which we refer to as a civet.

16th C: from A Proper newe Booke of Cokerye (printed in 1575):-

A Pyke sauce for a Pyke, Breme, Perche, Roche, Carpe, Eles, Floykes
and al maner of brouke fyshe.
Take a posye of Rosemary and time [thyme] and bynde them together, and put in also a quantitye of perselye [parsley] not bounde, and put into the caudron of water, salte and yeste, and the herbes, and lette them boyle a pretye whyle, then putte in the fysshe and a good quantitye of butter, and let them boyle a good season, and you shall have good Pyke sauce.

17th C: from the classic seventeenth century cookery book, The Accomplisht Cook (1685 ed. by Robert May includes several recipes for sauce to serve with carp. I have chosen this one for you today; it is for boiled carp that is to be eaten hot:

Or take three or four anchoves and dissolve them in some white-wine, put them in a pipkin with some slic't horse-raddish, gross pepper, some of the carp liquor, and some stewed oyster liquor, or stewed oysters, large mace, and a whole onion or two; the sauce being well stewed, dissolve the yolks of three or four eggs with some of the sauce, and give it a warm or two, pour it on the carp with some beaten butter, the stewed oysters and slic't lemon, barberries, or grapes.

18th C: from Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (1763 ed.):-

To make a strong Fish-Gravy.
TAKE two or three eels, or any fish you have, skin or scale them, and gut them and wash them from grit, cut them into little pieces, put them into a sauce-pan, cover them with water, a little crust of bread toasted brown, a blade or two of mace and some whole pepper, a few sweet herbs, a very little bit of lemon peel. Let it boil till it is rich and good, then have ready a piece of butter, according to your gravy; if a pint, as big as a walnut. Melt it in the sauce-pan, then shake in a little flour, and toss it about till it is brown, and then strain in the gravy to it. Let it boil a few minutes and it will be good.

19th C: and now for something quite different: from Domestic Economy, and Cookery, for Rich and Poor, by a Lady (1827):

Artichoke, an elegant Fish-sauce.
When bottoms are prepared for winter use, collect nil the leaves, cut off the coarser part, and let them simmer till they will pulp; strain the liquor, let it settle, and to every pint add three pints and a half of white wine and one of vinegar; put it into an earthen vessel, and let it simmer half an hour in a bain-marie; let it cool, and bottle it. When it is used, rub a little flour into a quarter of a pound of butter, and put it into three table-spoonfuls of the sauce, or put it in, in pieces, and melt it, mixed with a little flour, as melted butter; add four table-spoonfuls of cream, veloute, or rich stock, and let it boil.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Trembling Beef and Bombarded Veal.

As most of you know, I love old forgotten food words, especially when they are a reminder of foods or meals or related concepts which are no longer part of our lives. Another type of forgotten food word applies to a regular dish which we still make, but for which we have a different (and usually less picturesque or evocative) name. I came across a couple of examples of these recently, and want to share them with you.

A cookery book published in London in 1837 with the title of Two thousand five hundred practical Recipes in Family Cookery includes the following two examples of names you don’t see in cookery books any more. (But then, how many modern cookery books can boast such a number of recipes? Methinks we have traded comprehensive content for glossy pictures.)

BOMBARDED VEAL is a fillet of veal having the bone taken out its place supplied with a rich stuffing of which fat scraped bacon forms a great part, with various condiments to which are added cream and egg; besides which cuts are made into the fillet at about an inch apart, into some of which is put a portion of the stuffing, into others boiled and minced spinach, and into others chopped oysters and beef marrow. In this state having a veal caul wrapped round it, it is placed in a pot with a small quantity of water and baked. The time necessary for its being done will of course depend upon the weight of the fillet. See BAKING. We pass no opinion on this dish.

BEEF TREMBLANT. This is another of those dishes long known and described. It is not compatible with our design to comment upon every term employed in cookery; that would be an endless task; but we may here, once for all, observe that many writers on our art have been extremely careless in regard to the orthography of its terms. Thus, we find this dish has been called beef tremblonque and beef tremblent; we have given the proper French orthography; but why not call it at once trembling or shaking beef? Oh, that is so vulgar! Change the word and how fine it becomes! The following is found in substance in most of our cookery books from Mrs. Glasse downwards to those of the present century. Take a brisket of beef and tie up the fat end tightly; boil it in water seasoned with salt and a handful of allspice, to which add two onions, two turnips, and a carrot, gently, for six hours; in the mean time melt a piece of butter in a stewpan, to which add two spoonsful of flour, and stir till the mixture is smooth; put to it a quart of gravy, a spoonful of catchup, two glasses of wine, and some carrots and turnips, cut as for a haricot; stew all gently till the roots are tender; season with pepper and salt. Skim all the fat clean off, put the beef into the dish and pour the gravy, thus made, over it. You may garnish with pickle of any sort. Of course you will serve it up with proper vegetables, such as greens, carrots, or potatoes, or all of them. Note.—Some will make a gravy instead of the above, with chopped parsley, an onion, pickled cucumbers, a walnut and capers with a pint of gravy, butter rolled in flour, and pepper and salt, boiling the whole for ten or more minutes.

The first usage recorded in the  Oxford English Dictionary to ‘bombarded’ in a culinary sense appears in Hannah Glasse’s Art of Cookery, published in 1747, and refers to this exact dish of stuffed veal. No explanation of this culinary usage is made, but I assume it is intended to invoke the similarity of the shape of the dish with a bomb. You have to admit that ‘Bombarded Veal’ sounds more interesting than ‘Stuffed Veal Fillet.’

The OED has one reference for ‘trembling beef’ dated 1806, but seems to be lacking in confidence about its meaning or origin:

trembling beef   n. some dish of boiled beef (? obs.); cf. trembling-piece n.
1806   A. Hunter Culina (ed. 3) 238   Trembling Beef. Take a brisket of beef, and boil it gently [etc.].

On looking at the associated usage of ‘trembling piece,’ the OED says:

trembling-piece   n.  [French pièce tremblante] a joint of beef so interlarded with fat as to quiver.
1833   Wilson Fr. & Eng. Dict. at Tremblant,   Trembling-piece.

On looking at the recipe above for Beef Tremblant, I unconvinced that the dish would be quaveringly tender and, but I am totally convinced that it sounds far more tempting than Pot Roast.  What do you think?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Quintessential Anchovy.

The anchovy is, (to quote the Oxford English Dictionary)”a small fish of the Herring family (Engraulis encrasicholus) found on the European coasts, especially in the Mediterranean, where it is extensively caught, and pickled for exportation.” 

Unfortunately, this common, oily, fish is probably best known in its worst form – the too-soft, over-salty, whiskery version perpetrated by pizza chains. There is more to the fish than this travesty version, I assure you.

I hereby give you a few random factoids on the anchovy to pique your interest.

I was surprised that the first written reference given in the OED is as late as the end of the sixteenth century – but equally delighted that it is from no less than William Shakespeare himself:

1598: Shakespeare Henry IV, Pt. 1 ii. v. 541   Item anchaues [1623 Anchoues] and sacke after supper. 2,s, vj,d.

The next three consecutive references in the OED may only be brief, but they speak volumes about the place of anchovies in the Englishman’s life during the seventeenth century.

1620   T. Venner Via Recta iv. 78   Anchoua's, the famous meat of Drunkards, and of them that desire to haue their drinke oblectate the pallate.
1657   S. Colville Mock Poem (1751) 16   Which to the pallat pleasing proves, Like Adriatic gulph anchoves.
1674   T. Flatman Belly God 100   To quicken appetite it will behoove ye To feed couragiously on good Anchovie.

Dictionaries may not usually be thought of as a source of much  information about food itself – but in fact they are often a source of recipes (using the term fairly loosely, it must be admitted.)

The Dictionarium Britannicum: or a More Compleat Universal Etymological English Dictionary than any extant (2nd edition, 1736) by Nathan Bailey has this definition of the old dish Salmagundi:

SALMAGUNDI, SALMAGUNDIN [in Cookery] a dish made of cold turky, anchovies, lemons, oil, and other ingredients, also a sort of hotch-potch of several cold meats, cut in pieces, and stew’d in a chafing-dish with wine, verjuice, vinegar, &c.

And the twenty-first edition of An Universal Etymological English Dictionary (1775) – also by Nathan Bailey - mentions anchovies as an ingredient in ‘rammolade’ (rémoulade)

RAMMOLADE [in Cookery] Sauce made of Parsley, Anchovies, Capers, Chibbols, Pepper, Salt, &c.

And now, may I give you a recipe from the wonderful Dr. William Kitchiner?

Quintessence of Anchovy.—(No. 433.)
The goodness of this preparation depends almost entirely on having fine mellow fish, that have been in pickle long enough (i.e. about twelve months) to dissolve easily, yet are not at all rusty.
Choose those that are in the state they come over in, not such as have been put into fresh pickle, mixed with red paint1 which some add to improve the complexion of the fish; it has been said, that others have a trick of putting anchovy liquor on pickled sprats2; you will easily discover this by washing one of them, and tasting the flesh of it, which in the fine anchovy is mellow, red, and high-flavoured, and the bone moist and oily. Make only as much as will soon be used, the fresher it is the better.
Put ten or twelve anchovies into a mortar, and pound them to a pulp; put this into a very clean iron, or silver, or very well tinned saucepan; then put a large table-spoonful of cold spring-water (we prefer good vinegar) into the mortar; shake it round, and pour it to the pounded anchovies, set them by the side of a slow fire, very frequently stirring them together till they are melted, which they will be in the course of five minutes. Now stir in a quarter of a drachm of good Cayenne pepper (No. 404) and let it remain by the side of the fire for a few minutes longer; then, while it is warm, rub it through a hair-sieve3, with the back of a wooden spoon.
The essence of anchovy, which is prepared for the committee of taste, is made with double the above quantity of water, as they are of opinion that it ought to be so thin as not to hang about the sides of the bottle; when it does, the large surface of it is soon acted upon by the air, and becomes rancid and spoils all the rest of it.
A roll of thin-cut lemon-peel infused with the anchovy, imparts a fine, fresh, delicate, aromatic flavour, which is very grateful; this is only recommended when you make sauce for immediate use; it will keep much better without: if you wish to acidulate it, instead of water make it with artificial lemon-juice (No. 4074.), or add a little of Coxwell’s concrete acid to it.
Obs.—The above is the proper way to perfectly dissolve anchovy4, and to incorporate it with the water; which, if completely saturated, will continue suspended.
To prevent the separation of essence of anchovy, and give it the appearance of being fully saturated with fish, various other expedients have been tried, such as dissolving the fish in thin water gruel, or barley-water, or thickening it with mucilage, flour, &c.: when any of these things are added, it does not keep half so well as it does without them; and to preserve it, they overload it with Cayenne pepper.
MEM.—You cannot make essence of anchovy half so cheap as you can buy it. Thirty prime fish, weighing a pound and a quarter, and costing 4s. 6d., and two tablespoonfuls of water, made me only half a pint of essence; you may commonly buy that quantity ready-made for 2s., and we have seen an advertisement offering it for sale as low as 2s. 6d. per quart.
It must be kept very closely stopped; when you tap a bottle of sauce, throw away the old perforated cork, and put in a new taper velvet cork; if the air gets to it, the fish takes the rust5., and it is spoiled directly.
Essence of anchovy is sometimes coloured6. with bole armeniac, Venice red, &c; but all these additions deteriorate the flavour of the sauce, and the palate and stomach suffer for the gratification of the eye, which, in culinary concerns, will never be indulged by the sagacious gourmand at the expense of these two primum mobiles of his pursuits.
Essence of anchovy is sometimes made with sherry or Madeira wine, or good mushroom catchup (No. 439), instead of water. If you like the acid flavour, add a little citric acid, or dissolve them in good vinegar.
N.B. This is infinitely the most convenient way of using anchovy, as each guest may mix sauce for himself, and make it strong or weak, according to his own taste.
It is also much more economical, as plain melted butter (No. 256) serves for other purposes at table.

1. Several samples which we examined of this fish sauce, have been found contaminated with lead."—See Accum on Adulteration, page 328.`
2. They may do very well for common palates; but to imitate the fine flavor of the Gorgona fish, so as to impose upon a well-educated gourmand, still remains in the catalogue of the sauce-maker's desiderata.
3. The economist may take the thick remains that wont pass through the sieve and pound it with some flour, and make anchovy paste, or powder. See Nos. 434 and 435.
4. Epicure Quin used to say, "Of all the banns of marriage I ever heard, nom gave me half such pleasure as the union of delicate ANN-CHOVY with good JOHN DORY."
5. "Rust in anchovies, if I'm not mistaken,
    Is as bad as rust in steel, or rust in bacon."
Young's Epicure, page 14.
6. If you are not contented with the natural colour, break some lobsters' eggs into it, and you will not only heighten the complexion of your sauce, but improve its flavour. This is the only rouge we can recommend. See note to No. 234.

The Cook’s Oracle (1830) by Dr William Kitchiner.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How to Cook a Sea-Gull.

I have been dipping into an old favourite recently – The Curiosities of Food; or, Dainties and Delicacies of Different Nations (London, 1859), by Peter Lund Simmonds – and a new (to this blog) idea was right there, on page 153.

“The Chinese shoot sea-gulls in large numbers, which add to their stock of food. A man is constantly engaged in the bay of San Francisco, California, shooting sea-gulls, which he sells to the Chinese at the rate of 25 cents each.”

I am quite certain that I have never before given instructions for the cooking of seagulls – and indeed, the method was not easy to find. Would you believe I did finally find a recipe in the book I used as inspiration all last week, and said I was done with for the time being?

Received wisdom says that the flesh of sea-birds is nasty and oily and fishy, and the dearth of recipes suggests that in spite of their noisy numbers, they have been favoured only in relative extremis, when a ship has been long becalmed or wartime has necessitated the broadening of the definition of game.

Sea Gulls, to Cook.
Take a sharp knife and put in under the skin at the back part of the neck, and carry down to the tail feathers; after which pull off the skin down to the middle of the legs, and next take out the intestines. Leave the birds in salt and water for eight hours, when their fishy taste will be found to be quite gone, and you can either cook them as you would pigeon pie or in any other way.
The country house, a collection of useful information and recipes, ed. by I.E.B.C. (1866)

Seagulls’ eggs are also not generally raved over, and I doubt appear on any or many menus of seaside restaurants anywhere in the world. Should you chance upon them, and be keen to try them, here is some advice on their cooking and eating:

Sea-gulls’ Eggs.
When boiled hard, seasoned with pepper, salt, vinegar, and mustard, make a delicious breakfast dish. Many persons have an antipathy to these eggs but it must have arisen from eating them in a soft state, when they have always a fishy taste.

Cassell’s Household Guide (London, 1869)