Monday, August 31, 2015

I think I’ll go and eat Worms.

Worms are, apparently, quite nutritious.  They are high in protein and low in fat, are easy to find or rear, need very little preparation for the table, and apparently don’t taste too bad either. I feel sure they could become the next superfood. All they need is a celebrity chef in search of something to endorse. I can see them now, in all their wriggly worminess, neatly plated on a bed of shredded kale (or would amaranth be better?) with a garnish of açai berries (or maybe chia seeds?), and a quinoa (or would freekeh work better?) salad on the side. All washed down with coconut-water, perhaps.

Any wanna-be celebrity chef in search of a new concept to own and promote should look to the past for an old idea ripe for rediscovery, for there is no 100% new food idea in the world. Here are a few words from some late nineteenth century ‘French gourmets’ on lobworms (common garden worms) which I found in The Chicago Herald Cooking School: A Professional Cook's Book for Household Use (1883), by Jessup Whitehead:-

An Incredible Story.
Pall Mall Gazette.
Not only has the intellect of the worm been sadly unappreciated for centuries till Mr. Darwin rehabilitated that sagacious reptile, but it appears now that his value as a viand has also been grossly misunderstood and underrated. A group of French gourmets, whose object it is to do for the cookery of the future what Wagner is doing for its music, are happily following up the labors of Darwin in this direction, and, having recently tried this tempting morsel, have communicated to a grateful public the result of their researches. Fifty guests were present at the experiment. The worms, apparently lob-worms, were first put into vinegar, by which process they were made to disgorge the famous vegetable mold about which we have heard so much. They were then rolled in batter and put into an oven, where they acquired a delightful golden tint, and, we are assured, a most appetizing smell. After the first plateful the fifty guests rose like one man and asked for more. Could anything be more convincing? Those who love snails, they add, will abandon them forever in favor of worms. And yet M. Monselet, the great authority in Paris, has told us sadly that no advances have been made in the art of cookery since Brillat-Savarin, and that all enthusiasm on the subject died out with Vatel when he committed suicide because the fish had not arrived for the royal dinner.

The U.S. Army Survival Handbook (2008) does not comment on the deliciousness of the worm, presumably because by definition, if you are in a survival situation, you do not have the vinegar in which to marinate them, the ingredients for a nice batter, an oven to bake them in, nor any compatible seasonings or condiments. What it does say is:

Worms: Worms (Annelidea) are an excellent protein source. Dig for them in damp humus soil or watch for them on the ground after a rain. After capturing them, drop them into clean, potable water for a few minutes. The worms will naturally purge or wash themselves out, after which you can eat them raw.

I am sure you could cook and enjoy worms by following the (admittedly minimalist) suggestions above, but if you are still unsure about trying them, perhaps you could start accustoming your eyes and palate to the concept with a nice dish of vermicelli – which means ‘little worms’ after all. From another book by Jessup Whitehead, our author of the day, may I give you a dish impressive enough for your next dinner party?

Thatcher House Game Pie [specialty]
Is made in the following manner: Rub the inside of a deep dish with two ounces of fresh butter and spread over it some vermicelli. Then line the dish with puff paste; have ready some birds seasoned with powdered nutmeg and a little salt and pepper; stuff them with oysters or mushrooms chopped fine; place them in the puff-paste lined dish with their breasts downward. Add some gravy of roast veal or poultry (it may be cold gravy saved over from a recent roast), and cover the pie with a lid of puffy paste. Bake it in a moderate oven; and when done, turn it out carefully upon a dish and send it to the table. The vermicelli, which was originally at the bottom, will then be at the top, covering the paste like thatch upon a roof. Trim off the layers so as to look neat.
The Steward's Handbook and Guide to Party Catering (1889)

Friday, August 28, 2015

School Dinners, 1913.

I don’t believe that I have given much blog space in the past to the phenomenon of meals provided by educational institutions, but I recently found a lovely short piece on English girls’ school dinners - in of all things, an American book on food and health. I feel sure I will find some more snippets to share with you from the temptingly titled Food and flavor, a gastronomic guide to health and good living, (New York, 1913) by Henry T. Finck, but for today, here is the promised extract:

"Of recent years more and more attention has been paid to the dietary in schools, and the general teaching of cookery will help on an improvement in a department of social life in which we are behind our Continental neighbors. Happily, there are a considerable number of schools in which the menus are drawn up on well-ascertained principles, including the element of variety. Here is an example of dinners served at a large school at 8d. each to over 100 children. It is chosen from those used from May 13 to May 17:

Boiled Beef and Carrots.          Roast Mutton.
Greens and Potatoes.
Cake Pudding.                              Milk Pudding.

Veal and Ham.              Beefsteak Pie.
Greens and Potatoes.

Jam Roly-Poly.               Milk Pudding.


Roast Beef.       Haricot Mutton.           Rissoles.
Greens and Potatoes.
Fruit Salad and Sponge Cake.                             Milk Pudding.


Roast Mutton.               Stewed Steak.                Potato Pie.
Greens and Potatoes.
Ginger Pudding.            Milk Pudding.


Fish.     Roast Beef.       Liver and Bacon.
Greens and Potatoes.
Rhubarb Tart.                Cabinet Pudding.

"If these menus reappear in the same order or connection it will be at a very distant date. The aim is to supply all the kinds of food necessary, and in a form the girls like. Pies, stews, and rissoles are great favorites, stews being the chief. This is fortunate, because a dish of stew of any kind is rich in fat and proteid, and if vegetables are added it becomes rich in salts too. The girls state each day at dinner which meat they wish for, and they help themselves to greens and potatoes. If they want a second helping of meat they can have it, but it is an unwritten law that they must finish all they take. It is also understood that if a girl does not eat her dinner she is not fit for afternoon school. This rule prevents elder girls getting the foolish notion that it is not 'nice' to have a good appetite.

"Cookery is part of the curriculum, so that sooner or later every girl learns the importance of food, and that it is useless to try to 'make bricks without straw' — in fact, the dinners are a practical illustration of the teaching in the cookery room."

The notion that it is not "nice" for a girl to have a good appetite is not so common as it used to be. Now that we know the importance of appetite to proper digestion this notion seems criminal as well as silly, and should be denounced as such in all schools where it may seem necessary.

As the recipe for the day, here is a very English steamed ginger pudding:

Ginger Pudding.
Six tablespoonsful flour, two tablespoonsful breadcrumbs, three tablespoonsful treacle, ¼ lb. suet,half cupful warm milk, one teaspoonful ginger, half teaspoonful baking powder. Mix all dry ingredients, then syrup and lastly milk. Steam from two to three hours. Serve with hot custard sauce. – “A Yorkshire Cookery Book.”

London Evening News, September 30, 1916

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Good Old Scottish Bread.

In a recent post I used the Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish language (1808) by John Jamieson for inspiration, and the book is a veritable treasure-house of food words. There are many, many references to bread, and I have selected a few of my favourites for you today, starting with:

DEW-PIECE, s. A piece of bread, which in former times used to be given to farm-servants, when they went out to their work early in the morning, S.B.
“The girl was called for, and asked, if she had given him any hard bread; No, says she, but when I was eating my dae piece [apparently meant for dew-piece] this morning, something come and clicked it out of my hand.” Sinclair’s Satan’s Invisible World [1685], p. 48. This is evidently from dew, or perhaps daw, the dawn; corresponding to O.Teur, dagh-mocs [?], jentaculum.

This is also a very interesting use of a familiar word:

FOAL, s. A bannock or cake, any soft and thick bread, Orkn.

I tried to find a little more information on ‘foals’ and came up with the following, from the Dictionary of the Scots Language:

FOLE, n. Also foal, phoal. A small, soft, thick oatcake  … made with the last piece of dough in the dish …  or baked specially for a child. … Hence livery fole, a bannock containing chopped fish liver.

Livery foles ring the same bell as the Norwegian fish-flour bread we talked about the other day, does it not?

But, back to our source for the day. Two entries show the influence on cake and bread types from adjacent Northern Europe:

COOKIE, s. A species of fine bread, used at tea, of a round form, S.
Teut. koeck, libum, Kilian, a cake made of fine flour.

KRINGLE, s. A kind of bread brought from Norway.
Sw. kringla, a kind of bread made in a particular form: Wideg. Kringla signifies a circle.

I thought I had found a new (to me) type of bread when I read the following dictionary entry:

BAKIN-LOTCH, s. Some sort of bread, most probably of an enticing quality.
For there was nowther lad nor loun
Micht eat a bakin-lotch.
Evergreen, ii. 180. St. 11
Tent. lock-en, to entice, lock-aes, a bait.

Unfortunately however, it seems that John Jamieson might have made an error. Almost a century later, there is the following challenge to his definition:

Baikin-loache – baked loche (the loach or beardie, a small river-fish, was esteemed a great delicacy: Vernacular writings of George Buchanan, 1892)

Dictionaries – the best kind anyway - provide more than mere definitions and etymological explanations:

HUNGRY GROUND. A curious superstition prevails in some parts of the West of S[cotland.] Some tracts of country are believed to be so much under the power of enchantment, that he, who passes over any one of them, would infallibly faint, if he did not use something for the support of nature. It is therefore customary to carry a piece of bread in one’s pocket, to be eaten when one comes to what is called the hungry ground.

We must have a recipe for the day: there are many intepretations of the concept of ‘kringles’ – and this one sounds like a grand and practical alternative to a dry crust if you have to risk the hungry ground:

Beat well the yolks of eight and whites of two eggs, and mix with four ounces of butter just warmed, and with this knead a pound of flour and four ounces of sugar to a paste. Roll into thick biscuits; prick them, and bake on thin plates.

A New System of Domestic Cookery (1827) by Maria Rundell.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Food Tale: Norway, 1840.

I have another traveller’s food tale from the past for you today. The Literary Gazette and Journal of the Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences, &c in 1840 included a review of Norway and the Norwegians, by R.G. Latham, Esq. I recently gave you a short extract from the article, on the topic of ‘fish flour,’ but the author (a university academic) had quite a lot more to say on the subject of Norwegian food:

Of the Norwegian mode of life, a notion may be formed from the author’s description of their dietary. He says,-

“The Norwegians are not pre-eminently a cooking nation: their culinary operations are rather elaborate, as far as they go, than multifarious.  They are also somewhat chronic in duration. A fancy that there is a good deal of superfluous work connected with them. For instance, they soak their game before it is dressed. But more of this hereafter. They reckon not their mode of cooking eggs by the hundred, and they delight not in a multiplicity of sauces. They stew not down whole sheep to make sauce for a single peacock. They have no essences with which you can eat your own father; or which, if dropped on the fingers, would tempt you to gnaw them to the bone. They have no vineyards, and their cellars scarcely make good the want of them. Their beer, like pneumonic crepitations, is small. It is of a fine clear amber colour; but so are the waters of the Tiber and the Tagus. What is called brandy is in reality whisky. It is made from either potatoes or corn. …. I think well of the Norwegian cogniac. I drank a good deal of it neat, as a preservative against the cholera. Their rum punch deserves all praise. It is best drunk cold. In summer-time you can have it iced, punch à la glace. In brandy-punch I have seen currant-juice mixed up.
“There is more claret than port, and more port than madeira. Drink red wine with your fish. Fish must swim three times – once in water, once in oil, and in wine. So says someone in Athenæus. The Norwegians adhere to this rule strictly, but I believe unconsciously. They make soup of salmon – very good eating. Ditto of eels – very good eating. Ditto of pig-meat, or pork – not such very good eating. …. “

As for the writer’s own taste in feeding, we will not vouch it. He tells us, -

              “If a red herring is to be eaten, as it ought to be, wa[i]ve the ceremony of roasting it. Dried salmon is better for not having been near a fire. In English kitchens, a great deal of good heat is wasted. I once found a dried mutton-ham in a small posting house after a long day’s journey. The fashion is to eat such things au naturel. I did so, and enjoyed my meal. By far the best part of a Norwegian larder is the fish, the game, and the cheese. Small red trout from the mountain streams, stripling codfish, a salmon, and stock-fish are the chief delicacies, whilst the chief sauces are of olive-oil. The flesh of the cock-of-the-wood is dark above and white beneath. This, with the ptarmigan and black grouse, is their chief game ….

… Of course, nothing like haut-goût is tolerated. My friend Mr. Archer of Laurvig, had a theory of his own upon this subject. He argued that the taste for high food, such as venison and grouse, arose rather from necessity than from choice. That the Londoners got their grouse from a distance, during hot weather, and therefore tainted; that they made a virtue of necessity, and professed to like tainted grouse from choice; that they extended their notions to other kinds of game on one side, and to the rest of their fellow-creatures on the other…

… Rein-deer venison is scarcely so good as that of the fallow-deer. It is dry even to parching and chipping. Rein-deer tongues, such as we eat in England, come from donkeys. I ate at Laurvig a lobster plain boiled and hot. Like Lord Chesterfield and his hunting, it is a thing a man should do but one. First catch your fish, then dry the flesh, then pound it to a fine flour, and with this fish-flour make a pudding. There ae worse things in the world that a fish-pudding. It is a set-off to the soupe au cochon. With roasted mutton eat – not currant-jelly, but the preserved mountain-ash berries. If you wish to taste a cheese to which Cheshire, Stilton, and Gruyere must yield the palm, go to Norway and ask for gammel-ost. If a second-rate one will suffice, ask for mios-ost. ….. Gammel-ost is made by mixing skim-milk boiled, with cream or new milk, unboiled, and pressing it in a press of a certain antiquity; one that has pressed the cheeses not only of many seasons, but of many generations. The older this is, the higher the flavour of the cheese.”

Giving you an authentic (whatever that means) Norwegian recipe is out of the question for the simply obvious reason that I do not read Norwegian. I am inspired by the concept of salmon soup however, so perhaps the following recipe, from Wholesome fare; or, The doctor and the cook, by E.S. and E.J. Delamere (London, 1868) will be acceptable.

Salmon Soup.
Take a pound and a half of the middle or tail of a very fresh salmon. Salmon just a little stale, which, with management, is perfectly presentable as a dish of fish, will not make a tureen of soup.
Cut the piece of salmon across into two equal portions; clean and scale them most carefully, and then throw them into a pot of boiling water with no salt in it; boil till enough—about twenty minutes. Remove the skin, and take the flesh off the bones while hot. Divide one of the pieces into handsome flakes or spoon-bits, and set them aside. Pound the other portion fine in a mortar, with a little butter, an anchovy scaled and boned, or its equivalent in the shape of essence of anchovy, the coral or spawn of a lobster if to he had, a table-spoonful of flour or arrowroot, and a couple of hard egg-yolks.

When these ingredients are well pounded and braided, transfer them to a stew-pan with a little clear stock, consommé, or veal or chicken broth. Stir and add gradually more and more stock, till the soup is of the required thickness. Season with pepper and salt; if intended for a party of good livers, it may be heightened with a bouquet of herbs and an imperceptible quantity of cayenne, sugar, and lemon-juice. Pass through a large-holed cullender; put in the flakes of salmon that had been set aside, boil up, and serve. This being a substantial "mouthful soup," forcemeat balls or egg balls are quite admissible. Bread is also to be eaten with it, either in browned dice, or broken by each person from the roll beside him.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Things to do with Cucumbers.

Yesterday’s recipe for cucumbers from Mrs. Beeton was as simple as a recipe can get: slice a raw vegetable,  season with salt and pepper, and dress with oil and vinegar. It is served the exact same way today – although perhaps more usually along with other raw salad vegetables and greens. Actually, it seems only to be served that way, or pickled, or occasionally in a stir-fry these days. A not particularly inspiring vegetable, is it? I thought it might be interesting to see if there were other ways this good old staple used to be served in the past. Here are a few ideas for your late summer cucumber glut:-

To stew cucumbers.
Pare twelve cucumbers, and slice them as thick as a half-crown, lay them in a coarse cloth to drain, and when they are dry, flour them and fry them brown in fresh butter; then take them out with an egg-slice, lay them in a plate before the fire, and have ready one cucumber whole, cut a long piece out of the side, and scoop out all the pulp; have ready fried onions peeled and sliced, and fried brown with the sliced cucumber. Fill the whole cucumber with the fried onion, season with pepper and salt; put on the piece you cut out, and tie it round with a packthread. Fry it brown, first flouring it, then take it out of the pan and keep it hot; keep the pan on the fire, and with one hand put in a little flour, while with the other you stir it. When it is thick put in two or three spoonfuls of water, and half a pint of white or red wine, two spoonsfuls of catchup, stir it together, put in three blades of mace, four cloves, half a nutmeg, a little pepper and salt, all beat fine together; stir it into the sauce-pan, then throw in your cucumbers, give them a toss or two, then lay the whole cucumbers in the middle, the rest round, pour the sauce all over, untie the cucumbers before you lay it into the dish. Garnish the dish with fried onions, and send it to table hot. This is a pretty side-dish at a first course.
The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy (1774) by Hannah Glasse.

Cucumbers in Ragou.
Pare six large cucumbers, cut a slice out of the side of two of them, and scoop out the pulp, fill the inside with a light veal force-meat, put in the piece you cut out, and tie it round with packthread; cut the other four in two, scoop out the pulp, and cut them in square pieces; put the forced ones into a stew-pan, with a pint of good gravy, a gill of white wine, a little beaten mace, pepper and salt, a dozen of small button onions peeled, cover them close, and stew them fifteen minutes; then put in the rest of the cucumbers, with a little butter mixed with flour, a very little Cayan pepper, cover them, and stew them half an hour longer; squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, skim off the fat, take the whole cucumbers out, untie them, lay them in the middle of the dish, and pour the remainder over them.
The English Art of Cookery, According to the Present Practice (1788) by Richard Briggs.

To make Cucumber Soup.
Having cut your cucumbers, stew them in good broth and veal gravy to give them a colour; when they are done, add to them some good broth; season your soup, and serve the cucumbers up in it.

The Complete Family Cook; Being a System of Cookery. Adapted to the Tables Not Only of the Opulent, But of Persons of Moderate Fortune and Condition (1796) by S.Taylor

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Annual Dinner of the Journeymen Taylors, Dublin, 1733.

The ancient Livery Companies of Britain held great celebrations on the feast day of their patron saint. Elections for office-bearers were held, and there was of course a great dinner. In 1733, a publication called Quadriennium Annae Postremum, Or, The Political State of Great Britain included the following notice:

On the 25th of July, being S[t.] James’s Day, the Society of Journeymen Taylors made their annual Procession as usual through Dublin. They were all clean and neatly dressed, but more particularly their Master, Steward, and Ensign-Bearers, who were dignified with Hats and Feathers, fringed Linnen and Gloves, and attended with Variety of Musick …

… Their Bill of Fare for Dinner, which is something Extraordinary, consisted chiefly of the following Particulars, viz. 40 found Legs of Mutton, ditto Rumps of Beef, ditto Geese, ditto Gibblet Pyes, 10 Dozen of Chickens, a Cart Load of Cabbage, ditto Turneps and Carrots, and Bread, Butter, Cheese, Beer, Ale, Small-beer and Brandy in Proportion; whether Cucumbers are plenty in that Country we do not know, but we do not hear that there were any of them in the Bill of Fare.

I am most intrigued by the cucumber issue. It would seem that the English writer could not imagine a substantial meal without them. The recipe for the day therefore, is for cucumbers, and the recipe is courtesy of Mrs. Isabella Beeton.

Cucumbers, to Dress.
Ingredients.- 3 tablespoonfuls of salad-oil, 4 tablespoonfuls of vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.
Mode.- Pare the cucumber, cut it equally into very thin slices, and commence cutting from the thick end; if commenced at the stalk, the cucumber will most likely have an exceedingly bitter taste, far from agreeable. For the purpose of slicing cucumber evenly and very thin, we recommend the slice [image of a mandolin] in in preference to an ordinary knife. Put the slices into the dish, sprinkle over salt and pepper, and pour over oil and vinegar in the above proportion; turn the cucumber about, and it is ready to serve. This is a favourite accompaniment to boiled salmon, is a nice addition to all descriptions of salads, and makes a pretty garnish to lobster salad.
Average cost, when scarce, 1s to 2s. 6d.; when cheapest, may be had for 1d. each.
Seasonable. – Forced from the beginning of March to the end of June; in full season in July, August, and September.

Mrs. Beeton’s Dictionary of Every-day Cookery (1865)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Bill of Fare for a Baptism in 1679.

Historical menus can be found in an amazing variety of books. I have a seventeenth century bill of fare for you today from The History of Baptism (Boston, 1817) by Robert Robinson. The baptism celebrations took place on this day almost three and a half centuries ago, and the proud father certainly put on a magnificent spread:

The following is the bill of fare of a dinner at Tynningham, the house of the Right Hon. the Earl of Haddington, on Thursday the twenty-first of August, sixteen hundred seventy-nine, when his Lordship's son was baptized:

Fresh beef ………………………... 6 pieces.
Mutton …………………………….. 16 pieces.
Veal …………………………………  4 pieces.
Legs of venison …………………  3
Geese ..……………………………… 6
Pigs ………………………………….. 4
Old turkeys ……………………….. 2
Young turkeys ……………………. 8
Salmon ……………………………….4
Tongues and udders …………... 12
Ducks ………………………………. 14
Roasted fowls …………………….. 6
Boiled fowls ........................... ..9
Chickens roasted ……………….. 30
Ditto stewed ……………………… 12
Ditto fricasseed …………………. 8
Ditto in pottage …………………. 10
Lamb …………………………………. 2
Wild fowl …………………………… 22
Pigeons, baked, roasted,
and stewed …………………......... 182
Hares roasted ……………………. 10
Ditto fricasseed …………………... 6
Hams …………………………………3
A puncheon of claret &c.

A little more detail of the actual dishes would have been interesting, but luckily there is no dearth of cookery books from the second half of the seventeenth century. I have chosen something quite intriguing from one of the best-known cookery books of the time.

To Pickle an old fat Goose.
Cut it down the back, and take out all the bones; Lard it very well with green Bacon, and season it well with three quarters of an Ounce of Pepper; half an Ounce of Ginger; a quarter of an Ounce of Cloves, and Salt as you judge proportionable; a pint of white wine and some Butter. Put three or four Bay-leaves under the meat, and bake it with Brown-bread, in an earthen pot close covered, and the edges of the cover closed with Paste. Let it stand three or four days in the pickle; then eat it cold with Vinegar.
The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digbie Kt. Opened (1669)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Scottish Kitchen Words? (1808)

I want to indulge another of my little whims today - my love of old words related to food and cooking. I found a couple of interesting examples recently in a lovely book with the full and glorious title of ‘An Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language: illustrating the words in their different significations, by examples from ancient and modern writers; shewing their affinity to those of other languages, and especially the northern; explaining many terms, which, though now obsolete in England’ by John Jamieson, published in 1808.

Word number one is ‘kitchen.’ Not an old word, it is true, but an old usage:

KITCHEN, s. 1. Any thing eaten with bread; corresponding to Lat. opsonium, S.
“The cottagers and poorer sort of people have not always what is called kitchen, that is milk or beer, to their meals.” P. Speymouth, Morays. Statist. Acc. Xiv. 401. Here, however, the term is used in a very limited sense.
“Salt herrings too made a great part of their kitchen (opsonium,)  a word that here signifies whatever gives a relish to bread or porridge.” P. Inveresk, M. Loth. Statist. Acc, xvi. 39.
2. “An allowance instead of milk, butter, small beer, and some other articles of less value.”
“There are about ane 100 ploughmen and carters, whose annual wages are from L.4 to L.5 in money, 20s for kitchen, &c.” Statist. Acc. Cramond, i. 218.

A similar situation exists with word number two, which is ‘lunch.’

      LUNCH, s. A large piece of any thing, especially of what is edible; as bread, cheese,             &c. S.
-          Drink gaed round, in cogs an’ caups,
Amang the furms an’ benches;
An’ cheese an’ bread, frae women’s laps,
Was dealt about in lunches
An’ dawds that day.
Burns, iii. 27.

So, an early nineteenth century Scotsman could have had lunch for (or with) his kitchen – which I find very interesting, amusing, and generally very satisfying.

There is only one cookery book from which to source the recipe for the day – the comprehensive (and often amusing in tone) early nineteenth century Scottish classic, The Cook and Housewife's Manual (1826), written by the pseudonymous Mistress Meg Dods (Christian Isobel Johnstone.) With all the talk about bread and cheese, the obvious choice (also because it is another of my favourite themes) is a variation of Welsh Rabbit, called, of course, Scotch Rabbit. I have given Hannah Glasse’s 1747 version of this dish, but Mistress Dodds’ is a little more detailed, so here goes:

Scotch Rabbit.
Cut, toast, and butter the bread as in last receipt, and keep it hot. Grate down mellow Stilton, Gouda, or good Dunlop cheese; and if not fat put to it some bits of fresh butter. Put this into a cheese-toaster with a hot water reservoir and add to it a glassful of well-flavoured brown Stout porter, a large tea-spoonful of made mustard, and pepper, very finely ground, to taste. Stir the mixture till it is completely dissolved, brown it, and then filling the reservoir with boiling water, serve the cheese, with the hot toasts on a separate dish.

Observations.—This is one of the best preparations of the kind that we are acquainted with. Some gourmands use red wine instead of porter, but the latter liquor is much better adapted to the flavor of cheese. Others use a proportion of soft putrid cheese, or the whole of it in that state. This is, of course a matter of taste, and beyond the jurisdiction of any culinary dictator. To dip the toasts in hot porter makes another good variety of this preparation. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Bill of Fare for August in 1710.

As those of you who are regular readers know, I am particularly fond of household manuals which have their content arranged alphabetically, so that, for example, gammon (of Bacon) is immediately followed by gangrene (‘How to Treat’.) I am also particularly fond of books which give suggestions for daily or seasonal menus. A book which satisfies both of these criteria (and which is therefore a very particular favourite) is William Salmon’s The Family Dictionary. The first edition, if I remember correctly, was pubished in 1695, but today’s extract comes from the 1710 edition.

May I give you the recommendations for a Bill of Fare for dinner in August (in the Northern hemisphere, of course)?

Bills of Fare for August: Scotch Collops of Veal, a boiled Brest of Mutton with Turneps, a Fricasie of Pigeons, a stewed Calves-Head, four Goslins or young Geese; four Capones, Tarts, Custards. Second Course, Twelve Dotterels, six larded; Tarts Royal of Fruit, Furmenty, a Heath Pout Pye, marinated Smelts, Gammon of Bacon, Selsey Cockles stewed or roasted.

I was most intrigued by the ‘Heath pout pie.’ A ‘pout’ may be a ‘a fish of the genus Trisopterus or related genera of the family Gadidae’ (OED) but this does not seem a likely item for the second course of a dinner of that era – and ‘heath’ would be difficult to explain in that context.

The answer was found in An Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language (1841) by John Jamieson, which states: ‘POUT: A young partridge or moorfowl.’ Sometimes also ‘pout’ is a corruption of ‘poult,’ meaning ‘the young of the domestic fowl; a chick. Also (now usually): the young of the turkey, pheasant, guineafowl, and various game birds’ (OED.)

So, I guess I had better give you an early eighteenth century recipe for Partridge Pie?

A Partridge Pie.
Truss two brace of partridges in the same manner as you do a fowl for boiling. Put some shallots into a marble mortar, with some parsley cut small, the liver of the partridges, and twice the quantity of bacon. Beat these well together, and season them with pepper, salt, and a blade or two of mace. When these are all pounded pounded to a paste, add to them some fresh mushrooms. Raise the crust for the pie, and cover the bottom of it with the seasoning. Then lay the partridges, without any stuffing in them, and put the remainder of the seasoning about the sides, and between the partridges. Mix together some pepper and salt, a little mace, some shalots shred fine, fresh mushrooms, and a little bacon beat fine in a mortar. Strew this over the partridges, and lay on some thin slices of bacon. Then put on the lid, send it to the oven, and two hours will bake it. When it is done, remove the lid, take out the slices of bacon, and skim off the fat. Pour in a point of rich veal gravy, squeeze in the juice of an orange, and send it hot to table.

The Accomplished Housekeeper, and Universal Cook (1717) by T. Williams.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Meat without Coupons (1947)

In October 1947, Australia was asked to launch a food-growing scheme to help post-war Britain. Britain was to take all surplus grain, dairy products, nuts, and other crops, once the logistics of transport and storage were worked out. In return, Britain would pay by increased exports.

Australians were already familiar with the idea of conserving food for the ‘homeland’ because ‘Food for Britain’ had been the catch-cry of the austerity campaign during the war years themselves. According to one of the Australian government posters - ‘Food for Britain and Meat Rationing go Hand in Hand.’ Naturally therefore, writers of cooking columns for housewives stepped up to the challenge and provided recipes for meatless meals and meals using ‘food we persist in calling “offal.”’

‘Mrs. Lancaster’s Cookery Book’ column in The Sydney Morning Herald of 1 July 1947 focussed on ‘Meat without Coupons.’

The eponymous Mrs. Lancaster started out by noting:

Meat dishes with limited coupons are still a problem, especially if you’re Food-for-Britain conscious. It’s a great help to know the value of food we persist in calling “offal.” Tripe, liver, hearts, brains, and kidneys can be used in dozens of interesting ways

She then went on to give a number of recipes for offal (or variety meat, if you prefer.) Here are my choices from the article:
Braised Mock Duck.
You need: One ox heart or four sheep’s hearts; 4 cups stock or water; 3 or 4 carrots; 2 onions; 2 bay leaves; 2 sage leaves; 3 cloves; 1 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar; 1 teaspoon sugar; salt and pepper to taste; 8 pickled onions; 1 teaspoon soy sauce; 2 tablespoons dripping or lard.
Remove tubes from heart and cut into neat squares. Wash well in warm salted water to remove all traces of blood. Wipe dry and roll in a little flour, then fry in the dripping until brown. Chop the 2 onions and fry these after the heart. Place remaining ingredients into a pan except pickled onions and carrots. Cover with stock and simmer about 1 ½ hours or until almost tender. Add pickled onions and diced carrots, and cook until both are tender. If sauce is too thin, thicken with a little cornflour.

Casserole Sheep’s Tongues.
You need: Eight sheep’s tongues; 1 bay leaf; 1 small onion; ½ cup brown sugar; 1 teaspoon dry mustard; 2 tablespoons vinegar; ½ teaspoon grated lemon rind; 2 tablespoons lemon juice; 1 ½ cups water; 2 tablespoons seeded raisins; 1 tablespoon plain flour.
Cook tongues with bay leaf and onion until tender, adding salt to fresh tongues. Remove skin and split in two, discarding the roots. Put in fireproof dish. Mix flour, mustard, vinegar, and lemon juice into a paste, and add water. Stir over gas until thick. Add sugar and grated rind, and simmer a few minutes. Add raisins, cover tongues, and cook in moderate oven ½ hour.

Brain Scramble.
You need: One set brains per person; 1 tablespoon cooked diced carrots; ¾ cup cooked peas; 1 dessertspoon diced and fried bacon; 1 teaspoon chopped parse; 1 tablespoon white sauce.

Wash brains and soak in cold water to which is added a little vinegar. Remove membrane, and wash well. Cover with cold water, add a sage leaf and a slice of onion, and simmer until cooked. Drain well. Chop into neat pieces and add to sauce with remaining ingredients. Heat thoroughly and serve on buttered toast as a luncheon dish.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Take 6 Sheep’s Kidneys …

I am thinking offal thoughts lately – largely because it is the theme of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery in 2016, and hence there is a lively discussion going on around the topic amongst food writers and historians and other interested parties via the Wonderful Web. The definition of ‘offal’ is actually very large, and is not confined to the internal organs of animals, but includes waste of many kinds, such as “that which falls or is thrown off from some process, as husks from milling grain, chips from dressing wood, etc.; residue or waste products. ” I think we can assume a wide range of interesting papers and some lively discussion at the symposium next year!

One of the random realisations triggered in my brain after reading some of the pre-symposium discussions was that I have not (if I remember correctly) focused on the edible kidney in any post to date. This is surprising, as I love them myself.

Interestingly, in its primary definition of ‘kidney’, the Oxford English Dictionary sees fit to include, after its anatomical and physiological descriptions, that it is also an article of food.

1a. One of a pair of glandular organs situated in the abdominal cavity of mammals, birds, and reptiles, which excrete urine and so remove effete nitrogenous matter from the blood. Also a gland with similar functions found in some animals of lower organization. The kidneys of cattle, sheep, and pigs are an article of food.”

Unfortunately for those of us who have a recipe-focus, in spite of making this point, the OED does not offer a single reference which points to a specific culinary use of the kidney, except in the compound form ‘kidney pie.’

Compare this with the entry on liver, in which its use as food justifies a separate (second) usage:

1b.The liver of an animal used as food, medicine, an object of divination, etc.; (as a mass noun) the tissue of an animal's liver as food.

So, enough said about offal words for the time being. Here is my selection of recipes from Australian newspapers of the past that take the kidney beyond its usual breakfast partnership with bacon, or its best supporting role (along with steak), in a pie.

Kidneys with Walnuts.
To 6 kidneys allow 4 chopped walnuts (pickled,) 1 teacup walnut pickle liquor, 3 tablespoons butter, pepper and salt to taste. Split, wash and skin the kidneys. Melt butter in stewpan, add kidneys and fry till nicely cooked, take out and keep hot. Add the chopped walnuts, seasoning and pickle liquor to the gravy, and heat it till it froths, stirring all the time. Pour this sauce over the kidneys and garnish with fried cro[u]tons and a border of mashed potatoes. The sauce must not be made in a metal saucepan.
The North Western Courier (Narrabri, NSW) 29 July 1937.

Kidneys and Vermicelli.
Split and skin eight or ten sheep's kidneys and cut in slices, saving a few entire for the top. Cook for a few minutes in butter. Add two sliced onions and fry. Add one tablespoonful flour, one teaspoonful lemon juice, two cupfuls stock or water, salt and pepper. Stew In a casserole until tender. Place cooked vermicelli over the top of the dish and garnish with the unsliced kidneys. Reheat and serve.
Examiner (Launceston, Tas.)  22 January 1927

Kidneys and Cheese.
Peel 3 large potatoes and cut in halves. Scoop out enough centre so that a sheep's kidney will fit into the hole. Skin the kidneys, dip each, in warmed butter, pepper well, put one into each piece of potato, sprinkle with a little grated nutmeg and cover with breadcrumbs. Bake in a shallow tin, in a hot oven, and when cooked sprinkle, with grated cheese
The Daily News (Perth, WA) Saturday 7 January 1922

Kidneys and Macaroni.
Ingredients :— 6 sheeps kidneys; 1 dessertspoonful flour; 1 pint stock; 2ozs macaroni; loz butter or dripping; 1 teaspoon beef extract; 2 eschalots; salt and pepper ; ¼ teaspoonful mustard and sugar; chopped parsley.
Method. — Put stock onto boil, and when boiling break macaroni and add to it. Split kidneys in halves, skin them, make butter or dripping hot, and fry them gently with the cut side down; take out and cut up small, chop eschalots finely and fry, sprinkle in dry flour, salt, pepper, sugar and mustard, and brown it without burning. Add half pint of stock (which has been strained off), macaroni, beef extract, half the maaroni finely chopped and kidneys, stir till it boils, and  cook gently for 10 minutes, Dish on a hot dish, and put remainder of stock and macaroni round it and a little chopped parsley on top,
Gosford Times and Gosford and Wollombi Express (NSW) 22 September 1905

Kidney Toast.
Mince the kidney of a roast loin of veal, and also half its fat; season well with pepper and salt, chopped shallots, parsley, and a small of quantity of green sweet basil; mix the whole together with the yolk of eggs, and lay it on slices of bread of an equal thickness cut into any shape you please, and smooth over with a knife dipped in egg; strew over, the mince and bread crumbs, put them into a baking dish on thin slices of bacon, and set them in an oven. When sufficiently baked drain off the fat, and wipe the bread with a linen cloth. Serve with a little gravy under them.
Leader (Melbourne, Vic.) 25 January 1868