Friday, October 30, 2015

Gingerbread Witches and other Halloween Ideas.

Tomorrow is the tenth birthday of this blog, but I am quite happy to share the fun with the witches, ghouls, bats and all creepy things who also want to celebrate their special day.

May I give you a random selection of recipes suitable for the day?

Firstly, because they sound like fun, some sweet witches and savoury wizards from the Warwick Daily News of 30 October, 1948

Gingerbread Witches.
Ingredients: ½ cup butter, ¾ cup soft brown sugar, 1 egg, 2 level cups sifted, flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 2 teaspoons powdered ginger, pinch of salt, currants, blanched almonds, drained cherries.
Method:- Cream the butter add sugar, gradually add beaten egg, then stir in the sifted flour, baking powder, ginger and salt, forming a smooth paste. Knead lightly and roll thinly on lightly floured board. Place cardboard, cut, in the shape of outline of witch, on paste, and cut around edge carefully, with knife. Add rings of drained cherries for mouths, sliced blanched almonds for noses, currants for eyes, and half-moon shaped pieces ofcandled peel for hat trim. Bake on buttered baking trays in moderately hot oven until golden brown and leave on trays to cool and become crisp.
Wizard Slices
Ingredients: 8 white or brown bread rolls, 1 cup chopped gherkins or capers, ¼ lb. butter, 3 tablespoons anchovy paste, , mashed whitebait or cream cheese; 1 tablespoon lemon juice, salt and cayenne.
Method: Cream the butter and mix with the anchovy paste, cream cheese or prepared whitebait and season with lemon juice, salt and cayenne. Cut the rolls into thin slices. Spread each with a thin layer of mixture and heap the centre with chopped gherkin or capers.  Force a border of the butter mixture around each lice, using a forcing bag and tube.  
Chopped ham, crab, lobster, chicken, asparagus, or other fillings, seasoned with mayonnaise, may be used similarly.

And in case you want a more substantial dinner and pudding, here are a couple of ideas to inspire you:

Bewitched Veal.
Chop fine 3 lb. of veal take from the leg, 4 oz of pork, one breakfastcupful of breadcrumbs, three teaspoonfuls of salt, one teaspoonful of black pepper, a dash of cayenne, and a pinch of powdered cloves. Mix up with the whole two raw eggs well beaten, put into a mould, cover closely, and steam two hours; then put the mould into the oven for a short time to dry, with the door open. When old, turn out and cut in slices. Garnish with sprigs of parsley and sliced lemon.
Otago Witness (New Zealand) 18 January 1905

All Hallow’s Pudding.
Butter a large baking dish. Cut up thick slices of 6-7 large cooking apples. Take 1  ½ cups flour; ¾ cup Barbados sugar and ¾ cup loaf sugar; 1 ½ teaspoonsful cinnamon; 1 ½ teaspoonsful ginger; 1 ½ teaspoonsful mace and 1 ½ teaspoonsful nutmeg. Mix together; add 2 ½ cups of milk, stir well and pour over the apples. Blend in 1 cup of butter. Mix all, bake in medium oven for about 2 hours. Stir. Cover with sauce.
The Captain’s Lady Cookbook (1900 ed.) —Personal Journal, Massachusetts 1837-1911, Vol. II. Edited by Barbara Dalia Jasmin, Springfield, MA:

Captain’s Lady Collections, 1982.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Birthday Dinner in Greenland in 1860.

We have an entirely different location for our birthday dinner party of the day today – a rather bleak and unforgiving one, about as far from the extravaganzas of yesterday as it is possible to get. The bill of fare turns out to be surprisingly interesting however, considering the circumstances. I hope you get some vicarious pleasure from the feast.

Our story comes from The Open Polar Sea: A Narrative of a Voyage of Discovery towards the North Pole, in the Schooner United States (1866), by Isaac Israel Hayes. Hayes was an American physician and adventurer who took part in several voyages in search of the “open Polar sea” which was believed to exist north of the 85th parallel, between Greenland and the North Pole. This, the 1860-61 expedition was Hayes’ second,  and on this occasion he acted as commander.

The glacier to which Hayes refers at the beginning of this extract from his account is “Brother John’s Glacier,” which lies in the Foulk Fjord in northwest Greenland. It was discovered in 1855 by Dr. Elisha Kent Kane, an American physician and explorer who took part in a number of Arctic expeditions, including two of those sent to find Sir John Franklin.

“October 21st … I purpose making a still further exploration of this glacier to-morrow, and will defer until then any further description of it.
During my absence the hunters have not been idle. Barnum has killed six deer; Jensen shot two and Hans nine; but the great event has been the sailing-master's birthday dinner; and I returned on board finding all hands eagerly awaiting my arrival to sit down to a sumptuous banquet.
I have inaugurated the rule that all birthdays shall be celebrated in this manner; and, when his birthday comes round, each individual is at liberty to call for the very best that my lockers and the steward's store-room can furnish ; and in this I take credit for some wisdom. I know by experience what the dark cloud is under which we are slowly drifting, and I know that my ingenuity will be fully taxed to pass through it with a cheerful household ; and I know still further, that, whether men live under the Pole Star or under the Equator, they can be made happy if they can be made full ; and furthermore, at some hour of the day, be it twelve or be it six, all men must dine;  for are they not a carnivorous production, requiring meals, — at least one meal a day ? They cannot live, like woodcock, upon suction; but, like the shark and tiger, must have prey. And hence they take kindly to venison and such like things, and they remember with satisfaction the advice of St. Paul to the gentle Timothy, to use a little wine for the stomach's sake.
McCormick was not only the subject to be honored on this occasion, but to do honor to himself. He has actually cooked his own dinner, and has done it well. My sailing-master is a very extraordinary person, and there seems to be no end to his accomplishments. Possessing a bright intellect, a good education, and a perfect magazine of nervous energy, he has, while knocking about the world, picked up a smattering of almost every thing known under the sun, from astronomy to cooking, and from seamanship to gold-digging. And he is something of a philosopher, for he declares that he will have all the comfort he can get when off duty, while he does not seem to regard any sort of exposure, and is quite careless of himself, when on duty; and besides, he appears to possess that highly useful faculty of being able to do for himself any thing that he may require to be done by others. He can handle a marline-spike as well as a sextant, and can play sailor, carpenter, blacksmith, cook, or gentleman with equal facility. So much for the man; now for his feast.
A day or so ago I found lying on my cabin-table a neat little missive which politely set forth, that "Mr. McCormick presents the compliments of the officers' mess to the Commander, and requests the honor of his company to dinner in their cabin, on the 21st instant, at six o'clock." And I have answered the summons, and have got back again into my own den overwhelmed with astonishment at the skill of my sailing-master in that art, the cultivation of which has made Lucullus immortal and Soyer famous, and highly gratified to see both officers and men so well pleased.
The bill of fare, "with some original illustrations by Radcliffe," set forth a very tempting invitation to a hungry man, and its provisions were generally fulfilled. There was a capital soup — jardiniere — nicely flavored, a boiled salmon wrapped in the daintiest of napkins, a roast haunch of venison weighing thirty pounds, and a brace of roast eider-ducks, with currant-jelly and apple-sauce, and a good variety of fresh vegetables; and after this a huge plum-pudding, imported from Boston, which came in with the flames of Otara flickering all around its rotund lusciousness; and then there was mince-pie and blanc-mange and nuts and raisins and olives and Yankee cheese and Boston crackers and coffee and cigars, and I don't know what else besides. There were a couple of carefully-treasured bottles of Moselle produced from the little receptacle under my bunk, and some madeira and sherry from the same place. The only dish that was purely local in its character was a mayonnaise of frozen venison (raw) thinly sliced and dressed in the open air. It was very crisp, but its merits were not duly appreciated.

As the recipe for the day, I could not resist giving you an iced pudding.

Iced Pudding.
Take one quart of good sweet milk or cream, and with a little of it moisten six ounces of rice flour, mix well together, put on the fire in a stew-pan, and stir till it boils for five minutes. Have the yolks of ten eggs beat up with six ounces of ground sugar, pour the boiling rice amongst it stirring all the time, put it on the fire again, and let it just come to the boil, then pour into a basin and stir occasionally till cold. Two hours before dinner beat up the whites of ten eggs to a snow, mince two ounces of citron peel very small, mix altogether into the freezer, and add one glass of brandy; then put it into a bucket of ice, two handfuls of salt, and keep stirring till frozen. Have the mould ornamented with angelica cut like diamonds, and placed among ice, put in the pudding allowing the iced water to come within two inches of the top, put on the lid, close up the bucket, and keep in a cool place till wanted. Turn out with pretty hot water.
Practice of Cookery and Pastry, Adapted to the Business of Everyday Life,

by Mrs. I.Williamson (Edinburgh, 1854)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Aladdins of the Dinner Table.

Today’s story does not focus exclusively on the food at parties and other celebrations, but on another important, and often ignored aspect of hosting such events – the giving of gifts. I hope to inspire you to increased effort in this regard, when you next give a dinner party. Your guests will thank you. Please do invite me, I am sure I will be available on the day.

The following, most inspirational piece comes from a South Australian newspaper, The Register (Adelaide) of 22nd May, 1909.

If you went out to dine on the invitation of a friend and were to find a thousand
dollar stick-pin carelessly fastened to your serviette, or if a ring of clustered diamonds appeared frozen in your glass of wine, you would probably have sensations, and if translucent pearls were to gleam from the hearts of orchids about you, and if all the roses and lilies on the table had diamonds like dewdrops at their centre, it would surely seem to you like the realization of a dream rising mistily from The Arabian Nights. Yet such things as these have really been witnessed at modern banquets; for there are dinners and dinners. We have all had some experience with dinners which were delicious in their gastronomy and perfect in their service. The number of courses and the varieties of wine have varied according to the taste or the prodigality of our hosts. But the modern dinner in these days of uncounted wealth depends neither upon the art of the chef nor the trained skill of the servitors. The antidote for indigestion is now of fabulous value, in order that it may really stir the jaded feelings of a blasé diner-out. For such a one, the rarest creations of a maitre d'hotel possess no novelty; but gold and jewels rouse an appetite which will not respond to mere food, even though preceded by the most piquant aperitif. He accepts the saying of the twentieth-century pundit to the effect that 'better is a dinner where wealth is than a stalled ox amid poverty.'
—Separate Banquet for Each Guest. —
This was evidently the opinion of a Philadelphian when he gave in Paris a, few
years, ago a dinner which is famous in the annals of luxury. He provided both the
stalled ox, and the, wealth, thereby escaping the reproach of 'slowness'  which attached to the customs of the Quaker city. He went far beyond the wildest nights of the Roman Vitellius; for that Emperor, merely gave his guests their choice among 2,000 ‘arrangements' of fish, and 7,ooo of game and fowl, at a feast that cost a beggarly £40,000, at which there was not even one little jewelled surprise for a lady. At the American's banquet, however, each guest was served separately with a dinner that would have been sufficient to maintain an ordinary family for a week. Iridescent fountains, leaping from great blocks' of ice, played and sparkled before every diner, cooling the air and at the same time delighting the eye. The individual menu included a large salmon, a whole leg of mutton, a truffled fowl, a basket of peaches, and innumerable bottles of the rarest wine. In keeping with this lavishness were the jewelled favours. A dainty bag of silk and lace was passed about. Into it each guest thrust his or her hand and drew forth some valuable present — a ring, a scarfpin, a brooch, or some other ornament, ranging in cost from £160 to £300. Another famous jewel banquet was once given by Howard Gould. This dinner began in a quiet way, but presently there was placed upon the table before the host an odd-looking dish of great size, covered with a layer of daintily browned pastry. Amid an expectant hush Mr. Gould slipped through the crust a golden knife, revealing an interior filled with dazzling gems, which were distributed by the handful among the guests. Probably the notion of such a thing originated years ago in Paris at a dinner given by a wealthy nobleman. On this occasion, when the crust was raised, out stepped a dwarf fantastically-dressed, and bearing a silver salver heaped with jewels. This, however, had the merit of wit in addition to the notoriety of lavishness; for the dwarf, in presenting each gift, uttered a clever verse appropriate to the receiver of the jewel. A Chicago millionaire, named Harry Hosenfeld, introduced a novel hiding place for costly favours. At his dinner, clusters of orchids at each place concealed gems, every one of which was valued at more than £300. Another Chicagoan, Nathaniel Moore, provided a novelty at a birthday dinner which he gave in February of last year. He was not content to arrange a theatre party followed by a sumptuous supper but, by a change which reminds one of Aladdin and his lamp, the scene was shifted rapidly from the theatre to a private dinner room at Rectors, which had been transformed into a seeming fairyland. The pillars in the room were draped in
great masses of American Beauty roses (this in the heart of winter), while the tables gleamed with crystal and silver. As each guest took up a napkin, from inside it there fell a leather-covered box, containing some ornament of diamonds or emeralds or pearls.
—Live Swans Gem Bedecked.—
It was Julius Sleyer, a New Yorker, who conceived the idea of giving a swan dinner to 15 men who were his intimate friends. The table was spread in a garden of roses, with bowers of interwoven vines, and hung with clusters of rare fruit. The white columns were hidden by festoons of smilax and evergreens, and in the hollow square formed by the tables was a miniature lake, in which live swans moved grace fully about, their necks encircled by sparkling gems. Below, in the clear water, could be seen goldfish, while the edge of the pool was banked with; rare tropical plants and pond lilies, which half-concealed clusters of coloured lights. Two lavish dinner-givers of the last decade were the late Lawrence Jerome and Howell Osborne. Almost any story of their entertainments will pass unchallenged; and they may be regarded as having initiated the present day, craze for dinners, with a capital D. One banquet at Delmonico's when that restaurant was down town, cost Mr, Jerome £160 a cover — a goodly sum even now: while Howell Osborne give a number of what might be called 'continuous entertainments,' including dinner, a theatre party, a late-supper, and breakfast the next morning. More than once his guest were presented with gifts of jewels of which the value of each extended into four figures.
—When a Diamond King Dines.—
The 'continuous performance entertainment,' however, goes back historically to the year 1470, when George Nevil celebrated his advancement to the high dignity of Archbishop of York. The new Archbishop kept his palace open to all comers for 31 hours. During this time there were consumed 300 swine, 2,000 chickens, 10,ooo sheep. 4,000 ducks, 4,000 deer, 200 tanks of ale, and 140 tanks of wine. Possibly the generous host was severely criticised for giving no jewelled mementoes. In 1906 a celebrated May [?] party was given by a South African diamond king at a fashionable London restaurant. All the accessories of a diamond mine were utilized, and so perfect, was the illusion that the dinner was pronounced the sensation of the year. The floor was covered with sand glittering with tiny specks of mica. Around the table there were arranged great blocks of quartz, in which were embedded well-defined veins of gold. Lumps of blue clay, with small diamond points protruding from it, were also used in the scheme of decoration. There were picks and shovels, and individual lamps to be attached to the “miners'” caps, with bags of gold dust and small nuggets of virgin metal at each place. Turtle soup was served in a huge iron pot by waiters who were coal-black natives imported from Central Africa. At the doors of the dining hall armed Boers stood on guard, carrying pistols and long, murderous-looking knives. It must have been a rather uncomfortable affair: but it was unique in its way, and the gifts of nuggets and gold dust entitle it to a place in the list of beneficiary dinners.
—Plum Stones Were Real Pearls.—
At another London restaurant, about the same time, occurred a Venetian dinner, to called. The courtyard of the hotel was flooded with water which was artificially coloured bright blue. Gondoliers propelled their graceful vessels here and there, and sang the songs of Venice. The guests, who dined in a bower overlooking this artificial lagoon, could see hundreds of goldfish in the water beneath them. Here, again, jewels were the presents given. It creates in one a slight feeling of repulsion to learn that the fish all died in a short time from the effects of the bluing, which had been scattered in the water. Do you recall the famous dish of yellow plums which Prince Potemkin once offered to a dinner party in the Crimea, at which the principal guest was the Empress Catherine of Russia? The pits of the plums were rare pearls, and each guest helped himself to them with a large gold spoon, which he was asked to keep in addition to the pearls. This pleasant little feature served to enliven a dull day and perhaps, to render palatable an indifferently cooked dinner. To-day the time has come when the influence of a really good dinner stamps itself upon a man and transforms him into a good donor.
—Family Dinners. —
There have been some rather extraordinary family dinners, which, in fact, have
eclipsed the banquets already chronicled. Thus, in 1903, Mr. Pabst, the well-known brewer of Milwaukee, presented his wife and four children each with a million-dollar block of stocks in his brewery — five million dollars in all - at a Christmas dinner! Again, the late millionaire, Charles Lockhart, of the Standard Oil Company, prepared a slight surprise for his family. The dinner in question was a pleasant home affair, free from every form of ostentation. But when, after the first course, the plates were removed, little slips of paper were discovered under them, each one displaying a few lines in Mr. Lockhart's characteristic scrawl – “Pay for the order of one million dollars. Charles Lockhart.” Shortly after his death this incident was cited as an example of his eccentricity; but it is probable that he already knew his end to be approaching, and that he gave this large sum of money directly to the members of his family without waiting for the slow processes of the Probate Court. We may picture a still more novel sort of banquet at which, instead of ingots or bags of gold dust or nuggets each lady will find at her place a costly duke, an expensive earl, or even a rare specimen of prince!

Your guests will surely be delighted with the wealth of edible delights on your table, even if you are unable or unwilling to risk choking them with hidden diamonds or little piles of gold dust. Please enjoy the following ideas:

Gold Cake.
Three-quarters of a cup of butter, beaten to a cream, one cup of sugar, the yolks of eight eggs, two cupsful of sifted flour, one teaspoonful of cream of tartar, half a teaspoonful of soda dissolved in half a cup of sweet milk, which must be added lastly; bake one hour in a moderate oven.
Sunday Times (Perth, WA) Sunday 10 September 1905.

Silver Cake.
One cup of sugar, ½  cup of milk, ½ cup butter, ½ cup cornflour, 1 ½ cup of flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, whites of three eggs, vanilla, salt. Beat the butter to a cream and gradually beat in the sugar and add flavouring. Mix the flour and baking powder together. Dissolve the cornflour in the milk and add to the sugar, and butter. The well-beaten whites and flour must be lightly stirred in. Bake about half an hour.

Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser (Qld.) Saturday 25 September 1926

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Birthday Dinner of Princess Thyra of Denmark (1907)

I don’t think I have ever given you a historical royal Danish menu before, but I have the ideal opportunity today during this birthday-themed week. I am calling out to my Danish friends to comment, especially on my attempt (with the help of Google) to translate the menu into English.

Here is the menu for the twenty-seventh birthday dinner of Princess Thyra of Denmark and Iceland, held at the Residence-Palais in Copenhagen, and hosted by her father, King Frederik VIII.

Torsdag 14 Marts 1907
Suppe med Hønsebuller og Asparges
Helleflynder – Hollandsk Sauce
Garneret Oxesteg
Hummer i Mayonnaise
Stegte Kyllinger
Neapolitansk Kage med Is

With the assistance of Google Translate, this is my attempt at the menu in English. Please, if you are a Danish speaker, comment and correct as required!

Soup with Chicken [?] and Asparagus
Halibut with Hollandaise Sauce
Garnished Roast Beef
Lobster Mayonnaise
Fried Chickens
Neapolitan Cake with Ice Cream

The recipe of the day is from The Royal Cookery Book (Le Livre de Cuisine) by Jules Gouffé, published in 1869:

Neapolitan Cake
Blanch, peel, wash, and dry 1 lb. of Jordan almonds; pound them in a mortar, moistening them with white of egg, to prevent their turning oily; when well pounded, add:

1 lb. of pounded sugar,        1 small pinch of salt,
½ lb. of butter,                     the grated peel of an orange;
1¼ lb. of flour,

Mix the whole to a stiffish paste, with 12 yolks of egg, and let it rest for an hour;
Roll out the paste to 3/16 inch thickness; cut it out with a plain round 5 ½ inch cutter; put the rounds obtained on baking-sheets, in the oven;
When of a light golden tinge, take the rounds out of the oven, and trim them with the same cutter;
When the rounds are cold, lay them one above the other, spreading them over alternately with apricot jam, and red currant jelly;
All the pieces being stuck together, trim the outside of the cake with a knife, and spread it over with apricot jam;
Roll out some twelve-turns puff paste, 1/8 inch thick; cut it into patterns with some fancy cutters; lay these patterns on a baking-sheet; dredge some fine sugar over them, and bake them in the oven, without colouring them;

Decorate the top and round the cake with these puff paste patterns; and serve.

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Grand Civic Banquet (Australia, 1867)

Next Saturday, the 31st of October, is, as you are well-aware, Hallowe’en, and therefore a day of celebratory fun. The day also happens to be the tenth birthday of this blog. I am inordinately proud of this fact. I am especially proud that I have not missed a single weekday post during the ten years – public holiday or not. No-one can be more surprised than myself at the longevity of this whole thing, and the friends and fun it has given me. Thank-you, one and all, for your interest and enthusiasm.

Now, to cease boasting and get on with the business of story-telling (which is how I think of this weekday event.) This week’s posts (numbers 2,700-04) are on the theme of birthdays.
The ninth of November, 1867 was the twenty-sixth birthday of the eldest son of Queen Victoria, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII.)  I have no idea what was sort of celebration was planned for the heir himself, but the anniversary was acknowledged at a banquet held in honour of his brother, Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh, who was in Australia at the time.

The South Australian Weekly Chronicle of 16 November 1867 reported on the occasion:


It was a happy circumstances which brought His Royal Highness to our shores at a time including the anniversary of the birthday of his Royal brother, the Prince of Wales, and His Worship the Mayor, taking advantage of this auspicious event, gave a grand banquet in the Town Hall. The entertainment was arranged on a scale or magnificence never before reached in the colony, and His Worship was lavish in his hospitality.
… The front of the Town Hall was brilliantly illuminated during the whole of the evening, and from the upper chamber of the tower Mr. Knight displayed a number of crimson and other colored lights, and also let off fireworks, consisting of rockets, wheels, &c, which bad a beautiful effect. The guard of honor wan composed of the Scotch Company and No. 6 North Adelaide Company, under the command of Major Clark, assisted by Captains Buik and Babbage. It was drawn up inside the entrance to the Town Hall, and on the arrival of His Royal Highness the volunteers presented arms, the Regimental Band struck up 'God Save the Queen,' and cheers rose from the crowd which had assembled to witness the Prince's arrival. The bells also sent forth a joyous peal.
The company began to arrive at half-past 6 o'clock in order that the guests might be in readiness to receive His royal Highness at half-past 7 o'clock, before which time all were seated.
On entering the room the sight was one of great beauty. A table on a dais ran across the top of the room near the platform, and two tables stretched the whole length down the centre of the Hall. There were eight other parallel tables divided by an aisle in the middle. On the platform was a long row of mirrors running along the front, the whole stage being decorated with foliage, flowers, and flags, and turned into a very pretty bower, behind which the band were placed. Amongst the flags on the platform were to be seen the new colors presented to the Prince Alfred Rifle Volunteers by the Mayoress, there was a recess in the centre where the vocalists who were to take part in the programme were to stand. This recess was arched over, and through the
recess was to be seen a very beautiful star of lustres splendidly illuminated. In addition to the brilliant light shed by the gasaliers, massive branching candelabra were placed at intervals down the tables in which wax candles were burned. The richness and gorgeousness of the table equipage, and the admirable arrangements generally, all contributed to make this a scene long to be remembered. His Worship the Mayor had evidently spared no expense, and Messrs. Hines and Son had, under his instructions, prepared a princely entertainment.
In addition to the invited guests whom we have named, there were about 170 ladies admitted to the gallery by invitation of the Mayoress, Mm. Fuller, for whom refreshments were alto provided. The ladies were all in full dress, so that the gallery presented a brilliant and fascinating appearance.

… following is the bill of fare :—

Mock Turtle Soup                       Oyster Soup
Kangaroo-tail Soup
Murray Cod                    Whiting a la Creme au Gratin
Oyster Patties
Supreme of Fowl                         Foies Gras a la Gelie
Epigrammes of Lamb                Fricandeau of Veal
Stewed Rump of Beef Flammande      Compote of Pigeons
Saddles of Mutton
Roast Turkeys Turkey Braised, a la Toulouse
Westphalia Ham
Spring Chicken a la Regence                 Roast Duckling
Haunch of Kangaroo
Guinea Fowl                                 Pea Fowl
Mayonnaise of Chicken                           Mayonnaise of Lobster
Pudding a la Prince Royal                       Baba and Apricots
Apples and Apricots Meringued           Savoy Cake
Dantzic Jelly                  Macedoine Jelly                         
Neapolitan Cake
Vanilla Creams                            Blanc Manger
Pears and Rice Transparente                Meringues a la Crème               Trifle
French Pastry                                             Iced Cream
Charlotte Parisienne                                Fruits, &c.
Brioche au Fromage

Instead of finding a recipe for one of the dishes on the menu, I decided to confirm the theme of the week and give you a birthday cake recipe from the era.

From the Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW ) of  Saturday, 22 October 1881:

Birthday Cake.
4 oz. of currants, 4oz. of sultanas, 2 oz. of citron, 6 oz. pf butter, 6 oz. of sugar, 1 lb. of flour, five eggs, a quarter of a teaspoonful of soda; mix the soda with the flour first, then rub in all the other ingredients; beat the eggs for a quarter of an hour, yolks and whites together, then add them to the mixture; if not quite moist enough, add a little milk. Bake for an hour and a half. Ice as directed below.

Almond Icing for the Above.

Blanch the almonds the day before required, that they may have time to dry, as they pound better when dry. When required for use, chop them finely, then pound in a mortar; mix with them a pound of finely-sifted sugar, one teaspoonful of rose water, and the whites of three eggs which have been beaten to a strong froth. When the cake is baked, draw it and spread the icing evenly over its surface, then put it in the oven again for ten minutes, or until the icing is a delicate brown.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Bragget and other Welsh Beverages.

Yesterday I gave you some Welsh recipes from the past, so today I thought it would be interesting to follow up with a glimpse into what historical Wales has to offer by way of beverages.

My first offering is courtesy of A Modern System of Domestic Cookery (Manchester, 1823) by M. Radcliffe:

Ancient British Liquor, called Bragget. This once famous old British liquor is still made by a few respectable families, chiefly in Wales; from one of which we have been favoured with an admirable method of preparing it. The original Welsh name is bragod; from which has been formed that of bragget or braggot, for it is found both ways in the few old dictionaries and other books where it occurs, and simply defined as a drink consisting of honey and spices. Were this correct, it could only be considered as the Welsh appellation of mead or metheglin; but, according to our information, bragget implies a combination of malt liquor, with honey and spices, the best method of preparing which is as follows: —Take after the rate of a gallon of water to a pound of honey, and stir it till the honey be melted. Then, adding half a handful each of rosemary tops, bay leaves, sweetbriar, angelica, balm, thyme, or other sweet herbs, with half an ounce of sliced ginger, and a little nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, and a few cloves, boil them gently together for nearly half an hour; scumming it well, till it looks tolerably clear. In the mean time, having prepared three gallons of the first runnings of strong ale, or sweet wort, mix the two liquids quite hot, with all the herbs and spices; and, stirring them together for some time over a fire, but without suffering them to boil, strain off the liquor, and set it to cool. When it becomes only the warmth of new milk, ferment it with good ale yeast; and, after it has properly worked, tun it up, and hang a bag of bruised spices in the barrel, where it is to remain all the time of drawing. It is generally drank from the cask; but may be bottled, like other liquors, any time after it has entirely ceased to hiss in the barrel. A weaker sort of bragget is sometimes prepared with the third runnings of the ale, a smaller proportion of honey, and the strained spices, &c. with a few fresh herbs; the second runnings, in that case, being made the family ale. These arrangements, however, and other obvious deviations, are made according to the taste or inclination of the respective parties.

So, bragget (all spelling variants derive from Old Celtic) is a sweet spiced fermented beverage made from ale and honey, so similar to mead and metheglin. A couple of other random interesting factoids about bragget that elevate its historical importance: it was mentioned by Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales, and it has become a catchword for sweetness – as in ‘Braggot Sunday’ in Mid-Lent, when a brief suspension of abstinence was allowed.

Honey spiced alcoholic beverages have their place, of course, but sometimes all that one wants is a simple ale: here it is:

To brew very fine Welsh Ale.
Four forty-two gallons of water, hot, but not quite boiling, on four bushels of malt, cover, and let it stand three hours. In the mean time infuse a pound and a half of hops in a little hot water, or two pounds if the ale is to be kept five or six months, and put water and hops into the tub, and fun the wort upon them, and boil them together three hours. Strain off the hops, and keep for the small beer. Let the wort stand in a high tub till cool enough to receive the yeast, of which put two quarts of ale, or if you cannot get it, of small beer yeast. Mix it thoroughly and often. When the wort has done working, the second or third day, the yeast will sink rather than rise in the middle, remove it then, and turn the ale as it works out, pour a quart in at a time, and gently, to prevent the fermentation from continuing too long, which weakens the liquor. Put a bit of paper over the bunghole two or three days before stopping up.
A New System of Domestic Cookery (1808) By Maria Rundell.

And my final offering, from a well-known Scottish cookery book:

Welsh Nectar.
Two gallons of water being boiled, and allowed to cool; one pound of raisins, two pounds of loaf sugar, the juice of three lemons, and their peel cut thin, are added; after being stirred daily for four days, it is run through a jelly-bag and bottled; in ten days, or a fortnight more, it will be fit for use, and will be found excellent in warm weather. The corks should be tied down.
The Practice of Cookery: Adapted to the Business of Every Day Life

(Edinburgh, 1830) by Mrs Dalgairns.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Welsh Culinary Treats.

I don’t believe I have ever featured Welsh recipes before – have I? This blog is a week away from its ten year anniversary, so I must remedy the omission. Without further delay, and with no commentary whatsoever as life has been busy enough this last week, I give you a short selection from a very short glance over the literature:-

The Rhyl Journal of 11 May 1895 felt it worth noting that a recent edition of a London magazine featured some Welsh recipes:-

The Housewife (20, Bride Street E.C) for May is quite a Welsh number of this interesting magazine. …. The magazine is well illustrated, and its content useful and sensible. We quote one of the Welsh recipes supplied by “Shanet”:- PORRIDGE - Porridge in Wales usually goes by the name of llymru, meaning some- thing crude or sour, and is a very popular supper dish in agricultural districts. The Welsh meal is finely ground, and is allowed to steep tor several days in water (a thick creamy mixture resulting called siccan); sufficient of this is stirred with the handle of a wooden spoon into boiling and salted water and boiled for twenty minutes or half an hour. It is poured into small shallow soup plates for each person, and placed round the table, each person having a small basin containing cold milk, into which he dips each spoonful before eating. Some make a hole in the middle of the plateful and pour the cold milk in that. It is very wholesome, and considered good for children. Oat- meal was formerly largely used in Welsh cookery, and it is to be regretted that the fashion is going out here, as elsewhere. Welsh oatmeal cakes, once so popular, are dying out of knowledge because the younger housewives do not learn how to make them. They are thinner than the Scotch cakes, and are made of finer meal, and cooked on a bakestone.

Another Welsh staple of previous times was barley bread:

Method of making Barley Bread:
In Wales, and some of the western counties, barley bread, occasionally varied by oaten, has been for ages the staple food of the lower orders; and in some districts ryemeal is mixed with the former, or with coarse wheaten flour, which not only increases the bulk, but gives an agreeable sweetness, much relished after a little use. There are two modes of making barley bread practised in Wales; either by raising the dough with leaven, in the same manner as wheaten, and baking large loaves, or by making the meal into cakes, or what is usually called plank bread, because the cakes are baked upon a circular flat cast-iron of about eighteen inches diameter, and a quarter of an inch thick, called a plank. In the last process, the meal is simply wetted with water, kneaded a little, and fashioned out by hand into single cakes, or sometimes in a pile, some dry meal being placed between each cake. Country girls are very expert at this, and will mould as fast as a couple of planks can bake them. The oat cakes are made much in the same way, but thinner, and placed on edge before they are cold around the chimney; they are curled by the heat, and then placed in rolls, one inside the other. Except in time of harvest, the peasantry seldom or never have a taste of wheaten bread; but as Burns says -

"Buirdly chiels and clever hizzies,
Are bred in sic a way as this is."

And the natives of the districts where this humble fare prevails are remarkable for health and vigour, being far superior in physical capacity to the population of manufacturing districts, whose bread diet is of a much finer quality.
The Magazine of Domestic Economy (London, 1840)

And another variation on the Welsh staple grain theme:

Welsh Cakes.
Long before the world war created a shortage in the world’s flour supply the sturdy Welshwomen used oatmeal in their cakes. A recipe handed on from mother to daughter in all the old farmhouses is the following simple mixture for making dainty little cakes: Four ounces of flour (wholemeal is very often used, fresh from the grinding stones of one of the water mills) two ounces of coarse oatmeal, two ounces of sugar, two ounces of lard, with a pinch of carbonate of soda or baking powder. These are mixed together with a little milk or buttermilk or water, and the paste rolled to about half an inch thick on an oatmeal-floured board. With a cutter this is cut into rounds, which are put into a hot oven and baked till a nice brown. They eat very crisp and short, and if it is to be had a little butter makes them into cakes “fit for a king.”

Brecon County Times of 28 March 1918.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Noodles and other Swollen Objects.

 I had a sudden thought about noodles the other day, in a rather vague sort of way. I have no idea what triggered the thought, except perhaps the sight of some duck in my freezer, combined with a desire for something light and spicy for dinner. What is really strange however, is that the very first recipe I stumbled across in my food-history internet wanderings a short while after this unbidden noodle-thought, was a recipe for potato noodles (which appears below, but don’t go there just yet.) As I have never met a potato I didn’t like (with the exception of soggy fries – which miss the point and are therefore inexcusable) I was immediately in love with the concept. I was also immediately struck with the question of “What, precisely, is the Difference (if any) between potato noodles and potato dumplings?”

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a noodle as:

“A long stringlike piece of pasta or similar flour paste cooked in liquid and served either in a soup or as an accompaniment to another dish; (more generally in U.S.) any style of pasta. Formerly also: a dumpling cooked and served in a similar manner … Usu. in pl.”

The etymology is also interesting, and does seem to confirm that there is, linguistically-speaking at any rate, no essential difference. The word seems to be an Anglicized version of the 16th century German word for the same thing, although in the OED’s own words “further etymology is uncertain.”  Now we get to the fun part. Via various linguistic loops in and around various European languages, the OED opines:

“The semantic development may have been from a sense ‘swollen object’ to ‘dumpling’; although the former is apparently not explicitly recorded in dictionaries of German, the 14th-cent. late Middle High German instance (referring to an outgrowth on a tree) could be taken to show a specific development of a supposed general sense ‘swollen object’ (compare early modern German knödel ‘joint, small bone’ (early 16th cent.))”

I will never be able to un-read this. I will never again be able to eat, or even contemplate, noodles or dumplings without thinking of knotty arthritic joints and deformed trees.  I now share my affliction with you, in the hope that crowd-sharing will dilute the impact of those nasty images. Sorry.

Here are the instructions for the potato noodles, as promised – plus a bonus recipe for another form of an edible swollen object.

Potato Noodles.
Grate one dozen of boiled potatoes, add two eggs, a little salt, half a cupful of milk, enough flour to knead stiff; then cut in small pieces and roll long and round, one inch thick; fry in plenty of lard to a nice brown.
Albert Lea Enterprise (Minnesota) March 16, 1887

Potato Dumplings.
Boil as many large potatoes as you wish dumplings (to twelve dumplings, twelve potatoes). It is better to boil the potatoes the day before using. Boil them in their jackets, pare and grate them then add half a loaf of grated stale bread, a tablespoonful of melted butter or suet, a teaspoonful of salt, two tablespoonfuls of flour, half of a grated nutmeg, and part of the grated peel of a lemon, three or four eggs and a saucerful of bread which has been cut in the smallest dice shape possible and browned in butter or fat. Mix all thoroughly and form into round dumplings. Put them into boiling salt water and let them boil until done. As soon as they raise to the top of the water, take up one and try it, if cooked through the center remove them all. Serve with a fruit sauce, or heated fat, with an onion cut up very fine and browned in it. A sweet and sour is also very nice, made as follows: Boil vinegar and water together in equal parts and sweeten to taste. Melt a piece of butter in a spider, throw in a spoonful of flour, mix rapidly, then add a pinch of salt, and also add the boiling vinegar gradually to this, also some ground cinnamon and a pinch of ground cloves.
"Aunt Babette's" Cook Book. Foreign and Domestic Receipts for the Household. A valuable collection of receipts and hints for the housewife, many of which are not to be found elsewhere. (Cincinnati and Chicago, 1897)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Simple Dish Much Liked by Gentlemen.

I am completely unable to resist giving you a little more wit and wisdom from yesterday’s source - The Belgian Cookbook (New York, 1915) by Mrs. Brian Luck, who had the bad luck herself not to be known by her own first name.

The second half of this little book is composed chiefly of recipes for dishes that can be made in haste, and by the inexperienced cook. But such cook can hardly pay too much attention to details if she does not wish to revert to an early, not to say feral type of cuisine, where the roots were eaten raw while the meat was burnt. Because your dining-room furniture is Early English, there is no reason why the cooking should be early English too. And it certainly will be, unless one takes great trouble with detail.

Let us suppose that at 7.30 P. M. your husband telephones that he is bringing a friend to dine at 8. Let us suppose an even more rash act. He arrives at 7.15, he brings a friend: you perceive the unexpressed corollary that the dinner must be better than usual. In such a moment of poignant surprise, let fly your best smile (the kind that is practiced by bachelors' widows) and say "I am delighted you have come like this; do you mind eight or a quarter past for dinner? '' Then melt away to the cook with this very book in your hand.

I take it that you consider her to be the junior partner in the household, you, of course, being the senior, and your husband the sleeping partner in it. Ask what there is in the house for an extra dish, and I wager you the whole solar system to a burnt match that you will find in these pages the very recipe that fits the case. A piece of cold veal, viewed with an eye to futurity, resolves itself into a white creamy delightfulness that melts in your mouth; a new-laid egg, maybe, poached on the top, and all set in a china shell. If you have no meat at all, you must simply hoodwink your friends with the fish and vegetables.

You know the story of the great Frenchwoman:

“Helas, Annette, I have some gentlemen coming to dine, and we have no meat in the house. What to do?"

"Ah! Madame, I will cook at my best; and if Madame will talk at her best, they will never notice there is anything wrong."

But for the present day, I would recommend rather that the gentlemen be beguiled into doing the talking themselves, if any shortcoming in the menu is to be concealed from them, for then their attention will be engaged.

It takes away from the made-in-a-hurry look of a dish if it is decorated, and there are plenty of motifs in that way besides parsley. One can use beetroot, radishes, carrots cut in dice, minced pickles, sieved egg; and for sweets, besides the usual preserved cherries and angelica, you can have strips of lemon peel, almonds pointed or chopped, stoned prunes cut in halves, wild strawberries, portions of tangerine orange. There is a saying,

Polish the shoe,
Though the sole be through,

and a very simple chocolate shape may be made attractive by being garnished with a cluster of pointed almonds in the center, surrounded by a ring of tangerine pieces, well skinned and laid like tiny crescents one after the other. There is nothing so small and insignificant but has great possibilities. Did not Darwin raise eighty seedlings from a single clod of earth taken from a bird’s foot?

It is to be regretted that Samuel Johnson never wrote the manual that he contemplated. "Sir," he said, "I could write a better book of cookery than has ever yet been written. It should be a book on philosophical principles."

Perhaps the pies of Fleet Street reminded him of the Black Broth of the Spartans which the well-fed Dionysius found excessively nasty; the tyrant was curtly told that it was nothing indeed without the seasoning of fatigue and hunger. We do not wish a meal to owe its relish solely to the influence of extreme hunger — it must have a beautiful nature all its own, it must exhibit the idea of Thing-in-Itself in an easily assimilable form.

I am convinced, anyhow, that this little collection (formed through the kindness of our Belgian friends) will work miracles; for there are plenty of miracles worked nowadays, though not by those romantic souls who think that things come by themselves. Good dinners certainly do not, and I end with this couplet :

A douce woman and a fu' wame
Maks King and cottar bide at hame.

Which, being interpreted, means that if you want a man to stay at home, you must agree with him and so must his dinner.

I do love that phrase “There is nothing so small and insignificant but has great possibilities.” Here are two recipes from the book to assist Good Cook and Good Wives everywhere (whatever their gender, marital and occupational status, philosophical stance, or feelings about cold mutton) to put food on the table three times a day.

The Good Wife’s Sauce
This sauce is indispensable to anyone who wishes to use up slices of cold mutton. Trim your slices, take away skin and fat and pour on them the following cold sauce. Hard-boil three eggs, let them get cold. Crumble the yolks in a cup, adding slowly a tablespoonful of oil, salt, pepper, a little mustard, a teaspoonful of vinegar; then chop the whites of egg, with a scrap of onion, and if you have them, some capers. Mix all together and pour it over the cold meat.

Rum Omelette
This simple dish is much liked by gentlemen.

Break five eggs in a basin, sweeten them with castor sugar, pour in a sherry glassful of rum. Beat them very hard till they froth. Put a bit of fresh butter in a shallow pan and pour in your eggs. Let it stay on the fire just three minutes and then slip it off on to a hot dish. Powder it with sugar, as you take it to the dining-room. At the dining-room door, set a light to a big spoonful of rum and pour it over the omelette just as you go in. It is almost impossible to light a glass of rum in a hurry, for your omelette, so use a kitchen spoon.