Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap Year Cakes (1889-1964)

The history of Leap Year Cakes has been place on my “to be researched” list – which is admittedly impossibly long. I have a selection of recipes for them for you today, and cannot help drawing your attention to the fact that the first several are from church cook books. Please comment on this interesting phenomenon.

Leap Year Cake.
Mrs. J. T. Read, Pawtucket, R. I.
One cup sugar, ½ cup butter (scant), ½ cup milk, 1 ½ cups flour, whites of 3 eggs beaten, 1 teaspoonful baking powder mixed in flour; frosting, yolks of 3 eggs with 10 tablespoonfuls of fine sugar, well beaten; flavor all with vanilla.
What the Baptist Brethren Eat and How the Sisters Serve It
(1889, Port Huron, Mich.)

Leap Year Cake
[Mrs. G. C. Burnham]
1 cup sugar.                                       ½ cup butter.
½ cup milk.                                      1 ¾ cups flour.
Whites of 3 eggs.                              1 heaping teaspoonful baking powder
1 teaspoonful extract lemon.

Frost with Chocolate Frosting No. 6.

Chocolate Frosting No. 6
Yolks of 2 eggs                                  8 tablespoons of powdered sugar
1 cake of melted chocolate              1 teaspoonful of vanilla
Cookery Craft: As Practiced in 1894 by the Women
of the South Church, St Johnsbury, Vt.

Leap Year Cake.
Mrs. Charlie Tibbets.
Whites of three eggs, one cup of sugar, one-half cup of butter warmed, one-half cup of milk, one-half teaspoonful of soda, one teaspoonful cream tartar, one and one-half cups flour.
Twelve tablespoonfuls pulverized sugar, yolks of three eggs. Beat thoroughly and put on cake while warm.
The New Church cook book (1902, Aglaia Club, Brockton, Mass.)

Leap Year Cake.
Twelve ozs. flour, six ozs. sugar, eight ozs. butter, one tablespoonful milk, grated rind of one lemon, five eggs, half teaspoonful baking powder, half lb. glazed cherries, two ozs. almonds. Cream sugar and butter well, add eggs alternately with dry ingredients, with exception of the almonds, and half the cherries. Bake in a deep round tin. When poured into the tin arrange the almonds, which should be blanched and cut in half, upright, leaving room between each nut for a cherry. Bake for one-and-a-quarter hours in a slow oven.
The Sunday Times (Perth, W.A.) April 12, 1908

Leap Year Cake.
One pound dates, 1lb. currants, 1lb. sultanas, 1lb. chopped almond, 1 tablespoon preserved ginger (cut fine), ½ lb. sugar, 2 tablespoons golden syrup, 3 eggs, ¾ lb. butter, 1 ¼ lb. plain flour, 1 teaspoon carb. soda, a little nutmeg.
Cream butter and sugar, add eggs, one at a time, and mix in golden syrup. Then mix in plain flour (to which carb. soda and nutmeg have been added), and lastly add fruit and nuts cut fine (if desired). Bake in a slow oven for 3 hours. This cake will keep for six months.
Australian Women’s Weekly, 15 February, 1936

Leap Year Cake
Make up a two-layer cake from your favourite recipe, or use packaged cake mix. Join layers with whipped cream. Frost cake with whipped cream into which a little pink colouring has been blended.
Cut out a large heart-shape from marshmallow, place in centre of cake. Pipe “29” in centre of heart with pink whipped cream, icing, or melted chocolate.
Marshmallow: One ounce gelatine, ½ cup cold water, 1 lb. sugar, ¾ cup boiling water, 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Soak gelatine in cold water. Place sugar and boiling water in saucepan, bring to the boil, add softened gelatine: boil 15 minutes. Cool, add flavoring. Beat until white and thick.Pour into lightly greased tin: leave until set.
Cut a large heart-shape from paper, dampen so it won’t stick, place on top of marshmallow, and cut around. Carefully life out with spatula and place in centre of cake.
Australian Women’s Weekly, February 26, 1964

Previous Leap Year posts:

Bachelor Cooking

Leap Year Day with the Baron (from one of the few “every day in the year” books to acknowledge Leap Year; has 366 menus and recipes)

Not leap year post but the title justifies its inclusion!
Old Maid’s Pie [1948]

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Sweetmeats of Lusitania.

In Monday’s post on the food of Persia as seen through the eyes of an English traveler, mention was made of the great love of the Lusitanians for sweetmeats. I was intrigued by this comment, as were several of you, my readers. The explanation is simple, as it turns out.

Lusitania was the name of a Roman province on the Iberian Peninsula. It included much of what is now southern Portugal and the adjacent part of Spain. The province was created and named by the Romans when they conquered the region in 237BCE.

I have, in the brief time I have given to it, been able to find out very little about the food of Lusitania at the time of the Roman occupation, although it seems certain that the staple food for both humans and stock animals was the acorn.

The Greek geographer and historian Strabo (c.64BCE – after  21CE) said of them:
“And the mountaineers, for two-thirds of the year, eat acorns, which they have first dried and crushed, and then ground up and made into a bread that may be stored away for a long time. They also drink beer; but they are scarce of wine, and what wine they have made they speedily drink up in merry feastings with their kinsfolk; and instead of olive-oil they use butter. Again, they dine sitting down, for they have stationary seats builded around the walls of the room, though they seat themselves forward according to age and rank. The dinner is passed round, and amid their cups they dance to flute and trumpet, dancing in chorus, but also leaping up and crouching low.”

The county of Portugal was created in the ninth century, but ‘Lusitania’ was still synonymous with the area in the seventeenth century – hence the reference which began this discussion. The Portuguese are well known for their love for sweetmeats – thanks to the period of time in which the Iberian Peninsula was part of the Arab empire.

There is no nation in the world so fond of sweetmeats as the Portuguese. They always hand them about on their social visits” Letters from Malaba, Jacobus Canter Visscher (1862)

The following exerpts from another nineteenth century travelogue - Portugal illustrated: in a series of letters (1829), by William Morgan Kinsey:

… In accordance with an old rule of hospitality, still observed in some parts of the country, the Abbade placed his guests in arm-chairs at the upper end of the supper table, which was abundantly supplied with a great variety of dishes; and in addition to the substantial part of the meal, fruits and sweetmeats were served to us in profusion, and a biscuit called Inglezes, better even than the far-famed Leman ever compounded.

… There is a small convent at Belem, called "Bom Successo," inhabited by a few nuns, chiefly natives of Ireland, whose principal means of subsistence are derived from the sale of sweetmeats  and ornamental baskets for flowers. Their little trade ought to be lucrative, for sweetmeats are in universal request throughout Portugal, and form the principal luxury of Portuguese tables. We have often seen capacious goblets of water, in the discrimination of whose qualities it is the talent of all classes to exhibit great acuteness, slowly imbibed, in order to increase and prolong the taste of the preserved fruits in the mouth. It is to this habit of eating sweetmeats, as provocatives to drink deep draughts of water, which blow the body out, that Costigan ascribes the little fat, pursy, misshapen persons of the nobility, who are usually seen incased within a monstrous circumference of a pale and unwholesome sort of churchyard fat.

… The tea-party at night, if the complimentary visits of persons unknown to each other are then paid, is a formal dull sort of assemble, which not even the large goblets of pure delicious water, handed round by the servants with sweetmeats and a variety of excellent cakes, is at all able to enliven. A formidable battery of observation is frequently established by the ladies apart, which temerity itself would scarcely venture to approach.

And from another nineteenth century travel book, we have a little more detail of Portuguese sweetmeats:

The forte of Portuguese cooks is their confectionery, to the immense quantities of which devoured by the upper classes half of their illnesses are owing. Preserves that would not disgrace a Parisian confectioner may often be procured in the poorest estalagems—of quince (marmalada), of peach (doce de pecego), of plum (doce de ameixa), of orange (doce de laranja), and of pumpkin (doce de abóbara).
A Handbook for Travellers in Portugal (1875) by J. Murray:-

I am always interested in English and American interpretations of ‘foreign’ dishes. Here are a couple:

Portugal Pudding
Rub up four table-spoonfuls of ground rice, or semolina [sic], with three ounces of butter, and stir in it a pint of cream; stir it till it boils and is quite thick. Then stir in two whole eggs, and the yolks of three more, well beaten, with a quarter of a pound of loaf-sugar, a little salt and nutmeg. Butter a dish, and bake it an hour. When it is done, have ready another dish of the same size, or a very little deeper; on the bottom of this spread a layer of raspberry jam, then the pudding, and then a layer of apricot jam. This pudding is very delicate without the mixture of fruit, with wine or lemon sauce instead.
The Complete Cook (Philadelphia, 1846) by J.M.Sanderson

Preserved Pumpkin
Cut slices from a fine high-colored pumpkin, and cut the slices into chips about the thickness of a dollar. The chips should be of an equal size, six inches in length, and an inch broad. Weigh them, and allow to each pound of pumpkin chips, a pound of loaf-sugar. Have ready a sufficient number of fine lemons, pare off the yellow rind, and lay it aside. Cut the lemons in half, and squeeze the juice into a bowl. Allow a gill of juice to each pound of pumpkin. Put the pumpkin into abroad pan laying the sugar among it. Pour the lemon-juice over it. Cover the pan, and let the pumpkin chips, sugar and lemon-juice, set all night. Early in the morning put the whole into a preserving pan, and boil all together (skimming it well) till the pumpkin becomes clear and crisp, but not till it breaks. It should have the appearance of lemon candy. You may if you choose, put some lemon-peel with it, cut in very small pieces. Half an hour's boiling (or a little more) is generally sufficient. When it is done, take out the pumpkin, spread it on a large dish, and strain the sirup through a bag. Put the pumpkin into your jars or glasses, pour the sirup over it, and tie it up with brandy paper. If properly done, this is a very fine sweetmeat. The taste of the pumpkin will be lost in that of the lemon and sugar, and the sirup is particularly pleasant. It is eaten without cream, like preserved ginger. It may be laid on puff-paste shells, after they are baked.

The Cook's Own Book, and Housekeeper's Register (Boston, 1840) Mrs. N.K.Lee

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Vegetarian Recipes for a Week (1854)

I thought I would follow-up yesterday’s post with a little more on the early vegetarian movement.

In the days before “it’s not-bacon”, veggie burgers, tofu-turkey, textured vegetable protein, and other faux meat substitutes, what did vegetarians eat? Well, in the early days of the movement, in the mid-nineteenth century, even less variety than you might think, given that the flesh-abstaining zealots of the time also eschewed most condiments and spices on account of the belief that they were too “stimulating.”

The following suggested weekly menus in the American Vegetarian and Health Journal. (1852-1854) would hardly encourage the vegetarian lifestyle, I would think. They seem spectacularly bland and soulless. Not only are there no spices (except one mention of “a little ginger”) there is neither cheese nor eggs. If it were not for a little milk, we could call it a vegan diet – although the term was not coined then.

Breakfast, - Rice, boiled but 12 minutes, flung into the water when boiling, the water drained from it, and taken with syrup or milk and sugar, with fruit; good light brown bread and cocoa.
Dinner.- Vegetable soup, made with six onions, out fine, a small teacupful of
pearl barley, boiled till the onions become a jelly: then celery added to the taste, two or three small carrots sliced thin, and potatoes sliced and boiled, not so soft as to become a pulp, and a little toast taken with it. Vegetables cooked by themselves. Fruit of some kind. A bread pudding made by putting three slices of bread into a common-sized pudding dish, pouring on cold water; when it becomes pulpy, pour off the water, pour over cold milk, add a little ginger, and currants or raisins, and bake till well browned.
Supper. - Brown bread; cocoa, not taken too hot, or sago, oatmeal, rice, or Indian mean gruel, with a little cooked fruit.

Breakfast. - Wheat meal porridge, the meal stirred in while the water is boiling, and cooked not more than five minutes; taken as the rice is, with the same accompaniments.
Dinner.-Split peas made into a soup, boiled in pure water and salt; potatoes and parsnips, mashed and browned, eaten with white sauce, made by boiling a little water, stirring flour into milk, and adding to the water while boiling; other vegetables, with fruit, may be taken. A carrot pudding, the carrots scraped
into cold milk, a little flour stirred in, sugar added, and baked till the milk
becomes a whey.
Supper, of any kind of gruel, bread, fruit, or plain cake.

Breakfast.- Milk toast, made by boiling milk, adding a little water and salt, stirring in flour, and pouring it over the toast. Gruel or cocoa as best suits,
with fruit.
Dinner. - Vegetables, always throwing salt into the water before boiling. Rice pudding, made by putting a small teacupful of rice into a quart of cold milk, sweetened; currants or raisins added; baked till the rice is soft.
Supper, as on Monday.

Breakfast.—Oatmeal porridge; appendages to suit the taste.
Dinner. - Haricot beans boiled tender, and baked in an oven. Vegetables and fruits. Boiled pudding, composed of Indian meal stirred into buttermilk; a little soda, fruit, and sweetening added, the latter made thin, put into a cloth, and tied so loosely that it can properly swell; put into the pot when the water is boiling, and the boiling not stopped for two hours and a half. Eaten with milk and sugar, or syrup.
Supper, as on Tuesday.

Breakfast, as on Monday.
Dinner. - Vegetables, fruits, ground rice puddings, the rice stirred into the milk when it is boiling, then sugar and currants added, then well baked.
Supper, as on Tuesday.


Breakfast, as on Tuesday.
Dinner. - Haricot bean soup, the beans boiled till they swell, the water changed, then boiled till quite soft; a part may be put into the oven and baked for the Sabbath dinner. The soup should not be divested of the skin of the bean; a variety of vegetables. A dish of mashed potatoes and parsnips left for the Sabbath. A brown loaf boiled in pure water and salt till tender, eaten with milk and sugar, or syrup. Apples, boiled whole, with the rinds on, and a little sugar added, are good and economical. A bird’s-nest pudding, made by taking off the rinds from sweet apples, and taking out the core with a sharp knife, then soaking bread or soda-biscuit in cold water, till soft, then pouring off the water, and adding cold milk, sugar, and cinnamon; baked till the apples are soft, which should be left whole. The baked beans, the mashed vegetables, boiled apples, and bird’s nest pudding, will make a good Sunday dinner, leaving the servant at liberty to attend a place of worship, and the mistress free from worldly cares on the Sabbath.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Unpolished Rice: The Staple Food of the Orient (1905)

Several months ago I wrote a post on ‘Recipes using Rice Polish (1930)’ inspired by the contents of a publication by a 1930 publication of the  United States’ Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Home Economics which was entitled Rice Polish Makes a Valuable Addition to the Diet  (1930.) 

I recently came across another source of information on the broad topic of rice products.  I thought it provided an interesting historical perspective on the apparent modern pre-occupation with whole foods, so I wanted to share it with you.

The source is Unpolished rice, the staplefood of the Orient, which was published in Philadelphia in 1905 under the auspices of The Vegetarian society of America. The book begins with the text of a lecture given by Rev. Henry S. Clubb to the society, and includes ‘one hundred receipts for cooking unpolished rice, rice flour, rice polish’ as well as the ‘Testimonials of Eminent Food Reformers.’

Here is an edited version of Rev. Clubb’s lecture:

By Rev. Henry S. Clubb.

The endurance on long- marches; the wonderful activity, bravery and success of the soldiers of Japan, and their comparative freedom from camp diseases* and rapid recovery from wounds resulting in so many victories over their flesh-fed enemies who have been defeated and routed in every important engagement, fully confirm the views advanced in the following address delivered two years ago before the Vegetarian Society of Philadelphia. The address was published in the Rice Journal at the time, and extracts have appeared in many periodicals. It is now presented in full, as the events of the war and the growing interest in the subject of health foods seem to call for a more extensive diffusion of the information contained therein:

My friends and members of the Vegetarian Society:

My attention was called to the subject of rice, by observing the great muscular development and strength of the athletes of Japan, who are said to train chiefly, if not entirely, on a diet of rice. A correspondent in Connecticut inquired if I could procure him a sample of Japanese rice, as he had understood it was richer in protein or flesh-forming element than the South Carolina rice commonly grown in this country.

Wheat here is considered so much richer in flesh-forming elements that rice in the Middle, Western and Northern States is used only as a dessert, in the form of puddings, or blanc mange, whereas in the Southern, or rice-producing, states, it is served daily as a vegetable, largely taking the place of white potatoes in the daily meals.

Our investigations have led us to believe that the more general use of rice as an article of daily food, not merely as an occasional dessert, would result in a diminution of dyspepsia and an increase of health, vigor, and vivacity throughout the continent of America.

The fact that the Japanese are the most artistic, humane, vivacious, and happy people on the face of the earth; and that their chief food is rice, is, on its face, a strong argument in favor of the more extensive use' of that cereal.

Finding a good sample of Japanese rice in Philadelphia, I sent it to the Agricultural Department in Washington, inquiring if it had been analyzed and received a very courteous reply from Mr. Ernst A. Bessey, Assistant in Charge of the Bureau of Plant Industry, United States Department of Agriculture, who wrote from Washington, April 19, 1902, that: ''So far as I know, no comparative analysis has been made to determine whether Japanese ricecontains more nitrogen than South Carolina rice. The fact is that the American method of milling rice so as to give it a high polish, as shown by the sample you enclose, loses about 90 per cent, of the nitrogenous matter in the grain, as this is contained in the fine polish which is taken off. In Asia, however, rice is not polished, so that the nitrogenous matter remains on the grain, and, as a result, the grain is much more nutritious."

The United States Agricultural Department kindly referred my letter to Prof. Knapp, of Lake Charles, La., who in due time sent the following valuable and interesting reply:

Lake Charles, La., April 22, 1902.
Rev. Henry S. Clubb, Philadelphia, Pa.

Dear Sir :— At the request of the Department of Agriculture, I will undertake to answer your letter of April 7, 1902. I have not the analysis of the Japan rice before me, but my recollection is that it is richer in fats than other rices, but not in rotein compounds, or flesh-formers.

Being richer in fats, it has more flavor than other rices. The reason the Japanese are so muscular is that they do not polish their rice. In American mills the outside coating of the rice kernel is rubbed off. The process is as follows: 1st. The outer husk is removed. 2nd. The bran, just within the husk, is removed. 3rd. The solid kernel is then rubbed, to remove the rough protein surface and to give the kernel a gloss. This is called polishing, and the material removed is called polish, one of the most nutritious substances in all the cereals. Polishing removes more than three-fourths of the flavor and about one-fourth the fiber material. In Japan, China, and India polishing- is not done, except for foreign markets.

The Japanese army in the advance on Peking out-footed the armies of Russia, Germany, England, France and America. The Japanese soldier is fed on rice, with a ration of beans and fish. He can double-quick for fourteen hours, and repeat it for days.

The Japanese or Chinese may be shot through the body, and if no vital part is cut, they scarcely notice the wound.

If you will send to Dr. W. C. Stubbs, Audubon, New Orleans, La., I think you will get an analysis of Japan rice.

Very truly yours,

Agreeably to Prof. Knapp's suggestion, I wrote and received from Dr. Stubbs the following reply, dated "Audubon Park, New
Orleans, La., May I, 1902:

There is no perceptible difference between analysis of Japanese rice and South Carolina rice. We make them indiscriminately and have made both quite a number of times …..  [continues with a discussion of the results.]

… [a summary of the use of rice around the world]

Sir Wm. Bentley, Governor of Virginia, caused half a bushel of rice (probably brought from England whither it had been received from India,) to be sown in her colony, and it produced sixteen bushels of good rice. This was in 1647. Rice was introduced to South Carolina in 1694. An English or Dutch ship was driven by stress to seek shelter In Charleston Harbor and the captain visited Governor Smith, whom he had met in Madagascar. Smith expressed a desire to experiment with the growing of rice upon a low patch of ground in his garden; whereupon the captain presented him a small bag of rice seed which happened to be among his stores The seed was brought from Madagascar, but may not have been grown there. It was planted in the garden m Longitude Lane, Charleston - the spot is still pointed out - and thus originated the important industry of rice cultivation, still flourishing in South Carolina. ,

There is a story that the Earl of Shaftsbury sent 100 pounds of the rice seed to Charleston about the same time from the produce of which sixty tons of paddy were shipped to England m 1698.

Lowland rice was introduced to Louisiana in 1718, and upland rice into South Carolina, in 1772, from Cochin, China.

In this way the rice plant from its Asiatic home has made the circuit of the earth, and is now cultivated throughout the torrid zone and in the warmest parts of both temperate zones wherever there is abundant water supply.

…. [see the online text for the rest of the lecture]

*General Oku's Headquarters, Feb. i, 1905. — In nine months there have been but 40 deaths from disease in the immense army commanded by General Oku, a record that is believed to be unequaled in the world's warfare. * * * The percentages of the other Japanese armies are believed to be about the same. — Phila. Record, Feb. 2, 1905.

Now, for my choice of recipes from the book, I give you:

Using (presumably) unpolished rice:
Rice Meringue.
Steam a cupful of rice; first soak in one and a fourth cups of water for an hour, then add a cup of milk, turn into an earthen dish suitable for serving it from a table, and place in a steam-cooker or a covered steamer over a kettle of boiling water, and steam for an hour. It should be stirred with a fork occasionally, for the first ten or fifteen minutes. Heap loosely on a glass dish and dot with squares of cranberry or currant jelly.' Beat the whites of two eggs to a stiff froth with one-third cup of sugar and pile it roughly over the rice. Serve with cream

Using rice flour:
Rice Flour Bread.
One pint of fine rice flour in a warm bowl. Pour on it three pints of boiling water, stirring well. Cover and let it stand awhile to soften thoroughly. When cool add a little more yeast than for wheaten bread. Salt and shortening (konut), same as for wheaten bread. Work it thoroughly and set it to rise. When light, use wheaten flour enough to mould it into loaves. Put into pans; let rise and bake.

Using rice polish:

Buttermilk Rice Polish Gems.

Separate an egg and beat the yolk until light. Then add one cup of buttermilk or one cup of sour milk (if sour milk is used, add more butter). Stir into the milk a teaspoonful of soda and half a teaspoonful of salt. Beat and add one cupful of sifted rice polish. Beat until thoroughly incorporated, then fold in the beaten whites of the eggs. Bake in heated gem pans fifteen minutes.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Four Appetising Ways of Serving Vegetables (1922)

Today we travel from yesterday’s sublime delights of pilau, kebabs, and sherbet in seventeenth century Persia to the day-to-day reality of the early twentieth century housewife with a family to cook for. Luckily there were publications such as McCall’s Magazine to help. In 1922, a book on Time-Saving Cookery by Sarah Field Splint was issued by the magazine, and I think you will find some of its suggestions …. interesting.

Before we get to the actual recipes, let us read the introduction, and get some sense of the philosophy of the author and the editors of McCall’s:

REST and RECREATION as WELL as in the
TO reduce cookery to the least possible amount of work is not the sign of a lazy
or shiftless housekeeper. A woman must take short-cuts to those necessary "three
meals-a-day" if she wants time to enjoy friends, books, music and clubs, an occasional motor ride, an hour or two in the open. So plan to serve a last-minute meal to your family on certain days.

Time-saving cookery has another use. In every home, no matter how well it is run, emergencies arise necessitating a quick change of menu. Perhaps one's husband brings home an unexpected guest, or at the busiest time of the morning a neighbor drops in "for a minute" and stays an hour, or small son is sent home ill from school and must be put to bed and dosed. At such moments as these, quick catering is thrice blessed.

The chapter on cooking vegetables begins with four especially speedy ideas. How much appetizing veggie goodness is there here?

Four Appetizing Ways of Serving Vegetables.

Recipe 16— CREAMED VEGETABLES ON TOAST:— Make a White Sauce (for
method see recipe 9) with 5 tablespoons Fat, 5 tablespoons Flour, 1 cup Milk
and 1 cup Water. Add 2 cans Vegetable Soup. Season to taste with Onion and Celery Flavor, Worcestershire Sauce or Catsup. If necessary, color to an appetizing brown with a teaspoon of Kitchen Bouquet. Serve on hot toast. Tomato, pea, celery and corn soups can be thickened and served as above. Left-over vegetables can also be used by flavoring with meat extract.

Recipe 17— CORN PUDDING: Empty 1 can Corn (No. 2) into a dish. Add 2 Eggs, 1 teaspoon Salt, ¼ teaspoon Onion Salt, ⅛  teaspoon Pepper, 1 ½ tablespoons Fat melted. Beat with egg-beater until well mixed. Add 1 pint Milk and mix thoroughly. Pour into large or individual baking dishes, sprinkle with paprika and bake in a very slow oven until firm. A layer of coarsely chopped
ham on the bottom of the dish gives a delightful flavor.

Recipe 18— SPAGHETTI RAGOUT: Empty 1 can of Spaghetti (medium size) and
1 can Thick Meat Soup (oxtail, mulligatawny or mock turtle) into a baking dish.
Add seasoning if necessary. Cover with crumbs and brown in oven.

Recipe 10— BAKED BEANS AND BACON: Empty 1 large can Baked Beans into
a baking dish, seasoning if necessary. Cover the top with slices of Bacon. Cook in
the oven until bacon is crisp. Serve with a relish. A few very thin slices of onion added before covering with the bacon gives a fine, savory flavor.

Monday, February 22, 2016

‘Pullow’ and Sherbet: 17th C Persia.

I have a traveller’s food tale for you today. Please come with me on a virtual journey to seventeenth century Persia. Our guide is John Fryer, the author of A New Account of East-India and Persia, in Eight Letters: Being Nine Years Travels Begun 1672 and Finished 1681: Containing Observations Made of the Moral, Natural and Artifical Estate of Those Countries (published in 1698.)

In the chapter entitled The Present State of Persia, Fryer discusses the local food. He makes a brief mention of ‘pullow’ quite early in the piece:

The most admired Dainty, werewith they stuff themselves, is Pullow, whereof they will fill themselves up to the throat and receive no hurt, it being so well prepared for the Stomach.

A few pages later he goes into considerably more detail about the dishes and manner of dining :

And therefore is it necessary, that to the excellency of the Air, and disposition of the Body, a requisite Diet, as well for Meat as Drink, should correspond with both; and indeed Nature seems to have provided them with both, for those they desire are these:
Cabob isRostmeat on Skewers, cut in little round pieces no bigger than a Sixpence, and Ginger and Garlick put between each. Thus sparingly do they feed on Flesh alone, ordered after this manner; and if at any time they intend a Meal thereon, they have it well Boiled, Baked, Fried, or Stewed, or made into Pullow; which is a general Mess, as frequent with them as a good substantial piece of Beef is with us, and reckoned their standing Dish; which is made either of Flesh, Fish, or Fowl, as the Indian Moors do; but the best is made of the fattest Meat, for which the pondrous Tails of Suet (which their Sheep bear) is most coveted, in regard it saves Butter.
To make Pullow, the Meat is first Boiled to Rags, and the Broth or Liquor being strained, it is left to drain, while they Boil the Rice in the fame; which being tender, and the aqueous parts evaporating, the Juice and Gravy incorporates with the Rice, which is Boiled almost dry; then they put in the Meat again with Spice, and at last as much Butter as is necessary, so that it becomes not too Greesy or Offensive, either to the Sight of Taste; and it is then Boiled enough when it is fit to be made into Gobbets, not flabby, but each Corn of Rice is swelled and filled, not burst into Pulp; and then with Mango or other Achar, they will devour whole Handsuls (for Spoons are not in use, unless to drink Sherbet with, they mixing their Pottage with dry Rice, find cramming themselves with their fingers ) and never Surfeit; always taking this for a Rule, never to Drink till they are satisfied, it causing them otherwise to swell too soon; and then they will Eat as much at a Meal, as an Horse or Mule can of Barly.
Baked Meat they call Dumpoke, which is dressed with sweet Herbs and Butter, with whose Gravy they swallow Rice dry Boiled.
Their Stews are also made of Cooling Fruits, as Cucumbers, Gourds, which they mingle Rice with.
But the bulk of their Diet consists of the Fruits of the Teeming Earth, sowre Milk, with soft Cheese, Grapes and Wheaten Bread.
They have a kind of Cooling Musilage of Seeds, like PsyIlium; in the Maritime ports they use Dates instead of Bread, or Bread made Pancake Fashion of Rice.
They have a Dish they call Cookoo Challow, which is dry Rice and a Fritter of Eggs, Herbs, and Fishes,
They seldom Eat fresh Butter, and as seldom Beefs Flesh; the Poor near the Sea live only on Fish and Dates; the Rich live plentifully every where.
No Country is more taken with Sweetmeats, not even the Lusitanians; whereof Sugar is a good Commodity from India, for Persia produces none of its own; they are not such Confectioners, notwithstanding, as might be expected from so constant a desire and practice; the chief reason I can impute it to is Custom, which in every thing they are very tenacious of.
They mightily covet cool things to the Palat, wherefore they mix Snow, or dissolve Ice in their Water, Wine, or Sherbets.
Out of Taylets of Willows they make a compound Cool-Water, very sweet smelling and refreshing.
Sherbets are made of almost all Tart pleasing Fruits as the Juice of Pomegranets, Lemmons, Citrons, Oranges, Prunella's, which are to be bought in the Markets. Thus by Diet, as well as Air, they procure not only a firmness of Constitution, but properness and Tallness of Body, for none excel them either for Beauty or Stature.
But before we part with this Subject, since they are not so starch'd and precisely bent as the more rigorous Mahometans, we may be acquainted with their constant course of Eating, and lie down with them at Meals, and receive a good Welcome.
Their Breakfast is begun with Melons, Cucumbers, Gourds, Grapes, or other Fruits, as Peaches, Apricots, Cherries, or the like, with soft Cheese or Butter Milk; which is about Ten in the Morning, from which time they abstain from all manner of Food ( I mean when they observe their set Meals till near Sun set) when they feed heartily on Flesh, or any other hot Meats, and enlarge sometimes till Midnight.
They observe the same usage for going to Stool as the other Easterns, washing away the Filth with the Left hand, for no other cause than that they feed themselves with the Right.

So, with reports such as Fryer’s being read in Britain, how quickly was pullow (pilau or pilaf) adopted there? The Oxford English Dictionary should have some clues. The OED definition is:

1. A dish, partly of Middle Eastern, partly and ultimately of South Asian origin, consisting of rice (or, in certain areas, wheat) cooked in stock with spices, usually mixed with meat and various other ingredients.  The contents and method of preparing the dish vary widely according to region.

The first supporting reference is from an earlier traveller’s account – that of William Biddulph The travels of certaine Englishmen into Africa, Asia, Troy …, published in 1609:

The most common [Turkish] dish is Pilaw..made of Rise, and small morsels of Mutton boyled therein.

There are several more mentions before Fryer made his comments about the dish, but it was to be the early eighteenth century before recipes started to appear in English cookery books. The earliest English version I have found so far is in The Accomplished Housekeeper, and Universal Cook (1717), by T. Williams:
A Pillaw of Veal.
Half roast either a neck or breast of veal; then cut it into six pieces, and season it with pepper, salt, and nutmeg. Put to a pound of rice a quart of broth, some mace, and a little salt. Do it over a stove or very slow fire till it is thick; but butter the bottom of the pan or dish you do it in. Beat up the yolk of six eggs, and stir them into it. Then take a little round deep dish, butter it, lay some of the rice at the bottom, then lay the veal on a round heap, and cover it all over with rice. Wash it over with the yolks of eggs, and bake it an hour and a half. Then open the top, and pour in a pint of rich good gravy. Send it to table, garnished with a Seville orange quatered.

Previous recipes for pilau which have appeared on this blog are: