Sunday, April 16, 2017

Potatoes for Breakfast, Dinner, Supper (WW I era)

An American “Southern Food Expert and Lecturer” by the name of Bessie R. Murphy compiled and edited a wonderful set of books called the Three Meals a Day Series during World War II. Each volume was dedicated to

Somebody Somewhere
To be used by
Everybody Everywhere

The editor explains her mission in the Introduction:

This little series of books is a collection of tested and economical recipes for everyday foods that are obtainable everywhere and suitable for any of the three meals of the day. These recipes are written in plain, everyday terms. They are not all original — the authors of many of them are unknown. They form just a little series of everyday books for everybody from everywhere.

The World War gave every homemaker an opportunity to realize the difference between use and abuse of foods. For years we have wasted much of the bountiful supply of food produced by our country. Let us then not go backward, but let us go forward, bending every energy to make lasting the benefit in health and economy gained from a diet that not only eliminates extravagance and waste in buying and serving, but also affords greater variety.

The recipes in this series call for flour, sugar, and butter. To conserve these three foods just as long as our country and the peoples of Europe need them is the loyal and patriotic duty of — not the other fellow — but you.

The principle concept was to give recipes based on a single staple item which were suitable for one or more of the three main meals of the day. I do love that theme. To date I have found volumes focused on rice, corn meal, peanuts, legumes, salad and potatoes. I have featured several of these in previous posts (see the links below) but have not so far covered the potato – which is a strange oversight given that I have not yet met a potato I didn’t like. Today I want to rectify that omission.

Note that in the following recipes the editor refers to the white potato as the “Irish” or “English” potato (Solanum tuberosum) to distinguish it from the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) – which, to add confusion to the puzzle, is in some regions referred to as the yam (Family Dioscoreaceae) which it  most certainly is not. Sweet potatoes are covered in the second half of the book, and I will surely make them the subject of another post in the future.

So, how do you fancy your breakfast potatoes?

For my American friends, who persist in calling a scone a biscuit, and a biscuit a cookie (in spite of which I love you anyway) I have chosen:

Irish Potato Biscuit
1 cup mashed potatoes                            1 tablespoon butter
1 cup flour                                                    1 tablespoon lard
4 teaspoons baking powder                   ½ cup milk (scant)
½ teaspoon salt

Sift the dry ingredients. Add these to the potatoes, mixing well. Work in lightly the butter and lard. Add gradually enough milk to make a soft dough. Put it on floured board, roll lightly to about inch thickness, cut in biscuit shape, place in greased pan, and bake in hot oven.

For my own breakfast, I have chosen

Irish Potato Omelet

1 cup potatoes (mashed)                        3 teaspoons milk
3 eggs                                                            ¼ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt

Break the eggs and separate the yolks and the whites. Beat the yolks and add them to the potatoes, beating until mixture is light and there are no lumps. Add seasoning. Beat the whites until they are stiff and carefully fold them into the mixture. Put the omelet into a well-greased frying pan and bake it in the oven until it is brown. Turn the omelet out on a hot platter and serve it at once.

For dinner, I feel sure that the concept of cheesy mashed potatoes will not cause any international disagreement:

Baked Irish Potato and Cheese

2 cups cooked potatoes                          2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons grated cheese                 ¼ cup milk
1 teaspoon salt

Run the potatoes through a sieve, melt the butter in a saucepan, add the potatoes, and mix well. Then add the milk, half the cheese, and the seasoning. Put into well-greased baking dish, sprinkle the rest of the cheese on the top, and bake in hot oven about 10 minutes.

And for dessert, who can resist a doughnut?

Irish Potato Doughnuts

1 ¼ cups sugar                            ½ teaspoon each nutmeg and cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter                 1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs                                              1 cup mashed potatoes
1 cup milk                                      Flour to roll
4 teaspoons baking powder

Cream one-half of the sugar with the butter. Add the remaining sugar and the milk to the well-beaten eggs. Combine the two mixtures. To the cooled potatoes add the dry ingredients sifted together. Mix thoroughly, put on a well-floured board, and roll out and cut. Fry a few doughnuts at a time in deep hot fat.

It is supper time, and what better time to use up leftover mashed potato and cold cooked meat? And as a bonus, you don’t need to put the deep fryer away after dinner!

Irish Potato Surprises

2 cups mashed potatoes                         1 egg
¼ cup cold cooked meat                        Bread crumbs
¼ teaspoon salt                                        Dash of paprika
½ teaspoon onion juice                          1 tablespoon parsley

To the mashed potatoes, add the salt, pepper, onion juice, and half the parsley. Mix well. Add the rest of the parsley to the chopped meat and season well. Flatten out a teaspoonful of the potato mixture and place a teaspoonful of the meat mixture in the center. Fold the potatoes around the meat, then shape into a roll, being sure that the meat is well covered. Roll balls in bread crumbs, then in the well-beaten egg, again in bread crumbs, and fry in hot fat until a golden brown.

As a final act of homage to the potato, I give you the instructions from the book for drying your own potatoes:

Dried Irish Potatoes

In many parts of the country, owing to weather conditions and improper storage, hundreds of bushels of potatoes spoil by rotting. To prevent this waste the potatoes can be dried. Blanch the potatoes about 3 minutes in boiling water, remove, peel, and slice or cut into cubes. Dry in the sun, in oven of the stove, or in a homemade dryer. When they are dry, run them into a hot oven until heated through. This will prevent bugs and weevils. Put into jars or cans. Soak the potatoes ½ hour before using them.

Previous post from the Three Meals a Day series:

From Rice for Breakfast, Dinner, Supper.
From Salads for Breakfast, Dinner, Supper.
From Legumes for Breakfast, Dinner, Supper.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

A Frenchman’s view of English food in 1823.

In 1823 a French liberal economist called Jérôme-Adolphe Blanqui visited England and Scotland. The narrative of his travels was later published under the title Voyage d’un jeune Français en Angleterre et en Ecosse, pendant l’automne de 1823. The book was discussed at length and quoted from quite extensively in The Westminster Review (Vol. 4, 1825,) a quarterly British publication founded by the political radical Jeremy Bentham.

The editors of The Westminster Review justified their interest in the book thus:

The book we are now going to notice is neither the work of a slanderer of our women, our institutions and our manners, like the famous performance of the Knight of the Hulks, alias the Chevalier Pillet; nor is it the production of an outrageous Anglomane, furious in defence of everything English, for no other reason than because he misunderstands our language, and can misapply some misquoted passages from our poetry: but it is the genuine effusion of a genuine Frenchman, sufficiently inclined to libéralisme of all kinds, and equally disposed to regard with indulgence the barbarism of our customs, and with horror our treatment of his great idol Bonaparte. It is in short a publication, which will be looked upon in the French provinces, and among certain classes in the French capital itself, as an authority on the subject of England; and it is on this account, and because we know that it expresses the opinion of nine-tenths of the French, on the subject of English manners, that we shall notice it at so much length here.

Naturally, what is of most interest to us here on this blog is the French visitor’s view of English food:

…. At last the author is introduced, "avec le cérémonial inévitable, dans la salle à manger (dining-room).

“The dinner, without soup, consists of a raw and bloody beef-steak, plentifully powdered with pepper and spices, and covered with slices of horse-radish, similar, in appearance and size, to the chips which come from under the plane of the carpenter. The beef-steak is immediately followed by a plate or two of vegetables in naturalibus, that is to say, plain boiled: then a cruet-stand with five or six bottles, containing certain drugs, out of which you choose the ingredients necessary for giving some taste to the insipid mess. Sometimes a fowl succeeds these dishes of the primitive ages: but the English themselves agree that chickens with them, are tougher than beef, and therefore they prefer ducks. I was thus enabled to understand, why our deck on quitting Havre was so crowded with French fowls. [We appeal to every one who has ever been in France, whether the flesh of French fowls does not resemble ivory in all but whiteness.] The dinner finishes with a heavy tart made of cherries, plums, or apples, according to the season— taking care always to leave the stones in them.”

So much for the dinner—now for the wines and the dessert:

“The English have rather more variety in their drinks: the porter, the small beer, and the ale, which is between the two, and better than either. The wines in use are port, madeira, and sherry, which they drink always without water, though abundantly charged with brandy. From thence, perhaps, arises the bright scarlet complexions, injected with blue, and the carbuncled noses of almost all the English gastronomes. After the raw beef and potatoes were removed, we were consoling ourselves, in our absence from France, by talking of its glory and its pleasures, when the waiter appeared with the dessert, consisting of an enormous cucumber, flanked with four raw onions bedded in watercresses: des gateaux de plomb (plumb-cakes) worthy of their name, and what he called Cheshire cheese. At the sight of these preparations for poisoning us, we all deserted the table. Let it not be said that the description of a dinner is an unimportant matter: besides, English good cheer being absolutely the same in every inn, tavern, and hotel, in the three kingdoms, it is right to prepare Frenchmen for the enjoyments they are to expect on the other side of the channel.”

 One of the most popular English cookery books at the time of M. Blanqui’s visit was Apicius Redivivus, or the Cook's Oracle, by the eccentric Dr. William Kitchiner, first published in 1817. The 1823 edition (I am not sure about the earlier editions) includes a recipe for “Potatoes fried in Slices or Shavings” – which you may or may not agree are a form of “chips,” “crisps,”  or even “French Fries.” Take that, M. Blanqui.

Potatoes fried in Slices or Shavings.
Peel large potatoes, slice them about a quarter of an inch thick, or cut them in shavings round and round, as you would peel a lemon; dry them well in a clean cloth, and fry them in lard or dripping. Take care that your fat and frying-pan are quite clean; put it on a quick fire; watch it, and as soon as the lard boil, and is still, put in the slices of potatoe, and keep moving them until they are crisp; take them up and lay them to drain on a sieve; send them up with a very little salt sprinkled over them.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

A Passion for Passionfruit.

A recent and ongoing glut of passionfruit made me realise that this is a fruit I have not considered on this blog so far, so today I want to remedy that situation. I hasten to add that the glut was not of my own production or harvesting, but that of my sister who lives in a tropical paradise in Far North Queensland. The embarrassment of riches produced by the passionfruit vine in her rainforest backyard garden has to be seen to be believed. And the same goes for the neighbours, who have the same problem – the passionfruit vine growing, as it does, like the proverbial weed in the tropics. Sadly, the 1700 km (over 1000 miles) distance between us means that I cannot help out with the consumption, cooking, and preserving of the fruit – and anyway, passionfruit is very cheap to buy here in subtropical Brisbane.

To help her out, I promised my sister that I would find some recipes – historical of course - to inspire her. But first, a few general points about passionfruit.

Passiflora edulis (the common passionfruit) is a vine which is native to South America. The Anglicised common name was the inspiration of seventeenth century Spanish missionaries who saw in its flowers features which they interpreted as being symbolic of the crucifixion of Christ, and the few days preceding it (called the Passion) which they then used in their strenuous attempts to convert the indigenous folk to Christianity. They gave the flower the name flor das cinco chagas or "flower of the five wounds" which they determined represented the wounds received by Christ at the crucifixion:

·       The five stamens: the 5 wounds.
·       The 3 stigmata: 3 nails used in the crucifixion.
·       The pointed leaves: the Holy Lance
·       Ten petals: the ten faithful apostles.
·       The ‘corona’ of radial filaments: the Crown of Thorns
·       The tendrils: the whips used in the flagellation of Christ.
·       The ovary (which is chalice-shaped) and receptacle: the Holy Grail.

Passionfruit is mentioned a number of times in Queensland newspapers in the 1860’s. As would be expected, the plant thrived in the warm and humid climate. I can find no evidence of early attempts to develop the passionfruit as a commercial crop, perhaps because it grew like a weed in gardens and around homesteads, so there was no incentive.

A few mentions from The Queenslander might give an idea of its status in the nineteenth century:

1869: The Qld. Horticultural Society report made mention of the fine preserves presented at its show, which included passionfruit amongst the “most notable”

1870: The Acclimatisation Society report of June 1870 noted the receipt of seed of Passiflora macrocarpa “a new and gigantic passion-fruit.”

1873: In an article “Weeds” The QueenslanderPassiflora edulis, Sims.- Common passion-fruit. This favourite South African fruit is now one of the commonest plants of our scrubs.”

1880: In December 1880, a correspondent to the newspaper proudly opined:
“Any Victorian arriving in Brisbane at the present time, or even during the past three weeks, could not help being astonished, if he looked into the fruit shops at the early date of the ripening of our fruits. Grapes, water-melons, rock-melons, peaches, passion-fruit, pineapples, and bananas are in abundance and of excellent quality, if we except the peaches.”

1883: In a short piece about climbing plants:
“The common passion-fruit (Passiflora edulis) is a rampant grower and an immense bearer… … it is astonishing the amount of fruit it will carry in one season.

Passionfruit was a welcome addition to fruit salads (still a popular use) and of course, jam, but it was some time before recipes for the fruit became popular in newspapers. I have a selection for you here, and hope you find them useful if you are lucky enough to have a surplus thrust upon you in the future.   

Passionfruit Jam.
This is made from the skins. Cut the fruit in two and take out the inside: take a quarter of the skins and boil them in water until quite tender. Scoop out the pulp from the shells with a spoon and add it to the seeds and juice. Add 1 lb. sugar to 1 lb. fruit and boil until of a proper consistency.
The Central Queensland Herald (Rockhampton) 24 November, 1932

Passionfruit and tomato jam.
Take 36 passionfruit, 4 lb. firm ripe tomatoes, sugar and water. Halve passionfruit and scoop out pulp and seeds. Put skins in a preserving pan, cover with water (about 2 pints), boil quickly for 1 hour and strain. Pour boiling water, over tomatoes, remove skins, cut slightly and put into preserving pan, allowing 1 lb. sugar to every 1 lb. tomatoes. Measure passionfruit pulp and seeds and the liquid from the skins, allow 1 lb. sugar to every pint and add tomatoes. Boil all together quickly for 1 ½ hour or a little longer.
The Central Queensland Herald (Rockhampton) 24 November, 1932

Passion-Fruit Pulp.
This is the method of preserving passion-fruit pulp: Take the glass jars with screw-top lids and rubber rings, and put them into cold water in a large vessel, and bring it to boiling point to sterilise. While the water is boiling, scrape the pulp from the shells of the fruit, and boil it. without water for five minutes. When finished have a piece of folded damp cloth on the table, and the rubbers ready. Take out one jar at a time from the sterilizing vessel, and the jug or ladle, which also should have been sterilised. Shake the water from the jars, but avoid touching any part of the jars with which the fruit will come in contact. Put the rubber ring on the jar and quickly fill to the very top with the boiling pulp, and screw on the lid immediately, leaving the jar on the damp cloth until cold. It will be more convenient if the pulp can be poured through a wide mouthed funnel, and this also should be sterilised. It is most important if the pulp, is to preserve perfectly, to exercise the greatest care regarding the sterilizing of everything used.
Daily Mercury (Mackay) 7 July 1933.

Passionfruit Butter.
Ingredients: Two ounces butter, 4 ounces sugar, 3 yolks eggs, 3 or 4 passionfruit.
Method: Remove pulp from the passionfruit, strain. Put the liquid into a saucepan with the other ingredients; stir over a low gas until thick.
Sunday Mail (Brisbane) 22 April, 1934.

Passionfruit Icing.
Ingredients: Half-pound Icing sugar sifted, 1 passionfruit, about 1 ½ tablespoons hot water.
Method: Mix the hot water and passionfruit together, add to the icing sugar, mix well, and pour over.
Sunday Mail (Brisbane) 22 April, 1934.

Passion Fruit Wine.
Nine dozen large passion fruit, 2 gallons of cold  water, 8 lb. white sugar, 1 oz. isinglass.
Mix the passion fruit pulp with 1 gallon of cold water, let stand for 36 hours, stirring occasionally and then strain through a jelly-bag. Take out the pulp, mix with the second gallon of water and strain again. Then add the sugar, also isinglass; which should be dissolved in a cup of hot water. Let all stand for six or seven days to ferment in a wooden tub or crock, stirring two or three times. Now strain again and bottle. Do not cork too tightly at first or the bottles will burst. Store in a cool place and it will be ready for use in nine months.
Warwick Daily News, 25 April 1942

Passionfruit Blancmange.
Ingredients: twelve passionfruit, one pint water, three level tablespoons sugar, three level dessertspoons cornflour, one egg.
Method: boil passionfruit pulp and water for 15 minutes, then strin. Add sugar and cornflour and boil another seven minutes, then yolk of egg and boil a minute longer. When nearly cold, add stiffly beaten white of egg. Set mould in a cool place.
The Telegraph, 14 December, 1945

Passionfruit Cake.
Her recipe for the ever popular passionfruit cake wins "The Telegraph" competition prize today for Mrs Mattthews, Winsome Road, Salisbury. Here it is:
Take 2 cups self-raising flour, ¼ teaspoon spoon salt, ½ cup shortening, juice and seeds 1 passionfruit, 1 cup sugar, 2 eggs (well beaten), 1 teaspoon lemon essence, cup milk. Sift flour and salt, cream shortening, add sugar gradualy, cream together, until light and fluffy. Add eggs and essence slowly. Add flour after [? Alternating] with milk, small amounts at a time. Add passionfruit. Bake in greased cake tin in moderate oven for 25 minutes.
The Telegraph, 99 January 1946.
Passionfruit Pudding.
Take three tablespoons shortening, 3 tablespoons sugar, 6 tablespoons self-raising flour, pinch salt, 2 eggs, juice and pulp 6 passionfruit and a little lemon juice.
Beat butter and sugar to a cream and add beaten eggs, sifted flour and salt. Mix in the passion-fruit pulp and lemon juice. Pour into a well-greased basin and steam for 1 ½ hours.
Brisbane Telegraph, 1 March 1954.

Previous passionfruit recipes on this blog:
Pumpkin Passionfruit Pie (1915)
Passionfruit Cup (1941)