Saturday, September 15, 2018

#433 Stuffed Pork Tenderloin


I hardly ever buy or eat prime cuts these days, going instead for the underused bits and bobs of cows, sheep and pigs, so it’s nice to have the excuse to indulge myself for this blog entry. The tenderloin is the fillet cut of a pig and runs down the length of the spine. These fillet cuts are very tender because the muscle controls the posture of the animal and is not used in high stress activities such as locomotion, toughening it up.

The pork tenderloin is less used in English cookery compared to its cow and sheep equivalents, but I think it is the best value of the three, they are pretty substantial, cheaper by the pound and not as prone to drying out in the cooking process these days now that British pork can officially be served medium.

Jane reckons that the best way to eat this cut is to roast or braise it, so here is her recipe which also involves ham and bacon! A porky trinity and no mistake. There’s also the unusual inclusion of crumbly Lancashire cheese. Pork, ham, bacon and cheese; that’s all of the major food groups, right?
Take two pork tenderloins and trim away any fat and sinew with a sharp knife, should there be any, then slit them lengthways, but not all the way through, so that you can open them out. Now beat them with a tenderiser or a rolling pin until they are much wider and flatter.
Next prepare the ingredients for the stuffing: take two large slices of ham and shred them finely, thinly slice three ounces of Lancashire cheese, then blanch eight sage leaves in boiling water for one minute, then half them. If you prefer, you could strip some thyme leaves and use those instead of the thyme, the bonus there being that no blanching is required.

Scatter the two opened tenderloins with the ham, then the cheese and sage (or thyme). Close and then tie with string and brown them quickly in a little butter.
Now, slice two large onions and scatter them on the base of an ovenproof dish and lie the tenderloins on top. Adorn them with two rashers of streaky bacon each, then pour over a quarter of a pint of brown sherry, Madeira or port.


Roast for 45 minutes at 190C.
Remove the tenderloins and keep them warm. Strain the juices and reduce them in a pan if you wish – I found there was no need, but it did need a seasoning with salt and pepper.
Remove the string from the tenderloins and serve immediately with the sauce and some seasonal vegetables.


#433 Stuffed Pork Tenderloins. Well this was a good one, though I did mess up a little bit as I forgot to beat out the tenderloins, and to tie them, AND to brown them in butter. Nevertheless, it was still delicious, though a little dry (probably because they weren’t tied up). Oh well, I can’t be expected to be perfect all the time, now can I? I’d certainly recommend you give it a go, though I’d check them after 30-35 minutes to see if they are done. The sauce – like most of Jane’s – was delicious. I give it a solid 7/10.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Chapter 8: Stuffings, Sauces & Preserves - Completed!

Well folks, another full chapter is complete!

This was a bit of an odds-and-ends one which was full of revelations for me because it covered a large area of cookery even most chefs don’t bother with these days.
#272 Melted Butter

It’s rather difficult to reflect upon what Jane thought directly, because Chapter 8 is the only one that does not benefit from a written introduction. It was obviously an important area for her though, as she really looks towards under-used ingredients and uses a variety of techniques, so it’s well worth having a look through yourself.
#343 Oyster Stuffing

I – unsurprisingly – split the chapter into the following sections:
8.1: Stuffings (5 recipes)
8.2: Sauces (19 recipes)
8.3: Preserves (21 recipes)
Giving a total of 35 recipes. Click on the hyperlinks to see my review of the individual sections.
The chapter scored an overall mean of 7.6, the highest score so far for a completed chapter, fuelled by three recipes receiving top marks and a lack of total disasters. For those who care (and I know none of you do), here’s a little bar chart showing the mean scores for the chapter as a whole and as separate sections with standard deviation bars.
The five Stuffing recipes are absolutely delicious, with #343 Oyster Stuffing being one of the most delicious things I have ever made. Growing up in a Paxo household meant I simply did not know how good a simple stuffing could be.

The Sauces were diverse and delicious, the simplest – #306 Mint Sauce – being the best, but there are other great recipes, such as #272 Melted Butter and #432 White Devil Sauce.

#109 Quince Comfits

There’s a huge variety in the Preserves section too, with Jane avoiding the obvious things like raspberry jam. Instead she uses ingredients like cornel cherries, medlars and sorbs, so you can make preserves you are very unlikely to find in any store or farmers’ market. There is variety too in the types of preserves; jams, jellies, chutneys, sugars, comfits, candies and liqueurs all make an appearance. #397 Herb Jelly is one of my favourites, as is #46 Rich Orangeade, and I have never found a better, or more simple, (#24) Seville Orange Marmalade recipe.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

8.2: Sauces - completed!


English food has a bad rep wherever you go, and our sauces infamously bad. Indeed, the French only officially recognise one English sauce, and that is custard, or crème Anglaise! The French also find our combination of mint sauce and lamb bizarre, which I cannot understand when, for me, it’s one of the most delicious things one can eat.

#272 Melted Butter

Our sauces are often made with too much flour and end up being rather cloying, plenty of butter and patience and only a little flour are what is required. Using recipes that cut corners, or the purchase of preparatory versions, mean we end up forgetting what many of these foods are supposed to taste like. Jane complains about this throughout the book (and yet still includes them herself; see #411 Calf’s Brains with Curry and Grape Sauce). The British butter sauce (aka #272 Good Melted Butter) is a case in point. My only experience of this sauce was the boil in the bag cod steaks in butter sauce I ate as a child with potatoes and tinned peas, it wasn’t until I made Jane’s version that I realised just how good it could be!
#123 Bread Sauce

All the other classics are here too: mint, bread, Cumberland, apple and all score well, with #306 Mint Sauce being the only sauce to score full marks.

One revelation was tasting home-made #93 Mayonnaise, until I made it for the blog I had never tried it before! It was so different to the bought stuff and just did not know what to make of it. I’ve become quite handy at making my own now, having tweaked Jane’s recipe a little to suit my own tastes, though I do still love the supermarket stuff!

There are only a few disappointing recipes: some of the apple sauce recipes were under par, #170 English Salad Sauce was basically salty cream, nothing like the salad cream I had expected. Not good. The mediaeval #347 Sawce Noyre was simply weird, a thick bread and chicken liver-based sauce that could have been trowelled onto the roast meat with which it was supposed to be served.

#332 Cherry Sauce

There was nothing really shocking though, and the section scored an average mark of 7.3 (and a median of 7.5 and mean of 7). There was a total of 19 recipes, all of which are listed below in the order they appear in the book, along with the scores I gave them and hyperlinks to the original post.



Thursday, August 16, 2018

#432 White Devil Sauce

I have made and experimented with many a devil sauce in my time, but this recipe was always annoyingly elusive due to the inclusion of a tricky-to-find ingredient called Harvey’s sauce. Up until the last couple of decades or so, Harvey’s sauce was widely available, but after searching both delis and the internet for years, I gave up. I managed to find recipes for Harvey’s sauce in Victorian cook books, but it was quite an effort and it is required to sit and mature for years before it is ready. The annoying thing is, only half a teaspoon is required to make this devil sauce! However, it used to be so popular in the 19th Century, I didn’t want to omit or substitute it (plus I would be going against the rules of the blog!).


Just a couple of weeks ago I did one final internet search and Bingo! I found what I was looking for. The reason it was so difficult was that it had had a name change. The original company that produced it – Lazenby’s – was bought out by iconic brand Crosse & Blackwell, which, in turn, was partially-bought out by Premier Foods, who sold it as Worcestershire sauce! Although it was no longer for general sale in the UK, it was still very popular in South Africa; and so, a few minutes and a few mouse clicks later I had ordered a bottle and it was getting shipped over to me. All I had to was wait one week for it to arrive.
In the end, Harvey’s sauce does taste pretty similar to Worcestershire sauce, so if you want to make it, just substitute it for the Lee & Perrins.
In a bowl or small jug mix together 1 teaspoon each of French mustard (Dijon or Moutarde de Meaux), anchovy sauce, wine vinegar, salt and sugar, along with ½ teaspoon each of Harvey’s sauce and Worcestershire sauce.
If you are using the sauce cold to go with cold meats, whip ¼ pint of double cream and fold in the above mixture.
Jane suggests spreading the pieces of cold meat with a little more mustard and pour over the sauce using unwhipped cream and pop into a hot oven until everything has heated through and is lightly browned.

I did neither, instead using the sauce to make devilled chicken livers. For this, get a frying pan or skillet very hot and thrown in a good knob of butter. As soon as the butter stops frothing, place the livers in the pan and leave undisturbed for 2 minutes before turning over and cooking 2 minutes more. Pour over the sauce and turn the livers over in it so that they get a good coating. Have some slices of toast ready and place the livers on top. If necessary, boil down the sauce to an appropriately delicious thickness and pour over the livers. Serve at once.

#432 White Devil Sauce. This was delicious, as devil sauces always are, it was highly seasoned but there wasn't enough devil in it for my tastes; I think it could have done with either a good pinch of Cayenne pepper or a good slug of Tabasco sauce. That said, it was horsed down, so it still gets a good score! 8/10.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Chapter 7: Teatime - Completed!


When I started this project, baking wasn’t the seemingly national pastime as it is now since the rise of the behemoth that is The Great British Bake Off, but it was something I liked to do and was okay at, but certainly had a very narrow baking repertoire. I certainly never baked bread or biscuits, my cake-making was average, but I did make a passable shortcrust pastry. After baking my way through the recipes in this chapter, my world was opened up to a vast array of sticky, spicy, sweet and sometimes stodgy treats, many of which are now standards in my own cooking.

Baking #429 Cumberland Currant Cake
People are sick of mass-produced cakes and biscuits devoid of real flavours, covered in single-use plastic wrapping. Many of the recipes were quite obscure then and I wouldn’t have bothered with them normally, they seem less so now as people all over the country are looking to tradition in their home baking. That said, some recipes in the book are still obscure and old fashioned: you still don’t see #227 Wigs, #62 Seed Cake, #274 Saffron Cake or #431 Murrumbidgee Cake. All these recipes can be found within the pages of English Food.

#113 Muffins
The Teatime chapter was a whopper; so big  I had to split it into four parts, otherwise it would have felt like a never-ending task as there were 72 recipes!
I split them into:
·       7.1: Bread (15 recipes)
·       7.2: Cakes & Tarts (35 recipes)
·       7.3: Pancakes & Griddle Cakes (13 recipes)
·       7.4: Biscuits (9 recipes)
Click on the hyper-links to see my reviews of the four sections.

The chapter scored an overall mean score of 7.0, which seems pretty average for the book so far. For those who care (and I know none of you do), here’s a little bar chart showing the mean scores for the chapter as a whole and then the separate subchapters. There are even error bars, don’t say I don’t treat you.
One important thing I learnt was that Teatime treats are not always sweet cakes and biscuits, but sandwiches made with a variety of breads, toast, muffins and crumpets.

There are blurred lines between my distinctions too; cakes used to be leavened with yeast before the advent of chemical raising agents so there is a continuum between bread and cake, cake and tart, tart and biscuit, biscuit and cake.

#186 Cheese and Oat Biscuits

But where does our obsession with teatime come from?

Well, tea had been drunk in Britain from around 1660; Charles II enjoyed a cuppa char every now and again, that’s for sure. However, it was extremely expensive and only the richest of folk could afford this exotic Chinese drink. It only really started to catch on when Assam tea plants were discovered to be growing in India in the 1820s. Prior to this, the Chinese had held the whole process of tea growing and drying under a shroud of secrecy. The British could buy their tea much more cheaply – it was also the catalyst for the British occupation of India, but that’s a story for another day. It was still expensive at this point, but the upper and middle-upper classes starting drinking it with gusto.

Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford
The idea of teatime as we know it originates in the mid-19th century when the 7th Duchess of Bedford started asking for tea and bread and butter to be served to her in her room at 4 o’clock. The reason she did this was to quash her hunger pangs as she waited for dinner at 9 o’clock. Then, the only other meal of the day was breakfast. She started inviting her lady friends to enjoy her, and soon her lady friends began their own teatimes and invite other ladies to attend. The Duchess was very prominent in society and was good friends with Queen Victoria, so when her Royal Highness decided to start taking tea in afternoon too, the country went nuts.
The Queen had elaborate teas, and whatever she was doing, and wherever she might have been, she stopped for tea at around 4 o’clock. It would be very common for an en route queen to stop her carriage and entourage, for a fire to be lit at the roadside, and for her to sup tea and eat the associated treats. She loved travelling and eating but found it much less exciting once her travel occurred mainly by train and there was no need to stop for tea anymore!

Making dough
Ladies had to be seen hosting teatimes and attending teatimes, one must have needed quite some stamina to trawl across the town or village several times so that one could be noticed.
Some disapproved of teatime, Sir Henry Thompson in 1891 said it was an undesirable habit as it was too generous and spoiled the coming dinner. He may well have been right, those poor ladies must have eaten and drank their fill when doing their rounds.
A truly traditional teatime is made up of sandwiches of cold meats and watercress. Cucumber was not originally popular as people regarded it with distain thinking raw cucumber was poisonous. It was also a rigmarole to prepare the sandwiches in advance; just using sliced cucumber made sandwiches soggy, so the slices had be salted overnight to draw out moisture, then rinsed and individually patted dry.

#270 Mereworth Biscuits
Joining the sandwiches were crumpets, muffins, wigs and seed cakes. Seed cakes were very popular because the caraway seeds that went into them were one of the very few spices that could be grown in Europe. There would be lashings of butter, honey and jam too of course.
Sweet sponge cakes like Victoria sponges were not generally eaten by the grown-ups, but instead made up the bulk of the nursery tea, though I’m sure there are many adults today who would prefer it!
I spotted a great reference to a Victorian book called Walsh’s Manual of Domestic Economy, which recommended, as part of a child’s teatime, a wineglass of homebrew to ‘restore health to the most delicate children’. Get that top tip on Mum’s Net!
Personally, I am very glad that home baking and teatime have regained popularity in Britain. I hope it’s not a fad and we all start buying Mr Kipling’s Fondant Fancies again in 18 months’ time or whatever.
Long may it continue!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

7.2 Cakes & Tarts - Completed!

#431 Murrumbidgee Cake

The Cakes and Tarts section of the mammoth Teatime chapter is now complete. There have been some great recipes in this part of the book, many of which have become standards.
The Teatime chapter is so big that I had to split it, rather arbitrarily, into four parts; because of this there are some grey areas and some of the Bread recipes should technically be part of this section. When we think of cakes, we tend think of light sponges made with flour containing a raising agent. These chemical aids to cookery, only appeared in late Georgian times, and only really caught on in the Victorian era; before then, cakes had to be raised with yeast. These days we would call these sorts of cakes ‘enriched breads’, so that’s why I have included them in the Bread section. Likewise, there is a continuum between cake into tart with a cut-off point that was more difficult to separate and so for that reason, I kept them together.
#49 Orange Cake 

There were very few disasters in the book, with the only bad recipes being the extremely dry and boring (#160) Rice Cake, and the super-sweet (#248) Mazarines; avoid those ones for sure. However, everything else was pretty good, I think I got better at baking cakes and pastry as I worked though the book, so some earlier efforts got unfairly marked down. Like all baking, it takes a little practise to improve. I also cooked many of these recipes very early on and barely remember cooking some of them!
#135 Butterscotch Cake

Inside this section are some simple classics as well as some great discoveries. The two tea loaves really are excellent, and it turns out the parsnip beats the carrot hands down in a cake. (#429) Cumberland Currant Cake and (#431) Murrumbidgee Cake (though the former is not a cake, but a tart) were excellent latter day discoveries, and Jane’s (#226) Eccles Cake filling is delicious, especially when used with her recipe for (#384) Fool-Proof Puff Pastry.
The biggest successes of all must be the Christmas recipes. Jane’s (#15) Christmas Cake is simply excellent, it is the only recipe to achieve full-marks and it is the one I use professionally. Likewise, the two mincemeat recipes are part of my Yuletide repertoire, though I inexplicably scored them quite low. Must have had a bad day.
#429 Cumberland Currant Cake

This recipe had 35 recipes in all, and I think pretty comprehensive; usually I have list of glaring omissions, but this time I can’t really think of any. I suppose there are cakes that didn’t exist, or were not yet popular at the time of writing English Food, like lemon drizzle cake or American muffins. If you spot any glaring omissions, please let me know and leave a comment!
#56 Stuffed Monkey

All the recipes from this section are listed below with links plus the scores they were awarded. It scored a mean mark of 7.3 (or if you’d prefer, both a median and mode of 7), making it a rather average chapter; the average mean score for a chapter at the time of writing is 7.28, so it couldn’t be much more average!
Finishing this section, means I have completed the behemoth that was the Teatime chapter, so I’ll be writing a little round up of that soon.
#206 Orange MincemeatPart 1 and Part 2 6.5/10

Friday, May 18, 2018

#431 Murrumbidgee Cake


I think it’s fair to say that if it wasn’t for Jane Grigson – and therefore this blog – I wouldn’t be doing what I do now. Cooking and writing for a living was not what I had in mind when I started it; I just needed a way to practise writing for my PhD! I didn’t really know who Jane Grigson was, but I could see by the book English Food sat on my shelf, which someone else had bought me, that it was comprehensive and would be a challenge.

Jane Grigson died in 1992, but her voice and ethos certainly spoke to me loud and clear. Since her death, her influence is still strong for those in the know. But how do you get people not in the know to discover her? It’s certainly not by walking into a bookshop. I make a point of going into one and heading straight to the cookery section; only very rarely is there a Jane Grigson book to be found, yet there is often several by her contemporary Elizabeth David.
Jane and Sophie Grigson (Rex Features)

Her death shocked and saddened people, and her family felt it the strongest, yet after her death her daughter Sophie discovered something in Jane’s kitchen. “We were sitting around shell-shocked, but then I found a Murrumbidgee cake in her larder. A beautiful thing, rich, dense, a favourite of hers. I cut slices of it, and we ate them, and it was wonderful. Her last gift to us.”

Jane would buy these cakes in Oxford, eventually getting hold of a recipe after several years of searching and put it in English Food. It’s a fruit cake so full of dried fruit and nuts that there’s barely any cake batter, rather like American fruit cakes, she says. The cake takes its name from the Murrumbidgee river in Australia, so how it ended up in Oxford I don’t know.

First of all, line a 2 pound loaf tin with greaseproof paper and set the oven to 150°C. Next, mix together the fruit and nuts in a large bowl: 7 ounces of whole Brazil nuts, 5 ounces of whole walnut halves, 8 ounces of halved stoned dates, 3 ½ ounces of candied citrus peel, 6 ounces of glacé cherries, 3 ½ ounces of raisins and the grated zest of a lemon. Phew!

Now mix 3 ½ ounces of plain flour with ½ teaspoon each of baking powder and salt and five ounces of caster sugar. Sift these over the fruit and nuts, getting your hands in there to make sure they all get coated.
In a jug, beat 3 large eggs with a teaspoon of vanilla extract, pour into the fruit and flour and mix well until you have a stiff batter.
Pile in the mixture into the tin, pressing down the fruit and nuts and smoothing as well you can; I found this very tricky as there is so little cake batter but it all turned out okay in the end.

Bake for two hours, testing the mixture with a skewer to see if it’s baked, if during the bake, the cake looks as though it’s getting too brown, cover with brown paper.
Cool the cake for 10 minutes and turn out onto a clean tea towel and make several holes in the cake with a skewer. Feed it with some alcohol; Jane suggests brandy or rum, but you can use any spirit or liqueur you like, I went with rum. Wrap the cake in the towel, cover with cling film and pop in the fridge. Every week, for one to two months, feed with a little more alcohol.

#431 Murrumbidgee Cake. This was a wonderful cake! I know fruit cakes like this are not everyone’s cup of tea, but I have to say it beats a Christmas cake hands-down, and as just as Jane says, there’s a good richness to the cake but without the sweet icing that usually adorns a fruit cake. The fruit was soft and the cake mixture deliciously moist. It’s quite an expensive cake to make, unless you eat a variety of dried fruit and nuts anyway and have them in your larder, but it is definitely worth it. It may not have become a British classic, but it is a Grigson family classic, and that’ll certainly do for me. 9/10