Monday, September 27, 2010

#253 Payn Pur-Dew (1420)

I haven’t done a historical recipe for a while, so I thought that my first recipe in this new country should be an old English one. It comes from the French pain perdu, which means lost bread, in other words smothered bread. It’s a French recipe but it obviously goes very far back in English history as this recipe proves. It’s from 1420 and is transcribed straight from the source, although Griggers doesn’t say what the source is! To put this into historical context, Henry V is the King of England and so he will have indulged himself on these in banquets; indeed, the inclusion of sugar in the recipe made it very regal. In the fifteenth century, honey would have been used as a sweetener. Eventually this dessert morphed into Poor Knight’s of Windsor – of which there are two recipes in English Food and I will try and do them soon so we can compare and contrast. Anyways, here is the recipe:

Take fair yolks of eggs, and separate them from the white, and drawn them through a strainer, and take salt [a pinch] and cast thereto; then take fair bread, and cut in round slices; then take fair butter that is clarified, or else fresh grease, and put in a pot, and make hot; then take and wet well the slices in the yolks, and put them in a pan, and so fry them up; but be ware of them cleaving to the pan; and when it is fried, lay them on a dish, and lay plenty of sugar thereon, and then serve forth.

I used clarified butter – not sure what is meant by grease, I suppose the author meant lard or dripping. It is important to clarify the butter, otherwise it and the bread will burn. The word fair in the recipe means fresh; so the quality of ingredients was important in medieval times just as nowadays. Griggers suggests using brioche should you have it. I didn’t.

FYI: Payn per-dew is also called French toast sometimes, but in the north of England I know it as ‘eggy bread’ and it is not just the yolks but the whole egg plus some milk is used. Slices are fried in a little oil and eaten with a scraping of tomato sauce or brown sauce and is certainly not a pudding!

#253 Payn Pur-Dew (1420). A simple and historical recipe that is a wee bit bland by our modern tastes. I think that in the 1420s it would have been an exciting dish, but I prefer it made with the whole egg and some milk to make it less rich and serve as a savoury rather than a sweet. It might have been better with syrup or honey on it instead; something with a bit of heady flavour. So, all-in-all it was okay, but not amazing. 4/10.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Grigson goes Stateside!

Well here I am in Houston, Texas. Now how the bloody hell did that happen? This was not part of the plan. I’ve been here three weeks and am starting to settle in, though I’ve not had much of a chance to eat a load of the Texan cuisine yet, except for the odd burger and a delicious Mexican meal. My terrible memory means I have forgotten the name of the dishes I ate. I will take more notice in future.

Just because I’m in the USA and that it is so very, very hot will not stop me from carrying on the blog of course and serving up wintery food, I just may need to some help from my American buddies on here. I couldn’t bring over any of my cooking equipment, so I am going to have to be very basic in the recipes that I do, at least for the time being. That said, I am staying at my bosses’ house at the minute which has the best stocked kitchen I’ve seen for a good while, so I might try and do a few things before I move into my new apartment in the Midtown area of the city.

I don’t know how successful this will be, but I will try and feed some poor unsuspecting Yanks some delicious (and not so delicious) English grub.

Also, I haven’t seen a single cowboy yet. What’s that about?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

#252 Bloater and Potato Salad

This dish gets right away from the high-tea image and shows how delicious bloaters can be at the beginning of a dinner party’ says Griggers. I wasn’t aware they had that image. These days, I suppose, they have no image at all seeing as they are rarely eaten. Indeed, these had to be ordered, like many of the fish in this book, online at The Fish Society. This is a simple dish and actually probably more suitable as a buffet item… With this recipe, I managed to use up all the fish in my freezer before the move to Houston. Indeed, any recipe after this one will have been done in America. I wonder how successful I will be!?

First prepare three bloaters by removing the skin and removing the fillets. Bloaters are already cooked, but if removing them from the bone is a problem, immerse them in boiling water and leave for a few minutes. Flake the fish or cut it up and put in the centre of a serving dish. Cut up a pound of boiled, waxy potatoes and mix in a vinaigrette. Griggers suggests this one: 5 tablespoons olive oil to one of lemon juice, plus salt, pepper, sugar and a heaped tablespoon of chopped chives. Reserve a tablespoon of it to pour over the fish. Now arrange the potatoes around the fish in an artistic manner and serve.

#252 Bloater and Potato Salad. Not the most exciting meal. The bloaters were very nice, as were the lemony potatoes, but it didn’t feel like a complete course. It would have been much nicer with additional dishes too I think. Could do better, Lady Jane: 5/10

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

#251 Fried Eel with Fried Parsley

I was very impressed when I discovered that The Fish Society sold freshwater eels that they had caught and killed themselves, before freezing them for my convenience. Regular readers will know the stress trauma faced the last time I cooked eels (in both delivery and preparation). The eel population in the UK and Ireland has dropped in recent years, but nowhere near as much as the elver population. I have blogged about this before, but it is becoming increasing clear, especially for Britain that it’s not a good idea to eat adult freshwater eel either now. However, it is not illegal to fish for them, so if taken in small numbers (and who eats eels these days!?) they should be okay. I don’t know what the situation is in the USA though. Are both eels and elvers available here..?

Anyway, enough of my rantings here is the recipe:

This recipe serves four people.

First, you need to prepare your eel; a two-pounder is required here. It needs to be skinned and then cut into three inch pieces. If it has been portioned already, but not skinned, you can either leave it on or fry the pieces skin-side-down in very hot oil for a few seconds. This makes the skin easy to peel off without cooking the eel itself. Next, coat the eel in seasoned flour and fry gently in 4 ounces of clarified butter until browned and the meat comes away from the bones easily. This took me about 7 minutes, but this will depend upon thickness. Next, prepare a lemon-butter sauce by melting 6 ounces of slightly salted butter in a saucepan and adding lemon juice to taste (I used a whole one). Put the eel onto a serving dish and keep warm. Now fry the parsley stalks. Start by heating up oil in a saucepan and fry around 12 parsley sprigs for a few seconds until crisp. Be careful here: the oil will splatter so just fry 3 or 4 at a time. Serve with some lemon-butter sauce poured over the eel, with extra in a jug, and the parsley sprinkled over it.

#251 Fried Eel with Fried Parsley. I have to admit, eel is a tasty fish and cooked this way really shows off it mild, yet delicious flavour. The fried parsley too was very good; like a grassy version of crispy seaweed you get from the Chinese take away! The only problem was the lemon butter – it just made the eel taste greasy. I think tastes have changed somewhat these days, and I think that a lemon mayonnaise would suit it better. However, still a pretty good recipe. 7.5/10.