Monday, July 30, 2012

#348 Veal Rolls

Here’s a quickie from the Beef & Veal section of the Meat chapter and I shall Jane Grigson herself tell us what to do for this one:

Allow one large, thin, escalope of veal for each person. Spread it with a thick layer of parsley and lemon stuffing, or herb stuffing and roll it up starting with one of the long sides.

Tie it with thread in three or four places, then cut into three or four pieces.

Brush each piece with beaten egg, dip it into flour and string it on a skewer, one skewer for each person. Grill for 20-30 minutes, preferably on a spit, basting them from time to time with melted butter. Serve them with fried mushrooms and lemon quarters.

#348 Veal Rolls. Well these were a little fiddly to make but not infuriatingly so. I used the parsley and lemon stuffing as I hadn’t made it for a while and I thought it would suit the hot weather we’re having here in St Louis. As much as I like veal, I didn’t find this really worked. I tried to keep the rolls basted and evenly-cooked under the grill, but the whole thing turned out a little dry. I would much have preferred to have had the escalope fried in some butter with stuffing baked in an ovenproof dish served separately. The mushrooms were good though! 4/10

Saturday, July 21, 2012

#347 Sawce Noyre for Roast Capon

This recipe for black sauce was popular all over Europe in the Middle Ages with many variations and alternative names like sauce infernal. They all use fried and ground livers as a base. In England it was served up with roast meat; capon in this case was used as were various game birds. Other countries used other additional flurries such as Parma ham, dried ceps, onions or garlic and spread it on toast or bread.

A banquet in the Middle Ages - this is a French picture
though at the time French and English food was very similar

The recipe comes from a manuscript with the rather clinical name Ashmole MS. 1430, dating unsurprisingly from 1430. To put the year in context, Henry VI of the House of Lancaster is on the Throne; the political bubblings are beginning that led eventually to the War of the Roses around 20 years later. The original hand-scribed pages are kept in the British Museum, but the manuscript did appear in print along with some other 15th century cook books in the late 19th century.

Henry VI, the Child King

Jane doesn’t give the original recipe that she bases hers on, but I did find it online. It is written in Middle English and takes a little deciphering:

Black sauce for capouns y-rostyde.—Take þe Lyuer of̘ capouns, and roste hit wel; take anyse, and grynde parysgingere, and canel, and a litil cruste of̘ brede, and grynde hit̘ weƚƚ aƚƚ to-gedre; tempre hit up wiþ verious, and þe grece of the capon, þanne boile it̘ and serue forþe.

I translate it as:

Take the livers of capons, and roast them well; take aniseed, ground ginger, and cinnamon, and a little crust of bread, and grind it well all together; temper it up with verjuice and the fat of the capon, then boil and serve forth.

Going back even further in time to the very first known practical cook book – Forme of Cury – written around 1390 contains a recipe for mallard in black sauce.

I made it to go with roast chicken rather than roast capon and it is best made whilst it is resting so you can skim off the fat from the roasting tin and use it to fry the livers.

Pass a beady eye over a pound of chicken livers, making sure that there are no big gristly bits or little green bile ducts left on them. Heat some chicken fat in a frying pan and add the chicken livers. Make sure that the heat is really high so that the livers brown nicely whilst keeping the insides moist and pink. This should take about 4 minutes in all – though it might be worth poking one of the biggest livers with a slenderly-pointed knife to check that the liver is not still raw. Medium rare is good, but anything less than that could be risky, there are several cases every year of Campylobacter brought about by eating undercooked chicken livers.

While the livers are frying, demolish a slice of bread, crusts removed, in a food processor; or if you want to keep it old school you can grate it.  Tip in the livers and whizz again – old-schoolers can pass them through a sieve or mincer. Season with the spices: I went with a quarter teaspoon each of ground aniseed (you could also use star anise), ginger and cinnamon. Don’t forget the salt and pepper. Give it a final spin in the food processor.  The sauce will be very thick indeed – it should be a spreadable consistency and not in the least pourable. It looked like a big scoop of liver ice cream – except that it was hot! Strange.

Reheat the sauce and add some cider vinegar or lemon juice to taste (or verjuice like in the original recipe – you can buy it online). If it is really thick, let it down with a little water.

#347 Sawce Noyre for Roast Capon. This was a strange one indeed – it was made up of pure liver and was therefore very rich, though when eaten with a big piece of relatively bland chicken it did balance out better. The best way to eat it, it turned out, was to spread it on some bread as those in mainland Europe did. I liked the spice combination a lot, especially the aniseed; I may use it in chicken liver pâté. Aside from that though, I think this one’s left in the history books! 4/10.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

#346 Pice ar y Maen (Welsh Cakes on the Stone)

The griddle (or girdle) cakes in this book have been a bit mystery to me in that there are a fair few, so they’re obviously greatly-loved, yet they have all been rather dry, often with the raw taste of flour and more like a bit of cooked, badly-made, pastry. The problem is, I don’t really know what they should be like in consistency as I have never eaten one outside of Neil Cooks Grigson, and there is often little guidance from Jane as to how much liquid goes in. This time I am going to add more liquid so that it is more like a biscuit dough to see if this makes a difference.

Pice ar y Maen are traditionally made on St David’s day in Wales, but like the pancakes made on Shrove Tuesday, they’re made all year round too. Apart from the inclusion of the spice mace in the recipe, it’s made up of ingredients that are likely to be in the store cupboard.  

Sift one pound of flour with a teaspoon of baking powder, a good pinch of salt and a teaspoon of ground mace

Next rub in with fingers, pastry blender, mixer or processor 4 ounces each of butter and lard. Stir in 4 ounces of raisins or currants and 6 ounces of sugar. Now beat in 2 eggs along with a little milk. You need a dough that is soft, but not so much that it falls apart and sticks to the rolling pin and worktop. I prefer to be generous with the liquids.

Strew plenty of flour and roll out thinly – if the dough is too sticky to do this easily, knead in some more flour. Cut out into dinner plate-sized rounds, though I think a 3 inch diameter round works best as they are easier to turn.

Heat a little bit of lard in a heavy-bottomed pan, cook for about 3 minutes per side.

Rather than serving with butter and syrup, Griggers says you should turn them in the extra sugar.

#346 Pice ar y Maen (Welsh Cakes on the Stone). Well I have to say that these have been the best of the griddle/girdle cakes so far – the other ones have been dry (though I think this difference is due to the fact  I have become a better cook).  They were light and a little stodgy – in a good way – they were certainly sweet enough and they sent the delicious aroma of mace into my kitchen as they cooked. Very good, though I did have to add a little butter, I must admit. On the strength of this, I think I need to revisit the other girdle cakes. Very good 8/10.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

#345 English Apricot Pie

Flowers and Apricots by Joseph Bidlingmeyer, 1850

I have been eyeing this recipe for a good while, but fresh apricots are so pricey I have always put it off. However, Soulard Farmers’ market came to save me from my apricot fast by selling them for just over a dollar a pound! They were delicious too.

The reason apricots are so expensive is manifold: they flower very early and suffer poorly from bad weather – they will die even if there’s a light frost or a high wind; they don’t take to grafting well; they are very particular about the soil they grow in, to the point where the amount of fertiliser dug into the soil needs to be calculated; they also do not travel well. They are delicate things and much prefer Eastern climbes as they originated in China, coming to Europe via India and the Middle East. It is for all these reasons that you usually find apricots dried rather than fresh.

As an aside, the reason the apricot doesn’t take to grafting is because they were mis-classified as a member of the plum family, Prunus, and were grafted onto other Prunus species, cherry is usually the grafters’ favourite. It is actually part of the rose family. Everyday’s a school day.

So what are the benefits of eating this temperamental and pricey fruit, other than that they are quite delicious? Well there is quite a long list of benefits to eating apricots. The 18th century French writer Bernard le Bovier Fontenelle, who was a member of the Royal Society, lived to 100 years old and the secret to his longevity was apricots, a tip he got from his grandma. ‘A royal fruit, she called it, saying that the scatterbrained folk of our days ought to make more use of it.’ Quite.


As it happens, apricots are high in phosphorus and magnesium and can significantly increase mental ability. They are super-rich in beta-carotene (which gives the fruit its yellow colour); 4 ounces of apricots will give you 50% of your daily allowance. They are also good for the blood – they can even alleviate anaemia better than liver! They are also a significant source of fluoride. Amazing.

This pie was invented by the great chef Carême. He is very particular about the type of pie dish you should use; it must be very shallow, not much deeper than a plate.

Halve 1 ½ pounds of fresh apricots and take out the stones. Next, melt 2 ounces of unsalted butter in a frying pan and stir in 8 ounces of caster sugar; this might seem alot but they really do need it. Over a moderate heat stir the sugar into the butter. After a few minutes it should start to melt. Add the apricots and coat in the butter-sugar mixture. Stir for a minute or two – you don’t want to cook the fruit, just get the apricot halves well covered.
Pile the fruit and butter and sugar, which should be toffee-like at this point, into a shallow pie dish.
Roll out some puff pastry. Cut strips around half and inch a glue them around the edge of the plate with beaten egg so that the strips ‘extend partway down the dish itself. This will create a good seal, preventing the apricots from escaping. Brush the strips with egg and cover.

Use a fork to seal the pastry lid then make a central hole so that any steam generated during cooking can escape. Brush with more egg and sprinkle some more caster sugar. Start the pie off in a hot oven – 230°C (450°F) – for 15 to 20 minutes so that the pastry can turn golden brown, then continue cooking at a lower heat of 160-180°C (325-375°F) for 15 minutes. ‘Serve hot or warm with plenty of cream.’

Sorry about the terrible pic.
I'm normally drunk by dessert...

#345 English Apricot Pie. What a delicious fruit pie! It occurred to me whilst I was eating it that I have never eaten apricots this way. Well it certainly won’t be the last time I do it; the sugar and butter became a deliciously sweet sauce and the cooked apricots softened and turned very tart. That Carême chap knew what he was talking about.

Friday, July 6, 2012

8.1 Stuffings - completed!

Everyone loves some good stuffing – I obviously do because I have come to the end of the Stuffings bit of chapter 8: Stuffings, Sauces and Preserves. It’s not that impressive as there are only 5 recipes and one of those was a sauce. Nevertheless it is the first section that I have finished so I thought I’d give a little reminder and a review. Here are the recipes in the order they appear in the book, with their scores:

Winners: Oyster Sauce and Oyster Stuffing
That’s a pretty good average of 8.9/10 overall, so really do like stuffing! That’s the last stuffing-related double entendre, I promise.
I have to admit, I had never made my own stuffing before for roast meats. I always just used to use a lemon and some herbs to impart flavour into the meat, but now I am a total convert. The oyster stuffing with its accompanying sauce was the highlight of the five; it is so delicious, however with my fast-approaching return to England hot on my heels, I don’t think I’ll be able to afford to make again any time soon. Hey-ho – at least I got the opportunity.
Stuffing the Guard of Honour
The most versatile of the stuffings, at least according to Jane herself, is the Herb Stuffing; she uses it in three other recipes: #305 Guard of Honour, #263 Stuffed Tomatoes and Veal Rolls (not done that one yet!). Certainly that and the Hazelnut Stuffing are used by me every now and again. I have never revisited Parsley and Lemon Stuffing though.

The very strange Hindle Wakes
Although this section only has technically four recipes, don’t be thinking Jane had no repertoire – oh no – there are several dishes that include stuffings not mentioned above, some glorious like the amazing #175 Shoulder of Lamb with Rice and Apricot Stuffing and the frankly strange, like #339 Hindle Wakes (though I have to say I did bake excess stuffing rolled into balls which were pretty good).
So the good lady Grigson opened my eyes to homemade stuffing, but then I realised there were a couple of glaringly obvious omissions. When I think of British stuffing the first that pops into my brain is sage and onion stuffing. I can’t believe it’s left out. Perhaps Jane was mortified so much by the instant Paxo stuffing that we have all eaten at one time or another (I confess to love it!) that she ignored it on purpose. I bet actual real sage and onion stuffing is delicious though I have not even knowingly eaten it. Also, all the stuffings in the Stuffings section are bread-based. Where are all the delicious sausage meat ones? I know they can be heavy, and I am sure they regularly get undercooked in the centre of that Christmas turkey, but I think they are delicious – especially when cooked separately in a tray or as stuffing balls.
I shall rectify this on my other blog, British Food: A History, by finding good recipes for these (and the best stuffing ones from English Food too).

Well I may have finished this bit of the book, but there are still plenty left to go…
Other recipes using stuffing:
#262 Chestnuts as a Vegetable  (can be used as a stuffing)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

#343 Oyster Stuffing and #344 Oyster Sauce

Oysters are rather expensive in the UK and it can be a rather arduous task shucking them, though in the US, they are much cheaper and often come in tubs preshucked in their own liquor ready for cooking. It is for these reasons that I have been trying to finish all the recipes in English Food that include oysters before I return to England in a little over a month’s time. These two are the final oyster recipes. Not only that, by cooking these recipes I have completed the Stuffings section of the Stuffings, Sauces & Preserves chapter. This might sound impressive, but if you clicked on the link, you’ll have seen that there were only five in the section, and one of those was a sauce!

These are two recipes that were made very popular during the Victorian era that put together shellfish and meat. I have grown to love this combination and so I was looking forward to cooking these. Past recipes on this vein are Chicken with Mussels, Beefsteak Stewed with Oysters as well as the classic Steak, Kidney and Oyster Pudding (and pie!).

I’m not going to blog the two individually because they cannot really be made separately. The first is a light stuffing made with classic stuffing ingredients like breadcrumbs and suet. The second is a simple béchamel sauce flavoured with liquor collected from the oysters used for the stuffing.

The quantities in the recipe are for a large turkey and it requires rather a lot of oysters – 4 to 5 dozen! You can halve the number if you are using the big Atlantic ones; it’s the equivalent to 2 tubs of the preshucked ones you see in supermarkets in the US.

If you do have to shuck your own, I have heard of a method that takes the pain out of it, though I have never tested it myself. Apparently, if you put your cleaned oysters in the freezer flat side facing up, they should magically open their shells after 10 minutes or so. The reason for this is that they go to sleep and relax their strong adductor muscle which you usually have to fight against with the shucking knife when you open them manually.

#343 Oyster Stuffing for Turkey and Other Poultry

Grigson says you can halve the quantities if using a large chicken, which is what I did. Even then, I found I still had plenty left over so I cooked it separately in an ovenproof dish.

First of all shuck 2 or 3 dozen oysters should you need to; do it over a sieve in a bowl so you can save the liquor for the oyster sauce. Chop the oysters, keeping the pieces large. Mix them into the other stuffing ingredients: 10 ounces of white breadcrumbs made from stale bread, 5 ounces of suet, 2 heaped tablespoons of parsley, the grated rind of a lemon, 2 heaped teaspoons of thyme, ¼ teaspoon of both nutmeg and mace, a good pinch of Cayenne pepper, 2 large beaten eggs, salt and pepper. It is important to mix these together rather loosely; there should be no dry breadcrumbs but at the same time it should not be mixed into to big ball of stodge.

Stuff the cavity of your poultry rather loosely - it will expand as it cooks - and truss the legs with some string. Also stuff it into the neck end too, if the flap of neck skin has been left on your bird, securing it with a couple of short skewers (I have noticed that the neck skin is usually removed in America). Any left over can be baked for thirty minutes in an ovenproof dish.

Roast the bird as normal, taking the total weight including stuffing when calculating the roasting time.

#344 Oyster Sauce

Open 2 dozen oysters, saving the liquor. Make a béchamel sauce by melting 2 ounces of butter in a saucepan then stir in two tablespoons of flour. Mix together with a wooden spoon to make a roux and cook on a medium heat for a couple of minutes. This is a white roux, so don’t let it colour. Add ½ pint of milk in 3 or 4 parts, stirring until the milk is absorbed and the roux smooth before adding more, then stir in ¼ pint of double cream and the reserved oyster liquor from the sauce and stuffing. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring everyone now and again. This part could be done in advance if you need – make sure you cover the pan with a lid because a thick skin will quickly grow. Chop the oysters into good sized pieces and add them to the sauce. Heat through then season with salt, white pepper, grated nutmeg, Cayenne pepper and lemon juice. The sauce should be the ‘consistency of double cream’, says Griggers.

FYI: Mrs Beeton suggests using left-over oyster sauce in a fish pie which I think is a marvellous idea.

#343 Oyster Stuffing for Turkey and Other Poultry. This was amazing – the oysters were tender and the stuffing was light, the flavour being lifted by the fresh herbs and the aromatic lemon zest.

#344 Oyster Sauce. This was a beautiful white and well-flavoured sauce mildly spiced with a wonderful iodine tang from all that oyster liquor. Absolutely delicious.

I can’t score these separately as they would never be made separately; that said this one is a no-brainer: 10/10.