Thursday, December 29, 2011

#323 Salmi of Game (or Duck, or Fish)

A salmi, also known as salmis, salomine and salomene is essentially a posh game stew and is an abbreviation of salmagundi which started life in France as a meat ragoût. A salmi, rather than being any meat, should be made using game birds that are partly-cooked, and then finished off in a rich sauce made from their bones, though domesticated birds like capon and Guinea fowl are commonly used. Jane Grigson complains that more often than not, salmi is made from leftover game meat and then offered at high prices in high-end restaurants. ‘Don’t be deceived’, she says, ‘[i]t is exactly what would have been eaten by Chaucer, or his son, at the court of Henry IV, or by that granddaughter of his, Alice, Duchess of Suffolk, at her manor at Ewelme.’ Grigson mentions the food eaten at the court of Henry IV a few times in English Food: giving recipes for quince comfits and ‘a coronation doucet’.

The dish originally came from medieval France and game wasn’t necessary, as this recipe shows that Grigson found dating from 1430 that uses fish:
Take good wine, and good powder, and bread crumpled, and sugar and boil it together; then take trout, roach, perch, or carp, or all these together, and make them clean, and after roast them on a griddle; then hew them in gobbets [chunks]; when they be cooked, dry them in oil a little, then cast them in the bruet [the sauce] and when you dress it, take mace, cloves, cubebs, gilliflowers; and cast them on top, and serve forth.
Cubebs are a type of pepper (latin name: Piper cubeba) that you can still buy from specialists, gilliflowers are a very fragrant species of carnation and ‘powder’ refers to a mixture of ground spices.

I have been eager to cook a couple of game recipes whilst I am over in England for Christmas, and seeing as I was in London, I thought I would visit the very excellent butcher Allen’s of Mayfair – an amazing place that consists of a central circular butcher’s block surrounded by the meat hanging up around it. I felt as though I had walked into a scene from a Dickens novel. I bought a couple of mallards and used those for the salmi.
Roast your game birds rare, cut the meat from the carcass into neat 'gobbets'.

Use the carcasses to make ¾ pint of game stock. Melt 2 ounces of butter in a pan and cook 3 chopped shallots until soft and golden. Now stir in a heaped tablespoon of flour and whisk in the hot stock a third at a time to prevent lumps forming.

Add a bouquet garni and a pared strip of orange peel (Seville oranges would be great if you can get them) and simmer for 20 minutes, to make a thick sauce. Pass the sauce through a sieve and add ¼ pint of red or white wine and 4 ounces of mushrooms that have been fried in butter. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Simmer for a further 5 minutes, then add the game and simmer very gently again for 10 more minutes. Add a little cayenne pepper. Serve with orange wedges and croûtons fried in butter.

#323 Salmi of Game (or Duck, or Fish). I must admit that I was a little worried about eating mallard – the last time I cooked them it was pretty grim (see here). I needn’t have worried though, it seems that the previous mallards had been overhung because this salmi of mallard was delicious. The meat was beautifully tender and surprisingly mild in its gaminess considering how dark the flesh was. The sauce too was wonderfully rich and silky. Plus the inclusion of orange wedges for squeezing was inspired. Tres bon! 9/10.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

#322 To Make a Goose Pye

What do you get for the person who has everything at Christmas? A giant pie of course. This goose ‘pye’ consists of an ox tongue within a chicken within a goose within a hot-water crust, so it’s not for the faint-hearted.

Great big pies like this were often given as gifts at Christmas time. The many meats were covered in a nice thick crust, not just because it tastes good, but also to help preserve and protect them – after all, these pyes were travelling by horse and carriage! These days, it is best as ‘a splendid centre-piece for a party’. Indeed, that the was the reason why I made it – my bosses Dave and Joan were hosting a Christmas party, and my fellow workmates are quite enthusiastic about the blog so I knew they’d all be up for this pye. Personally, I have always wanted to do this recipe – these crazy recipes are the reason why I love doing this blog. It comes from Hannah Glasse’s classic 1774 book Art of Cookery:

Half a peck of flour will make the walls of a goose pie...Raise your crust just big enough to hold a large goose; first have a pickled dried tongue boiled tender enough to peel, cut off the root, bone a goose and a large fowl; take half a quarter of an ounce of mace beat fine, a large teaspoon of beaten pepper, three teaspoons of salt; mix all together, season your goose and fowl with it, then lay the fowl in the goose, and the tongue in the fowl, and the goose in the same form as if whole. Put half a pound of butter on the top, and lay on the lid. This pie is delicious, either hot or cold, and will keep a great while. A slice of this pie cut down across makes a pretty little side-dish for supper.

Griggers kindly converts all the quantities into modern-day terms – less flour can be used (unless you are having it sent somewhere by horse!) and birds are rather larger nowadays. Good old Griggers. It is certainly the most extravagant recipe I have done thus far and possibly the most complicated; the recipe itself is quite straight-forward, but it requires a boned goose and a boned chicken, something that I had to do myself. Would the effort be worth it..?

There is a certain amount of preparation required if you are to do this from scratch. The first thing is to pickle an ox tongue in brine (see here for instructions) and cook it (see the recipe here for making pressed tongue; there is no need to press it). You need 2 ½ pounds of cooked tongue, so start with one that weighs at least 3 pounds. Next is the birds: you need a 10 pound goose and a 5 pound chicken. If you can, ask the butcher to bone them for you, if that is not possible, try doing it yourself – all you need is a bit of patience and some good sharp knives. I followed the method on this website for boning a chicken, but had to change the instructions somewhat for the goose as it is much trickier than a little chicken. So here’s a little digression as I give you my version...

Boning a bird is actually quite easy – what you are essentially doing is undressing the meat from the skeleton of the fowl. As you can imagine, it is a little gory.

First thing to do is to cut off the wing-tips and then to peel the skin away from the shoulders and cut through the joints.

Next, pull on the wing bone and scrape the meat from it as you go, turning the wing inside out. Repeat with the other shoulder joint.
Now remove the wishbone from the top of the breasts and start cutting the meat away from the ribcage, pulling the meat back. Keep doing this around the whole of the body. When you are about half-way down, sit the bird up and let the meat hang down by its own weight. When you get to the hips, you need to pop the femur out of its socket, then continue until the whole of the carcass is removed from the bird. You can then remove the leg bones in very much the same way as the shoulder and wing bones. Getting through that socket is very tricky with a large bird like a goose because of the large joint and large amount of fat surrounding it – to get around this, I flexed the knee joint and cut through that so I could scrape the meat off the bones from the direction of the knee.

When the leg bones have been removed, all you have to do is turn the bird outside in. Don’t forget to turn the bones, trimmings and giblets into stock.

So, you have your tongue and you have your birds, next you need to get working on the hot-water crust. You need to make a crust using 3 pounds of flour. I’ve blogged about hot-water pastry before, so follow this link. I made it in 3 batches – the first I used to form the base. I made lots of smallish pastry balls to cover the inside of a glass roaster measuring about 12” x 9” x 2” and pressed them out to make a single layer that overlapped the edges of it.

Next, mix together ¼ ounce of ground mace, 2 heaped teaspoons of ground black pepper and 5 rounded teaspoons of sea salt.

Now place the tongue in the chicken and rub in around a third of the spice mix into the chicken...

before gingerly wrapping fitting inside the goose. Place the goose in the pie and rub in the remainder of the spice and salt mix.

Lastly, smear two ounces of butter over the top of the goose.

Now roll out the rest of the pastry and cover the top of the pie, using some water as a glue. It is quite tricky to pick up such a large piece of pastry without it breaking – so use a rolling-pin and wrap it around it and unfurl it atop the pie. Crimp the edges, trim and decorate with the trimmings. Brush with beaten egg and make a central hole for the steam to escape.

Place it on a baking tray and bake the pie at 220°C (425°F) for 20 minutes and then turn the heat down to 180°C (350°F) and bake for another 2 hours. If the pie is browning too much, cover it with brown paper to protect it. If the pie bubbles ferociously, then turn down the heat again to 140-150°C (275-300°F). Loads of fat comes out the central hole, hence the precaution of the baking tray. I had to empty it twice during the whole process. I reserved it for making roast potatoes in the future, of course.

If you are wanting to serve it cold, then like most cold pies, it is best to make it a couple of days in advance so that the flavours can develop.

#322 To Make a Goose Pye. What a spectacle this pye was – especially when sliced up. I expected it to be rather macabre, but it wasn’t. It was indeed a ‘pretty little side dish’. The meat inside was wonderfully moist and a good jelly had formed inside without the need for jellied stock. Some people were a little suspicious of the tongue, but everyone seemed to like it. The only problem – though others disagreed – was that it was rather under-seasoned for me; with an extra 50 per cent salt, pepper and mace, this very, very good pye would have been excellent. 8.5/10

Thursday, December 15, 2011

#321 Sweetmeat Cake

This recipe is apparently Jane Grigson’s favourite of the eighteenth century sweet tarts apprently. A sweetmeat is really any delicious sweet morsel – in this case candied orange peel, but I expect you can use any candied fruit or spice. The sweetmeats are scattered in a pastry case and covered in a sweet filling before being baked. I couldn’t really find any British recipes, though I found a couple of mentions in nineteenth century stories; I have no idea where Jane got hold of this one. I expect she pored over many a book in the National Library.

I did actually find a mention in a Canadian journal from the 1910s that sweetmeat cakes were made using honey thickened with breadcrumbs as a filling – this wasn’t a surprise as this sweetmeat cake (a tart, really) was the predecessor to one of my favourite puds, the treacle tart (as an aside she gives a brief description of a treacle tart, but not a proper recipe, not sure why she didn’t include this obvious one in the book).

Well, wherever she got it from, here is the recipe:

Preheat the oven to 180C (350C).

Start off by lining a nine inch tart tin with either shortcrust or puff pastry (I went with the former). Next, chop 2 ounces of roasted hazelnuts and 4 ounces of candied peel and scatter them over the pastry.

Mix together 2 large eggs, 2 large egg yolks, 6 ounces of caster sugar and 6 ounces of melted salted butter. Once thoroughly beaten, fill the tart with the mixture.

Bake for around 35 to 40 minutes until the top has turned a delicious golden brown. The tart will rise in the oven, but then sink when you take it out. Griggers says to eat it warm with cream, but it was pretty good with some nice vanilla ice cream too.

#321 Sweetmeat Cake. A fantastic and easy-to-do pud! The mixture turned into a slightly chewy toffee and its sweetness was perfectly counteracted by the still slightly bitter candied peel. Plus the hazelnuts lent a neutral earthiness and some texture. One major reason for this, I believe, is that I used home-made candied orange peel (see here for the post); it really made a difference. The bought stuff is too sweet, with too little bitter flavour and in pieces that are too small. This is well worth a try and even better than treacle tart! 10/10

Friday, December 9, 2011

#320 Steak, Kidney and Oyster Pie

A while ago I made an extremely similar recipe – steak, kidney and oyster pudding. A seminal English dish that I had saved for the landmark 200th recipe. This pie essentially follows the same history (and recipe) as the pudding – the combination of the three main ingredients seems to start with Mrs Beeton. I have found similar recipes going back further like oyster pie, beef-steak and oyster pie, veal and oyster pie and calves’ foot and kidney pie. I could go on, but I shan’t, I think you get the message. The pudding was delicious so there was no way this could be a fail...


It is worth mentioning my supplier for the beef again - I got it from Missouri Grass Fed Beef, the boss, Jeremy, gave my the kidney for nothing as well! Good man.
This pie uses exactly the same filling as the pudding, so click the link here to find out how to make it; it’s pretty straight-forward stuff. The important thing to note is to check how much and how watery the gravy is before you add the oysters – if there is alot, strain the gravy and boil it down until it darkens and thickens. You need to make it thicker that you would think, because you add oyster liquor to it when it has cooled.
Put the cold filling in a pie dish and get the pastry ready. You can use either puff or shortcrust pastry for the pie. I went for puff. Roll the pastry out and cut strips of pastry about half an inch wide to cover the rim of the pie dish, using water as glue. Griggers says to let the strips hang inwards a little to prevent hot filling from leaking out.

Brush the pastry rim with more water and cover the pie. Crimp down the edges so that the pastry is well-secured. Then Jane says to scallop the edges if you have shortcrust pastry or nick the pastry if puff pastry, after that make a central hole and a leaf design from any trimmings. I hardly had any trimmings left as I didn’t really have enough pastry. Lastly, make a pastry rose with a stem and fit it loosely into the central hole, then give the whole thing an egg glaze.

Bake for around 45 minutes at 220-230⁰C (425-450⁰F).

#320 Steak, Kidney and Oyster Pie – well I already knew this was going to be good seeing as I have essentially made this before, but just to reiterate: absolutely amazing. The combination of rich wine gravy, the metallic kidney and the creamy iodine finish of the oysters is fantastic. Mrs Beeton should be made a saint! 9/10.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

#319 Marrow-Bones

If you are looking for a historical recipe that goes far far back, you would find it hard to do better than some nice marrow bones. In fact, this one goes so far back it predates humans themselves. We humans belong to the genus Homo – we are Homo sapiens – and there have been over a dozen now extinct Homo species discovered. Palaeontologists have found very good evidence that individuals of the genus Homo were making tools for extracting the nutritious bone marrow from the prey animals they hunted. To give a little perspective, Homo sapiens arose around 200 000 years ago, so this behaviour has been around for ten times as long as we, as a species, have been on this planet. Crazy shit, man.

It is hypothesised that the ability of these intelligent creatures to crack open the bones of animals, helped snowball the evolution of their intelligence, increasing the size of their brains and the complexity of their tools over evolutionary time. Eventually the invention of controlled fire came about during the early stone age. Here, early humans and Neanderthals learnt to roast bones as well as other things like seeds to make foods easier to digest and more palatable. Go back 7 700 years, and late stone age man was taking part in large-scale hunting, butchering, cooking and feasting – according to the findings at an archaeological site in Holland. What was the apparent favourite? Bone marrow of course!
Stone mauls like this were used to crack open marrow bones.
Many have been found in Alaska, Canada and Australia

The bone marrow was prized because it contained a huge amount of energy in the form of fat, which allowed them to spend a larger portion of energy to brain production, fuelling the evolution of brain size itself. These days bone marrow is only fit for dogs it seems, and yet if you go back a century or two, bone marrow is a pretty common ingredient. Grigson points out that Queen Victoria herself dined on bone marrow on toast every single day. That said, these forgotten cuts are getting attention once more; the excellent nose-to-tail chef Fergus Henderson’s signature dish is roasted marrow bone.
Queen Victora obviously put away a few too many marrow bones!

I managed to get some marrow bones from an excellent farmer in Missouri called Jeremy Parker who sells top-quality grass-fed beef (a big deal in America). His company is called Missouri Grass Fed Beef (here’s the link) and if you get the chance, get hold of some. I met him at the local farmers’ market and he very kindly cut me some bones right from the centre of the leg bones. It is sometimes possible to buy the marrow already extracted, but it usually costs a fortune.
If you want to have a go at cooking your own bone marrow, you will need one centre-cut piece of marrow bone per person between four and six inches long.

Make a thick paste of water and flour to cover the end of the bones and wrap the ends tightly in foil. The paste cooks and forms a barrier, preventing the marrow from leaking out.

Next, tightly wrap the entire bone in more foil and stand them up in a suitable cooking vessel such as a deep stockpot or fish kettle. Add water to at least half way up the bones and bring to a boil before turning the heat down to a good simmer. Cook for two hours, and remove the foil, peeling off the dough-plugs from the ends. Serve stood upright on a plate with slices of dry toast to spread the marrow on.

All you need is a little salt to sprinkle over. If you are the posh type you can buy some marrow spoons to eke out the marrow. We used teaspoons and lobster scoops instead, but skewers and knives would probably work too.
#319 Marrow-Bones. My goodness, these were so delicious. The marrow was extremely soft and well-flavoured. You could tell the marrow was massively high in fat – it seems to almost effervesce in the mouth. It was extremely satisfying to dig in with various implements to extract all the goodness. I now understand why this was the most sought-after part of the animal. I also now know that no dog of mine will be getting the marrow bone! 9/10.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

#318 Baked Almond Pudding I

I made this almond pudding because I found that I just happened to have all the ingredients for it, so I thought why not? I had bought a load of baking ingredients for the Thanksgiving desserts for which I was in charge, you see.
This is the second of two almond puddings (I did Baked Almond Pudding II a while back) that have absolutely no introduction from Griggers. It is strange that a recipe she obviously thought so good and so English that it had to have two recipes devoted to it should be basically unknown. However, a quick bit of research later, I found that these puddings were popular from the eighteenth century. The recipe closest to this one in English Food, appears in Mrs Rundell’s Domestic Cookery from 1859.

The almond tree drawn by Elizabeth Blackwell 1737

This recipe requires bitter almond essence – it is quite easy to find online these days – and it is quite important to add some. The essence really gives any almond-based dessert a hit of almond aroma that the subtly-flavoured domesticated almond cannot provide. The bitter flavour is provided by benzaldehyde and cyanide – in time past, any king eating anything that tasted of bitter almonds, would have had good reason to start panicking! The essence just contains the benzaldehyde, so don’t worry, you won’t cark-it from using it. It is very difficult to get hold of bitter almonds themselves, but a good substitute is the nut inside the kernel of an apricot.

To make Almond Pudding I, begin by mixing together 4 ounces of melted butter, 8 ounces of ground almonds, 5 bitter almonds or a few drops of bitter almond essence, 2 tablespoons of double cream, a tablespoon of brandy, 4 or 5 heaped tablespoons of sugar, 2 egg yolks and 2 whole eggs. The mixture can then be turned into a greased shallow pie dish. Grigger says – as does Mrs Rundell – that you can line the pie dish with some sweet shortcrust pastry to make it go further. I had some left-over pastry and seeing as this dessert was for the Thanksgiving meal, I took their advice. Bake the pudding for around 45 minutes at 190C (375F) until there is a nice golden crust on the pudding.

Serve with some more sugar, butter and brandy, she also says.

#318 Baked Almond Pudding I. Much more cakey than the previous almond pudding, and as nice. It seemed rather bland – there wasn’t enough sugar and it would have been improved greatly if the pastry hah had a thin layer of raspberry jam. That said, it did get more moist and flavourful as it got older. An okay pudding that could be made very good with some minor alterations. 5/10.