Kitchen Ranging – Food of the World

One of my all time favourites. Kitchen Ranging by Pearl Adams, who was actually Helen Pearl Adams) born in 1882 and died 1957. Published in 1928 from research of food from around the world. Sadly it includes such dishes as larks and ‘spitted small birds’

 But there are some interesting ones such as A Fricassey made for an Instalment Dinner at Windsor and Dumpokht A Dish mentioned in the Arabian Nights.
One of my favourite recipes is for Ginger Apples which I have cooked often. 1 1/2 oz whole ginger covered with whisky and left in a small dish for 3 days. Cut 3lbs apples in thin slices with 2lb sugar! (I used 4oz) and the juice of 2 lemons. Simmer gently until apples are transparent but not broken and serve.
But best of all is the intro to chapter one The Animal Who Cooks. – Man is the greatest animal of all, the animal who cooks. He is also, it is thought, the only animal who has weighed the stars, invented handwriting or discovered dressmaking.

Post Halloween Pumpkin Feasts

However you spent halloween, at a fancy dress party, shepherding little ghosts and ghouls round on the trick or treat circuit or staying up to scare yourself to death on fright films, now that it is over let’s get down to the serious stuff – cooking with pumpkins.

I did a quick run through the books on my shelves and pumpkin recipes on line and came to the conclusion that there is no excuse for not using the flesh from the pumpkins used to decorate the porch for the ghostly evening. I try not to get on my high horse in these blogs but the waste of food in the form of pumpkins really upsets me.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1.91 billion pounds of pumpkins grown in the U.S. in 2014 were only used for lanterns before being trashed and in the UK we are no better. The UK buys over one million pumpkins during October – around 90% of annual pumpkin sales. Once carved, the majority are thrown away with around 18,000 tonnes ending up in landfill according to the North London Waste Authority (NLWA).

Don’t give me the stories about nobody in the house liking pumpkin – would they be able to identify it in a lovely vegetable stew? or not knowing what to do? – I found 20 pages of recipes from all over the world in my Ecosia search. Let’s aim to reduce the figure of pumpkin waste by next halloween.

So how about it?  Send me your favourite pumpkin recipes. The three best will win a copy of Recipes from an Unknown Kitchen and I’ll publish them in future blogs.

For more information on what you can do with scooped out pumpkins this Halloween, a selection of handy recipes can be found on the Love Food Hate Waste website 

One of my favourites is Pumpkin Bread from Flavoured Breads by Linda Collister


700g pumpkin or winter squash, 1 tablespoon virgin olive oil, 2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt (don’t be tempted to reduce this), 2 teaspoons of golden caster sugar, 15g fresh yeast*, 350g strong white bread flour, extra flour for dusting, 1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt to glaze.

* or use 7g sachet of dried yeast, mix with the flour before adding the pumpkin puree.


Peel, remove seeds and dice the pumpkin into 1cm cubes, you need 400g. Cook this without water, either roast or steam. Put in a processor with the oil and puree until smooth. Then allow to cool until just luke warm add the salt and sugar.

If you are using freash yeast mix in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon of warm water. Mix the paste into the puree.

Measure the flour into a bowl and make a well in the middle. Spoon in the puree then mix in the flour to make a soft dough. Turn our onto a floured work surface and knead thoroughly for 5 – 10 mins (or 5mins in a mixer on a dough hook.

Shape into a round loaf and put on a baking sheet covered to rise until doubled – about 1 1/2 hours.

Press your thumb into the middle to make small hollow and brush with the egg glaze. Score into segments with a sharp knife then bake in a preheated oven at 200c, 400F or gas 6 for 30 mins, until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a rack if you can without eating it before it cools (very difficult). It makes a lovely bright orange loaf that looks and taste great.

Afternoon Tea Week

Let’s celebrate afternoon tea week, who can resist those little finger sandwiches, scones and fancy cakes, it’s like reliving a dolls tea party. That quintessential British meal that sadly is disappearing from our daily lives. With the advent of full time work for women the ritual that is afternoon tea became lost, hardly surprising, who of us has time to work and cook for a tea break?

As lifestyles and hours of working changed over time so have mealtimes , following working patterns and changes in social status.  The following is from “A Short History of [British] Mealtimes”

Breakfast 10AM; Dinner 3-5PM, Tea 7PM, Supper 10-11PM
Breakfast 10AM (leisurely), 9AM (less leisurely), 8AM (working people); Luncheon Midday; Dinner 3-5PM; Supper 10-11PM
Breakfast, before 9AM; Luncheon (ladies only) Midday; Dinner 6-8PM; Supper depending upon the timing and substantiality of dinner
1860s/Middle Class
Breakfast 8AM (town), 9-10AM (country); Lunchoen 1-2PM; Dinner 6-8PM (depending upon formality and place)
Early morning 8AM (tea, bread and butter); Breakfast 8-8:30AM; Luncheon Midday; Afternoon tea 5PM, Dinner 7:30-8PM
Breakfast 8AM; Lunch/upper classes or Dinner/rest Midday-1PM; Afternoon tea 4PM; High tea 5-6PM; Dinner 7-8PM; Supper 9-10PM.

“Mealtimes…These vary somewhat depending on the region of the country you are visiting, but in general breakfast is served between 7:30 and 9, and lunch between 12 and 2. Tea–an essential and respected part of British tradition, and often a meal in itself–is generally served between 4:30 and 5:30. Dinner or supper is served between 7:30 and 9:30, sometimes earlier.”—Fodor’s Great Britain [1992] (p. 34)

As you can see, tea the kind of fancy-schmancy affair emerged as a social event sometime around the 1830s or 1840s, Bruce Richardson writes in A Social History of Tea. And Anna Maria Russell, Duchess of Bedford, led the pack. When there is nothing else to do but enjoy a little ‘something’ with friends, why not?

Nowadays we only celebrate high tea on high days and holidays usually eaten out rather than at home despite the popularity of TV programmes such as The Great British Bake Off which celebrate baking in all its forms.

But it is a lovely way to indulge yourself, so this week find somewhere locally that does provide ‘high tea’ and give yourself a treat. Or make something you usually don’t make time for – a few scones or how about a little Victoria sponge? or at least a biscuit and a cup of tea.

These great biscuits are easy to make and are just right for children to decorate.

Tunbridge Water Cakes (William Sayer)*

I have seen references to these biscuits called Tunbridge Wafers or Romary biscuits after the baker Alfred Romary who had a bakery in Tunbridge, opened in 1862. Romary later received Royal warrants for his wafers. Recipes seem to vary of course, some of them more savoury, and this writer has added orange flower water.


250g butter

250g icing sugar

500g flour

3 egg yolks

1 tablespoon orange flower water


Preheat the oven to 180oc/350of/gas 4

Rub the butter in with the flour; add the sugar and make the whole into a paste. Don’t work too much as this will make the biscuits hard. Roll it out very thin on a floured table and cut it out with a plain round or scalloped cutter about 3in across. Place them on a greased baking tray and bake them to a pale delicate colour.

They take about 15 – 20 minutes depending on your oven.

These make lovely biscuits for children to decorate and makes about 50 biscuits.

* From Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen click here


Good bye to a cooking friend

I know I am supposed to be in the book selling business to earn a living but sometimes I find it very difficult to actually part with some of my books. It is like saying goodbye to a friend and today is one of those days.

I am a particular fan of hand-written recipe books and one that I had in the shop has gone to a new home in Australia where I am sure it will be much loved.

William Sayer starting writing his book in 1821, the hand-writing is beautiful and the recipes exciting. Some of them I used to write Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen, including currie powder, camp vinegar, curacao, Oxford sausages.

Cheerio William enjoy the antipodes.


Community recipes – reflecting how people eat

Food is about sharing, whether that is the family at meal times, extended family and friend to mark a special occasion or communities getting together to cement community spirit.

Sharing recipes has been the way to pass on everything from family heirloom recipes and regional specialities to teaching new cooks how to master that basic arts since people started to cook.

I have been looking through some of the community cookery books I have. These are a bit of a favourite of mine and I love how they reflect not only the communities, the countries and regions of origin but the times in which they were produced. Even more than cookery books they reflect exactly how ordinary people cook in good times and lean, using the ingredients that come to hand locally. I love the (and I hate to sound stuffy) amateur and spontaneous approach, which comes from real people producing something. Such as the  booklet produced by Charlestown School (I have no idea where Charlestown is) with illustrations by children at the school and recipes from parents and friends and some celebrities they had written to, with recipes like Mushrooms Tuscan Style from Sally Brigham (obviously a family favourite).

Many of them are also used to raise money for local causes like schools and hospitals and some to raise money for global needs. A special book is Fare-ye-Well with Ladies of the Realm, a book produced during WW2 to collect money for Comforts and Medical Supplies for the Children of Soviet Russia with recipes from titled and ‘well-connected’ ladies of the time including Springtime Vegetable Pastry from Lady Beverage (or her cook?) 

Some are a bit unusual – The Alcatraz Women’s Club Cook Book produced by the wives of guards at the prison who also found themselves and their families ‘imprisoned’ and isolated. Or the Jim Collin Congressional Cookbook produced to fund the republican candidate for congress in 1962 with recipes from members of congress and their wives including Congressional Bean Soup. 

Some are produced by recognised community groups. I have one from a group local to where I live, the West Sussex Women’s Institute, from 1972 and What’s Cooking in the City produced by the City of London Red Cross with recipes from the Court of Aldermen and the Livery Guild of the City of London. I learned a lot about how many guild and trades there. It included such delights as Consomme Beluga from The Worshipful Company of Fishmongers, who knew about them?

So from around the world, Cherokee Cooklore produced by the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, to the close to home but much older Samaritan’s Cookery Book from Edinburgh these books are a delight and a real spotlight on local social history. Along with a chance of learning some new recipes from real people (or at least their cooks).  

Find some from your neighbourhood at local fairs, fetes and sales where they usually end up. They are a bit of a local treasure.

What no pictures?

As the saying goes – there are two types of people in the world…

In this case those who need to have pictures to follow and those who don’t - I’m talking about cookery books here.

Personally I come in the second group I am happy to follow recipes whether there is an illustration or not. To my mind there is less disappointment when the recipe doesn’t look like the illustration and it gives me more licence to make changes, add ingredients (or take them away).

My brother, on the other hand, wouldn’t buy a cookery book if all the recipes didn’t have a photo outlining exactly what the final article should look like. To his mind, you need a guide so that you can see if you have got it right.

Not being competitive, like my uber competitive brother, I don’t mind if I get it ‘wrong’ as long as it tastes good and  a picture won’t tell you that and I’m not disappointed when the dish doesn’t ‘look like it supposed to’.

You can see where this argument (I’m sorry I mean discussion)  is going. I love to mull over a good cook book with beautiful illustrations. It makes your mouth water and spurs you on to try something new, a picture of food does indeed paint a thousand words. But, and it is a big BUT, these lovely pictures are often taken in a studio, using foods that haven’t been cooked using the recipe given, in fact sometimes not even using food.

When I was writing Recipe for an Unknown Kitchen I took the photos myself, mainly because I didn’t have the money to pay a photographer but also I liked the idea that the whole book would be my creation. So I borrowed a book from the library on photographing food, how fascinating that was and what an eye opener! Maybe I was a bit naive but I honestly was amazed by ice creams that were in fact made of candle wax, painted fruit and vegetables and polystyrene biscuits. So what chance do you have trying to meet those standards?

One reader commented that my photos weren’t very professional. I don’t mind, they weren’t it’s true, but they were actual photos of the food I had cooked moments before to the recipe in the book that I was happy tasted the way it should and let’s face it, there are enough disappointments when closely followed recipes don’t taste good or fall apart because the recipe hasn’t been tested properly.

So while I still love to salivate over food photos in books and magazines, and I can tell you I spend a lot of time drooling over cookery books, I don’t take any notice of the illustrations. And to answer the argument, how do you know what the dish supposed to look like – look at the plate!

What’s in a name? 2

I love cookery books, that’s why I have set up my business buying and selling cookery books and gardening books. How do we choose our cookery books though? Is it because it is written by a favourite cook or chef? It is about a specific ingredient that we love? The cover is pretty? or is it the name?

I must declare that I am swayed by an unusual cookery book or one with a quirky title. It doesn’t always work, the proof of the pudding of course is in the cooking and eating not just the title. But sometimes I find myself with some real gems that have just caught my eye and turned out to be money well spent.

One of these was ‘ Original Schwabisch The Best of Swabian Food’ by Hermine Kiehnle & Monika Graff. OK my geography is not that good and I had no idea where Swabian Food comes from but it sounded interesting. Turns out it is the original cooking of Bavaria – who knew? you probably. This great little book includes some classic foods such as Spazle, potato noodles and interesting recipes including butchers broth, elder blossom fritters and onion tart. The recipes in both Austrian and English.

Another great find was The New Wiki Wiki Kau Kau Quick Cooking recipes from Hawaii. I just had to try some of these!  What a great little book! Not only does it have recipes but it has an intro on the Hawaiian language and how to make a muumuu. How about pineapple lollipops, beachboy salad or kamehameha punch?

Right now I’m on a roll. The next one is Fascinating Foods from the Deep South by Alline P. Van Duzor with illustration of Tuscaloosa University Club on the cover. The recipes are classic southern states with southern corn bread stuffing, butterscotch tart and heavenly pie. Very ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’.

Others are great because they reflect a bit of social history. Fare Ye Well with Ladies of the Realm Compiled by The Countess of Effingham is one of these. With 42 Favourite War Time Recipes , with a potted biograpy , portrait & copy signature of each of the the contributors , From Mrs Winston Churchill to Madame Gusev , wife of the Soviet Ambassador. Marvelous piece of cooking history. Also interesting because proceeds from the book were to go to ‘Comforts and Medical Supplies for the Children of Soviet Russia’ as these notable ladies felt the need to support the Russian allies during the war.

And for Strictly Come Dancing fans (that’s me) there’s Argentine Tango Cuisine by Hector Legrand – what a great name. Hector is an Argentine Tango teacher and is a mixuture of recipes from restaurants in Buenos Aires and home dishes. Includes Buseca (Immigrants soup stew), empanadas potenas ( tyree bite sized meat pies) and dulce de leche (one of my favourite foods).

So next time you are looking for another cookery book try going by the title you could end up with a little gem.

Baking 101 for the hairdresser

While I was having my hair cut yesterday, and yes it looks absolutely gorgeous, my lovely hairdresser Trish said ‘ Rita you’ll know about this, what is a good baking book? I want to start having friends round for tea and cake in 2014 so I need to learn how to make cakes’ I rattled off the names of a few good baking books, but here’s the thing, when I got home I started going through the baking books I have in stock to find the one that would be the best for a new baker.

Once I started I was completely wrapped up, going from book to book, comparing recipes. From Mrs Beeton’s Book of Cakes to the Popina Book of Baking from The Complete Book of Baking to Easy Peasy Baking. Oh and not forgetting Saint Delia’s Book of Cakes.

And do you know what I found? Not only hundreds of great cake recipes but a real desire to bake a cake. I realised that I don’t read the books in stock enough – they are really inspiring. I get so involved with the buying and selling I sometimes forget to stop and read them. Thanks Trish, what a great morning I have had pouring over these books.

So what is the best book for new cake makers? The Easy Peasy Baking Book is written in an easy style, The Complete Book of Baking is HUGE but has some good introduction and basic recipes, the Popina Book of Baking has some mouthwatering recipes, The Regulation Cookery Book has the best scone recipes … in other words grab any book and start baking.

I’m going for Gussy Cake, from the Art of Pastry Making. I’ve no idea what it is but it sounds good

Then I’m onto the rack of books on cooking with wine.

Christmas Sweets

Over Christmas I find myself addicted to clementines. I always feel a little guilty about throwing the peel away – too many in the wormery upsets them – then I found this recipe for candied orange sticks in The River Cottage Preserves Handbook. So I just replace the orange peel with clementines. There are always little bits of peel that are too small to turn into sticks and these I cut up and use in other recipes as candied peel . I must say that the about 25% of these don’t make it as the presents I intend, well I have to check the quality!.


4-5 large oranges, 500g granulated sugar, 1tbsp glucose syrup, 200g good plain chocolate. (If using clementine peel it takes around 10 skins)

Method (it looks complicated but actually isn’t)

Scrub the oranges and using a sharp knife, remove the peel and attached pith. Weigh out 250g or peel and cut into slices about 6mm x 5cm. Place the peel in a large pan and cover with 2 litres of cold water.

Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes, drain and return to the pan with 1 litre of cold water. Bring to the boil again and simmer, covered, this time for 45 minutes (30 minutes for clementine peel). Then add the sugar and stir until it’s dissolved, simmer for a further 30 minutes, still covered. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 24 hours.

Bring the pan to the boil again – if using glucose syrup, add it now – and boil for 30 minutes, until all the liquid has evaporated and the sticks are coated with bubbling syrup. Allow to cool then carefully remove sticks to a wire rack. Leave in a warm place (an airing cupboard is ideal) for 24 hours.

Break the chocolate in to pieces and melt in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Remove from heat and dip half of each orange stick in the melted chocolate, placing on greaseproof paper to set. Before dipping the sticks will last 3-4 months, once dipped in chocolate they are best eaten within 3 weeks. (As if they are going to last that long!)