In a Salad State of Mind

It is spring here in England and my body is telling me I need fresh raw food after the long winter of comfort food. I can’t get enough of it.

Luckily I have a garden where I have encouraged those first leafy plants to provide the greens I need (my neighbour thought I was just cultivating weeds) and they are all starting to come through now – rocket, sweet cicely, garlic mustard, dandelions, lemon balm, parsley, chard, spinach, early sprouting broccoli, sorrel and mint. I like to wander round the garden putting a bit of this and a bit of that in a bowl then with a little lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper just down the whole dish. 

So with salads to the fore I have been reading through some great books with historic salads in mind.

An early recipe for salads ‘A Grande Salade for Spring’ comes from the Receipt Book of John Nott, Cook to the Duke of Bolton, 1723 and shows how spring herbs and greens were used for feasts not for your everyday lunch.

Take cowslip buds, violet-flowers and leaves; young lettuce, spinach, Alexander Buds, Strawberry leaves, water cresses, each apart by themselves and then take also Capers, Olives, Samphire, Cucumbers, Broombuds, Raisins and Currans parboiled, Almonds blanched, Barberries and other pickles, then lay a Turnip or some other hard thing for a Standard in the middle of the Sallad, let it be formed like a Castle made of Paste washed over with the Yolks of Eggs and within it a Tree made in like manner and coloured with green Herbs and stuck with flowers; you must also have annexed to it twelve supporters round it, sloping to it, and fastened to the Castle.

Another early salad recipe is for Salamongundy and comes from The Art of Cookery by Hannah Glasse published in 1765, one of the absolute classics of English recipe books. Designed to form the centrepiece for a supper table, decorated and formally presented, the original recipe (or receipt) uses 2 cooked chickens, so I have given amounts per portion and you can increase as you need.

Ingredients

110 g (4oz) cooked chicken, a handful of lettuce or other green leaves, 2 chopped  anchovies, a hard-boiled egg, ¼ lemon (peel and chop the flesh), parsley, 6 small silver skinned onions, 2 tablespoons vinaigrette dressing,30 g/1 oz white grapes, 55g/2 oz cooked French beans.

Method

Cut or pull chicken into bite size pieces. Combine the egg yolks, anchovies, lemon and half the vinaigrette. Shred the lettuce or leaves and place on plate. Chop egg whites. Add all the ingredients to the plate either in a decorative order or mix together. I prefer it mixed. Before serving add the last of vinaigrette.  Or as Mrs Glasse says ‘You may always make Salamongundy of such things as you have, according to your fancy.’

On a more mundane level Pearl Adam in Kitchen Ranging – A Book of International Cookery published in 1928, includes that salad horror English Summer Salad. ‘

The ‘green salad’ is in England usually diversified by sliced tomato, beetroot and hard-boiled egs; spring onions are arranged all around the bowl, with two inches of their stems facing upwards. These give the necessary flavour to the salad, while allowing onion lovers to add as much to their salad as they wish.

 

The great thing about salads is that there is something for everyone and any time of the year. Whatever your favourite salad recipe, and there are hundreds of variations for all your favourite foods, enjoy it now whether it is spring, summer, autumn or winter where you are.

Community Cooking

What we eat, how it is cooked and when we eat it are great snapshots of society. I have long thought that recipes and cookery books are as much a reflections of the times they were used as just a new way of producing food. Getting together to share recipes has always been a great way of strengthening the ties between neighbours, friends and family, bringing a community together and finding your way in a new neighbourhood.

With the coming of the internet one of the fastest growing networks are those sharing recipes, from followers of celebrity chefs, to those with special food needs and of course the commercial communities set up by supermarkets and other food outlets. There are even sites on how to set up a community cookery books.

So I love reading through community cookery books. Those that have been put together by a collective of cooks to present the way they eat and what they eat that make them special. Nothing says ‘this is who we are’ like a great shared dish, by a family or community.

Whether that is local communities brought together by a shared aim for fund raising or groups representing a whole nation putting the word out about what is great about their country. Here are some of my favourites.

First is a hand-made book produced by The Working Ladies Guild. The recipe pages are typed and held between decorated boards with thread. The cover has a quote written on the front ‘ Unsubdued is, and shall be, my appetite for food C. S. Calverley’, with recipes including almond horseshoes, chestnut soup and ham souffle. 

 

Next is a great book called Favourite Recipes used by American Woman’s Club Bombay. Published in 1935. An unusual book covering all types of dishes both sweet and savoury but although it is produced in Bombay there are very few Indian recipes. These are expats after all. The local advertisements make up for that, opening the local shops for us to see. 

 

Next is a marvellous booklet from the 1960s,’Compliments of James F. Collins your Republican Candidate for Congress Hartford County. Containing a selection of favourite recipes of noted republicans from all 50 states. With a picture of the congressman and his family. His favourite recipe? Pecan Perfection Pie. circa 1962. Who’s to say a political party can’t be a community? 


Next is What’s Cooking in the City published by City of London Branch Red Cross. It contains recipes donated by the Court of Aldermen and the Livery Guilds of the City of London. So recipes from the Guild of Fishermen, the Worshipful Company of Solicitors, the Worshipful Company of Gold and silver Wire Drawers! Fascinating.

 

You can’t beat a good monastery book! Tashi Lhunpo Monastery Cook Book Very unusual little book with recipes for foods cooked and eaten at the monastery with versions for use at home. The Tashi Lhunpo Monastery was founded in Shigatse, Tibet’s second city in the fifteenth century by the first Dalai Lama.

 

But for my money you can’t beat a good fund raiser to get close to who people are. So the next ravings from Refried Books will be about those community fund raising books that I have found and loved. Watch this space…

Potato recipes from the war years

Potatoes, we love them, they are a basic of our western diet. That most favourite of our carbohydrates eaten as lovely buttery new potatoes, mash, chips, baked potatoes they underpin our diet almost every day.

We always grow a few potatoes on the allotment and this year we have a bumper crop of both early and first early potatoes. So I am taking the opportunity to practice some old recipes, one from the First World War and one from World War Two. 

During both wars, those at home were encouraged to grow more vegetables, people were encouraged to eat alternatives to wheat flour and potatoes were popular as they were a good source of carbohydrates and easy to grow.  Potatoes were used to bulk out so many recipes – from bread through to pastry, and they even found their way into puddings and cakes. 

From the First world War comes a recipe for potato pastry from The Daily Mail Cookery Book by Mrs C. S. Peel (1918)

Ingredients 

225g cold mashed potatoes

110g plain flour (you could use wholemeal flour to be truly authentic)

45g dripping or margarine (if using the former make sure it is at room temperature)

1 tsp baking powder

Method

Following Mrs Peel’s method to make the pastry, mix the flour, salt and baking powder; rub in the dripping. Add the potatoes and mix well and lightly. Make a stiff paste with cold water.

Flour a board and roll out to ¼ inch thick. She doesn’t instruct the cook to leave the pastry to rest but you could make it in advance and leave it in the fridge until it is required.

It has a different consistency to regular short crust and has a naturally sweet flavour to it. It is also more fragile than ordinary pastry but can be patched much more easily.

 

 

This a actually a really good pastry and today I used it to make a vegetable pie and the scraps to make some cheesy sticks. Try it I think you will be surprised.

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the Second world War bringing women into the workplace meant they had less time to cook and less choice of ingredients and rationing during the Second World War meant that cooks had to become more canny and inventive with what they had. Fuel was also rationed

The second recipe is from this time. As potatoes weren’t on ration until later in the war they were used to eke out other recipes in this case bread. This particular recipe was a hand written recipe found in a lovely notebook which, although not dated, luckily had a few newspaper cuttings (strangely nearly all for marrow and ginger jam), which on the reverse have articles which date from 1942 – 1948

 

 

 

 

 

 

Potato Bread

Ingredients

500g strong bread flour

250g potatoes 1 x sachet dried yeast 100ml water (you may need more, up to

150ml, depending on the type of potato used)

1 ½ teaspoons salt 

Method

The potatoes should be boiled and then passed through a sieve or mashed very well. While still hot, the potatoes should be mixed with the flour, yeast and salt. Add the water and bring together into a dough.

Kneed the dough, for around 10 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic. Put in a bowl, cover and allow to rise for around an hour or until doubled in size.

Knock out the air, cut in half and kneed each for a few more minutes and form into two loaves. Put on a floured baking sheet and leave to rise for another hour or until again doubled in size.

Score the top with a sharp knife and the loaves are ready for the oven.

Bake for 30 minutes at 220oc/425of/gas7.

The bread is ready when browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. This produces a delicious, light crispy loaf that is worth making anyway. Crispy and tasty.

 

The bread recipe can be found in Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen

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.

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”

1780
Breakfast 10AM; Dinner 3-5PM, Tea 7PM, Supper 10-11PM
1815
Breakfast 10AM (leisurely), 9AM (less leisurely), 8AM (working people); Luncheon Midday; Dinner 3-5PM; Supper 10-11PM
1835
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)
1900
Early morning 8AM (tea, bread and butter); Breakfast 8-8:30AM; Luncheon Midday; Afternoon tea 5PM, Dinner 7:30-8PM
1930s
Breakfast 8AM; Lunch/upper classes or Dinner/rest Midday-1PM; Afternoon tea 4PM; High tea 5-6PM; Dinner 7-8PM; Supper 9-10PM.

1990s
“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.

Ingredients

250g butter

250g icing sugar

500g flour

3 egg yolks

1 tablespoon orange flower water

Method

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

 

Why I never get any work done!

A recent buy at a book auction was box of two VERY tatty cookery books, a few reasonable cookery books and, of course my favourite, three handwritten cookery books. I pored over these great books, written between 1920 and 1962 including the war years and found some new recipes. I’ll be adding a few to these blog pages over the next month or so as I work through them.

However the real gem were wads of recipes cut out of newspapers of the time, stuffed in the pages, again running from the 1920s through to the 1960s. Sadly it wasn’t always easy to find the dates as the cuttings themselves didn’t include the dateline, but  there was a whole new world on the rear of some of them either with the date or pointing to it. Following both the important and frivolous background to the food.

These news items were in themselves worth the money I spent. Included here were royal weddings, a call up advertisement for the war, political and social articles, births, deaths and marriages, military appointments, divorce proceedings, new plays on in London, commentary on the war and fashion tips.

A bit of a tease were those articles that were only partially there as the recipes was cut out including a tantalising snippet from a court hearing where ‘the women in the court broke down crying’…

One sad article from The Observer Review November 1962 was Titled ‘Tragic Lag on Powered Limbs’ and rated against the sad failure of the Ministry of Health to provide limbs quickly enough for those children who were victims of thalidomide. A very sad period in our history.

A Food Facts section of the Radio Time from 1948 (I couldn’t find the actual date) called for empty jams jars to be sent to jam manufacturers for the new seasons jam.

 

A complaint on the letters page (I think of The Times 1950s) that sponsored advertisement were creeping into exam papers made me smile …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and best of all this little snippet, a small note about a reward from the railway company.

No wonder I never get anything done!

British Pie Week Day 3 – Comfort Food Egg Pie

It’s raining and cold here today so a bit of comfort food in the form of Egg Pie, a pie with mash not pastry. This recipe is from Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen (again!). From the time of World War II and like a lot of recipes in this era, Egg Pie was born out of a necessity brought about by rationing but actually reflects British comfort food. It just shows what you can make out of the store cupboard and with an inspired veg dish this will fill the family. 

Egg Pie

Ingredients

4 hard boiled eggs

500g potatoes

4 onions, sliced

A little oil for frying

150ml white sauce

Salt and pepper

A small bunch of parsley

Method

Hard boil four eggs. Throw into cold water and remove the shells. Fry the onion slices until golden.

Boil and mash  the potatoes with a little butter, minced parsley and season to taste. Spread a layer of this at the bottom of a pie dish, then put a lay er of the cooked onions spread on the potato.

Then put a layer of sliced eggs a little white sauce and more potato and repeat until the dish is full. Finish with potato on the top. Put a few bits of butter on the top & bake until really hot and brown.

 

Great British Pie Week Day 1 – North Country Fidget Pie

North Country Fidget Pie (G. R. Moore)

Generally fidget pie includes apples and bacon or ham so this North Country version is quite unusual. Fidget Pie is a traditional English recipe for a pie served in the fields to the workers busy bringing in the harvest. I can see why.  The name fidget (or fidgety) pie, originates around Derbyshire andShropshire, in the middle of the country. The origins of the odd sounding name seem to have come from the fact that it originally was fitched, which means five sided in Anglo-Saxon. 

Pastry

250g plain flour

Pinch salt

175g margarine

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon of cold water

Filling

1 finely chopped onion

250g sausage meat

Pepper and salt

1 egg

250g raw potatoes

150g peas

Method

Make the pastry by popping the flour, salt and margarine in a processor, whizz until the mix is like breadcrumbs then add the egg then the water, to make a firm dough. Wrap in clingfilm and allow to rest in the fridge for half an hour or more. Mix the chopped onion with the sausage meat, seasoning and bind with the beaten egg.  If you are using frozen peas defrost and drain well, if you are using fresh- cook gently then drain.

Roll out the pastry and use 2/3 to line the base of a pie dish. Put in a layer of the sausage meat mix, then a layer of potatoes thinly sliced, season well then add the peas. Lightly beat the egg and pour over the filling. Use the remaining 1/3 of the pastry to form the lid, glaze using beaten egg. Heat the oven to 190oc/375of/gas5. Bake it in hot oven for 30 minutes reduce heat to moderate – 180oc/350of/gas4 and cook for further 15 minutes. Can be eaten hot or cold.

From Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen 

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.

 

A Taste of the Home Front

I have been missing from the shop for much of the summer, partly due to a natural need to get out in the sunshine in the garden or on the allotment but also  working on the last part of the Taste of the Home Front project that I have been working on with Arundel Museum.

With a team of eight volunteers we researched the availability of food locally during the wartime and how that impacted on the townspeople, farmers and shopkeepers of Arundel, how the town and castle answered the call for food and coped during shortages. We searched through local records, including the archives of Arundel Castle and local newspaper archives, and the stories we found showed how the town came together to win the war on the Home Front, from gardeners and allotment holders to the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk, farmers, fishermen, shopkeepers and housewives.

I had a whale of a time and found some fascinating stories which have drawn a picture of how the people of Arundel fed themselves during the conflict. With the help of Sam Bilton who runs the Repast Supper Club we reproduced some of the recipes from the time. Sam ran a day of cooking demonstrations and produced some great recipes translated for modern day use.

We are now putting these and the stories into a booklet, so here is a taster.

Potato Pastry   Mrs C. S. Peel The Daily Mail Cookery Book (1918) Ingredients 

  • 225g cold mashed potatoes
  • 110g plain flour (you could use wholemeal flour to be truly authentic)
  • 45g dripping or margarine (if using the former make sure it is at room temperature)
  • 1 tsp baking powder 

Method

  1. Following Mrs Peel’s method to make the pastry, mix the flour, salt and baking powder; rub in the dripping. Add the potatoes and mix well and lightly. Make a stiff paste with cold water. Flour a board and roll out to ¼ inch thick.
  2. She doesn’t instruct the cook to leave the pastry to rest but you could make it in advance and leave it in the fridge until it is required.
  3. The pastry has a different consistency to regular short crust but is quite pleasant. It also has a naturally sweet flavour to it.

Cook’s Comments: This pastry is as useful for sweet pies as savoury, especially a nice apple pie – Sam

 From the outset of the war people were encouraged to eat alternatives to wheat flour and potatoes were popular as they were a good source of carbohydrates and easy to grow.  Potatoes were used to bulk out so many recipes – from bread through to pastry, (see above) and they even found their way into puddings and cakes.