Saturday, 31 July 2010

Curry Salad

From Katharine Whitehorn's Kitchen in the Corner/Cooking in a Bedsitter.

Mix a little curry powder into some mayonnaise. Add chunks of celery and a little chopped onion and mix with cold boiled macaroni. Hard-boiled eggs optional.

Cooking a decent meal in a bedsitter is not just a matter of finding something that can be cooked over a single gas-ring. It is a problem of finding somewhere to put down the fork while you take the lid off the saucepan, and then finding somewhere else to put the lid. It is finding a place to keep the butter where it will not get mixed up with your razor or your hairpins. ... It is cooking at floor level, in a hurry, with nowhere to put the salad but the washing-up bowl, which in any case is full of socks. (Katharine Whitehorn)

Marguerite Patten's Norfolk Pudding

From wartime cookery guru Marguerite Patten's Post-war Kitchen.

4 oz plain flour
pinch salt
1 egg
1/2 pint milk

1/2 oz butter
1 lb cooking apples
2 tbsp dried fruit
2 oz sugar

For the batter, sift the flour with the salt. Beat the egg into the milk and add to the flour. Beat to a smooth batter.

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F. Put the butter into a large pie dish or casserole and melt gently. Peel, core and thinly slice the apples, add to the butter with the dried fruit and sugar. Mix well, cover the dish and return tot eh oven for 5 mins. Uncover, pour the batter over and bake for 25-30 mins, or until well-risen and brown. Sprinkle with sugar and serve at once.

Stuffed Tomatoes

From Katharine Whitehorn's original Kitchen in the Corner, that became Cooking in a Bedsitter. The early editions contain much fascinating social history about bedsitter life. This was the 50s and early 60s, before they invented flat-sharing. Yes, really, flat-sharing was radical - especially if the flat was "mixed". Whitehorn later wrote about the "gas-fire, brown-lino loneliness" of bedsitter life. There was also no takeaway food back in them days.

2 large tomatoes
2 dessertspoons sausage meat (2 oz)
1 onion
cooked rice

Fry onion for 5 mins. Meanwhile cut off tops of tomatoes and scoop out pulp. Add sausage meat and rice to onions, brown for a minute or two only; remove and add all this to the tomato pulp, with herbs and salt, but no pepper. Stuff the tomatoes with mixture; return to pan and cook 10-15 mins. in oil on medium flame.

For the sausage meat, buy some good sausages and take the skins off. I think I'd want to cook it for longer - maybe in a deep pan with a lid. Another book we loved in the early 70s was the Pauper's Cookbook by Jocasta Innes, who went on to become famous for persuading us all to rag-roll our walls in the 80s. She has a lot to answer for! (Sourcing Pauper's now...)

Friday, 30 July 2010

Sydney Smith's Salad Dressing

TO make this condiment, your poet begs
The pounded yellow of two hard-boiled eggs;
Two boiled potatoes, passed through kitchen sieve,
Smoothness and softness to the salad give.
Let onion atoms lurk within the bowl,
And, half suspected, animate the whole.
Of mordant mustard add a single spoon,
Distrust the condiment that bites so soon;
But deem it not, thou man of herbs, a fault,
To add a double quantity of salt.
Four times the spoon with oil from Lucca brown,
And twice with vinegar procured from town;
And, lastly, o'er the flavored compound toss
A magic soupcion of anchovy sauce.
O, green and glorious! O herbaceous treat!
'T would tempt the dying anchorite to eat:
Back to the world he'd turn his fleeting soul,
And plunge his fingers in the salad bowl!
Serenely full, the epicure would say,
"Fate cannot harm me, I have dined to-day."

2 hard-boiled egg yolks
Two boiled potatoes
1 tbsp finely chopped onion
1 tsp mustard
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsps olive oil
2 tbsps vinegar

Mash the egg yolks and the potatoes, mix in the other ingredients, beat. Add to coarsely chopped romaine lettuce. (Who has anchovy sauce in their kitchen cupboard?)

Update: I've just made it, and it's delicious. You could eat it on its own. I left out the mustard, salt and pepper but it's just as nice without. I used new potatoes, Palestinian olive oil, Aspall balsamic vinegar and a sweet shallot.

Ethelind Fearon's Salad

Ethelind Fearon was writing soon after World War II. This salad is from The Reluctant Cook. The Reluctant Hostess is good too.

Possible inclusions are:

Spring onions
Hard-boiled eggs
Sliced dates
Sliced olives
Cold vegetable marrow
Cold French beans
Cold peas
Small strawberries

The most unorthodox salad of my life had all of these and a bit of chopped cold ham as well. All the ingredients were chopped, for ease of handling, to about 1/2-inch lengths and bound with a good [salad] cream...

1 tbsp mustard
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp olive oil
3 teasp sugar
1 teasp salt
1/2 teasp pepper
1 egg
1/2 pint milk
1/2 pint vinegar

Mix dry ingredients, then add well-beaten egg, oil, milk and vinegar in that order. Put in double saucepan and stir until it thickens. On no account let it boil.

You could probably make a decent salad out of three of those ingredients. But perhaps not cold marrow, radishes and dates...

The vicar and writer Sidney Smith once wrote a recipe for salad dressing in the form of a poem. I've always wanted to try making it. Coming up...

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Wartime Coffee Mould

½ pint milk

½ pint strong coffee

2 oz cornflour

2 oz sugar

1 oz butter

Few drops vanilla essence

Heat together the coffee and half the milk. Mix the cornflour with the rest of the milk to a smooth paste, add to the hot milk and boil, stirring all the time, till cooked and thick. Add the butter, sugar and vanilla, mix well and pour into a wet mould to set.

It's a bit wartime: you could double the sugar at least. My aunt was still making it in the 90s. (Some recipes never got back their full quota of eggs, sugar and cream after the war.)

Coffee Mallow

Here's how the Boston Cookery School Cook Book does it.

16 marshmallows
1/2 cup hot coffee
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Cut marshmallows in quarters with wet scissors. Add coffee. Cook in double boiler until melted. Cool. When beginning to thicken, fold in cream, beaten stiff, and add vanilla. Mold in dessert glasses.

You find a lot of "double boilers" in vintage recipes. I think they date from the days when you couldn't adjust the heat on your hob, and in the 21st century you just need to turn the heat down very low. But I could be wrong.

Still can't find that cornflour version my aunt used to make...

Coffee Cream (and Custard)

Another version from the Radiation Cookery Book.

1/2 pint lemon jelly
1/2 pint milk
2 eggs
2 oz sugar
1/2 pint cream
1 dessertspoonful coffee essence
1 oz gelatine

Allow a little lemon jelly to set at the bottom of a mould. Make a custard with the milk, eggs and sugar. Whip the cream, add the coffee essence and the gelatine dissolved in a little hot water. Add this to the custard when cool, and pour into the mould. When set, turn onto a glass dish and decorate with the remainder of the chopped jelly.

This would give you a coffee pudding with a lemon jelly "hat" (you could leave out that part). And it presumes you know how to make a custard!

Here are the instructions, from the Boston Cookery School Cook Book.

2 cups scalded milk
3 eggs or 6 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or sherry to taste

Beat eggs slightly with a fork, add sugar and salt. Brown sugar gives a delicious flavour. Add milk gradually, stirring constantly. Cook and stir in double boiler over hot, not boiling, water until mixture coats the spoon (about 7 minutes). Strain, chill and flavour.

If you don't have a double boiler, cook over a very low heat and don't let it boil. Not sure why you have to "scald" the milk first (bring it to the boil). My mum used to say you shouldn't let the wooden spoon touch the sides or bottom of the pain while you're stirring.

Coffee Pudding

From Peg Bracken's The Compleat I Hate to Cook Book.

Melt 12 marshmallows in two cups of strong black coffee. Then add enough unwhipped whipping cream to make it a pretty café au lait colour, and pour it into a freezing tray. Leave it for eight hours. Serve it in sundae glasses with whipped cream on top, and some chopped nuts if you have them.

Peg Bracken was a 50s writer whose I Hate to Housekeep Book is also brilliant (and even funnier). One of her best pieces of advices: If you have a lot of jobs to do that you've been putting off, start them all. Lay out the material and pin on the pattern pieces. Get out the bank statements. Throw the laundry on the floor in front of the washer. Rake the leaves into a heap. Then you can potter between the jobs and somehow they all get done.

In her recipes, she has the disconcerting habit of writing STOP NOW. She doesn't mean "throw it all out and order a pizza", she means you can leave it now and go and do other stuff, and come back half an hour before dinner to do the actual cooking part.

Her cookbook is rather full of the tuna noodle casserole style of cookery. Nothing wrong with that, but I don't think I'll post any containing chipped beef. I've gone through two copies of this book – just about to order a third as this one's lost its front cover.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010


From the Radiation "Regulo-Controlled" Cookery Book, 1941 (out of print)

2 oz butter
1/4 lb boiled rice
3/4 lb cooked fish
1 egg raw
1 egg hard-boiled
1 teaspoonful chopped parsley
Little grated lemon rind
Salt, pepper and cayenne
Little milk

Melt the butter, add the boiled rice, flaked fish, seasoning and well-beaten egg, and also the hard-boiled white of egg chopped up. Add a little milk if the mixture is dry, then transfer to a casserole. heat in the over for 25 minutes with the "Regulo" at mark 7. Serve on a hot dish and garnish with sieved yolk and parsley.

Could there be a better title for a cook book? You could use smoked mackerel, and add more parsley. One teaspoonful is a bit stingy. You could also add finely chopped onion or spring onions.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

7-Up Salad

From The Life and Cuisine of Elvis Presley, by David Adler

1 package lemon gelatin
1 package lime gelatin
2 cups hot 7-Up
1 cup cottage cheese
1 can crushed pineapple
Green food coloring (if desired)

Prepare gelatin according to the package directions, substituting 7-Up for water. Let cool to room temperature. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Pour into pretty individual salad molds or mold as desired. let set in refrigerator for several hours. To unmold, dip the chilled mold in warm water for a second before serving.

David Adler has done a good job as a food detective, following the trail of the King from his humble origins to Graceland and Vegas. When his dad was in jail, Elvis and his mother lived on relief, and ate cheese grits for weeks on end. When Elvis went to high school, he often couldn't afford lunch, so he went without. He became successful very young, and the words "I'll never be hungry again" might have been written for him. He liked Southern food, and had a sweet tooth. He burned a lot of calories performing, but he still had to struggle not to put on too much weight. When not performing, he lived at night. He liked to eat in his bedroom, with its blacked-out windows and aircon that was always off. Then he became a prisoner of Vegas. But he was supremely talented, and was still the King.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Border Tart

Café in Berwick

A Northumberland recipe from the St John's Cook Book

4 oz raw shortcrust pastry
2 oz margarine
2 oz caster sugar
1 egg
7 oz currants or sultanas
1 oz ground almonds

Cream the margarine and sugar. Add egg, then currants and almonds.

Line 7in flan ring with the pastry, fill with the mixture and cook for 20-25 minutes.

Ice with water icing if desired.

I think I'd cook the pastry first...

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Mad Rush Salad

From Marguerite Patten's Meals Without Meat, 1964

8 oz grapes
2-3 oranges
2 bananas
1 eating apple

Halve and pip the larger grapes, leave the others whole.
Peel two oranges and slice across thinly.
Peel and slice bananas.
Peel, core and thinly slice the apple.
Mix all together in a large fruit bowl.
Serve on bed of crisp lettuce, with vinaigrette sauce.

Or you could leave out the lettuce and eat it with cream... And use seedless grapes.

Casserole Peas

1 can sliced mushrooms (drained)
2 packages (10 oz.) frozen peas
1 can mushroom soup (undiluted)
14 oz can bean sprouts (drained)
4 oz. can water chestnuts (drained and sliced)
toasted almonds, grapenuts or other crunchy topping

Combine all ingredients. Place in greased casserole dish and top with crunchy topping. Bake at 325 F for 20 minutes. Makes 8 generous servings. Can be assembled ahead of time and refrigerated, allow a little longer to cook if cold.

This is from a little book called Try it you'll Like It that I bought in a charity book. It's probably unobtainable. Fortunately.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Mrs Dods' Prawn Pie

Just to prove that Mrs Beeton wasn't the first person in the world to publish a cookbook, here's an excerpt from the Cook and Housewife's Manual by Mistress Margaret Dods, dated 1827. It's a thick but very readable book, written in a much more humorous style than the frequently stodgy Mrs Beeton. But it's not quite as simple as that – Mrs Dods is a character in an 1824 novel called St. Ronan's Well, by Sir Walter Scott. Critics judged it "sixth-rate", "weak" and "trashy".

But somebody obviously decided that the novel's Scottish cook Mrs Dods was the perfect frontwoman for a book on cookery, and the whole project is presented as being by her, with a few interjections from another character who has lived in India and acquired a taste for curry.

Scott's original novel – and the little bit of pseudo Scott at the beginning of the Housewife's Manual may be painfully unfunny (and in Scottish dialect), but the book itself is an excellent read, and the humour really is humorous.

It's time for a recipe:

A Savoury Shrimp or Prawn Pie
Have as many well-cleaned shrimps or pawns as will nearly fill the pie dish. Season with pounded mace, cloves, a little cayenne and chili vinegar. Put some butter in the dish, and cover with a light puff-paste. Less than three quarters of an hour will bake these pies.

I have a reprint of the book, but it seems to be out of print.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Mrs Beeton's Apple Compote

INGREDIENTS 6 ripe apples, 1 lemon, 1/2 lb. of lump sugar, 1/2 pint of water.

Mode.—Select the apples of a moderate size, peel them, cut them in halves, remove the cores, and rub each piece over with a little lemon. Put the sugar and water together into a lined saucepan, and let them boil until forming a thickish syrup, when lay in the apples with the rind of the lemon cut thin, and the juice of the same. Let the apples simmer till tender; then take them out very carefully, drain them on a sieve, and reduce the syrup by boiling it quickly for a few minutes. When both are cold, arrange the apples neatly on a glass dish, pour over the syrup, and garnish with strips of green angelica or candied citron. Smaller apples may be dressed in the same manner: they should not be divided in half, but peeled and the cores pushed out with a vegetable-cutter.
Time.—10 minutes to boil the sugar and water together; from 15 to 25 minutes to simmer the apples.
Average cost, 6d.
Sufficient for 4 or 5 persons. Seasonable from July to March.

Well, that sounds quite nice, doesn't it? Not Victorian and stodgy at all, and doesn't call for six pints of cream.

"Many people think of cookbooks as beginning with Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management: Abridged edition (Oxford World's Classics) in 1861..." FT July 2010 There have been cookbooks practically since William Caxton invented the printing press. Mrs Beeton's fame is largely the work of her publishing husband, Sam. Mrs B herself cribbed most of her book from printed sources, but she knew how to write instructions that were easy to follow.

In her day, sugar came in loaves, and you hacked off bits as you needed them. She was obsessed with skimming everything, soup in particular. The Victorian ideal was completely clear soup, jelly etc, so the cook had to spend a lot of time skimming and straining liquids through muslin.

Mrs B is known for recipes that call for six eggs and pints of cream - but Isabella had cows and hens in her back garden. That way she was assured a supply of fresh eggs and milk, they were cheap, and she needed to use them up.

Bread, on the other hand, was expensive, even if you made it yourself, and she used a lot of eggs and cream turning every left-over crust into bread pudding.

She's also famous for giving menus for banquets of 16 courses. Of course you weren't meant to eat it all: it was like a buffet or a tasting menu. I'm sure her readers loved it – they could imagine themselves at grand parties. Most of her book is about stretching Sunday's joint of mutton through the week.

Vicarage Mutton
Hot on Sunday
Cold on Monday
Hashed on Tuesday
Minced on Wednesday
Curried on Thursday
Broth on Friday
Cottage Pie Saturday

Kathryn Hughes recently wrote a new biography of Mrs Beeton, The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs Beeton. It's breezily, not to say carelessly, written, and gives a lot of interesting information about Sam and Isabella's magazine (they were the first to include paper patterns for home dressmaking, and used to visit Paris to note the latest fashions). It could have done with some editing and cutting – she is morbidly obsessed with the symptoms of disease.

Isabella Beeton never lived to be the stuffy matron we imagine her. This energetic and pioneering woman journalist died in her late 20s after suffering several miscarriages. None of her children survived early childhood.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Potato and Cheese Fluff

From the St. John's Cook Book, 1997
1 1/2 lb potatoes
4 oz grated cheese
3 eggs, separated
1 oz butter
2 tbsp cream
Salt and pepper

Oven 200 degs C, 400 degs F, Gas Mark 6

Peel, boil and sieve the potatoes. Beat together with cheese, egg yolks, butter and cream. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Fold lightly into the mixture. Pour into a greased, straight-sided dish and bake for 30 minutes. Serve with green vegetables.

This is one of those booklets put together to raise money for a good cause. You could add chopped parsley to the mixture.

Milk Jelly

Jelly Mould, Milk, to make
Woman's Own Book of the Home, 1932

1 pint new milk
1 oz sugar
1/2 oz gelatine
1 tablespoonful brandy

Place the milk, sugar and gelatine in a white-lined saucepan, stir over the fire until the sugar and gelatine are dissolved, taking care the milk does not boil. When cool add the brandy, pour into a wetted mould and turn out when set. Stewed fruit or jam may be served with it.

The Woman's Own Book of the Home is a wonderful work, with recipes for everything from how to wash lace to how to address letters to royalty.

Swedes with Cheese

From Vegetables for Victory, by Ambrose Heath, 1944

Boil some swedes, drain them and mash them well with a little margarine, salt and black pepper. Mix these with some thick white sauce which you have flavoured with cheese, made mustard, a pinch of sugar and, if you like, a few drops of onion flavouring. Put into a greased pie-dish, sprinkle with grated cheese, cheese and breadcrumbs, or breadcrumbs mixed with a little melted margarine, and bake in a moderate oven for half an hour, when it should be nicely browned.

We went on eating swedes (rutabagas) after the war, and you can still buy them, and they're still watery and tasteless. Onions were "in short supply" during World War II. Vegetables for Victory was written for vegetarians, who were also in short supply. People were still deeply suspicious of vegetarians in the 70s.

Cottage Pie

In an English country ga-arden

From Delia Smith's original How to
Cheat at Cooking, 1971
1 15 oz can of savoury minced beef
1 tablespoon of dried minced onions
1 small green pepper, chopped
1/2 teaspoon of dried mixed herbs
Salt and milled black pepper
1 15 oz can of Italian tomatoes, drained
1 packet of instant mashed potato
2 oz of grated cheddar cheese
Some butter
Preheat over to 350 degrees F (mark 4)

Grease a pie-dish with a butter paper. Mix together the mince, onions, chopped green pepper and mixed herbs. Season with freshly-milled black pepper. Pack the lot into the bottom of the pie-dish and arrange the tomatoes on top. Make up the mashed potato according to the instructions on the packet then beat in the grated cheddar cheese and a knob of butter, and some pepper and salt to taste. Spread the potato over the meat and tomatoes (and make pretty patterns with a fork if you feel like it). Sprinkle the grated Parmesan over and put a few small dabs of butter here and there. Bake it in the oven for 45 minutes.

That's Delia's original recipe. She forgot to list Parmesan in the ingredients. Parmesan, peppers and freshly milled black pepper were very modern and sophisticated in 1971. Peppers never grew in any English cottage garden! You could use Marks & Spencer's superior tinned mince, and a real onion. And, of course, real mashed potatoes as instant mash is revolting, though we thought it was very modern and labour-saving back then. "Grease a pie-dish with a butter paper" - this is never necessary, and it's an instruction left over from the war, when butter and marge were so scarce that you saved your butter papers.