#350 Harold Wilshaw’s Broad Bean and Avocado Salad

This recipe – the 350th – is the last I shall cook in America because tomorrow morning I fly back to England. It has been a great place to carry on the blog; there were many foods that were tricky to get hold of in Britain that were easy to find in the USA. The Americans’ love of freshwater fish and shellfish (particularly oysters) really helped me out in the Fish chapter and I managed to find lots of offal like pig’s heads, lamb’s heads, tongues and sweetbreads. The other great thing was that all my friends were so game to try the often strange things I served up to them, and I thank them very much for that.

This recipe would not seem strange to an American – a salad made from avocados and broad (fava) beans, but this would have been an extremely exotic dish in England during the 1970s where the avocado was very much the new kid on the block in the greengrocer’s shop. Of course, for that very reason, it makes this recipe a contemporary one – at least when the book was first published – perhaps Jane was doing her bit to introduce a new taste to the 1970’s English palette. It never became a classic recipe, but full marks to Griggers for effort.

I wanted to do this recipe before leaving St Louis because avocados are so delicious here and so flavourless in England. It’s a very simple one that marries together broad beans and avocados; two vegetables that I would never have thought about putting together. If only Hannibal Lector had known, he might not have been done for cannibalism:

I ate his avocado with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.
Num um um-um-um

This recipe comes from the ex-Guardian food writer Harold Wilshaw, whose name I always read as Harold Wilson when I flicked through the pages of the Vegetables chapter. He apparently he ‘thought up this particular salad when unexpected guests arrived and there wasn’t much in the house.’ How bourgeois of him to have an avocado just lying around in his house.

To make the salad start by podding some broad beans and boiling them for around 5 minutes. Drain and then begin the task of removing the thick seed coat. It’s not has fiddly as you might think; if you make a nick in one end of the bean, you can quite easily squeeze out the bright green bean from within.

Slice an avocado and arrange it on a plate along with the beans and drizzle over a simple vinaigrette made from either cream and lemon juice, or olive oil and vinegar. Season well and scatter over some extras if you like: chopped parsley, chives, spring onion or coriander leaves are suggestions as well as air-dried Cumbrian ham or Parma ham.

#350 Harold Wilshaw’s Broad Bean and Avocado Salad. Well I have to that this was an absolutely delicious and simple salad. Both vegetables are sweet in flavour, but have very different textures. I just hope I can get hold of avocados good enough to make it! 8.5/10

#330 Leek, Pea or Asparagus Sauce

“We’re well used to tomato sauces”, says Grigson, “I don’t know why we haven’t gone further along the road, using other vegetables in the same kind of way”. This has always confused me; the only tomato sauce I know is either the tomato sauce for pasta or the tomato sauce that comes in bottles as ketchup. The recipe is obviously for neither. I can’t find a tomato sauce recipe that seems even remotely similar – even during the nineteenth century, tomato sauces were made for macaroni, simply stewed with olive oil and garlic and some herbs as we do nowadays.

The recipe below is for a thick creamy sauce made from leeks, peas or asparagus – a green vegetable to cover all seasons: leeks for autumn and winter, asparagus for spring and peas for summertime. As it is winter at the moment, I plumped for leeks. But what to serve it with? I eventually came up with the idea of serving the sauce with some seared scallops and some bacon – something which would also work with the peas and asparagus too, I reckon. The sauce is easy to make and can be made in advance and reheated when needed.
First of all prepare your vegetables: wash, trim and chop your leeks or asparagus, or shell your peas. You need 12 ounces prepared weight. Plunge them in ¼ pint of light stock or water. It is important to add salt to the water or stock as it makes the green colour much vivid. Cover and simmer until just tender. Liquidise the vegetables in a blender, or if you are old school a mouli-legumes. Push through a sieve to exclude any woody or fibrous bits (this is especially important with larger asparagus spears). Add around 3 ½ fluid ounces of soured cream, reheat and stir.
Then stir through either 3 tablespoons of clotted cream or unsalted butter. If using butter don’t add it until the last minute. The resulting sauce should be quite thick. Don’t forget to season with salt and pepper.
My attempt at being all cheffy!
#330 Leek, Pea or Asparagus Sauce. Although I wasn’t sure what to do with this sauce, it turned out very well; the leeks were good and sweet, but made piquant by the sour cream. It went very well with the scallops and bacon, so I certainly recommend it for that. Strangely, I reckon it might be good stirred through some pasta with a some Parmesan cheese stirred through it…  7/10

#311 Courgette and Parsnip Boats

If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.
                                            Julia Child

This is a recipe that I, admittedly, have been avoiding. A courgette and parsnip boat? What the heck is the point of that? Of course, I have nothing against neither courgettes nor parsnips, but this seemed a little over the top: scooping out the centres of courgettes and then piping hot parsnip purée inside. Hm. This is a recipe that Grigson was trying to introduce us to the 1970s, and it seems very 1970s – very Fanny Craddock. The recipe comes not from her, but from a certain Julia Child. You may have heard of her.

I suppose I have to bring up the subject of a certain blog-cum-bestselling-book-cum-Hollywood-movie called Julie & Julia, created, of course, by Julie Powell. I cannot believe that she stole my idea! What’s more, I cannot believe that she travelled forward in time only to see my blog, steal my format and then travel back in time to start up her own blog, only to rake in shedloads of cash. Despicable behaviour.

That might be a tiny fib. But I remember being well annoyed when I found out that there was already blogs out there doing the same thing as me. And here I was thinking I had an original idea.

Anyways, back to the matter in hand… Grigson does ‘not apologise for including [the recipe]’, but this non-apology is for the fact she has included a recipe from America. She needn’t apologise for that. However, as a straight-forward lady, I am rather surprised that she included it in here. I think perhaps she was actually trying to introduce us to eating courgettes; I remember them being a rather exotic ingredient in our house growing up the in the 1980s, even though they are just baby marrows. She also goes on to complain of so-called ‘fancy touches’, saying that they are usually an excuse for serving bad food, giving such examples as radish roses on salads and cheap buttercream stars upon margarine cakes. Is this recipe any different though? We’ll see…

In case any Northern Americans are a bit confused about this strange thing called the courgette, I am talking about the zucchini of course.

The recipe serves six people, but you can easily increase or decrease the ratios if there is not six to feed.

Begin by selecting six courgettes around six inches long. Top and tail them and cut each one lengthways before scooping out the seeds. Plunge the courgettes into boiling salted water, blanching them for no more than five minutes. It is important not to over-cook them at this point; they’ll just end up all mushy and flaccid, and you don’t want that. Drain the courgettes and place them on a baking tray, brushing them liberally with melted butter. All this can be done ahead of time.

Next, get to work on the parsnips. Peel and chop two pounds of parsnips, boiling them in salted water until they are tender. Place them in a blender along with an ounce and a half of butter and five tablespoons of double cream. Season and then blitz them well, making sure there are no lumps (see below).

Reheat the courgettes in the oven at 220C (400⁰C) for about five minutes. In the meantime, put the puréed parsnips into a piping bag equipped with an appropriate end. I used a star. Take the courgettes out of the oven and pipe the parsnips in an attractive fashion into the courgette boats.
I have to admit it was good fun doing this bit, though that bag was pretty hot! The main problem was that there was a few lumps of parsnip that kept getting stuck in my piping star. Cue parsnip explosions as the pressure built up in the forefront of my bag. I’m surprised no one lost an eye.
The boats await the rest of the dinner…

#311 Courgette and Parsnip Boats. Well I have to say I did like them. The parsnip was rich and creamy, which was set-off well by the blander courgette. I do wonder if just having a ragout of courgettes and some puréed parsnips made separately wouldn’t be simpler, or indeed better. What I really find odd about this receipt is that Jane Grigson singled this one out as a highlight. I’m sure Julia Childs had some better recipes than this one. 6/10.

#307 Mashed Potato with Dulse

Nobody really eats dulse, or any other seaweed, in England these days, though they used to. It is a pity because I do like the stuff. It seems to be popular still in Ireland though; my friend Evelyn often brings back a bag of it whenever she visits home and I like to steal a few pieces.

Dulse had been eaten for over one thousand years in North-Western Europe, the ancient Celtic Warriors of old ate dulse as they were marching and during the seventeenth century, and British sailors used it to prevent scurvy (although it was actually originally used as an alternative to chewing tobacco).
Its popularity in Ireland as well as Scotland led to dulse becoming liked in the USA too when they immigrated over the pond, although none of my American friends seem to have heard of it.
The Dulse Gatherers by Willaim Marshall Brown, 1863-1936

The dulse industry has obviously died a bit of a death in England and the rest of the UK and Ireland compared to days of yore. Charles Dickens, writing in 1858, reminisces about childhood holidays in Aberdeen where there were often over a dozen ‘dulse-wives’ selling dulse:

[O]f all the figures on the Castlegate, none where more picturesque than the dulse-wives. They sat in a row on little wooden stools, with their wicker creels placed before them on the granite paving stones. Dressed in clean white mutches, or caps, with silk-hankerchiefs spread over their breasts, and blue stuff wrappers and petticoats, the ruddy and sonsie dulse-women looked the types of health and strength… Many a time, where my whole weekly income was a halfpenny, a Friday’s bawbee, I have expended it on dulse, in preference to apples, pears, blackberries, cranberries, strawberries, wild peas and sugar-sticks.
He recalls a conversation:
A young one would say: “Come to me, bonnie laddie, and I’ll gie ye mair for yer bawbee than any o’ them.”
An old one would say: “Come to me, bonnie laddie, and I’ll tell what like yer wife will be.”
“Yer dinner ken yerself.”
“Hoot aye – I ken brawly: she’ll hae a head and feet, an mou’, and eyen, and may be a nose, and will be as auld as me, if she lives as lang.”
“Aye: but ye gie me very little dulse for my bawbee.”
“Aye,” replies the honest woman, adding another handful, “but sic a wife is weel worth mair siller.”
The dulse-wives exploded into laughter, when the woman suggested some one like herself, as the ideal wife which youth is doomed always to pursue and never to attain.
Oh! those dulse-wives.

Anyway, enough prattle, time for the recipe:
It could be easier, really. First, scrub and then boil some potatoes in their skins without adding any salt. Remove the skins and mash them. Next, crumble the dried dulse and fry it in olive oil – you’ll need a quarter of an ounce of dulse for every pound of potatoes used. This takes just a few seconds. Add the oil and dulse to the spuds and mix, mashing in some extra olive oil if need be.
Serve with lamb (as I did), beef, chicken or fish.
#307 Mashed Potato with Dulse. Well this was good mash, but there wasn’t much flavour of dulse in there. It did give the potatoes an attractive green colour though. I thought it strange that the recipe asked for olive oil rather than butter – olive oil was not used that much when English Food was first written in 1974. It would have been most likely found in chemist’s shops, where it was used to remove ear wax. 5/10

#295 Purée of Dried Peas with Green Peppercorns

A rather upmarket version of that Northern English speciality, mushy peas. There is an infamous incident of the MP (now Lord!) Peter Mandelson visiting his constituency canvassing for votes, where he walked into a fish and chip shop and asked for ‘some of that guacamole’. The ponce. Unfortunately, after a little research, I found on the website of that evil news rag, The Daily Mail, that it is in fact a myth and it ever happened. Shame. But why should the truth get in the way of a good story, eh?

Peter Mandelson getting hit by what appears to be a purée of dried peas

The pea has been popular in Europe for donkeys years – settlements in France dating back to the third millennium BC have been discovered with the remains of pea pods. Dried peas, go back to Roman times; in fact, they were preferred over fresh. Also, luckily for us, the pea became a very common garden vegetable, and Gregor Mendel, the garden-loving Austrian monk, spotted patterns in the variation between pea plants he was breeding and came up with the first theory of genetics. He wasn’t recognised during his lifetime. So often is the way.

Gregor Mendel, Father of Genetics and pea-fancier

This recipe isn’t really to go with your fish and chips (though omit the peppercorns and it will be perfect), it is to go with duck and pork. I took this as an excuse to get a nice rib roasting joint from Harrison Hog Farms, a great farm here in Houston that really looks after its very English-looking pig breeds. So if you go to a Houston farmer’s market andyou spot them, give them a try as their pork is excellent.

What makes this recipe posh is the pickled green peppercorns. They’re not something that you’ll find in the supermarket, but they’re pretty easy to get hold of in delicatessens.

Right then, to make this purée, put a pound of dried split peas in a large saucepan along with a chopped carrot and a chopped onion plus a bouquet garni (I went for parsley, bay leaves, sage leaves, thyme and rosemary in mine). Cover well with water, bring to a boil and cover and simmer until cooked – around 45 minutes. On no account add salt, it makes the peas hard and they won’t cook. This is speaking from personal experience. Fish out the bouquet garni and pass the peas through a mouli-legumes in a bowl (you can use a potato-masher if you want but a blender would make it far too smooth).

Now stir in a large knob of butter and season well with salt (at least a teaspoon) and some sugar. Lastly, mix in a tablespoon of pickled green peppercorns as well as one to two teaspoons of the juice from the can. Easy.

#295 Purée of Dried Peas with Green Peppercorns. This one of the best recipes from the Vegetables chapter of the book. Really delicious and much better than the bought mushy peas you find in cans, and – dare I say it – the chippy! The addition of the bouquet garni and the simple stock veg really lifted it, and the pickled peppercorns were great, little exploding pods of subtle spiciness that transformed a vegetable side dish into the main event. 9/10.

#288 Leek Pie

I beseech you heartily, scurvy, lousy knave, at my desires, and my requests, and my petitions, to eat, look you, this leek: because, look you, you do not love it, nor your affections and your appetites and your digestions doo’s not agree with it, I would desire you to eat it….if you can mock a leek, you can eat a leek.

William Shakespeare, Henry V

 I like to get a bit of Shakespeare in whenever I can.

There’ll be no mocking of leeks on this blog. They are one of my favourites, though I don’t really eat them that often. The main reason, I think, is that no matter how much I wash them before preparing them, there is always some grit – invisible to the naked eye – that ends up in the final dish. I’m always so thorough too. Hey-ho, a bit of dirt is fine. In fact there’s an old Yorkshire saying: tha’s got to eat a peck o’muck before you die. Indeed.

Here’s a pie that sounds great – leeks, cream and bacon in pastry. Nothing can be bad about this one, with or without grit.

I assumed that this recipe was a Welsh one, but no, variations of it are found across Britain and France. Grigson doesn’t say that much about it, other than in France onion and flour are added to the filling, so technically this is the French version, but let’s not split hairs.

To make the pie, you’ll need to buy or make some shortcrust or puff pastry. I made some shortcrust. You’ll need to make a shortcrust that uses 10 ounces of flour and five of fat; I did eight and four respectively and only just managed to get away with it.

To make the filling, chop and onion and cook it in an ounce of butter until soft and golden. Meanwhile, trim, wash and chop a pound of leeks. Slice the green part thinly, as it is quite tough and takes longer to cook than the white part. Add the leeks to the onions along with two ounces more of butter. Season with salt and pepper. It’s important to add the salt at this point as it draws the liquid from the leeks, concentrating their flavour.

When softened and mushy, turn off the heat and add four ounces of chopped back bacon. Now measure four ounces of double or clotted cream – weight, not volume – and beat in a teaspoon of flour. Pour this over the leeks and bacon and allow to cool.



Roll out two thirds of your pastry and line a nine inch tart tin. Add the filling and roll out a lid with the remaining pastry, using beaten egg as a glue. Crimp the edges and ‘decorate in restrained manner’. I just made some fluting around the edge. Brush with egg and make a hole in the centre so the steam can escape. Bake for 15 minutes at 220°C (425°F) or until the pastry is nice and brown, then turn the heat down to 180°C (350°F) for another twenty to thirty minutes.



#288 Leek Pie. What a great pie! The filling became a rich and delicious mush with subtle onion and leek flavour. The secret to this – as with so many of the best in English Food – is the that are just a few ingredients cooked slowly over a low heat with a good amount of seasoning. It was just as delicious cold as it was hot. One of the best recipes thus far I’d say. Go and cook it! 9.5/10.



#285 Creamed Parsnips

Parsnips don’t seem to be that popular in America, at least compared to Britain. In the USA, carrots and sweet potatoes are much more favoured as a sweet-starchy vegetable. In Europe, parsnips have been cultivated since Roman times, and although in the UK, the wild parsnip is quite a common plant, it has rather pathetic roots,and isn’t worthwhile eating. The parsnips eaten in Britain are therefore not indigenous. They were probably brought over around AD55 during the Roman invasion. The Romans used parsnips in desserts because of their sweet and chestnutty flavour, weirdly, parsnips are used in a cake in English Food that is based upon the recipe for an American carrot cake. Ah, the circle of life.
The European wild parsnip

Creamed parsnips can be served alongside some roast meat, or on their own with toast or in pastry cases as a supper dish, says Griggers. I had them for supper.
Peel, top, tail and quarter a pound and-a-half of parsnips. Remove any woody parts, if the parsnips are large and cut them into batons. Plunge them into boiling, salted water and allow to cook until tender – between five and ten minutes, depending upon the size of you batons. Drain and return to the heat. Stir in a quarter of a pint of double cream (or half-and half double and single). Heat through, season with salt and pepper and stir in some finely chopped parsley. Serve hot.
#285 Creamed Parsnips. Ah the simple things are the best, innit? These were delicious and not at all heavy – the parsley lifted the whole thing, preventing the dish becoming sickly. The creamy sauce and the carby parsnips themselves made the supper feel quite substantial. A hidden, simple gem. 8/10.