Guineafowl originate in Africa and were first bred for meat by the Ancient Egyptians and was very popular in the ancient world – there is an infamous Greek dish called mattye where a guineahen would be killed by a knife plunged into its head via the beak. It would then be poached with lots of herbs, and its own chicks! They seemed to fall out of favour for a good while before being reintroduced by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century.
Where do I start with this one?
The first is a capon, which is a castrated cockerel. Castration causes the capon to grow fat and large and to develop a different flavour to chicken. There are two ways to castrate, or caponise your cock: the first is to remove the testicles surgically, the other is to do it hormonally using oestrogen implants. You don’t them around very often these days, but a good butcher should be able to order you one. I got mine from Straub’s – there was one just sat there in the freezer section, bold as you like. If you want to caponise your own cockerel, click here for instructions!
This recipe asks for the capon to be gently simmered just like the turkey with celery sauce I made last November. It is served with a bread sauce that is seasoned with the verjuice and some oyster liquor, though no oysters are actually used in the recipes themselves. I was hoping I could buy some liquor in jars just as you see clam liquor in the supermarkets. I am sure clam juice would be a good substitution, but as I am cooking the recipes as given, I must use oyster. (It turned out well in the end, as it gave me the perfect excuse to make some angels on horseback – look here for my recipe.)
Also served are some crunchy sippets, made from bread, and sugar peas in a buttery sauce. I was quite surprised that sugar peas were even around in the 17th century, I’ve always considered them a recent addition to our grocer’s shops and allotments.
Joint the capon and serve it on the sippets with the peas and their sauce poured over. Serve the bread sauce in a separate bowl or jug.
#335 Boiled Capon with Sugar Peas. After the success of the boiled turkey, I was looking forward to trying this new meat. I was a little disappointed; the meat wasn’t particularly flavourful and it was a little tough. That cockerel must have been doing a lot of strutting around, even without its testicles. As I ate my leftovers over next day or two, I did notice that the flavour of the meat did develop more – it was very turkey-like. The bread sauce and the peas were very nice however. I think if the capon was swapped for a chicken or turkey, this would be really good. 5.5/10.
A salmagundi is essentially a rather grand salad which was popular in the 18th Century that has origins in the Elizabethan era. The idea being that the ingredients could be laid out for a ‘Middle Dish’ to produce a large sallet. The Salmagundi originated as a game dish called a salmi (click here for the recipe) popular since Medieval days.
Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner here in the USA so I thought the next two posts will have a Thanksgiving theme. I knew that there would be little chance of replacing the turkey on the day, but I wondered if cooking it in a different way might be possible. Plus if anyone reads this near Christmas, they might want to give it a go.
This is a classic: ‘A favourite dish of the Victorians and quite rightly so, because it is delicious – mild without insipidity’, says Jane. In fact, that is all she says on the dish. Boiling turkey was a popular way of cooking fowl, perhaps because it takes little time to cook; two hours maximum for a 15 pound turkey. I hoped it would make it deliciously juicy and tender. I did worry, however, that boiling it would sap what little flavour a turkey has even at the best of times.
The earliest recipe for boiled turkey with celery sauce I could find goes back to 1777 – it appears in a book by Charlotte Mason called The Lady’s Assistant to Regulating and Supplying her Table… (the full title is much longer than this!). More familiar contemporaries, Hannah Glasse and Elizabeth Raffald, also give recipes. Here’s a top-tip from Raffald:
“Let your turkey have no meat the day before you kill it. When you are going to kill it give it a spoonful of alegar [malt vinegar], it will make it white and eat tender.”
So there you go.
I didn’t expect the recipe to go back much further as the turkey, being from the New World, would have entered Europe until the late fifteenth century at the earliest. However, I was wrong – it was celery that was the latecomer in England, appearing in the middle of the seventeenth century. Strangely, the earliest recorded mention of the turkey in Europe was in an account book from 1385; Phillippe of Burgundy enjoyed a roast turkey in one of his luxurious banquets. How on earth did it get there, I wonder?
Why we call these birds turkeys has always troubled me – after all they aren’t from Turkey. Nobody is sure, but it seems that the first English turkeys were brought to Britain by travelling merchants that had been given the gift of the birds after eating some whilst on a business trip to Turkey. So somehow the birds came from the New World, via Turkey, all before the New World was even discovered!
So if you fancy having a change from roast turkey, but want to keep to tradition give this recipe go:
The first thing you need to do is to get hold of a pot large enough to fit your turkey breast-side down. You need a turkey that weighs up to 15 pounds. Once your turkey is nestled in its pot, tuck in the following vegetables and aromatics: 4 sliced, medium carrots; a sliced, peeled turnip; a sliced stick of celery; three whole, unpeeled onions, each studded with three cloves; 15 crushed peppercorns; two bay leaves; 4 thyme sprigs; a bunch of parsley stalks; and a heaped tablespoon of salt. Then, add enough cold water to only just cover the legs.
#314 Boiled Turkey with Celery Sauce. Well I have to say it was very good: the meat was tender, though the breast still managed to be a little dry. The leg meat was perfect though – in fact it was the best leg meat I have eaten on a turkey. The celery sauce too was good, and Griggers was right when she said it was a ‘mild’ dish. I was good and homely food, perfect from the autumn and winter months, though I have to admit, I did miss the roasted taste and the crispy skin. Still very good though. 7/10.
For the meaty part of the dinner party I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I thought I would attempt a Guard of Honour. For those of you not in the know, a Guard of Honour is an attractive way of presenting roast rack of lamb by taking two racks and sitting them upon a roasting tray so the rib bones ‘bristle like a military row of crossed stakes’. The Guard can then be stuffed if you like. Jane likes, as this recipe includes the herb stuffing that I have made a few times now.
I did a little research on this dish, assuming it would be a very old one, but was surprised to find that I could only find relatively contemporary recipes, with none cropping up even in the nineteenth century. Odd.
Griggers recommends buying a whole best end of neck of lamb and to ask the butcher to split it in two down the backbone and to get it chined between each rib so that you can carve the joint easily later. To chine is to cut the backbone. If this wasn’t done, you’d have some thick bits of bone to wrestle with. Ask him to leave on the long bones of the ribs. This part is a rather difficult thing to achieve in America for a couple of reasons. First, the joint called a best end of neck means nothing and second, lamb is generally imported from New Zealand and pre-butchered, at least in part. It’s quite easy though to get hold of a couple of matching racks and to simply not have the extra-long bones.
To make a Guard of Honour, take your two racks of lamb and scrape the skin and fat from the very thin part of the chops to expose the bones, then score the fat on the chops and rub in salt, pepper and rosemary or thyme into it (I went with thyme). Stand the joints up and allow the ribs to cross over each other. Fix them in place with skewers. The cavity within can then be filled with herb stuffing. I found the easiest way to do this was to turn the joint upside down, opening it up, so that the most stuffing possible could be added. (Thanks for taking the photos, Joan!)
Turn it the right way up and press the sides together gently, scraping away any escaped bit of stuffing. Check the security of your skewers and place on a roasting tin.
Roast in a preheated oven for 1 ½ hours at 190°C (375°F). Note that this means that the meat will be well-done.
The meat can be carved, after a period of resting, nice and neatly, giving two chops per person.
#305 Guard of Honour. I really liked this. I did make it because I was in the mood for lamb. Usually I like my lamb pink, but the delicious herb stuffing helped to keep the well-done meat moist and flavourful. I must admit it wasn’t quite as impressive as it should have been because I couldn’t give the precise instructions to the butcher in the preparation of the joint. I think I shall do some of the more tricky lamb recipes back in Blighty. This is only a little complaint of course and the recipe was very good indeed. 8.5/10