#427 Roast Guineafowl


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.

These days, guineafowl are more popular in France than the UK, being a popular ornamental fowl in farms, small holdings and rural households. They double as an excellent guard dog; getting very vocal at any approaching fox or indeed, postman. ‘The first time I saw guineafowl, they were humped along the roof ridge of a French farmhouse’, says Jane in her introduction to this recipe. I have similar memories from my science days when I would go on the annual field trip with the zoology undergraduates of Manchester University to the foothills of the French Alps, where guineafowl would toddle about decoratively with their black-and-white suits, blue combs bobbing, like a little fat harlequin.

I think guineafowl are delicious, they have a mild gamey flavour, lying somewhere between chicken and pheasant. It’s often braised as it has a tendency to dry out when roasted. In this recipe however, dryness is skilfully averted by covering the fowls with bacon or strips of pork back fat and the use of a good sausagemeat stuffing. Because of its gaminess, it is often served with the trimmings associated with roast game, such as game chips, #123 Bread Sauce and #114 Quince Jelly. See #122 Roast Pheasant for more on the subject.

Get hold of two guineafowl, both weighing 1 ½ to 2 pounds. Sit them on the board to get to room temperature as you get on with the stuffing.

Remove the skin from four ounces of good quality sausages (go to butcher who makes his or her own or make your own: see #415 Cumberland Sausages). Break up the meat and add the rest of the ingredients: a heaped tablespoon of breadcrumbs, one tablespoon each of brandy and port, a heaped tablespoon of chopped parsley, a crushed clove of garlicand salt and pepper.  If you are lucky enough to find fowl with their giblets, find the liver, remove the gall, chop and add to the stuffing.

Mix everything well but keep things quite loose – you don’t want to compress the stuffing, as it will turn out stodgy. Divide it loosely between the two birds.

Now prepare the birds themselves by laying six rashers of unsmoked streaky bacon over the breasts and legs. This stops the birds from drying out in the oven. Again, buy good quality dry-cured bacon, not the cheap stuff that shrinks shedding its added water as white milky froth. Instead of bacon, you could use thin slices of pork back fat; it’s certainly cheaper, and it probably keeps the birds more moist, but doesn’t taste half as good. Pros and cons innit?

Put them in a roasting tray and pop them in an oven preheated to 220°C. Fifteen minutes later, turn down the heat to 200°C, and leave the birds roasting for 30 minutes. At this point, remove them from the oven, take off their little porky jackets and dust them with well-seasoned flour. Baste and pop back into the oven for a final 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove the birds and keep them under foil on a board whilst you make the gravy in the tin they were roasted.

Get the roasting tin over a medium heat and pour in a glass of port (2 to 3 fluid ounces, approx.). Use a wooden spoon to scrape the delicious dark-brown almost burned bits from base of the tin. Add ½ pint of stock – again, if there were giblets in the birds, you could make giblet stock, otherwise use chicken stock. Reduce this mixture down until you have a small volume of intensely-flavoured gravy. Don’t strain it and lose all those nice burnt bits!

Carve the guineafowl and serve with the gravy and bacon. Jane recommends serving it with #262 Chestnuts as a Vegetable. We served it with the food that was in the house: roast carrots, quinoa and some lovely indigo-dark purple kale.

#427 Roast Guineafowl. I feel so lucky to have things like this just hanging about in the freezer! The cooking method laid out by Jane was spot-on, as she usually is when it comes to roasting (however, see #359 Rabbit and #393 Hare); meat was lovely and moist. The gravy too was delicious, and the stuffing well-seasoned with a good garlic hit, making it taste very un-English; it must be based on a French farcemeat from one of Jane’s many trips to the country. Very, very good: 9/10

#405 Capon, Goose or Turkey Neck Pudding / Poddyng of Capoun Necke (1430)

Here’s a recipe that I’ve been dying to do since I first picked up Jane Grigson’s tome and, at Christmastime, I finally got the chance to cook it (yes, I am THAT behind on writing my posts!).

The main problem, you see, is getting hold of the neck of a turkey, goose or capon. It’s not the neck muscle that’s needed; that would be easy! All I’d have to do is rummage inside the giblets bag and pull the neck out. This recipe requires the neck skin – all of it, from the base of the neck, right up to the beak. In other words, I needed a fowl with its head still on.

The trouble is, it is very tricky to get one. I have three very good butchers close to me and none of them could get me a turkey with its head on! These birds are plucked and gutted mechanically these days, and the butcher doesn’t have to do a thing when he receives them.

To get a bird with its head on, you have to know a farmer or keep them yourself. Luckily for me Dalesbread Finest Meats, who attend Chorlton Market with me (3rd Saturday of the month!), farm and sell their own meat, including turkey and geese. No problem, they say.

This recipe comes from an early Fifteenth Century manuscript, jazzily called Harleian MS.279. Here’s the original recipe:

Poddyng of Capoun necke.—Take Percely, gysour, & þe leuer of þe herte, & perboyle in fayre water; þan choppe hem smal, & put raw ȝolkys of Eyroun .ij. or .iij. þer-to, & choppe for-with. Take Maces & Clowes, & put þer-to, & Safroun, & a lytil pouder Pepir, & Salt; & fille hym vppe & sew hym, & lay him a-long on þe capon Bakke, & prycke hym þer-on, and roste hym, & serue forth.

Essentially, it’s the skin of the neck wrapped around some spiced offal to produce some kind of hybrid between a sausage and a meatloaf.

This is Jane’s somewhat modified version of that recipe.

First job on the list is to get the neck skin removed from the bird. To do this, get yourself a pair of good, sharp scissors. Three incisions is all you need to make, and the first is around the base of the neck, as low as you can without exposing the breast. Next, cut around the neck end, close to the beak. Lastly, cut straight up the length of the neck, so that you can remove the skin in one piece.

This sounds easy. It is not.

Okay, now for the filling. Get yourself a good-sized mixing bowl and break up 8 ounces of sausagemeat and mix into it a good tablespoon of finely chopped parsley and a couple of egg yolks. Season with salt, pepper, mace and cloves. If you like add a pinch of saffron that has first been soaked in a tablespoon of hot water.

Lay the neck skin flat on a work surface and spread half of the mixture over it. Cut the liver of your bird into three pieces and arrange these in a line going down the centre then spread the remainder of the filling over the top of that. Pull the edges of the neck skin around, wrapping the filling up, turning it over and tucking it in. Pop it into a loaf tin.

This sounds easy. It is not.

I could not get the skin to wrap around the sausagemeat, nowhere near in fact. I tried my best, but it ended up essentially a meat loaf with some skin draped over it.

Bake at 180⁰C for 45 minutes. Cool and leave in the fridge so that the flavours can permeate. Slice and eat like a pâté.

#405 Capon, Goose or Turkey Neck Pudding / Poddyng of Capoun Necke (1430). This was both a disaster and a success at the same time. There was far too much filling for the neck, so as the ‘pudding’ baked the skin shrank, leaving a wrinkled line of neck flap. However, the filling was absolutely delicious! The liver was good and creamy and those mediaeval spices complemented the meaty, rich filling. All pâtés should have cloves and mace added to them, I reckon. Even though the neck ended up being completely superfluous, it’s still a high scorer. 7/10

This terrible photo doesn’t show it at it’s best!

#339 Hindle Wakes

Where do I start with this one?

Hindle Wakes is a cold chicken dish for buffets and the like and has a long history. It is essentially a chicken stuffed with a prune mixture, simmered in a stock made of vinegar and water, cooled and smothered with a lemon sauce. Other variations include simmering in lemon juice stock and roasting the stuffed bird as a hot dish, which sounds much nicer.

The origin of the dish is obscure; some think it originally came over to England – Lancashire to be precise – from Flemish weaver immigrants in the 1330s. Others (including Jane) think it is a typical English medieval recipe; it being heavy on the herbs and dried fruit is suggestive, but I cannot find anything similar in my old facsimiles. I suppose it will remain a mystery.
Did the Flemish bring Hindle Wakes to North-East England?

The name Hindle Wakes is equally strange. Several modern cook books say that it comes from the name of the Lancashire town of Hindle Wakes. This all sounds good until you check an atlas and find there is no such place as Hindle Wakes in Britain, never mind Lancashire. A friend of Jane Grigson’s reckons that the name is a bastardisation of Hen de la Wake. “No etymologist would support a folk explanation of this kind”, says Jane.

I find no mention of the phrase Hindle Wakes in literature searches until the late 1910s where there is suddenly a glut of them because in 1912 a playwright called Stanley Houghton wrote a play entitled Hindle Wakes which was set in the imaginary Lancashire town Hindle where wakes would occur at certain times of the year. A wake in this context means the lookouts people would set up the night before a large church festival at their parish, presumably to catch thieves. How it got attached to this strange dish I do not know.
It’s still going strong…

Anyway, on with the rather long recipe…

For the stuffing:

Soak one pound of unstoned prunes in water or tea overnight. The next day remove the stones from the prunes, setting the neatest third aside for later. Now you need to crack the prune stones to get to the almond-scented kernels. I have found the best way to do this is to place around a dozen stones in a freezer bag, squeeze the air out, seal it and then crack the stones sharply with a hammer. This stops the sticky stones and precious kernels from pinging around the kitchen. Chop the kernels and the rest of the prunes and put in a bowl along with: 8 ounces of slightly stale breadcrumbs; four ounces of chopped fresh beef suet; and half a teaspoon each of finely chopped sage, parsley, marjoram and thyme. Mix them well with your hand and season withsalt, pepper, a tablespoon of brown sugar and one or two tablespoons of malt vinegar. Mix again.

Stuff a five to six pound roasting or boiling chicken (you could also use a capon) both inside the body cavity and the neck. Using cocktail sticks, close the two ends of the bird. I found that I could only fit in around half of the stuffing so I rolled the remainder into balls and froze them for future dinners.

To cook the fowl:

Put the bird in a good-sized stock pot that will fit it reasonably closely and add the following ingredients: 2 level tablespoons of salt, a stick of celery, one large unpeeled onion studded with three cloves, a bay leaf, four parsley springs, four thyme sprigs, six tablespoons malt vinegar and a tablespoon of soft dark brown sugar. Add around 6 pints of water – you can leave an inch or so of chicken above the water if it’s a roaster; you’ll need to cover completely if a boiler.

Bring slowly to a boil, skimming any scum that may rise to the top. Cover the pot and simmer the chicken very gently for between 1 ½ and 3 ½ hours “according to its antiquity”. Mine was done after 1 ½ hours. It is very important you cook the chicken on a very low simmer indeed; scalding might be a better word to describe the water, you should only see the barest of gulps and bubbles.

When cooked, remove from the stock and allow to cool, covered with a layer of foil. You’ll need the stock for the sauce, so don’t chuck it away…

For the sauce:

In a small saucepan, mix together five fluid ounces of double (heavy) cream, the juice and grated zest of a lemonand a seasoning of white pepper. Bring to a boil and let it simmer for five minutes or so. In another saucepan, make a roux by melting ½ ounce of butterand when it had finished sizzling stir in a healthy tablespoon of flour. Cook for a couple of minutes. Whisk in five fluid ounces of milkand half a pint of the stock. Simmer for twenty minutes until the sauce is very thick (I couldn’t get the sauce to go thick even after thirty minutes). Season with more salt and white pepper if needed, then cool covered to stop a skin from forming.

To arrange the dish:

Place the fully-cooled chicken on “a wire rack over some greaseproof paper. Reheat the sauce slightly – it will be solid when cold – so that you can spread it right over the chicken smoothly and evenly. Use a palette knife…” says Grigson. This was impossible for me with the rather runny sauce, so I just put the chicken straight on the serving plate and used a knife to spread the sauce over the chicken. Next, surround the chicken with around eight ounces of thinly sliced ham. Cut a lemon into halves and cut into thin slices. Arrange the slices around the chicken along with the reserved prunes. Finally, a couple of herbs: take a large bunch of parsley and stick it in both ends of the chicken, then scatter with some chive stalks.

#339 Hindle Wakes. What a monster I created! It looked like a cross between something from Fannie Cradock’s 1970s repertoire and the centrepiece to a medieval feast. I have to say, once sliced up it didn’t look too bad. The chicken was cooked to a turn – I think the vinegar in the stock help to tenderise it – and it went wonderfully well with the lemon sauce and prunes that were dotted around the bird. The cold stuffing was rather stodgy though. Mid-way through the recipe for this “superb buffet dish”, Jane does mention that she makes a stuffing from just prunes, kernels and herbs, as the traditional stuffing is too heavy. I felt like it was eating a dish that should have been hot but had cooled down. It’s a tricky one to grade due to the mix of sublime and ridiculous. I’ll sit on the fence with a 5/10.

#335 Boiled Capon with Sugar Peas

It is always interesting to try a new food, and this 1660 recipe from The Accomplisht Cook by Robert May contains two.

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!

The second new foodstuff is verjuice which is certainly not something you see much these days. Verjuice is made of the juice of either sour apples or sour grapes and was used as an acidulater; lemons were very pricey then, but there was no problem growing sour grapes and apples in Britain! It was particularly popular in the 16th and 17th centuries. I found the verjuice another of my favourites St Louis haunts, Global Foods Market, but I see you can also buy it online.

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.

There are 4 elements to this recipe are not particularly complicated, but they do require a little thought…

The Capon
Place a capon, breast down, in a large stockpot with its giblets.
Add water to just about cover the bird and add the stock herbs: thyme, rosemary, parsley and fennel; then add 2 or 3 blades of mace and season well with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer exceedingly gently until cooked – my 7 pound capon took about 1 ½ hours – the best way to tell it’s done is to spear the thickest part of the thigh and look for pink juices just you would do for a roast turkey or chicken. Remove the capon to a plate, cover it with foil and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes. On no account throw away the delicious fennel-scented stock. Freeze it in batches and use as needed for soups, &c.

The Bread Sauce
Start getting the sauce ready around 30 minutes before you think the capon will be ready.  Peel two onions and simmer them, covered, in water until they are tender and then blitz them in a processor or blender, or if you want to be old-school, pass them through a sieve or a mouli-legumes. Stir into the onions around four ounces of fresh breadcrumbs and a few ladlespoons of the capon stock so that you have a nice sauce. Use some oyster liquor and verjuice as well as some salt and pepper to season the sauce.

The Sippets
Sippets are fingers or triangles of bread either fried or baked and were very commonly served under meats to soak up the delicious juices. I made fingers with thickly sliced bread and baked them in a 180C (350F) oven until crisp and crunchy, around 20 minutes. These can be done in advance and warmed through in the oven if you like.

The Sugar Peas
The sugar peas – ‘cods’ – can be prepared whilst the capon is resting. When the cods be but young, string them and pick off the husks. Take 2 or 3 handfuls and but with ½ sweet butter, ¼ pint of water [this equalled 4 fluid ounces back in the day, rather than 5 as it does today in the UK], gross [black] pepper, salt, mace and oil. I used olive oil. Heat all the ingredients aside from the pods in a saucepan, add the pods, cover and stew until tender but with a little bite left in them.
Next, thicken the sauce with 3 or 4 egg yolks that have been beaten with 6 tablespoons of dry sherry (this is one of Jane’s substitutions, the original recipe used sack, a type of sweet ale).

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.

#334 Salmagundi for a Middle Dish at Supper

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.

Meals in those days were not served in courses, but all at once, with large dishes in the middle and smaller ones around the outside. The Salmagundi – sometimes spelt as Solomon-Gundy or salamongundi – would be part of a splendid centrepiece, with the meat and salad vegetables in many individual plates, in piles, or layered up. The most important thing about a Salmagundi is that the centre is raised higher than the rest so that upon the apex of the arrangement pickled herrings can sit. For some reason, this recipe appears in the Poultry section of the Meat, Poultry & Game chapter. Seeing as the only necessary ingredient is pickled herring, I would have expected it to be part of the Cured Fish section of the Fish chapter, though chicken or pullet – a castrated hen (can you castrate a hen? You know what I mean) – was ‘one of the most popular salmagundi ingredients’, says Grigson.
Here is one Hannah Glasse recipe that Jane Grigson quotes in English Food, I can’t find the source of it anywhere, Jane doesn’t say where she got it but it’s not in Glasse’s famous Art of Cookery:
In the top plate in the middle, which should stand higher than the rest, take a fine pickled herring, bone it, take off the head, and mince the rest fine. In the other plates round, put the following things in one, pare a cucumber and cut it very thin; in another, apples pared and cut small; in another, an onion peeled and cut small; in another two hard eggs chopped small, the whites in one, and the yolks in another; pickled gherkins in another cut small; in another, celery cut small; in another, pickled red cabbage chopped fine; take some watercresses clean washed and picked, stick them all about and between every plate and saucer, and throw nasturtium flowers about the cresses. You must have oil and vinegar, and lemon to eat with it. If it is prettily set out, it will make a pretty figure in the centre of the table, or you may lay them in heaps in a dish. If you have not the ingredients, set out your plates or saucers with just what you fancy, and in the room of a pickled herring you may mince anchovies.
Hannah Glasse: she was no looker, was she?

Other recipes include many other ingredients such as cold roasted veal, pork, duck, pigeon, oysters, lettuce (cut…as fine as a good big thread), samphire, peas, sorrel, spinach, chopped shallots and lemons, pickles, grated horseradish, a scattering of barberries, figs, oranges and lemons stuck on the top of a sugar loaf. The list goes on…
The secret to a good salmagundi, according to Jane Grigson, is in the layering of flavours, you need a good mixture of sharp, piquant things like the herring or gherkins as well as crisp salad vegetables and bland meats and eggs. The salmagundi often turned into a bit of a disaster, mainly because of the sentence: [I]f you have not the ingredients, set out your plates or saucers with just what you fancy… A housekeeper in a grand 18th Century larder would have had a plethora of wonderful pickled vegetables, preserved meats, plus whatever was growing in the kitchen garden at her disposal; housewives would not, and tended to make it after they’d cleaned-out their pantries. People were just being economical of course, but just what you fancy, does not translate as whatever’s in the back of the cupboard
When it came to making a salmagundi of my own I simply tried to take Jane’s advice and make a platter with a good mix of stuff and a decent olive oil and vinegar. I put an upturned bowl in the centre of a serving dish so that my pickled herring would be raised up and got to covering the whole thing in various bits and bobs. Here’s what I did:
#334 Salmagundi for a Middle Dish at Supper. I quite liked putting the salmagundi together and it was quite nice to look at and fun to eat. I think I got a good balance of the crisp, bland and piquant. It certainly made a nice change having an English salad that had a bit of thought put into it because usually they are a little sad. Shall I do it again? I think so – hopefully with a giant sugar loaf in the middle next time. 6.5/10.

#314 Boiled Turkey with Celery Sauce

“Eat up brave warrior, for tomorrow we’re burning down your village”

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.

If the turkey is smaller – and therefore younger and more tender – you can use less water. Cover and bring to a boil, then turn the heat down so the pot is only just simmering; a bubble or two every now and again is what you want. The turkey will be ready in up to two hours. Mine was ready in about 90 minutes. You can tell it is ready if the leg can be easily pulled from the body.
The sauce can be made while the bird is cooking, or it can be made ahead. You need to start by making three quarters of a pint of béchamel sauce. Next you need a whole head of celery. Remove and separate all the sticks and string them. This is easy to do: simply peel the backs of them, following the strings.
Cut the celery into strips and simmer them in salted water until they are tender, but still a little under-done. Around ten minutes should do you. Strain them, and return them to their pan with three ounces of butter and stew them a little longer.
Add the béchamel sauce and bring it and the celery to the boil. Next, liquidise it all and stir in a quarter of a pint of double cream. Season with salt and pepper.
The most difficult part of the recipe was to get the turkey out of the pot without putting myself or one of my guests in the nearest burns unit. Griggers suggests using a ham kettle, but I only had a stock pot. I poured as much of the stock out as I could (reserving it of course, for a future recipe). Then, I lay the turkey on its side in its pot and Devin coaxed it out onto its serving dish with some wooden spoons.
“It’s a boy!”

It certainly didn’t look like an appetising thing, but hopefully appearances were deceptive…
This was its good side…
…and this was its bad.

#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.

#305 Guard of Honour

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.

Serve your roast lamb with any of the trimmings Jane suggests here. She does mention that the stuffed tomatoes recipe goes very well with Guard of Honour, but I wanted to do other things…

#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

#298 Pulled and Devilled Turkey, Chicken or Pheasant

One of the most delicious dishes of eighteenth-century cooking, indeed one of the best of all English dishes“, says Griggers. That’s quite a statement. The idea behind this receipt is that it uses up that left-over Christmas or Thanksgiving turkey “with the glory it deserves“. It is nowhere near either of those two holidays, but in the receipt a roast or boiled chicken or a brace of roast pheasants can be used, and I must admit it does seem like a good dish for summertime as it is serve with bread and salad rather than stodgy potatoes and vegetables. Plus I was in the mood for some nice chicken. Perfect for hot, hot Houston eating, I reckoned. I made this for some friends to try – Danny, Eric and a Neil Cooks Grigson virgin, Jahnavi.

The turkey, chicken or pheasant is both pulled and devilled because the brown meat (i.e. leg and thigh) and the white meat (i.e. breast) are treated differently, with the brown getting a spicy marinade – the devil! – and the while meat being pulled apart into thready pieces the “thickness of a large quill” and cooked in a buttery-cream sauce presumably to temper the spicy devilled meat. Though this is an old recipe, I could find no information on it, though the inclusion of the mango chutney and the Cayenne pepper suggests an early Indian influence on English cuisine.

The actual devil, if you believe in that sort of thing.
Notice the devil is two-faced – quite literally –
one face in the usual place, the other on his arse

Although there is the big #300 coming up, this recipe marks the mid-way point through the leviathan of a chapter – the meat section. I’ve not done half as many of the strange or tricky ones that I have intended, but expect some when I move to St Louis later this month. I won’t have much of an option soon, as that’s all will be left to do!
Here’s what you do:
First prepare the appropriate fowl for the dish:
Roast turkey, you’ll need a leg (slightly underdone, if possible) and around a pound of cooked breast meat.
For chicken, you can use a boiled or roasted one, but try and undercook it. I did roast chicken and just missed off the final twenty minutes of cooking time.
For pheasants, a brace of either stewed or roasted ones will suffice!

Take the brown meat from the leg bones, keeping the pieces quite large and make some good, deep slashes in the meat. Now make a devil sauce by mixing together a rounded tablespoon each of Dijon mustard and mango chutney, a tablespoon of Worcester sauce or half a teaspoon of anchovy essence (I went with the former), a quarter teaspoon of Cayenne pepper, a little salt and two tablespoons of corn – or some other flavourless – oil. Pour this over the brown meat, making sure you work it into the slashes you made. The easiest way is to do all of this inside one of those zip-lock freezer bags. Let the meat marinade for a few hours, though I wouldn’t leave the chicken more than two as it is the most bland of the three birds here; pheasant or turkey could easily take four or five though, I reckon. Now lay the devilled meat on a baking tray and grill it under a high heat until it turns a delicious dark brown colour. Keep it warm.

Whilst the devil does its work, get on with the pulled part of the dish. Pull the breast meat apart with your fingers and set aside. For the pulled sauce, melt seven ounces of butter in a wide pan and then add half a pint of double cream. Bring to a boil and let it bubble for a couple of minutes before adding the breast meat plus any bits of jelly, then season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Lastly, stir in some chopped parsley. Spoon into the centre of a serving dish or plate and place the devilled bits around the outside.
Eat with bread and a salad.

#298 Pulled and Devilled Turkey, Chicken or Pheasant. Griggers really built this one up, and I have to say that it more than lived up to expectations. The devilled bits were deliciously spicy and salty and were perfectly complimented by the creamy and surprisingly light pulled sauce. Definitely the best recipe from the Poultry section so far, but then what can be bad about spice, butter and cream? That’s the three major food groups, isn’t it? I can’t wait for Christmas now, I’m going to get an extra-large turkey just so this can be made the next day, and it is infinitely better than turkey a sandwich, that’s for sure! 9.5/10.

#276 Giblet Gravy

It’s such a shame that the art of gravy making has been lost. This gravy is rather posh, containing things like veal and vermouth. You don’t need to add these sorts of things every time you make it, but even basic gravy is so much more delicious than any from a packet. I know it takes more planning and time, but it’s not that difficult really – mainly a bit of simming. I haven’t used gravy granules for a good couple of years now…
I’ve been meaning to do this recipe for ages – but finding chickens with giblets these days is difficult in Britain. The reason being, apparently, that people would keep forgetting to remove the giblets in their little plastic bag from the carcass before roasting it. Idiots ruining things for the rest of us, as per usual! It is also difficult finding veal in Britain too. In America however, it is pretty common. However both chickens with giblets and veal are everywhere. So I invited my friend Danny round for a roast dinner – the first I’ve made since the move over here. I don’t know why I put it off, the heat I suppose. Roast chicken and stuffing (see the next post, when I write it!) with Yorkshire puddings (my recipe here, Grigger’s here) and mashed potatoes are as manna from the Gods as far as I’m concerned. Danny had never had Yorkshire pudding before. What is that about!?
To make the gravy you’ll need a set of turkey giblets or two sets of chicken giblets – Grigson says to not include the liver, but my Mum always used it for hers and it’s good gravy that she makes! – two quartered carrots, one halved onion, either a quarter of a pint of dry white wine or 90 mls of dry white vermouth (I went with the former), a bouquet garni (see here for a post on what should go in a bouquet garni), and eight ounces of casserole veal that has been cut into pieces. Put all these ingredients into a saucepan over a high heat. When the alcohol has boiled up and the giblets and veal has changed colour, add two tomatoes that have been halved plus enough water to just cover things. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for two hours. Strain the stock.
In another pan, melt and ounce and-a-half of butter and let it cook until it turns a golden brown – a noisette brown as it is called in the trade, a good name because it does change its aroma as well as its colour and a definite nutty smell emanates. This change happens quite quickly so don’t take your eye off it. Now stir in a level tablespoon of plain flour (you can add more if you like a thick, thick gravy). Pour over the hot stock and allow to simmer covered quietly for a further half an hour. Check the seasoning.
If you are making a chicken gravy, add the juices from the roasting pan (as I did). For turkey, pour the fat away and add a glass of Madeira wine to it. Boil it up and serve it separately from the giblet gravy.
Check out that layer of butter settling out there!
I can’t believe I had no gravy boat; how embarrassing.
#276 Giblet Gravy. This was a long time coming, and it was certainly worth the wait. Rich and satisfying with a good herby flavor from the thyme I added. The best gravy I have ever made that for sure – and definitely the most indulgent. The veal, by the way, didn’t go to waste, I fished them out and serve the chunks with the meal. Waste not, want not! Anyways, an excellent recipe – 9/10.

#235 Lisanne’s Chicken with Mussels

We don’t know who Lisanne was/is, other than she was a mate of Griggers and that she made this recipe up on a whim whilst in France. The reason that it appears in English Food is that it is rather reminiscent of the old English recipes of cooking oysters with chicken. I have already done the steak, kidney and oyster pudding with great success, but the thought of a eating a chicken stuffed with mussels a little odd – and don’t forget the last mussel recipe I did was very odd. However, as we have discovered along the way, this damn book is full of surprises, so we shall see…

You need to get hold of a chicken that weighs around four or five pounds as well as a nice bag of fresh, live mussels that weighs around three or four pounds.

Begin by browning the chicken all over in some olive oil along with a large chopped onion and a chopped carrot in a flame-proof casserole. Add a bouquet garni (see here for some suggestions as to what you should put in it) and a quarter of a pint of dry white wine. Bring to a steady simmer and cook for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, open around two-thirds of the mussels in a very hot pan using another quarter pint of wine. Any mussels that remain closed should be discarded, Griggers says.* Pluck the mussels from their shells and carefully stuff them into the cavity of the now half-cooked chicken. Strain the cooking liquor from the mussels into the dish and tuck the remainder of the mussels all around the chicken. Season and cook for a further 30-45 minutes.


When the chicken is ready, remove it to a serving dish, scatter the mussels around it, and scatter chopped parsley all over it. Skim and strain the sauce into a sauceboat and eat with good bread – no vegetables required says Giggers, just a green salad to follow.

#235 Lisanne’s Chicken with Mussels. I must say I was very dubious about this one and continued to be dubious a few mouthfuls later. However, I put that down to the novel flavour combination because I soon realised it was very good! The chicken was beautifully succulent and the mussels tender, though cooking them this was gives the eater a real strong mussel-hit, but if you like your seafood, then certainly give this a go. The sauce made by the cooking liquor was divine. 7.5/10

*FYI: According to the telly programme QI, this is absolute nonsense and it is Jane Grigson who is to blame for this myth. The first mention of chucking out your un-opened mussels appears in Jane Grigson’s Fish Book and people have followed this advice evermore. However, there is actually no evidence that unopened mussels will poison you – in fact, you just as likely to be poisoned by a live mussel than a dead one. That said, I still chucked out my unopened ones!