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
“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.
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.
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!