Here is another recipe from Alexis Soyer – the first celebrity chef and all-round (though slightly pompous) good guy. I have mentioned him before in previous posts. I thought I would try this recipe as a test for the veal I bought from Winter Tarn. This seemed like a good mid-week meal as it is quick to cook that seemed nice and satisfying; just what one needs of a Wednesday in rainy Manchester.
Begin by chopping a small onion and a clove of garlic and softening them in a generous ounce of butter. Once soft, turn up the heat to brown them slightly and then add 8 ounces of minced veal. Fry until it has browned slightly. Now add some seasonings, herbs and spices: a rounded teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of black pepper, a pinch each of cinnamon and nutmeg and a teaspoon of thyme leaves. Next stir through a heaped teaspoon of flour and when that has browned slightly pour in a quarter of a pint of milk (full fat if you can!). Simmer very gently for fifteen to twenty minutes until the mince has become soft and unctuous in its now creamy sauce. Whilst that is happening poach an egg and fry a slice of bread per person. Taste the veal and add more seasonings and ‘sharpen it’ with some lemon juice or white wine vinegar.
Place a slice of fried bread on each plate, then a helping of the veal and finally a poached egg on top.
#204 Minced Veal and Eggs. What seems like a bizarre recipe turned out to be absolutely delicious, the delicate milky veal melds perfectly with the milk in the sauce and the fried bread and poached eggs added to the comfort food kick that I really required. Great stuff. Give it a go; quick and easy. 8/10.
I am still trying to count the pennies at the minute and this recipe was designed to be cheap to make as it is from Alexis Soyer’s book Shilling Cookery for the People (1845). I’ve mentioned Soyer before in the blog – he was a French chef who wanted to help the people and the book was one way. He was also a pioneer – he helped develop cooking on gas and ovens with adjustable temperatures. Anyway, I did baulk at this recipe: shilling cookery with veal in it!? However, I was wrong; I managed to get hold of a veal knuckle to make the soup for just 25 pence from the Orton Farmers’ Market. Bargain. You may have some reservations about eating veal, but these days you really don’t need to – I’ll discuss that in a later entry though.
I love how the book has two vegetable soup recipes and neither even entertain being vegetarian! Brilliant. We love Griggers!
To make this soup you need to begin by making a veal stock: You need to get hold of 2 pounds of veal knuckle – it seems that they are quite easy to get hold of as long as your butcher sells veal in the first place. Ask the butcher to chop it into small pieces – I couldn’t as I was at the market and had to do it myself which was a nightmare to do. Place the knuckle pieces in a large pan along with 2 ounces of butter; 2 ounces of chopped, lean unsmoked bacon; 3 teaspoons of salt; ½ teaspoon of ground black pepper; 6 ounces of sliced onion; and ¼ pint of water. Bring the water to a boil and stir the ingredients for around 10 minutes. An opaque whitish stock is created. Now add a further 4 ½ pints of water and bring to a boil, then skim, then simmer for 45 minutes. Strain the stock when cooked. You can do all this in advance, of course.
For the soup itself you need to dice some vegetables: around 8 ounces of turnip, Jerusalem artichokes or carrot, or a mixture; plus 3 ounces of mixed onion, leek and celery. Melt 2 ounces of butter or dripping in a pan and add the diced vegetables along with 2 teaspoons of sugar. Stir them until they caramelise and, when ready, add 3 pints of the stock. Simmer until the vegetables are tender. Lastly, stir through 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley or chives, or both. Serve with brown bread and butter.
#187 Soyer’s Clear Vegetable Soup. This was an unusual soup; I can’t decide if I liked it or not. I was a very thin soup that wasn’t hearty at all, so it didn’t fill any gap in my stomach! It was saved by the sweet vegetables and their caramelised coating that darkened the soup and made look quite attractive. Not sure if I’d make it again though – 5/10.
The male cook/chef that seems to appear often in English Food is one Alexis Soyer – he wrote a book called Shilling Cookery for the People in 1854. I’ve done one of his recipes before (reproduced in English Food) using oranges. This one is a method of doing good service to a large field mushroom, should you find one, as I did in Asda the other day. I thought I’d quote what he says about this dish straight from English Food as the language is brilliant, though the people for whom he was writing probably thought he was a right old ponce:
“Being in Devonshire, at the end of September and walking across the fields before breakfast to a small farmhouse, I found three very fine mushrooms, which I thought would be a treat, but on arriving at the house I found it had no oven, a bad gridiron and a smoky coal fire. Necessity, they say, is the mother of Invention, I immediately applied to our grand and universal mamma, how should I dress my precious mushrooms, when a gentle whisper came to my ear…”
This is what he did:
Place the mushroom on a round, or rounds of toast, depending on size, that have been spread with clotted cream (I had some left from the junket I made the other day). Have the mushroom stalk side up and spread that with more cream. Season well and place in inverted Pyrex dish over it and bake in a hot oven (200°C) for 30 minutes. He used a glass tumbler – to prevent the smoke spoiling the flavour of his precious mushrooms. It’s a good method, as it does keep all the mushroom juices in.
He goes on to say:
“The sight when the glass is removed, is most inviting, its whiteness rivals the everlasting snows of Mont Blanc, and the taste is worthy of Lucullus. Vitellius would never have dined without it; Apicius would never have gone to Greece to seek for crawfish; and had he only half the fortune left when he committed suicide, he would have preferred to have left proud Rome and retire to some villa or cottage to enjoy such an enticing dish.”
#134 Mushrooms, or the Pearl of the Fields – 8/10. I have to say, although he talks a load of nonsense, he knows how a treat a mushroom fairly. This simple supper dish is maybe the best way to show off the earthy flavour of those large meaty, juicy field/Portabello mushrooms. The clotted cream soaked into the crispy bread and also formed a rich sauce in the cap. Brilliant.
All is going well thus far re: fitness. I’ve been to the gym every morning so far this week and I’m determined not to eat to much fatty greasiness. That said, one must treat oneself, mustn’t one? So I’m sure that I’ll do something naughty later on in the week. By compromise at least one of my 5 a day will be included (does butter count?). For tea I had salady bits – a green salad, hummus, coleslaw, brown bread etc etc. For dessert, Soyer’s Orange Salad. The recipe is taken from his 1860 book Shilling Cookery for the People (full title, Shilling Cookery for the People: Embracing an Entirely New System of Plain Cookery and Domestic Economy). You can still buy it as a paperback. Odd though that there’s an orange recipe, as they were pretty expensive up until post-war times. Also it contains Madeira wine. Anyways, it’s very easy – all you need is a very sharp knife or a Japanese mandolin and time for the oranges to macerate. The quantities I give are for four people:
Thinly slice three oranges, making sure that you remove pips; don’t buy the great big warty navel ones, get the small thinner skinned ones. Don’t slice the ends as they’re too pithy. Arrange the slices on a large plate, keeping the best ones for the top. Next, sprinkle two ounces of sugar over them, and then 2 fluid ounces (80 mls–ish) of Madeira. Cover with cling film and chill for a few hours, or overnight.
FYI: Alexis Soyer is considered the first ‘celebrity chef’ and was an all-round nice chap: he took his travelling kitchen to Ireland during the potato famine to feed the poor, and to the Crimea and was a contemporary of Florence Nightingale.
#64 Soyer’s Orange Salad – 4/10. An odd creature. Not sure if I liked it, so I erred on the side of caution with score. The sweet Madeira is a treat and got easily drink a vat of it, but the oranges were odd – I don’t eat oranges like this normally – as the pith and peel were very tear and made my tongue a bit numb. That said, I couldn’t leave it alone. Maybe the slices weren’t thin enough, or perhaps I didn’t leave it long enough. I’ve got some in the fridge and will see what it’s like tomorrow.