These days we take the humble carrot for granted and treat it as a bog-standard, perhaps boring, veg to have with our meat and two veg – particularly beef. In the Sixteenth Century, however, things were obviously very different for us commoners and carrots were a blessing. Europe in 1599 was ravaged with bubonic plague and many people had to live off their own land. Wheat was not something you can grow in large enough amounts to sustain one’s own family and the extent of the poverty in those times meant few could afford it. Therefore people took to growing root vegetables – and the carrot was very popular as it was relatively easy to grow. There is a species of wild carrot that grows in Britain and Europe, but the cultivated carrot actually most likely arrived from Afghanistan.
Drama King: Billy-Bobs Shakespeare
Just so you know (and to put things into a historical perspective), in 1599 Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne, the first performance of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare went down well at the Globe Theatre in London and Oliver Cromwell – the future Lord Protector of England – was born.
A blast from the past? Carrots in 1599
For this entry, Jane recounts a section from the book Profitable Instructions for the Manuring, Sowing and planting of Kitchin Gardens by Richard Gardiner which was first published in 1499. He essentially makes suggestions as how to make good use of carrots: ‘carrots roots are boiled with [salted] beef…a few carrots do save one quarter of beef in the eating of whole beef…carrots of red colours are desired of many to make dainty salads…[they] make those pottage good, for the use of the common sort…carrots well boiled and buttered is a good dish for hungry or good stomachs’. Carrots also give ‘good nourishment to all people…therefore sow carrots in your gardens, and humbly praise God for them, as for a singular and great blessing’.
I particularly liked the phrase ‘carrots well boiled and buttered is a good dish for hungry or good stomachs’, so that is what I did to go with the jugged hare. It’s good to know that some things don’t change.
#220 Carrots in 1599. I’m not actually going to give a score for this as it’s not really a proper recipe (i.e. a total cop-out). However, I think it really highlights that we take much of our food for granted – not that there is anything wrong with that – and that people in other counties or times past view things in such a different and sometimes inspiring ways.
Right. I promise that October shall be much more eventful in the world of The Grigson than September. It was my turn to do the cake for Evolution Group at University, so I’ve been given a good kick up the arse.
A favourite of the group is carrot cake, and there is a recipe in English Food – though it’s very different to the American carrot cake. It’s made without using fat, like a Genoese spoge to make it light and has the added bonus of having hazelnuts in it. Couldn’t resist not sandwiching it with American-style cream cheese filling.
FYI: Carrots have been used for desserts quite a lot in England. Mrs. Beeton had a sweet, chewy carrot tart in her book; it was revived as mock apricot tart during rationing in the Second World War, if I remember rightly (not that I was in WWII, you understand).
Separate four eggs and add to the yolks to the bowl of a food mixer along with 4 ounces of caster sugar. Whisk them together until pale and frothy. This takes a while so meanwhile finely grate 4 ounces of carrots and blitz 2 ounces of toasted hazelnuts in a food processor (or, heaven-forbid, chop them by hand!). Fold these into the eggy mixture along with 4 ounces of sifted, plain flour. Next, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Slaken the mixture by stirring in a third of the whites and then fold in the rest. Spoon the mixture into two greased and papered 9 inch cake tins and bake at 190ºC for anywhere between 15 and 25 minutes. They’re ready when the sponge springs back pressed lightly. Cool on wire racks.
To make the filling, beat together 8 ounces of full-fat soft cheese with 5 ounces of softened unsalted butter, once incorporated, beat in 4 tablespoons of icing sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Use this to sandwich the cakes together. Dust the whole thing with icing sugar, if you please.
#79 Carrot and Hazelnut Cake – 8/10. A success. Every seemed to like it. Much less dense than a typical carrot cake. I could only have a tiny wee sliver since I’m meant to be on a carb-free week this week, but I had to taste it for the blog, didn’t I!?
This one is very similar to the tomato soup I made last month, and has almost the same ingredients. I used beef stock rather than vegetable stock this time, which really brings out the flavour of the tomatoes, so unless you’re vegetarian go for the beef!
Soften 8 ounces of sliced carrots and a medium-sized, chopped onion in 2 ounces of butter. Add 8 ounces of peeled and chopped tomatoes and 1 3/4 pints of stock and gently simmer until the carrot is cooked. Liquidise and pass through a sieve to remove seeds before returning to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and add 1/4 pint of single cream and some chopped chives.
Soup 7/10; attractiveness 1/10.
#68 Carrot and Tomato Soup – 7/10. Really delicious. Sieving it and adding cream made it really silky and smooth, which is important when you can hardly open your mouth. It freezes brilliantly too.