#421 Scallops with Cheese Sauce

This is a Manx recipe, and Manx recipes have not gone down too well in the past (#390 Isle of Man Herring Pie) stands out as particularly bad, but this one sounded pretty promising. Fish and cheese don’t always work well together, but there are those outstanding exceptions such as cod or lobster with mornay sauce, so there’s hope.
This recipe comes from Suzanne Woolley’s book My Grandmother’s Cookery Book, 50 Manx Recipes, and according to her, scallops are called tanrogen, which actually was ‘the name given to the scallop shell when it was filled with cod oil to provide a lamp for the fishermen. A rush which quickly soaked up the oil, was used for the wick’. I absolutely love happening upon these little forgotten glimpses of past lives. I might even give this it a go, though I might use a different oil…
In Ms Woolley’s grandmother’s day scallops were obviously ten a penny as this recipe requires 18 scallops for six people. As I couldn’t get a remortgage, I just bought enough scallops for a couple of people and adjusted the amounts accordingly.
A smiling scallop with its many tiny black eyes (from divernet.com)

When you go to the fishmonger to collect your eighteen scallops, first check that have been sustainably caught (if they have not, go to another fishmongers), then buy six scallop shells. Make sure you get the concave sides to the shells and not the flat sides.

Trim away any untidy parts to the scallops and remove the corals, setting them to one side. Slice each scallop in half so that there are 36 discs in all.
Next, add to a wide pan a quarter of a pint of fish stock, a quartered onion, a bay leaf and some salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, add the scallops and allow to tick away very gently for five minutes, then add the corals and simmer for a further five minutes.
Towards the end of the cooking time, make a sauce by melting an ounce of butterin a saucepan and stirring in an ounce of flourto make a roux. Cook for a couple of minutes stirring occasionally. Strain away the scallop cooking liquor and beat it into the roux. Keep the scallops warm. Make the sauce a little less thick by adding a little milk. Simmer for ten minutes and then add an ounce of grated Cheddar cheese and a couple of tablespoons of double cream. Check the seasoning, adding more cream if you like.
Arrange six halves of scallop into each scallop shell along with three corals and pour the sauce over each one. Sprinkle each with a little more grated Cheddar and brown very well under the grill.
Jane suggests piping the edges of the shells with mashed potato or lining the shells with pastry and baking them beforehand. I did neither and simply ate mine with crusty bread.
#421 Scallops with Cheese Sauce. At last, a Manx recipe I liked! It had to happen at some point, I suppose. It worked just as well as I thought it would; lovely tender-sweet scallops in a sharp and creamy sauce. The only thing I could think of to improve it would be to add some breadcrumbs fried in butter to the cheese before grilling to add some texture. I made the sauce a little too thin, but that’s easily remedied 8/10.

Chapter 2: Cheese & Egg Dishes – Completed!

Eggs and cheese have been a mainstay of British eating for centuries, making up many a large family meal, bar snack or savoury. They are enjoyed by rich and poor alike and the recipes of this second chapter of English Food are cast by Jane with a very wide net: light soufflés, omelettes (which are as English as they are French, by the way), patés that use up cheesy odds and ends and rich savouries enjoyed by ladies.

Cheesemaking and dairy farming used to be a vital part of British food culture; but when Jane was writing English Food, the masses were having to buy most of their cheese plastic wrapped in perfect squares in supermarkets. Of course we still do now, but the cheese aisles are now teeming with real cheeses too, made traditionally and coming from all over Europe. Parmesan cheese is no longer found ground and dried and smelling of socks and tasting of nought; the real McCoy can be found almost anywhere.

In the 1980s cheesemaking was having a comeback – traditional methods were being used, including the use of unpasteurised milk. Those who liked proper food propelled what was quite a niche market of micro-made cheeses right back into the forefront, eventually landing on our supermarket shelves in large amounts several decades later.

Gloucester Ale & Cheese
We all shop in supermarkets, I certainly don’t pretend otherwise, but nothing can be better than buying your cheese from a proper cheese shop or stall. Manchester folk: my two favourites are The Cheese Hamlet in Didsbury and Winter Tarn. Winter Tarn is a Cumbrian company that seeks out the best British cheeses and travels around the north of England selling those cheeses in little markets, and they pop up at Levenshulme Market every week.

Whether it’s farmhouse Cheddar, double Gloucester, Cornish Yarg or Stinking Bishop you’re after, British cheeses have never been better, but for the best, then as now, you must look beyond the refrigeration section of your local Tesco.

In the 1970s and 80s, our eggs were in a right old state – there was intense over-crowding and the chickens were fed a meal made from the carcasses of dead birds. Quality of life, and egg, was very low, and because of the sheer number of chickens in one place, it didn’t take long for disease to spread. In this case it was the bacterium Salmonella enteriditis (SE) that killed many chickens and quite a few humans too. Coupling this with the fact that eggs from different ‘farms’ and of different ages were being mixed up together, the source of an outbreak couldn’t be found readily.

Pickled Eggs

All this was addressed by the British government in the 1990s – chickens are now vaccinated against SE and with the introduction of the Lion Quality code, which allows each individual egg to be easily traced back to its origin, outbreaks could be tackled swiftly. Only one percent of eggs get contaminated nowadays, and even then the number of bacterial cells averages out at around 10 per egg – so you’d have to be pretty unlucky to become ill.

Seftons
personally, only go for free range; I feel far too guilty about the conditions they have to endure and I can’t bring myself to buy anything less. The best eggs are those you can get from farmers’ markets, and are usually pretty cheap too.

This chapter contains recipes that have become a mainstay of my cooking. Of greatest note, is that special combination of cheese and egg, the soufflé, and Jane’s recipe is a very good and versatile one. You just can’t beat it, and they are not anywhere as tricky to make as you might think. There are Glamorgan sausages too (who needs a nasty vegetarian sausage when you can have these!?) and an 18th Century bacon and egg pie that transported me right back to my Primary School dinner hall.

A Fricassee of Eggs

There have been lows too, one recipe in this chapter has achieved my only zero score so far. The English Rarebit was disgusting: toast soggy with hot red wine, topped with congealed cheese. What were they thinking!?

As usual, here are all the recipes listed as they appear in the book with links to each post on the blog with their score. It turned out to be a pretty average chapter with a mean score of 6.7 (and median and mode of 7.0).

#408 Little Cheese Soufflés

For a recent pop-up restaurant menu, I foolishly decided that one course should be soufflé. Now I must admit, I have had little trouble with Jane’s savoury soufflé recipes, but they were large soufflés with plenty of structure. What I wanted was little individuals ones which required even baking in my overworked and increasingly erratic oven. Luckily Jane had it covered – or so I thought – with this recipe for Little Cheese Soufflés.

This recipe appears to be far too good to be true; there is no béchamel sauce, no whipping of egg whites, no gentle folding and no ban Marie. All one has to do is mix the ingredients in the right order and bake! Obviously this was the one.

This mixture makes enough for 8 ramekins:

Grate 8 ounces of Lancashire cheese, setting a couple of tablespoons aside for later. Whisk together well 4 large eggs, and mix in ¼ pint each of single and double cream along with the cheese. Season with salt and both black and Cayenne peppers. Jane has a secret ingredient too; a rasp or two of freshly grated nutmeg.

Butter your ramekins and split the mixture between them, making sure there is a half-inch gap between mixture and ramekin rim. Mix together the cheese you put aside with two tablespoons of breadcrumbs and adorn each pot with the mixture.


Place on a baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes at 200⁰C until risen and browned.
Griggers’ serving suggestion: ‘Serve immediately with thin slices of bread baked in the oven until crisp.
#408 Little Cheese Soufflés. Well what can I say? When Jane says ‘serve immediately’ she really does mean immediately! It took approximately 10 seconds for my risen soufflés to become sunken shells merely coating the inside of my ramekins. In her defence, these soufflé shells did taste good, though they certainly would not do for my pop up. As far as my understanding is, it seems that the mixture only rose because the eggs – technically – overbaked and therefore formed large bubbles. It seems the recipe was too good to be true after all. Hey ho. 3/10.
Here they are straight out of the oven. 10 seconds later, they weren’t so appetising!

P.S. For the pop-up I simply used her basic soufflé recipe and added my own flavourings. They rose and stayed up, so Jane saved the day in the end.

#365 Roast Venison with Norwegian Goat’s Cheese Sauce

Venison is, of course, the king of all game, though being a wild animal, you do get a lot of variation in the tenderness of meat; it can be wonderfully tender or tough as old boots. A good roasting joint for venison is haunch as it is a more tender cut. To tenderise further it is advised to marinade any joint for at least 24 hours.
Colonel Smith Grasping the Hind Legs of a Stag,
Unknown Artist c.1650
It may be the king of game, but many recoil in horror at the thought of eating deer, perhaps it is a little too noble; even when farmed meat was heavily rationed during World War II, many people still would not eat or buy it, even though game wasn’t rationed at all! Well it is important to know that we would still have to cull many hundreds every year as they decimate forests by eating away the bark from trees. Deer (fortunately for us, unfortunately for them) have to be managed; now what a waste it would be if they were just all incinerated! A similar thing goes on in some African countries where elephant conservation has been a little too effective.
I have eaten venison many times, but I had never roasted it myself, so I was very glad that Jane walks you through the whole process; she, in turn, taking advice from a lady called Anne Willan who wrote a book called The Complete Guide to Cookery.
That said, there seems to be a major typo or two in this recipe and I can’t work out for sure what it is supposed to say; apparently this serves up to 2, yet a 5 pound joint is required. Now I like my food, but even 5 pounds – or indeed 2 ½ pounds – of meat in a sitting is bit too much. Look closer and, according to the recipe, the metric equivalent of 5 pounds is ½ a kilo, which is approximately one pound. How many does it serve? Up to 2? 12? 20? what!? If anyone has an earlier reprint or edition, have a quick look and see what it says and then leave me a little comment. I thank you in advance.
I made this for Christmas dinner #2 in Manchester, and I took the recipe to mean 5 pounds and not half a kilogram. I managed to get a second dinner the next day as well as several rounds of venison sandwiches and 5 pies for the freezer – that beats turkey leftovers any day.
Well it is up to you to decide how many this serves, but reckon it’s about 10 people as venison is a rich meat (as is the sauce).
The first thing to do is marinade your five pounds of venison, the amount of time depends on the size of your joint and if your deer was truly wild or ‘farmed’. If truly wild and/or large, a cooked marinade is required, if small or farmed – and therefore already quite tender – an uncooked marinade. The joint can sit in the uncooked marinade for around 24 hours, and in the cooked marinade up to 3 days. For me, time was an issue so it went for the uncooked marinade.
To make the uncooked marinade slice up a carrot, two onions and a stick of celeryand place in a bowl or tub along with a bottle of red wine – ‘respectable and decent rather than glorious’ – four fluid ounces of red wine vinegar, a bouquet garni, a dozen of both peppercorns(lightly crushed) and allspice berries, and finally four fluid ounces of olive oil.
For the cooked marinade, stew the veg in half the olive oil and then add the rest of the ingredients mentioned above and then simmer for 20 minutes before stirring in the rest of the oil. Allow to cool.
After the meat has marinated in its marinade sufficiently, it’s time to roast it. First, preheat the oven to 220⁰C (425⁰F) then remove the meat from the marinade and pat it dry; the meat should feel wonderfully tender and it should have picked up a wonderful purple hue from its soaking in all that red wine. Don’t throw away the marinade.
Calculate the cooking time: you need to allow 10 to 15 minutes per pound for rare meat or 18 minutes per pound for pink medium meat. I won’t give you the time for well-done – you don’t deserve to eat this beast you are going to cremate it! Spread the joint liberally with butter; the lean meat needs all the help it can get to prevent it drying out. Indeed, I went a bit further by wrapping the buttered joint in caul fat. Place the meat on a rack over a roasting tin and pop it in the oven.
After 15 minutes, pour 8 fluid ounces of the marinade and 4 fluid ounces of beefor game stock into the roasting tin and turn down the heat to 180⁰C (350⁰F) for the remainder of the roasting time. Baste it regularly and add extra marinade or stock should the pan become dry. You can, if you fancy, spread 2 generous tablespoons of soured cream over the joint when the heat is turned down.
If you want to be precise about your cooking you can test the temperature with a thermometer: you want a temperature of 51⁰C (125⁰F) for rare and a temperature of 60⁰C for medium-cooked meat. When ready, keep the meat warm, covered in foil to rest for at least 30 minutes whilst you get on the making the cheese sauce.
When I first saw this recipe I thought that Lady Grigson had gone a little too far by including a Norwegian cheese in one of her recipes; however after tasting the cheese in question – gjetost – I was instantly converted. In short, to make it, goat’s cheese goes through a similar process that sweetened condensed milk goes through when it is boiled to produce caramel. The resulting cheese is a rich brown cheese that is a sweet as it is sharp. I got hold of some at Cheese Hamlet, Didsbury, Manchester, but you can get it on the internet very easily.
Carefully skim the roasting juices of their fat and pour them into a pan along with 8 fluid ounces of beef or game stock, boil and reduce to a good concentrated state, add more of the reserved marinade so that you really concentrate flavour – “it should be really strong” says Jane. Stir in 8 fluid ounces of crème fraîche or 4 fluid ounces each of double and soured cream and then season with the gjetost cheese and rowan jelly or peppered redcurrant jelly (or indeed normal redcurrant jelly well-seasoned with black pepper). Cut a little under an ounce of the cheese into thin slices and melt into the sauce, then the jelly. Taste and add more of either if you like and season with salt and pepper. You are left with a brown, sticky, richly-flavoured sauce.
Put the joint on a serving dish and cover it with some sauce before carving it. Serve the rest of the sauce in a separate jug or sauceboat.
#365 Roast Venison with Norwegian Goat’s Cheese Sauce. This was a most delicious recipe – the haunch of venison was beautifully tender with just the right amount of gaminess; you can see that the marinade had really done its work. I was worried that the strong, thick, dark brown sauce would over-power things, but it went so, so well. Now large joints of venison are not exactly what you are likely to be roasting for Sunday dinner, but if you do happen upon one and buy it, then this is the one recipe to try! 9.5/10.
 

#351 Potted Cheese

Sorry for the quiet blog folks, I am still organising my life after my recent move back to Manchester. The dust has settled enough however, for me to do this recipe for potted cheese that I have had my eye on for a good while; I couldn’t make it in America as I couldn’t get hold of the required Cheshire cheese for love nor money (and if I could it would have cost a pretty penny, let me tell you).
Potted cheese was very popular from the mid-18thcentury as a way to use up left-over dry cheese and rinds and pep them up a little and make them edible and delicious once more. The cheese is potted just like potted meat or fish: mixed with butter and seasoned with alcohol and spices.
Any cheese can be used: Cheshire, Stilton, Gloucester, Wensleydale, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, whatever you have available. It then needs to be moistened and seasoned. Jane makes some suggestions as do many 18th century books: white wine, sherry, port, Worcester sauce, chili vinegar, black pepper, chives, mustard, Cayenne pepper, ground mace. The list goes on. Jane uses any leftover cheeses and combines them to make a single that is ‘a far more rewarding result than any cook deserves’, we mix our grapes to make blended wines, so why not cheese? Hannah Glasse says ‘a slice of [potted cheese] exceeds all the cream cheeses than can be made’. This is all high praise indeed. The recipe that Jane specifies uses Cheshire cheese, port or sherry, Cayenne pepper and walnuts.
Take 3 ounces of butter out of the fridge in good time so that it can soften. Next prepare 8 ounces of Cheshire cheese – cut into cubes and reduce to a crumble in a food processor or grate if doing by hand.  Add the butter and two tablespoons of port or brown sherry to form a paste. Add a good pinch of Cayenne pepper. Jane now tells us to either form into small cheese truckles and roll them in chopped walnuts, or to put in pots and cover with clarified butter if the potted cheese is to be kept for a while. I found the cheese truckles easier to make after the mixture was allowed to sit in the fridge overnight.

 

#351 Potted Cheese. I was very much looking forward to making this recipe, mainly because Jane is so enthusiastic about it. When I first made it I wasn’t too sure, I found it grainy and thought the alcohol didn’t quite work. However, I tried it again after a night in the fridge and it had transformed – the port had soaked into the grains of cheese to produce a creamy homogenous cheese truckle. It’s very good on an oatcake. On the strength of this, I’ve gone out and bought a few different cheeses so I can try a few combinations myself. 7/10.

#326 John Farley’s Fine Cheesecake

My friends Ashley and Jason were throwing a bit of a party last weekend and it was a pot luck party, where everyone brings some food. We don’t have such things in England, but I shall try and introduce them as they are a great idea. I thought it would be a good opportunity to sneak in a couple of historical desserts from the eighteenth century, so I made the delicious sweetmeat cake and this cheesecake.

When one thinks of cheesecakes, one wouldn’t think of England – there’s plenty in mainland Europe and America of course – yet we have been making them for a quite a while, the Yorkshire curd tart being the most well-known. John Farley’s has some delicious, and very eighteenth century ingredients: sweet macaroons (the almond kind, not the coconut kind), fragrant yet earthy ground almonds and heady rose or orange-flower water. If you can’t find almond (‘French’) macaroons anywhere, here is a recipe. It is a little strange in that it should be served warm; all the cheesecakes I have ever eaten (baked or not) have always been served cold.
These sorts of puddings were very popular – there are no less than seven cheesecake recipes in Elizabeth Raffald’s 1769 book, The Experienced English Housekeeper.  John Farley’s book The London Art of Cookery was published in 1783 and included eight cheesecakes, with most of the recipes being copied word-for-word from Raffald’s book. The cheeky bleeder. I don’t think that he was trying to pass the recipes off as his own, he was just producing a compendium of recipes suitable for housewives and servants. He wrote it whilst he was head chef at The London Tavern. I think I will try some more of these cheesecake recipes.

To make the cheesecake, begin by lining a 9 inch flan tin with puff or shortcrust pastry. Griggers says that in the eighteenth century puff pastry would have been used, so I went with that so the cheesecake would be as authentic as possible.

Now beat the filling ingredients together: 8 ounces of full fat cream cheese, 2 big tablespoons of double cream, a tablespoon of orange flower or rose water, 4 large egg yolks, 2 ounces melted slightly salted butter, 3 ounces of crushed macaroon crumbs, 3 ounces of ground almonds, 3 ounces of caster sugar and up to half a freshly ground nutmeg. Whew!

Turn the mixture into the line tart tin and bake at 180C (350F) for 30-40 minutes until the top is nicely browned. Eat the cheesecake hot or warm, with cream.
#326 John Farley’s Fine Cheesecake. It may look a little pale and pasty, but this really was a fine cheesecake indeed! The filling was not of a typical baked cheesecake because of all the almonds and macaroons in there. The cheese flavour was definitely present though as was a hint of perfume from the rose water. It all certainly suited modern tastes. Eating it warm seemed like a strange idea, but it was very good, especially with some cool cream poured over. We need to bring back the English cheesecake! 9/10

#270 Mereworth Biscuits

The move back to Houston after almost a month back in England has left me very homesick indeed and definitely in need of some therapy of some kind, especially when Sunday came around. Personally, I find nothing more therapeutic that having a good baking session. Unfortunately, I could not arsed to leave my flat and buy ingredients.  The Teatime chapter of the book has received the most attention out of all the chapters, and I assumed that all the remaining recipes required either ingredients or equipment that I have not yet acquired.  Not so, these little savory biscuits; they are made up of just plain flour, butter, milk and a pinch of salt.
I’d not heard of these before, but they are supposed to be served with butter and cream cheese and that sort of thing. I don’t like to quote big chunks of Jane Grigson’s writings on the blog, but I think this post requires it – her little introduction to this recipe is so evocative that I can’t resist. Enjoy:
We once looked down on the perfect Greek cross of Mereworth Castle through young beech leaves, not long after we had visited the Villa Capra at Vicenza, which stands right up on a dusty hill surrounded by long grass. And here in the spring countryside of Kent was this perfect replica, with the same collected elegance, far below the valley. I should like to see the kitchens of Mereworth, where these biscuits were made in the nineteenth century.”
God, she is good. It’s a shame she is no longer with us. She goes on to tells us that the recipe comes from a book called Choice Recipes by a certain Lady Sarah Lindsay.
Mereworth Castle
This recipe make quite a large number of biscuits, I imagine that the dough will freeze perfectly well like most biscuit doughs do. It’s also a very easy dough to make, so if you’ve never baked before, this could be a good initiation!
Begin by rubbing one ounce of butter into eight ounces of plain flour along with a pinch of salt. Make a well and add some hot milk, bring the dough together adding more hot milk until it becomes firm but soft. Give it a knead. There’s quite a lot of lee-way here, unlike pastry, the hot milk and kneading is supposed to make the dough stretchy and it can take quite a bit of liquid. If it is a little too wet, sprinkle with some more flour. The dough can now be rolled out extremely thinly – make it as thin as possible, so thin you can see the work surface beneath. Cut out two inch circles with a plain biscuit cutter and bake for no more than five minutes at 220°C (450°F) until slightly golden. Some will produce giant bubbles others will not, but they will look beautifully home-made! Keep somewhere airtight as they do go soft very easily.
#270 Mereworth Biscuits. These were quite nice and went well with whatever bit and bobs I found in the fridge to eat with them. I do like cheese and biscuits but rarely ever think to buy them, apart from at Christmastime. These were good, but there are more English savory bikkies that I personally think are better, so I’m going to give them a safe 5/10.