#420 A Fricassee of Eggs

Cooking recipes from English Food by Jane Grigson, has essentially got me where I am today – she’s taught me to cook a wide variety of foods and she has passed on to me a huge interest in British cooking and its forgotten food, and its food that has now a bad name.

Now I have – along with Mr Brian Shields – opened my little restaurant called The Buttery,I am constantly using Jane’s recipes for inspiration for our menus. We have recently started a brunch menu and I spotted this recipe from Chapter 2: Cheese & Egg Dishes. It actually comes from Hannah Glasse, who wrote many a great recipe, and is – unsurprisingly – one of Jane’s most common sources in Engish Food (click here for all the Hannah Glasse recipes cooked in the book thus far). I was looking for something similar to Eggs Benedict, but with British roots. I hoped this recipe would be it.

Jane has made a few adjustments to the original recipe; a dish of boiled eggs in a creamy sauce, her keen sense of Georgian ingredients helps us achieve a final plate of food that is as historically accurate as possible. The devil is in the detail. We also see some her characteristically evocative writing:

In the days before pasteurisation, cream rapidly developed a sharp tang, which is why I used a mixture of double and soured cream…The lovely richness of the sauce suggests an idyllic countryside, cows in a pasture with summer flowers, and a steady sound of bees. An interesting thing is that one still finds it in Normandy and the Sarthe, served with trout and other fine fish, or with boiled chickens and rice.

Not all of the Hannah Glasse recipes have been well received, one – #230 English Rabbit – has achieved the only zero score in the book! However, others have gone down a storm (#366 A Fine Way to Pot a Tongue, springs to mind).

This fricassee of eggs serves eight as a first course, but can easily be scaled up or down.

Take eight large eggs and boil them for eight minutes in boiling water. Remove with a slotted spoon and run under the cold tap so that they can be peeled without burning your dainty pinkies. Cut them into quarters and arrange them nicely in eight small ramekins.

As the eggs are boiling chop up eight sprigs of parsley and melt six ounces of slightly salted butter – Jane gets specific here – in an eight inch frying pan. As it begins to foam, add a quarter pint each of double creamand soured cream. Mix well with a wooden spoon for a couple of minutes and allow the mixture to bubble and evaporate. A thick sauce will form. Quickly stir in the parsley and pour over the eggs. Have ready some triangles of toastand serve and ‘eat immediately’.

#420 A Fricassee of Eggs. Considering the vast amount of butter and cream in this dish, it tasted quite light, the sour cream cutting through the richness. The sauce was a tricky thing as it kept splitting whenever I stopped stirring. I think a half-teaspoon of cornflour could have been used to make it more stable. I think that it could have been improved with the addition of some cooked mushrooms nestled in amongst the eggs before the sauce was poured over them. If the sauce wasn’t so difficult to work with, it might have been a benefit to grill them and get some nice colour on the top as one might do with a hollandaise. I think I prefer eggs au cocotte as a lighter starter for a meal (in fact that is what I ended up putting on my brunch menu). 6/10

#368 To Dress Rabbits in Casserole

Rabbits are vermin and therefore, unlike most other game, have no ‘season’ and can be hunted all year round. This does not mean they are dirty animals of course; they simply breed like nobody’s business. The reason for this is that they are an introduced species, the Normans raised them on farms and inevitably there were escapees. Rabbit became the ultimate peasant meat and a stigma became attached. Rabbit and other game seem to be having a bit of a comeback. Bring it on, I say.
Farmed and young rabbits have pale, tender flesh and older wild rabbits have much darker flesh; almost black in some areas. Florence White, writing in her wonderful book Food in England gives us some sage advice on cooking and selecting wild rabbits: A young rabbit shot clean in the fields, is white like chicken and should be treated as such… Fat old country rabbits make good pies and stews. Thin, scavenger rabbits, trapped, broken-legged, and killed in fever and slow misery should not be eaten at all. They are definitely unhealthy food.
This is the last rabbit-based recipe in the book and probably my final one from the Gamesection until next season. It is an 18th century dish that comes from The Art of Cookery by Hannah Glasse, a lady that pops up a lot in English Food.
Hannah Glasse’s recipe serves four.
Joint one wild rabbit or ask your butcher to do it for you. Season some flour – around an ounce – with plenty of salt and pepper and liberally coat the rabbit pieces with it. Melt 2 ounces of butter in a pan and fry the rabbit pieces a golden brown colour – don’t overcrowd it, fry in a couple of batches if need be. Place the browned pieces in an ovenproof casserole dish. Deglaze the frying pan with ¼ pint of dry white wine and pour over the rabbit along with a pint of beef stock. Make a bouquet garni with suitable herbs and spices (I used bay leaves, rosemary, lots of thyme, parsley stalks, pared orange peel and a few whole black peppercorns) and pop that in too.
Put on the lid and bake in a low oven – 120-140⁰C (250-275⁰F) for at least 90 minutes. It is best to let the rabbit cool in the oven then reheat it the next day – this will produce nice tender rabbit – alternatively cook for another hour or two at that very low setting.
Fish out the meat and herbs and keep the rabbit warm somewhere. Strain the sauce through a sieve and bring to a simmer. Make a beurre manié by mashing two ounces of butter with a rounded tablespoon of flour. Whisk in pieces of it until the sauce is of desired consistency. I like a nice thick sauce so I used it all.  Add the juice of a Seville orange to the sauce and season with more salt and pepper if you think it needs it.
Slice two more Seville oranges thinly and nick out small triangles from the slices is a decorative manner. This is a very fiddly and boring job and I must admit I did give up after a couple of slices. Add the little nicked pieces of peel to the sauce.
Arrange the pieces of rabbit on a warmed serving dish with the orange slices arranged around it. Lastly, pour the sauce over the rabbit and serve it nice and hot.
#368 To Dress Rabbits in Casserole. This was a good dish – the rabbit was nice and tender and the sauce was light. The only problem was that there wasn’t much flavour from the Seville oranges in the sauce. I think that the juice of 2 oranges would have been better. Perhaps it was my fault for giving up nicking my little triangles from the orange slices. I would also lose the pointless decorative slices. 6/10.

#366 A Fine Way to Pot a Tongue

Jane Grigson gives this recipe no introduction or explanation, but one can tell from the title that this was an old recipe. It consists of a tongue inside a boned chicken that covered in butter and baked. After a quick sift through the cookbooks, I found that it is adapted from a recipe of Hannah Glasse’s that appears in the 1774 book The Art of Cookery, and the original is a little more ostentatious:

‘Take a dried tongue, boil it till it is tender, the peel it; take a large fowl, bone it; a goose, and bone it…Put the tongue into the fowl; then season the goose, and fill the goose with the fowl and tongue, and the goose will look as if whole. Lay it in a pan that will just hold it, melt fresh butter enough to cover it, send it to the oven, and bake it an hour and a half…this will keep a great while, eats fine, and looks beautiful. When you cut it, it must be cut cross-ways down through, and looks very pretty…’


It resembles recipe #322To Make a Goose Pye.



Here’s Jane’s recipe (in my words):

First of all you need to tackle your pickled ox tongue – you can buy these from your butcher pretty cheaply as I did this time, but you might want to have a go. I usually do this but the butcher didn’t have any fresh (which is understandable seeing as very few people buy them nowadays). Have a look at the post #150 How to Cure Meat in Brine for some guidance on this. Once pickled, you need to poach your tongue for 2 to 3 hours and then peel it. You don’t need to press it or anything, but see #258 Boiled Ox Tongue: To Serve Coldand #331 Boiled Ox Tongue: To Serve Hotfor more information on this.
Next, bone a 5 to 7 pound chicken. This isn’t as difficult as you think. I’ve given instructions already on how to do this in the post #322 To Make a Goose Pye. In fact this is easier because the chicken can be first split down the back with poultry shears or a hefty knife. Of course, you could ask your butcher to do it – you might have to flutter your eyelashes a little though!
Now trim your tongue, cutting off the root to remove gristle and the front portion of the tongue so that it will fit snugly within the cavity of the bird.

Before you fit it, make a spice mix from the following: a teaspoon each of ground black pepper, ground mace and ground cloves plus ½ a freshly-grated nutmeg and a level dessert spoon of sea salt.

Flip the bird over with the cut side facing you and rub in around two-thirds of the spice mix into the cavity, then place the tongue inside and wrap it in the chicken. Quickly but carefully turn the bird over to produce a surprisingly normal-looking chicken. Pop it into a close-fitting ovenproof casserole dish and rub in the remainder of the spices.


Now get on with gently melting the butter – the amount you need will depend upon how well the chicken fits into its pot. I needed four 250g packets of butter in all – that’s 2 ¼ pounds approximately. Once melted, pour it over the chicken so that it just covers it.


Pop on  a lid and bake at 200⁰C (400⁰F); if your casserole is very full, as mine was, it’s a good idea to put a roasting tin on the floor of the oven as the butter will bubble hard. When it is bubbling and boiling, turn the heat down to 180⁰C (350⁰C) and bake until cooked through. After 45 minutes see if the chicken is cooked: use either a meat thermometer (the meat should be a temperature of 73⁰C, that’s 163⁰F) or a skewer and check for any pink juices. If it’s not quite done, bake for another 10 minutes before checking again.
When cooked, gingerly take the chicken out so it can drain on a rack and pour the butter and meat juices into a bowl. Let everything cool before boiling the butter up in a pan – however, make sure none of the juices go in. Put the chicken back in its pot and tip over the butter.


You need to leave chicken for at least 36 hours before slicing it and eating with wholemeal bread spread with the spiced butter. If you want to leave it longer than 36 hours,  add more butter to fully cover the chicken.
#366 A Fine Way to Pot a Tongue… and what a fine way it was indeed!  The tongue was salty and tender with blander spiced chicken that actually balanced it very well. The spiced butter was unbelievably tasty. Three cheers for Hannah Glasse! 9/10


#357 Comfrey Leaf Fritters

I have had the foraging bug of late so I thought I would try and make these fritters that appear to been lost to history. According to Jane Grigson, the 18th century writer Hannah Glasse gave a recipe for these fritters that use the plant comfrey. Oddly, I couldn’t find the original recipe anywhere – I found clary fritters and a recipe using comfrey roots – hey ho.

Comfrey is a relatively common plant found in ditches or beside hedgerows and river banks all over Europe. There are several species, but the most common in Britain is common comfrey with the Latin name Symphytum officinale, in case you want to find it in a field guide. They are quite easy to spot though: they have large broad leaves that taper to a point and the plant forms a bushy conical shape as it grows higher with younger, smaller leaves. The flowers are either white or purple, are small and arranged in little lines of about seven spikey blooms (though I didn’t count). The leave themselves are covered in slightly rough hairs that are very slightly irritating if the leaves are large.

One thing to point out, and I only found this out after eating them, is that comfrey leaves are a little poisonous and shouldn’t be eaten in large amounts, nor should they be eaten if you have liver problems. You have been warned.

Collect some large comfrey leaves that still have a fresh green colour; the large warty dark green ones don’t look very wholesome to me. Take them home, wash and drain them then remove their stalks. Depending what you are serving with them, you will need one or two leaves per person, more if you are using the smaller tender leaves.

Meanwhile make the batter by mixing together 5 ounces of flour and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Whisk in a tablespoon of oil or melted butter and up to ½ pint of warm water to form a batter the consistency of double cream. The warm water will help thicken the batter a little. Lastly, whisk an egg whiteuntil stiff and fold into the batter.

Heat up some oil in a pan ready to deep fry the leaves. You know you’re at the correct temperature when a small cube of bread browns in about 45 seconds. Dip the leaves in the batter and fry on both sides until the batter is crisp and golden brown, around 4 minutes in all. Don’t be tempted to overcrowd the pan – the leaves will stick together and the whole thing will take much longer to cook. Drain on kitchen paper and season.
I took a photo but can’t seem to find it now. Whoops!
#357 Comfrey Leaf Fritters. I really liked these, though probably for the wrong reasons; the thin comfrey leaves were beautifully tender but essentially completely tasteless! The batter however was absolutely delicious – brown and crisp and bubbly and quite possibly the best batter recipe I have ever used. I’m going to give it 5.5/10 though because the star of the show should have been the comfrey, but it was just simply a vehicle for the divine batter.

#230 English Rabbit (1747)

There was a few dregs of red wine left over the other morning after a few drinkies the previous evening, not something that regularly happens in my house, and this presented me with the opportunity to try this strange recipe. I’ve already done Welsh and Scottish rarebits/rabbits and now I can complete the set. The English rabbit (like the Scottish) was invented in response to the Welsh rabbit. Apparently, this is the best we as a nation could come up with (at least according to Hannah Glasse):

Toast a slice of bread brown on both sides, they lay it in a place before the fire, pour a glass of red wine over it, and let it soak the wine up; then cut some cheese very thin, and lay it very thick over the bread, and put it in a tin oven before the fire, and it will be toasted and brown’d presently. Serve it away hot.


I simply made some toast but it in a ovenproof dish, sprinkled some red wine over it, piled on the slivers of cheese and grilled it. I serve it with a wee salad dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

#230 English Rabbit (1747). This was without doubt the worst Grigson I have done so far. Even worse than the Mallards of Death and the rice cake. I actually thought I was going to be sick. The hot wine and soggy bread was bizarre. Adding salad really was just like polishing a turd, as we say in England. Absolutely disgusting 0/10.

#198 Compote of Bonchretien Pears

I’ve been rather busy of late and not had much time for cooking or blogging. Oh well, we all have fallow periods. It seems like ages ago that I did the dinner party that was just a couple of weeks ago and I’ve only just gotten round to telling you about the dessert.

I wanted to do something that I could make ahead and was seasonal too. This pear compote was the obvious choice. A nice clean tart fruit after all that cream and fried bread from the previous courses. I was concerned that I wasn’t going to find any Bonchrétien pears though – I’d never heard of them. I turns out the Bon Chrétien (which translate as ‘good Christian’) pears are a type of Williams pear, the most common of the pears.

This recipe is another from Hannah Glasse, a book called The Complete Confectioner, published in 1790 – there are no specific weights and cooking times really, which is a good thing as there is a huge variation in sweetness and folks’ tastes too. Do buy good pears for this though; don’t worry if they are under-ripe.

Peel, core and slice your pears. Plunge them into a pan half-full with boiling water that has been acidulated with lemon juice. Bring to the boil and simmer for two minutes before draining and returning to the pan. If your pears are particularly hard, they may need a little more time; if they are soft, I probably wouldn’t simmer them at all. Gently stew the fruit with some sugar to taste for a few minutes, either over the hob or in the oven. Make sure the pan is covered well. To add extra flavour and interest add some pared lemon peel or a split vanilla pod (I went with the latter). Once tender, remove from the heat, squeeze some orange juice over the pears and leave to cool, covered. Griggers or Glasse make no suggestions for accompaniments, so I went with vanilla ice cream.

#198 Compote of Bonchrétien Pears. I don’t cook with pears very often and this is first time I’ve made a compote from them. They were are very good end to a rich meal, and the vanilla made them extra-delicious. I think that we should all swap our apples for pears whenever we think about making a crumble or pie this autumn or winter. 8/10

#156 Cheshire Pork and Apple Pie

I bought a nice new pie dish last week, so I thought I’d Christen it with a nice big pie for Sunday dinner. I decided upon this Cheshire Pork and Apple Pie because it needed to be pretty quick to do (no cooking of the filling beforehand) as I had to be in the lab in the morning. Plus there was a load of Cox’s Pippins in Unicorn in Chorlton – apparently the last of the stored apples from the previous autumn.

This is a very traditional pie – essentially meat stewed in liquid (in this case cider) under a pastry crust, and comes from Hannah Glasse. It is a little odd in that it has a double crust; I’d have no problems with it if it was cooked in a thick sauce. Surely the pastry lining the pie dish will just turn into a soggy mess? To pre-empt this, I used a previous trick of The Grigson – to place a baking sheet in the oven as it heats, so that when the dish is placed on it, the underside quickly cooks.

First of all make some shortcrust pastry using 10 ounces of plain flour and use two-thirds of it to line a 2 ½ pint capacity pie dish.

To make the filling you need to prepare your pork – you need 2 pounds of boned pork loin. Cut off the rind and trim away the fat with a sharp knife, then slice the loin and chop into chunks. Next peel, core and slice around 12 ounces of Cox’s orange pippins. Then mix 8 ounces of chopped onion together with 4 chopped rashers of cured, unsmoked bacon. Now layer the ingredients in the pie dish: half of the pork, then half of the apples, scatter them with some brown sugar and then sprinkle over half of the onion-bacon mixture. Season each layer with salt and pepper plus some grated nutmeg. Repeat with the remainder in the same fashion. Dot the top with around 2 ounces of butter and then pour on ¼ pint of dry cider. Cover with the remaining pastry sealing and glazing it with beaten egg. Make some fancy pastry decorations if you fancy. Bake for 20 minutes at 220°C, and then turn the oven down to 160°C for a further 45 minutes. Jane doesn’t indicate what to serve with it, but I went with mustard mash and some asparagus.

Check out the arts & crafts spectacular atop the pie!

Oink!

#156 Cheshire Pork and Apple Pie – after much deliberation on this one, I give it 5/10. I think it was pretty average – I wasn’t sure about the amount of liquid in the pie, which after my efforts to prevent it, still made the pastry soggy. I think, it could be easily improved, however by making a roux with the butter and some extra flour and using the cider to make a sauce. I think it would have made this okay effort into a very hearty one that would stick to your ribs, as we say in Yorkshire!