A while ago I made an extremely similar recipe – steak, kidney and oyster pudding. A seminal English dish that I had saved for the landmark 200th recipe. This pie essentially follows the same history (and recipe) as the pudding – the combination of the three main ingredients seems to start with Mrs Beeton. I have found similar recipes going back further like oyster pie, beef-steak and oyster pie, veal and oyster pie and calves’ foot and kidney pie. I could go on, but I shan’t, I think you get the message. The pudding was delicious so there was no way this could be a fail…
I’ve cooked quite a few – and eaten quite a few – soufflés in my time, but this is my first sweet one. It comes from the great Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, or to give its full title, The Book of Household Management Comprising information for the Mistress, Housekeeper, Cook, Kitchen-Maid, Butler, Footman, Coachman, Valet, Upper and Under House-Maids, Lady’s-Maid, Maid-of-all-Work, Laundry-Maid, Nurse and Nurse-Maid, Monthly Wet and Sick Nurses, etc. etc.—also Sanitary, Medical, & Legal Memoranda: with a History of the Origin, Properties, and Uses of all Things Connected with Home Life and Comfort. Those Victorians do go on, don’t they? The book is actually a collection of articles that she published in The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine between 1859 and 1861, and although she conjures up imaginations of austerity and matronliness, she actually died at the rather young age of 46 of tuberculosis, or consumption as the Victorians called it, and her great masterwork was published when she was just thirty years of age.
#293 Mrs Beeton’s Chocolate Soufflé. This was a very good soufflé. It wasn’t very sweet, which really showed off the bitter chocolate taste. In fact is tasted just like a whipped up mug of cocoa. The chilled cream – which Americans don’t seem to use on their desserts – in combination with the hot soufflé, really set it off. The only problem was that 20 minutes was a little too long; the centre of the soufflé wasn’t soft, as I like it to be, so it’ll be 15 minutes in the future. That’s my only gripe though. 7.5/10.
As promised, a dish that is more English that roast beef and Yorkshire puddings, at least I think so anyway. It may be because I’m a Northerner, but I also think (and I could be wrong here) that although it is very English, it hasn’t travelled to other countries as well as, say, roast beef. In other words, it’s a sort of hidden gem. I have been saving this one for number 200 for a while, though I did change my mind a fair few times.
The seemingly unusual ingredient here is, of course, the oysters. The recipe is surprisingly recent: it appears as a steak pudding in a book by Eliza Acton in 1845 and the kidney turns up in Mrs Beeton’s Household Management nearly fifteen years later. In those days folks living near the coasts were falling over oysters – they diminished however due to a combination of an increased population eating them and the increased pollution created by all those extra people. No one wants a shitty oyster. However, before this, they were cheap and the preferred alternative to the very pricey mushrooms that the posh gentry would have enjoyed. It was only since around the Second World War that mushrooms have been cultivated on a large scale, before that they acquired by foraging: limited and very seasonal. Of course, these days it is the mushrooms that are ten-a-penny, and the oysters that break the bank. That said, native oysters are in season at the moment and the ones I bought from Out of the Blue in Chorlton were just sixty pence each.
This pudding is a pretty posh all-out one; giant, full of rump steak, red wine and extra beef stock plus both mushrooms and oysters:
To begin, make the filling: cut two pounds of trimmed rump steak into one inch cubes and then slice a pound of ox kidney (or veal, if you’re being really posh), removing any fat or gristly bits on the way. Toss these in two tablespoons of seasoned flour. Chop a large onion and fry it gently in two ounces of butter until nicely softened, remove with a slotted spoon, turn up the heat and then hard fry the beef and kidney. When brown transfer to a casserole dish (or, if you have a cast-iron one that goes on the hob you can keep it all in there. Deglaze the pan (or casserole dish) with either a pint of beef stock, or half-and-half stock and red wine. Now slice 8 ounces of mushrooms and fry them in an ounce of butter. Add these along with the cooked onions and a bouquet garni to the meat. Cover with a lid and cook in the oven for 1 ½ hours at 140-150⁰C. You can do all this the day before if need be.
Next, open the oysters: Griggers suggests 18-24 oysters, though makes them an optional ingredient for the pudding. I went for a dozen as I didn’t want to go bonkers with the spending. Add them, plus their liquor to the meat. I’ve written about opening oysters before.
To make the suet pastry, use a knife to mix together 10 ounces of self-raising flour, a teaspoon of baking powder, ¼ teaspoon of salt, ground white pepper, ¼ teaspoon of thyme and 5 ounces of chopped fresh suet (use the packet stuff if you can’t get hold of it). Now add cold water little by little to the mix, stirring with the knife. Use the minimum amount of water that will bring the pastry together, using your hands towards the end. If it seems too wet, add more flour. There’s enough pastry to line a three pint pudding basin, so roll it out in a circle large enough and remove a quarter of it (you’ll use this later). This’ll make it easy to line the basin – use water as glue to stick down the ‘hem’. Spoon in the mixture and then roll out the reserved quarter into a circle to make the lid. Place this on top and fold any surplus edging over it and glue it with more water. Secure the lid if using a plastic basin, or cover with buttered, pleated foil secured with string. Place in a steamer and cook for one and a half hours; don’t let it boil dry. Turn it out onto a plate and serve immediately.
#200 Steak, Kidney and Oyster Pudding. The poshest pudding in the world! It was very, very good though. The beef and kidneys were very tender and the gravy was good and rich. The real revelation was the oysters – at first I wasn’t very sure about them, but it was a taste that was acquired very quickly. They provided a mysterious iodine tang to the whole thing. The original surf ‘n’ turf! The only thing I would change is the amount of pastry – there was barely enough to line the basin, making it split open when it was turned out! 9/10.
Well it’s the run-up to Christmas. I’ve already started on the Christmas cake and I’m feeding it with brandy every few days. As Lee, Charlotte, Kate and Pete were coming over for food, I thought it would be the perfect time to do a trial run of the traditional mincemeat I made a few weeks ago, so I made some mince pies.
Jane Grigson gives instructions on how to make them. She says to use shortcrust pastry rather than puff pastry (unless you are eating them warm). I made pastry with half butter, half lard; I prefer it as it is more crisp and ‘short’. Whichever way you do it remember the flour:fat ratio is 2:1. Roll out pastry thinly and cut circles out with a scone-cutter to line small tart tins. Place a small teaspoon inside – don’t overdo it though, the fresh suet expands. Seal the top with another circle of pastry, gluing it on with some egg white. Make a cross in the middle and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 minutes at 220ºC. Serve warm or cold.
#94 ‘To Make Mince Pies’ – 8/10. I really like the mincemeat. The meat is totally undetectable; but it, the fresh suet and the grated apple make the resulting pie-innards succulent and tasty, it’s not overly sweet either, which is good because you can eat more of them! Good old Mrs Beeton, where would we be without her! It’s been a while since I’ve had homemade mince pie and it brought back a lot of memories for me making them with my Mum. I am definitely getting in the Christmas spirit!
Christmas is coming, and I am going traditional on your ass. First thing to be made is Mrs Beeton’s Traditional Mincemeat. According to Griggers it is better than any modern mincemeat. The main difference is that there is proper fresh suet and actual meat in it. She reckons that when she makes this recipe, the mince pies get eaten double-quick. Well we’ll see. Getting hold of fresh suet is easy, the butcher in Levenshulme sold me 2 and-a-half pounds of it for only a quid! Bargain! Also, I got the chance to use the mincer attachment for my Kitchen Aid for the first time; it was very good, and now I intend to mince everything. I like a good mince, I do (but you probably knew that already…). I haven’t had the chance to eat any yet, but it’s very easy to make, as long as you have the ability to stir.
The amounts are quite big in the recipe, so I’m giving you what I did which is half of Good Lady Beeton’s instructions:
Mix together 8 ounces of seedless raisins, 12 ounces of currants, 6 ounces of minced, lean rump steak, 12 ounces of fresh, chopped suet, 8 ounces of dark brown sugar, 1 ½ ounces of dried mixed peel, ¼ grated nutmeg, 12 ounces of apples that have been peeled, cored, and grated and the zest and juice of half a lemon. When all has been incorporated, mix in 2 ½ fluid ounces of brandy. Spoon the mincemeat into sterilized jars. (To sterilise jars, place jars and lids in oven set to 110°C for 35 minutes). This recipe made enough for four big jars. Leave for at least two weeks…
FYI: Mincemeat recipes go back as far as the Fifteenth Century, and pretty much any meat was used for mincemeat – Sixteenth Century recipes use heart or mutton and bone marrow instead of suet. It’s probably one of the few surviving Elizabethan dishes still made today.
…to be continued.
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!?