#335 Boiled Capon with Sugar Peas
The first is a capon, which is a castrated cockerel. Castration causes the capon to grow fat and large and to develop a different flavour to chicken. There are two ways to castrate, or caponise your cock: the first is to remove the testicles surgically, the other is to do it hormonally using oestrogen implants. You don’t them around very often these days, but a good butcher should be able to order you one. I got mine from Straub’s – there was one just sat there in the freezer section, bold as you like. If you want to caponise your own cockerel, click here for instructions!
This recipe asks for the capon to be gently simmered just like the turkey with celery sauce I made last November. It is served with a bread sauce that is seasoned with the verjuice and some oyster liquor, though no oysters are actually used in the recipes themselves. I was hoping I could buy some liquor in jars just as you see clam liquor in the supermarkets. I am sure clam juice would be a good substitution, but as I am cooking the recipes as given, I must use oyster. (It turned out well in the end, as it gave me the perfect excuse to make some angels on horseback – look here for my recipe.)
Also served are some crunchy sippets, made from bread, and sugar peas in a buttery sauce. I was quite surprised that sugar peas were even around in the 17th century, I’ve always considered them a recent addition to our grocer’s shops and allotments.
Joint the capon and serve it on the sippets with the peas and their sauce poured over. Serve the bread sauce in a separate bowl or jug.
#335 Boiled Capon with Sugar Peas. After the success of the boiled turkey, I was looking forward to trying this new meat. I was a little disappointed; the meat wasn’t particularly flavourful and it was a little tough. That cockerel must have been doing a lot of strutting around, even without its testicles. As I ate my leftovers over next day or two, I did notice that the flavour of the meat did develop more – it was very turkey-like. The bread sauce and the peas were very nice however. I think if the capon was swapped for a chicken or turkey, this would be really good. 5.5/10.
#330 Leek, Pea or Asparagus Sauce
“We’re well used to tomato sauces”, says Grigson, “I don’t know why we haven’t gone further along the road, using other vegetables in the same kind of way”. This has always confused me; the only tomato sauce I know is either the tomato sauce for pasta or the tomato sauce that comes in bottles as ketchup. The recipe is obviously for neither. I can’t find a tomato sauce recipe that seems even remotely similar – even during the nineteenth century, tomato sauces were made for macaroni, simply stewed with olive oil and garlic and some herbs as we do nowadays.
#295 Purée of Dried Peas with Green Peppercorns
The pea has been popular in Europe for donkeys years – settlements in France dating back to the third millennium BC have been discovered with the remains of pea pods. Dried peas, go back to Roman times; in fact, they were preferred over fresh. Also, luckily for us, the pea became a very common garden vegetable, and Gregor Mendel, the garden-loving Austrian monk, spotted patterns in the variation between pea plants he was breeding and came up with the first theory of genetics. He wasn’t recognised during his lifetime. So often is the way.
This recipe isn’t really to go with your fish and chips (though omit the peppercorns and it will be perfect), it is to go with duck and pork. I took this as an excuse to get a nice rib roasting joint from Harrison Hog Farms, a great farm here in Houston that really looks after its very English-looking pig breeds. So if you go to a Houston farmer’s market andyou spot them, give them a try as their pork is excellent.
What makes this recipe posh is the pickled green peppercorns. They’re not something that you’ll find in the supermarket, but they’re pretty easy to get hold of in delicatessens.
Right then, to make this purée, put a pound of dried split peas in a large saucepan along with a chopped carrot and a chopped onion plus a bouquet garni (I went for parsley, bay leaves, sage leaves, thyme and rosemary in mine). Cover well with water, bring to a boil and cover and simmer until cooked – around 45 minutes. On no account add salt, it makes the peas hard and they won’t cook. This is speaking from personal experience. Fish out the bouquet garni and pass the peas through a mouli-legumes in a bowl (you can use a potato-masher if you want but a blender would make it far too smooth).
Now stir in a large knob of butter and season well with salt (at least a teaspoon) and some sugar. Lastly, mix in a tablespoon of pickled green peppercorns as well as one to two teaspoons of the juice from the can. Easy.
#295 Purée of Dried Peas with Green Peppercorns. This one of the best recipes from the Vegetables chapter of the book. Really delicious and much better than the bought mushy peas you find in cans, and – dare I say it – the chippy! The addition of the bouquet garni and the simple stock veg really lifted it, and the pickled peppercorns were great, little exploding pods of subtle spiciness that transformed a vegetable side dish into the main event. 9/10.
#196 Mange Tout Salad with Chicken Liver and Bacon
The starter to the dinner party. The problem with dinner parties is that unless you’re careful, you end up stressed out in the kitchen cooking away and not seeing or speaking to anyone. This warm salad seemed just the job, as long as everything was prepped beforehand; it takes only minutes to make. This recipe looked simple and very tasty indeed – anything with chicken livers and fried bread always gets my vote. I also like that in this recipe appears in the Vegetables chapter of the book!
FYI: although liver is both delicious and cheap – be warned of potential poisoning through an overdose of vitamin A. However, this only really applies to polar bear, seal and husky liver. But you have been warned, so don’t come crying to me when you’ve got serious hypervitaminosis.
This recipe serves four to six people:
Briefly boil 12 ounces of mange tout in salted water; just two minutes will do it. Don’t put a lid on (the same goes for any green vegetable) as it keeps them crisp and gives them a vibrant green colour. Drain them and keep them warm in a bowl in a low oven. Now cut six rashers of streaky bacon into strips and fry them in a little sunflower oil until crisp, remove, drain, add more oil, then fry 24 (ish; let’s no get too pernickety) bread cubes in the oil. When golden brown, drain and keep them and the bacon warm. Make a simple vinaigrette from some sunflower or hazelnut oil and some white wine vinegar. Use a ratio you prefer, though Griggers suggests 3:2 oil to vinegar. Stir this into the mange tout. Now fry the chicken livers: you need six – cube them and remove any gristly bits and gall bladders should there be any. Fry them quickly and briefly – they should be a little bit pink inside. Remove them from the heat. Carefully stir in the bacon and liver and serve straight away.
#196 Mange Tout Salad with Chicken Liver and Bacon. This was delicious. The salty and fatty bacon and rich metallic liver were perfectly balanced with the bland and sweet mange tout. The crispy croutons add extra textures too. I really love these simple recipes in the book (you’re not always sure which ones they are going to be). Minimum effort, maximum reward. Brilliant stuff 8.5/10
#67 Green Pea Soup
This one’s a cracker. It’s basically pea and ham soup as it uses ham stock. Grigson gives the option of using chicken stock, and I suppose you could use vegetable stock, but it will not be in any way as delicious as ham. Use peas in any form – fresh, frozen or dried. I went for frozen as I’ve always got them in the freezer, and I reckon they’re better than fresh, unless you happen to grow them yourself. The Grigson also gives a vegetarian version which swaps the bacon for the heart of a Cos lettuce, a small handful of spinach and half a shredded cucumber. The stock is swapped for water.
Start off by softening a chopped, medium onion in 2 ounces of butter until soft and golden, but not brown. Next add two rashers of smoked streaky bacon that have been chopped to. Fry for a couple of minutes and then add 1 3/4 pints of light ham stock and 8 ounces of peas and simmer until cooked. Liquidise and add more water or stock if it’s too thick. Re-heat, season and stir in some chopped parsley.
Recipes 2-4 – Glamorgan Sausages, Olde Worlde Mushrooms and Peas
I’ve been away from a computer for a few days – I still don’t have the internet at home and I had to go back to Leeds at the weekend because my brother Ady and his good lady wife Nads had a little boy called Harry. He’s the cutest and I’m NOT biased! Now I’ve got some catching up to do. The hat trick meal went quite well although I did get a little flustered and rushed through the making of the Glamorgan sausages – they were far too big and didn’t cook through properly. They were also a bit well done – au creole I should say – because I lost concentration when dishing up. However, they can be done well in advance, so next time I’ll be better prepared. They’re a definite veggie alternative. Doing them in the food processor makes light work of it too – although be careful, I’ve sustained my first injury on one of the blades! The fricassey of mushrooms was brilliant; the taste and aroma of the mace and nutmeg were warming and so very Medieval! The Grigson talks about the English way to cook (#4) green peas – i.e. with mint and sugar in with the water – as the only way to do them yet I had never actually eaten them this way. Well, I certainly agree and it will now be the only way I shall cook peas in the future!
For the Glamorgan sausages:
Start by mixing together 5 ounces of grated Caerphilly or Cheddar cheese, 4ounces of fresh white breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons of finely –chopped leek or spring onion and a generous tablespoon of chopped parsley. You can quicken the whole process by simply reducing those ingredients into breadcrumbs in food processor. Now mix in 3 egg yolks, half a teaspoon of thyme, a level teaspoon each of salt and mustard powder and some pepper. Bring the mixture together and form into around 12 small sausages. Dip each one in egg white and then coat in some dried breadcrumbs. Fry gently in oil or lard until golden.
The recipe for ‘A White Fricassey of Mushrooms’ comes from Hannah Glasse and I shall simply quote it as Griggers has done:
“Take a Quart of Fresh Mushrooms, make them clean, put them into a Sauce-pan, with three spoonfuls [tablespoons] of Water and three of Milk, and a very little Salt, set them on a quick Fire and let them boil up three Times; then take them off, grate in a little Nutmeg, put in a little beaten Mace, half a Pint of thick Cream, a Piece of butter rolled well in Flour, put it all together into the Sauce-pan, and Mushrooms all together, shake the Sauce-pan well all the Time. When it is fine and thick, dish them up; be careful they don’t curdle [ don’t let them boil]. You may stir the Sauce-pan carefully with a Spoon all the time.”
The peas were simply a cop out: make sure you boil them with plenty of salt, sugar and mint!
Here’s what Greg reckons:
“13th Sept: Glamorgan sausages, mushroom fricasee, minty peas, new potatoes. As a combo it works really well. The mushrooms are creamy, reminded me of the really nice chicken supreme we used to get at school, the peas are sweet n fresh, the sausages are comforting stodge, sits together a treat. The mace was most exciting , looks like pork scratchings, smells like sarsaparilla, gives the mushrooms an exotic little edge. I’d put more in than she says, it could take it. The peas were lovely, could eat a huge bowl by themselves, it’s not quite the same as just having peas with mint sauce either, you get all the sweetness first and a rush of mintiness last, totally moreish. Sausages were grand but recipe said make 12, which the monkey reduced to 4, bit of an error as they were not quite done through so still a bit leeky. The cheese will never fully melt anyway as it’s not fatty. Potatoes perfect complement. Sausages: 3. Mushrooms: 4 (my fave). Peas: 4. (I’m saving 5 for something amazing!)”
My personal ratings are:
#2 Glamorgan sausages: 3/5 – next time I’ll do them better and hopefully they’ll graduate up to 4/5!
#3 A Fricassey of Mushrooms: 4.5/5 – a brilliant way to serve mushrooms as a veg with a Sunday roast.
#4 Green Peas: 4.5/5 – quintessential English delight