#434 To Pot Ham with Chicken

This is a fairly straight-forward recipe from the book that I have only just got around to making as I have never had a situation where I had left over ham and chicken at the same time! In fact, I ran out of patience with myself and manufactured the situation.

This recipe is one of several taken from Elizabeth Raffauld’s 1769 classic The Experienced English Housekeeper. Back then, and right up to the early 20th Century, in more well-to-do houses, cold roast meats were served up for luncheon. The meat was left over from the previous evening’s roast. If the meats had to be kept longer, or eked out, they would be potted, i.e. made into a pâté. Follow this link to see all the potted meat & fish recipes cooked thus far (this is the tenth!).

Jane only gives an abridged version of the receipt, but here it is in full:
Take as much lean of a boiled ham as you please and half the quantity of fat. Cut it as thin as possible, beat it very fine in a mortar with a little oiled butter, beaten mace, pepper and salt, put part of it in a china pot. Then beat the white part of a fowl with a very little seasoning, it is to qualify the ham. Put a lay of chicken, then one of ham, then chicken at the top, press hard down, and when it is cold pour clarified butter over it. When you send it to the table cut out a thin slice in the form of half a diamond and lay it round the edge of your pot.


Jane also updates the recipe: she allows us to use an electric food processor, and she uses already ground mace. She also uses clarified butter to make the pâté, not just to seal it. 


She also suggests letting it sit for a few days before eating it, so that the flavours can develop.


If you’ve never potted your own meat or fish, this recipe is a good place to start. In fact, it more of a system than a recipe, and can be adapted easily for other meats. I’d just add that a smoked ham would work best here – I used a smoked ham hock – and that you should over-season everything ever-so-slightly. If you are using cold meats, add a tablespoon or two of boiling water when blending to produce a nice smooth paste.

At Christmastime, you’re more likely to have left over turkey than chicken and I think it would work just as well.
#434 To Pot Ham with Chicken. Rather a subtle one this one, but no worse for it. Many of the other recipes are quite strongly flavoured, so this is a good introduction. The combination of salty ham and bland chicken is a good one, and it was great spread on toast with a little medlar jelly. As mentioned above, a great way to use up left-over meat at Christmastime. 7/10


#427 Roast Guineafowl


Guineafowl originate in Africa and were first bred for meat by the Ancient Egyptians and was very popular in the ancient world – there is an infamous Greek dish called mattye where a guineahen would be killed by a knife plunged into its head via the beak. It would then be poached with lots of herbs, and its own chicks! They seemed to fall out of favour for a good while before being reintroduced by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century.

These days, guineafowl are more popular in France than the UK, being a popular ornamental fowl in farms, small holdings and rural households. They double as an excellent guard dog; getting very vocal at any approaching fox or indeed, postman. ‘The first time I saw guineafowl, they were humped along the roof ridge of a French farmhouse’, says Jane in her introduction to this recipe. I have similar memories from my science days when I would go on the annual field trip with the zoology undergraduates of Manchester University to the foothills of the French Alps, where guineafowl would toddle about decoratively with their black-and-white suits, blue combs bobbing, like a little fat harlequin.

I think guineafowl are delicious, they have a mild gamey flavour, lying somewhere between chicken and pheasant. It’s often braised as it has a tendency to dry out when roasted. In this recipe however, dryness is skilfully averted by covering the fowls with bacon or strips of pork back fat and the use of a good sausagemeat stuffing. Because of its gaminess, it is often served with the trimmings associated with roast game, such as game chips, #123 Bread Sauce and #114 Quince Jelly. See #122 Roast Pheasant for more on the subject.

Get hold of two guineafowl, both weighing 1 ½ to 2 pounds. Sit them on the board to get to room temperature as you get on with the stuffing.

Remove the skin from four ounces of good quality sausages (go to butcher who makes his or her own or make your own: see #415 Cumberland Sausages). Break up the meat and add the rest of the ingredients: a heaped tablespoon of breadcrumbs, one tablespoon each of brandy and port, a heaped tablespoon of chopped parsley, a crushed clove of garlicand salt and pepper.  If you are lucky enough to find fowl with their giblets, find the liver, remove the gall, chop and add to the stuffing.

Mix everything well but keep things quite loose – you don’t want to compress the stuffing, as it will turn out stodgy. Divide it loosely between the two birds.

Now prepare the birds themselves by laying six rashers of unsmoked streaky bacon over the breasts and legs. This stops the birds from drying out in the oven. Again, buy good quality dry-cured bacon, not the cheap stuff that shrinks shedding its added water as white milky froth. Instead of bacon, you could use thin slices of pork back fat; it’s certainly cheaper, and it probably keeps the birds more moist, but doesn’t taste half as good. Pros and cons innit?

Put them in a roasting tray and pop them in an oven preheated to 220°C. Fifteen minutes later, turn down the heat to 200°C, and leave the birds roasting for 30 minutes. At this point, remove them from the oven, take off their little porky jackets and dust them with well-seasoned flour. Baste and pop back into the oven for a final 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove the birds and keep them under foil on a board whilst you make the gravy in the tin they were roasted.

Get the roasting tin over a medium heat and pour in a glass of port (2 to 3 fluid ounces, approx.). Use a wooden spoon to scrape the delicious dark-brown almost burned bits from base of the tin. Add ½ pint of stock – again, if there were giblets in the birds, you could make giblet stock, otherwise use chicken stock. Reduce this mixture down until you have a small volume of intensely-flavoured gravy. Don’t strain it and lose all those nice burnt bits!

Carve the guineafowl and serve with the gravy and bacon. Jane recommends serving it with #262 Chestnuts as a Vegetable. We served it with the food that was in the house: roast carrots, quinoa and some lovely indigo-dark purple kale.

#427 Roast Guineafowl. I feel so lucky to have things like this just hanging about in the freezer! The cooking method laid out by Jane was spot-on, as she usually is when it comes to roasting (however, see #359 Rabbit and #393 Hare); meat was lovely and moist. The gravy too was delicious, and the stuffing well-seasoned with a good garlic hit, making it taste very un-English; it must be based on a French farcemeat from one of Jane’s many trips to the country. Very, very good: 9/10

#405 Capon, Goose or Turkey Neck Pudding / Poddyng of Capoun Necke (1430)

Here’s a recipe that I’ve been dying to do since I first picked up Jane Grigson’s tome and, at Christmastime, I finally got the chance to cook it (yes, I am THAT behind on writing my posts!).

The main problem, you see, is getting hold of the neck of a turkey, goose or capon. It’s not the neck muscle that’s needed; that would be easy! All I’d have to do is rummage inside the giblets bag and pull the neck out. This recipe requires the neck skin – all of it, from the base of the neck, right up to the beak. In other words, I needed a fowl with its head still on.

The trouble is, it is very tricky to get one. I have three very good butchers close to me and none of them could get me a turkey with its head on! These birds are plucked and gutted mechanically these days, and the butcher doesn’t have to do a thing when he receives them.

To get a bird with its head on, you have to know a farmer or keep them yourself. Luckily for me Dalesbread Finest Meats, who attend Chorlton Market with me (3rd Saturday of the month!), farm and sell their own meat, including turkey and geese. No problem, they say.

This recipe comes from an early Fifteenth Century manuscript, jazzily called Harleian MS.279. Here’s the original recipe:

Poddyng of Capoun necke.—Take Percely, gysour, & þe leuer of þe herte, & perboyle in fayre water; þan choppe hem smal, & put raw ȝolkys of Eyroun .ij. or .iij. þer-to, & choppe for-with. Take Maces & Clowes, & put þer-to, & Safroun, & a lytil pouder Pepir, & Salt; & fille hym vppe & sew hym, & lay him a-long on þe capon Bakke, & prycke hym þer-on, and roste hym, & serue forth.

Essentially, it’s the skin of the neck wrapped around some spiced offal to produce some kind of hybrid between a sausage and a meatloaf.

This is Jane’s somewhat modified version of that recipe.

First job on the list is to get the neck skin removed from the bird. To do this, get yourself a pair of good, sharp scissors. Three incisions is all you need to make, and the first is around the base of the neck, as low as you can without exposing the breast. Next, cut around the neck end, close to the beak. Lastly, cut straight up the length of the neck, so that you can remove the skin in one piece.

This sounds easy. It is not.

Okay, now for the filling. Get yourself a good-sized mixing bowl and break up 8 ounces of sausagemeat and mix into it a good tablespoon of finely chopped parsley and a couple of egg yolks. Season with salt, pepper, mace and cloves. If you like add a pinch of saffron that has first been soaked in a tablespoon of hot water.

Lay the neck skin flat on a work surface and spread half of the mixture over it. Cut the liver of your bird into three pieces and arrange these in a line going down the centre then spread the remainder of the filling over the top of that. Pull the edges of the neck skin around, wrapping the filling up, turning it over and tucking it in. Pop it into a loaf tin.

This sounds easy. It is not.

I could not get the skin to wrap around the sausagemeat, nowhere near in fact. I tried my best, but it ended up essentially a meat loaf with some skin draped over it.

Bake at 180⁰C for 45 minutes. Cool and leave in the fridge so that the flavours can permeate. Slice and eat like a pâté.

#405 Capon, Goose or Turkey Neck Pudding / Poddyng of Capoun Necke (1430). This was both a disaster and a success at the same time. There was far too much filling for the neck, so as the ‘pudding’ baked the skin shrank, leaving a wrinkled line of neck flap. However, the filling was absolutely delicious! The liver was good and creamy and those mediaeval spices complemented the meaty, rich filling. All pâtés should have cloves and mace added to them, I reckon. Even though the neck ended up being completely superfluous, it’s still a high scorer. 7/10

This terrible photo doesn’t show it at it’s best!

#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


#360 Apple Sauce I

This is the third of four different apple sauces in English Food. I have had to wait to cook this one as it requires a quince.

Quince are an ancient fruit, related to apples and pears, that is not seen around too much these days as they have fallen out of favour somewhat and also have a very short season. They have also suffered because of the terrible wet weather we’ve had this year.

Apple sauce should not be reserved just for roast pork, by the way, use it with sausages, black pudding, chicken, turkey, goose or game. It is a surprisingly versatile condiment.

Chop up 8 ounces of Bramley’s seedling apples (those in North America, use Mackintosh apples) and slice one ‘small or moderate quince’. You don’t need to peel or core the fruit, but I would scrub off the naturally-occurring fluff from the skin of the quince, should it have some. Place in a pan along with ¼ pint of water, a heaped tablespoon of sugar (omit if using Mackintosh apples) and a pared strip of lemon peel. Cover and simmer until a puply, then pass through a sieve or mouli-legumes to remove peel &c.

Put back on the heat and stir until it thickens up; you don’t want it ‘sloppy and wet’ as Griggers says. Stir in one ounce of butter and give the finished sauce a healthy seasoning of black pepper.

#360 Apple Sauce I. I liked this one very much and ate it with some rabbit which it complemented very well. The quince mellowed the Bramley’s, making them much less tart. Tres bon. 7.5/10.
 

#347 Sawce Noyre for Roast Capon

This recipe for black sauce was popular all over Europe in the Middle Ages with many variations and alternative names like sauce infernal. They all use fried and ground livers as a base. In England it was served up with roast meat; capon in this case was used as were various game birds. Other countries used other additional flurries such as Parma ham, dried ceps, onions or garlic and spread it on toast or bread.

A banquet in the Middle Ages – this is a French picture
though at the time French and English food was very similar

The recipe comes from a manuscript with the rather clinical name Ashmole MS. 1430, dating unsurprisingly from 1430. To put the year in context, Henry VI of the House of Lancaster is on the Throne; the political bubblings are beginning that led eventually to the War of the Roses around 20 years later. The original hand-scribed pages are kept in the British Museum, but the manuscript did appear in print along with some other 15th century cook books in the late 19th century.

Henry VI, the Child King

Jane doesn’t give the original recipe that she bases hers on, but I did find it online. It is written in Middle English and takes a little deciphering:

Black sauce for capouns y-rostyde.—Take þe Lyuer of̘ capouns, and roste hit wel; take anyse, and grynde parysgingere, and canel, and a litil cruste of̘ brede, and grynde hit̘ weƚƚ aƚƚ to-gedre; tempre hit up wiþ verious, and þe grece of the capon, þanne boile it̘ and serue forþe.

I translate it as:

Take the livers of capons, and roast them well; take aniseed, ground ginger, and cinnamon, and a little crust of bread, and grind it well all together; temper it up with verjuice and the fat of the capon, then boil and serve forth.

Going back even further in time to the very first known practical cook book – Forme of Cury – written around 1390 contains a recipe for mallard in black sauce.

I made it to go with roast chicken rather than roast capon and it is best made whilst it is resting so you can skim off the fat from the roasting tin and use it to fry the livers.

Pass a beady eye over a pound of chicken livers, making sure that there are no big gristly bits or little green bile ducts left on them. Heat some chicken fat in a frying pan and add the chicken livers. Make sure that the heat is really high so that the livers brown nicely whilst keeping the insides moist and pink. This should take about 4 minutes in all – though it might be worth poking one of the biggest livers with a slenderly-pointed knife to check that the liver is not still raw. Medium rare is good, but anything less than that could be risky, there are several cases every year of Campylobacter brought about by eating undercooked chicken livers.

While the livers are frying, demolish a slice of bread, crusts removed, in a food processor; or if you want to keep it old school you can grate it.  Tip in the livers and whizz again – old-schoolers can pass them through a sieve or mincer. Season with the spices: I went with a quarter teaspoon each of ground aniseed (you could also use star anise), ginger and cinnamon. Don’t forget the salt and pepper. Give it a final spin in the food processor.  The sauce will be very thick indeed – it should be a spreadable consistency and not in the least pourable. It looked like a big scoop of liver ice cream – except that it was hot! Strange.

Reheat the sauce and add some cider vinegar or lemon juice to taste (or verjuice like in the original recipe – you can buy it online). If it is really thick, let it down with a little water.

#347 Sawce Noyre for Roast Capon. This was a strange one indeed – it was made up of pure liver and was therefore very rich, though when eaten with a big piece of relatively bland chicken it did balance out better. The best way to eat it, it turned out, was to spread it on some bread as those in mainland Europe did. I liked the spice combination a lot, especially the aniseed; I may use it in chicken liver pâté. Aside from that though, I think this one’s left in the history books! 4/10.

#343 Oyster Stuffing and #344 Oyster Sauce

Oysters are rather expensive in the UK and it can be a rather arduous task shucking them, though in the US, they are much cheaper and often come in tubs preshucked in their own liquor ready for cooking. It is for these reasons that I have been trying to finish all the recipes in English Food that include oysters before I return to England in a little over a month’s time. These two are the final oyster recipes. Not only that, by cooking these recipes I have completed the Stuffings section of the Stuffings, Sauces & Preserves chapter. This might sound impressive, but if you clicked on the link, you’ll have seen that there were only five in the section, and one of those was a sauce!

These are two recipes that were made very popular during the Victorian era that put together shellfish and meat. I have grown to love this combination and so I was looking forward to cooking these. Past recipes on this vein are Chicken with Mussels, Beefsteak Stewed with Oysters as well as the classic Steak, Kidney and Oyster Pudding (and pie!).

I’m not going to blog the two individually because they cannot really be made separately. The first is a light stuffing made with classic stuffing ingredients like breadcrumbs and suet. The second is a simple béchamel sauce flavoured with liquor collected from the oysters used for the stuffing.

The quantities in the recipe are for a large turkey and it requires rather a lot of oysters – 4 to 5 dozen! You can halve the number if you are using the big Atlantic ones; it’s the equivalent to 2 tubs of the preshucked ones you see in supermarkets in the US.

If you do have to shuck your own, I have heard of a method that takes the pain out of it, though I have never tested it myself. Apparently, if you put your cleaned oysters in the freezer flat side facing up, they should magically open their shells after 10 minutes or so. The reason for this is that they go to sleep and relax their strong adductor muscle which you usually have to fight against with the shucking knife when you open them manually.

#343 Oyster Stuffing for Turkey and Other Poultry

Grigson says you can halve the quantities if using a large chicken, which is what I did. Even then, I found I still had plenty left over so I cooked it separately in an ovenproof dish.

First of all shuck 2 or 3 dozen oysters should you need to; do it over a sieve in a bowl so you can save the liquor for the oyster sauce. Chop the oysters, keeping the pieces large. Mix them into the other stuffing ingredients: 10 ounces of white breadcrumbs made from stale bread, 5 ounces of suet, 2 heaped tablespoons of parsley, the grated rind of a lemon, 2 heaped teaspoons of thyme, ¼ teaspoon of both nutmeg and mace, a good pinch of Cayenne pepper, 2 large beaten eggs, salt and pepper. It is important to mix these together rather loosely; there should be no dry breadcrumbs but at the same time it should not be mixed into to big ball of stodge.

Stuff the cavity of your poultry rather loosely – it will expand as it cooks – and truss the legs with some string. Also stuff it into the neck end too, if the flap of neck skin has been left on your bird, securing it with a couple of short skewers (I have noticed that the neck skin is usually removed in America). Any left over can be baked for thirty minutes in an ovenproof dish.

Roast the bird as normal, taking the total weight including stuffing when calculating the roasting time.

#344 Oyster Sauce

Open 2 dozen oysters, saving the liquor. Make a béchamel sauce by melting 2 ounces of butter in a saucepan then stir in two tablespoons of flour. Mix together with a wooden spoon to make a roux and cook on a medium heat for a couple of minutes. This is a white roux, so don’t let it colour. Add ½ pint of milk in 3 or 4 parts, stirring until the milk is absorbed and the roux smooth before adding more, then stir in ¼ pint of double cream and the reserved oyster liquor from the sauce and stuffing. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring everyone now and again. This part could be done in advance if you need – make sure you cover the pan with a lid because a thick skin will quickly grow. Chop the oysters into good sized pieces and add them to the sauce. Heat through then season with salt, white pepper, grated nutmeg, Cayenne pepper and lemon juice. The sauce should be the ‘consistency of double cream’, says Griggers.

FYI: Mrs Beeton suggests using left-over oyster sauce in a fish pie which I think is a marvellous idea.

#343 Oyster Stuffing for Turkey and Other Poultry. This was amazing – the oysters were tender and the stuffing was light, the flavour being lifted by the fresh herbs and the aromatic lemon zest.

#344 Oyster Sauce. This was a beautiful white and well-flavoured sauce mildly spiced with a wonderful iodine tang from all that oyster liquor. Absolutely delicious.

I can’t score these separately as they would never be made separately; that said this one is a no-brainer: 10/10.

#339 Hindle Wakes

Where do I start with this one?

Hindle Wakes is a cold chicken dish for buffets and the like and has a long history. It is essentially a chicken stuffed with a prune mixture, simmered in a stock made of vinegar and water, cooled and smothered with a lemon sauce. Other variations include simmering in lemon juice stock and roasting the stuffed bird as a hot dish, which sounds much nicer.

The origin of the dish is obscure; some think it originally came over to England – Lancashire to be precise – from Flemish weaver immigrants in the 1330s. Others (including Jane) think it is a typical English medieval recipe; it being heavy on the herbs and dried fruit is suggestive, but I cannot find anything similar in my old facsimiles. I suppose it will remain a mystery.
Did the Flemish bring Hindle Wakes to North-East England?

The name Hindle Wakes is equally strange. Several modern cook books say that it comes from the name of the Lancashire town of Hindle Wakes. This all sounds good until you check an atlas and find there is no such place as Hindle Wakes in Britain, never mind Lancashire. A friend of Jane Grigson’s reckons that the name is a bastardisation of Hen de la Wake. “No etymologist would support a folk explanation of this kind”, says Jane.

I find no mention of the phrase Hindle Wakes in literature searches until the late 1910s where there is suddenly a glut of them because in 1912 a playwright called Stanley Houghton wrote a play entitled Hindle Wakes which was set in the imaginary Lancashire town Hindle where wakes would occur at certain times of the year. A wake in this context means the lookouts people would set up the night before a large church festival at their parish, presumably to catch thieves. How it got attached to this strange dish I do not know.
It’s still going strong…

Anyway, on with the rather long recipe…

For the stuffing:

Soak one pound of unstoned prunes in water or tea overnight. The next day remove the stones from the prunes, setting the neatest third aside for later. Now you need to crack the prune stones to get to the almond-scented kernels. I have found the best way to do this is to place around a dozen stones in a freezer bag, squeeze the air out, seal it and then crack the stones sharply with a hammer. This stops the sticky stones and precious kernels from pinging around the kitchen. Chop the kernels and the rest of the prunes and put in a bowl along with: 8 ounces of slightly stale breadcrumbs; four ounces of chopped fresh beef suet; and half a teaspoon each of finely chopped sage, parsley, marjoram and thyme. Mix them well with your hand and season withsalt, pepper, a tablespoon of brown sugar and one or two tablespoons of malt vinegar. Mix again.

Stuff a five to six pound roasting or boiling chicken (you could also use a capon) both inside the body cavity and the neck. Using cocktail sticks, close the two ends of the bird. I found that I could only fit in around half of the stuffing so I rolled the remainder into balls and froze them for future dinners.

To cook the fowl:

Put the bird in a good-sized stock pot that will fit it reasonably closely and add the following ingredients: 2 level tablespoons of salt, a stick of celery, one large unpeeled onion studded with three cloves, a bay leaf, four parsley springs, four thyme sprigs, six tablespoons malt vinegar and a tablespoon of soft dark brown sugar. Add around 6 pints of water – you can leave an inch or so of chicken above the water if it’s a roaster; you’ll need to cover completely if a boiler.

Bring slowly to a boil, skimming any scum that may rise to the top. Cover the pot and simmer the chicken very gently for between 1 ½ and 3 ½ hours “according to its antiquity”. Mine was done after 1 ½ hours. It is very important you cook the chicken on a very low simmer indeed; scalding might be a better word to describe the water, you should only see the barest of gulps and bubbles.

When cooked, remove from the stock and allow to cool, covered with a layer of foil. You’ll need the stock for the sauce, so don’t chuck it away…

For the sauce:

In a small saucepan, mix together five fluid ounces of double (heavy) cream, the juice and grated zest of a lemonand a seasoning of white pepper. Bring to a boil and let it simmer for five minutes or so. In another saucepan, make a roux by melting ½ ounce of butterand when it had finished sizzling stir in a healthy tablespoon of flour. Cook for a couple of minutes. Whisk in five fluid ounces of milkand half a pint of the stock. Simmer for twenty minutes until the sauce is very thick (I couldn’t get the sauce to go thick even after thirty minutes). Season with more salt and white pepper if needed, then cool covered to stop a skin from forming.

To arrange the dish:

Place the fully-cooled chicken on “a wire rack over some greaseproof paper. Reheat the sauce slightly – it will be solid when cold – so that you can spread it right over the chicken smoothly and evenly. Use a palette knife…” says Grigson. This was impossible for me with the rather runny sauce, so I just put the chicken straight on the serving plate and used a knife to spread the sauce over the chicken. Next, surround the chicken with around eight ounces of thinly sliced ham. Cut a lemon into halves and cut into thin slices. Arrange the slices around the chicken along with the reserved prunes. Finally, a couple of herbs: take a large bunch of parsley and stick it in both ends of the chicken, then scatter with some chive stalks.

#339 Hindle Wakes. What a monster I created! It looked like a cross between something from Fannie Cradock’s 1970s repertoire and the centrepiece to a medieval feast. I have to say, once sliced up it didn’t look too bad. The chicken was cooked to a turn – I think the vinegar in the stock help to tenderise it – and it went wonderfully well with the lemon sauce and prunes that were dotted around the bird. The cold stuffing was rather stodgy though. Mid-way through the recipe for this “superb buffet dish”, Jane does mention that she makes a stuffing from just prunes, kernels and herbs, as the traditional stuffing is too heavy. I felt like it was eating a dish that should have been hot but had cooled down. It’s a tricky one to grade due to the mix of sublime and ridiculous. I’ll sit on the fence with a 5/10.

#335 Boiled Capon with Sugar Peas

It is always interesting to try a new food, and this 1660 recipe from The Accomplisht Cook by Robert May contains two.

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!

The second new foodstuff is verjuice which is certainly not something you see much these days. Verjuice is made of the juice of either sour apples or sour grapes and was used as an acidulater; lemons were very pricey then, but there was no problem growing sour grapes and apples in Britain! It was particularly popular in the 16th and 17th centuries. I found the verjuice another of my favourites St Louis haunts, Global Foods Market, but I see you can also buy it online.

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.

There are 4 elements to this recipe are not particularly complicated, but they do require a little thought…

The Capon
Place a capon, breast down, in a large stockpot with its giblets.
Add water to just about cover the bird and add the stock herbs: thyme, rosemary, parsley and fennel; then add 2 or 3 blades of mace and season well with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer exceedingly gently until cooked – my 7 pound capon took about 1 ½ hours – the best way to tell it’s done is to spear the thickest part of the thigh and look for pink juices just you would do for a roast turkey or chicken. Remove the capon to a plate, cover it with foil and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes. On no account throw away the delicious fennel-scented stock. Freeze it in batches and use as needed for soups, &c.

The Bread Sauce
Start getting the sauce ready around 30 minutes before you think the capon will be ready.  Peel two onions and simmer them, covered, in water until they are tender and then blitz them in a processor or blender, or if you want to be old-school, pass them through a sieve or a mouli-legumes. Stir into the onions around four ounces of fresh breadcrumbs and a few ladlespoons of the capon stock so that you have a nice sauce. Use some oyster liquor and verjuice as well as some salt and pepper to season the sauce.

The Sippets
Sippets are fingers or triangles of bread either fried or baked and were very commonly served under meats to soak up the delicious juices. I made fingers with thickly sliced bread and baked them in a 180C (350F) oven until crisp and crunchy, around 20 minutes. These can be done in advance and warmed through in the oven if you like.

The Sugar Peas
The sugar peas – ‘cods’ – can be prepared whilst the capon is resting. When the cods be but young, string them and pick off the husks. Take 2 or 3 handfuls and but with ½ sweet butter, ¼ pint of water [this equalled 4 fluid ounces back in the day, rather than 5 as it does today in the UK], gross [black] pepper, salt, mace and oil. I used olive oil. Heat all the ingredients aside from the pods in a saucepan, add the pods, cover and stew until tender but with a little bite left in them.
Next, thicken the sauce with 3 or 4 egg yolks that have been beaten with 6 tablespoons of dry sherry (this is one of Jane’s substitutions, the original recipe used sack, a type of sweet ale).

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.

#327 Turkey and Hazelnut Soup

There doesn’t seem to be any history to speak of with this recipe, it seems it is just a way to use up the turkey carcass after Christmas or Thanksgiving, perhaps conceived by Jane Grigson herself. In my case, it was a way of using the huge amount of turkey stock I had in the freezer from the boiled turkey recipe. We don’t like waste here in Grigson Towers, so any way of putting any leftovers such as cooking liquors and carcasses are well-received.
It does use some nice wintertime ingredients: hazelnuts are usually in good supply along with the brazils, walnuts and almonds; there’s the fine herb chervil which I have tried and failed to grow myself. They’re a hardy plant and good for growing in autumn and winter. Unless it is me attempting cultivation. It is obviously in season now as I have seen them twice for sale over the last months or so.

This recipe gives calls for raw turkey breast, though some shredded left over leg meat from the roast would do perfectly as a substitute. Likewise, if hazelnuts are not to hand you can use chopped toasted almonds or chestnuts.
This recipe is for 4 to 6 people.

Bring 1 ½ pints of turkey stock to a boil with 8 ounces of raw minced turkey breast. Let it simmer for 3 or 4 minutes. Liquidise the soup and pass it through a sieve back into the pan after you have rinsed it. Jane does not mention what to do with all that turkey breast that won’t pass through the sieve – and there was plenty of it. It seemed a waste so I put some back in as it was still nice and tender.

Take a large egg yolk and 4 ounces of cream (weight, not volume) and whisk them together before adding a ladleful of hot soup to it. Pour in the stock mixture into the pan and stir over a medium heat until the soup thickens. Don’t let the soup boil, unless you want scrambled egg in it. Take the soup off the heat and add some chopped, fresh chervil (dried is allowed if you can’t get fresh), ½ a teaspoon of paprika, 3 ounces of chopped grilled or roasted hazelnuts and 2 ounces of butter. Lastly, season with salt and black pepper.
#327 Turkey and Hazelnut Soup. This soup was okay; inoffensive and homely, but rather bland. I imagine that I would like it if I were convalescing after a bout of the ‘flu. Not a bad soup, but certainly not an amazing one either. Next time I have some turkey stock, I shall make a risotto. 5.5/10