#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

#322 To Make a Goose Pye

What do you get for the person who has everything at Christmas? A giant pie of course. This goose ‘pye’ consists of an ox tongue within a chicken within a goose within a hot-water crust, so it’s not for the faint-hearted.

Great big pies like this were often given as gifts at Christmas time. The many meats were covered in a nice thick crust, not just because it tastes good, but also to help preserve and protect them – after all, these pyes were travelling by horse and carriage! These days, it is best as ‘a splendid centre-piece for a party’. Indeed, that the was the reason why I made it – my bosses Dave and Joan were hosting a Christmas party, and my fellow workmates are quite enthusiastic about the blog so I knew they’d all be up for this pye. Personally, I have always wanted to do this recipe – these crazy recipes are the reason why I love doing this blog. It comes from Hannah Glasse’s classic 1774 book Art of Cookery:

Half a peck of flour will make the walls of a goose pie…Raise your crust just big enough to hold a large goose; first have a pickled dried tongue boiled tender enough to peel, cut off the root, bone a goose and a large fowl; take half a quarter of an ounce of mace beat fine, a large teaspoon of beaten pepper, three teaspoons of salt; mix all together, season your goose and fowl with it, then lay the fowl in the goose, and the tongue in the fowl, and the goose in the same form as if whole. Put half a pound of butter on the top, and lay on the lid. This pie is delicious, either hot or cold, and will keep a great while. A slice of this pie cut down across makes a pretty little side-dish for supper.

Griggers kindly converts all the quantities into modern-day terms – less flour can be used (unless you are having it sent somewhere by horse!) and birds are rather larger nowadays. Good old Griggers. It is certainly the most extravagant recipe I have done thus far and possibly the most complicated; the recipe itself is quite straight-forward, but it requires a boned goose and a boned chicken, something that I had to do myself. Would the effort be worth it..?

There is a certain amount of preparation required if you are to do this from scratch. The first thing is to pickle an ox tongue in brine (see here for instructions) and cook it (see the recipe here for making pressed tongue; there is no need to press it). You need 2 ½ pounds of cooked tongue, so start with one that weighs at least 3 pounds. Next is the birds: you need a 10 pound goose and a 5 pound chicken. If you can, ask the butcher to bone them for you, if that is not possible, try doing it yourself – all you need is a bit of patience and some good sharp knives. I followed the method on this website for boning a chicken, but had to change the instructions somewhat for the goose as it is much trickier than a little chicken. So here’s a little digression as I give you my version…

Boning a bird is actually quite easy – what you are essentially doing is undressing the meat from the skeleton of the fowl. As you can imagine, it is a little gory.

First thing to do is to cut off the wing-tips and then to peel the skin away from the shoulders and cut through the joints.

Next, pull on the wing bone and scrape the meat from it as you go, turning the wing inside out. Repeat with the other shoulder joint.
Now remove the wishbone from the top of the breasts and start cutting the meat away from the ribcage, pulling the meat back. Keep doing this around the whole of the body. When you are about half-way down, sit the bird up and let the meat hang down by its own weight. When you get to the hips, you need to pop the femur out of its socket, then continue until the whole of the carcass is removed from the bird. You can then remove the leg bones in very much the same way as the shoulder and wing bones. Getting through that socket is very tricky with a large bird like a goose because of the large joint and large amount of fat surrounding it – to get around this, I flexed the knee joint and cut through that so I could scrape the meat off the bones from the direction of the knee.

When the leg bones have been removed, all you have to do is turn the bird outside in. Don’t forget to turn the bones, trimmings and giblets into stock.

So, you have your tongue and you have your birds, next you need to get working on the hot-water crust. You need to make a crust using 3 pounds of flour. I’ve blogged about hot-water pastry before, so follow this link. I made it in 3 batches – the first I used to form the base. I made lots of smallish pastry balls to cover the inside of a glass roaster measuring about 12” x 9” x 2” and pressed them out to make a single layer that overlapped the edges of it.

Next, mix together ¼ ounce of ground mace, 2 heaped teaspoons of ground black pepper and 5 rounded teaspoons of sea salt.

Now place the tongue in the chicken and rub in around a third of the spice mix into the chicken…

before gingerly wrapping fitting inside the goose. Place the goose in the pie and rub in the remainder of the spice and salt mix.

Lastly, smear two ounces of butter over the top of the goose.

Now roll out the rest of the pastry and cover the top of the pie, using some water as a glue. It is quite tricky to pick up such a large piece of pastry without it breaking – so use a rolling-pin and wrap it around it and unfurl it atop the pie. Crimp the edges, trim and decorate with the trimmings. Brush with beaten egg and make a central hole for the steam to escape.

Place it on a baking tray and bake the pie at 220°C (425°F) for 20 minutes and then turn the heat down to 180°C (350°F) and bake for another 2 hours. If the pie is browning too much, cover it with brown paper to protect it. If the pie bubbles ferociously, then turn down the heat again to 140-150°C (275-300°F). Loads of fat comes out the central hole, hence the precaution of the baking tray. I had to empty it twice during the whole process. I reserved it for making roast potatoes in the future, of course.

If you are wanting to serve it cold, then like most cold pies, it is best to make it a couple of days in advance so that the flavours can develop.

#322 To Make a Goose Pye. What a spectacle this pye was – especially when sliced up. I expected it to be rather macabre, but it wasn’t. It was indeed a ‘pretty little side dish’. The meat inside was wonderfully moist and a good jelly had formed inside without the need for jellied stock. Some people were a little suspicious of the tongue, but everyone seemed to like it. The only problem – though others disagreed – was that it was rather under-seasoned for me; with an extra 50 per cent salt, pepper and mace, this very, very good pye would have been excellent. 8.5/10

#314 Boiled Turkey with Celery Sauce

“Eat up brave warrior, for tomorrow we’re burning down your village”

Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner here in the USA so I thought the next two posts will have a Thanksgiving theme. I knew that there would be little chance of replacing the turkey on the day, but I wondered if cooking it in a different way might be possible. Plus if anyone reads this near Christmas, they might want to give it a go.

This is a classic: ‘A favourite dish of the Victorians and quite rightly so, because it is delicious – mild without insipidity’, says Jane. In fact, that is all she says on the dish. Boiling turkey was a popular way of cooking fowl, perhaps because it takes little time to cook; two hours maximum for a 15 pound turkey. I hoped it would make it deliciously juicy and tender. I did worry, however, that boiling it would sap what little flavour a turkey has even at the best of times.

The earliest recipe for boiled turkey with celery sauce I could find goes back to 1777 – it appears in a book by Charlotte Mason called The Lady’s Assistant to Regulating and Supplying her Table… (the full title is much longer than this!). More familiar contemporaries, Hannah Glasse and Elizabeth Raffald, also give recipes. Here’s a top-tip from Raffald:
Let your turkey have no meat the day before you kill it. When you are going to kill it give it a spoonful of alegar [malt vinegar], it will make it white and eat tender.”

So there you go.

I didn’t expect the recipe to go back much further as the turkey, being from the New World, would have entered Europe until the late fifteenth century at the earliest. However, I was wrong – it was celery that was the latecomer in England, appearing in the middle of the seventeenth century. Strangely, the earliest recorded mention of the turkey in Europe was in an account book from 1385; Phillippe of Burgundy enjoyed a roast turkey in one of his luxurious banquets. How on earth did it get there, I wonder?

Why we call these birds turkeys has always troubled me – after all they aren’t from Turkey. Nobody is sure, but it seems that the first English turkeys were brought to Britain by travelling merchants that had been given the gift of the birds after eating some whilst on a business trip to Turkey. So somehow the birds came from the New World, via Turkey, all before the New World was even discovered!

So if you fancy having a change from roast turkey, but want to keep to tradition give this recipe go:

The first thing you need to do is to get hold of a pot large enough to fit your turkey breast-side down. You need a turkey that weighs up to 15 pounds. Once your turkey is nestled in its pot, tuck in the following vegetables and aromatics: 4 sliced, medium carrots; a sliced, peeled turnip; a sliced stick of celery; three whole, unpeeled onions, each studded with three cloves; 15 crushed peppercorns; two bay leaves; 4 thyme sprigs; a bunch of parsley stalks; and a heaped tablespoon of salt. Then, add enough cold water to only just cover the legs.

If the turkey is smaller – and therefore younger and more tender – you can use less water. Cover and bring to a boil, then turn the heat down so the pot is only just simmering; a bubble or two every now and again is what you want. The turkey will be ready in up to two hours. Mine was ready in about 90 minutes. You can tell it is ready if the leg can be easily pulled from the body.
The sauce can be made while the bird is cooking, or it can be made ahead. You need to start by making three quarters of a pint of béchamel sauce. Next you need a whole head of celery. Remove and separate all the sticks and string them. This is easy to do: simply peel the backs of them, following the strings.
Cut the celery into strips and simmer them in salted water until they are tender, but still a little under-done. Around ten minutes should do you. Strain them, and return them to their pan with three ounces of butter and stew them a little longer.
Add the béchamel sauce and bring it and the celery to the boil. Next, liquidise it all and stir in a quarter of a pint of double cream. Season with salt and pepper.
The most difficult part of the recipe was to get the turkey out of the pot without putting myself or one of my guests in the nearest burns unit. Griggers suggests using a ham kettle, but I only had a stock pot. I poured as much of the stock out as I could (reserving it of course, for a future recipe). Then, I lay the turkey on its side in its pot and Devin coaxed it out onto its serving dish with some wooden spoons.
“It’s a boy!”

It certainly didn’t look like an appetising thing, but hopefully appearances were deceptive…
This was its good side…
…and this was its bad.

#314 Boiled Turkey with Celery Sauce. Well I have to say it was very good: the meat was tender, though the breast still managed to be a little dry. The leg meat was perfect though – in fact it was the best leg meat I have eaten on a turkey. The celery sauce too was good, and Griggers was right when she said it was a ‘mild’ dish. I was good and homely food, perfect from the autumn and winter months, though I have to admit, I did miss the roasted taste and the crispy skin. Still very good though. 7/10.

#303 Cornish Charter Pie


In Jane Grigson’s book Good Things, she quotes from the diary of a Parson Woodforde, a Norfolk clergyman who obviously liked his food. He wrote in his dairy on the 13th of July that “[we] had for Dinner some Pyke and fried Soals, a nice Piece of boiled Beef, Ham and a Couple of Fowls, Peas and Beans, a green Goose rosted, Gooseberry Pies, Currant Tarts, the Charter, hung Beef scraped &c…”. All recognisable as nice food typical of the British Isles at that time, except, that is, for The Charter. “Was it [a] sweet or [a] savoury? Was it in fact even food at all?” she asks. Then, apparently on another occasion at the Parson’s brother’s, an incident occurred where a very naughty dog snook into the cellar and snarfed down The Charter all to itself. It was, at least, food, but dogs will eat pretty much anything, so the type of food isn’t possible to deduce.

My friend Katie has a dog that ate an entire chocolate cake once – fully iced as well. What happened to that cheeky dog’s bowels is not fit for a description in a food blog.

Parson Woodforde 1740-1803

Anyways, the editor of the Parson’s diary assumed it was some kind of custard. It wasn’t until Griggers stumbled upon the book A few choice recipes by Sarah Lindsay (a Lady) from 1883, who gives a recipe for a Charter Pie, saying it is a Cornish recipe and the filling is of chicken in cream. It’s a shame that Jane had no internet in her time; it would have made her life so much easier as I found this little fact on GoogleBooks pretty quick-smart.
Upon doing a quick recipe search on the internet, I found a few versions of the recipe, but they didn’t really give any more background to the pie. I did notice that one website listed it as American cuisine, so it must’ve been taken over the Atlantic at some point and survived there for a good few generations.

Anyways, I thought this pie would go down for my dinner party-cum-buffet that I had last weekend. The Meat Pies & Puddings section of the book has been rather hit and miss, so I did worry that would be a bit crap. Jane does big it up, and it does appear also in Good Things, so for it to occur twice in her writing, it must be good…

The recipe asks for two three pound chickens that have been jointed, so you can imagine that it is a decent sized pie, so make sure that you make enough shortcrust pastry to cover a large, shallow pie dish. The recipe specifies a rich shortcrust pastry too, so make it with at least five ounces of salted butter (and therefore ten ounces of plain flour), an egg yolk and some ice-cold water to bind.

Whilst your pastry is resting in the fridge, chop a large onion and soften it in two ounces of butter. Remove the onions from the pan and spread them on the base of a wide, shallow pie dish or tray. Toss your chicken pieces in seasoned flour, turn up the heat in your pan, add a two more ounces of butter and fry the chicken pieces until they are a nice golden brown. Do not crowd the pan, so cook in two or three batches if you need to. Arrange the chicken pieces tightly together in a single layer on top of the onions.

Next, chop a leek or six spring onions alongside a nice large bunch of parsley. Place in a saucepan and cover with a quarter of a pint each of milk and single cream (that’s coffee cream for any Americans). Bring to a boil and simmer for two or three minutes. Pour this mixture over the chicken and season very, very well with salt and pepper.

Roll out your pastry and cover the pie, using some beaten egg as a seal. Make a hole in the centre of the pie large enough to fit a kitchen funnel. Jane then asks us to make a pastry rose to fit on top of it that also has a hole (so the steam can still escape). Decorate with more pastry if you like. Brush the pastry with more beaten egg. Bake at 220-230°C (425-450°F) for the first twenty minutes and then lower the heat to 180°C (350°F) for the remainder of the cooking time – an hour should do it.

Just before the pie is ready, bring half a pint of double cream to the boil, so that when it is cooked, you can take the pie from out of the oven, remove the pastry rose and pour in, with the aid of your funnel, the hot cream. Then replace your rose.

The pastry is good hot or cold, says Jane. It went for just warm so that the sauce would thicken almost becoming jelly (a benefit of using chicken on the bone, rather than just the meat cut into pieces).

This is perhaps a good point to mention the proper English way of serving up a pie like this. Using a knife, cut away the piece of pastry you would like to serve and place it on the side of the pie. Next, spoon out the filling onto the plate and perch the pastry on top of it. Do not go digging straight in there with your spoon messing up the pastry and getting all mixed up with the filling. This is a deadly sin at the Buttery residence and you will be thrown out should you attempt it.

#303 Cornish Charter Pie. What a great pie! The ingredients made a thick creamy chicken soup that is delicious in itself and the chicken was wonderfully tender from being cooked in all that milk and cream. Much better than the last chicken pie from the book, which was insipid by comparison. This will be my staple recipe for chicken pie in the future (unless anyone has one that can beat it). 8.5/10.

#298 Pulled and Devilled Turkey, Chicken or Pheasant

One of the most delicious dishes of eighteenth-century cooking, indeed one of the best of all English dishes“, says Griggers. That’s quite a statement. The idea behind this receipt is that it uses up that left-over Christmas or Thanksgiving turkey “with the glory it deserves“. It is nowhere near either of those two holidays, but in the receipt a roast or boiled chicken or a brace of roast pheasants can be used, and I must admit it does seem like a good dish for summertime as it is serve with bread and salad rather than stodgy potatoes and vegetables. Plus I was in the mood for some nice chicken. Perfect for hot, hot Houston eating, I reckoned. I made this for some friends to try – Danny, Eric and a Neil Cooks Grigson virgin, Jahnavi.

The turkey, chicken or pheasant is both pulled and devilled because the brown meat (i.e. leg and thigh) and the white meat (i.e. breast) are treated differently, with the brown getting a spicy marinade – the devil! – and the while meat being pulled apart into thready pieces the “thickness of a large quill” and cooked in a buttery-cream sauce presumably to temper the spicy devilled meat. Though this is an old recipe, I could find no information on it, though the inclusion of the mango chutney and the Cayenne pepper suggests an early Indian influence on English cuisine.

The actual devil, if you believe in that sort of thing.
Notice the devil is two-faced – quite literally –
one face in the usual place, the other on his arse

Although there is the big #300 coming up, this recipe marks the mid-way point through the leviathan of a chapter – the meat section. I’ve not done half as many of the strange or tricky ones that I have intended, but expect some when I move to St Louis later this month. I won’t have much of an option soon, as that’s all will be left to do!
Here’s what you do:
First prepare the appropriate fowl for the dish:
Roast turkey, you’ll need a leg (slightly underdone, if possible) and around a pound of cooked breast meat.
For chicken, you can use a boiled or roasted one, but try and undercook it. I did roast chicken and just missed off the final twenty minutes of cooking time.
For pheasants, a brace of either stewed or roasted ones will suffice!

Take the brown meat from the leg bones, keeping the pieces quite large and make some good, deep slashes in the meat. Now make a devil sauce by mixing together a rounded tablespoon each of Dijon mustard and mango chutney, a tablespoon of Worcester sauce or half a teaspoon of anchovy essence (I went with the former), a quarter teaspoon of Cayenne pepper, a little salt and two tablespoons of corn – or some other flavourless – oil. Pour this over the brown meat, making sure you work it into the slashes you made. The easiest way is to do all of this inside one of those zip-lock freezer bags. Let the meat marinade for a few hours, though I wouldn’t leave the chicken more than two as it is the most bland of the three birds here; pheasant or turkey could easily take four or five though, I reckon. Now lay the devilled meat on a baking tray and grill it under a high heat until it turns a delicious dark brown colour. Keep it warm.

Whilst the devil does its work, get on with the pulled part of the dish. Pull the breast meat apart with your fingers and set aside. For the pulled sauce, melt seven ounces of butter in a wide pan and then add half a pint of double cream. Bring to a boil and let it bubble for a couple of minutes before adding the breast meat plus any bits of jelly, then season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Lastly, stir in some chopped parsley. Spoon into the centre of a serving dish or plate and place the devilled bits around the outside.
Eat with bread and a salad.

#298 Pulled and Devilled Turkey, Chicken or Pheasant. Griggers really built this one up, and I have to say that it more than lived up to expectations. The devilled bits were deliciously spicy and salty and were perfectly complimented by the creamy and surprisingly light pulled sauce. Definitely the best recipe from the Poultry section so far, but then what can be bad about spice, butter and cream? That’s the three major food groups, isn’t it? I can’t wait for Christmas now, I’m going to get an extra-large turkey just so this can be made the next day, and it is infinitely better than turkey a sandwich, that’s for sure! 9.5/10.

#292 Isle of Man Salt Duck


After returning from my little trip back to England and Ireland, I wanted to cook something that evoked some memories of it whilst all was still fresh in my mind. There are no Irish recipes in English Food, but there are a couple of Manx recipes (if you are from the Isle of Man, you are Manx). When Hugh and I flew the short distance from Belfast to Liverpool, we looked out the window and he told me about the bits of coastline and other features, and of course the Isle of Man was pointed out, looking surprisingly small. I’ve never managed to go to the Isle of Man, but it looked very pretty from the air.

This is apparently a traditional Manx cured meat dish, but I did a quick internet search and could find any references to it at all, so I can’t give you any background information I’m afraid, Grigsoners. The cure is very simple to do; you simply have to pack coarse sea salt inside and outside of a duck 24-hours before you want to cook it. I assume in the days when this was done for actual preservation of meat, rather than for flavour, the duck could have been cured for several days or weeks. When you are ready to cook it, brush off the salt, rinsing off any tricky to remove bits and place in a pot with enough water to barely cover it.

Cover, bring to a simmer and let it happily gurgle away for between an hour and ninety minutes, depending on the size. I am always worried about doing the boiled meat recipes in the book, I always think they are going to come out insipid and boring, especially in this case as there was no call for any stock vegetables or seasoning with spices. I invited my friends Danny and Eric around to sample the delights – hoping it would taste okay…

If you like, you can cure your duck in brine instead – check out the recipe and instructions on brining meat here.

While the duck is simmering away gently, you can be getting on with the accompaniments: an onion sauce and colcannon (an Irish invention of potatoes and either cabbage or kale mashed together).

For the onion sauce, chop four large onions and add them to a pan with just enough water to cover them, season, cover with a lid, and allow them to simmer for fifteen minutes. Drain them over a bowl, so that the cooking liquor is saved. Add half a pint of milk and just under a pint of the liquor to the pan along with half an ounce of butter and bring to a simmer. Measure two level tablespoons of cornflour and slake it with a little more cold milk and whisk it into the hot sauce; it will thicken instantly. Simmer for a few more minutes so that the cornflour can cook out. Add the onions back to the pan and season with plenty of salt and pepper – very important here to season it very well – plus the grated rind of a lemon. Add more liquor or milk if it becomes too thick. This sauce can be (and was!) made in advance – make sure you keep it covered with a lid or some cling film to prevent a skin from forming if you do.

For the colcannon, boil equal amounts of potato and kale or cabbage together in a pan. Drain, and mash with butter and salt and pepper. If you are feeling extravagant, add a little blob of cream.
When the duck is cooked, make sure you let it rest for about twenty minutes before you carve it.

#292 Isle of Man Salt Duck. I must admit, when the duck was taken out of pan to rest, it did not look that appetizing with its podgy fat and no hint of colour. I’m used to eating roast duck. However, when I cut inside, there was the most tender duck meat within. It was salty, but not overpoweringly. It also had very subtle flavour too, as did the onion sauce, which I expected to be terribly strong. Instead, it was light and very good for a spring or summer meal. The colcannon was a great accompaniment too. This kind of good, but bland food, really requires heavy seasoning, otherwise it is in danger of becoming tasteless pap. This was not tasteless pap however: 7/10.

#277 Hazelnut Stuffing for Poultry and Lamb

I mentioned in the last post that people don’t make their own gravy anymore, well the same goes for stuffing. I have to admit, I don’t often make stuffing for roast poultry normally, though I have for the blog before. Every time I do, it comes out delicious and is always better than even the poshest pre-made supermarket pap. So I thought I was well overdue making some (which I think is also called dressing in the USA, non..?).
This one, I thought looked interesting – with its earthy hazelnuts and piquant-sweet preserved ginger; just the thing for a climate that is never really wintry. After all, the main reason that I haven’t cooked more food like this in Houston is because it is so bloody hot all the time and I don’t necessarily want roast meats. Anyways, this one seemed good and light and reasonably summery.
Griggers makes a point of highlighting the quality of hazelnut required for the recipe – pre-roasted and chopped hazelnuts are fine, she says, but you really want some slow roasted whole Italian ones from Avellino near Vesuvius, where they have been grown since Roman times. I’ll just pop over and fetch some. I couldn’t get those of course, but I did get Roman ones, so that pretty good I reckon, bearing in mind where I am!

Julian of Norwich with Hazelnut. For some reason.
If you want to be truly old-school, you can use cobnuts, which can still be found growing around the southern counties of England, in particular Kent. FYI: cobnuts were the original nut used in the game of conkers before the horse chestnut was introduced into Britain.
Stuffing is the easiest thing in the world to make. To start chop a large onions and soften it in two ounces of butter – keep it on a medium heat with a lid to prevent to browning. Once cooked, add the following ingredients in the following order: four ounces of fresh breadcrumbs; two ounces of toasted, chopped hazelnuts; four knobs of preserved ginger*, chopped; grated rind of half a lemon; the juice of a lemon; one large beaten egg; salt and pepper; and two tablespoons of chopped parsley. Now you can use the stuffing for whatever you like. If this is for turkey, you may need to double, or even treble the amounts given here.
If you are using it to stuff a bird, make sure you weigh it after it has been stuffed so you can include the extra weight in the cooking time.  Also, it is best to stuff the neck end rather than the cavity, as the stuffing doesn’t go stodgy; just loosen the skin and stuff it in, securing it all by folding the neck skin under the bird. Any left can go into the cavity – but only pack it loosely.

*If you can’t get preserved ginger then use ginger preserve (i.e. ginger jam), or miss it out entirely and replace it with the chopped liver of the bird(s) and a heaped teaspoon of thyme.

#277 Hazelnut Stuffing for Poultry and Lamb. Absolutely delicious and definitely the best stuffing so far in the book! It was sweet and earthy and the nuts had gone wonderfully soft and translucent, giving out their flavours into the rest of the mixture. The lemon and ginger lifted it all very well and stopped it from being too heavy. This is going into my everyday repertoire. 9/10.