#302 Caveach of Sole

I decided that I needed to get back into doing some proper cooking now that I have a new stove in my new apartment. I invited some people around from work and their various spouses and kids. It is pretty hot here in St Louis at the moment so I needed to choose a recipe that was nice and summery and not all hot and stodgy. It needed to be buffet-style as there would be eight of us in all and I can only fit four around my little table. It also needed to be one that is prepared in advance so I wouldn’t be rushing around in the 35°C heat on the day. I don’t ask for much do I? Oh, and it also couldn’t be weird. My options for this kind of food are rather limited in the book now, but I happily found this one that seemed fresh and clean and rather Mediterranean in style.

The sole lies on its side on the sea bed to camouflage itself.
Over time, natural selection has reacted to this by moving one eye
so that they both sit on one side of the head.

The word caveach refers to a method of preserving fish by cooking and then pickling it and comes from the Spanish escabeche. I did a little research on the preservation method and could only find books from the early-to-mid nineteenth century that mention it in any detail; though it seemed popular in both Britain and America at that time. The recipe below is more of a dinner party adaptation where the fish is only left for a few hours to pickle and isn’t intended as a preservation method at all. You can caveach any fish you like – the most popular seemed to be mackerel, herring and sardine, presumable because they were the cheapest and most common seafish at that time.

It is also nice to cook a receipt from the Seawater Fish section of the book – options are limited in America because there are different species of fish found commonly in their waters compared to European waters. However there is some common ground and the newly-discovered and very excellent grocery store Straub’s has a great selection of fish and meat as well as some other tricky-to-find ingredients, so I’ll be using them quite frequently during my time here in Missouri.

First of all prepare your sole fillets – you’ll need eight in all. Flatten them a little with a rolling pin, season with salt and pepper and fry them quickly in a little olive oil so that they brown a little. Cut them into thirds and arrange the pieces on a serving dish. Slice a medium red onion thinly and scatter over the fish along with the thinly sliced pared rind of a lemon and a couple of bay leaves cut in two. Next mix together seven fluid ounces of olive oil with three tablespoons of white wine vinegar and pour over the fish. Season again with salt, pepper and some Cayenne pepper too. Cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours, but preferable over night. When it is time to serve, scatter over some chopped herbsparsley, coriander or chervil are suggested by Griggers. I went with coriander. Serve with bread and butter and a salad.

#302 Caveach of Sole. This was everything I had hoped it would be – fresh, clean and slightly piquant. The delicately flavoured sole was not overwhelmed at all by the onions and the mild seasoning. A very good recipe this one – and simple too. I think I am going to try it with other, cheaper fish in the USA like tilapia or catfish. Any fish would work I reckon. A dinner-party stalwart this one will be, I feel. 8/10.

#299 Leg of Lamb Stuffed with Crab


For the 300th recipe I got a few people round to mine for a little dinner party. Number 300 would hopefully be impressive and I wanted to do something for #299 that would be impressive too and this recipe certainly sounded the part. I also wanted something that dated in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries, again to match receipt 300.

A recipe for a leg of lamb stuffed with ‘a forcemeat containing the meat of a crab or lobster … [with] a little grated lemon peel, and nutmeg‘, appeared in The London Art of Cookery by John Farley (1811), so it has a decent history, though this kind of food has very much fallen out favour in England. However, one particular chef gave it a breath of new life in the 1970s. A chap called Guy Mouilleron came up with the recipe that appears in English Food and therefore here in the blog, after some French chefs who were working in London were having a right good-old laugh at the English’s eating habits. “Fancy” one of them said “they even eat lamb with crab!” Chef Mouilleron thought it sounded like a good idea and conjured up a recipe. It’s funny that every British (and Irish!) person I’ve spoken to about this recipe has thought it just a bizarre as those French chefs.

There’s no need to be freaked by this combination though, says Jane, meat was often ‘piqued’ with fish all the time to give it extra flavour; the idea is not to impart a fishy flavour though, but a mysterious deliciousness. This is true as I already knew after one the great recipes from the blog – steak, kidney and oyster pudding. Meats are also cooked with anchovies a lot too, especially lamb and that cornerstone of English cuisine, the Melton Mowbray pork pie. It seems these things are being lost because of the Englishman’s squeamishness of all things fishy in general.

It is strange to me that Americans – or, at least, Houstonians – don’t really eat that much lamb and getting hold of a full, large leg of lamb with the bone in isn’t really possible in Houston’s otherwise comprehensive supermarket meat sections. However, I did manage to get hold of one very easily from the very good Pete’s Fine Meats on Richmond Avenue.

Pete’s Fine Meats, Houston TX

The recipe also calls for crab meat of course. You can boil your own (see here for instructions) or buy one preboiled. Do not, says Griggers, buy frozen meat as it had lost most of its flavour. However, here in America, where folks like seafood, it is very easy to get hold of freshly picked crab meat in supermarkets, so if you are in the USA, there is no need for you to sit and spend thirty minutes picking the meat from a crab’s carapace. God bless America for making the recipe a little easier for yours truly.

If you fancy the idea of this combination, here’s how to make it:

Start off by tunnel-boning a large leg of lamb. This is not that difficult to do – I followed the instructions here and it took just five or ten minutes to do. Use the bones to make half a pint of lamb stock (see here for recipe). Season the inside and outside of your leg.

Next, make the stuffing. You need eight to ten ounces of crab meat; either buy it fresh if you can or get hold of a crab weighing around one-and-a-half pounds. To the crab meat, mix in half a teaspoon of curry powder, a tablespoon of fresh mint and three egg yolks. Season with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with the crab and sew up the lamb at both ends with a stout needle and some thick thread. All this can be done in advance, of course.
Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F). Chop equal amounts of onions and carrots, enough to cover the bottom of a roasting tin, as well as a large celery stick. Season well and place the lamb on top. Cover with a double layer of foil (if you have a self-basting tin, you can use that instead) and roast in the oven for two hours. Take the roasting tin out of the oven and place the lamb on another tin and put back in the oven to crisp up.
For the accompanying sauce, put the tin with the vegetables on the hob and bring to a simmer, cooking for five minutes. Now add the lamb stock and half a pint of dry white wine. Make sure you scrape off any of the burnt bits from the surface of the roasting tin. They are the best bits. Strain the sauce into a saucepan, skim away any fat and then stir in a quarter of a pint of double cream and a teaspoon of curry powder.
Place the meat on a large serving dish (don’t forget to take out its stitches!) and surround it by buttered noodles and pour the sauce into a sauce boat. Griggers didn’t say what vegetables to serve with it, so I served green beans, my own personal favourite lamb accompaniment.
#299 Leg of Lamb Stuffed with Crab. Well I wanted something that looked impressive and it this definitely looked the part. The meat was very good as was the minty and fresh tasting stuffing, though the sauce was a little bland. It wasn’t bad or anything, it just didn’t pack the punch that I expected it to. If I were to cook it again, I would simmer that sauce right so it became concentrated before adding the cream and curry powder. My expectations were also raised because the lamb section of the book has been so very good thus far. That said, roast lamb can never be bad in my opinion, so I give it a 7/10.

#272 Melted Butter

As our Jane quite rightly points out in English Food, many old recipe books suggest serving meat, fish and vegetables with good butter or good melted butter. This is not just high quality butter melted on the food, but a butter sauce not unlike hollandaise. The main difference being that flour is used to thicken the sauce instead of egg yolks, which makes the sauce much easier to make. In The Experienced English Housekeeper by Elizabeth Raffald, there are quite a few mentions of it, but no actual receipt. The recipe given here is from The Cook’s Guide by a certain Charles Elmé Francatelli who was briefly the chef at Buckingham Palace during the reign of Queen Victoria. Oh la-dee-da! (He left because he was disgusted with the filthiness of the kitchens.)
Anyways, the sauce seemed to be the perfect accompaniment to the poor old lobster I accidentally dismembered, then boiled. I’ll give the basic recipe and then the variations…
To make the sauce it is best to do the whole thing in a bain-marie or double boiler – i.e. a bowl over simmering water.  Weigh out 9 ounces of unsalted or lightly salted butter – Griggers suggests using a good Danish butter – melt one third of it in the ban-marie with some pepper and nutmeg. Next, stir in an ounce of flour and ¼ pint of cold water, using a whisk to prevent lumpiness. Heat until the sauce is at simmering point, then turn the heat right down and leave for 20 minutes for the sauce to thicken. Now beat in the rest of the butter piece by piece using the whisk. Add any flavorings you want at this point (see below for some suggestions). Season with lemon juice and salt, plus more pepper if required. Lastly, add a tablespoon of double cream for richness.
Flavorings:
Shrimp sauce – add some brown shrimp to the sauce at the end; use fish stock instead of water if you like
Lobster and crab sauces – add the chopped flesh plus some Cayenne pepper. If the lobster was a lady lobster with roe, then pass it through a sieve into the sauce.
Anchovy sauce – add some anchovy essence.
Herb sauce – add plenty of chopped herbs to the sauce near the end of cooking. For larger herbs like sorrel and spinach, steam and chop them before adding them to the sauce.
For the sauce I made, I didn’t want to chop the lobster up, so I stirred in the brown meat (which people think is inedible because of its consistency, but it is delicious) and some chopped parsley and provided it in a jug to be poured over the lobster halves.
Check out the fancy lobster tools!
#272 Melted Butter. I really like this surprisingly light sauce and it complimented the lobster brilliantly. Plus it was much easier than a sauce hollandaise – one didn’t have to stand next it hoping it wouldn’t split. I imagine it would be good to serve with fish, potatoes and asparagus for a Sunday lunch in the summertime. A definite winner this one.

#271 How To Boil Crabs, Lobsters, Prawns and Shrimps

A woman should never been seen eating and drinking, unless it be lobster and Champagne, the only true feminine and becoming viands.

Lord Byron 1788-1824
A freshly boiled crab or lobster is the most delicious crab or lobster. Apparently. In England, this is not something that commonly happens in a typical household. Like all our meat and fish, the animals that provide us with all that delicious protein are helpfully done away with by burly men in abattoirs, boats or warehouses.  We have lost touch with our food rather and find the idea of killing an animal for food ourselves distasteful. Pretending this doesn’t happen, in my opinion, is the distasteful act.
That said, I am not actually comfortable myself with killing animals, and as any previous reader of the blog will know, killing three eels was most distressing for me. Now it is the turn of some shellfish. This recipe is one that I never did back in England because I simply never saw live crabs and lobsters, prawns or shrimps in fishmongers. Houston, however, is a very different state-of-affairs. There’s live seafood in pretty much any supermarket you walk into here.
The lobster tank in Central Market, Houston
So if you stumble upon a live crab or lobster in the local fishmonger or supermarket here is what to do. Well, as you’ll find out, it maybe isn’t what you are meant to do….
The main point I wanted to get across is that boiling seafood can be humane (or at least no more or less humane than, say, killing a cow with a stun-gun). In English Food, Jane Grigson says that RSPCA guidelines suggest putting the animal in cold salted water and letting the water heat up – apparently when a certain temperature is reached, the creature expires ‘without suffering’. Guidelines have changed rather and nowadays it’s suggested that the little arthropod is popped into the freezer until it falls into a torpor. When plunged into the water, it’s dead before it has a chance to wake up. (The other method is to stab it in the top of the head using a sharp knife and a mallet.)
So, first things first, my mate Danny (who was helping me out with the cooking) got a lobster from Central Market. On the fishmonger chap fishing out the one we chose, I suddenly felt a pang of guilt, so we hurried to my freezer to get it nice and sleepy. Whilst we waited, the salt water into which it was boiled needed to be prepared. The water needs to be very salty. If you can, use sea water, if not dissolve enough sea salt so that the briny solution will bear an egg (this requires a lot of salt). Bring to the boil.
I was informed that the lobster would take 20 minutes or so to fall asleep. This was total nonsense, because 90 minutes later it was still moving around. Shit. By now we’d had a fair few glasses of wine due to the stress. A little later, the lobster seemed pretty inert, so we decided this was the time. Like, I said before, the idea of this post was to do away with some misconceptions about killing seafood in boiling water. So sure I was of this, I filmed the process, so you get a rare glimpse of me in action! Unfortunately things didn’t quite go to plan, and I may have reinforced those misconceptions. Oh dear.
Next time (if there is a next time) I’ll just throw the thing straight in!
Okay, back to the cooking. The cooking time is 15 minutes simmering for the first pound and then an additional 10 minutes for every extra pound.
For shrimp and prawns: 3 minutes for large prawns and for small shrimps, simply let the water come up to the boil again and they’ll be done.
Serve the shellfish simply, says Griggers, with brown bread, butter and lemon wedges.
#171 How to Boil Crabs, Lobsters, Prawns and Shrimps. Well that was an event! Aside from the auto-dismemberment episode, the cooking itself went very well. I split the lobster lengthways, removed the brown meat and used it to make a butter sauce (see next entry, when I write it!), and grilled the lobster with butter briefly. Delicious. 8.5/10.

#235 Lisanne’s Chicken with Mussels

We don’t know who Lisanne was/is, other than she was a mate of Griggers and that she made this recipe up on a whim whilst in France. The reason that it appears in English Food is that it is rather reminiscent of the old English recipes of cooking oysters with chicken. I have already done the steak, kidney and oyster pudding with great success, but the thought of a eating a chicken stuffed with mussels a little odd – and don’t forget the last mussel recipe I did was very odd. However, as we have discovered along the way, this damn book is full of surprises, so we shall see…

You need to get hold of a chicken that weighs around four or five pounds as well as a nice bag of fresh, live mussels that weighs around three or four pounds.

Begin by browning the chicken all over in some olive oil along with a large chopped onion and a chopped carrot in a flame-proof casserole. Add a bouquet garni (see here for some suggestions as to what you should put in it) and a quarter of a pint of dry white wine. Bring to a steady simmer and cook for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, open around two-thirds of the mussels in a very hot pan using another quarter pint of wine. Any mussels that remain closed should be discarded, Griggers says.* Pluck the mussels from their shells and carefully stuff them into the cavity of the now half-cooked chicken. Strain the cooking liquor from the mussels into the dish and tuck the remainder of the mussels all around the chicken. Season and cook for a further 30-45 minutes.


When the chicken is ready, remove it to a serving dish, scatter the mussels around it, and scatter chopped parsley all over it. Skim and strain the sauce into a sauceboat and eat with good bread – no vegetables required says Giggers, just a green salad to follow.

#235 Lisanne’s Chicken with Mussels. I must say I was very dubious about this one and continued to be dubious a few mouthfuls later. However, I put that down to the novel flavour combination because I soon realised it was very good! The chicken was beautifully succulent and the mussels tender, though cooking them this was gives the eater a real strong mussel-hit, but if you like your seafood, then certainly give this a go. The sauce made by the cooking liquor was divine. 7.5/10

*FYI: According to the telly programme QI, this is absolute nonsense and it is Jane Grigson who is to blame for this myth. The first mention of chucking out your un-opened mussels appears in Jane Grigson’s Fish Book and people have followed this advice evermore. However, there is actually no evidence that unopened mussels will poison you – in fact, you just as likely to be poisoned by a live mussel than a dead one. That said, I still chucked out my unopened ones!

#218 Whitebait

Aye up, Grigsoners! I’ve been a bit slack with the blog recently as I have been working all hours over the last week or so. However, I have not been slack in the kitchen as I have a few recipes to tell you all about. Hopefully I’ll get them written over the next few days.

I cooked for some mates last week and managed four Grigsons in one evening. Pretty good going, I reckon. I’m trying to empty the freezer as I have accrued a lot of food during the autumn so things were designed around whatever I found in the deep depths of it. I found the whitebait and had completely forgotten I had bought them. I love whitebait but have never cooked them, though it was all straight-forward enough. It’s funny, but I never really thought of whitebait as an English food, I think this is because I always see it on European restaurant menus. It does have a bit of a history though; according to the Grigson there were whitebait parties held in Dagenham, London to celebrate some land draining system being built. Anyways, William Pitt (the Prime Minister at the time) was invited to one party and loved them so much he held whitebait parties at the close of each parliamentary season. So there you go. Don’t say I don’t educate you all!


To fry your own whitebait, allow them to defrost (if frozen, obv), then rinse them in some milk and allow to drain for a bit. Heat up some deep oil to around 200⁰C. Meanwhile put some seasoned flour in a large freezer bag, place the whitebait inside, seal and give it all a good shake so that they are all nicely covered. Shake off excess and fry in batches for just a minute or two. Drain and season well with salt and Cayenne pepper. Serve the little fish with brown bread and butter and some lemon wedges.

#218 Whitebait. Absolutely delicious and much better than what I’ve had done in restaurants. The flour and milk formed a light, crisp batter keeping the fish nice and soft within. Lemon and brown bread were the perfect accompaniment too. A cheap and delicious treat – go make! 8.5/10.

#192 Elizabeth David’s Prawn Paste

In days of yore, we English loved potted meats and fish. You don’t seem to see many potted foodstuffs around these days: though potted beef is still popular in Yorkshire. Pate does not count. This one at first sight seems a bit weird, and perhaps foul, but there are some interesting ingredients in there. One of the great things that Elizabeth David did in the sixties and seventies was introducing us to Mediterranean flavours, and she managed to sneak a few in here: olive oil instead of butter, basil instead of parsley, lime rather than lemon. She transformed our eating habits; along with Grigson, Floyd, et al. of course. It may seem odd these days – all those continental ingredients mashed up in a now-defunct method of preparing meat and fish – but there you go.

Place eight ounces of cooked, peeled prawns in a blender along with the juice of a lime and around six tablespoons of olive oil – use extra virgin if you have it since as it’s not going to be cooked. Blend until smooth and add half a teaspoon of dried basil and a heaped saltspoon (!) of crushed coriander seeds. Season with a little salt and some Cayenne pepper. Divide between some small ramekins, cover and refrigerate. Serve with hot, thin toast.

By the way, I don’t know the capacity of a saltspoon as I don’t own one, so don’t ask me. Actually, I’d not even heard of one. I guessed and added a quarter of a teaspoon. Also, don’t buy dried basil, as it has no flavour; dry your own in a cool oven for about 20 minutes until crumbly: much better.


#192 Elizabeth David’s Prawn Paste. It may have sounded like horrible soggy fish pap, but this was delicious. The prawns were sweet, the olive oil was fruity and the basil and coriander seeds combined with the lime juice provided a morish tang. Really good – go and make some. 7.5/10.

#189 Mussel and Leek Rolypoly

“People sometimes shudder at the mention of roly-poly puddings” says the Grigson; er, no dear, just the idea of THIS one! Why on Earth is there no jam roly-poly pudding, please!? I’ve been putting off the more weird ones – like this – but they are building up now. I wasn’t looking forward to it, but Griggers really does big this one up. It is cheap though, at least when mussels are in season.

I have only recently been able to pluck up the courage to eat mussels; I’ve always been a bit squeamish with bivalves for some reason. However, I do love mussels now. The Romans loved them too, and they’ve been cultured in France since the late thirteenth century, ever since a shipwrecked Irishman called Patrick Walton was washed up on a French beach and noticed some mussels growing on the fishermen’s nets. I doubt he wrapped them in suet pasty though.

To begin you need to cook your mussels – 48 in all, says Grigson. Scrub them and remove their beards and any parasites. Place them in a hot, wide shallow pan and cover. As soon as the mussels open, take them off the heat. Don’t use any mussels that have not opened. Shell them, reserving any juices, and let them cool. Pass the juices through some muslin into a small pan.

Now make the rest of the stuffing: In a bowl, mix together 3 ounces of finely chopped onion, 2 trimmed and finely chopped leeks, 2 chopped rashers of streaky bacon, 3 tablespoons of chopped parsley and a little salt plus plenty of ground black pepper.

Suet pastry is the easiest pastry to make. Sieve 10 ounces of self-raising flour in a large bowl and mix in a pinch of salt and 5 ounces of shredded suet. Using a knife or your hands, mix in some cold water until a firm and light dough is formed.

You are now ready to construct the rolypoly pudding. Roll the dough into a rectangle and sprinkle over the leek mixture leaving a centimetre border around three sides, and then evenly sprinkle over the mussels. Brush the edges with water and roll up the pastry starting at the borderless end, lastly press down the sides to prevent any leakage from the sides. Wrap it in a tightly-sealed but baggy foil parcel and steam for two hours on a rack in a self-basting roaster. If you don’t have one – use a normal roaster and make a foil lid as I did. When ready, place in an ovenproof serving dish and crisp it up in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes – careful now, it might collapse (see pic!). Whilst that is happening, make the butter sauce. Boil down the reserved mussel liquor, take it off the heat, and whisk in 4 ounces of chilled, cubed butter, bit by bit. Season well, add some chopped parsley, and it is ready.


#189 Mussel and Leek Rolypoly 4.5/10. I though I liked this in the end, but then I wasn’t sure; it certainly wasn’t awful. I even had seconds. The mussels were soft and sweet, the leeks were cooked nicely and the pastry was crisp. The sauce was good too. I think it was too rich, and I ate too much. An unusual one, but I’m not sure I would recommend it.

#176 Samphire

I came across some marsh samphire in the fishmongers the other week – I had been looking for it previously and thought I would have to go to extreme lengths to get hold of it – I bought it, just in case I never came across it again. Luckily, Griggers mentions in English Food that samphire can be successfully frozen by blanching briefly and then popping into the freezer.

Samphire grows on the salty soil near the sea, and marsh samphire grows in salt marshes. The word samphire is a corruption of the French Saint Pierre, the patron saint of fishermen. He was obviously looking after them by providing the coastal veg. Samphire comes/came under several names: sea asparagus, glasswort (it was used in glass production), crab grass and frog grass. Keep a look out for it when you are near the sea – rock samphire grows well on Dover cliffs, but collecting it is a precarious activity – ‘a dreadful trade’, according to Shakespeare in King Lear. Best stick to the marshes, if you want to try and collect your own.

Samphire is dealt with in two ways: pickling or boiling. Boiled samphire is generally served as a vegetable with fish or lamb or with a hollandaise sauce (which I did, along with some pan-fried sea bass). To do this, boil rapidly in unsalted water until tender, this should be just five minutes. Drain and serve.


#176 Samphire. 5/10. It seems that the blanching and freezing technique is not as successful as indicated by Griggers; they were unfortunately left all soggy and not at all crisp and tender. The flavour however, was good; salty and sweet with a mild taste of ocean ozone. I think that I shall try it again but without freezing it this time.

#159 Creamed Roe Loaves

Here at Grigson Towers, we don’t like to let anything go to waste, and our tasty fishes are certainly something that should be at treated with a huge amount of respect. So do your bit by making your mackerel (or herring) go further by asking your friendly fishmonger to fish out the fishes’ roes when he guts them. After all you have paid for them anyway.

There’s quite a few roe recipes in English Food and I’ve tried them, so I thought I’d better get started. This one seemed straight-forward and is very similar (and cheaper!) to the oyster loaves recipe, so I was sort of on familiar ground. The good thing about this recipe is that you can reduce the amounts accordingly depending upon how many roes you have – in fact I only had enough to make one!

FYI: In case you didn’t know (and don’t let this put you off) the soft roe of a fish is the sperm, and therefore from a male fish. They’ve gone out of favour, with some fishmongers just throwing them away instead of selling them! Another thing we need to try and bring back, people!

Prepare 8 small rolls of bread just like for the oyster loaves. To make the filling, soften 3 shallots or 3 tablespoons of onion in butter over a low heat. Add ½ pint of double cream and cook until it thickens. Cut the roes into one centimetre cubes and place them in the cream and allow them to poach gently – this only takes a few minutes. Add parsley and chives and season with salt, black pepper and Cayenne pepper, plus a squeeze of lemon juice to cut through the creaminess. Spoon the mixture into the hollow loaves and serve immediately.

#159 Creamed Roe Loaves – 7.5/10. I really enjoyed my first foray into roe gastronomy, though a dated dish, you could modernise it easily by serving it on toast instead, or something. They are very soft and have a very delicate flavour. Try them, don’t fear the fish sperm – you’ll like the flavour and texture – and, after all, you’ll happily eat fish eggs (or bird eggs), so what’s the difference?