#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.

#164 Sorrel with Eggs

It’s always exciting trying a new food, and this one – sorrel – is completely new to me, even though it is a common part of many a British meadow’s flora. At least that’s what the foragers’ books keep on telling me. I’ve kept my eyes open and only found the quite similar, though inedible, dock leaf when I’ve been on the look-out. So, I was very lucky to happen up some at the Unicorn grocery whilst I wasn’t looking for it. It’s good really, because now I know what it looks like and tastes like I’m much more likely to see it in the grassland in the future.

Sorrel is one of our forgotten vegetables, and was once part of every garden as it grew happily in the early Spring when the store of over-wintered fruit and vegetables had run out, but the new springtime plants were not yet laden with their bounties. Famine time. These days of, course, we have no gap to fill in the food year and so it has gone out of favour. Another reason for its decline in popularity is that, because of its acidic zingy sharpness, it was used a lemon substitute and is therefore required no longer. It’s very easy to grow – I shall be growing some next year, for sure. Here’s a nice article about it from The Telegraph.

This recipe uses pureed sorrel that takes seconds to make, so if you find any, either in the meadow or the greengrocers, try this to get you started. It serves six, but you can decrease the amounts if you don’t have enough sorrel (or people!).

First boil six eggs for 6 minutes exactly (unless they are large, then boil for 7), this will achieve a boiled egg with well-cooked whites but still squidgy yolks. Whilst they are boiling, prepare 8 ounces of sorrel by rinsing, draining and removing the stalks just as for spinach. Add the leaves to a saucepan that’s over a moderate heat, after a few seconds it will reduce to a dark green puree, then add salt and pepper and 3 ounces of butter. Keep warm. Now fry six slices of bread in butter or oil until crisp, and cut into triangles (12 altogether). Now arrange the ingredients in a bowl or serving plate: sorrel first, then the eggs (whole or halved) and then the fried bread. Finally decorate with orange wedges (which I forgot to do!).


#164 Sorrel with Eggs – 7/10. I really enjoyed this usual and forgotten vegetable. The flavour was intense and was tempered well with the oily bread and creamy yolks of the eggs; it could be best described as lemon but with a strange astringency, like that of green rhubarb or raw gooseberries. It would be delicious with fish I expect. This is the only recipe that uses sorrel in English Food, but I am on the look out for other recipes elsewhere.