However, by the mid-16th Century, things had moved on and people became very interested in vegetables and their variety. Seed catalogues of the time listed around 120 different vegetables and herbs. A century later this was down to around sixty, and by the 1970s just forty. This correlates with the movement of people from the countryside to the cities to find work and the loss of self-sufficiency. In its place arose large-scale agriculture, where economy of scale won over variety. The invention of the supermarket succeeded in driving diversity down even further.
When the peas are tender, liquidise the whole lot and push through a fine sieve, pushing the pulp through with a ladle.
Next, fold in two egg whites that have been beaten until stiff. For maximum lightness, use a metal spoon for this task.
If growing is not your thing, then you could try and forage some for yourself. Wild seakale, or Crambe maritima to give its Latin name, is not a common plant; this is because of its rather specific gravel or stony beach habitat. There are not that many of those, except on the south coast of England and parts of Ireland. If you have holidayed in one of these areas, one of the things may have noticed is the total lack of plant life there. Unfortunately, the plants do get somewhat trampled over by people and their beach gear. According to John Wright in his very good book Edible Seashore (part of the River Cottage Handbook series) reckons you are best looking in the fringes of the beaches where the vegetation is less disturbed. If you do find one – remember where it is so the next January or February, you can pile on some gravel and force your own to collect in April.
This recipe – the 350th – is the last I shall cook in America because tomorrow morning I fly back to England. It has been a great place to carry on the blog; there were many foods that were tricky to get hold of in Britain that were easy to find in the USA. The Americans’ love of freshwater fish and shellfish (particularly oysters) really helped me out in the Fish chapter and I managed to find lots of offal like pig’s heads, lamb’s heads, tongues and sweetbreads. The other great thing was that all my friends were so game to try the often strange things I served up to them, and I thank them very much for that.
This recipe would not seem strange to an American – a salad made from avocados and broad (fava) beans, but this would have been an extremely exotic dish in England during the 1970s where the avocado was very much the new kid on the block in the greengrocer’s shop. Of course, for that very reason, it makes this recipe a contemporary one – at least when the book was first published – perhaps Jane was doing her bit to introduce a new taste to the 1970’s English palette. It never became a classic recipe, but full marks to Griggers for effort.
I wanted to do this recipe before leaving St Louis because avocados are so delicious here and so flavourless in England. It’s a very simple one that marries together broad beans and avocados; two vegetables that I would never have thought about putting together. If only Hannibal Lector had known, he might not have been done for cannibalism:
Num um um-um-um”
This recipe comes from the ex-Guardian food writer Harold Wilshaw, whose name I always read as Harold Wilson when I flicked through the pages of the Vegetables chapter. He apparently he ‘thought up this particular salad when unexpected guests arrived and there wasn’t much in the house.’ How bourgeois of him to have an avocado just lying around in his house.
To make the salad start by podding some broad beans and boiling them for around 5 minutes. Drain and then begin the task of removing the thick seed coat. It’s not has fiddly as you might think; if you make a nick in one end of the bean, you can quite easily squeeze out the bright green bean from within.
Slice an avocado and arrange it on a plate along with the beans and drizzle over a simple vinaigrette made from either cream and lemon juice, or olive oil and vinegar. Season well and scatter over some extras if you like: chopped parsley, chives, spring onion or coriander leaves are suggestions as well as air-dried Cumbrian ham or Parma ham.
#350 Harold Wilshaw’s Broad Bean and Avocado Salad. Well I have to that this was an absolutely delicious and simple salad. Both vegetables are sweet in flavour, but have very different textures. I just hope I can get hold of avocados good enough to make it! 8.5/10
A salmagundi is essentially a rather grand salad which was popular in the 18th Century that has origins in the Elizabethan era. The idea being that the ingredients could be laid out for a ‘Middle Dish’ to produce a large sallet. The Salmagundi originated as a game dish called a salmi (click here for the recipe) popular since Medieval days.
“We’re well used to tomato sauces”, says Grigson, “I don’t know why we haven’t gone further along the road, using other vegetables in the same kind of way”. This has always confused me; the only tomato sauce I know is either the tomato sauce for pasta or the tomato sauce that comes in bottles as ketchup. The recipe is obviously for neither. I can’t find a tomato sauce recipe that seems even remotely similar – even during the nineteenth century, tomato sauces were made for macaroni, simply stewed with olive oil and garlic and some herbs as we do nowadays.
If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.
This is a recipe that I, admittedly, have been avoiding. A courgette and parsnip boat? What the heck is the point of that? Of course, I have nothing against neither courgettes nor parsnips, but this seemed a little over the top: scooping out the centres of courgettes and then piping hot parsnip purée inside. Hm. This is a recipe that Grigson was trying to introduce us to the 1970s, and it seems very 1970s – very Fanny Craddock. The recipe comes not from her, but from a certain Julia Child. You may have heard of her.
I beseech you heartily, scurvy, lousy knave, at my desires, and my requests, and my petitions, to eat, look you, this leek: because, look you, you do not love it, nor your affections and your appetites and your digestions doo’s not agree with it, I would desire you to eat it….if you can mock a leek, you can eat a leek.
I like to get a bit of Shakespeare in whenever I can.
There’ll be no mocking of leeks on this blog. They are one of my favourites, though I don’t really eat them that often. The main reason, I think, is that no matter how much I wash them before preparing them, there is always some grit – invisible to the naked eye – that ends up in the final dish. I’m always so thorough too. Hey-ho, a bit of dirt is fine. In fact there’s an old Yorkshire saying: tha’s got to eat a peck o’muck before you die. Indeed.
Here’s a pie that sounds great – leeks, cream and bacon in pastry. Nothing can be bad about this one, with or without grit.
I assumed that this recipe was a Welsh one, but no, variations of it are found across Britain and France. Grigson doesn’t say that much about it, other than in France onion and flour are added to the filling, so technically this is the French version, but let’s not split hairs.
To make the pie, you’ll need to buy or make some shortcrust or puff pastry. I made some shortcrust. You’ll need to make a shortcrust that uses 10 ounces of flour and five of fat; I did eight and four respectively and only just managed to get away with it.
To make the filling, chop and onion and cook it in an ounce of butter until soft and golden. Meanwhile, trim, wash and chop a pound of leeks. Slice the green part thinly, as it is quite tough and takes longer to cook than the white part. Add the leeks to the onions along with two ounces more of butter. Season with salt and pepper. It’s important to add the salt at this point as it draws the liquid from the leeks, concentrating their flavour.
When softened and mushy, turn off the heat and add four ounces of chopped back bacon. Now measure four ounces of double or clotted cream – weight, not volume – and beat in a teaspoon of flour. Pour this over the leeks and bacon and allow to cool.
Roll out two thirds of your pastry and line a nine inch tart tin. Add the filling and roll out a lid with the remaining pastry, using beaten egg as a glue. Crimp the edges and ‘decorate in restrained manner’. I just made some fluting around the edge. Brush with egg and make a hole in the centre so the steam can escape. Bake for 15 minutes at 220°C (425°F) or until the pastry is nice and brown, then turn the heat down to 180°C (350°F) for another twenty to thirty minutes.
#288 Leek Pie. What a great pie! The filling became a rich and delicious mush with subtle onion and leek flavour. The secret to this – as with so many of the best in English Food – is the that are just a few ingredients cooked slowly over a low heat with a good amount of seasoning. It was just as delicious cold as it was hot. One of the best recipes thus far I’d say. Go and cook it! 9.5/10.