Chapter 3: Vegetables – Completed!

Well that’s the Vegetables chapter all done-and-dusted, so it’s time for one of my little round-ups; looking again at the recipes and history…

We regard vegetables as the backbone of a varied and healthy diet, but this wasn’t always the case, if you look back to between the late 11th Century and early Tudor times, vegetables were looked upon with suspicion, believed to really mess up your humours especially if eaten raw. The poor were welcome to them of course so they could pad out their pathetic rations of meat and cereals. This led to many peasants, who usually tended their own patch of land, to be generally healthier than the higher echelons of society, who tended to suffer all sorts of diseases and discomfort, such as constipation and scurvy.

#146 Asparagus with Melted Butter 

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.

#426 Mushrooms in Snuffboxes
This chapter of the book was a whopper with 39 recipes in all, with many from the early days of the blog; in fact, I barely remember cooking some of them! Alot of ground was covered and there were some familiar and unfamiliar recipes and vegetables in there. I’m lucky to have to such excellent Manchester-based independent grocers, such as Unicorn, Organic North and Elliot’s that go the extra mile to supply an interesting array of vegetables and herbs to those that value diversity.
The best discovery for me was the seashore veg: laver, dulse, samphire and sea-kale. They really are worth trying, if you can get your hands on them. Dulse and samphire are pretty easy to get hold of, laver – in the form of laverbread – is easy as long as you live on the south coast of Wales, and you may have take to growing sea-kale on the fringes of your vegetable patch or allotment. I did manage to get some from Elliot’s, but they had to really root around the markets for me.
#412 Sea-kale
These indie businesses have a model that works, and with more and more people joining the vegan and Paleodiet movements, I suspect a real surge in interest into the quality and variety of veg is just around the corner – a brave new vegetable world? I hope so!
I had an allotment for a few years too, which helped, but had to give it up when The Buttery took off. I grew my own tiny broad beans so I could cook #398 Broad Beans in their Pods and sorrel for #164 Sorrel with Eggs.
#164 Sorrel with Eggs
Some recipes I had forgotten about until I looked back over the old posts really stood out: #196 Mange Tout Salad with Chicken Liver and Bacon, #288 Leek Pie and #76 Yeisen Nionod (Welsh Onion Cake) in particular are ones that I shall revisit.
Many of the recipes have become kitchen staples for me: both at home and professionally – #374 Pease Pudding, #295 Purée of Dried Peas with Green Peppercorns, #172 Cucumber Ragoût, #14 Leek and Onion Pudding and #5 Pan Haggerty are all served up regularly.
#398 Broad Beans in their Pods
As usual when I finish a part of the book, I think of the things that were left out. There are only a couple of potato recipes for example. Where are the chips and roast potatoes!? There are no beetroot recipes at all. Other vegetables to get snubbed are: celeriac, broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, globe artichoke and spinach, to name but a few. Not to mention the more obscure such as crosnes, salsify, cardoons, tansy and scorzonera.
I would have expected cauliflower cheese and lobscouse to have appeared. I wonder why they were missed out in favour of disappointing recipes like #220 Carrots in 1599 or #311 Courgette and Parsnip Boats? Ah well, at least I can address these little gaps on the other blog.
If you spot any glaring omissions, please let me know and leave a comment!
All the recipes from this section are listed below with hyperlinks and the scores I awarded them. It scored a mean mark of 7.3 (or if you’d prefer, a median of 8 and a mode of 8.5), making it pretty, er, average, scoring well most of the time but with no ten-out-of-tensor any major disasters.

#374 Pease Pudding

Pease pudding is one of the oldest dishes, and most popular, in English history. The main ingredient in pease pudding is of course peas. The pea is one of our oldest cultivated crops mainly because it thrives in temperate climates and is quick to grow, and therefore, to select. Its easy-to-grow nature meant that it was good food for the poor where the poor were often forced to eat ground and dried peasemealformed into loaves and baked like bread.

The etymology of the words pease and peas is interesting: the word originates from the Greek word pison, which became pisum in Latin, crops up in Old English as pise and then changes its spelling to pease. Oddly, the word peasewas mistaken as a pleural and was therefore shortened to pea.

Pease pudding made up of dried, cooked and puréed peas enriched and flavoured with things like butter, eggs or onions. It used to be boiled in a well-floured pudding cloth, giving it the classic cannonball shape; and it wasn’t boiled simply in water alone, but with a piece of salt pork, ham or bacon, with which it would be served. It later would be boiled or steamed in a pudding basin, which is much more convenient, though I am sure the original way of cooking it in the ham stock would have produced a much more delicious meal. I love this pamphlet showing just how versatile pease pudding can be – pease pudding vol-au-vent anybody?
Before pease pudding there was pease pottage, which was essentially a thick soup made from pease and water, flavoured with scraps of meat and vegetables.

So, pease pudding was popular because it was cheap and plentiful. It was often made at the beginning of the week and eaten over the successive days, hence the old rhyme:

                                Pease pudding hot!
                                Pease pudding cold!
                                Pease pudding in the pot
Nine day’s old!

Jane suggests frying it up another day.

To make pease pudding, you first of all need to simmer a pound of dried green peas– whole or split, it doesn’t really matter – in enough water to just cover them until soft and tender. The times here can vary greatly – about 45 minutes to an hour for split peas, at least 2 hours for whole peas. It also worth mentioning that the age of the peas will affect the cooking time – old peas may need soaking overnight in water with a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. If you do soak them overnight, drain away the liquid they were soaked in before cooking in fresh water.

When the peas are tender, drain away any liquid and then pass them through a mouli-legumesor sieve and stir 2 ounces of butterand one beaten egg into the resulting purée. Season well with saltand pepper and spoon the lot into a generously buttered 2 pint pudding basin. Pop the lid on, or make a lid from buttered foil or cloth tied with string. Steam for an hour, then turn it out if you like, and serve with boiled bacon or salt pork or, as I did, with #373 Faggots and Peas.

#374 Pease Pudding. This was a most successful dish – the pease were sweet and well-flavoured. Plus I managed to eat it over the space of several days just like the song! It was best when I fried slices of it in lard so that a good crust formed and ate it with some left-over faggots. I shall do this again. 7/10

#350 Harold Wilshaw’s Broad Bean and Avocado Salad

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:

I ate his avocado with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.
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

#330 Leek, Pea or Asparagus Sauce

“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.

The recipe below is for a thick creamy sauce made from leeks, peas or asparagus – a green vegetable to cover all seasons: leeks for autumn and winter, asparagus for spring and peas for summertime. As it is winter at the moment, I plumped for leeks. But what to serve it with? I eventually came up with the idea of serving the sauce with some seared scallops and some bacon – something which would also work with the peas and asparagus too, I reckon. The sauce is easy to make and can be made in advance and reheated when needed.
First of all prepare your vegetables: wash, trim and chop your leeks or asparagus, or shell your peas. You need 12 ounces prepared weight. Plunge them in ¼ pint of light stock or water. It is important to add salt to the water or stock as it makes the green colour much vivid. Cover and simmer until just tender. Liquidise the vegetables in a blender, or if you are old school a mouli-legumes. Push through a sieve to exclude any woody or fibrous bits (this is especially important with larger asparagus spears). Add around 3 ½ fluid ounces of soured cream, reheat and stir.
Then stir through either 3 tablespoons of clotted cream or unsalted butter. If using butter don’t add it until the last minute. The resulting sauce should be quite thick. Don’t forget to season with salt and pepper.
My attempt at being all cheffy!
#330 Leek, Pea or Asparagus Sauce. Although I wasn’t sure what to do with this sauce, it turned out very well; the leeks were good and sweet, but made piquant by the sour cream. It went very well with the scallops and bacon, so I certainly recommend it for that. Strangely, I reckon it might be good stirred through some pasta with a some Parmesan cheese stirred through it…  7/10

#311 Courgette and Parsnip Boats

If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.
                                            Julia Child

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 suppose I have to bring up the subject of a certain blog-cum-bestselling-book-cum-Hollywood-movie called Julie & Julia, created, of course, by Julie Powell. I cannot believe that she stole my idea! What’s more, I cannot believe that she travelled forward in time only to see my blog, steal my format and then travel back in time to start up her own blog, only to rake in shedloads of cash. Despicable behaviour.

That might be a tiny fib. But I remember being well annoyed when I found out that there was already blogs out there doing the same thing as me. And here I was thinking I had an original idea.

Anyways, back to the matter in hand… Grigson does ‘not apologise for including [the recipe]’, but this non-apology is for the fact she has included a recipe from America. She needn’t apologise for that. However, as a straight-forward lady, I am rather surprised that she included it in here. I think perhaps she was actually trying to introduce us to eating courgettes; I remember them being a rather exotic ingredient in our house growing up the in the 1980s, even though they are just baby marrows. She also goes on to complain of so-called ‘fancy touches’, saying that they are usually an excuse for serving bad food, giving such examples as radish roses on salads and cheap buttercream stars upon margarine cakes. Is this recipe any different though? We’ll see…

In case any Northern Americans are a bit confused about this strange thing called the courgette, I am talking about the zucchini of course.

The recipe serves six people, but you can easily increase or decrease the ratios if there is not six to feed.

Begin by selecting six courgettes around six inches long. Top and tail them and cut each one lengthways before scooping out the seeds. Plunge the courgettes into boiling salted water, blanching them for no more than five minutes. It is important not to over-cook them at this point; they’ll just end up all mushy and flaccid, and you don’t want that. Drain the courgettes and place them on a baking tray, brushing them liberally with melted butter. All this can be done ahead of time.

Next, get to work on the parsnips. Peel and chop two pounds of parsnips, boiling them in salted water until they are tender. Place them in a blender along with an ounce and a half of butter and five tablespoons of double cream. Season and then blitz them well, making sure there are no lumps (see below).

Reheat the courgettes in the oven at 220C (400⁰C) for about five minutes. In the meantime, put the puréed parsnips into a piping bag equipped with an appropriate end. I used a star. Take the courgettes out of the oven and pipe the parsnips in an attractive fashion into the courgette boats.
I have to admit it was good fun doing this bit, though that bag was pretty hot! The main problem was that there was a few lumps of parsnip that kept getting stuck in my piping star. Cue parsnip explosions as the pressure built up in the forefront of my bag. I’m surprised no one lost an eye.
The boats await the rest of the dinner…

#311 Courgette and Parsnip Boats. Well I have to say I did like them. The parsnip was rich and creamy, which was set-off well by the blander courgette. I do wonder if just having a ragout of courgettes and some puréed parsnips made separately wouldn’t be simpler, or indeed better. What I really find odd about this receipt is that Jane Grigson singled this one out as a highlight. I’m sure Julia Childs had some better recipes than this one. 6/10.

#275 Pears in Syrup

“Your old virginity is like one of our French withered pears: it looks ill, it eats dryly.” Bertram, As You Like It

    

What a great quote. Shakespeare was such a bitch.

This is an old, old recipe that Griggers herself has updated rather. In Medieval times a variety of pear called Wardens were used that were rock hard and required an hour’s cooking beforehand. These days, we use eating pears so it’s a lot quicker to make. It is best though to use unripe pears for this, though it doesn’t really matter what kind.

I chose to do this recipe as the dessert to a vegan meal I cooked with my good friends Danny and Eric. I was quite surprised that there was anything vegan in the book! In fact, of the remaining desserts this was the only one.

A some of you may know, one of my gripes is picky eaters. Vegetarianism and veganism don’t come under that term ofr me though. I think making a moral stance against eating animals or using the products of animals certainly has a lots of merit. Not eating honey is a bit stupid though. Anyway, what IS annoying is veggies who ARE picky. I mean, what is the point of restricting your diet if you don’t like most stuff anyway. Luckily noone fell into that category this night!

It’s an easy recipe that can be done well in advance.
Start by peeling, halving and coring the pears – you will need one per person according to Jane. Pop them in a pan in a single layer and pour over enough red wine to cover them. Add too, two tablespoons of sugar, a cinnamon stick and a good pinch of ground ginger. Cover them and bring to a simmer until they are nice and tender. This takes a good 25 minutes, but the time will depend on the variety and ripeness of the pears used. Remove the pears with a slotted spoon and keep warm whilst you boil down the wine until you get a nice slightly syrupy sauce. Add more sugar if you like. Pour over the pears and allow to cool. No need to serve anything else with them.

[If you don’t want to use wine, it can be adapted – swap the wine for water and the cinnamon for a split vanilla pod and add one sliced quince for every two pears cooked. Cook the fruit slowly to achieve a honey scented deep red sauce.]
#275 Pears in Syrup. This was a really good dessert. I’d actually put this one off because I expected to dislike it, but was totally wrong. The concentrated red wine sauce wasn’t heavy or sickly like I thought it would be, but light and refreshing. It must have been the pears and the spices that lightened the whole affair. That said, we could only manage half a pear each. The pudding looked quite impressive too with the dark, almost indigo sauce and the creamy-white pear flesh inside. Great stuff. 8/10.

#229 Vegetable Souffle

A quick one this one.

I made this vegetable soufflé for my mates Stuart and Jamie when they popped round to watch a DVD and have a few drinks. Stuart is a vegetarian and has never had a soufflé, which I find unbelievable as they appear often as the veggie option on menus. It’s like being vegetarian and saying you never had a mushroom risotto! I’ve not added a photo – there’s been a few soufflés now and they all seem to look the same.

Anyways, to make it, soften some onion and a garlic clove in some butter and add to it some cooked, pureed vegetables, about 7 ounces – spinach would work well. I went for mushrooms; I didn’t puree them, instead I diced them and softened them in the pan with the onions. Now follow the method for the cheese soufflé, though I used half the amount of cheese in it. Fold the vegetables into the mixture before adding the whisked egg whites.

#229 Vegetable Soufflé. These soufflés have all been great thus far. The mushroom and cheese combination is a great one; happily marrying the rich creamy salty tang of the Cheddar with the earthy mushrooms. Very good. 8.5/10