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.
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
“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.
“Your old virginity is like one of our French withered pears: it looks ill, it eats dryly.” Bertram, As You Like It
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.
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!
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
This one’s a cracker. It’s basically pea and ham soup as it uses ham stock. Grigson gives the option of using chicken stock, and I suppose you could use vegetable stock, but it will not be in any way as delicious as ham. Use peas in any form – fresh, frozen or dried. I went for frozen as I’ve always got them in the freezer, and I reckon they’re better than fresh, unless you happen to grow them yourself. The Grigson also gives a vegetarian version which swaps the bacon for the heart of a Cos lettuce, a small handful of spinach and half a shredded cucumber. The stock is swapped for water.
Start off by softening a chopped, medium onion in 2 ounces of butter until soft and golden, but not brown. Next add two rashers of smoked streaky bacon that have been chopped to. Fry for a couple of minutes and then add 1 3/4 pints of light ham stock and 8 ounces of peas and simmer until cooked. Liquidise and add more water or stock if it’s too thick. Re-heat, season and stir in some chopped parsley.
I need to catch up on the old recipes…
At the weekend Lee came over – I’m glad to see that he’s enthused by the whole Grigson thing – so I made a Green Thai Curry (recipe coming soon) and I wanted a nice healthy pud to go with it. It had been warm and sunny all week, so I went down the tropical route with (#65) Mangoes of the Sun. What this has to do with English Food I do not know. Nevertheless it’s really simple to do and is a really refreshing end to a Thai meal, or indeed any meal. The dessert didn’t stay healthy for long seeing as Grigson says to serve it with shortcake biscuits (recipe coming later today!). Like with tomatoes, leave your mangoes out on a sunny shelf to ripen up – to use an unripe mango would be a disaster!
This makes enough for three: Slice two mangoes down the sides of the large stone, cut the slices in half, peel them, and then slice again but nice and thinly. Cut away any other fleshy bits that are still around the stone. Arrange the slices on a large plate. Next cut three passion fruit in half and scoop out the seeds into a small pan along with 60 ml (about 2 fluid ounces) of water, along with a squeeze of lime juice and half a tablespoon of sugar. Heat the mixture, but don’t let it boil. After a couple of minutes the pulp should be softened and easy to pass through a sieve, leaving just the shiny pips behind. Taste the sieved juice and add extra sugar or lime juice if necessary. Add a few of the black seeds back to the juice and pour over the mangoes. Lastly, cut thin slices of lime and then quarter them so you have little triangles and scatter them over. Hey presto!
FYI: If you are vegetarian, you might be interested to know that mangoes are a source of Omega-3 oils; better than having to eat those crappy flax seeds. Everyday’s a school day!
#65 Mangoes of the Sun: 8/10. Delicious and summery; I could’ve eaten it all to myself. I was tempted to serve cream as well as biscuits with it, but am glad I didn’t. The shortbread soaks up the juice a treat too. Brilliant. Make this whilst it’s still sunny!
This is my vegetable soup, which I admit is pretty good. I always make a great load of it and freeze what I don’t eat. It’s very good for you, easy to make and pretty substantial for a soup containing no big meaty bits! The Grigson also does one that contains lots of meat! I must admit I make mine with chicken stock, but I also make it with vegetable stock and it’s almost as good. It difficult to stick to an exact recipe, because it throw in whatever I have, plus the time of year has a great effect. I think that there are certain ingredients that are a must, however, such as potato, onion, garlic, carrot, i.e. basic stock vegetables. That said if you miss a couple out it’s also fine. I would say try and use as many of them as possible. All should be clear in the recipe. The rest of the vegetables can then be added at the appropriate time – roots straight after the stock has come to a simmer, and greens towards the end. The choice of herbs is your own, but I like the classics – thyme, parsley, pepper and mint. Any stalks and leaves you don’t use, freeze. I freeze all my fresh herbs and spices – chillies, herbs, ginger, etc etc…
I think that some protein is required so I always add some red lentils, which thicken the soup slightly, and a can of beans – any will do, use your favourite.
For some tips on what to put in your bouquet garni, have a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bouquet_garni. I find that those little bags you get with washing tablets work quite well!
You will need:
2 tbs olive oil, or butter
bouquet garni – made from a very generous sprig of thyme, parsley stalks, mint stalks
2 litres of chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbs of red lentils
salt and pepper
As many of the following basic vegetables as possible:
1 onion, chopped
1 medium-sized potato, diced
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1-2 carrots, diced
1-2 sticks celery, diced
1 leek, sliced – use as much of the green parts as possible. Slice it finely though as it can be tough
2 or 3 root veg, diced appropriately, as some take longer to cook than others e.g. turnips, a small swede, parsnip
1 or 2 greens, thinly sliced e.g. 1/4 white cabbage, kale, peas (don’t slice those, obv.!)
1 can of cooked beans
2 tbs each parsley and mint
more salt and pepper, if required
What to do:
- Fry the stock vegetables in the oil gently for a few minutes, when they start to soften, season and add the bouquet garni. (Tie the herbs with a piece of string, or put in a muslin bag). Continue to fry for about 10 minutes – don’t let the vegetables colour, though.
- Add the stock and bring to the boil, add the lentils, then allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the root vegetables and simmer until tender – around 15 minutes.
- Add the greens, beans and herbs and allow to simmers for 5 more minutes.
- Removed the bouquet garni and check the seasoning.