Mrs Beeton for the Fall: Soup is on again!

 photo aea3d68f-5097-4044-bef6-80f02419f113_zpsl4i6qvbb.png

Finding inexpensive items to cook for large amounts of people can be a bit challenging. Seasonality is key to making truly delicious dishes for your family and friends. This recipe hails from Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, which was a guide to all aspects of running a household in Victorian Britain, edited by Isabella Beeton and published 1861.

Cabbage is a fantastically healthy vegetable which is good both raw and cooked. This recipe can be adjusted for vegetarian preferences if you remove the bacon and replace with a dab of butter. You can also add mushrooms to this to add in a more “meat like” and umami flavor.

118. INGREDIENTS.—1 large cabbage, 3 carrots, 2 onions, 4 or 5 slices of lean bacon, salt and pepper to taste, 2 quarts of medium stock No. 105.

Mode.—Scald the cabbage, exit it up and drain it. Line the stewpan with the bacon, put in the cabbage, carrots, and onions; moisten with skimmings from the stock, and simmer very gently, till the cabbage is tender; add the stock, stew softly for half an hour, and carefully skim off every particle of fat. Season and serve.
Time.—1-1/2 hour. Average cost, 1s. per quart.

Seasonable in winter.
Sufficient for 8 persons.

Mrs Beeton for the Fall: Soup is on!

 photo appleharvestvintageimagegraphicsfairy10_zps3asds0ly.jpg

Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management was a guide to all aspects of running a household in Victorian Britain, edited by Isabella Beeton and published 1861.  She had all manner of advise on how to run a household, but I am focusing on some of her recipes that sound particularly interesting for modern palates.

Fall is apple season, though most supermarkets will sell apples year round in many major cities.  Here is a recipe for Apple Soup:

111. INGREDIENTS.—2 lbs. of good boiling apples, 3/4 teaspoonful of white
pepper, 6 cloves, cayenne or ginger to taste, 3 quarts of medium stock.

Mode.—Peel and quarter the apples, taking out their cores; put them into the stock, stew them gently till tender. Rub the whole through a strainer, add the seasoning, give it one boil up, and serve.

Time.—1 hour. Average cost per quart, 1s.

Seasonable from September to December.

Sufficient for 10 persons.

Take a Culinary Adventure

 photo roller-coaster_zpszplz0yxp.jpg

Many of my friends have food preferences, which is fine. Some people have some major allergies to different types of foods. I totally understand. Those with medical issues please don’t feel bad in not being able to cook these items for you to eat. It’s ok. Those of you that have just never found an eggplant that you’ve liked, I task you to at least try.

Cooking is one of those things that you can control the outcome with very little effort. I can’t tell you how many people have come to me and told me they hated X thing (be that a vegetable, meat or otherwise) and when they ate the item by me, they realized they hated it because of how it was cooked in the past, but they enjoyed what I did.

I don’t say this to pat myself on the back (well…not exactly) but to say that if you hated something from childhood and you’re an adult now, to actually try a new completely different preparation recipe for said past horrible food item. Example, you hated boiled vegetables when you were 7, so how about trying to roast them instead? Yes, there is a BIG difference in flavor and texture, so much so that it may change your opinion of vegetables.

This rule covers all type of food stuff, because from preparation to preparation, there are subtle flavor and texture differences that can change the way you perceive and enjoy food stuff. While you may hate things that are boiled, you may adore them sautéed, roasted or au gratin. Changing out the type of oil you use to fry, brown or sauté foods can go a long way in flavor profiles. When I was first learning to cook, I was using a lot of canola oils, blends, and cheaper oils because a) I didn’t know any better and b) they were what I could afford. Using vegetable oils, butter, animal fats, and a combination blending all those, can make a huge flavor difference. Examples of some of the more flavorful cooking “oil/fats” would be duck fat, bacon fat, coconut oil (especially nice when cooking for vegetarians and vegans), olive oil, and an old favorite, peanut oil. Of course, you should use what is easiest for you to get a hold of at your local markets. Just keep your eyes open for things that you might not ever tried, but might take your cooking, and food enjoyment, to the next level.

DO drink the Water: Water Consumption in Medieval Europe

Food Fallacies: Medieval people drinking Ale or Wine only because the water available was not safe.

When dealing with Medieval food and food history, there are numerous fallacies out there on a variety of topics. One of the more annoying ones is the quality of safe water that was available to drink in Medieval times. I believe this idea, the thought that all water was terrible to consume, goes back further that just Medieval Europe, but this is something I am not sure about. But what is a fact is that while, I’m sure there were unsafe and stagnant waters within pre-17th century culture, that not “ALL” water was poisonous, and as such, people did, in fact, drink out of fresh streams, fresh water rivers and natural springs.

There are a number of online sources for this myth buster, but the best one I found was this link which is a book search result from Water: A Spiritual History by Ian Bradley. While the chapter mostly discusses holy wells, several pieces of his commentary go over the consumption of water in medieval times. Page 73 states: “In fact, the majority of water sources were probably seen in purely utilitarian terms, as providers of water for drinking and washing and not regarded as especially sacred.”

There are earlier examples of water being drunk as well. This goes to an article about Greek and Roman ideas about water.

There are some very good blog posts from Beer brewers and other food historians on the subject of water purity and the Ale and Wine myth. This one from Jim Chevallier has a lot of great examples of drink water references.

Myth spreading is bad. Don’t be part of the water myth! Drink up!

Pickling with Mrs Beeton

 photo Cucumber-Boston-Pickling_zpsvrualcxi.jpg

Have a lot of cucumbers that you don’t have any idea what to do with? There is a fermentation revolution washing over the culinary world, with its kimchis, sauerkrauts, and the like.  Fermentation, or the act of preserving foods, has been around thousands of years.  If you’ve ever wanted to try to pickle something, how about trying out a few of Mrs. Beeton’s recipes for cucumbers.

399. INGREDIENTS.—1 oz. of whole pepper, 1 oz. of bruised ginger; sufficient
vinegar to cover the cucumbers.

Mode.—Cut the cucumbers in thick slices, sprinkle salt over them, and let them
remain for 24 hours. The next day, drain them well for 6 hours, put them into a jar, pour boiling vinegar over them, and keep them in a warm place. In a short time, boil up the vinegar again, add pepper and ginger in the above proportion, and instantly cover them up. Tie them down with bladder, and in a few days they will be fit for use.

402. INGREDIENTS.—Cucumbers, salt.

Mode.—Pare and slice the cucumbers (as for the table), sprinkle well with salt, and let them remain for 24 hours; strain off the liquor, pack in jars, a thick layer of cucumbers and salt alternately; tie down closely, and, when wanted for use, take out the quantity required. Now wash them well in fresh water, and dress as usual with pepper, vinegar, and oil.

Or how about making a vinegar with them?

CUCUMBER VINEGAR (a very nice Addition to Salads).
401. INGREDIENTS.—10 large cucumbers, or 12 smaller ones, 1 quart of vinegar, 2 onions, 2 shalots, 1 tablespoonful of salt, 2 tablespoonfuls of pepper, 1/4 teaspoonful of cayenne.

Mode.—Pare and slice the cucumbers, put them in a stone jar or wide-mouthed bottle, with the vinegar; slice the onions and shalots, and add them, with all the other ingredients, to the cucumbers. Let it stand 4 or 5 days, boil it all up, and when cold, strain the liquor through a piece of muslin, and store it away in small bottles well sealed. This vinegar is a very nice addition to gravies, hashes, &e., as well as a great improvement to salads, or to eat with cold meat.

Carrots and Leeks with Sesame Paste

 photo Kripalu_Carrots_zpsyy43r8yq.jpg

This is a nice veggie side dish for the summer months that has a cole slaw type flavor. The tahini gives it a nice nutty flavor, and the carrots have a real natural sweetness that makes this a great dish to eat on a warm day. This uses a unique spice mixture called Atraf-tib, which I created using this website as a basis of what the mix should be:

The idea of the spice mixture is use what you have. I used bay leaves, nutmeg, mace, cardamom, cloves, ginger and long pepper. What I ended up doing was mixing 4 parts of ginger powder to 1 part of all the other dry ingredients. This gave me a sweeter spice. I blended all dry ingredients into a food mill and really ground down this mixture. You can play with the different ingredients that are listed on the site, adding lavender, rose, and other items. I was fairly light handed on using this in the dish as well. It’s a unique flavoring that gives the dish a very floral freshness. If you don’t want to add this, you do not have to either. The dish stands on its own.

This is on page 66: “Get some carrots, the white part of leeks, sesame butter [tahini], wine vinegar and atraf-tib. Slice the carrots and boil them. Take the [green] tops of the leeks and boil them separately, then drain them and soften them in sesame oil. Put the tahina in a dish, sprinkle it with boiling water, and mix it by hand so that the sesame oil can express itself; then add little vinegar, honey, and some atraf-tib. Put the drained carrots and leeks in a serving dish and add the tahini. You must do [this] in such a way that the quantity of carrots and leeks suits that of the condiments.

Carrots and Leeks with Sesame Paste

½ lbs. Leeks, cleaned, washed, thinly sliced
½ lbs. Carrots, skinned and sliced thinly
1/8 tsp Atraf-tib
1 tbsp. tahina
1/3 cup honey
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
Salt for the boiling water

Clean and slice vegetables, cutting them so the slices are uniform, both vegetables should have the same sized pieces. Put together two cook pans, adding water and some salt (around a tbsp.) to both, and bring to boil. In one boiling pot, add the cut carrots and blanch them. In the other pot, add the leeks to blanch. You want to try to keep a bit of a bite on the vegetables. Make sure when you pull the vegetables out of the water that they go immediately into an ice bath to stop them overcooking. Drain vegetables and add all ingredients into a mixing bowl and combine. Serves 6.

Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World by Lilia Zaouali (ISBN: 978-0-520-26174-7) was used for this redaction. Recipes from the book with the donation of K, for Kanz (the original Kanz al-Fawaid fi tanwi al-mawaid which was “The Treasure of Useful Advice for the Composition of a Varied Table”) were used.

Kanz: The Period Eggplant Dip

 photo eggplants101444394_zpsdp2xmasf.jpg

Another from Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World by Lilia Zaouali (ISBN: 978-0-520-26174-7). Recipes from the book with the donation of K, for Kanz (the original Kanz al-Fawaid fi tanwi al-mawaid which was “The Treasure of Useful Advice for the Composition of a Varied Table”) were used.

Middle Eastern/Egyptian recipes have numerous examples of vegetable focused dishes. This is a good thing, especially when cooking for vegetarians and those people that wish to eat healthier over all. I’ve noticed over the years that many feasts and luncheons served within the Society for Creative Anachronism are very meat heavy. Perhaps there is pressure to create beef and chicken type dishes that are more accessible to the membership that isn’t too “scary” (i.e. different than what most people are used to). I do admit to having at least two somewhat familiar dishes when I am cooking for the non-adventurous eaters within my Barony and Kingdom, but I always try to throw some sort of culinary curve ball, and I’ve found vegetable dishes to be a great item to have people at least try with normally fairly good results.

Here is a great vegetable side dish that works well as a sauce or a dip. It is fairly similar to the modern baba ghannouj (which has tahini). This was on page 66: “Cut the eggplant into small pieces; put them in a jar for cooking [dast] together with whole cleaned onion. Add some sesame oil and oil of good quality and a little water. Reduce over a slow fire. When the ingredients are cooked, put them through a sieve and combine with a very small clove of garlic, yogurt, and chopped parsley.

Puree of Eggplant with Yogurt

1 large eggplant, peeled and diced
½ brown onion, chopped
¼ cup water
1 small clove of garlic, minced into a paste
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. olive oil
½ cup plain yogurt (I used Greek style0
½ cup chopped parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste

Sauté diced eggplant and onions into a large cook pot using both oils and water. Reduce over a low fire until it is fully cooked and softened. Place in blender mixture until smooth and pureed.   Use cheese cloth and drain the eggplant onion mixture on it, removing as much of the water as possible. Place in bowl and mix thoroughly garlic, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Serves 6.

Kanz: Fava Bean in Sour Sauce with Hazelnuts

Here is another recipe in my series of Egyptian recipes that I found in Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World by Lilia Zaouali (ISBN: 978-0-520-26174-7). The recipes were tagged K, for Kanz (the original Kanz al-Fawaid fi tanwi al-mawaid which was “The Treasure of Useful Advice for the Composition of a Varied Table”).

This recipe in particular is great for warm weather since this is very much a cold vegetable dish. It’s also a great vegan dish. It was found on page 66 under cold appetizers. Some of the comments on this: you can use all fava beans and not bother with broad beans, or all broad beans. I did this mostly for color and texture difference. Also, the atraf-tib is a mixture of fairly “flowery” herbs and spices which is made up of lavender, betel, bay leaves, nutmeg, mace, cardamom, cloves, rosebuds, beech-nuts, ginger and long pepper. It is also safe to say that you should use what you have available. Not all of these are easily available. What I ended up using was bay leaves, nutmeg, mace, cardamom, cloves, giner and long pepper. I used 4 parts of ginger, to one part of all the other ingredients, but you may want to change these up. You also don’t need to make it if you’d prefer.

Fava Bean in Sour Sauce with Hazelnuts

1 can Fava Beans
1 can Broad Beans
¼ tsp saffron threads
¼ tsp dry ground coriander
¼ atraf-tib (spice mixture)
½ cup roasted hazelnuts
2 tbs fresh parsley leaves
¼ cup olive oil
2 tbs red wine vinegar
4 tbs fresh mint leaves
2 tbs tahini
1 tbs salt

Drain beans and place in large mixing bowl. In Cuisinart, place the rest of the ingredients (not the beans) in and grind that all into a smooth consistency (can be left chunky depending on your preferences). Pour mixture over beans and combine everything so that the beans are well covered. Feeds about 6.

 photo FullSizeRender1_zpszyx50kqn.jpg

Kanz: Puree of Chickpea with Cinnamon and Ginger

More from Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World by Lilia Zaouali (ISBN: 978-0-520-26174-7). I looked over all the recipes with the donation of K, for Kanz (the original Kanz al-Fawaid fi tanwi al-mawaid which was “The Treasure of Useful Advice for the Composition of a Varied Table”).
This one is a delicious vegan recipe. I always have problems finding tasty, vegetarian friendly, dish that can be served easily at events. This one is super easy to make and it’s zippy. It is close to a hummus, but missing some ingredients.

It was found on page 65: “Cook the chickpeas in water, and then mash them in a mortar to make a puree. Push the puree through a sieve for wheat, unless it is already fine enough, in which case this step is not necessary. Mix it then with wine vinegar, the pulp of pickled lemons, and cinnamon, pepper, ginger, parsley of the best quality, mint, and rue that all have been chopped and placed on the surface of the serving dish [zubdiyya]. Finally, pour over [this mixture] a generous amount of oil of good quality.”

Puree of Chickpea with Cinnamon and Ginger

15oz (1 can) Chickpeas
1 tbs red wine vinegar
¼ cup of chopped pickled lemons (you can substitute chopped fresh lemons)
1 tbs ground cinnamon
1/2 tbs ground ginger
1 tsp ground long pepper
1 tbs chopped fresh parsley (plus extra for garnish)
1 tbs chopped fresh mint (plus extra for garnish)
½ tsp ground rue
Drizzle of Olive Oil

Add all ingredients excluding the olive oil and extra garnish herbs into a blender and grind together until smooth. Sprinkle garnish across the serving plate and add puree to the dish. Add a drizzle of olive oil across the puree and serve. Serves about 6.

 photo FullSizeRender3_zpsex1hhlxy.jpg

Kanz: Meat with the juice of cooked apricots

Second dish in my series of Egyptian recipes that I found in Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World by Lilia Zaouali (ISBN: 978-0-520-26174-7). The recipes were tagged K, for Kanz (the original Kanz al-Fawaid fi tanwi al-mawaid which was “The Treasure of Useful Advice for the Composition of a Varied Table”).

This recipe was collaboration with Susan Fox. She did a lot of the figuring out on the first test.

This one has a similar version of the dish served in North Africa today.   This is a very easy, sweet stewed chicken. You could easily use other “fatty” meats, like pork, lamb or goat. It would be lovely with chicken thighs. Combining sweet sauce with sweet meats or meats that can take in sweet flavors is key for this dish. The meat that was used in the original was probably a fatty lamb. I added olive oil to the recipe since I ended up using a leaner chicken thigh.

Original was on page 85: “Cut some fatty meat into little pieces and put it in a casserole with very little salt. Cover with water, [heat over fire], and skim. Wash onions; cut them and arrange on top of the meat along with the most common spices. Take some fresh apricots, crush them and boil them well, then wash them and crush them by hand, strain them, and add the juice to the meat. Some cooks thicken [the preparation] with water flavored with safflower that has been crushed in the mortar and dissolved. This is a good idea. Leave [the casserole] over the fire until boiling, then wait until the boiling stops and serve.

Meat with the juice of cooked apricots

1 lb skinless chicken thighs
1 tbs olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped fine [If you want more period example, use a brown onion instead.]
33.8oz (1 Liter bottle) Apricot Juice
1 cup dried apricots
1 tbs ground Safflower
Salt and Pepper to taste

Lightly salt chicken both sides and heat up in a large pot (casserole) olive oil. Once oil is hot, add to pan and brown. Cover with water and bring to a boil, skimming any excess fat off the top. Drain water and add cut up onions, apricots, safflower and apricot juice. Bring to boil, then lower to a simmer for twenty minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serves about 6.

 photo FullSizeRender2_zpsucp2wdli.jpg