Thursday, June 14, 2007

Traditional Recipes

Many old recipes are easy to make and very economical. They just need hunting out as few appear in modern cookbooks. Long ago domestic cooks discovered that flavour was much improved by adding herbs, so we should always grow our own whenever possible.
One or two of the following recipes may seem strange, but all the ingredients have nutritional value as our ancestors had discovered, and they made the most of what they'd got.

Scottish Omelette:
4 oz (100g) crustless bread, broken into pieces
1/2 pint (275ml) hot milk
3 medium onions, chopped finely
1 tsp finely chopped sage
1/2 tsp thyme leaves
a pinch of sweet marjoram (opt.)
1/2 oz (12g) butter, melted
1 oz coarse oatmeal
3 eggs, well beaten
Soak the bread in the hot milk and leave to stand for an hour. Mix well with a fork and add all the other ingredients, stirring in the eggs at the end. Season to taste and pour into a greased shallow dish and bake for an hour in a moderate oven (approx 180C).

Cumberland Cheese of the Seven Herbs:
A recipe that dates back at least 300 years
4 oz (100g) grated cheese
2 tblsp thick cream
3 tblsp sherry
2 level tblsp mixed chopped herbs: parsley, sage, tarragon, thyme, chives, chervil and savory.
Put all the ingredients into a double saucepan (or bowl standing over a pan of simmering water), and stir until the mixture is creamy and pale green in colour. Pour into small pots, leave to get cold and use as a spreading cheese.
Note: Obviously, we may not all have the variety of fresh herbs given, but use as many as possible.

Westmorland Easter Ledge Pudding:
Oringinally made with the Easter Ledge herh, this is not essential. Try different herns.
To a pint of cooked pearl barley add two heaped tablespoons of finely chopped herbs and leaves that taste best when young such as black-currant leaves, parsley, dandelion, mint etc. Add one finely chopped shallot, or spring onion. Season to taste, stir in one beaten egg, a little melted butter and bake in a greased pudding dish.

North Country Mint Pasty:
An ancient recipe that is still made to this day by my Yorkshire friend and is most delicious.
Take equal quantities of fresh finely chopped mint , brown sugar and currants. Mix well and pound together to a soft spreading consistency (today they could be blitzed together in a food processor). Spread between thin layers of short-crust pastry, and cook until the top layer is a rich golden brown.

In the 'olden days', when there were no freezers, herbs and soft fruits were preserved into jellies which could be served with colds meats etc. In general, the boiled and pureed fruit was sieved, weighed and then to each pint a pound of sugar was added. This was boiled to setting point and potted up into clean small lidded jars.

Mint and Gooseberry Jelly: serve with lamb or mutton dishes
Cook four pounds of gooseberries in two pints of water until the fruit has softened to a pulp. Rub through a sieve. To each pint of puree use one pound of sugar. Put into a preserving pan and add thirty stems of fresh mint tied up in a muslin bag. Boil to setting point. Remove the bag of mint and pot up the jelly.

Parsley Jelly: good served with cold meats esp. chicken
Fill your chosen pan with parsley and add water to not-quite cover. To each pint of water used, add the juice of one large (or two small lemons) and the lemon rinds. Bring to the boil and simmer for half an hour.
Strain, measure and return the liquid to the pan. To each pint of juice add one pound of sugar . Boil until setting point has been reached then pot up in small jars.
Note: This recipe has a footnote which said it is also good as a sandwich filling with or without chicken.

Tip: To make sure of a good set, use jam sugar instead of ordinary granulated (or use half and half). This should also cut down the boiling time.

As this is exactly the right season to make these vinegars you might like to bottle up some of your own. Do use wine vinegar as our malt vinegar is far too strong.
Tarragon Vinegar:
Gather the tarragon no later than July and in any case BEFORE it comes into flower. Gather when there has been no rain for at least two days (with global warning there is a possibility this can now happen). Pick the leaves from the stalks and put the leaves into a bottle and pour over the vinegar (allow 8 oz leaves to 2 quarts of vinegar). Cork well and leave for a fortnight, strain, bottle again and cork well.
Basil Vinegar: as above
Elderflower Vinegar: as above. The sprays of flowers should be picked when fully open.

Vinegar flavoured with Mixed Herbs:
To a gallon of vinegar allow four ounces each of chives, shallots, tarragon, winter savory, balm and a good handful of mint. Pound the herbs to a pulp (or blitz in a food processor). Add to the vinegar, bottle up and cork well. Place in the sun every day for two weeks. At the end of that time pour through a sieve, pressing the herbs down well to extract all their flavour. Leave the liquid to settle for a few hours then carefully pour through a sieve lined with muslin leaving any sediment behind. Bottle up and cork well.