Tuesday, January 29, 2008

'Tis the Season...

Today I am concentrating of the best of British, not just the seasonal produce, but some of the wonderful recipes enjoyed by our ancestors, many of which have gone out of fashion. They will take in some of the meat cuts and offal previously mentioned, and will include some imported ingredients only because they have been imported for centuries and have become part of our traditional cooking.

This first recipe has a strange sounding name, British in that this was the orginal name of our royal family. It can be made with the sprouts, but far more economically using the sprout leaves from the top of the plants.
Saxe-Coburg Soup: serves 4
3 oz (75g) lean ham, finely chopped
2 oz (50g) butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
12 oz (350g) Brussel sprouts or sprout tops
1 tblsp flour
1 1/2 pints (850ml) chicken or vegetable stock
5 fl oz (150ml) double cream
salt and pepper
Thinly slice the sprouts, or shred the sprout tops, and set aside. Fry the shallots in the butter until softened, then add the prepared sprouts and half the ham and cook/stir until all the butter has been taken up. Season with the salt, pepper and some freshly grated nutmeg to taste. Stir in the flour, then - when that has been taken up - stir in the stock, until it comes to the boil. Simmer for 8 minutes, then put in a blender or food processor. Rub through a sieve to make a smooth puree, returning this to the pan. Stir in the cream and the remaining ham and heat through. Do not boil. Add more stock or milk if the soup is too thick. Serve with crusty bread or croutons.

If you are in the mood for a history lesson, toast originated as trencher bread. Trenchers being thick slabs of stale bread which served as plates in medieval times. The juices from the meal soaked into the bread, which could then be eaten. No waste in those days. Many of the meals were a type of thick broth, poured over this bread, which later led to it being called 'sops', from whence came the name 'soup'. As time moved on, soup became more refined and smooth and then the dry (or even fresh) bread was dunked into the soup. This then led on to the toast and croutons as we know them today. Food is all about change, but often not changed as much as we think.
Devilled Lamb's Kidneys: serves 4
4 lamb's kidneys, trimmed, cut into chunks
1 tblsp butter
1 tsp mango chutney
1 tsp mild curry paste
1 tblsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tblsp lemon juice
salt and pepper
4 thick slices granary bread
Fry the prepared kidneys in the butter for 3 - 4 minutes until browned. Stir in the mango chutney, the curry paste, W.sauce, and the lemon juice. Season to taste and heat to the simmer for 2 - 3 minutes. Meanwhile toast the granary bread, put one slice on each of four plates, spoon over the kidney mixture and serve immediately.

I could be wrong, but I think that Easter is early this year, for somewhere I read (or did I dream it) that Pancake Tuesday was in early February. Now, if I am correct, Ash Wednesday falls the day following Pancake Day, and in the north of England, the Monday before Ash Wednesday was called Collop Monday. Are you still with me?
It was on Collop Monday that the devout gave up their meat for Lent and this was the traditional dish served that evening. In the south of the country the collops (thin slices of meat that we now call escalopes), were cut from a bacon or ham joint, in Scotland it is often venison, but more often tender cuts of beef or lamb were used. The following recipe uses either lean meat from a leg of lamb, frying steak, or lean pork.
Collop Monday Supper: serves 4
4 slices chosen meat 2" x 4" x 1" (5 x 10 x 2.5cm)
1 oz (25g) flour
salt and pepper
2 oz (50g) butter
12 oz (350g) mushrooms, sliced
2 tsp cornflour
1 pint (600ml) brown stock
Lay the slices of meat between sheets of cling film and bash them to half their thickness, they can be then left whole or cut in half for easier handling. Put the flour into a flat dish, season well with the salt and pepper and dip in the sliced meat to coat both sides. Put the butter into a frying pan and fry the meat for two minutes on each side. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside, put the mushrooms into the juices in the pan and lightly fry, then put into an ovenproof dish and lay the meat collops on top. Blend the cornflour with a little of the stock, pour into the frying pan and stir around to pick up any remaining sediment. Stir in the rest of the stock and heat until thickened, then pour over the meat and mushrooms , cover and cook for 45 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 . Served with creamy mashed potatoes and cabbage.