Sunday, April 13, 2008

Moving Forward

One of the best ways to serve economical meals is to seek out traditional recipes. Country folk have always made the most of what they have, and very nourishing it can be. So today am offering regional dishes, as - apart from being inexpensive - several come with a tale to tell.
The first dish is made with a cheap cut of lamb or mutton (butchers' mutton is usually cheaper than lamb, and in the olden days, if this was too expensive, then kid or bacon would be used instead). More or less any vegetables can be included, in some kitchens even potatoes are added. Cattwg the Wise is attributed to saying 'it is as good to drink the broth as it is to eat the meat'. Certainly, this Welsh Cawl makes a very satisfying and substantial meal. If possible, make the Cawl a day in advance so the fat can be skimmed off when cold.
Cawl Cymreig:
1 lb (450g) approx, scrag end of lamb or mutton
few chopped bacon rinds
2 large onions, sliced
2 carrots, chopped
3 leeks, cleaned and chopped
2 turnips, peeled and chopped
salt and pepper
pinch dried herbs
chopped parsley (optional)
2 oz (50g) pearl barley
Trim excess fat from the meat. Put into a large saucepan with the rest of the ingredients, except the pearl barley, adding the seasoning to taste, and covering with water. Bring to the boil, spooning off any scum.
Cover and simmer for 2 - 3 hours, depending upon the meat, and strain into a bowl. Remove the meat from any bones (the bones can be discarded), and place in a bowl with the vegetables and the stock. Chill overnight. Next day skim off any fat, put back into the pan with the pearl barley and re-heat thoroughly until the barley is cooked. Add chopped parsley just before serving.
Tip: to hasten the second cooking, add the pearl barley to the broth before chilling, this gives it a chance to soak and soften and will cut the cooking time of the barley by at least half.

This next regional dish comes from Scotland, and - if extra vegetables are cooked at the same time - a good way to make the most scrawny chicken go a good distance.
Stoved Howtowdie Wi' Drappit Eggs: serves 6 - 8
1 chicken
breadcrumb/herb stuffing
4 oz (100g) butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves
1 pint hot chicken stock
2 lb (900g) spinach
6 - 8 small to medium eggs
First make up the stuffing (this could be from a packet mix if you wish). Heat the butter in a casserole dish and fry the onion, spoon out and add this, with the cloves, to the stuffing, and then stuff the bird. Put the bird in the remaining butter in the casserole and turn to brown all sides, then pour over the stock, cover and cook at 189C, 350F, gas 4, for an hour, or until the flesh is tender. Meanwhile, wash the spinach and cook, with no added water (wilting) fpr about 5 minutes with a pinch of salt. Drain, stir in a little butter, and keep warm. Remove the chicken from the casserole and place on a warm serving dish. Strain the stock into saucepan and poach the eggs, three or four at a time until set. Place these on a bed of spinach. Boil down the stock to thicken, adding chopped chicken liver if possible. Pour this over the chicken and serve.

Another Scottish dish is this slicing sausage. Eaten hot or cold it makes the most of minced beef. Although the recipes says that after cooking it can be kept in the fridge, it doesn't say how long for, so best no longer than a week. Interleaved slices would probably freeze.
Aberdeen Sausage: serves 6
1 large onion
4 oz (100g) streaky, rindless bacon
12 oz (375g) minced beef
6 oz (175g) rolled or porridge oat
1 egg, beaten
1 tblsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tblsp chopped parsley
salt and pepper
Mince the onion with the bacon and add to the minced beef. Stir in the remaining ingredients, adding seasoning to taste. Shape the mixture into a big sausage and wrap tightly in a piece of oiled foil. Twist ends to secure, and bake at 179, 325F, gas 3 for about 2 hours. The sausage can be sliced and served while still hot, or left to get cold in its foil wrapping and kept in the fridge until required.

Still in Scotland, and mainly because the recipe says "the keeping qualities of this rock are incredible, in some cases it has remained edible for fifty years", it seems worth including for those who like to give Christmas Hampers filled with home-made delicacies. So made now, seems it could keep hampers stocked up for years without having to make another batch. There are plenty of good flavourings (extracts and essences) on the market these days, as well as the more usual, there are chocolate, coffee, rose, make your own choice.
Edinburgh Rock:
1 lb (450g) granulated sugar
6 fl oz (210ml) water
half tsp cream of tartar
flavourings: vanilla extract, peppermint essence etc.
colourings to suit the flavours.
Put the sugar in a large pan, add the water and heat gently until the sugar has completely dissolved, then turn up the heat, bring to the boil and add the cream of tartar. Ball to hard boil stage (124C/225F on a sugar thermometer), then add your choice of colouring and flavouring. Quickly pour onto an oiled slab or tray - marble is ideal if lucky enough to have some.
Using an oiled knife, lift the corners up and over to the centre (this could be done more than once) , but do not press or stir the mixture at this stage. When cool enough to handle, dust hands with icing sugar and start pulling the rock into a long strip, folding it back on itself then repeating, until it has lost its gloss and turned dull. This could take 5 mins or longer. Using oiled scissors, cut the strip into pieces of chosen length and leave in a warmish place for 24 hours to become soft and powdery.
As the recipe says "all very messy but great sticky fun".

Perhaps even more well know than Edinburgh Rock, is Kendal Mint Cake. Described as "a pack full of energy", it is a great favourite with mountaineers and explorers, and - using a sugar thermometer - is very easily made. Worth making some later in the year to add to those hampers.
Kendal Mint Cake:
1 lb (450g) sugar, white or brown
5 fl oz (150ml) milk
half to one tsp peppermint essence
Put the sugar in a pan, add the milk and heat gently until all the sugar has dissolved. Boil to soft ball stage (115C/240F), then remove from heat and stir in the essence. Beat until smooth. Pour a quarter inch layer into oiled shallow pans or trays. Leave for a while so that it starts to set, then mark into oblongs slabs. Or mark into squares and wrap each individually. When cold, wrap the block in baking parchment, then in foil, and when needed, break off an oblong as needed.

As I just love the history of food, this next recipe particularly appeals to me. It originated in Grantham, a town of originally great importance, for it was here the Mail coaches would stop to change the horses. Also, the perfect place for travellers along the Great North Road to stop for a bite to eat, and even spend the night.
As today, people would stop to buy something to munch as they wended their way, and Grantham Whetstones were well liked. Despite them being a bit on the solid side, many were made and sold.
One day, in the year 1740, William Egglestone, the local baker, went into his shop to make some cakes and got his ingredients mixed up, with the end result his cakes were twice the size they should have been. First the family tried them, then the neighbours, and then some were sold in his shop and everyone loved them, the travellers much preferring them to the Whetstones.
These 'cakes' are a type of gingerbread, pale and hollow, similar to a meringue and utterly delicious. Obviously the original recipe is secret, in the hands of the owners of Catlin's Cafe in Grantham's High Street (let us hope it is still there), and there the cakes were, and hopefully are still sold. The following recipe is somewhat similar.
Grantham Gingerbreads:
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
1 level tsp ground ginger
3 1/2 oz (84g) butter, softened
8 oz (225g) caster sugar
1 large egg, beaten
Sieve together the flour and ginger. Mash the sugar into the butter, and when well mixed, stir in the egg. Add the dry ingredients, stir together then knead to make a firm dough. Break off walnut sized pieces and, using your hands (preferably warm) roll into balls. The heat from your hands helps to smooth away any cracks. DO NOT ADD ANY LIQUID. Leaving plenty of room between each (they will spread to about 3" across) , place balls on a large baking sheet and bake at 150C, 300F, gas 2 for about 45 minutes. They should still remain a pale colour. Leave to cool and harden before removing from tray otherwise they will break up.

Apart from the apples, this bread pudding requires no cooking, and yet another regional dish making the most of what is in the larder. It can of course, be made with dessert apples. Whichever are the cheapest. Cheapest of all being home-grown. Made in a similar way to Summer Pudding.
Yorkshire Apple Pudding:
pound and a half (675g) cooking apples
3 oz (75g) sugar
6 slices just-about-stale bread
1 tblsp golden syrup
2 tblsp hot water
Peel, core and slice the apples, then put the slices in a pan with a very little water and the sugar, and heat gently until softened.
Butter a putting basin and line with the bread. Spoon in one third of the apples, cover with a slice of bread, and continue layering the pudding, until all the apple is used. Finish with a layer of bread. Mix the syrup with the water and pour over the pudding. Cover with a saucer and weight it down. Chill overnight before turning out and serving with more syrup poured over and whipped cream.

Final dish of the day is a well-known Yorkshire cake, somewhat similar to tea-cakes, but made without yeast. Known in the moors area as Turf Cakes, because they used to be cooked on a griddle over a turf fire.
Fat Rascals:
4 oz (100g) lard or butter
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
pinch salt
3 oz (75g) sugar
2 oz (50g) currants
2 oz (50g) sultanas
water and milk
Rub the fat into the flour and salt until like breadcrumbs. Add the dried fruit using just enough water to make a fairly soft dough. Roll out to about half inch thick. Cut into rounds and brush with milk. Bake on a greased baking sheet at 220C, 425F, gas 7 for 15 minutes.