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 The Great Historical Bake Off

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Triceratops
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Thu 23 Oct 2014, 13:38

A discussion about food and we have yet to mention His Noodliness;

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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Thu 23 Oct 2014, 16:27

A pirates' favourite tipple;  

Wiki:

The precursors to rum date back to antiquity. Development of fermented drinks produced from sugarcane juice is believed to have first occurred either in ancient India or China, and spread from there. An example of such an early drink is brum. Produced by the Malay people, brum dates back thousands of years. Marco Polo also recorded a 14th-century account of a "very good wine of sugar" that was offered to him in what is modern-day Iran.

The first distillation of rum took place on the sugarcane plantations of the Caribbean in the 17th century. Plantation slaves first discovered molasses, a byproduct of the sugar refining process, could be fermented into alcohol. Later, distillation of these alcoholic byproducts concentrated the alcohol and removed impurities, producing the first true rums. Tradition suggests rum first originated on the island of Barbados. However, in the decade of the 1620s, rum production was recorded in Brazil. A liquid identified as rum has been found in a tin bottle found on Swedish warship Vasa, which sank in 1628.

A 1651 document from Barbados stated, "The chief fuddling they make in the island is Rumbullion, alias Kill-Divil, and this is made of sugar canes distilled, a hot, hellish, and terrible liquor."
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Fri 24 Oct 2014, 19:32

What an interesting thread, and I have managed to miss it all. But I could never have restricted myself to the 50s of each century: I should have been wandering all over the place and thus having, no doubt, my already badly bruised knuckles well (w)rapped yet again.

His Noodliness, eh, Trike? Forget the Flying Spag Monster thingy - think Pot Noodle. That would have been my contribution. This dish for - or indeed of - the gods was invented around 1958 (I think).


A 2004 survey suggested that Pot Noodle was the single most loathed brand in Britain, with the public perception of the product being that it was of a low quality and only eaten as a result of laziness or poverty. Around 2006, Pot Noodle's recipe was changed to make the product healthier.

A healthy Pot Noodle? That's the most oxymoronic oxymoron I've ever heard. Pot Noodle enriched with chia and pumpkin seeds doesn't convince somehow.


Didn't some people come to believe that Pot Noodles were mined in Wales?

I'm not sure what drink should be served with a healthier-eating Pot Noodle Lite. Perhaps a nice alcohol-free brew from Guinness? Another oxymoron.




Babycham was the first alcoholic drink to be advertised on British TV in 1957. The "genuine champagne perry" is ranked number two in Steve Punt's Uncool Britannia Naff Nightmares list.


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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Fri 24 Oct 2014, 19:34

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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Mon 27 Oct 2014, 09:07

@Temperance wrote:

Temp, after seeing that, I had to post this one:

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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Mon 03 Nov 2014, 23:51

Reading a piece by what I suspect was by a novice journalist of the sort who make up or pad out with supposition it is said that people are becoming attracted to a caveman diet. First select your cave, I assume because nut trees would have only been hazel in most northern areas and lean meat? I doubt that appealed to your average caveman. Vegetables are, it declares a main stay. Roots at that time would have surely been - as wild plants are - somewhat less devloped than are today's fare. As for the greenery, no nice hearty cabbage in the good old days. And life expectancy was somewhat low and contra claims for the modern caveman to use for a trump claim. The spread of fruit, trees and veg from eastern parts is an interesting study - and most advanced long after the cave dwellers had lived their short span. Or have I got that all wrong?
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Tue 04 Nov 2014, 14:51

The Paleo diet is yet another stupid fad, a first world solution if ever there was one, more about what not to eat than what you should. Fair enough, physique and life span does diminish after sedentism, but just not picking up anything dairy or domesticated grains in the supermarket ain't going to make that much difference if you just sit on your fat @rse and chomp through venison steaks and roasted roots in front of the telly. Foraging for wild mushrooms might help with the fresh air and exercise bit but, unless you know what you're doing, the benefits might be extremely short lived.
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Wed 05 Nov 2014, 10:30

I think my neighbours must be following the australopithecine diet .... they're strict raw food vegans, so no animal products at all (no seafood, eggs or dairy), and nothing ever cooked (ie never heated above 40°C either in preparation or when served) so no potatoes, rice, pasta, dry pulses and virtually no fungi either (even if they did know what was good) ...  just green salads, raw courgettes and carrots, nuts and bean sprouts..... and I expect loads of food supplements too (but all green/bio/organic/free-range/fair-trade/kind-to-trees of course). Oh, and no fruit either, and that injunction even includes fairly non-sweet fruits such as wild blackberries and even tomatoes, because "all fruit contains sugar and that's poison". Mind you one of them still smokes Gauloise cigarettes!
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Wed 05 Nov 2014, 12:30

I've been reading The Zone diet book which promises to turn me into an Olympic standard swimmer and grant me everlasting life.

Carbohydrates are - according to Barry Sears, PH.D. -  quite evil: I'm too terrified even to eat a banana now in case I drop dead on the spot.

One very honest paragraph made me laugh though - "Nutritionists hate the French because they have low rates of heart disease, but they still manage to have a good time. They eat a high-fat diet; they don't exercise; and they drink wine."


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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Wed 05 Nov 2014, 12:36

Burn 110 calories.................set fire to a banana.
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Wed 05 Nov 2014, 13:00

It's a blooming good job our australopethecine ancestors didn't stick to that diet, MM, otherwise we'd never have got up into the trees never mind got out of them.

Where do your neighbours get their protein from? Their energy? Apart from herbivores who must eat all day and pandas (and look what's happening to them) I'm blowed if I can think of any animal that exists on such a restricted diet.
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Wed 05 Nov 2014, 13:27

Well quite ... I'm sure australopithecines regularly ate and enjoyed grubs, insects, worms, snails, fish, and occasional small birds and mammals when they could get 'em, perhaps even, heaven-forbid, those that had been 'cooked' in a bush fire. Vegan is one thing but the flat refusal to eat fruit I find extremely bizarre, though I happily profit since they leave all their fruit trees untouched to be scrumped by me. Of course they are both as thin as rakes but don't seem to enjoy particularly good health either.
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Wed 05 Nov 2014, 13:47

I've always thought that such people don't exactly live any longer than the rest of us, it just seem that they go on boring us much longer than necessary.

I'll now dive away from being bombarded with over-ripe fruit.
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Wed 05 Nov 2014, 14:24

Well quite Nielsen, though I don't so much mind them banging on about the raw food diet stuff as when they start on the hippy ... "every one of us is just an individual chakra, spiritually linked to everyone else - past, present and future - in the holistic embrace of the Great Earth Mother".

@Temperance wrote:
"Nutritionists hate the French because they have low rates of heart disease, but they still manage to have a good time. They eat a high-fat diet; they don't exercise; and they drink wine."

Yup, I'll drink to that  Cheers

And note - the neighbours are not French .... but ex-pat English. And teetotal too.


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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Wed 05 Nov 2014, 15:31

Are they celibate too?

PS Please will you put an "r" in "nutitionists" for me, MM? I can edit my own typo, but I can't edit the quote in your post. Ta.

PPS Is it too late to suggest a pudding as afters to my Pot Noodle offering? A choice of  Strawberry Angel Delight or Butterscotch Instant Whip would be suitable for any discerning palate, I think. I once had a boyfriend who lived on Vesta Ready Meals, especially their paella and beef curry (a precursor to the Pot Noodle?). His main course was always followed by a big bowl of Instant Whip. He seemed to flourish on this revolting diet - it certainly made him very brainy.

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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Wed 05 Nov 2014, 16:11

It shames me to admit that my kids adored strawberry Instant Whip, they called it pink pudding. They didn't like Angel Delight though - and not because I brought them up to be good little secularists though.
Vesta curries were the epitome of sophistication and their chow mein with crispy noodles exhibited a cosmopolitan palate as well as culinary skill in frying the noodles

                                    .
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Wed 05 Nov 2014, 16:24

@Temperance wrote:
Are they celibate too?

On the raw veg' diet? ...  I doubt they've got the energy, but actually they're two ladies ...

I think there must be something in our spring water: the previous neighbours were two guys, a retired English businessman, city etc, ex-public school/oxbridge, and his German boyfriend. Both were excellent cooks and bon viveurs, so at dinner parties I always knew we were going to be well fed. They kept a very good wine cellar too, as well as a thoroughly well-stocked drinks cabinet. Their g'n'ts were always made from Bombay Saphire and Schwepps, never any Lidl rubbish.

Wheat-grass canapes and fennel-twig tea doesn't have quite the same appeal.
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Fri 14 Nov 2014, 16:24

Athol Brose which tradition has it, dates back to 1475;

Atholl Brose Recipe:

First you need to make the Brose. Steep 2lb (900g) of course oatmeal (Quaker is fine) in 2 pints (1200ml) cold water for 24 hours stirring occasionally. After 24 hours, strain the water/oatmeal mixture through muslin cloth. Once the majority the liquid has run free twist the muslin into a ball and ring hard to drain as much liquid as possible. The brose should be milky in color and free if oatmeal flakes. Keep the brose and discard the oatmeal.

Ingredients:
•1 Pint (600ml) Brose
•3/4 Pint (450ml) Of Cream
•1/2 Pint (300ml) Whisky (Use a good quality single malt)
•4 tbs Honey

Method:
1.In a large bowl Mix the honey and the brose making sure the honey is dissolved completely.
2.Add the cream and Whisky and mix thoroughly.
3.Decant into bottles and store in a cool place but do not refrigerate as this can cause the cream to curdle.
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Sun 14 Dec 2014, 13:00

As Christmas approaches and I have a bit more time to cook for pleasure rather than for profit, I thought I'd have a serious go at some of the dishes proposed for our 'Grand Millenial Banquet'.

First up, as entrees, are ferval’s 1250s, "Poume d'oranges":

This is my interpretation:




I basically followed the recipe exactly as written …. although having separated the egg yolks from the whites and unsure exactly what the original author intended I should do with the whites – his suggestion to "rub them on your hands" seemed unnecessary and rather a waste – I decided to work them into the meat/herb mixture as a binding agent. I did not use the yolks to make an egg/flour batter (as several similar contemporary recipes suggest) but rather, and just as ferval’s recipe says, I used the yolks to coat, cook, then re-coat, and re-cook the balls several times …. I dipped and re-cooked only three times and I think the results would have been much better - smoother, more apple-like, more golden - if I’d dipped many times more. And I didn’t cook them on a spit as advised, but rather I deep-fried them in oil, which is the method described in other contemporary recipes ….and frankly lacking an open-range fire, deep frying in a friteuse was by far the simpler method for me.

I hesitated to follow the recipe when it says to roll the cooked balls in sugar – I hardly ever cook with sugar except in bread mixes and then it's only to help the bread to rise ..... but then I considered that pork or ham, glazed in honey (UK/American style) or in cane sugar syrup (Cantonese style), is by no means disagreeable, and so I did exactly as per the original recipe and rolled the cooked ‘pommes’ in sugar. I used ‘cassonade’ which is I think the French equivalent of Demarrera sugar, ie something  equivalent to a ‘fairly pure’ medieval cane sugar, imported at great expense from Africa and the Levant, and originally from the almost fabled lands of India ... and so principally for show, rather than for taste.

The sweet/savoury result was better than I expected and actually went very well with a sweet/sour orange-flavoured dipping sauce … quickly rustled up from lightly caremellised sugar syrup, and the juice of sour lemons and bitter-sweet Seville oranges … with just a pinch of ginger.


Next up is today"s main dish, Nordmann’s 1350 salmon in pastry ...

Nord’s suggested interpretation was to make these as small individual pasties, but the original recipe encourages the cook to make individual fish-shaped pastries, or even if possible, to make a grand dish, shaped like a whole fish : "... and suround it with dough. Stamp it in a form if you can. Thus you may make a pike or trout.".

Sadly I do not have a suitable fish-shaped form and so I had to shape it all by hand into a pastry-encased fish shape. I aimed for a salmon shape and I did originally try to get as anatomically correct as possible regarding the placement of pastry fins and gill covers etc, - I even gave it a sliced olive as an eye  -but what with all the oozing , slumping, and running that inevitably occurs during cooking, the result looks less like salmon in pastry, and more like coelocanth en croute.




But hey, it tasted ok. I used a mix of whiting and salmon, seasoned exactly as per the recipe with quite a lot of chopped sage and parsley but no onion or garlic as they’re not mentioned in the original (although of course they might just be 'assumed' by any medieval cook). Frankly shaping the whole and baking it on a floured platter was a doddle …. Easy, but showy food!  And honestly, the photo doesn't do it justice, it really did look a lot more like a fish in the flesh … and it tasted yummy too.

Being baked I was afraid it might be a bit dry - it wasn’t - but nevertheless I served it with an accompanying medieval sauce of sharp herbs based on sorrel and dandelion.



..... Next upon the menu is a bit more adventurous... I'm attempting Cato’s placenta. I’ve now had the un-milled wheat grains soaking for some 12 hours ... though alas Cato suggests it might take several days …. 

I’ll keep you all informed of the progress.


Last edited by Meles meles on Sun 14 Dec 2014, 18:52; edited 9 times in total (Reason for editing : a long post - immediately edited for obvious errors & omissions)
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Sun 14 Dec 2014, 13:11

I for one would gladly follow this cookery programme on TV. I take my metaphysical hat off to you, MM. Well done!
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Sun 14 Dec 2014, 13:18

Sounds good, MM. Here's Heston's version and he does mention the minced pork one at the end.

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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Sun 14 Dec 2014, 13:37

Where's my Instant Whip, then?

PS Only joking - seriously, MM, I think you are brilliant. The presentation of your dishes - the pewter (?), the candles, the rose petals - is so lovely too.

You are going to have to have us all over for a meal, you know!
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Sun 14 Dec 2014, 19:46

Thanks for that youtube ferval ... I've made fake plums from coloured duck-and-plum meat-balls, but I've never made fake-fake plums, from balls-of-plums-of balls ... that really is a good bit of showy late medieval foody wordplay/theatre. I love the idea. One really could have so much fun as a medieval cook ... although I suspect it might have been a relatively short career if one's employer didn't share the same sense of humour!
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Fri 19 Dec 2014, 15:37

Sorry about the delay for the dessert course …. but then Cato himself did say that it might take several days to make from scratch.

So here is Cato’s "Roman Cake", cooked to the recipe he gives in 'De Agricultura'.

Firstly, as I’ve said before Cato is to be applauded for actually giving very specific measures, but then booed once one realises that his measures do not always stack up. In short I divided Cato’s main ingredients by about eight, and then also adjusted a lot as to ‘what seems about right’. But after one has sorted out the misleading measures, the actual cake recipe is fairly simple and obvious. Until that is, one realises that not all ingredients are immediately to hand. It is basically like a modern recipe for cheesecake, that says to use, "crushed McVities’ biscuits", without actually telling you what these might be. Thankfully though, Cato does elsewhere in his book include a recipe for making a roman equivalent of the digestive biscuit –‘ tractum’ - a type of biscuit/wafer, that could be eaten as is, or often formed an ingredient in other recipes.

To make tracta Cato says you take un-milled cereal grains and soak them for several days under running water. You then grind them with a pestle and mortar, dry for about half a day, then add a good quantity of wheat flour, and then knead, and knead, and knead, to get a stringy dough. This you roll out thin into sheets and finally bake in a hot oven to get a brittle biscuit.

Ok so far that’s clear, but with any recipe I like to know why I should do something. It might be just because Jupiter has decreed, or that there is an ‘R’ in the month, or because it supposedly stops the sulphides reacting with the un-chelated iron compounds ... or whatever. So I fretted over why Cato insists on the very long cold, soaking/washing period. It certainly serves to soften and hydrate the grains, but the instruction to leave the grains under running water for several days sounds more like trying to leach out the starch content. But why try and do that when what we’re apparently after is a sticky, stringy dough? And why not speed everything up by boiling the grains in water? I suspect the instructions are indeed just to soften the grains as economically as possible. Cato was notoriously careful with his money and 'De Agricultura' is full of tips on how a roman land-owner can save himself a denarius or two. But I’m still uncertain why Cato makes such a big issue about the tediously long soaking/rinsing of the grains.

But anyway ... for the tracta I soaked the grain (dry, un-milled bulgar wheat) overnight, changed the water and then boiled for an hour or so, drained, cooled, rinsed again, and left to soak in fresh water for a few hours, before straining and leaving to dry overnight. I then, as per Cato, started to try and grind this in a pestle and mortar … and very soon gave up… it was like trying to grind rubber! I do not have the roman luxury of numerous brawny kitchen slaves with nothing better to do than spend their day laboriously pounding and grinding by hand. Five minutes in the electric food processor and then (as per Cato, after adding an equal volume of wholemeal flour, some milk and a dribble of olive oil) … a half hour of kneading in the bread-maker produced the desired "stringy dough". I let it rest for an hour, rolled it out thin, lightly brushed both sides with olive oil, and baked each sheet in a very hot oven for about 15mins until crisp and brittle.

Et voila, tractum:





OK .... so now the cake.

Following Cato’s recipe I made a thin wholemeal wheat flour pastry and so lined an oiled dish. I then built up layers of drained sheep’s cheese, honey, tractum, cheese, honey, tractum etc … finally sealing it all up with a disc of wheat pastry. This I baked in a moderate oven for a bit, then turned it out onto a platter and so baked a bit longer, upside-down, before cooling.





The result was tasty though very "substantial" …. the outer pastry and especially the internal layers of tracta, were very solid - in part I'm sure a consequence of my general ineptitude as a patisseur - but even the cheese layers were quite dense. As the above photo shows, the layers of cheese, which originally were almost sloppily moist, ended up quite crumbly … and nearly all the honey seemed to have been absorbed into the biscuity layers of tracta. Overall it was very tasty, but certainly solid and very filling. Too little honey maybe, or too dry the un-cooked cheese?

One would only want a small portion and a little would go a long way … but perhaps, ever the frugal miser, that was actually Cato’s original intention.



..... or there again, maybe I've just misunderstood the original directions. Either way I don't think Cato would have just thrown it to the pigs ... to the slaves, possibly ... but not to the pigs.
 
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Sat 20 Dec 2014, 09:11

Good grief - what a palaver.

All that old mushroom dilemma again. Can 21st century women - or indeed men - successfully stuff both mushrooms and the senior management at work without going completely crazy? Doing two jobs has never been easy and the pressures these days  to be Superperson are immense. Cooking is something that you now have to do - and do well, if not superbly.

But MM's work reminds me that for many people life is, indeed, long enough to stuff a mushroom. And yes, there is "satisfaction in assembling ingredients and joy in having others appreciate the finished delectable treat. There is completeness in savouring the moment."

Who am I to argue with that?

Waitrose and Marks and Spencer's Food Hall can't really compete, but I suppose they are the modern equivalent of having  a full-time cook down in the basement.  Embarassed
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Sat 20 Dec 2014, 09:52

This is historical re-enactment of the highest calibre, and moreover it can be eaten! I stand in awe of MM's culinary concoctions and find myself eagerly anticipating the next instalment.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Sat 20 Dec 2014, 10:06

@nordmann wrote:
This is historical re-enactment of the highest calibre, and moreover it can be eaten! I stand in awe of MM's culinary concoctions and find myself eagerly anticipating the next instalment.


I agree with that entirely.

But I am green with envy at his skill, and keep muttering to myself: "It is his job, after all."
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Sat 20 Dec 2014, 12:50

I am now fretting dreadfully that my earlier post may be read as a sour comment about MM's offerings here. Absolutely not! I have said that I too am astounded at his skill at creating and presenting to us these fascinating historical dishes.

No, my early-morning musings were rather about how "ready" meals and all the "instant" this and that - the whole "convenience" food industry that took off in the mid-20th century, ostensibly to make life easier for women who were, more and more, working full-time -  are regarded (rightly in many cases) as utter abominations. But we seem now to despise any pre-prepared food, even the often excellent meals that are sold by companies such as M&S and Waitrose (no horse meat there, and M&S chickens are all happy, free and British). Once again women - even those holding down demanding, full-time jobs - seem to feel obliged to "cook from scratch"  - every night.

Shirley Conran wrote Superwoman in 1975. But even she apparently regrets her famous mushroom remark now. I just wonder if the "feminine mystique" is making a determined comeback, but with a nasty sting in its tail. Is it kinder, kuche and kirche again, but with full-time paid employment instead of the kirche bit?

Reminds me of something Doris Lessing wrote: "This country is full of women going mad all by themselves" (The Golden Notebook 1962). And of a joke I heard once in a pub in Manchester - "A woman's place is in the kitchen. When she's not at work."

This is  so off-topic - sorry, sorry, sorry - but the discussion of food, society and expectations could be a vaguely historical one, I suppose.
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Sat 20 Dec 2014, 13:02

Thank you all for your kind comments. Of course, since none of you have actually tasted any of the above dishes you only have my biased word on their edibility, or otherwise. And good presentation, such as an appealing photo, is certainly half the battle in convincing someone that something is good ( just compare the glossy photos on all supermarket "gourmand range" foods, with what actually emmerges from the plastic packaging after 10 mins in the microwave).

But for what it's worth I have eaten up every last crumb of the above dishes ... except Cato's cake, of which about a third still remains in the larder ... it is as I said, quite heavy going, and a little goes a long way. That is certainly one dish I will try and do again,, to try and improve on my first effort,  although maybe next time not sticking so scrupulously to the original recipe ... say, substituting thin lasagne sheets for the tracta and adding some cream to the cheese.

@Temperance wrote:

and [I] keep muttering to myself: "It is his job, after all."

Although it's not and that might explain it. I've never trained or worked as a cook, not even part-time in MacDo's. For some twenty years I was an industrial metallurgist. And even now running a B&B, I try not to do too much cooking -  it's a B&B with the emphasis on breakfast only. Cooking for work is therefore mostly just baking from frozen, of pre-cooked rolls and croissants! I do occasionally do evening meals, but again for ease and practicality these are usually partly pre-prepared (and frozen ready to microwave), and are nothing fancy, just good old French standard dishes like coq au vin, beouf bourgignon, poulet basquaise, couscous, salade niçoise, poulet et frites etc. With guests - and especially French guests who always judge one's cooking in relation to how they think they remember their Granny's cooking - I don't like to risk being too experimental.

So for me experimental cooking, and especially trying to recreate dishes from old recipes, is actually a fun hobby.

And although it seems "a palaver", it's not really that time consuming. Think how much time the average person spends glued to banal 'reality' TV, and yet I haven't even turned on the TV for the past 3 months, let alone actually watched it. Historic cookery interests me, but I can only really indulge that interest in a practical way, when I don't have people in the house. Hence all the fun, experimental, cooking over Christmas.

And also historically, though it seems "a palaver" today, for most people for most of the past, it was just part of life. Before the 19th century and the rise of pre-prepared products readily available from local suppliers throughout "the nation of shopkeepers", ... baking bread for the week, making butter and cheese, salting meat for winter, storing and preserving fruit or vegetables for later use ... all these tasks were performed by the community, be that the family, farming village, monastery, great house, or whatever. So while it seems a lot of work to make something from scratch (such as tractum) these things would usually in the past have been readily available in the larder, having been made regularly, whether once a week or annually, and then preserved until required.

Who, I wonder, is the more "impoverished".... the person that can buy (tasteless) supermarket strawberries all year round, even at Christmas, or the person that can enjoy fresh local strawberries for just 2 weeks in June, and who accordingly labours hard to preserve the glut, in order to savour their memories of sunny fruitful summer days into the depths of winter?

EDIT : Crossed posts with Temp ... and I fear I may have come across as a bit sour too. But I didn't mean it, and I think we are actually in accord ... as I say when I "cook" for work it's mostly just re-heating pre-prepared stuff, with a bit of arranging to make it look as though I've actually been slaving for hours .... just don't let on to the paying guests.
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Sat 20 Dec 2014, 13:43

Phew, that's a relief, MM. I thought it was just me who tarted things up with a bit of extra cheese and some watercress! Smile

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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Sun 21 Dec 2014, 21:34

@Temperance wrote:
Good grief - what a palaver.

All that old mushroom dilemma again. Can 21st century women - or indeed men - successfully stuff both mushrooms and the senior management at work without going completely crazy? Doing two jobs has never been easy and the pressures these days  to be Superperson are immense. Cooking is something that you now have to do - and do well, if not superbly.

But MM's work reminds me that for many people life is, indeed, long enough to stuff a mushroom. And yes, there is "satisfaction in assembling ingredients and joy in having others appreciate the finished delectable treat. There is completeness in savouring the moment."

Who am I to argue with that?

Waitrose and Marks and Spencer's Food Hall can't really compete, but I suppose they are the modern equivalent of having  a full-time cook down in the basement.  Embarassed
No, Temp - that is a kitchen implement known as a WIFE. (For the record, I cook the main meal of the day about 6 times as often as The Gaffer, as I am allowed (respectfully) to refer to her.)
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Mon 22 Dec 2014, 07:15

Here in NZ we get our fair share of tasteless out-of-season food from overseas (mostly ghastly tomatoes from Australia in winter, though I think their dreadfulness might mean people don't buy them much - I haven't noticed them in recent years much) but at least we only have asparagus in season for a few weeks.  It does make it feel special in a way it isn't in Britain now.  

On the other hand, we just expect to have bananas and oranges (neither of which grow here to any degree) all year round, and they seem to taste fine.  I don't know what they taste like in their countries of origin in season.  What is really irritating here is that fruits like feijoas and grapefruit fall off the trees in the North Island and are left to rot, where here we pay amounts like $10 a kilogram for feijoas.
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Mon 22 Dec 2014, 10:08

MM, I'm gobsmacked by your commitment, well done. That sounds intriguing and delicious. Well, maybe not the cake, I'd prefer a syllabub myself. I remember with admiration your cockatrice too, but, apart from doggy-dog, is there no-one else to savour your dishes? There seems to be quite a quantity of grub there and it seems such a shame for your talents to go unseen. Or rather untasted. On the other hand, as I contemplate the upcoming pandemonium, a civilised and eclectic festive dinner for one definitely has its attractions.

Of course most of the dishes discussed in this thread would only have been enjoyed by a tiny fraction of society, for the majority it would have been a case of chucking whatever was available into a pot and letting it simmer away while the woman of the house got on with the many other tasks that supported the family, domestic, commercial or agricultural.

I've talked before about how, in the medieval period, many of the teenagers left home for employment in
towns and lived in shared accommodation. I have no idea what kind of 'fast food' was available for them if their employment was not all found, I can't imagine that a few 15 year old boys or girls living together in a room somewhere would be in a position to cook so were meals in taverns and such cheap enough to be accessible for them or did they live on bread and pies from stalls or suchlike?

It has been suggested that gender roles in cooking started in the neolithic, Hodder's agrios/domus, but then there's the evidence for large scale feasting such as the pigs at Durrington and the cattle at Ness of Brodgar. Would the preparation of the food for these obviously highly significant rituals have been done by men or women or both, I wonder. They sound like the the world's biggest BBQs and we know that men just love a bit of that!










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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Wed 24 Dec 2014, 00:49

I had a look at Olwen Hufton's book on the lives of European women from 1500 - 1800 and get the impression that most young girls seeking work in towns were generally employed as servants and used this for advancement, unlike those working in taverns or 'petty trademen's shops'.  She says, "All servants were fed and most expected to be able to profit from the sale of a little food. Many received cast-off clothing which was also sold for profit." 

She does mention some women in industries like the lace at Le Puy or in Bruges doing piecemeal work and sometimes forming small clusters in a kind of informal dormitory situation where they would bring in their younger sisters. But she doesn't say how they fed themselves, though she does say some of these migrating women were vulnerable to ending in prostitution. (Other dormitories were run by religious women, who presumably were responsible for feeding the girls.)

She says 'the job of the mother was perceived to be to give her daughter as many survival skills as possible and ideally to start her on the path of capital accumlation'.  This may have been more possibly in middle-class type families rather than those far down the scale, perhaps with abilities to match. 

I presume some of the taverns etc had very cheap food (maybe of low quality).
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Thu 25 Dec 2014, 10:42

Best loosen your stays and let your belts out a notch or two if you intend having Christmas dinner at the court of Charles II.

Here's the royal cook, Robert May's suggested bills of fare (menus) for Christmas and New Year's Day, from his 1660 book "The Accomplisht Cook" (this is actually copied from the fifth edition published 1685 ... which just shows how popular his books were):



... and the New Year's menu continues over the page too!


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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Thu 25 Dec 2014, 11:04

Or you could go for the more austere Christmas 1941 dish of, rather unfortunately named, murkey.

This had been introduced to the nation's long-suffering housewives in late 1941 by the BBC's morning radio show, "The Kitchen Front", in a double act between Lord Woolton, Minister of Food, and two "cockney chars", Gert and Daisy (actually played by the perfectly respectable comedy actresses Elsie and Doris Waters). This government-approved dish, murkey, was mock-turkey - stuffed mutton with much emphasis on the bread-and-potato-stuffing and with a couple of parsnips in place of the drum-sticks - as a seasonal substitute for unobtainable turkey:

"So this Christmas, why not try murkey?" encouraged Lord Woolton ...
"And how do I get that?" Gert asked.
"Use your imagination," Daisy replied.
"Do you get that at the butcher's too?" shot back Gert.

.... which was a very good question when even scrag end of mutton was often unobtainable, regardless of how many ration coupons you'd got.
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Sat 07 Feb 2015, 19:06

Last night I watched, for the umpteenth time, the enchanting 1987 film, "Babette’s Feast" ("Babettes gæstebud", in the original Danish), and immediately felt the need to go and cook the principal dish: cailles en sarcophages (quails in pastry with truffle and foie gras, with a Périgourdine sauce) …. as you do!

Now this dish isn’t strictly an historic one - I can find no nineteenth century French recipe that exactly matches that portrayed. But then it is from a fictional story, albeit one well immersed in its own time. The "feast" of the film takes place in about 1886 ... Babette is said to have arrived at the isolated, puritan village in Jutland some 15 years earlier after she was forced to flee France at the time of the brutal suppression of the Paris Commune in 1871. Also at the dinner the only person who has any real appreciation for the dishes being served is the General, who in his earlier days as a young cavalry officer in Paris (probably during the late 1850s or the 1860s, but at least before the Franco-Prussian war) was once taken to dine at the famous Café Anglais, where he tasted the sublime signature dish of the head chef: Cailles en Sarcophages.

Anyway, truly historic or not, it is still typical of the exuberant and rather complicated haute cuisine of the 3rd Republic … and accordingly it is not something that you can just rustle up in a few minutes when you’ve got the munchies after the final film credits have rolled! So last night I got a brace of quail and some foie gras out of the freezer (what!? you mean you lot don’t always have a few quail and some foie gras in the freezer, just for when you need ‘em?!). I also set some dried morilles to soak in Marsala wine and also put a few of my late summer figs to gently defrost. But I was still missing the one essential ingredient - the truffle. Fortunately however black winter truffles are locally in season just now, and so I contacted the local dealer: the son of the traiteur/boucher in town, who with his little dog, keeps his dad’s business supplied, along with anyone else who’s in the know.

As usual it was all a bit like buying illegal drugs! Contact with the seller is all word of mouth, and business is always conducted out of the public eye. I’m known in the butcher’s shop but I was still ushered out of the main shop and into the side office. Here, from a safe were produced several little sealed plastic baggies each holding a small black nugget … more prosaically he also produced a set of scales and an electronic calculator. I selected my truffle, he weighed it to confirm the weight on the bag, and gave me a price: "Just for you I’ll round it down, but that price is already at local rate. And it’s cash only you understand." But at just 20€ for a whole truffle it was still an absolute bargain … that’s a tiny fraction of the price one would have to pay in the exclusive delicatessens of Paris, London or New York. But then mine was dug up in the woods just the other side of the village and probably only a couple of days ago. So, armed with my wee black beastie I could return to the dish in hand…

As regards the cooking, the film is actually very clear and concise. So following its guidance … after removing the heads and feet, on each quail I made two small cuts from the back, either side of the backbone forward under the breast, and then inserted a thin sliver of fresh goose foie gras and a sliver of truffle into each pocket. I also put a larger slice of foie gras into the body cavity. Trussed loosely the birds were then browned in a pan using duck fat. The puff pastry for the coffins I admit I had frozen. It needs deep cases so I did exactly like Babette and cut additional pastry rings to raise the walls up, bonding each layer together with melted duck fat. Coffins and birds were baked separately and then assembled with a bed of chopped foie gras and morilles (to eke out the truffles a bit – my only deviation from the original recipe) and then given a final bake all ensemble. The sauce was a demi-glacé, flamed with cognac and then reduced using the marsala wine in which I’d soaked the figs and morilles.

Anyway here it is, Cailles en sarcophages à la Babette:




And biased though I am, I personally thought it tasted divine, even down to the crunchy little heads ...

 

In the film Babette serves the dish with a Clos de Vougeot wine – probably an 1850s vintage if not earlier. Clos de Vougeot is very classy and very, very expensive ... I just accompanied it all with a good but by no means expensive Burgundy.

If you’ve never seen the film, "Babette's Feast" - "Babettes gæstebud",  I can thoroughly recommend it for its quiet, subtle, intelligent, gentleness .... and of course it's exquisite food!


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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Sat 07 Feb 2015, 20:08

Blimey MM, that's impressive! It looks like a romantic pre Valentine's dinner for two........
I'd be tempted to have a shot - I do have quail in the freezer, Aldi and Lidl were selling them at Christmas and then after New Year practically giving them away so I filled my boots along with a boned, stuffed pheasant and a whole brown crab. Oh, and reindeer steaks too - but no foie gras though, that's almost impossible to get and I'm queasy about it anyway. Would a decent pate work? Sweet or dry Marsala? Truffles would be a big problem though, I have no desire to take out a large loan.
Do you make your own demi-glace, that's commitment? Waitrose have an acceptable one which I've resorted to before.

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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Sun 08 Feb 2015, 09:58

You can actually get humane foie gras - as much as eating any bit of an animal can be called humane. It can't legally be called foie gras as it isn't produced by gavage, it being the liver from birds that have naturally gorged themselves on freely available grain (geese are terrible gluttons given the chance). Here it mostly comes from Spain, and it's seasonal if you want it fresh because geese tend to only gorge in Autumn when they would naturally be cramming in the calories ready for winter and/or migration. My regular frozen food supplier stocks it ... I've just looked at the packaging and that was actually what I used, so my conscience is now a lot better. But I'm sure pate or a liver mousse would do the trick, maybe with a bit of extra butter just to keep the breasts succulent. Instead of an expensive truffle you could use cheaper morilles or even ceps (both of which I'm fortunate in being able to get for free from the forest). I do make my own demi-glace in as much as all bones and bits and left-overs (such as the remains from my quail), and of course all the bones from the annual butchering of the wild boar, get turned into stock, reduced and then frozen in little pots ... I haven't actually bought a stock cube or ready prepared reduced stock in years. And I wrote Marsala, but I meant Madeira ... that's what comes from sampling the said stuff while cooking.

By the way, ferval, I did do your Martin Wishart pig's trotter recipe. Very tasty indeed, but with all the slow cooking, cooling down, reheating, reducing etc it was a bit of a palaver. His quantities seemed a bit out too but that's probably from scaling down from restaurant quantities: eg he states 3 litres of stock but with all the other ingredients I could only get half a litre into the casserole, and I think he means 2 cloves of garlic rather than 2 whole bulbs! All in all though very yummy and not expensive on ingredients ... and of course the little bones and cartilage all went into the on-going stock pot.


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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Sun 08 Feb 2015, 11:43

Now you've got me thinking of the only poem I know which includes a followable recipe, Douglas Dunn's 'Rataouille'. Not the most unusual dish but delightful, as is the poem.
Are there any other cullnary poems?


Ratatouille, by Douglas Dunn

I.
Consider please this dish of ratatouille.
Neither will it invade Afghanistan
Or boycott the Olympic Games in a huff.

It likes the paintings of Raoul Dufy.
It feeds the playboy and the working-man.
Of wine and sun it cannot get enough.
It has no enemies, no, no even
Salade Niçoise or phoney recipes,
Not Leonard Brezhnev, no, not Ronald Reagan.
It is the fruits of earth, this ratatouille,
And it has many friends, including me.
Come, lovers of ratatouille, and unite.

II.
It is a sort of dream, which coincides
With the pacific relaxations called
Preferred Reality. Men who forget
Lovingly chopped-up cloves of ail, who scorn
The job of slicing two good peppers thinly,
Then two large onions and six aubergines –
Those long, impassioned and imperial purples –
Which, with six courgettes, you sift with salt
And cover with a plate for one round hour;
Or men who do care to know about
The eight ripe pommes d’amour their wives have need of,
Preparing ratatouille, who give no thought to
The cup of olive oil that’s heated in
Their heaviest pan, or onions, fried with garlic
For five observant minutes, before they add
Aubergines, courgettes, peppers, tomatoes;
Or men who give no thought to what their wives
Are thinking as they stand besides their stoves
When seasoning is sprinkled on, before
A bouquet garni is dropped in – these men
Invade Afghanistan, boycott the Games,
Call off their fixtures and prepare for war.

III.
Cook for one hour, and then serve hot or cold
Eat it, for preference, under the sun,
But, if you are Northern, you may eat
Your ratatouille imagining Provence.
Believe me, it goes well with everything,
As love does, as peace does, as summers do
Or any other season, as a lifetime does.
Acquire, then, for yourselves, ingredients;
Prepare this stew of love, and ask for more.
Quick, before it is too late. Bon appétit!
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Sun 08 Feb 2015, 13:44

I copied this down from somewhere, probably the internet, but didn't record the author.

A Melody of Meatballs.

Mince up some beef, as much as you can
To serve to your eaters, according to plan.

Slice up your garlic and onions in half
And mix it well in with your hands for a laugh.

When half your onions are mixed in the beef
Put the rest in saucepan, with pepper beneath.

Add in some salt and a little five spice:
A flavour thats different, but tastes really nice.

Shape into balls and fry in the pan,
Turn them around to give them a tan.

Put rest of the onions in with the balls of meat,
Add tomatoes and spices for a sauce that is reet.

Now some tomato puree and Worcestershire sauce,
More five spice, pepper and some salt of course,

Stockcubes and, I'm not taking the mick,
Some English mustard for an extra kick.

Mix all together to flavour meatballs
And serve it up when the boiled pasta calls.

Then just some pesto as you serve up with ease,
And finally perhaps some parmesan cheese.

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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Sun 08 Feb 2015, 14:21

Not a recipe poem, I'm afraid, but some nice foody detail here:


Inviting a Friend to Supper

By  Ben Jonson  

Tonight, grave sir, both my poor house, and I

Do equally desire your company;

Not that we think us worthy such a guest,

But that your worth will dignify our feast

With those that come, whose grace may make that seem

Something, which else could hope for no esteem.

It is the fair acceptance, sir, creates

The entertainment perfect, not the cates.

Yet shall you have, to rectify your palate,

An olive, capers, or some better salad

Ushering the mutton; with a short-legged hen,

If we can get her, full of eggs, and then

Lemons, and wine for sauce; to these a cony

Is not to be despaired of, for our money;

And, though fowl now be scarce, yet there are clerks,

The sky not falling, think we may have larks.

I’ll tell you of more, and lie, so you will come:

Of partridge, pheasant, woodcock, of which some

May yet be there, and godwit, if we can;

Knat, rail, and ruff too. Howsoe’er, my man

Shall read a piece of Virgil, Tacitus,

Livy, or of some better book to us,

Of which we’ll speak our minds, amidst our meat;

And I’ll profess no verses to repeat.

To this, if ought appear which I not know of,

That will the pastry, not my paper, show of.

Digestive cheese and fruit there sure will be;

But that which most doth take my Muse and me,

Is a pure cup of rich Canary wine,

Which is the Mermaid’s now, but shall be mine;

Of which had Horace, or Anacreon tasted,

Their lives, as so their lines, till now had lasted.

Tobacco, nectar, or the Thespian spring,

Are all but Luther's beer to this I sing.

Of this we will sup free, but moderately,

And we will have no Pooley, or Parrot by,

Nor shall our cups make any guilty men;

But, at our parting we will be as when

We innocently met. No simple word

That shall be uttered at our mirthful board,

Shall make us sad next morning or affright

The liberty that we’ll enjoy tonight.



http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/may/07/poem-week-ben-jonson


Your meal looks amazing, MM, and, as I have said before, I think your presentation is superb too.

I feel woefully inadequate hearing about the contents of  your freezers - yours and ferval's, I mean - all this casual talk of quails and crabs and foie gras and such. I've just looked in my freezer. It's only a little one, but it's nearly empty, apart from a big bag of frozen peas, six (cod) fishfingers and a Marks and Spencer's Count On Us Chicken and Vegetable Hotpot. Oh, and a large pot of frozen yoghurt (lemon flavour) which I may eat tonight.

I am ashamed and feel quite, quite useless.
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Sun 08 Feb 2015, 15:21

I wouldn't feel too ashamed Temp. Don't forget I have two huge chest freezers, mostly filled with ready-to-bake rolls and croissants, but also with enough other stuff just in case I am called upon at short notice to cook a three course meal for half a dozen people. And like ferval I can never resist the seasonal bargains. But just at the moment I'm trying desperately to empty at least one freezer so I can defrost and clean it. The biggest freezer hasn't been emptied for many years now, so as I gradually eat my way down, layer by layer, deeper into its hidden lower levels, all sorts of unexpected delicacies are gradually coming to light ... the quail and foie gras for instance were both new discoveries and both were well past their dates. I even recently found a huge bag of home-grown raspberries, somewhere around the Devensian strata ... and those bushes all died in the summer of 2008, the long-frozen fruit though still made good jam.

The irony though is that while I can lay my hands on quail, pintade, venison, ... girolles and asparagus, ... even langouste tails (a surprise find and dinner for tonight), lately I've found myself scrabbling around in the vain search for just a bag of frozen sprouts, fish-fingers, broccoli or peas ... anything ordinary in fact, that I can just eat without feeling compelled to cook to a fancy recipe.

 ... so tonight it's just queues de langoustes, very simply grilled with a tiny bit of butter and seasoned only with some freshly milled black pepper, and accompanied by humble plain-boiled potatoes and a simple salad. Oh poor me. Rolling Eyes


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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Sun 08 Feb 2015, 16:50

My heart bleeds.......
Although to be fair, we have recently got a wee shop up the road run by a couple who have got a boat and so last weekend I came home with a bag of extremely lively langoustines, fresh from the chilly waters off Kintyre, as well crab pate, loads of frozen tails and squat lobster tails too so I can't complain. They're astonishingly cheap too.

But we are going to get our fingers rapped by Ursa Major for all this food chat so, I'll shut up (again).
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Sun 08 Feb 2015, 16:52

Ursa Major ... I like that.  Wink
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Sun 08 Feb 2015, 23:49

Historic tales from the deep freeze surely do not break the unwriten laws of what boss will allow? I have never known wha a due date for frozen food is , anyway. Hasn't old frozen edible food been found withiin  arctic/antarctic circles? And, MM, I am in awe of that dinner presentaion - pop over here and see what you can do with some frozen herrings - age unknown - and a vintage wodge of rawTesco puff pastry.
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Mon 09 Feb 2015, 09:48

I ate the yoghurt.

Just doesn't compare with MM's supper somehow...


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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Wed 11 Feb 2015, 16:15

Not very seasonal but rather neatly links this thread with the 'Bodies' one since Nick Day was Norfolk in the RSC version.



                                                                                                 
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Wed 11 Feb 2015, 16:50

Ah but will it still be good now that they're changing the recipe for 'Newky Brown'?
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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Mon 16 Feb 2015, 15:22

Tomorrow is Shrove (Pancake) Tuesday;


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PostSubject: Re: The Great Historical Bake Off   Mon 16 Feb 2015, 15:46

Perhaps MM will rustle up some delicious pancakes for us tomorrow, Trike - proper ones with lemon juice and sugar, not some of the weird creations featured on the internet - abominations such as chocolate pancakes and green-coloured pancakes.


http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2011/mar/03/how-to-cook-perfect-pancakes


From the Guardian article:


Elizabethan pancakes.


Interestingly, the oldest recipe for pancakes as we know them comes from an English cookery book – the Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchen (1594 edition) – but it's even richer than the modern incarnation: a pint of "thicke Creame", 5 egg yolks, "a good handful of flower" and 2 or 3 tablespoons of ale, seasoned with copious amounts of sugar, cinnamon and ginger... "the result is a horrible mess" with these proportions ("one can only imagine the author was either careless or had gargantuan hands"), but once I've added enough flour to make it into a more workable consistency, I manage to create a pancake, of sorts, from the mixture. It's so meltingly rich it's all but impossible to flip, which is clearly no good at all: tasty, but more of a chaser to some roasted peacock and a goblet of sack than one for the modern kitchen.

Puritan pancakes

The 17th century ushered in more sober tastes – Gervase Markham's 1615 recipe uses two eggs, a "pretty quantity of faire running water," cloves, mace, cinnamon and nutmeg, all beaten together, "which done make thicke as you think food with fine wheate flower". (No one can accuse these old-school food writers of being prescriptive.) Spice aside, they're pretty dull things; rubbery and heavy. Cream may be taking things too far, but milk is a must.
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The Great Historical Bake Off

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