A Further Taste Of India

Returning to the Little Indian Cookbook mentioned previously I include here a few more recipes worth a second look.

Spices are used in many different forms: whole, chopped, ground, roasted, sautéed, fried, and as a topping. They blend food to extract the nutrients and bind them in a palatable form. Some spices are added at the end as a flavouring and are typically heated in a pan with ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil before being added to a dish. Lighter spices are added last, and spices with strong flavour should be added first.

Curry is not a spice, but a term used by Western people and refers to any dish in Indian cuisine that contains several spices blended together, whether dry or with a sauce base.

An old favourite of the wedding buffet, the public bar on a Saturday night or the takeaway after a night out with the lads.

Very much an ‘anglicised’ dish, properly made it is well worth a try.

Dhansak on the other hand is a fairly unusual lentil and gram curry garnished with carrot, aubergine and potato.

Use either chicken or king prawns for a traditional Parsi (Persian) dish.

More to follow

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The Collegiate Church of St Mary, Warwick

IMAG0032The Collegiate Church of St Mary, or rather the foundations thereof, date back to 1123 when they were laid by Roger de Beaumont, 2nd Earl Warwick.

It is located in the county town of Warwick, a mere stone’s throw from Warwick Castle, traditional home of the Earls of Warwick for many generations.

IMAG0030When de Beaumont also established a college of secular canons its ecclesiastical status was elevated to the point where it’s governance and religious observance were similar to that of a cathedral. But although there is a Bishop of Warwick, but it is merely an episcopal title coming under the aegis of the Diocese of Coventry.

IMAG0034Great parts of the church were extensively rebuilt in the 14th century by Thomas de Beauchamp (later anglicised to Beecham), a later Earl Warwick in the Perpendicular Gothic style

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The Beauchamp Chapel

His descendants later built the Chapel of Our Lady, more commonly known as the Beauchamp Chapel which houses monuments to Richard de Beauchamp, the 13th Earl Warwick, Ambrose Dudley the 3rd Earl Warwick and Robert Dudley, the 1st Earl Leicester

In the chancel of the church is William Parr, 1st Marquess Northampton, brother of the Queen Consort, Catherine Parr.

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The Memoriam to Robert Dudley

St Marys, along with much of Warwick, was devastated by the Great Fire of Warwick in 1694. The nave and tower of the building were completely destroyed. In 1704, the rebuilt church was completed in a Gothic design by William Wilson. The current tower rises to a very creditable height of 130 feet.

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Heraldic Symbols of Warwick, Warwick Castle

 

 

 

 

The only part of the building that remains of the original 1123 structure is the crypt beneath.

Unfortunately these pictures were all taken about two years ago, during a working visit to the area, on a camera phone and are not of the best quality. Enjoy anyway!

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Madame Tajana

The Stars Know All . . .

Astrology, Astronomy, Agronomy, Madame Tajana knows all!

And all for the princely sum of two shillings!

 I can’t promise that your two shillings will be returned, even on plain paper, but you will be amazed all the same!

Advert from the back pages, around 1956

 

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So You Want To Grow Up Big & Strong . . .

Spinach PlantThen you must eat up all your Spinach (pronounced spin-atch) Used in almost every cuisine around the world, spinach is an enormously popular green vegetable, the leaves of which can be either flat or slightly ruffled. Bright green when young it deepens to a more intense colour as it grows older.

Like Marmite, you either love it or hate it. The distinctive bitter flavour complements dairy products such as eggs but also features in Indian and Italian cuisine.

Spinach PastriesThe younger, milder, leaves tend to be eaten raw in salads and suchlike, while the older ones are tend towards being cooked.

The mainproblem with cooking spinach is that it has one of the shortest cooking times of all vegetables and reduces dramatically during cooking. A large (1lb) bag will be just enough for two when cooked!

Spinach first appeared in England and France during the 14th century, via Spain. It gained popularity quickly because it appeared in early spring, when other vegetables were scarce and when Lenten dietary restrictions discouraged consumption of other foods.

Spinach DishesSpinach is mentioned in the first known English cookbook, The Forme of Cury (1390), where it is referred to as spinnedge or spynoches.

When, in 1533, Catherine de Medici became queen of France she so loved spinach that she demanded it be served at every meal! To this day, dishes made with spinach are known as Florentine, reflecting Catherine’s birth city of Florence.

spinach1The cartoon character Popeye the Sailor Man is portrayed as having a strong affinity for spinach, becoming physically stronger after consuming it. But it has since been proven that this portrayal was based on faulty calculations of the iron content.

It was discovered that the German scientist Emil von Wolff misplaced a decimal point in an 1870 measurement of spinach’s iron content, leading to an iron value ten times higher than it should have been. But this faulty measurement was not noticed until the 1930’s by which time the misconception that spinach is high in iron and makes the body stronger, was widespread.

Spinach also contributes to a very healthy smoothie, a vibrant (or vile, depending on your viewpoint) green concoction created from avocado, cucumber, spinach and kale. Blitz all together with fresh pineapple and coconut water.

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The Evolution Of . . .

The Supermarket.

A Supermarket is just what it says on the tin: a self-service grocery store offering a wide variety of food and household merchandise comprising meat, fresh produce, dairy, and baked goods with shelf space reserved for canned and pre-packaged goods as well as non-food items such as household cleaners, pharmacy products and pet supplies.

The traditional suburban supermarket occupies a large amount of floor space on a single level and is usually situated near a residential area in order to be ‘convenient’ to consumers.

Its basic appeal is the availability of a broad selection of goods under a single roof, at relatively low prices.

Certain products such as bread, milk and sugar are frequently sold as loss leaders.
To balance the books somewhat, into profit hopefully, supermarkets attempt to make up for the negative margins by a higher overall volume of sales.

And since customers collect their own purchases and take them for payment to a checkout, there are obvious savings in staff costs.

Many supermarket chains are currently attempting to further reduce labour costs by introducing a ‘self-checkout’ system, whereby one member of staff could oversee four or five checkouts, assisting multiple customers at the same time.

While branding and store advertising differ from company to company, the layout of a supermarket remains virtually unchanged since John and Mary Sainsbury opened their first shop in London’s Drury Lane selling just butter, eggs and milk. In 1875  imported Irish bacon was added to the range. The Sainsbury’s high quality of food proved popular and by 1903 there were 100 branches in London.

Mr Michael Marks, a Russian born Polish refugee, opened a fine new store in Marble Arch, London with his partner Tom Spencer in 1930. And M&S was born.

Jack Cohen and TE Stockwell, a tea supplier, amalgamated their names to form a company called Tesco. Their first own brand product, Tesco Tea, hit the shelves in 1924. Stores began to pop up across the country until, in 1961, Tesco Leicester was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest Supermarket in Europe.

Although big companies spend time giving consumers a pleasant shopping experience, the design of the supermarket is directly connected to the in-store marketing that supermarkets must conduct in order to get shoppers to spend more money whilst there!

A simple product can become more saleable by the simple addition of a ‘celebrity’ face or image that somehow appeals to our communal psyche.

Ever felt like a mouse in a wheel?  A rat directed through a complex maze by a series of treat/threat conditions? Just wait for part two, Super-Marketing!!

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The Fish, The Chip and the Shop

Ten things you never knew about Fish And Chips!

Fish & Chips 3

1. There is a blue plaque at Tommyfield Market in Oldham, Lancashire that marks the 1860’s origin of the fish and chip shop and thereby all subsequent fast food industries. By 1910, there were more than 25,000 fish and chip shops across the UK rising to more than 35,000 by the 1920’s.

2. Fried fish (no chips) was being sold as a street food in the 1840’s, and by the early 1850’s there were several ‘Fried Fish Shops’ in London. According to Cassels Dictionary of Cookery fried fish should be wiped very dry, and floured before being put into the pan of boiling fat. Next to oil clarified dripping is the best.

Fish & Chips 13. At around the same time, the owner of a shop in the town of Mossley in Lancashire that sold pigs= trotters and pea soup noticed a vendor at a nearby market selling ‘chipped potatoes in the French style’ subsequently added them to his repertoire, thus creating the very first Chip Shop.

4. Charles Dickens, that champion of the English downtrodden, gives the first reference to chips of potatoes in his novel ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ and mentions a fried fish warehouse in ‘Oliver Twist’ Perhaps his widely‑read and much‑loved books had something to do with their subsequent, and widespread popularity.

5. In 1928 Harry Ramsden opened an unpretentious little shop near Bradford in Yorkshire that was to become the most famous fish and chip shop in the world. On a single day in 1952, his shop in Guiseley, West Yorkshire, served 10,000 portions of fish and chips, earning itself a place in the Guinness Book of Records. The business has 35 owned and franchised outlets throughout the UK and Ireland. Harry Ramsden’s claims to be ‘Britain’s longest established restaurant chain’

Fish & Chips 5 - Deep Fried Mars Bar6. In the mid 1990’s The Carron Fish Bar in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, claims to have created the deep-fried Mars bar. As it says on the tin it is just an ordinary Mars bar fried in the type of batter more commonly used for deep-frying fish, sausages, and other battered products. The chocolate bar is typically chilled before battering to prevent it from melting into the frying oil. Some tongue in cheek reporting on the popularity of the dish in the mid-1990s, as a ‘commentary’ on Scotland’s unhealthy diet, saw the popularity of the dishes rise as inevitable!

7. The name ‘chip-shop’ was first coined the early fifties while the form was shortened to ‘Chippy’ (or ‘chippie’) in the early sixties. Occasionally the type of fish will be specified, as in ‘Cod’n’Chips’. The ‘fish and chip shop’ has become a staple throughout the western world whilst making inroads into middle and far-eastern markets.

8. During World War II, fish and chips remained one of the few foods in the United Kingdom not subject to rationing. The Prime Minister Winston 1940's A Coke Fired Fish & Chip Van, WymeringChurchill referred to the combination of fish and chips as ‘the good companions’ British fish and chips were originally served in a wrapping of old newspapers but this practice has now largely ceased, with plain paper, cardboard, or plastic being used instead.

9. The concept of a fish restaurant, as opposed to take-away, was introduced by Samuel Isaacs (born 1856 in Whitechapel, London; died 1939 in Brighton, Sussex) who ran a thriving wholesale and retail fish business throughout London and the South of England in the latter part of the 19th century. Isaacs’ first restaurant opened in London in 1896 serving fish and chips, bread and butter, and tea for nine pence, and its popularity ensured a rapid expansion of the chain. The restaurants were carpeted, had table service, tablecloths, flowers, china and cutlery, and made the trappings of upmarket dining affordable to the working classes for the first time. They were located in London, Clacton, Brighton, Ramsgate, Margate and other seaside resorts in southern England

10. The true history of this classic combination seasoned with salt and vinegar will, like that of the hamburger in the USA, almost certainly never be proven to the satisfaction of every stakeholder. But be that as it may, this must not let this put us off considering the ‘facts’ as they appear! I have been reliably informed that John Lennon enjoyed his fish and chips, a staple of the working class, smothered in ketchup while in America people prefer tartare sauce! Well would you credit it!

Fish & Chips - 9 Ultimate combination

 

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A Minor History Of Le Pique-Nique

 

Dejeuner sur l’Herbe, by Manet, Edouard.

Where the word ‘picnic’ comes from is something of a mystery but it is conjectured that the French root may derive from the verb piquer (‘to peck’ or ‘to pick’) and the noun nique (‘a small amount’ or ‘nothing whatsoever’); but this is just speculation.

What is certain, however, is that, originally, it did not refer to anything we would now recognise as a picnic. A favourite pastime of the aristocracy, picnics came into their own during the 18th century they were enshrined as purely indoor affairs, held at home or in hired rooms. The guests could either bring a dish or drink or pay a share of the cost. They were associated with conversation and wit and portrayed as intellectual refinement.

And then along came the French Revolution and to put it bluntly, everything went pear shaped. Fearing for their lives, aristocratic picnickers fled abroad, some to Austria, others to Prussia while others even made it to America, while the majority plumped for Britain. Settling primarily in London, they were often short of money; but they did their best to maintain their old way of life, bringing the picnic to England with them. This led to two important developments.

In 1801 a group of 200 wealthy young Francophiles, founded the ‘Pic Nic Society’. Held in hired rooms in Tottenham Street, their gatherings were self-consciously extravagant. Every member was required to bring a dish (decided by lot) and six bottles of wine. Held in hired rooms in Tottenham Street, their gatherings were self-consciously extravagant. The society was short lived to be replaced by a more profound development.

Pic Nics were taken up by the emergent middle classes and moved outdoors. What caused this change is somewhat unclear; but the most likely explanation is that the socially aspirational simply applied a fashionable French word to a pre-existing practice. A result of all this was that picnicking became a simple meal to which people were invited by a host morphing into a more ‘genteel’ and more innocent leisure activity.

Mrs Beeton on the other hand, suggested in 1861 that a bill of fare for a picnic for 40 persons should include a joint of cold roast beef, a joint of cold boiled beef, 2 ribs of lamb, 2 shoulders of lamb, 4 roast fowls, 2 roast ducks, 1 ham, 1 tongue, 2 veal‑and‑ham pies, 2 pigeon pies, 6 medium‑sized lobsters, 1 piece of collared calf’s head, 18 lettuces, 6 baskets of salad, 6 cucumbers, stewed fruit well sweetened, and put into glass bottles well corked, 3 or 4 dozen plain pastry biscuits to eat with the stewed fruit, 2 dozen fruit turnovers, 4 dozen cheesecakes, 2 cold cabinet puddings in moulds, 2 blancmanges in moulds, a few jam puffs, 1 large cold plum‑pudding (this must be good), a few baskets of fresh fruit, 3 dozen plain biscuits, a piece of cheese, 6 lbs. of butter, including the butter for tea, 4 quartern loaves of household bread, 3 dozen rolls, 6 loaves of tin bread (for tea), 2 plain plum cakes, 2 pound cakes, 2 sponge cakes, a tin of mixed biscuits, ½ lb, of tea. Beverages: 3 dozen quart bottles of ale, packed in hampers; ginger‑beer, soda‑water, and lemonade, of each 2 dozen bottles; 6 bottles of sherry, 6 bottles of claret, champagne a discretion, and any other light wine that may be preferred, and 2 bottles of brandy. Water can usually be obtained so it is useless to take it.

Things not to be forgotten at a Picnic would include a stick of horseradish, a bottle of mint‑sauce well corked, a bottle of salad dressing, a bottle of vinegar, made mustard, pepper, salt, good oil, and pounded sugar. If it can be managed, take a little ice. It is scarcely necessary to say that plates, tumblers, wine‑glasses, knives, forks, and spoons, must not be forgotten; as also teacups and saucers, 3 or 4 teapots, some lump sugar, and milk, if this last‑named article cannot be obtained in the neighbourhood. Oh, and finally, take 3 corkscrews.

The Wind in the Willows by Mendoza, Philip (1898-1973)

Kenneth Grahame, author of ‘The Wind in The Willows’, born this day in 1859 mentions in one of the classic scenes from the book the conversation between Mole and Ratty about the contents of a large wicker basket that Ratty had brought along :

‘There’s cold chicken inside it, coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssalad frenchrollscresssandwidgepottedmeatgingerbeerlemonadesodawater replied the Rat briefly.

Not a bad little repast for two small river creatures. Since the publication of Grahame’s tale, picnics have undergone still further change – largely as a result of the relaxation of social mores, the development of new technologies and the quickening pace of globalisation.

Today, olives, focaccia and white wine are more likely to be found in a picnic basket than cold tongue, cress sandwiches and ginger beer. So too, in the last few decades, novels such as Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (1967) and Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love (1997) have reconnected picnicking with moral transgression, albeit not quite as explicitly as in Manet’s painting, Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe.

Picnics will no doubt continue to evolve in future. If global warming continues to worsen, we may have to think more carefully about where – and how – we spread our blankets. By the same token, shifting patterns of trade will almost certainly change the foods we carry in our hampers. But, whatever happens, one thing is whatever happens, one thing is certain: as long as there are friends with whom to share it, there will be ‘few things so pleasant as a picnic lunch’.

Providing that social distancing is observed, naturally!

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M. Parmentier & The Potato

potatoADS 1Potato Pete!

An iconic potato shaped character from the war years whose sole purpose was to encourage the planting and harvesting of potatoes in an effort to make the country Potato Petemore self-sufficient during the second world war. But, iconic though it may be, the potato is a surprisingly recent discovery.

Dumont - Portrait of Antoine ParmentierBorn in 1737, Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, the French agriculturalist and apothecary, more or less single handedly orchestrated the acceptance of the potato in Europe, achieving far more than anyone else in its chequered history.

Joining the army in 1757, Parmentier subsequently spent several years as a prisoner of war in Germany. The mainstay of the prison diet was potatoes. In spite of the universal belief that potatoes were only fit for pigs, Parmentier realised that the nutritional value of a crop could prove invaluable as sustenance for both the poor and prison inmates.

Potatoes-parmentier

Pommes Parmentier

After his return to France in 1763, Parmentier had to work hard to promote the potato in the face of opposition from scientists (who said it caused leprosy), the clerics (that it provoked lust, and anyway was a Protestant vegetable), and the gourmands (it was tasteless, indelicate, and flatulent).

Some poor wheat harvests helped his campaign, but in the end he succeeded with methods well-known today – making it appear covetable, and arranging celebrity endorsement. The first he achieved by having some trial plantings in the garden of the potato plantPalace of the Tuileries appear valuable by having them guarded heavily – by day only, thus ensuring the theft of plants at night. The second he did by managing to persuade Marie Antoinette to wear a posy of potato flowers in her bosom, and by hosting grand dinners with the likes of Benjamin Franklin in attendance, at which all courses from soup to liqueur were based on potatoes.

In addition to his agricultural work, Parmentier (perhaps in remembrance of his own childhood as an orphan) had a highly developed social conscience for the time. Louis XVI supposedly said “France will thank you some day for having found bread (ie potatoes) for the poor”.

Apotatond Parmentier actually did open up soup kitchens to feed the poor of Paris. It is fitting then that the dish most associated with him is potato soup, of which, of course, there are many variations.

Here is a very rich and regal potato soup, from Queen Victoria’s chef, Francatelli.

Potato Soup à la Crème.

 Cleanse, peel, wash, and slice up, about twenty large-sized good potatoes. Put them into a stewpan with one large onion, and one head of celery – also sliced up; add four ounces of fresh butter, a little pepper, salt, and grated nutmeg; set them to simmer on a slow fire, stirring them occasionally until they are nearly dissolved into a kind of purée. Then add to them three pints of good white consommé, and having allowed the potatoes to boil gently by the side of a moderate fire for half an hour, pass them through the tammy, and having removed the purée into a soup-pot, add, if requisite, a little more consommé, and set the purée on the fire to boil gently by the side of the stove, in order to clarify it in the usual manner required for other purées of vegetables. Just before sending to table, add a pint of boiling cream, a pat of fresh butter, and a little pounded sugar. Serve the fried crusts with this soup. (The Modern Cook; 1860)

Or a more substantial recipe from the Victorian era by Mrs. Beeton, (1861) and is a fine example of the Victorian love of kitchen and table gadgetry:

Ingredients:

1½ lb of rump-steak or mutton cutlets, pepper and salt to taste, ⅓ pint of weak broth or gravy, 1 oz. of butter, mashed potatoes.

Mode:

Place the meat, cut in small pieces, at the bottom of the pan; season it with pepper and salt, add the gravy and butter broken into small pieces. Put on the perforated plate, with its valve-pipe screwed on, and fill up the whole space to the top of the tube with nicely-mashed potatoes mixed with a little milk, and finish the surface of them in any ornamental manner. If carefully baked, the potatoes will be covered with a delicate brown crust, retaining all the savoury steam rising from the meat. Send it to table as it comes from the oven, with a napkin folded around it.

Time : 40 to 60 minutes. Average cost, 2s. Sufficient for 4 or 5 persons. Seasonable at any time.

Avenue-Parmentier2

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How To Patronize A Woman Part 3, Or Was It 4? Or 5?

From the archive, a modest, unassuming piece from ‘Womans Day’ on how to transform the plainest of the plain into Betty Grable! (Julia Roberts to those of a later time span or Katie Perry to those so young as to make me feel disgustingly middle aged!)

Dating back to the late fifties and despite the austerities of the not long passed war years the fact remained that it was the ‘duty’ of a woman to look good for her man and, increasingly, herself.

A man didn’t have to of course. Scarring, a limp, or an eye-patch were all badges of honour, tokens of the war years, war wounds to be ‘passed over lightly’ in polite company and never discussed, verified or not!

I believe it was Winston Churchill himself who said:

“Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer-gut and still think they are sexy!”

It may not have been of course, though he did have a somewhat caustic turn of phrase when occasion demanded. My favourite has got to be,

“Madam I may be drunk, but you are ugly. I shall be sober in the morning”

The original article came as a supplement in a 1959 edition of “Womens Day” magazine and is quite representative of its time.

The war had done wonders for the rights of women to do jobs long since considered the domain of men and flourish in their own right.

Mind you, the letter from the editor is probably one of the most patronising pieces I have seen in quite a while. The bloke who wrote that now would be strung up by the heels at the very least!

By the way and neither here nor there, I think the brownette (brunette) image is actually a very young Maureen Lipman but I could be mistaken.

My eyesight isn’t what it once was . . .

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How to Patronize a Woman

Career for Women 1

“. . . the really well trained cook is one of the few women who need never fear unemployment”

This article from Good Housekeeping describes in better detail the limited range of jobs considered to be suitable for a woman in the twenties and thirties.

She does not even deserve the title of ‘chef’. That was reserved for her male counterparts!

A Career for Women 2It gives a very interesting slant on both the institutional and professional and sexism of the day.

Mind you, in this day and age after a long and varied career in kitchens around the world I have come to the conclusion that those who term themselves ‘cooks’ generally can, while many of those who term themselves ‘chefs’ can’t!

My apologies for any offense caused but in my defense I will just say that given the choice of a kitchen full of ‘cooks’ or a a kitchen full of ‘chefs’ I know which I would prefer! The opening sentence says it all really!

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