Archives for posts with tag: Historical Food

17092799_10212313009800163_117850163_o-1.jpg

Through all these years fermenting vegetables, I have often wondered why there is so little a tradition of this kind of food preservation in Britain.  Did the prevalence of beer easily make malt vinegar available for vinegar pickling? Perhaps the relatively mild winters meant less of a hunger gap than in colder climes eastward? Maybe the early entrance of rural workers into a wage economy cause an earlier loss of indigenous food traditions? Might there be foodways left to be discovered? I’d like to believe this last, but I don’t have an answer.

I scour old cookbooks and find not much– perhaps an occasional mention of making fizzy drinks with “yeast” (which of course could so easily be wild rather than derived from baking and wine making)  — elderflower champagne, for example, or bottled drinks of burdock and dandelion, or nettle.  But these are sugar ferments, and different from preserving in brine with bioactive bacteria– i.e. sauerkraut, kimchi, cucumber pickles. Somewhere in Hannah Glasse I once read a reference to wedges of cabbage in salt brine– but that didn’t feel like a common cultural practice.

It was a thrill when I learned about Beetroot Stout, a delicious, nourishing, medicinal vegetable-based cocktail.  When I queried Glyn Hughes of the incredible site The Foods of England Project, he responded  that the only thing  that came to mind for him was  Potato Cheese (to England– only hypothetically– via Germany):

500-potato cheese.jpg

Enter a caption

http://www.foodsofengland.co.uk/potatocheese.htm/ Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 19 July 1855

The immediate association was with Kishk, a Middle Eastern cultured milk and bulgur wheat ferment, which I’d read about in Sandor Katz’s books Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation. Two summers ago I tried to make Kishik (the names vary through different regions and translations, also “Kashk”) following the method in The Gaza Kitchen.  My disks turned mouldy. I reckon the relatively chilly, damp air of a Welsh summer just wasn’t dry enough to let the ferment dessicate quickly enough to beat the rot. From this experience I believe having the artificial heat from a kitchen radiator in the winter helped the experiment this time to succeed.

POTATO CHEESE a la The Foods of England Project

I boiled and mashed a potato, and added several tablespoons of milk kefir.

17036805_10212313079841914_62415012_o.jpg

Here’s a close-up of the early days:

17093981_10212313077321851_380413328_n.jpg

I woke up on Day 3 to find the surface of the ferment blooming in this beautiful, vermiculated Geotrichum Candidum, tentatively identified by my Instagram friend Claudia of Urban Cheese Craft. Because this fungus is common in cheese making, I thought of it as a good thing.  Hmmmmm.

17036697_10212313073281750_924540693_o.jpg

…Though when I peeled it back, and realised it was just a surface feature, I worried a bit that it would slow the evaporation underneath in a project in which drying-out was the ultimate goal (unlike with cheese making proper)…. because I was emulating Kishk … but I realise in retrospect had we eaten this “cultured potato” at this point, it would have been more of a cheese-like substitute…17106008_10212313072201723_1065488006_o.jpg

So with a bit of trepidation, unsure of myself, I stirred it all together (rather than remove the surface) and left the bowl near the radiator, and under a tea towel.:

17101194_10212313201404953_1340950709_o.jpg

On Day 11 the potato mixture felt dry enough to form patties, or disks, and I wrapped them gently in absorbent cloth, but let them air a bit too.

17091031_10212313068921641_553793963_o.jpg

And nothing untoward was happening….

17092892_10212313067241599_102113503_o.jpg

And by day 14 they felt fully hardened and I felt the Potato Cheese experiment to be successful….  A ferment on a carbohydrate with the goal to extend a milky cheesy perfume into the time of year with less milk and cheese…17092799_10212313009800163_117850163_o-1.jpg

So now I have my savoury fermented potato “Potato Cheese,” — smells cheesy in a good way — and I feel ready to experiment. I can only think of it as a substitute for Parmesan– maybe grate it over a dish where I might use a hard Italian cheese, or perhaps throw it into a soup such as Minestrone for that little extra thickening or umami sensation. I’m thinking, because it smells reminiscent of Nutritional Yeast, to search through vegan recipes to understand how that ingredient is really used. How would YOU use it? Am most interested in reader suggestion…. And truly interested in anyone’s comments or observations about any part of the process…

IMG_1846

“Mum, I’m not very excited about this meal,” my 11 year old son confided, when I told him I was making a WWII ration recipe for Lentil Sausages. I mustered a tone of enthusiasm to explain that today is the 100th birthday of the great food educator and cookery writer Marguerite Patten, and that people all over the world are cooking from her great oeuvre.  And because it’s also British Sausage Week (to coincide with Bonfire Night tomorrow) and there’s a climate crisis in which meat plays a not insignificant role, I find myself especially interested in mock-meat kinds of meals.

IMG_1844

So it was that earlier in the day I’d set out to join in on #Marguerite100, an international cook-along networked through social media and documented in this Storify. Read the rest of this entry »

IMG_9393

Ah, the marrow.  Kind of seemed like a monstrosity of a vegetable to me when I first encountered it.  So huge, so flavourless, so… perverse? lazy? wasteful? to grow your courgettes so big that they became unappealing. And yes, you can stuff them (as I’ve done) and yes you can make jams and chutneys (as I’ve done) and yes you can grate the flesh into sauces and stews (as I’ve often done) and yes, you can even lacto-ferment them (as I’ve often done and am about to blog on).  But marrows have nonetheless remained “other” to me.

At the same time, I’ve been moved by how some friends genuinely LOVE marrows, and by the way you can hold a huge one like a baby, rocking it in your arms, and by the way people who grow them in their gardens and allotments always go around asking you if you would like one?  And of course you say, “Yes please!”

Apple is for size comparison only.

IMG_9360

This time I was thrilled to have happened upon an old recipe recorded in the 70s on Bardsey Island for a Marrow Tart in my treasured copy of S Minwel Tibbot’s 1976 Welsh Fare: A Selection of Traditional Recipes.  To my mind this is the most beautiful record of “traditional” food of Wales, because as a historian and ethnographer, Tibbot’s work reflects respect and affection for the women sharing their old recipes in their old kitchens.  She worked for the National Museum of Wales’ Welsh Folk Museum, who published the book.

Like the Plum Tart in the Wales Gas Board pamphlet, this is a recipe that illustrates a kind of culinary simplicity in the sense that its guided by austerity (basic staples, seasonal eating) which is the beauty in much traditional Welsh food.  It’s so different from the world enabled by supermarkets in which everything is available year round, without any references to a seasonal calendar.

Read the rest of this entry »

IMG_9373

A beautiful confluence of events: Coming back from collecting plums from (and beneath) my friend Pippa’s very laden trees, I stopped to drop a bag of outgrown school uniforms at one of our much-appreciated local charity shops.  And what should be there, just on the counter before my very eyes– a water-stained, truly-in-tatters, mended-with-yellowing-tape, pages-in-the-wrong-order copy of Croeso Cymreig, A Welsh Welcome, a small book of traditional Welsh foods, first published in 1953, my copy a revised 1959 edition.  Published by Wales Gas Board (Bwrdd Nwy Cymru).  A true treasure for 30pence!

IMG_9321   IMG_9323

This is the kind of book that lifts my heart, even if I felt a brief pang of disloyalty to S Minwel Tibbott, whom I’d pledged would be my guide to old fashioned Welsh cooking through all her wonderful writings and ethnographic gatherings.

Read the rest of this entry »

IMG_8369

 SPROUTING POTATOES, HOMITY PIE, SOURDOUGH PASTRY, EATING LOCAVORE, POTATO DESSERT RECIPES —  IT’S ALL HAPPENING HERE…

I am overwhelmed by potatoes. This is because there are sacks of sprouted organic ones I am getting for free because no one else wants them, neither to buy nor be given, at our local organic vegetable shop /community enterprise.  I feel a personal resolve to rescue them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Here is a little armchair travel for someone who has committed herself to reduce her involvement with the very Greenhouse-Gas intensive aviation industry. This means, though I LOVE going places and seeing things and meeting people and having adventures and eating delicious food, I don’t really venture far away it as much as I would in a different world-historical scenario.

But: I can stumble upon wishes on the internet, and this, quite strongly, is one.

Read about this amazing Pre-Hispanic soup and the people who make it.

If you are on Facebook, read about an exciting documentary The Path of Stone Soup that examines the history and ritual of this very beautiful and delicious sounding soup.

%d bloggers like this: