Archives for posts with tag: Historical Recipes

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 »

Hello George Monbiot, here talking about roadkill as ethical meat, and I’m with him on this one, for all the reasons he dislikes most farm-bred meat, mentioned in the video above and discussed here and here.

And I have friends who, as foresters and re-wilders, deeply hate the grey squirrels of Britain for the damage these invasive creatures do to (re)foresting efforts; these activists see eating squirrel as a vote for a wider notion of Ecology.  Here’s a blog from a journalist in Scotland who writes about eating squirrel from this point of view.

When I wrote about rabbit over a year ago, I catalogued recipes in my cookbooks to give readers a sense of culinary possibility, and myself a future reference.  I’m reposting this list for everyone who might be inspired to try something new.  Squirrels are meant to cook very similar to rabbit, hence the recipes can be transposed.

For me eating squirrel is hypothetical so far, I should add– though there’s a dead one, courtesy of our cat, in front of our house, and I’m talking to kids about the succession of creatures that eat and rot the dead, especially the gorgeous bottle flies with their metallic blue-green jewel bodies.

Rabbit/ Squirrel Recipes 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 »

henrion-rabbit-pair

.…in which Kitchencounterculture explores local food, locavorism, veganism, climate impacts of diet, and A MASSIVE LIST OF RABBIT RECIPES from a really great collection of cookbooks…

In my freezer are two rabbits, which a local man, H,  the getting-elderly but still a-hunting brother of a friend, had in his freezer.  For £3 each it was hardly a sale but rather an exchange.  “Cook it like a chicken,” he advised, and told me he’d cut it in seven pieces: two back legs, 2 front legs, two middle bits and a “bonnet” (the ribs).  He recommended I “casserole” it: fry the pieces in a pan with carrots and onions, then tip it in a roasting tin with gravy, or wine, or beer.

My friend, H’s brother P, said H would have hung it for a few hours after bringing it  home (probably this time with a ferret not a rifle — I didn’t think to ask but will, and will update here), then gutted it, then hung it again for a few days before skinning and putting it into parts.  These are men who’s childhoods would have been 70 years ago.  H remembers his mother Sybyl roasting rabbit very plainly, but she would never eat anything wild herself, though duck was also on the menu for these country children of mid-Wales back then.

Read the rest of this entry »

IMG_6266

Forgive the terrible photo– I won’t get a second chance until next year! But the taste? “Lush. Rich. Gorgeous. Velvety. Chocolatey. Very tasty indeed.”

OK, that’s my husband saying that, but you would say it too!

Over a year ago I began to contemplate making a tart with goose blood for Christmas.  I had read a reference to this as a food traditional to the particular region of what used to be called Montgomeryshire (now Powys) in Wales where I live. But already by that mid-December it was too late, replied our wonderful butcher to my enquiry, because the farm that had reared the geese had already finished the slaughter for Christmas orders and therefore wouldn’t have collected the blood.

(A strong reason, by the way, to support small butcher’s shops– because they are the ones who maintain real relationships with suppliers, where special requests can happen, even if in this case I was too late.  And if you eat meat, it’s so obvious that using as much of an animal as possible is the traditional as well as environmental approach which honours the act of sacrifice the animal unwillingly made.

Watch this wonderful film of a the making of this tart, I would suppose filmed by S Minwel Tibbott as I reckon the scene at the end is the same as that in the still photograph.  I love the way the woman in this clip wraps the Golden Syrup around her wooden spoon.  I love her cooking implements.  I love her apron.  I love the end-result.  How could I not have been on a mission?

I asked around among my friends who grew up in this area, and no one had any recollection of eating this fabled food.  One friend, the very lovely Dawn, daughter of farmers and beloved person in this town, remembered that her “Mum and Dad used to go to a nearby farm to help feather the poultry” and could recall the lady there shrilly shouting to her husband “Catch the goose’s blood , Fred!” in order to make the tarts later.   I wish I had a recording to share here Dawn’s hilarious imitation of that lady, which she enacted in the school yard as we waited for the kids one afternoon–  it’s the kind of sentence we maybe don’t hear much in this day and age.

I have friends Bea, Chris and Kate who are working very hard at a smallholding called Longhill to create a  farming enterprise with chickens, pigs, delicious market-garden vegetables and much more.  Bea mentioned to me that she was planning to raise a few geese and would be happy to support my interest in experimenting with the blood for next year.  And next year came, and Bea remembered her offer, and I found myself with 310ml of blood from 2 geese, which she had collected — “caught” — herself in a gallant and proficient moment of self-sufficiency (read, she’s learned how to do the slaughter herself, and strives to reduce the suffering).

Here is the goose blood as it was left on my doorstep (where it was covered, of course.)

IMG_6179

With trepidation, I found the link that had set me on this path a year before.

“In mid-Wales, it was the custom to make goose blood tart when the farmers were killing a large number of geese at Christmastime. Oral evidence testifies that this cake was an essential part of the Christmas fare in the Trefeglwys district and similarly in the districts of Staylittle, Llanbryn Mair and Llangurig in Montgomeryshire. To date, however, there is no evidence to show that it was prepared in any other county in Wales.”

Serendipitously, Longhill is high in the Trefeglwys hills, and was bought from a family with a long history on that site of sheep, cattle, pigs during the war, and of course– geese for Christmas, which apparently many farmers in this area raised.  At the Longhill site, I coincidentally learned, they raised geese to dress and sell in markets in the south of Wales.  I learned from the former owner of that site that this practice stopped when one farmer, his uncle, whose diabetes was effecting his eyesight, blindly trod on a baby goose and killed it; this upset him so much he stopped raising geese at all.

So my Goose Blood Tart was destined to be part of a  renewed lineage of Goose Blood Tarts– I felt sure.

“The blood of about three geese,” read the instructions,  “would be put in a greased basin and boiled in a saucepan half full of water. Then the blood would be allowed to cool and set solid before it was rubbed between the fingers to make fine crumbs. Mixed with currants, flour, suet, salt , spice and golden syrup, it would be baked between two layers of crust on a plate in the oven.”

Here is my version of a “greased basin …in a saucepan half full of water,” an improvised bain-marie.  The blood was strikingly black and was grossing me out a little at this stage.

IMG_6182

The blood thickened a little over the soft heat, but never coagulated or crumbled or clotted– Bea had added a little vinegar to preserve the blood until she could get to me, which was the right thing to do,  because blood is meant to go off really quickly, but perhaps it was that small element that changed the chemistry– which was fine in the end.  With no guide to quantities, feeling like a chemist or mad scientist, I added a few (maybe 3) tablespoons  each of flour and Golden Syrup, trepidatiously tasting and stirring, and of butter, as the only substitute for suet I could think of, raisins not currants which I didn’t have, a spoon of cinnamon and a good shake of “Mixed Spice”– and stirred, and watched condense, and slowly felt a surge of confidence that something right was happening.

Regarding having no idea what quantities to use of all the other ingredients besides blood:  In a moment of confusion and mild panic I sought help from an internet forum run by the amazing, generous and very experimental food historian Ken Albala, who guided me to study the Sanguinaccio in Italy, a confection made from pig’s blood in the past and nowadays with a mixture of chocolate. (Thanks everyone in that group for your help and interest!)  This lead me to the amazing blog of Mister Meatball and his Sanguinaccio Dolce, and everything in my mind then clicked into place…

My concoction there on the stove was visually very similar to brownie batter and felt chocolately indeed.

IMG_6247

Knowing I wouldn’t be making the tart for several days, I froze it, following Ken’s advice.

Later I looked into Ada Boni’s classic 1950 Talisman Italian Cookbook.  Her Sanguinaccio Neapolitan Style calls for a mere two squares of cooking chocolate– it’s interesting to trace the increasing use of chocolate through time in this dish.

It wasn’t until after New Years, actually, that I was able to arrange a time to invite the good peeps of Longhill to our home to eat the tart, which I tried to make to look as simple as possible.

IMG_6248

By the time it was baked, the night had fallen and all the pictures I took with flash were gruesome (see above).  Never mind. We had a really lovely evening with laughter and candlelight, a kind of celebration of planning something for over a year, enjoying its fruition, the family who raised the geese, the woman who caught the blood, and the woman who was curious enough to try a recipe on a museum website.  How would you describe it?  Inside lovely pastry, a custardy, spicy, smoothe and very chocolately confection.  Were there an end to chocolate, it might even serve as a kind of post-apocalyptic substitute– albeit without the bitter, which one doesn’t quite aprreciate always with chocolate– or that opiate, in love feeling.   But they were on to something really good, those upland farm people of yore: their Christmas Goose Blood Tart is truly– and not in any bizarre or challenging way– truly delicious.  We agreed this could become a tradition.

And just to say:  The Wikipedia “Blood as Food” entry is pretty compelling, if I’ve stirred any interest in you.

%d bloggers like this: