English Food (2)
last updated 18th November 2002
There are not many recipes for desserts in Scrote's repertoire but this one is a cracker, very easy, impressive and despite the tiny portions, devastatingly rich. You need a whisk of some sort and a bowl which you can set over a pan of boiling water (i.e. not plastic) to melt the chocolate. For four servings you need a large ½lb bar of plain chocolate (200g) and four eggs. The eggs must be very fresh.
For each person allow 1 egg & 2 ounces of ordinary plain chocolate. (Do not use cooking chocolate, it is a completely different stuff.) Break the chocolate into small pieces and set to melt in a bain marie- a pyrex glass bowl over a pan of boiling water. Meanwhile separate the yolks from the whites of the eggs, into separate containers. When the chocolate has completely melted, remove it from the heat and mix into it just the egg yolks (the whites are used later). The chocolate will become stiffer and take on a 'greasy' appearance- this is correct. Cover & set aside for 15 minutes to cool a little. In the mean time beat egg whites with a balloon whisk until eventually the mixture becomes white & stiff, so that it stands up in soft peaks. After the 15 minutes, fold the beaten egg-white a little at a time into the chocolate mixture, mixing very thoroughly.
Pour the resulting creamy chocolate mousse mixture into serving glasses (short glass tumblers or wine glasses are ideal) & put in the fridge to chill for 2 hours and set. Serve with a generous pouring of single cream. (Ruth puts a dash of Armagnac in and then adds the cream to keep the alcohol in!)
A chowder is a classic American thick soup made with potatoes & milk and it is characterised by being lumpy. The quantities of the ingredients are fairly relaxed- the only difficulty is that the cooking of the different ingredients uses several different times and methods.
You need about half a pound of white fish (cod or haddock), rather more than a pound of potatoes (preferably the floury sort that disintegrate easily when cooked), a few ounces of bacon scraps, an onion and about a pint of milk.
Chop the bacon pieces very finely and fry them in a little oil. Chop the onion and soften it with the bacon. Add a little water and poach the fish for about 5 minutes on each side. When it is cooked, lift the fish carefully out of the pan and remove any skin and bones. Flake the fish and put to one side- if you leave it in at this stage it will be very overcooked by the end. Slice the potatoes thinly and boil them in the fish liquid for about 20 minutes until cooked, then add the milk. Bring to the boil and simmer for a further 5 minutes until the potato starts to crumble, add the fish, season with a little salt and lots of pepper, reheat and serve.
Corn on the Cob is so simple that it hardly qualifies as a recipe, but Scrote makes them when they are cheap and in season, and very good they are too, especially for clearing out the digestive tract. In France maize is regarded as cattle-food and inedible, and so it is when fully ripened and dried out - so make sure you choose young plump sweetcorn.
Basically corn on the cob is a whole sweetcorn, stripped of its covering of outer leaves and threads and trimmed, and then boiled. You need a nice fresh-looking one for each person and a large saucepan (they are quite big). Husk and trim the the corncobs and put them into the saucepan, then cover them well with cold water and bring to the boil. Cover the pan and boil them gently for a long time- three quarters of an hour or more, Scrote has never managed to over-cook them so far.
To serve them remove them from the water and stab each of them through with a fork or knife so they can be handled (they are too hot to handle with the bare hands). Put each one on a plate with a big lump of butter on top to melt over it. This is finger food, the kernels are gnawed off the cob with the teeth. Somewhat messy, probably not a good idea for people with dentures, but delicious healthy and succulent.
Another recipe by Ruth, who likes Barbary duck. This is an extravagant and expensive recipe, impressive and easy to make but definitely not for the poverty-stricken. Duck has a layer of solid fat under the skin, and needs to be cooked fairly heavily to render away some of the fat and make the skin crisp. On the other hand, the deep red meat is supposed to be cooked rare (Scrote personally finds this un-nerving). So a strong heat is needed and a bold, fierce frying to cook the skin without overcooking the meat. If you are planning to make the gravy, do not get to the point where the fat smokes- the duck will taste fine, but the gravy will simply taste charred.
As Ruth puts it: "The duck breasts are very simple - they are best served slightly rare and the skins should be well seared. The gravy can be made into a delicious, bitter sauce and you can add orange or lime for flavour."
The recipes Scrote can find are mainly for sweet, filled dumplings which suggests they were more usual as deserts, yet when Scrote was young they were always served as a savoury filler in stews. Basically, in Europe the staple food was wheat and dumplings are simply yet another way of serving up flour- in this case in the form of a steamed 'suet pudding' pastry.
Make the usual suet pastry (4 ounces plain flour, 4 ounces self-raising flour, salt, 3-4 ounces of suet fat, a little water) adding salt and pepper and some savoury herbs such as sage and thyme. The pastry is rolled lightly into little balls and then dropped into briskly boiling water (or the gravy of the stew) to cook for 20 minutes.
Sweet Dumplings are made with the a suet pastry wrapped and sealed around pieces of cooking apple and steamed or baked, but Scrote hasn't tried making these himself.
This is an old-fashioned dessert dish- simple, delicate and a bit difficult to get right. You have to have a baking dish or pie dish and an oven, and it helps if you have another, larger dish into which the baking dish will rest.You need 2 eggs, a pint of milk, about an ounce of caster sugar, some vanilla and nutmeg.
Warm the milk. If you have a vanilla pod, put it in the milk while it is warming to make the milk vanilla flavoured then take it out, dry it, and put it back in a jar in your cupboard- it will keep for the next time. Beat the eggs and sieve them to remove any bits that won't dissolve and mix the eggs thoroughly into the milk. Mix in the sugar, and pour the mixture into the pyrex baking dish. Grate some nutmeg over the top. Put in a low oven, preferably resting in a bath of water (this is where the second dish comes in as a bain-marie) and bake gently for 40 minutes. Keep an eye on it as it burns easily, and if overcooked, separates.
Scotch eggs are a bit of a commonplace, readily available in shops. Yet they are not difficult to make.You will need 1 lb of premium (i.e. high meat content) pork sausage meat, 6 small eggs, some breadcrumbs, and some oil for deep frying.
Hard-boil (boil for at least 12 minutes) the eggs. Allow them to cool. Make some breadcrumbs by drying stale bread in a low oven and crushing it to crumbs. Shell the eggs and dust in a little flour so they are dry. Divide the sausage meat into six equal portions. Take a portion of sausage meat and mould it into a cup in your hand. Insert the cold, hard-boiled egg and massage the sausage meat up around it until it meets and closes over the top. Roll it around in your hands a little to even out any irregularities and roll the scotch egg in the breadcrumbs. Set it to one side and do the next.
When all the scotch eggs have been made, deep fry them, a few at a time in deep oil over a moderate heat for at least 10 minutes, making sure they are evenly browned all over. They can be eaten hot, but to Scrote's mind they are much better cold, as a picnic food. They are very filling- one should be enough for a person- and therefore not a good idea for those on a diet. A vegetarian (and less-fattening) version involves boiled eggs wrapped in a mashed potato mixture & deep-fried.
Like most things, there is a trick to doing scrambled eggs properly, for which Scrote is indebted to a former friend of student days, James, who first demonstrated it to him. Real scrambled eggs are delicious and should not be confused with the watery poached mess offered at breakfast in English hotels. Scrote is afraid you almost have to have a non-stick pan to do scrambled eggs- it is very difficult otherwise.
The trick to scrambled eggs is to use a really large lump of butter- a good ounce or more. Melt the butter in the pan over a lowish heat and break in two fresh eggs, giving them a poke with your wooden spatula to break the yolks. Add the merest dash of single cream or a smidgeon of milk and grate some black pepper over. Set some toast going under the grill. Stir the eggs from time to time taking care they do not stick to the bottom. Keep an eye on them, because when they start to set they go very quickly from thickening to set and they will go right on out the other side to watery stuff with bits in if you let them. On the one hand, do not stir the eggs too often- if you stir them continously you will end up with a thick smooth custard- but on the the other hand don't stir them too infrequently either. The idea is to finish with some lumpy bits and some bits still creamy, but no watery bits.
Meanwhile, keep an eye on your toast before it catches fire (if you are clever you can tell how the toast is doing by its smell), turn it over and when it is done take it out and butter it quickly. Your eggs should be setting rapidly now, so give them a final stir and turn them out, piping hot, onto the toast. Grind over a last-minute sprinkling of black-pepper- this is important- and eat them immediately.
Most recipes for gingerbread are for the hard, German sort of gingerbread that gingerbread men are made from- this is Eleanor's recipe for the soft sticky sort of gingerbread. It is very rich, soft & squidgy and delicious. However, because this is cake-country, weighing and measuring is the order of the day here. It really helps if you have a weighing gadget with a re-settable zero for this recipe as treacle is difficult stuff to weigh.
First, mix together 12 ounces of plain flour, two level teaspoons of ground ginger and two level teaspoons of ground cinnamon. Next, melt together, in a small pan over a gentle heat, 8 ounces of unsalted butter 8 ounces of brown sugar 4 ounces of golden syrup and 4 ounces of black treacle. Mix the melted butter sugar & treacle into the flour and add half a pint of warm milk, two level teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda, some chopped stem ginger if liked and two eggs. Pour the mixture into your shallow baking dish and bake in a gentle oven for one hour.
This is an anglicised version of an Indian original, kitchari, which is a mild, stodgy mixture of rice and lentils suitable for invalids. The English version for some reason became a breakfast dish although it also makes an excellent supper dish. It is extremely simple to make. Its only drawback is that you need several pans if you are going to cook everything at once.
The recipe calls for smoked fish, and you should make sure you obtain the pale, creamy un-dyed variety. Do not use the fluorescent yellow sort, as it is not smoked at all but treated with a chemical. Scrote says refusing to buy it is the only way to discourage such muck.
You need about 8 ounces of smoked haddock, 4 eggs, about 8 ounces of rice and half a onion (optional) chopped. Boil the rice in one and a half times its own volume of water over a low heat for about 20 minutes until all the water is absorbed and the rice cooked. Hard-boil the eggs for 12 minutes and shell them. Poach (simmer very gently) the fish fillet in a little water, with some chopped onion for about 5 minutes each side. Drain the fish, remove the skin and any bones and flake it into pieces. (Discard the liquid from the fish as it is too salty to be used for anything.) Slice the hard boiled eggs and cut into pieces while still hot. Mix the hot fish, eggs and rice (and optionally the boiled onion) together in the serving bowl. Sprinkle a little chopped parsley over the top and/or some cayenne pepper if liked. Kedgeree can be eaten immediately while hot, but is also delicious cold in summer.
A great dish, rich nourishing and cheap. Liver is not too everyone's taste, although Scrote thinks it tastes very good cooked like this. Ox liver, the deep-coloured kind, is cheaper and actually tastes better in this than the more refined pork liver. You will need some bacon pieces (which you can get if you cultivate the right sort of butcher, and are much cheaper than rashers). You will also need an onion, some plain flour and some sort of casserole dish.
Cut the liver into fairly thin slices (about a quarter of an inch thick) and excise any obviously gristly bits. Dredge the liver plentifully in the flour and fry the pieces gently (the flour tends to stick easily) in little fat very thoroughly. (A damned good frying at the beginning is what makes the liver palatable- boiled liver is disgusting.) Remove the fried liver and fry the chopped bacon and the chopped onion, then return the liver and add about half a pint of water- all that flour will thicken it and make a plentiful, rich, brown gravy. Add some ground black pepper, adjust the liquid and put the casserole in a medium oven for at least an hour, checking it occasionally. Serve it with mashed potatoes, and boiled carrots. It is very rich, very nourishing and very filling, and it does not need any other embellishments.
Personally, Scrote is not that fond of pancakes, but Ruth & Eleanor love making them. Once a year it is traditional in England to eat them (usually with lemon juice and honey) on Shrove Tuesday. In France, galettes and crepes are widely eaten, with savoury and sweet fillings respectively. In Brittany they use a thinner pancake mixture with buckwheat as well as wheat flour in it.
The main problem with pancakes is that they really need to be eaten as soon as they are cooked, for they are impossible to keep hot or crisp for more than a minute or two. The ingredients for English pancakes are exactly the same as for Yorkshire Pudding- it is only what you do with them that is different. You need 4 ounces of plain flour, 1 egg, half a pint of milk and some butter. You will also need a mixing bowl and a frying pan, and a ballon whisk helps, although a fork will do.
Put the flour in the mixing bowl, make a well in the centre and break the egg into it. Whisk into it some of the flour, making a thick paste. Keep mixing in more of the flour, adding some milk if the paste becomes too thick to manage, and beating out any lumps. When all the flour has been incorporated, add the rest of the milk and whisk the mixture thoroughly. The mixture should be like single cream in consistency, but if in doubt err on the liquid side. Set the mixture to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour- this is important. Before using it, whisk the mixture again.
To cook your pancakes, you need a hot pan. It helps if the pan is very solid and well-seasoned so that things don't stick in it. Get the pan very hot, get a good grip of it and run a little butter quickly around it. (Pancakes tend to be associated with a strong smell of burning butter.) Pour in a big spoonful of the mixture and swirl the mixture round quickly so it thinly coats the whole base of the pan. (Pancakes should be thin, which is why it is better to make the mixture liquid). Return it to the heat and cook it a minute or two, peeling up the edge occasionally to see how the underside is doing. When the bottom is browned, give the pan a good shake to loosen the pancake, and then if you are feeling immensely confident, give the pan a flip to turn the pancake over. If you are not so sure about this, keep the pan still and turn the pancake over with a spatula. Cook the other side, and serve it immediately.
Wipe the pan around with a paper towel to clean out the burnt bits and start the next one. Keep this up till no-one can eat any more and you want yours, then throw the rest of the mixture down the sink- it doesn't really keep very well. If you are making pancakes with savoury fillings (chopped ham and cheese is a good one), add the pre-cooked ingredients while you are cooking the second side to heat them, and then fold the pancake in half over them when it is done.
Pastry making is an art in itself, and Scrote reckons it helps if you have some scales since the relative proportions are quite important. Basically, a pastry is a weight of wheat flour with about half its weight of fat mixed in, and a little water. More fat makes the pastry lighter, crumblier (and more fattening). Less fat makes the pastry harder, as does handling it too much. Pastries can be made with butter, margarine, lard, suet and even oil, and sheets of fat-less pastry can be intercut with fat and folded to make flaky or 'puff' pastries- but short-crust pastry is your common-or-garden every-day English pie pastry. You need 8 ounces of plain flour and 4 ounces of unsalted butter. (Or you can use hard margarine, or even lard if you are desparately poor, but it will not have such a nice taste or colour. Do not use low fat 'spread' though.)
Put the flour and the cold butter (and a pinch of salt) into a mixing bowl and rub the fat with your hands into the flour until you achieve a consistency which is always described as "like breadcrumbs". Add a very little water- a dessertspoonful or so, and mix it in lightly using a chopstick or a wooden spoon, so that the mixture just sticks together in a lump. Do not knead the pastry at this point or it will be like concrete, and from now on avoid 'working' the pastry any more than necessary. Wrap the pastry, and put it in the fridge to 'rest' for half an hour. It is now ready to use, but it will keep in the fridge for some days if wrapped. You now have the basic English pie-crust pastry used in pies, pasties and flans.
Cheese pastry is a fancy pastry. Take 8 ounces of flour and a bit less butter than usual, maybe 3 ounces, and rub the butter into the flour as before. Mix in about 4 ounces of a grated hard cooking cheese such as cheddar, and then continue as for normal pastry. It is used in cheese straws and cheese and potato pasties.
An old favourite, this one, which can be made in several ways. Strictly speaking this uses the cheese pastry above, which is made the same way as shortcrust pastry, except that cheese is included. However, for speed Scrote often uses shop puff-pastry and adds the cheese to the filling. You need a half bowlful of cooked cold mashed potato for the filling. Add a generous amount of grated cheese, and a small amount of chopped leek or raw onion, if liked. Mix in an egg if you are feeling particularly sumptuous. This is your filling.
Take your prepared cheese pastry (or short-crust, flaky or puff pastry) and divide into 4 or 6 equal portions. Roll out each fairly thinly into an oblong. Moisten all round the edges with a little milk or water, and put a big dollop of the filling on one half of the pastry. Fold the other half over the top and crimp the edges together all round. Trim off any excess pastry. Stab the pasty in a desultory fashion with a fork or a knife a few times so that steam can escape during cooking and set the pasty on one side.
Repeat for the remaining portions. Grease a baking tray with some butter. Decorate the pasties with shapes cut from the scraps of leftover pastry (if you are in the mood), brush the tops with a little milk, and arrange them on the baking tray so they are not touching. Bake in a hot oven for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to medium and cook for a further 20 minutes or until they look well-done. The pasties are delicious hot or cold, keep well and can be frozen and re-heated.
The real cornish pasty is in Scrote's view greatly under-appreciated because of the ghastly commercial counterfeits passed off as cornish pasties everywhere except in Cornwall itself. Why is it, in this country you can only call real whisky distilled in Scotland "Scotch Whisky", but you can put any old muck in a pastry case and call it a 'Cornish Pasty'?
Traditionally, the cornish pasty was a tin miner's dinner so the real thing is fairly substantial. It differs from the previous pasty in that it is bigger and the filling is put in raw, so it needs a lot longer time in the oven to cook, but the moisture and the flavours are all still inside when you come to eat it. Since the meat is going to be steamed, it should be of good quality, such as braising steak. The quantities are frankly very variable, because they depend a good deal on the size of the pasty- bigger pasties have a larger ratio of filling to the pastry, whereas small pasties are nearly all pastry.
Peel and thinly slice a number of potatoes. Peel & chop a small onion. Shred about 8 - 12 ounces of beef depending on how rich you feel (Scrote has also found pork used in Padstow). A little diced turnip helps, but onion & black pepper is the mainspring of the characteristic flavour. No gravy is needed- a good deal of moisture emerges from the ingredients during the cooking. This is your filling.
Divide about a 12 ounces of shortcrust patry (not flaky or puff pastry) into three or four. Roll out each into a fairly large circle. Moisten the edges, put a portion of filling on one half, fold the other half over and crimp the edges together with your fingers all the way round. Knock up the edges and flute them into the traditional wavy pattern. Pierce the top to let steam escape and set on a greased baking tray. Bake the pasties in a hot oven for 15 minutes then turn the oven down to medium and cook slowly for a further hour so the filling is steamed.
Scrote first used to make this when mackerel were commonly smoked and sold whole. Nowadays smoked mackerel is more likely to be found as fillets in shrink-wrapped plastic. As usual, avoid the brightly-coloured chemically-treated muck, and go for the dull creamy-coloured fish that are sold as un-dyed. Smoked mackerel do not need cooking- they are hot-smoked and can be eaten as they come.
If using a whole smoked mackerel, drop it into a jug of boiling water for 5 minutes, so that it opens up. Take the fish out and drain it, split it, and remove the head, bones, fins and skin from the meat. Mash the meat from the fish in a bowl very thoroughly with a fork, picking out any remaining bones you find as you go. The resulting mixture should look fairly uniform and fluffy and not contain any unmashed lumps.
Meanwhile melt 4 ounces of butter (half a packet). Pour the hot melted butter over the fish, keeping a little back. Mash the butter and fish together and add some ground black pepper. Spoon the pate into pots. Pour a little of the remaining butter over the top of each to seal the pate, cover and set to cool.
This pate will keep for some time in the fridge if the butter seal is unbroken. Smoked mackerel is traditionally accompanied with horseradish sauce. The pate is delicious served with very thin toast and a salad.
Another sort of mackerel pate can also be made with cream rather than butter, but this does not keep very long.
This is a sort of fish version of cottage-pie, with mashed potato.
You need a good-sized fillet of undyed smoked haddock, or white fish or both for this. First of all, peel the potatoes for the mash and put on to to boil. When the potatoes are done, mash them with some butter and set to one side. Meanwhile tease the skin off the fish with a sharp knife and pull out any bones. Then chop several onions and stew them gently in a fair amount of butter for ten minutes or so. When they have softened, add the fish and poach gently for a few minutes.
Now add a spoonful of flour to the fish and onions, stir into the butter, and then add half a pint of single cream, or milk, so it thickens to make a white sauce.
Put the fish sauce mixture into oven dishes and fork the mashed potato over the top. Bake for half an hour in a hot oven.
Another old school dinner standby- strictly real shepherd's pie is made from cold cooked mutton leftovers, minced and topped with mashed potato, but it can also be made with fresh minced beef (when it is known as cottage pie). Unlike pies where the meat cooks in the pie as it is baked, the pre-cooking means that tougher cuts of meat can be used.
This is comfort food, a sort of lowest common-denominator of main courses where everything is already mashed minced or chopped up. Yet it's good food and tastes well. It's easy to prepare in advance and it all goes down easily and without any effort. It's easy to freeze unserved portions in the freezer too and they reheat well.
You will need about 1 lb of minced beef, an onion, 2 carrots, a little flour and about 6 or 8 potatoes, butter and milk, and two pans (one ovenproof). First make the minced meat sauce. Fry the mince fiercely on top of the stove in a little oil so that it is browned somewhat. Finely chop the onion and mix it in. Season with salt and pepper and a few savoury herbs. Add a little water (and little tomato puree or a dollop of mustard if inclined). Cut the carrots into rounds and add them. Cover and set the meat & gravy to cook for at least half an hour. Towards the end uncover and allow to reduce somewhat. Thicken the gravy with a teaspoonful of flour mixed in an egg-cup ful of water.
Meanwhile, make the mashed potato topping. Peel the potatoes and put on to boil for 20 minutes. When they are cooked, drain them, add a big knob of butter and a dash (not too much) of milk, and mash them thoroughly, keeping the mashed potato fairly dry.
Now assemble the whole dish. If the meat sauce is not already in an oven-proof dish, transfer it to one. Put the mashed potato on top of the meat a little at a time so that the meat is well-covered over, and rake the mashed potato over with a fork. Put in a hot oven for 20 minutes so the potato is just browned on the ridges. Serve with some green vegetables (peas, green beans, broccoli).
It is possible to 'make the meat go further' (i.e. use less), with lentils and extra vegetables (mushrooms for instance are very good). Because the meat is not too important, it is even possible to make a vegetarian version, using textured soya protein (TVP), but the gravy needs to be augmented in this case with tomato puree and soya sauce (or Lea & Perrins or Marmite) to colour it and drown the anaemic TVP flavour.
This is another very traditional, very English sort of thing, one of the more-or-less obligatory accompaniments served with a Ploughman's lunch in pubs. They are still so commonplace and widely available in Englsh shops that it's hardly worth the effort of making them, and Scrote only mentions them because they are so easy. Basically, pickled onions are just small onions pickled in vinegar. Preparation is simplicity itself, and the only problem is making too many.
You need about a pound of very small onions, a glass jar with a tight lid, and about a pint of English malt vinegar. (Malt vinegar is brown, and fifty years ago the only sort of vinegar in English shops. It is also the traditional accompaniment sprinkled on fish and chips, along with salt.)
The onions you need are perfectly ordinary but very small, about the size of whole walnuts. They should be in good condition, hard and tight in their skins. Top and tail and peel the onions, enough of them to fill your jar. Put the vinegar into a pan, and bring it to the boil. (You can drop in whole spices such as peppercorns, allspice, cloves and coriander, but Scrote thinks this just makes the onions taste weird, and prefers it simple.)
When the vinegar has come to the boil (be careful, it foams and the fumes can take away your breath) drop in the peeled onions to scald them, then take the pan from the heat to let it cool a little. While it is still hot, pour the vinegar and onions into a jar, and seal firmly, allow to cool and then keep in a dark cupboard. The pickled onions will be ready to eat in a fortnight and should not be kept more than a few months. Don't eat too many at one go, they do terrible things to the digestion.
This is a sort of English sweet version of the French Croque Monsieur. It is quite old and is also mentioned as 'Poor Knights Pudding'.
You need two thick slices of white bread, an egg, a teaspoonful of sugar, a pinch of (ground) cinnamon, and a small quantity of milk. Beat the egg, milk, sugar and cinnamon together. Cut the bread into strips ('soldiers') and soak them in the egg mixture thoroughly. Fry them very gently in a little oil until golden brown on both sides, and serve sprinkled with sugar.