Today I am delighted to publish this guest post from ace food eater and writer Kake, who has been writing a series on London Road, Croydon which you can enjoy here. The link to this post is here.
While trawling through the archives at the Croydon Local Studies Library recently, I made a delightful discovery that immediately brought the Vintage Cookbook Trials to mind. I had actually been looking for information on Jay’s Furnishing Stores, a chain of hire-purchase furniture shops that operated in the UK during the 20th century — but to my surprise, nestled among the cuttings of newspaper adverts offering “guaranteed delivery” and “the Best Terms in the World” was a small booklet entitled “20 Ways of Cooking Fish”.
Published by Jay’s at an unspecified date (though an anonymous hand has written “prob 1932” on the back), this booklet contains recipes written by a Monsieur X M Boulestin, billed as “The Worlds [sic] Greatest Cookery Expert”. [Editor's note: He definitely knew what to do with potatoes.] The rather tenuous connection between furniture sales and fish is supported by a short statement on the front cover: “Our object has always been a double one – to supply the Best Value in Fine Furniture and to ensure a Happy Home to each of our customers – by freedom from worry – Every housewife knows what part cooking plays in making a happy home.
Flipping through the recipes, I was briefly tempted by Cod Normande (featuring cider, parsley, shallots, and mushrooms) and Skate with Caper Sauce (which involves cooking the skate along with some of its liver plus cloves, parsley, thyme, bay leaves, and vinegar). However I thought the cod dish might be a bit boring, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get skate liver; indeed, I hadn’t previously known they even had livers. So I eventually settled on Eels Landaises, a lightly stewed dish of eels with red wine and prunes.
The author states that this recipe comes from “the Landes”, which Wikipedia tells me might refer to several places in France, but I suspect the most likely is the département of Landes itself, particularly as Wikipedia also tells me that M Boulestin had his own holiday home there. I found some interesting pages online while investigating further: Landais Folklore discusses the customs and geography of the area, and Landais Gastronomy discusses the food, mentioning eels among other things.
Take two or three moderate-sized eels
Today we are delighted to publish another guest post from commenter Salada! She knows her way round a pie.
With Pie Month in mind, I went in search of something savoury from yesteryear. At the same time and out of nowhere, I’d had a recollection of my mum’s coconut tart from long, long ago. I didn’t expect to find a recipe for it anywhere. I was so wrong. In the Radiation Cookery Book, “compiled for the special benefit of the many thousand satisfied users of ‘Regulo’-controlled ‘New World’ cookers”, there it was, with a posh name I’d never heard before. The book is venerably old, being the January1935, 18th edition. This is a very comprehensive cook-book which includes menu planning and oven-cooked breakfasts.
It fell open at Invalid Cookery to reveal Raw Beef Tea, a concoction to give every food hygienist the vapours, being made of lean, raw beef soaked in cold water with a little salt for 2-3 hours (no mention of popping it into the fridge; who had one in 1935?) then, “Stir, strain and serve in a red glass.” What style!
Yet another apple recipe. I’ve never fried fruit, nor have I flamed booze before. I was quite nervous about this, all the other times I’ve had fire in my kitchen, it’s been unintentional and thus rather panic-inducing. Still, I thoroughly dampened a tea-towel, put it in arm’s reach of the cooker and steeled myself. (I don’t have any pets or small children, but we should all practise safe flambé.)
“One cannot help wondering if an English salad is the results of ignorance or the aim of curiously perverted taste…. The French I am told, have many failings, but they can make wine, coffee and salads.”
Thus aphorises X Marcel Boulestin at the start of the salad chapter in Simple French Cooking for English Homes (of which Quadrille were kind enough to send us a copy). The book is a brisk but thorough canter through French home, as opposed to restaurant cooking, meaning it is full of recipes which are damn French but mostly require about 6 ingredients and are compatible with full-time employment. There are sections on sauces, soups, meat, vegetables and a few puddings (on obtient du pain dans les boulangeries, oui?), as well as hilariously didactic final chapter on wine. Salads includes details on the best way to mix dressing as well as recipes of of raw and cooked vegetables, fish and beef.
It’s a bit late for Pie Month, but I did make this during February, but it’s taken me this long to write it up because [insert flimsy excuse here]. It’s from Good Things in England and has no definite date, though, given when GTIE was published, it was before 1931.
Final soup for January. This time from Ma Cuisine by Auguste Escoffier, published by Paul Hamlyn in 1934. (I am becoming very proficient at locating the recipes in this long book which do not require meat jelly or double cream!)
This is the second version given, the first being just boiled, puree’d peas with a little stock added. I was attracted to the idea of eating something summer-y, as it’s been so effing cold over the last week.
This recipe was emailed to me by a loyal reader after she visited friends. It is from the splendidly protestant-sounding “Plain Cooking Recipes” written for the Edinburgh School of Domestic Science in 1932.
6 oz plain flour
1 oz rice flour
3 oz caster sugar
4 oz butter
1 oz blanched, chopped almonds
1 oz candied peel, finely chopped
Another recipe I have been waiting for an excuse to make and which I hoped might provide a some variety to the selection at our party, as it’s base ingredients weren’t butter, cheese or white flour.
I feel, however, that Escoffier is probably spinning in his grave. This comes from the Salade Composées (Compound Salads) section of Ma Cuisine (Paul Hamlyn, 1934).
It’s not quite courgette season yet – they still need plenty of seasoning so this recipe by Escoffier (Paul Hamlyn, 1934) is perfect.
Tian de Courgettes a la Provencale
The name tian is given to a round dish, which is popular in Provence; it is about 2 inches in height and of various sizes.
I decided to make this salad from Escoffier (Paul Hamlyn, 1934) as an accompaniment to a second lamb steak. It is simply too cold and wet out for a leafy green salad.
Salade des Haricot Verts (French Bean Salad)
Cook the beans in salted water, rinse is cold water, then dry in a cloth.
Rub the bottom of the salad bowl with garlic, add salt, freshly ground pepper, a little vinegar and 3 times the amount of olive oil. Mix all well together and put in the beans. Thinly sliced tomatoes and fillets of anchovy are sometimes added to this salad. [Not if I’m making it.]